Advice for Moving to the Suburbs: 5 Mistakes City Families Make

Oct 31, 2023

We get it: when it’s time to make a move, you want to move. However, transitioning from the city to the suburbs is a major decision that greatly impacts you and your family. So, while that pull is real, don’t rush into a move to the suburbs—or you could find yourself in the wrong spot for your growing family.

It’s something we see all the time. And, again, we get it. When you’re ready to move, you want to be up and out ASAP. But with 600+ commutable towns outside of NYC—and each with its distinct personality and priorities—it’s important to learn the lay of the land and find a community that’s right for you. With this perspective, you’ll be better prepared to avoid these all-too-common mistakes…

Suburb Moving Advice #1. Understand the town before you pick the house 

While it’s easy to get caught up in an amazing open house, the TOWN is what matters. Think about it—you can always change the house, but towns rarely—if ever—change. And if they do, it’s likely years, if not decades, away. 

While undoubtedly, you’ll want to find “The House,” it’s crucial that the house is located within a community that feels like the right fit. Yes, you’ll reside in that house, but your family’s life will extend beyond its walls—your kids will attend school, engage in sports, socialize with neighbors, visit the farmers market, and celebrate numerous milestones in the town.

When considering a move to the suburbs, our advice is to ensure that the town aligns with your unique lifestyle, wants, needs, and goals. Even if the house is amazing, if the town doesn’t match your preferences, likely, it will never truly feel like “home.”

Suburb Moving Advice #2. Don’t limit yourself to “brand name” towns

Every city has its well-known “brand name” suburbs—the ones everyone in your building seems to have flocked to once they started having kids. While these towns have their appeal, such as short commutes, top-rated schools, and desirable amenities, they may not be ideal for your family. The truth is, there are countless fantastic towns that you might not be familiar with. This is where Suburban Jungle can help. 

Commit to exploring brand-name suburbs and other towns you’re considering moving to. While you may find yourself in one of the more sought-after towns, there’s also a good chance you’ll surprise yourself and find a “home” where you least expected it. And even if you land exactly where you expected to, there’s no harm in exploring—soon enough, you’ll be living in the ‘burbs, and it’s great to have a sense of what’s outside your immediate borders. You will also feel that much more confident with the decision you made!

Suburb Moving Advice #3. There is more to a town than commute times

When considering a move to the suburbs, it’s crucial to consider your potential commute. While the time spent traveling is an important factor, it’s not the whole story. Train schedules and Google Maps estimates don’t provide the complete picture of your future commute.

For instance, if you work near Grand Central in Manhattan but live on Long Island, a commute to Penn Station may take less than 30 minutes on paper. However, you could spend 25 minutes navigating through city traffic during rush hour, turning your seemingly quick commute into nearly an hour. If you can’t secure parking at your local station and have to stand for the entire 55-minute journey, the proximity loses its appeal.

Consider all the elements of your commute, including parking costs and availability, train conditions during rush hour, the proximity of your drop-off point to your workplace, and various transportation options. Choosing a town with a slightly longer commute but better transit options may result in a more manageable daily journey.

Suburb Moving Advice #4. Set your eyes beyond Main Street

Living in the city, you’re undoubtedly used to ample amenities just steps away. The reality? That’s not the suburbs. However, you’ll have a car and, depending on your priorities, you’ll likely have easy access to all of the activities, amenities, and other essentials you and your family want and need. For many city transplants, that’s way better and more convenient. 

When you want to move to a suburb, one key point of advice is that there’s one sticking point that seems to come up over and over for many city families: “Main Street,” i.e., a bustling downtown area. 

While it makes sense—a centralized downtown can feel like a major plus or even a necessity—the reality is there’s much more to a community than a “Main Street.” 

Though, yes, suburban downtowns look picturesque on town tours, the reality is that downtown isn’t going to be your go-to. Most are lined with non-essentials—they’re nice to have, and you’ll likely pop in once or twice, but they aren’t where you’ll do your core shopping or dining. Chances are, you’ll be better off being a quick drive or bike ride to Whole Foods, Target, dry cleaners, playgrounds, and those few favorite restaurants than you are being walking distance to downtown. And, of course, you can order everything you need right to your door!

Suburb Moving Advice #5. Look at your school options from multiple angles

Every parent wants “great” schools! But, while test scores and rankings seem to dominate everyone’s decisions, there’s A LOT more to finding A+ schools than just that. Our advice when considering moving to the suburbs is that there are a lot of other details beyond test scores that are critical to your child’s learning.

Depending on your family and your child’s unique needs, learning styles, and outside activities, a great school could be a small, close-knit community where every kid gets tons of individual attention and chances to shine. Others might want a big school with many AP classes, competitive sports, and hundreds of extracurriculars to fill up their kids’ days—and transcripts. Some families may need or want something very specific—language immersion, International Baccalaureate, or niche sports, let’s say. 

That said, don’t let scores or rankings dictate your choice—they never tell the full story. Instead, get to know a district. Chat with parents, request a tour, talk to administrators, or simply speak to Suburban Jungle to see if everything fits your expectations. And beyond that, don’t be afraid to look at other quantitative factors—college matriculation, for example, parent ratings and student assessments. This, paired with the “core” numbers and your take on the school, will help you determine the right school for your kids. 

Exploring the suburbs? Don’t go it alone. Contact us now to connect with a Suburbs Strategist and get expert insights and advice for moving to the suburbs — based on lifestyle, not just bedrooms and bathrooms

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