Can You REALLY Find an Affordable Home in The Suburbs?​

While, for decades, “starter houses” were an essential first step for city families heading to suburbia, today’s city dwellers turned suburbanites don’t always have the same options. Home prices in many of the country’s most sought-after ‘burbs have gotten really high in recent years—think $1.2 million in Marin County, CA; $1 million in Needham, MA, and more than $1.4 million in Scarsdale, NY. And that means even entering these markets far exceeds the “starter home” benchmark and, in many cases, can price out buyers who, in any other market, would be able to lock down virtually any home on the market. So the big question: can you REALLY find an affordable home in the suburbs?In short, YES. Just because home prices are on the high side doesn’t mean you need to adjust (at least nottoo much…), relegate yourself to a traditional “starter home” or skip out on the town you really want to callhome entirely. It just means you need to dig a little deeper, look a little harder and understand the scope of what’s available, what it costs and where to look. Related Posts...A fixer-upper in Bay Area...Should you consider a fixer-upper?The rent-first approach... Our friends at Wee Westchester did just that in their fantastic round up of . This post has affordable homes in the suburbs, including some incredibly sought-after towns like Katonah, Tarrytown, Yorktown Heights and Briarcliff Manor, all for $600,000 or less—which, in this part of the country, is a total steal.And Westchester isn’t alone. Our experts on the ground have spotted sub-$600,000 deals in Novato, San Rafael and even Needham and Scarsdale. And these are not apartments or tiny condos either. These are well-positioned, well-maintained homes perfect for a family.Our point? Don’t feel priced out of any market. Don’t expand your search to include other communities if you knowyou’ve found “The Town” for you and your family. And don’t settle for the first home that comes along. Tap your Suburbs Strategist and do a little digging before lobbing an offer. Because you can find an affordable home in the suburbs, even in some of the most popular towns out there. Good luck!  To find the suburb that fits your family, click here and complete our interactive questionnaire.​

