Selectman Says Swampscott Cost of Living Well Below Marblehead's

Selectman Barry Greenfield drew on single-family home prices and other data for his comparison.


You might be surprised to find out how much less expensive living in Swampscott is compared to Marblehead, said town Selectman Barry Greenfield.

The selectman took Boston Magazine's 2011 report on single-family home prices and "compared the cost of living in Marblehead to Swampscott for both 20 and 30 year periods, including property taxes added to the cost of a home purchase (which most people don't do)."

The selectman said many people will be "shocked to learn how much less expensive it is to live in Swampscott." 

In 2011, the average cost of a single-family home in Marblehead was $510,000 vs. $348,000 in Swampscott.

The tax rate in Marblehead is $10.52; and the tax rate in Swampscott is $17.99.
So, for the Marblehead house, annual property taxes would be $5,365, he said.
For the Swampscott house, annual property taxes would be $6,260, he said.

Over the first 20 years of owning that house, the cost of living in Marblehead would be $617,300; while in Swampscott it would be $473,210.
"Swampscott is more than $143,000 less expensive to live in, that's a savings of $7k per year," the selectman said.
Over the 30 years the cost of living in Marblehead would be $670,950 and in Swampscott it would cost $535,800, or end up costing $135k less, he said.

The selectman said his reason for comparing the costs is that he felt there were misconceptions about the costs of living in the two towns.

"There are a lot of factors to consider other than simply taxes," he said.

