Browsing Category


4 Huge Mistakes You Might Make Moving From a City to the Suburbs

December 17, 2018

There comes a time in many people’s lives—usually when the words “baby” or “school district” become a regular part of the vocabulary—when people flee the glamorous city to the charming suburbs. Only where, exactly, should you go? How do you find that perfect place where your neighbors seem simpatico rather than psycho?

Alison Bernstein once struggled with these same questions when contemplating moving her own family outside New York City.

“We made the quintessential buyer’s mistake,” says Bernstein. “We picked the perfect town, or so it seemed, based on our checklist. But the problem is, you very seldom know what you should look for, and you don’t consider vital intangibles. So we, like so many people, made a bad decision.”

They picked a suburb that, looking back, “was great, but just not a good personality fit for us,” she says. In short, it was too big. “I grew up in a small town, and I wanted to recreate that,” she explains. “I wanted people to know my name at the local coffee shop. I wanted the pizza place to know my kids, and what they liked. Things that mattered to us—like having our kids get to know others the same age—weren’t so easy, since there were so many schools in the district.”

So Bernstein and her family picked up and moved to a smaller town that feels just right, 45 minutes north of the city. She founded Suburban Jungle, a business that matches city clients with the right suburbs and partners with various local agents in every town who have been vetted, selected, and trained to work with their team. She began the advisory firm in New York City, but has since expanded to include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC, placing thousands of happy families in their new communities.

“I realized the things we had been focused on when we moved weren’t the key elements,” she explains. “So my company makes certain that people ask the right questions and make the best decisions for their family.”

Everyone starts out with the same wish list—a great school district, a short commute, low taxes—but there’s a better way to approach your next-home hunt.  Here, Bernstein shares some of the key mistakes parents make when moving to the ‘burbs.

1. Focusing on the house rather than the whole neighborhood

When picking a new home, most people (understandably!) focus on the property itself—how many bedrooms, bathrooms, how big is the lot? After all, who can resist poring over floor plans and listing photos of sun-flooded kitchens? But no house is an island: It’s part of a community, as you will be, too. To make sure you fit in, get a feel for the community and whether it offers the lifestyle and kinds of neighbors you are looking for.

Bernstein’s advice: “Don’t just visit the well-known towns—what we call the brand-name towns that most people aspire to. Just because a lot of people have heard of a town doesn’t mean it’s right for you.” She recommends taking as much time as you can to hang out in different ’hoods.

Try on a couple of towns—check out their cafés, their parks. Are the playgrounds full or empty on a Saturday afternoon? Are the kids there with parents or au pairs?

“Have dinner in the town. See what the people are like, what the mood is like,” Bernstein suggests. Think about whether this feels comfortable and a good fit. It’s only when you settle on a place that does that you are ready to start comparing whether you like a bungalow better than a Colonial.

2. Finding a ‘good school district’ that’s not a good fit for your kids

Let’s be real: Education is one of the top motivators for a move to the ’burbs, Bernstein says, “Everyone talks about wanting a ‘good school district,’ but the key thing here is, what does that mean for your family? A school that ranks well on standardized tests may be a pressure-cooker that your child won’t thrive in, or it may not have much of an arts program.”

Getting hung up on class size is another rookie move. While no one wants their child in a class of 50, also look at the total school enrollment. Would your child do well in a school that typically has a total of 1,000 kids per grade, even if the class size is acceptable? Do you want a district with one elementary school (small-town living) or are you looking for something with several elementary schools and possibly some specialized schools attuned to your child’s interests and talents?

Here’s another tip from Bernstein: As you narrow your choices, “go to a local school at the a.m. drop-off time and take a look. Who is dropping off the kids—nannies? Moms and dads en route to the train station? Yoga-pants-wearing at-home parents? This will also help you see if this community reflects the lifestyle you are seeking.”

3. Thinking about commute time rather than quality

Before decamping for the ’burbs, most people lock in on a commute time—say, “I won’t be on the train for more than 40 minutes each way.” But that can cause you to overlook a lot of the intangibles, says Bernstein. “Ask yourself, Would you rather be on a packed, standing-room-only local train for 40 minutes a day … or, what if you could be seated on an express train for 45 minutes a day?”

