One of the hardest things for prospective buyers to figure out is what town to house hunt in. This is especially true for relocating buyers and buyers who are making a lifestyle change, such as urban condo to suburban house or vise versa.

Before Covid, I recommended that people “test drive” their potential new town. In short, that means spending time there doing the things they’d normally do on an evening or weekend. While there, people watch, check out traffic patterns and commute time. During Covid, some of that research went on line.

Prospective buyers sometimes learn about towns by following local news stories. Those stories may turn a buyer on, or off, a place they were considering.

What Elfland can teach you about living in Somerville

If the opinion of my clients and former clients counts, the most noteworthy local news story this year is about Elfland. Elfland is located at the corner of Summer Street and School Street in Somerville. There was a gas station there some years ago. Because of the gas station, it took some years before any building could take place there, due to the need to clean up any residual petrochemicals that might be on site.

In Somerville, when something is an eyesore, make art!

As the story goes, a miniature village was built on the abandoned lot. People anonymously added to it. When the lot was green-lighted for development, a protest movement began to “Save Elfland.” This is just SO Somerville. I wonder if next year’s house hunters will love this or hate it.

Over the years, I heard these things from house hunters:

A small nearby city had a proposal to build subsidized housing on a large MBTA bus parking lot. The parking lot was underused, and mostly an empty asphalt “field” with interesting weeds growing in the cracks. There was a movement to “Save —-” (They gave the parking lot a name, like it was a destination worth saving). House hunters at the time mostly shook their heads and bought there anyway.

A suburban town had news of an issue about a family required to cover the genitalia of their yard statuary. The statues were near a church, and the congregants were upset by them. The house hunters ruled out the town.

A small local city had a news item about a woman upset by getting postcards from her stolen garden gnome, who was traveling the world. She was angry at his kidnappers. The house hunters thought this was funny, and it endeared the city to them.

The news show 60 Minutes did an episode on a local high school. As one should expect, it showed something newsworthy. In this case, it showed how much pressure the “achievers” were facing, everyday, and how it was affecting them. Some house hunters changed towns, some did not.


Clients and friends “get” me. More people sent me the Elfland story than any other story in 2021. That says something positive about me, and the people who think about me. For this, I am grateful!