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I'm within that commuting distance, and you can certainly find houses in good towns with good school systems for $500k. With that budget, I would think you could find something in Concord, Sudbury, Stow, Carlisle, Acton or even Boxborough, all of which seem to meet your criteria. If you are looking in Cambridge, Belmont, or Arlington, I can see where you might not be able to find anything, but I'm wondering if you have looked further west.

We are looking in Concord, but there is literally nothing available under $500k:!market=boston&max_...

As for further west, do you really commute to a location in Cambridge in under an hour? How are you doing it? North Waltham to East Cambridge is taking ~40-45 minutes in traffic for my wife right now, working 8:30-4:30. Acton is at least on the commuter rail, but according to the schedule most trains take around 40 minutes to Porter and 50 minutes to North Station, then add time on either end for travel to and from the stations. I guess you can do it under an hour if you live close enough to the station and work right at North Station or within 10 minutes of Porter. But an hour is really our upper bound, we're actually looking for shorter than that preferably.

We looked at a house in Concord last week, and even with her leaving early at 4:15 the drive took over an hour. And the house, which needed a new roof plus had a bunch of single pane windows and hadn't been updated since the 50's went under agreement in less than a week after listing at $650k. We do really like Concord though if we can find something we can afford that isn't next to the Starmet site...

I hate the housing options in this state, but it's the reality we are having to deal with. We went to 3 open houses in Lexington over the weekend with list prices ranging from $535-642k. One was practically in Bedford and needed major updates, one was built in 1839 but could maybe be interesting if it weren't 10 feet off a busy street, and the last was again on a busy street plus had been modified in very weird ways.

Reading may be an interesting option, we will have to explore the town a bit to see if we feel comfortable there.
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