How to scout out the NYC suburbs like a pro: tips for city parents​

Scouting out suburbia can be both exciting and daunting, especially if you are a city parent. Here are some tips on how you can get to know your prospective 'burbs in NYC. So what did Alison Sherwin learn while scouting out the NYC suburbs? How to get a true sense of a community fast, including suburban search with the kids and why diners are the ultimate gauge of a town…While in the process of looking for a house, how do you get a sense of the town—or towns—you are looking at? I wanted to know how busy each town’s Main Street was, how far the playgrounds and parks were from any potential house, where my supermarket and drugstore would be, and whether I should expect daily traffic jams at any place in town. How do you do that? Here are some of the issues: Bringing the kids? Let’s face it, if you’re looking to move from Manhattan to Westchester or any of the NYC suburbs, there’s a good chance you have kids, likely more than one. Do you take them with you? If not, then you need to arrange for child care, potentially on short notice if a newly listed property seems likely to field multiple offers. If taking, then driving—see below!—becomes almost a necessity to accommodate their car seats, diaper bags, and other accoutrements. And if you are taking them, then be prepared to look at each house separately from your spouse as you trade child-care duties. Each visit will take twice as long as it would otherwise. The times we took our toddler, I felt as though I only saw staircases—my apartment-raised toddler enjoyed the novelty of stairs and wanted to go up and down them multiple times!On the plus side, when we found the house we eventually bought, we took our toddler with us on our second visit and she immediately liked the large driveway and the surfeit of acorns falling from the oak trees on the property. Consider transportation. If you don’t have your own car already, then you really have two options for exploring the NYC suburbs while living in the city: borrowing or renting a car every time you want or need to see a house, or taking the commuter rail north and riding with your real estate agent.My husband and I started out trying to house hunt via train, but several issues quickly arose.  Not many realtors have car seats, meaning we would have to bring it on the train. While it is very easy to get to any particular town on the train, if you are looking at houses in several towns on the same day, it is hard to get to them if they aren’t on the same train line. There are three Metro-North lines that run through Westchester. The River Towns are on the Hudson line, Scarsdale on the Harlem line and Larchmont and Mamaroneck are on the New Haven line—going between these NYC suburbs on separate lines via train doesn’t work.After giving up on the train and not wishing to deprive my brother and sister-in-law of their car every weekend, we relied on rentals. Renting cars allowed us to more easily bring our toddler the times when we didn’t have a family member who was able to watch her and to give us more flexibility in driving around. It’s definitely not the cheapest option but it helped me to feel more connected to the area and allowed my daughter to nap in her car seat instead of attempting to keep her occupied on the train.If you keep a car in the city or can rent one, use it! Create personal landmarks for yourself. For various reasons, we were searching for houses in several different suburbs. As someone who didn’t grow up in Westchester, I didn’t feel as though I had any sense of where I was in the NYC suburbs—and it probably didn’t help that I insisted my husband drive almost all of the time. (Side note: after 13 years in the city, it took a while for me to be comfortable driving again.) I started looking for landmarks so I could start to feel as though I knew where I was. This could be anything: (1) the castle where a friend of mine was married, (2) the street where we saw a house with a crazy catwalk or (3) the diner where we ate at multiple times during this process. Driving past each of them—and noting this fact out loud—helped me feel somewhat geographically connected to the process. This also helped me to feel more comfortable in the area once we moved—using the same landmarks to slowly stop using the GPS to get everywhere. Related Posts...What I wish I knew before I started the house hunt... What to do before you start your search...Look beyond a bustling downtown... Eat at ALL the diners. Embrace whatever your stress eating food of choice is and order it. Try out all the different diners in the suburb or suburbs you are searching in. Take some time to people watch—are there entire kids’ baseball teams coming in to eat after a game? Does the church congregation from next door walk directly over to eat? Does the couple sitting at the next table watch as you debate the pros and cons of making an offer on a particular house and tell you that their town is wonderful? Is your request for a highchair met with a smile, crayons and prompt delivery of chicken fingers?Just as with houses, there is no perfect town in the NYC suburbs or any suburbs. Remember that most of the towns in Westchester are relatively small. We live in Irvington, but the kids’ preschool is in Tarrytown, their pediatrician is in Hastings-on-Hudson, the dentist is in Hartsdale, our butcher is in Ardsley, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at a lovely restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, and we do a lot of shopping at the Costco in Yonkers. The best diner or church/temple or playground doesn’t have to be in the same town as your future home. With the right landmarks and new-found confidence in driving, you can get anywhere. For your personalized suburbs strategy session, click here!​

