5 Things You Might Not Be Thinking About as You’re Exploring the Suburbs

May 9, 2024

There’s a lot to consider – but don’t leave these questions to the last minute.

School districts. Train schedule. Budgets. There is quite a bit to take into account when you’re exploring communities to call “home.” But too often, people focus on the major must-haves and don’t think enough about what day-to-day life is really going to be like.

As you’re touring towns, keep an eye on your non-negotiables but, also, make sure you’re considering these five elements – because as we’ve seen over and over (and experienced first hand!), these characteristics can make or break your suburban experience. 

Remember, the commute is more than just minutes on a train 

Not surprisingly, a quick commute tops many city-dwellers’ must-have list. But the reality? While many suburbs have a local train or bus, “door to desk” time may be a completely different story. 

“Too often people look at train schedules and say, ‘great! Forty minutes on the train,” says Patti Natiss, Director of Strategy and Emerging Markets. “People base their decisions on the number of minutes they spend on the train or bus. But there’s so much more to it. If you can’t get a seat on the train or a spot in the parking lot, that 40-minute train ride might not matter. Suddenly, an easy 55-minute commute leaving you right outside your office looks amazing.” 

To that end, Patti says, be mindful of getting to and from the train.

“If you can’t leave your office until 5:30 and it’s 20 minutes on the Subway to get to your train, you probably aren’t catching the 5:45 – or even the 5:50,” she says. “Does that change the commute at all? Does that mean a longer ride or changing trains?” 

Beyond time, it’s important to consider what else goes into the commute. Is there a three-year wait list for commuter parking, or a pricey annual permit fee? Is the bus so crowded that you might not be able to snag a seat during rush hour?

“Talk to your Suburban Jungle Strategist,” Patti says. “She can help paint a picture of exactly what commuting could look like.”

Understanding the “vibe” of a community 

Unless you’ve spent lots of time in a town, it can be hard to know what it feels like to live there every day. Sure, a town can look good on paper, and maybe you’ve even checked it out once or twice, but it’s important to get a sense of the “vibe” before settling in.

“Again, talk to your Strategist,” Patti says. “She’ll have the inside scoop and, often, can connect you to past clients or locals who live in the communities you’re considering. They can give an incredible behind-the-scenes perspective on what it’s really like to live in that community.” Beyond that, consider an extended visit in towns you’re considering. “Spend the weekend! Get an Airbnb or VRBO and live like a local. Check out popular restaurants, visit the farmers market or the park, jump in on a community activity. That will definitely give you a sense of what ‘real life’ is like.” 

What’s the childcare culture?

Depending on your post-move plans, the childcare culture of a town can have a big impact on your life in the ‘burbs.

Some communities tend to have more families that choose daycare over babysitters and nannies. Other areas have active social opportunities for sitters and children to participate in playgroups and activities. 

“If you’re a stay-at-home parent or work from home, you may want a community where other parents do the same — so they’re at drop off and pick up, at the park after school, and around for playdates,” says Patti. “If you’re the only parent surrounded by nannies and au pairs, it may be a little trickier to make new mom and dad friends.” At the same time, she says, if you do have full-time childcare, you may feel like you’re missing out on day-to-day activities — playdates, parties, and school functions. “Understanding what the ‘norm’ is in your community is important.”

Becoming a two-car family 

With public transportation and incredible walkability, city families often get used to a zero- or one-car lifestyle. 

“Especially if you grew up in the city, you might not drive at all,” Patti says. “While that will probably change after you move to the suburbs, there are plenty of towns where you can get away with one – or even no – car.”

Some towns, she notes, have neighborhoods near public transportation and other key amenities like grocery stores, schools, and restaurants. If it’s especially important to you, communicate that to your Strategist and she’ll be sure to zero in on towns where that’s an option. Other communities have local shuttles that pick up at spots throughout town and drop off at commuting hubs, which could mean only needing one car.

“Lyft, Uber, and other rideshares are popular in the suburbs, too,” Patti says. “So if you’re in a pinch, it’s easy to get a ride somewhere.” 

Understand the “summer culture” 

Summer is an important time of year in any community, especially if you have kids at home.

“Each town tends to have a ‘summer culture,’” Patti says. “Kids may go to sleepaway camp or a local day camp. Maybe families all head out to the Hamptons or Fire Island or the Jersey Shore. Many could have a pool in their backyard – or gravitate towards a beach club or country club in town.”

Understanding this dynamic is key, she notes.

“Your kids will not want to be home all summer without their friends, if they are away traveling or at camp. And you might not want to travel a lot during the summer – or have your kids away at camp – if your community offers amazing opportunities to enjoy the season at home.” Understanding these seemingly-minor details can help you decide if the town fits your goals and lifestyle.

Above all, Patti notes, ask questions – and any question is a good question. 

“We’re here,” she says. “We’ve seen it all, heard it all, and have been asked every question you can imagine. So don’t be afraid to reach out to us for help!”

With so many factors to consider, where should you begin? Start by connecting with a Suburban Jungle Strategist today who can answer any question and help you find the perfect suburb for you and your priorities.

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