Finding the Right Vibe in Montclair

Jul 27, 2019

This Upper East Side family made the leap from the city to the NYC suburbs—and never looked back!

When Ali Simon, her husband and their then-one-year-old started exploring the NYC suburbs, they knew exactly what they wanted—and that started with a laid back vibe and a community with unpretentious working parents.

In summer 2016, the Simons made the move from the Upper East Side to Montclair. “Suburban Jungle helped us narrow down our search and feel more confident in our options,” Ali explains.

Following the Suburban Jungle Model

Working with Patti Natiss, Suburban Jungle’s Director of Strategy & Emerging Markets, the family began refining their priorities—what they wanted, needed and were looking for, specifically, in the suburbs. Together they narrowed down the family’s search and, soon enough, found the right spot: Montclair, New Jersey.

“They were looking for a town that had character, good schools and a laid back vibe,” Patti says. “The exploration stage went really well because they really followed the Suburban Jungle model.”

That model, Patti explains, involves exploring the first few towns on the home search strategy that is provided to each family after an in-depth initial strategy call. The key is to not only tour but take the time to truly discuss the intangibles of those towns with a strategist. It is imperative to go out, do the initial look around, then discuss further insight as to what you loved and didn’t love about each town.

Part of the process is really understanding what was on your initial list and checks every box, and what was on your now “nice to have” list versus your “need to have” list. From there, Suburban Jungle works as a team to help narrow down focus in on a specific town.

“They went out to a few towns and quickly picked the River Towns and Montclair,” Patti says. “And there are a lot of similarities in those areas. Montclair has a more ‘city’ vibe, but the River Towns has the water and isn’t as walkable.”

After a few months of visiting the areas and weighing their options, Ali and her family finally settled on Montclair—and they quickly found a great house.

Settled in the Suburbs…

Now three years in, “I’m surprised how little I miss living in the city,” she says. Their experience in Montclair, with their two kids, now four and two, has exceeded all expectations.

“The friends we’ve met in Montclair have been incredible,” Ali adds. “Montclair has the vibe we wanted and the sense of community is amazing. There’s also a great downtown, which adds to it. It’s been a seamless transition from the city to the suburbs for us.”

Looking ahead, Ali and her family are excited for all that comes next—getting even more acclimated into the community, the kids starting elementary school and making more friends and connections as they go.

Searching the suburbs like a pro
To new families looking to make the leap, Ali’s advice is simple. “If you’re looking to go from the city to the suburbs, make sure your search is about the town first, then the house,” Ali says, echoing Suburban Jungle’s own town-first approach. “And when you do look at homes, look broader than your exact price range. You never know what’s going to sell for above or below ask.”

This approach, no doubt, will give you a wider range of prospective properties when you do start making offers. It will also help you see what’s possible home-wise—and what you’re open to that you may not have expected. Seeing something below your range may spark your inner fixer-upper, or looking at properties above may give you a better sense of what you need versus what you want.

“And be sure you go visit and have lunch in the town on a weekend,” Ali adds. “Explore the area and figure out if you can see yourself there.” If you can, that’s a good sign. It’s easy enough to check out a town’s “tangibles”—schools, scores, commute times, amenities, housing prices—but getting a feel for the vibe, the people and the other “intangibles” will ensure you find the perfect suburb to call “home.”

Patti agrees. “When you follow this process, you get the true colors of different communities. You aren’t just a house buyer—and, as a result, you’ll be much happier!”

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.

Images: Ali Simon

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