The Suburban Grocery Store Scene​

You’ve left the city and are now settling in in the suburbs. But, as new suburbanite Alison Sherwin discovered, there’s still one final step: learning to navigate the suburban grocery shopping landscape. Here’s what she discovered in the Westchester suburbs, and why having stroller-sized aisles is a major plus.  So you’ve taken the plunge and moved to the Westchester suburbs—now what? The family needs to eat, and sadly you can’t live on takeout forever. Once you’ve celebrated all the storage space in your new kitchen (!) and unpacked all the pots and pans, the cooking begins. It’s time to explore the grocery store options in the area.My old apartment was a block away from a Fairway, so I was spoiled by the ability to find almost everything I could have needed or wanted in one spot. Fairway didn’t have everything—it lacked many specialty Indian and Asian ingredients and a few items for which I needed to brave a Gristedes—but it came pretty close.Once I started cooking in my new house, I found that to get everything I wanted, I would need to go to many different stores. It may sound crazy, but none of these places are too far away and I don’t go to all of them every week. Plus, I get to revel—every visit—in the joy that is grocery shopping with children in the suburbs! (That’s not sarcasm.) After struggling in the city with strollers, tiny carts, and narrow aisles teeming with people, the suburban grocery store is a dream. That doesn’t mean that shopping with toddlers is anything other than stressful, but at least the carts are big and the aisles are wide.First stop—the closest full-size supermarket to your house. For me, that’s a Stop & Shop. Wide selection, wide aisles, and grocery carts with plastic cars in front that your kid can “drive.” Fair warning—those car carts aren’t the easiest to maneuver, but if it keeps your toddler occupied, so be it. Stop & Shop has all the basics in a wide selection of brands, a decent selection of organic and conventional produce, and some of the ethnic options I like. The store is lacking however, some of the oddest things—for a while mine didn’t carry dark corn syrup—but overall it works for daily shopping.DeCicco’s. There’s one in Ardsley and other branches throughout the Westchester suburbs.  If it was closer to my house I’d make it my everyday store. It’s got a great selection of produce (both organic and conventional), a really great butcher and a deli that I love. I find that the ethnic variety is a bit better than at my Stop & Shop, and it carries some fancier options.Overall, it feels quite a bit like a Fairway to me. I see on the Westchester “mommy” boards a lot of complaints about it being expensive, but after almost a year of shopping there, I’m still trying to figure out why. Yes, there are some nicer and therefore more expensive options, but the day-to-day items seem to be priced the same as at Stop & Shop. If someone can explain this to me, please do!Whole Foods. I go to the one in White Plains. You can park in the parking garage connected to the store, making the stress of driving in White Plains worth it. This branch has everything you would expect from a Whole Foods. I buy a lot of organic items and specialty items there that I simply can’t find elsewhere. Grab your reusable shopping bags and go.Trader Joe’s. I go to the one in Hartsdale, but they’re also in Scarsdale and Larchmont. It probably has the narrowest aisles of any of the grocery stores I go to. But it has all the Trader Joe’s specialty foods and rotating seasonal options. In the fall, everything is pumpkin. For the holidays, it’s all gingerbread. I can’t get everything I need there, but it’s always fun to go in.HMart (Hartsdale). Asian and other ethnic foods galore! A foodie’s dream! Plus, a bakery! I find it’s not a great place to bring my kids, as it takes me a bit of time to find what I’m looking for because many of the items are labeled in different languages. I can’t just run in, grab two things, and run out. But any Asian produce you are looking for, it’s there. Any random ingredient that I can’t find in traditional stores or on Amazon, it’s there, too. It may not be in English so be prepared with pictures of the item on your phone. And stop in the bakery for something—especially if you’ve left the kids at home.Stew Leonard’s (Yonkers). My kids love this store. Every few feet there’s a talking or singing animal, and a train goes around the cashier area. Before you go, understand that there’s one path through the store. You have to wind around the entire store to get to check-out. It’s a time commitment, especially when you have to stop and listen to each animal sing. Amazing prepared foods and the nicest cashiers. However, Stew Leonard’s does not carry everything that a “normal” grocery store does. I didn’t understand this the first time I went and was so confused by the fact that although I had yummy flying saucers and an excellent calzone in my cart, I still had to go to another store to do my actual grocery shopping if I was going to cook dinner that night.Costco (Yonkers). Yup, you’ve moved to the Westchester suburbs. One Costco membership, please. I buy organic milk there once a week. Buy paper products and diaper wipes in bulk as well as anything else your kids eat rapidly. And hey—you have a house now—storage space! Related posts...What farmers markets say about a townGet your hands dirty with an organic vegetable garden! From urban to suburban... in Westchester! Two issues: First, it’s extremely crowded on weekends. Second, the organic produce selection isn’t the best or consistent. What might be organic one week may not be the next. But, if you have freezer room, there are great organic produce options in the frozen section. Plus, the Costco in Yonkers is next to Home Depot and Stew Leonard’s is right around the corner, so you can combine errands.That’s my list of usual suspect grocery stores. There are different reasons to go to each and I try and stock up on things at each store to avoid frequent trips. It took me a while to figure out where to go, but it’s nice to have options. Besides—I can now put groceries in my trunk and drive home—no more lugging bags of groceries home while trying to push a stroller too!For your personalized suburbs strategy session, click here!​

Almost suburbanites​

Our Journey from the City to the NYC Suburbs
Justin Lane and his wife have lived in Manhattan for 15+ years, even navigating life with twins on the Upper East Side. Now, looking ahead, they’re ready to make the leap to the NYC suburbs and tapped Suburban Jungle to help them identify the right communities for their young family. The end result?

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