Lawrence, MA relocation advice?

Old Jan 14th, 2010, 01:55 PM
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Lawrence, MA relocation advice?

My daughter and her husband may be relocating to the Lawrence MA area from the west coast. Since I am relatively nearby, I am doing some of the legwork. They are a young married couple (early 30's-no kids). What would life be like for them there? Can anyone give me a feel for the city, the areas, the coffee shops, the restaurants, the stores and perhaps some expectations in terms of real estate? I may be driving over there soon, so if anyone can suggest areas to check out? Thanks!
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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I feel terrible to say it but Lawrence is not a very nice place to live. High crime, poverty, vacant buildings, gangs and drugs. Any reason why they chose Lawrence? Nearby there are many great places to live. I live 30 minutes away so I can make suggestions. Andover is right next door and is a very nice town with a cute active downtown. Naturally it is far more expensive. Also nearby and more reasonable is Metheun - again more of a working class town but a better choice than Lawrence. Haverhill is a step up from Lawrence as well - Downtown Haverhill has some of the same issues as Lawrence but also has some very suburban areas as well as some farms.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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Yes, please! I'd like to hear about nearby towns within easy commuting distance to Lawrence! (30 minutes sounds fine)
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 02:57 PM
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I do home visit nursing in Lawrence. They do not want to live there. It is the poorest city (economically) in Massachusetts, 80% of residents speak only Spanish at home, the downtown has about 50% vacant storefronts, about half of the city I would not venture into after dark and there are a few places I would nto venture into alone in daylight.

Sad - because I encounter many decent, hard working people in Lawrence, and great expense and effort has been put forth to turn it around - maybe some day, but not now.

Of nearby towns, Andover is the most affluent - median house price is about $500,000 - but there are an increasing number of condos for less. Great school system if they plan on having kids ever - but primarily a family town.

Haverhill and Methuen are small cities - housing costs less, school system less good - some nice areas, some awful. If they want a small city, Lowell would be better.

I know a number of young people who work in the Lawrence area but make a "reverse" commute - that being heading away from Boston - and live in Somerville. Somerville used to be a rotten small city but in recent years has become the hip place to live - with lots of nice restaurants, coffee shops. A city in transition - from old families to a younger crowd.

If they wish a more rural or suburban area, there are a number of options.

Rent/buy? Amount they could spend on housing? What they want out of a hometown? Where exactly would job be - a few miles can make a commuting difference.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 03:02 PM
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Another vote to not living in Lawrence. As Gail said, you practically need to have Spanish as your second language to live there.

Andover is a lovely upscale town that borders Lawrence. You don't even have to get on the highway to go from Andover to Lawrence, but they are night and day as far as the demographics and type of town.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 03:10 PM
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I was in Andover for business a number of years ago and I remember really liking it. If it is an easy commute, that might be a nice option. I believe they intend to buy - we will have to check out the area - any suggestions on where to buy (either in Andover or in another area/easy commute) would be appreciated.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 03:11 PM
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I'll ditto everyone else regarding Lawrence. It also borders NH so it's quite feasible to live in Salem NH or other nearby towns. It's off of 495 so Newburyport MA would be pretty convenient as well. Newburyport is a beautiful small city on the ocean, real estate is very expensive though.

In addition to Newburyport, Portsmouth NH is a beautiful harbor town with lots of shops and restaurants, it would be about a 45 minute commute to Lawrence. Really, there are tons of option besides living within Lawrence.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 03:39 PM
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I would be cautious choosing a town NORTH of Lawrence because you would always be caught going in the direction of rush hour traffic. Route 93 south gets backed up every morning and evening on the rush hour side of the highway.

Portsmouth is a cute place, but that would be 45 minutes in good traffic and no accidents or snow.

Just curious...why did they choose Lawrence, MA?
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 03:49 PM
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The reason for Lawrence is a job relocation; but if there are other/better places to relocate nearby I know that they would be happy to hear about them. Didn't realize that New Hampshire was so close... I do remember Portmouth as being a great town.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 04:07 PM
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Andover, North Andover are contingous with Lawrence - 5-15 minute commute.
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 05:13 PM
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Thank you, will explore those options!
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 06:58 PM
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I should clarify, Route 93 south is busy in the morning then 93 north is the busy returning home traffic.

Refer to the Chamber of Commerce for the Merrimack Valley area which covers all of these surrounding towns. http://www.merrimackvalleychamber.com/
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Old Jan 14th, 2010, 10:12 PM
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There are all sorts of towns within a reasonable commute of Lawrence, but due to traffic and, often, weather, none is particularly "easy". As noted above, it's best, if possible, to be traveling the opposite direction of the heavy traffic.

Best bet is to find an apartment, or other rental, and shop for a town to live at their leisure. Pros/cons vary enormously from one town to another in Massachusetts because there is no county system. So, things like real estate taxes, quality of schools, services, etc., fluctuate considerably from town to town. Every year, Boston Magazine publishes a comparison, which is very interesting and well worth studying. They can also test commuter routes ahead of commiting themselves to a more permanent home.

You cannot really determine much by "driving over there".

Living in New Hampshire is a excellent suggestion. Be advised, however, that if you live in New Hampshire but work in Massachusetts, income taxes are collected on Massachusetts earnings. This often balances out favorably, depending on the town you choose. The real trick is to balance reasonable living expenses with a reasonable commute. Typically, you can have one or the other, but not both.

Significant expenses, such as registering and insuring a vehicle, vary greatly between NH and MA and various towns within.