CJ May 16, 2012 at 02:01 PM
This math is all wrong. It doesn't make sense to make this comparison using the "average home price" in each town (a prospective home buyer isn't looking to purchase a $348k house in Swampscott or a $510k house in Marblehead- they're looking for a home with a certain # of bedrooms, square feet, etc). Therefore, he should have used the prices from 2 comparable homes (ex: 2000 square feet, 3 BR, 2 BA homes in similar neighborhoods) from each town. The prices would likely not have been significantly different between the towns (maybe Marblehead's would be a little higher). Then apply the taxes- Swampscott's sky-high tax rate definitely puts the town over the top for cost-of-living.
DC May 16, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Yes, but in Marblehead you do not have BASIC services like trash disposal severely restricted. I see very little return for my high property taxes, especially when I have to rearrange trash to fit limited guidelines. Give me a break.
DC May 16, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I completely agree. High taxes with stingy services.
Mary DeChillo May 16, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Thanks Barry. Factor in: -a closer commute to Boston (commuters can walk to the Swampscott depot and take a train as opposed to sitting in traffic long Humphrey and Atlantic for Marblehead commuters -more (and nicer public beaches) -a direct view of the Boston Skyline -a walk-to walkway along Lynn Shore drive to Nahant -the same access to Logan Airport, Salem, and Cape Ann -same access to Salem State University, North Shore Community College and other colleges in the Boston Area Swampscott has many assets that we forget when thinking about cost to live here. When in doubt think about where you could be living--Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, South Dakota and other places where you might not have the beauty, culture and educational opportunities.
A+ Schools May 16, 2012 at 02:54 PM
We also have a new, state-of-the-art Field Turf Stadium for our 1,400+ youth athlete's, (soccer, LAX, football) and High School sports (football, LAX, soccer, field hockey). Oh, sorry...we don't. We also have beautiful, new, fully accessible, state-of-the-art elementary schools. Oh, sorry...we don't. Never mind. And, Mary...you were wrong in going public with your recent complaint regarding the BOH. It made you look silly, petty and immature. Maybe a mistake was made, but you and other supporters look very bad. BTW, I support a new stadium, not your actions.
David E. Peterson, Esq. May 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Colleen is right. The same house in Swampscott and Marblehead will cost roughly the same. But the tax bill for a $300,000 house in Swampscott will be $2,241 more per year than a $300,000 house in Marblehead. Does Swampscott provide a level of service that warrants this discrepancy? Unfortunately, Swampscott can't compete with Marblehead's competitive tax rate. Marblehead is in a unique position. It's many seasonal residents support the tax base (often with very expensive homes), but don't use town services for 9 months of the year. Similarly, all of the mega-mansions on Marblehead neck add tremendously to the tax base, and I'm willing to bet that those folks aren't sending their kids to public schools.
Mick May 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Oh but we do have a beautiful new High School and Senior Center and are building a brand spanking new Police station. We also have several fantastic properties for sale if you would like one!! Step right up!
Ernie Byers May 16, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I can’t even believe this comment: "When in doubt think about where you could be living--Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, South Dakota and other places where you might not have the beauty, culture and educational opportunities" Have you traveled to each one of these states Mary? I have, each one enjoys its own special beauty, from the Black Hills of South Dakota, to the gulf beaches of Alabama and Mississippi. Oklahoma City has many museums and outdoor enthusiast activities. All of these states have major universities and corporations based there. You’re argument that there are fewer opportunities for quality living in those places, is completely devoid of facts. As far as culture goes, your foolish comment does little to advance the argument that somehow more of it is found in Swampscott.
george depaolo May 16, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Good numbers here and I can see you put a lot of effort and time into this, and that I thank you for, as a homeowner however, the bottom line to most of us is still the $7 more on propery taxes we pay over M-Head...Unfortunately that is what we have to live with to stay in the town, my question is how many people are staying the 20 & 30 years you have used for your comparisons. Stiil very good work by you, thank you..
Sherry Lawson May 16, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I've lived in Swampscott for a long, long time. Property values in his town have dropped considerably. Swampscott is a hard sell, Barry! Homes are more expensive in Marblehead, taxes are much lower, and the quality of the schools are certainly perceived as being better. When we reign in our spending in this town and stop spending like fools, maybe, just maybe the tax rate will stay where it is and not continue to crawl upwards.
Liz May 16, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I agree with Sherry we need to stop spending. Just how many of the individuals who wanted the high school, police station and new field, own homes and are directly affected by the high tax rate? And to George's point those of us who have lived here all thier lives and will die here are left holding the bag...Too many are moving out after thier kids graduate.
Ernie Street May 16, 2012 at 06:17 PM
When I moved here about 20 years ago, I could buy a house in Marblehead and pay $40,000 more but have the same mortgage with taxes included. I doubt much has changed. What has changed is that our school system has gone down significantly. Mary should be thanked for her role in the start of this downward trend when she was a School Committee member!
Richard Gindes May 16, 2012 at 06:27 PM
The math here beckons memories of Voodoo economics. As a REALTOR ® living in Swampscott, my experience is that home buyers tend eschew Swampscott in favor of Marblehead as a direct result of the disparate tax burden home owners bear. I work in Marblehead and spend quite a bit of time there. It is obvious to me that the services in Marblehead are superior. To begin with Water and Electric services in Marblehead are provided by the town. The residents are NOT at the mercy of the MWRA or NSTAR making this comparison invalid on many levels. The winter snow storms of 2011 made it apparent to anyone driving from Swampscott into Marblehead which town was more timely and efficient in clearing the roads. This comparison is not an apples to Apples one by any means. I have enjoyed raising my family in Swampscott and love this town but I must call it like I see it! Marblehead is run more efficiently which saves home owners time and money and the municipal services provided by Marblehead give residents local control and accountability. As much as I try to sell Swampscott the tax burden makes my job very difficult. Got Real Estate? Call me if you have a Real Estate need or question!
Liz May 16, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Richard, you hit the nail on the head. It is all about mangement and accountability. We pay way too much to the emloyees and do not get our money's worth. I saw three DPW workers planting flowers at the end of the monument memorial. I have seen two DPW workers emptying trash barrels at the cemetery, one driving and one jumping out. Are you kidding me? And it goes on and on. Two school superintendents. Two clerks in some of the town offices. We spend money like water. Marblehead has Open Town Meeting which makes thier town more community spirited. We need our new town admin to clean house and tighten the belt ASAP...People in town are fed up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A+ Schools May 16, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Hey Bety....I must have missed the hiring of a second Superintendent of Schools. Get your facts correct please.
