Getting Started in the Suburban Jungle
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It’s one of the most common questions we hear: what’s the first step in finding the right town for my family? Just like no two towns are the same, no two families’ needs, expectations and personalities are either, so tackling the exploration and, ultimately, the house hunt can veer in countless different directions. But, from where we sit, the most successful processes always start exactly the same: by getting the whole family on board with what, exactly, is the “right” next step. A simple way to kick start the conversation? Ask yourself, your spouse and, even, your kids a few key questions:
What’s prompting our move?
Do you need more space for a growing family? Is it about giving your kids the same suburban childhood you had—and loved? Is the cost of renting or owning in Manhattan or Brooklyn getting too high to justify? Are you, simply, done with the hustle and bustle of city life? There’s no right or wrong—and, likely, no one answer—to this question, but it’s essential everyone align on the motivations behind your big move. And, often, the answers to this question will become the foundation of your suburban exploration and house hunting journeys.
What did you love—and what left something to be desired—about the town you grew up in?
Maybe you’re a city kid, too, but you always craved a backyard and space to play. Or maybe you grew up in the ‘burbs, and loved riding bikes on your cul-de-sac after dinner—but wished you’d been closer to more culture and experiences. As you’re mapping out your family’s next steps, take stock of those happy memories as well as the shortcomings, and think about what you can cull for your own brood’s future. What did you experience that you want for your kids, too? What do you wish your town or city had that, now, is informing your house hunt? Make a list and let it grow and evolve as you starting exploring.
Think about your commute—not just how long, but when, where and how?
In this area, the commute is often king. With 500+ towns and communities that are, technically, commutable to NYC, families have even more suburban options than they could ever even consider. For many, the paring down process starts by evaluating commutes—what’s too long? What’s too expensive? What gets me closest to my office? Assessing the entire commute picture—how long but, also, how you’ll get there—is critical. Maybe your town drives and you can hop into a car pool. Maybe there’s an express bus, with a stop near your workplace. Maybe it’s MetroNorth or Long Island Railroad. Maybe there’s a transfer. Weigh all of your options then, ultimately, give thought to the time you’ll spending commuting—while some working parents may be fine spending two or more hours on the train each day, others insist on an ultra-quick commute that’s similar to their daily subway rides.
And once you’ve settled on a town, give the commute a whirl after work one day. Make dinner plans, hop on the train, bus or in the car and head out during rush hour, then ask yourself if you could do this every day, five days per week for the next few years or, even, decades.
Private vs. public schools—have you decided?
Are you sending your children to private school, regardless of the town you live in? Some families who are 100% committed to utilizing a religious school, Waldorf program or specialized institution don’t need to weigh the pros and cons of public schools in a potential town—while, of course, other families are heading to the ‘burbs specifically forthe excellent public schools, making that a top consideration in their search. Think about where you’ll send your kids once you move, and how that choice informs your process. A family that’s focused on private schools may have some flexibility public school parents don’t they, likely, will want to be in close proximity to their schools of choice. If you’re undecided, rest assured that the suburbs are teeming with great schools of all shapes, sizes and affiliations, and take some time to research or, even, visit several schools in each town you’re considering.
What are the core priorities in your actual home?
A big backyard? An acre of land? A pool? Certain home qualities can steer your town exploration process. While, with the right budget and approach you can find virtually anything in any commutable county, some areas have higher concentrations of homes with your “must-haves.” A popular Long Island town has a very quick commute, excellent schools and beautiful homes, but they tend to have smaller outdoor spaces and be closer to neighboring houses. If a sprawling yard is your #1 priority that might not be the best place to start your search!
There’s plenty more to help steer your conversation, and the Suburban Jungle questionnaireis a perfect place to start. From there, our team of in-town experts and consultants can help devise the perfect strategy for your community and home search, to ensure the ideal next step for your family.
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