The technology exists, but nothing beats exploring the suburbs in person.
It’s an exciting time to be exploring the suburbs. Thanks to the latest and greatest technology, digging into new towns, schools districts and homes couldn’t be easier. After taking a virtual tour of the neighborhood, live stream a Q&A with the local superintendent and scroll through the popular mom’s group on Facebook—it’s a lot of truly behind-the-scenes interactions once reserved for locals only. Now, though, exploring any community is, often, just a quick click away.
The only problem? All of this amazing technology and added efficiency will never replace getting up close and personal with a town.
Think about when you moved to the city in the first place. If you didn’t grow up in the hustle and bustle, you probably thought you knew what you were getting into—but, until you actually spent time navigating the streets, the subways, and the foodie scene, you really didn’t know what city living was like.
It’s the same in the suburbs. Here, there are lots of little details, personality traits and nuances about each town—each street, even—that you’ll never be able to decipher by simply scanning the landscape on Google Street View.
How to use technology to prepare for your town tours
But, that said, there are plenty of great ways to use technology to prepare for those in-person previews, town tours, and other interactive experiences. For example…
Check out the schools including class sizes, scores, rankings, unique clubs and offerings, sports and facilities. As you’re reviewing, jot down notes and questions to ask in-person.
Look up local kids sports teams, dance or gymnastic schools, music lessons or other activities your crew plans to start to continue in the suburbs. Read local mom reviews and start to get a sense of where your kids might belong—then make it a point to check out the top few contenders during your town tours.
Search for local activities and events. Big farmers market this weekend? Fall harvest festival? Little League parade? Do some digging online, see what’s happening and get there! These are great opportunities to get to know a town and your potential neighbors.
Scour the mom boards on Facebook or other community sites and see what the latest chatter is about. Is everyone talking holiday vacation plans? Nanny shares? Summer camp? Recipes? Often these groups are a good preview of a community. After scoping the mom scene, head over to other key pages—farmers market, elementary school, community center, and other hotspots.
Look at the ratings for area restaurants, cafes, spas and shops. Sites like Yelp and even TripAdvisor are good go-to destinations. Take a look at what pops to the top of locals’ lists, then make it a point to stop by on your first—or next—visit. Often hanging out in the popular coffee shop or diner, or popping into that must-try bakery will give you a good sense of the community, the people and the priorities.
Get a sense for what’s on the market. Don’t be afraid to start looking at houses online, even if it’s just to better understand the norm in a community or suburb. For example, you may be focused on a town where old Victorians and quirky historic homes are the norm—and that may or may not be your taste. Understanding that going in could help inform the towns you ultimately search.
Why you need to explore the suburbs in person…
Ultimately, though, technology will never replace the human side of exploring towns and, from there, finding “The House.” So often our clients tell us they want specific attributes, amenities, and access but, once they start exploring the suburbs, they realize they want something entirely different—something they wouldn’t have realized or even thought about if they weren’t digging in in-person.
We’ve also seen families get excited about a community they’d heard and read so much about. But when they arrived? It didn’t feel right—maybe it was too rural-feeling or too urban, even. Again, no picture, no virtual tour and message board would have told that story.
In that vein, there’s simply no replacing seeing things with your own eyes. That school with amazing rankings? Maybe it feels too big or too impersonal—or maybe the pictures never let on that there are metal detectors at every entrance. But once you’re face-to-face with these details, it’s easy to determine your next move. And that’s the most important thing—and that can never happen 100% online.
There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t… without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.