From “Never New Jersey,” to “Hello, South Orange”

Jan 25, 2024

How a reluctant suburbanite found home in a surprising place.

After 20 years in the city, Annie wasn’t ready to leave – and had eyes on staying in Brooklyn for the long term. 

“I didn’t want to leave the city. I wanted to stay in Brooklyn,” Annie says. “We needed more space, though. I used to stand in our apartment and think, ‘If we could just get another 100 square feet…’” The more she and her husband, Sean, searched, the more the couple realized that additional space came at a significant cost. “We found ourselves further and further out, and even further from Manhattan.” 

Despite Annie’s reluctance, Sean – who had lived in the city on and off since 2005 – was open to exploring the suburbs. If they did look in the suburbs, though, Annie was set on Westchester.

“If we couldn’t make it work, we even talked about moving to Boston, where my family lives now.” 

Building out a suburbs strategy 

While exploring their options, Annie connected with Suburban Jungle and their Strategist, Alli Levine – and that’s when everything changed. 

“Our first call with Alli was so energizing,” Annie says. “The suburbs suddenly felt so exciting, and she opened up potential doors we hadn’t considered. Before moving out of the city felt like it would be luck of the draw – that we’d wind up where friends moved, but there was no guarantee we’d understand the community we were joining until we landed.”

Working with Alli, Annie, and Sean focused on their wants, needs, and goals.

“During those initial conversations, Annie and Sean shared exactly what they were looking for in a community,” Alli says. “Annie needed to be near an airport for work and close enough to commute to her Soho office from time to time – without spending hours and hours on the train. Walkability was also at the top of their list.”

Another request?

“I said ‘absolutely no’ to New Jersey,” Annie says. “And the food needed to be good. We were coming from Brooklyn and had everything within walking distance. We weren’t ready to give that up.”

Exploring Westchester – and more

With their objectives in mind, Alli prepared a comprehensive strategy for the couple, including Pelham, Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Larchmont, and Mamaroneck. Immediately, Annie fell in love with Pelham.

“We put an offer on a house in Pelham – we just loved it,” Annie says. “But things weren’t moving, and Alli encouraged us to keep exploring while we waited.” They agreed – but despite her initial reluctance, Annie and Sean planned to tour some New Jersey towns, including Montclair, South Orange, and Maplewood. 

“Annie and Sean were open to expanding their search,” Alli said, “which was a great idea. They loved Montclair, and I know that South Orange surprised them.”

Annie agreed.

“We had never considered South Orange,” she says. “But South Orange and Montclair were great options  – while we were still waiting on the Pelham house.”

Over the next few weeks, Annie and Sean held out for news from Pelham while putting offers on New Jersey properties.

“It was disheartening,” Annie says. “We started our search in January; months later, we were still looking.” In the fall of 2023, several homes came onto the market in South Orange and Montclair, and Annie and Sean decided it was now or potentially never. “We agreed to give it one more shot,” she says. “Then we were going to start looking in Brooklyn again.”

Ultimately, they made two offers: one in Montclair and one in South Orange – and their South Orange offer was accepted. On November 13, they closed, and four days later, they packed up and left their Brooklyn apartment.

“The house needs work – but it was doable work,” Annie, an architect, says. “And the house has so much character. We loved it right away!”

The house, Sean adds, is within walking distance to the train, restaurants, gyms, and more – and there are plenty of great places to walk their new puppy, who joined the family in early December. 

“We already found a great brunch spot,” Sean says. “Plus, we have a lot more space, including an actual guestroom for when friends and family visit.”

What comes next: making a home in South Orange

While the couple initially held onto their Brooklyn apartment, they ultimately decided they were ready to let it go and be “all in” on South Orange. “We were having so many ‘I really love this’ moments here, and we knew it was time to let our Brooklyn home go.” They continue to head to their upstate NY home every weekend, which, Sean adds, is a 15-20 minute quicker ride than it was coming from Brooklyn.

“In the traffic, especially, every minute counts!” he says.

Looking back, Annie still can’t believe their trajectory – or that the couple landed in the one place she said she’d never consider.

“Be open to the possibilities,” Annie says. “Be sure you’re working with an agent you really connect with, and above all, work with Suburban Jungle. We would have never thought about the great town we ended up in if it wasn’t for Alli listening to us and connecting the dots.” 

Want to find a town that checks your boxes? Let’s talk! Get in touch now to schedule your Suburbs Strategy session. 

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