Boston for Brains and New York for the High Life ; the East Coast of America Offers Homebuyers from Britain Elegant Property in Two of Its Finest Cities, Says Cathy Hawker

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TWO of the closest US cities to London are also two of America's finest. New York and Boston are within seven hours of the UK and provide a heady hit of American culture wrapped in an easy familiarity.

The US was the first western economy to head into recession in 2006 and appears to be leading the way out of it, with its property market tentatively showing the first signs of recovery. House prices have risen for six consecutive months according to the Case-Shiller Index, now up 3.6 per cent since the same time last year, while HSBC claims that the US offers property-buying Britons the best value for money worldwide at present.

UPMARKET BOSTON Classy Boston claims some of the finest brains in America, as the home to 60 top-flight universities and colleges, including Harvard. The economy thrives on education, healthcare, life sciences and hi-tech industries.

Logan airport, 15 minutes from the centre, is the entry point to New England with skiing in Vermont, sailing in Cape Cod and the beaches along Maine's coastline. Its history as the birthplace of the American Revolution and its vibrant arts and design scene make upmarket Boston a delight on its own. It's a handsome city with more Victorian homes than anywhere outside London, and gorgeous red- brick townhouses are threaded through the compact city centre.

"Boston is cleaner and less overwhelming than New York," says Judy Pagano of Gibson Sotheby's Realty. "It has distinct village- style neighbourhoods, buildings are lower so you get better sunlight everywhere and there is so much greenery."

The elegant townhouses of Back Bay and Beacon Hill are Boston's finest and priciest, where apartments start from Pounds 248,660 and whole houses from Pounds 1.87 million. A two-bedroom groundfloor apartment in South End in an old brownstone house with monthly service and heating charges of Pounds 136 is Pounds 301,500 while a two-bedroom 1,695sq ft first-floor apartment with high ceilings on leafy Commonwealth Avenue in the heart of Back Bay is Pounds 867,200 -- both through Gibson.

In Midtown, new apartments at the contemporary W Residences with wide city views start from Pounds 1.09 million for 1,800sq ft through Christies associate Otis & Ahearn.

"Vacancy rates for rental property in Boston are under four per cent and rents have risen by 10 per cent for each of the past two years," says Robert Byrne of Otis & Ahearn. "It's generally cheaper to buy than rent, which is why property prices have recovered so well compared with elsewhere in the country."

BOSTON FACTFILE Getting there: Boston's Logan airport is just 15 minutes from the city centre. The Acela Express high-speed train links Boston to New York in three hours.

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