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Milton: Property Values Continue Steady Growth

Milton, Massachusetts, is the commuter's dream: This quiet town of beautiful old residences, tree-lined streets and approximately 26,000 residents is just minutes from a mass transit station offering quick, easy access to the heart of downtown Boston. Although asking prices in Milton have climbed considerably over the years, you'll still find much more for your money here than in the city -- particularly in Beacon Hill, where waiting lists for the neighborhood's coveted brick-row houses are standard, and newcomers are squeezing themselves into small, astronomically priced accommodations in exchange for the rare opportunity to live among one of the country's most historic and best-preserved areas.

Today, Milton's economy is diverse, comprised of such sectors as health care, education, technology, retail and communications. Situated eight miles southwest of Boston between the Blue Hills of Massachusetts and the Neponset River, Milton is a relatively affluent suburb whose early settlers hailed from Ireland, parts of Canada (particularly Nova Scotia) and Scotland, among other countries. Immigrants were attracted here by the wealth of jobs in the agriculture and industrial sectors. New England's first chocolate factory opened in Milton in 1764. In the 1800s, Milton began following the precedent set by neighboring Boston and Cambridge, and established a reputation for its quality educational institutions.

Milton has a rich history of private education, especially Catholic education. Fontbonne Academy for girls, Curry College and Milton Academy are three of the town's best-known educational institutions. Harvard University has long maintained a relationship with Milton for a unique reason: In order to mark the meridian in alignment with its observatory in Cambridge, Harvard built a stone tower in Milton atop "Big Blue," the highest hill along the East Coast from Florida to Maine. The tower continues to be used to aid local meteorologists.

Within Milton, you won't find a myriad of cultural opportunities; major musical and theatrical productions are reserved for nearby Boston. What you will find is occasional smaller-scale productions, some excellent restaurants (including everything from upscale cuisine to laid-back neighborhood Irish pubs) a selection of historical sights, beautifully preserved estates, quaint retail shops and a friendly, small-town population. During the fall months, the town appears lovelier than ever. Its trees seem as if they're on fire, with brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow. The trade-off for this unforgettable scenery is a winter season that can be harsh. Although those infamous "Nor'easters" (fierce blizzards) don't happen every season, they do occur with enough regularity that the locals have come to expect them. They never get any easier, but it's a fact of life here. Milton's reward for wintertime cabin fever is its pleasant summers, which often remain in the 70s during the daytime.

Among Milton's points of interest are Bent's Cookie Factory, a late 19th century building containing a literal paradise for any sweet tooth. Located on Pleasant Street, Bent's bakes fresh breads and muffins in addition to its famous cookies (try the molasses). The town's most noted museums are the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, managed by the Massachusetts Audobon Society, and containing natural science and history displays of the Blue Hills (many of them live) and adjacent hiking trails leading to the Blue Hills; and Captain Forbes House Museum, restored to its original 1870s Victorian grandeur. The house contains a large collection of American, European and Chinese heirlooms, and on its grounds are gardens of Asian flora and a replica of the Lincoln cabin.

Milton has retained many of its 19th century homes. Architecturally unique will full basements and generous lots, these are the type of residence that homeowners in other parts of the country would be willing to pay high prices for -- and newcomers do. The average price of a residential real estate transaction (including both single-family homes and condos) in Milton during the months of January through June 2000 was $310,000. Single-family homes in Milton sold for an average of $315,000 during the same period. The average condo in Milton sold for $285,500 during the same period, as well. These figures mark substantial improvement from 1999. Consider the same period last year, when the average home-sale price (including single-family homes and condos) was $256,000. And according to last year's figures (January through June 2000), the average single-family home in Milton sold for $256,000, and the average condo for $261,000.

Filled with charm and plenty of scenery, Milton offers a peaceful respite from the hectic pace of Boston. Although home prices are high, a home in Milton is a good investment. If the increases the town has witnessed during the last year are a sign of things to come, current homeowners in Milton can count themselves lucky. Property values are likely to continue climbing skyward. For a town with so many factors -- including geographic, economic and general quality of life -- in its favor, a home in Milton is likely to remain a smart investment for existing owners and newcomers alike.

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    Written by Courtney Ronan
    August 7, 2000 

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