things to do in salem, moving to salem ma

Please note this blog post was sponsored by Dan Bernal. To read more about that, please click here.

Alright you guys…the day has come. I have been working on a blog post regarding moving to Salem, MA for a while now and I am excited to finally publish it to my website. I wanted to do this right and get the opinion of someone who works in real estate directly in Salem to help give me some extra insight, which is exactly what I have done for this blog post. I worked with Dan Bernal who was gracious enough to let me pick his brain a little and answer some questions for me because I see this topic come up on my social media and in my DMs a lot.

First, some basics.

Before you move, visit Salem at least once or twice. I know it’s tempting to move, sight unseen, because the city is so gorgeous however you should make a trip or two here first. The city has such a unique vibe and that can’t be translated through something like Instagram or Pinterest. I’d also be remiss to not mention the obvious: Salem is a huge tourist destination. Living in Salem poses unique obstacles such as the ebb and flow of tourists that visit our city, especially in the fall. I personally love it, however there are certainly those who do not. Parking can be an issue, the cost of living in Salem is very high and New England weather largely does whatever the heck it wants. These are all things to keep in mind.

As far as paperwork, you should also plan for partial state taxes. You’re going to need to file returns for both states for one tax year, so be aware of that. Keep all paperwork from your employers and find a tax professional to help you if needed.

If you have kids, research Salem’s schools. Do some google searches and come up with a budget plan. I’d strongly suggest having extra cash set aside for unforeseen expenses. Moving from one state to another requires some extra leg work compared to moving from one town to another, same state.

Last, use the move as a chance to purge. Donate extra items to charities and shelters, give items away to friends and family and work on downsizing. The less stuff you have to haul from one state to another, the easier (and possibly cheaper) it’ll be.

Now, on to the expert.

The following are the questions I asked Dan Bernal, followed by his responses.

Renting or buying in a historic area such Salem can sometimes pose challenges and obstacles. The opposite is also true and you might stumble into silver linings in your new historic spot. What are things buyers or renters might not consider initially when shopping in a historic city?

“Salem is a huge draw for the history, food, commute and just the beautiful old seaside New England charm. Many who relocate to town are surprised by some local pros and cons, however. Founded nearly 400 years ago, parking is in short supply. Make sure you pay attention to available/deeded parking at any property you’re considering renting or buying. When the snow hits and on-street parking is prohibited you’ll be glad you did. Homes in Salem span hundreds of years so don’t expect dry basements, good insulation, ultra-modern heating systems or a variety of other modern perks that stratify over a home’s long life in this area. You’ll likely run into layers; a 70’s kitchen with a 50’s bathroom with original 1910 floors except in 2 rooms for whatever reason with a 15 year old steam boiler using 100 year old radiators, etc. Many move to town thinking October is the high point in Salem but the truth is that summer and early fall is also amazing and likewise draws many tourists. The weather is beautiful, the harbor is a gorgeous site full of boats, there are incredible waterfront parks at The Willows, Forest River and Winter Island. Downtown has an open air pedestrian mall with a weekly farmers market, there’s a great rooftop bar at the Hotel Salem that’s a short walk from all the Derby Wharf waterfront restaurants. Don’t forget the recently expanded world class Peabody Essex Museum which is free to local residents.”

What are some general “newbie” tips or tricks to renting or buying in Salem?

“Salem has a lot of very distinct areas which are a product of it’s long history. There are very different eras of construction, different local schools, different accessibility to things like the commuter rail, the ferry to Boston, etc. Do some research about local schools if you have elementary school aged kids. If buying a home you should really find an agent you trust who can help you understand which potential older home issues are of more or less concern on properties you’re interested in. It’s incredibly common to find a home in Salem that you love but are concerned about some elements of it. This is something a good agent can help you with and connect you to a network of trusted local contractors.”

Are there things new buyers or renters should be aware of when looking in Salem?

“With all the cultural draw to Salem many forget it’s also a college town. October isn’t the only time the town is overrun with visitors so it’s a good idea to keep an eye the Salem State University schedule for graduation dates. It gets awfully tough to move around when thousands of visitors clog the streets, restaurants, and your ability to get in and out of town.”

Can you share any insights you personally gained when moving to Salem?

“It’s rare you find a town with so much obvious charm, one that’s so friendly, welcoming and so completely inclusive. You’re likely to strike up a conversation at a restaurant next to somebody half your age, somebody twice your age, a vampire, a hipster, a business owner, a scientist, a couple European tourists or a witch, and that’s just lunch. I’ve lived in many towns around Greater Boston since moving to MA for college decades ago. Salem is simply unique. While the area is clearly gentrifying, it isn’t losing any of it’s neighborly charm. New restaurants and boutique shops are racing to get here, but you don’t see the over-commercialized loss of individuality that floods some “hot” areas.”

Can you offer any tips on affordability? Living in Salem can be very expensive.

“There’s no getting around the fact that housing and rental pricing is high in Salem. One option to help offset the inevitable cost of living issue is position yourself a little outside the heart of town. Yes, everyone wants to live where the walking score is a bajillion in the heart of everything but that comes at an increasingly hefty price here. North Salem rental and home values are a little more reasonable than downtown or South Salem near downtown and by bike or car you can get to all the action in just a few minutes. Plus it’s easier to drive in and out of town during heavy tourist months if you’re already over the bridge and closer to 128/95.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add to help my readers that are looking to move into Salem?

“Over the next decade a huge part of the Salem waterfront currently occupied by the Shetland Park office complex is set to be redeveloped into something like Boston’s waterfront or Rowe’s Wharf. The property was recently sold after many tried to buy it for decades and it’s likely to create an entirely new downtown destination. This will likely be comparable to the Derby Wharf with shops, restaurants, hotels, condos, etc. Meanwhile a large new hotel currently under construction in the heart of downtown will soon be offering much more visitor housing. The town is booming without giving up any of its historic character. This all means now is a great time to buy a home here because all of these factors will drive your home value/equity up and make living here not only awesome but a great investment.”

If you have further questions or would like to see available properties in Salem, Dan Bernal can be reached at 617-275-3291. He can also be found online at

To get a little insight into what Dan does and a behind the scenes peek, check out the following video.

Thanks again to Dan for all of the insight and I hope this blog post helps. There is truly no place like Salem. <3

If you’re a Salem based or North Shore based business and are interested in working with me, click here for information or feel free to email contact me with any questions.

Dan is a top producing agent providing concierge level service to buyers, sellers and investors throughout eastern MA since 2006. He works closely with clients to ensure they’re fully informed, expertly advised and supported with the best available resources and services.

Whether a first time buyer, a luxury seller, a rental/ rehab investor or anything in between you can rely on Dan’s extensive experience, unswerving attention, constant availability and honest advice. Dan is a certified relocation specialist, recipient of numerous sales awards and was featured on the popular HGTV show House Hunters twice.

Dan holds a B.A. in Classics from Tufts University and lives with his family in Salem, MA where he is also an enthusiastic foodie and performing guitarist.

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  1. Salem is fun and busy. This article is accurate. Homes are outrageously expensive. No land. No parking and forget it when it snows. Also, the schools are not great. Not to be negative but a huge imbalance when speaking about majority of people’s life goals.

    1. I am sorry to hear you have had a less than ideal experience living in Salem. The city does have some unique challenges for sure.

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