The Filipovics Family Story
Jessica and Rob Filipovic always knew they’d land in the suburbs at some point. But, even after welcoming their daughter, they continued to call their Upper West Side one-bedroom “home.”
“While we made it work with one kid, if we were going to expand our family we knew the city probably didn’t make sense, so we got in touch with Suburban Jungle,” Jessica explains.
Going into their search, though, Jessica and Rob were already confident they’d land in Montclair. Not only did the community check all of their boxes — strong schools, an easy commute, lots to do — Jessica’s sister and her family were already living there.
“For us, Montclair felt like a no-brainer,” she says. “But even so, we wanted to do our due diligence and explore a little more before we started looking for a house.”
Their Suburban Jungle Strategist Erika Ades applauded their approach.
“So often families know a town because they have friends or family there,” she says. “But it’s important to expand your search beyond ‘name brand towns’ or the one or two spots you’re familiar with. While you absolutely may end up in those communities, you’ll go into your move confident you made the right choice, because you took the time to explore other areas, too.”
Exploring the New Jersey suburbs
While Montclair remained high on the family’s list, Erika introduced them to several other New Jersey suburbs that aligned with their “must-haves.”
“One of the towns Erika suggested was Glen Ridge — we’d never even heard of it,” Jessica says. “We fell in love with it. We knew this was our town.”
Just minutes from Montclair, the Filipovics would still be close to family and have easy access to the same restaurants, shops, and activities. At the same time, Jessica says, it gave them an opportunity to explore a new community and new school district. After syncing up with a Suburban Jungle agent, the family dove into the home search process.
Starting their home search — from Montclair
Ultimately, Jessica and Rob opted to move into an apartment in downtown Montclair, to get a better feel for the extended community. For the next few months, they searched Glen Ridge homes with their agent, getting a sense of what they did and didn’t want. In September 2020 they closed and, weeks later, left their Montclair apartment and moved to Glen Ridge.
Now, more than a year in, the Filipovics are thrilled with their suburban move — and are loving life in Glen Ridge. Their street is packed with young families and school-aged kids and their cousins are just minutes away.
“We are really close to my sister but the kids are in different schools,” Jessica says. “It’s a great balance. We hadn’t even heard of Glen Ridge, now I can’t imagine not being here.”
The Simon Family Story
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!”
Find the right suburb for your family with help from Suburban Jungle. Schedule your FREE Suburbs Strategy session today to get started.