You won’t be able to really evaluate the commute unless you, well, commute. Bernstein suggest you do just that, at rush hour, and see what you are getting yourself into. Sure, it takes time, but can help you avoid locking into a “dream house” that comes with a surprise commute from hell twice daily. (Note: A little research will also yield info on a train line’s “on-time” record—another good bit of data to know.)

While you are doing a dry-run commute, scope out the parking situation, too. Many “hot” towns have packed parking lots with waiting lists and with prized parking permits costing thousands a year. Call the town office and inquire about the details, so you’re prepared.
Bernstein has another great tip for sussing out towns based on commutes.

“Pull out an area map and scan it carefully,” she suggests. “There are wonderful small towns—hidden jewels, even—that don’t have their own train station.” These villages tend to be overlooked by people moving to the suburbs, but are worth your attention. (Ask your real estate agent for help with this, too.) You might be able to move to one of these places and walk or drive three minutes to a neighboring town’s train station.

4. Assuming you’ll easily find child care nearby

Most people moving out of the city do so for the sake of children (current or future), but you can’t assume the child care options are the same in the suburbs as in an urban setting. If you are a two-career couple, see what options exist nearby.

“Few suburbs are truly walkable. If you need day care, how far a drive would that be, and how long would it take during the a.m. rush hour?” asks Bernstein. What time at the end of day do they close, and what happens if you are running late? Is the town one that has a strong au pair network, or are most moms home with their kids? This info doesn’t just let you envision your daily schedule—it will tell you a lot about the community and whether it will be a good fit for your family.

The post 4 Huge Mistakes You Might Make Moving From a City to the Suburbs appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Is a Commuter Town? Proximity to the City and Relatively Affordable Living

September 5, 2018

Many people who work full time in major employment areas like large cities are likely to call a commuter town home. But what is a commuter town exactly?

It’s an area that’s “primarily residential, without industrial or strong economic engines of its own,” says Laura Brodniak, a real estate agent with Windmere Real Estate in Seattle.

A commuter town is sometimes called a bedroom community—a nod to the fact that many of the residents leave for employment during the workday but return in the evening.

These types of communities can vary in population, but the one thing they have in common is their proximity to a major employment center whether that’s a large city, suburban community, or resort area.

Commuter towns can develop outside an urban employment area where sky-high rents and mortgages drive workers to seek housing elsewhere. Stamford, CT, for example, is a commuter town for people who work in New York City.

Commuter towns can also develop when a small town loses its manufacturing center. Residents may want to continue to live there, but need to commute elsewhere in order to find employment. Steubenville, OH, a former steel town, has now become a commuter town for people who travel to Pittsburgh for work.

Life in a commuter town

Commuter towns generally have few local businesses, which is one of the main distinctions between these types of communities and suburbs. But similar to suburbs, commuter towns will be proximate to cities and major employment centers. They also may be in rural or semirural areas.

Commuter towns generally offer more space compared with the surrounding suburban and urban areas, according to Eddie Chang, broker and director at Seattle King County Realtors.

“You tend to get better bang for the buck in commuter towns than in urban areas,” he says. For many people, this means they can afford a larger home for less money than what they could afford in the city.

Other services add to the quality of life in commuter towns.

“There are often great schools, good transportation to the city, and good health care options,” says Brodniak.

On the flip side, living in a commuter town means you won’t have access to the wide variety of restaurants, major event venues, large malls, festivals, and other local cultural events that are found in a city.

And of course, there’s the expense and inconvenience of your daily commute.

The future of commuter towns

As technology advances, changes in how and where Americans work may change how we perceive commuter towns.

“With more people working remotely, fewer people may commute,” Brodniak says. Still, she doesn’t think this will make commuter towns any less desirable.

Even though people may not need to commute to work, most commuter towns still offer them the chance to own a relatively affordable home on a relatively large lot.

The post What Is a Commuter Town? Proximity to the City and Relatively Affordable Living appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.