Best places to live in Westchester in 2013: North Salem-Croton Falls, NY

The town of North Salem borders Putnam County to the north, Connecticut to the east, Somers and I-684 to the west, and Lewisboro to the south. Its real estate offerings range from tiny shoebox houses in Peach Lake for under a hundred grand to village Victorians in the mid 400s to multi-million-dollar horse farms owned by people like Steven Rattner and Georgina Bloomberg. Even in winter, the entire town is as well groomed as a champion show horse, the buildings scattered here and there, as if they had fallen out of Ralph Lauren’s pocket.

“People want the country farmhouse, a beautiful antique done to the nines,” says Carol Goldberg, a broker associated with Vincent & Whittemore Real Estate, who owns a horse farm near the Connecticut border. Fixer-uppers are not for the financial faint of heart: “The price of real estate has dropped 30 percent; in some cases, 40,” she says, “but the cost of fixing them has not.”

The closest thing North Salem has to a village is the hamlet of Croton Falls. Tiny and well kept, it’s both cosmopolitan and country. There’s an ATM-free branch of Putnam County National Bank (founded in 1865) that could be on a Wild West postcard as well as The Schoolhouse Theater, a well-known regional playhouse. Croton Falls is also something of a foodie’s mini-Mecca, with gourmet takeout (Who’s Cooking?), a top-drawer pizzeria (Bella Ella’s Pizzeria), a respectable steakhouse (Croton Creek Steakhouse & Wine Bar), and the venerable Primavera Restaurant and Bar. Nearby, the line goes out the door at Purdy’s Farmer & The Fish, a farm-to-table spot in a 19th-century farmhouse.

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It’s also surprisingly easy to get to. The Croton Falls Metro-North station is smack-dab in the middle (the old depot is now a wine store), and commuters can park on the local streets, no permit required. Route 22 runs right through it, connecting with I-684 near Purdys. According to Goldberg, North Salem is as far north as a commuter will go before saying, ‘I can’t commute from here.’ People, she says, “think Bedford is closer, but by the time you wander through traffic to Mount Kisco in the morning, North Salem’s just as fast.”

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