The Chamber of Commerce is always a good resource, as are real estate ads in the major papers (Boston Globe) and local papers for Lawrence-Lowell, and so on.

If they are planning to purchase a home, there is much to consider, and I would recommend exploring for several months, or longer, on their own before engaging a real estate agent and doing any serious house hunting. Talking to coworkers and friends they make will be invaluable.

Some towns are more appealing than others (restaurants, shops, etc.) and also more "friendly" and welcoming.

Just "adjusting" to New England from the West Coast is more of a challenge than you would presume.

Many areas are more convenient to the Lakes of New Hampshire, the charming (more seasonal) coastal towns of MA, NH, Maine, the mountains of NH and VT. If they like to get away weekends, that may be a consideration, as you don't want to be heading north from too far south, especially in the nice weather. On the other hand, they may decide they'd prefer to be closer to points south - Boston, Cape Cod, NYC, etc.

I don't think the real estate market is going to take off any time soon, that it will be a buyers' market for quite some time. There are still many foreclosures, and, as mentioned above, some very nice condo communities.

If it were me, I'd rent something really economical within the shortest commute possible, put as much as possible away toward the purchase of a home, and spend lots of time researching, comparison shopping, and exploring.

Also, if only one will be working in Lawrence, and the other will be job hunting, they will eventually have to balance two job locations with where to live, as any two will reduce the most favorable options for the third.
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 03:47 AM
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I grew up in Salem NH, left to attend college and never went back. Although Salem has many lovely residential areas, the major route thru town Rt 28 is lines with shopping malls and strip plazas thanks to no sales tax (used to be truck farms). The traffic on Rt 28 is horrendous 7 days a week. Surprisingly, despite the huge population and shopping activitity there are few restaurants except mediocre chains. A friend still lives in the area, Pelham which is just west of Salem. It's still very rural. From there it's a short drive to Lowell.
Rt 93 was brand new when I was young. Rt 495 opened when I was a teen. 50 years ago Lawrence was THE place to go shopping even though it was also a mill town. The first mall opened in Peabody and started draining shoppers away from Lawrence.
Depending on where the job is located may determine in what direction to look for housing. Especially if rush hour travel on Rt 93 can be avoided.
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 04:15 AM
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Is it an option to live in the city of Boston and commute out to Lawrence? Since the traffic would be going in the other direction at rush hours? Any suggestions for areas which would be appealing in terms of restaurants, coffee shops, things to do and not too bad a commute to Lawrence?
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 05:05 AM
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Boston is really not a good option, though Somerville might just be possible. Do they commute by car on the West Coast (LA or Bay Area)? If so, the traffic won't be a big issue, but I have to drive to Brickstone Square in North Andover just off 128/95 once a month for meetings, and it takes 45 minutes from Boston even without rubbernecking for wrecks.

The advice to rent for a year for someone coming from out of the area is very good advice. Adjacent communities differ so much in New England that it is a really bad idea to make an instant decision, especially one based on price.
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 07:18 AM
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I think they need to come VISIT the area and check out the surrounding towns. Hopefully that's an option for them. It would be nice to hook up with a realtor to show them around.
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 07:23 AM
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Live in Boston and commute to Lawrence? Certainly possible - but you would have to figure an hour each way (although you can also make the trip in 30 minutes on a good day). There is a train, but except for rush hour it does not run very often - and public transportation once one gets to Lawrence is not all that great.

Other issues with that - cost of housing in Boston is very high. Parking is an additional cost - there is street parking for residents in many areas of Boston (with a sticker) but it does not guarantee you a spot and then there is the issue of the 5 months a year when it could snow. I would actually look at Somerville (Davis Square area) - you get many of the advantages of Boston, you are about 20 minutes closer to Lawrence, on MBTA subway line, and there are restarants, shops.

Boston would be fun - and reiterating what another poster said - what is job/commute situation of other person in couple?

Get a map of Massachusetts to get a sens of geography - this will all make more sense. There is essentially one road between Lawrence (although locals know alternate routes) - I93. It used to be giant traffic jam, especially in bad weather, during rush hour - but we have noticed with the current economy it has eased up quite a bit.
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 07:32 AM
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Newburyport - beautiful old port town - high real estate prices - great downtown -nice place for a young couple

Merrimac - small family community - good schools part of the Pentucket regional schools - not much downtown

Groveland - same as Merrimac - also part of Pentucket schools - maybe a little more affordable

West Newbury - no downtown - very family oriented - excellent elementary school - pop about 4400 - housing is expensive but there are bargains. No services to speak of in town - 1 pizza place, 1 food mart, 1 barbershop, 1 ice cream stand, - no bank but lots of hiking, horses, pond skating etc.

Haverhill - small mill city with ruralish and suburban areas. Schools are ok -housing is very affordable- better than Lawrence for quality of life - especially Bradford section

North Andover - expensive but very nice - beautiful high school, great sports town, nice families - high taxes

Andover - really nice town, nice downtown, good schools but also could be nice for a young couple. Condos are available near downtown in interesting old buildings

Salem NH - dhfrost gave a good description

Methuen -some nice areas, convenient mall with movie theater, housing should be affordable

Tewksbury - typical suburban area.
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Old Jan 15th, 2010, 09:11 AM
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Great list bennnie!
On Chowhound I keep hearing great reports about restaurants in the Lowell area, a lot of ethnic variety. Lowell was another mill town but seems to be up and coming. Lots of festivals, Quilt Museum, etc. Salem to the White Mountains is about 2 hours. Lawrence to the beaches is maybe 30 minutes. Anyone living in the general vicinity has access to just about everything within a reasonable drive.
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