Liz May 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Hey Allan..Joanne van der Burg-Special Assistant Superintendant
Myjanda May 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Bety, what do you mean by "Just how many of the individuals who wanted the high school, police station and new field, own homes and are directly affected by the high tax rate?" All of us pay this so are "affected" by it. Those of us who still are raising familes here want good schools and decent athletic fields like you did when your kids were young. Just because yours (or other retirees) are no longer raising kids here doesn't mean the rest of us don't deserve them and these things still aren't free. And maybe if the town had put in some money to maintain its infrastructure we wouldn't have to replace them all now!
A+ Schools May 16, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Hey Bety, maybe you have not been in the working world for a while. The individual you mentioned is one of two Administrative Assistances to the Superintendent and the school district. Not another Superintendent of Schools! Bety, of you are going to take a position, please review the facts before posting. However, I did laugh out loud at your posting. Thank you.
Liz May 17, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Myjanda, You can be a registered voter and vote on all the issues in Swampscott and not own a home ( rent) and therefore not bear the buden of high taxes!
Liz May 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Allen, van de Burg was the interim Superintendant before hiring Celli and she never left. Let's not split hairs, we are over staffed in this town whether you want to admit it or not...
Citizen Swamp May 17, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Correction Ms. Bingham was interim Super, she is now assistant Super. CS
Liz May 17, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Thank you CS for the correction. All I know is that we have a Superintendant, Assistant Superintendant, Exec Assist and Special Assistant in the schools..Come on...enough is enough...and remember these indiviuals are paid quite generously along with lifetime benefits...gotta go getting sick to my stomach!!!
Kevin Donaher May 17, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I wonder if Barry cares to dazel us with some comparisons for the total cost to the Swampscott taxpayers of the combined salaries of the Swampscott Superintendant's entourage including salary and benefits compared to Marblehead? I also wonder what ever happended with the resuts of the "Forensic Audit"...it seems to fallen off the radar. Maybe that wasted money could have been put to better use to cover the half million dollar cost the school committee now needs for a feasibility study for the elementary school projects. The Lynn Item reports that will need a special town mtg vote by Nov.5th. This is another great opportunity to jump in, come up with a quick plan, spend money and increase taxes. Am I wrong or hasn't there been a Master Plan already thought out? But hey, the crew that loves to spend your money will manipulate us with the smoke and mirrors they use for everything they jam through the process. And don't forget "it's for the children" so if your not on board you must not care about children. Yes Mary, Swampscott has alot to offer if you happen to have lots of money.
john smith May 17, 2012 at 03:38 PM
mary dechillo walk no way swampscott better than mhead no way
Robert Firpuzzi May 17, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Hey Barry, I looked at the Best of Boston list you referenced and I noted it only costs $174,000 for a house in Lynn. Why would anyone buy in Marblehead.....or Swampscott? I guess they like throwing money away, or, maybe there is some other reason other than the home price. Like you, I can't think of any either. Oh wait.....
Myjanda May 17, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Bety, the point is that most of us on the side of better schools and upgrading our fields have kids, and therefore are more likely to live in a house than not. And even if one rent's a house, the tax is usually paid indirectly in the form of higher rent. Since basically you have no clue how many people who voted for a new high school (horrors!!) own their own home, your point is nonsense. I'll throw a totally made up fact at you now: I feel that most of the people against those things enjoyed all these fine things when their kids were young but now feel the rest of us should settle for 50 year old run down fields and buildings that they were too cheap to maintain, because now that they are retired and want to stay in a 4 bedroom house that is too big for them they don't want their taxes to go to helping other people. How's that?
William R. DiMento May 18, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Barry: Are you claiming the same home in Swampscott worth $348,00 is worth $510,000 in Marblehead ? I generally appreciate your "thinking outside the box" but this time you have become nonsensical.I suggest the two towns have comparative budgets but there at 3000 more parcels of land 6000 more residents to share the costs.I f memory serves me well the police budget in Marblehead is 3.2 mil and in swampscott 3.3 mil. They have many more taxpayers to pay the same cost. We just can't compete with wealthy towns but we spend like a wealthy town. I think we need to concentrate of the essentials such as we do but at a sustainable level.
John Connelly May 20, 2012 at 04:33 AM
So higher and higher taxes are a good thing because it keeps lowering our home values and that makes it cheaper to live here as compared to towns with lower taxes, better services and stable home prices...Okay, I think I get it... If we were to double our taxes, will that make Swampscott even more of a bargain compared to Marblehead than it already is?
DAG January 03, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Back to the initial thought... Having recently moved to Swampscott, our analysis at the time was that, as a function of the monthly mortgage payment (which includes insurance), the cost of the house, and property taxes, was that living in Marblehead was less expansive than living in Swampscott. All the same, I would be very interested in someone taking just a bit of time and trying to offer up a true apples to apples analysis for just the financials. To me, this would factor in, say, what a $500,000 house in Swampscott would be in Marblehead, e.g. about $650,000 +/-. Then, suggest financing for the entire amount + insurance + property tax, and reach a number. I agree that "average" house value is not likely that accurate, but am looking to the experts on what is... I reference insurance because that amount goes up based on the price of the house, but may end up being a nominal factor. If there are other factors that influence price, such as cost of energy, please add that in. I am hoping someone with current knowledge of the housing market can help with some of this. Please do not factor in schools, distance to commuter rail, etc. as those can be adjusted by the reader as they see fit. Thanks Barry for starting the discussion.
Annie Livingstone October 24, 2013 at 07:05 PM
This has been really helpful, we will be starting to look in these two towns and even though we are semi retired, the train service is huge for us. We will be looking for a community that isn't as seasonal because after living on Cape Cod for 6 years and feeling I have been put out to pasture, I'm not so sure I want to live in a town like Marblehead where so many residents don't consider it their permanent home. So Swampscott is looking a bit better. So many factors to consider


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