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How Natick went from middle class to upscale

Buying News Natick
Walnut Place Residences is a new apartment complex in a converted factory at 57 North Ave. in Natick, MA.
Walnut Place Residences is a new apartment complex in a converted factory at 57 North Ave. in Natick, MA. The Boston Globe

Spring may seem a long way off right now, but housing demand is already busting through the roof in Natick.

More than 3,000 buyers have expressed varying degrees of interest in Natick through Redfin’s website and its agents, notes Nancy McLaughlin, listing specialist for the western suburbs.

But there are only 31 homes for sale in town right now, with a few dozen more in the process of being sold.

“Buyer demand has just been incredible—it’s off the charts,’’ she said.

It’s one of a number of signs that Natick is coming into its own after living for years in the shadow of neighboring Wellesley and other posh western suburbs.

In fact, McLaughlin sees Natick following a similar path as Needham, a middle-class town that went upscale as buyers priced out of Weston, Wellesley, and Wayland flooded in.

Buyers are bidding up available homes, and, in relatively bucolic and upscale South Natick, even tearing down older homes to make way for newer and larger models, she noted.

Today a single-family home in Needham costs a median of $915,000, closer to Wellesley’s median of $1.5 million than to Natick’s $465,000. This price is up over 8 percent from the same time last year, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

“It is exactly what was happening in Needham the last couple of years,’’ McLaughlin said.

Hundreds of new apartments and condos have been built over the last few years in and around downtown Natick.

The old National Guard armory near one of the main lights leading into downtown on Route 135 was converted into townhomes during the post-recession years, while new condos and apartments have been taking shape on South Avenue by Casey’s Diner, a local landmark.

Around the corner, near the Natick Center MBTA station, a local developer recently converted a pair of stylish old industrial buildings on either side of North Avenue into 41 new, mostly market-rate apartments.

Just down Route 27, heading west out of downtown towards Wayland, an old industrial site is being transformed into the Natick Mews, which will feature 50 apartments and townhomes.

Natick Center is also becoming an attraction for more urban-minded buyers and renters, with a mix of artsy shops, small-town retailers, restaurants, and an arts center that routinely puts on shows by top performers.

Still, buyers are scrambling to compete for available single-family homes in the more suburban-style subdivisions and neighborhoods across town as well, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin is seeing buyers intent on breaking into Natick, as opposed to simply looking at Natick as one of a number of potential towns to live in.

“It is becoming a destination,’’ she said.