The Ultimate Try-Before-You-Buy Approach to Suburbia

Jan 14, 2020

Before taking the plunge, spend a weekend in suburbia and live like a local…

You’ve done it all. You’ve worked with your Suburban Jungle Strategist. You’ve toured towns with local Suburban Jungle agents. You’ve crossed communities off your list and bumped others to the top. And, now, you’re ready to start searching for The House. But before you do, there’s just one more step we can’t recommend enough:

Spend at least one weekend living like a local.

While you likely have a good sense for the town or towns you’re zeroing in on, spend a weekend—from the Friday night commute straight through until Sunday night or, even, the Monday AM rush. Even though your tours and solo explorations are great, diving right in for a full weekend immersion will give you a real sense of what life could be once you make the leap.

Sound good? Good. Now here’s how to do it—and don’t worry, we can help. Contact your Strategist or get in touch and we’ll help you plan the perfect “trial” weekend in suburbia.

1. Book an Airbnb

We can help you book a weekend getaway in the town or towns you’re considering. While you could crash with a friend or stay in a hotel or B&B, putting down (weekend) roots in a “real” house will give you a better feel for being in a neighborhood and really living outside of the city. Get a house, stretch out and remind yourself why having space and a serious backyard is going to be amazing.

2. Make the commute

Part of this experience is truly understanding what life will be like post-move—and that includes the commute. While you’ve no doubt considered the time tables to and from the city, it’s good to actually settle in and give the train/bus/drive a whirl.

Friday afternoons and evenings are a particularly good time to tackle the commute. Often, weekend travelers and other less-than-frequent commuters hop on board or slip behind the wheel, which can make the commute a little rougher than on a “normal” day. In other words, if you’re good with the Friday evening rush, you’ll probably be good with the commute overall.

3. Move in and scope out

Once you’re situated in your “new home,” really lean in and think about those intangibles. Do neighbors wave and say hi? Are people out and about? What’s the noise level like at night? What time do drugstores and grocery stores close? Can you order a pizza after 8pm? While these may all seem minor, you’ll definitely notice them once you’re settled in suburbia. Take note now so you can weigh it all before making a final decision on where to call “home.”

4. Start exploring

Whether it starts with Friday night family dinner or kicks off with an AM latte run on Saturday, spend lots of time out and about exploring the community. Your Strategist and Suburban Jungle Local can help identify popular spots not to miss that go beyond the obvious. Plus, check out our local roundups of weekend events and activities in lots of popular suburban communities.

While your options and go-tos will vary town to town, we definitely recommend checking out at least a few restaurants—a fun sit-down meal, a grab-and-go or quick bite spot and something unique to the community, for example. Also, swing through a coffee shop and get a taste for the vibe…and the coffee!

Other musts: a local playground or park. Even if it’s winter, see if people are out and if there are seasonal activities like ice skating or sledding happening. Stop by a farmers market if there’s one local, sports fields and any other events and activities on tap for the weekend. Again, don’t let the chill hold you back—families are somewhere, whether it’s an indoor playspace, movie theater, bowling alley or some other heated spot. Swing by and see who’s who and what’s what.

5. Consider a class

Often, kiddie classes offer a trial drop-in session for prospective students—so take advantage of it. Sign your kids up for a free gymnastics or ballet class, soccer session or afternoon art intensive. Chances are the class will be free or very low cost and will give your child an opportunity to get a feel for a potential after school activity while also mixing and mingling with (could-be) future classmates.

6. Snag a sitter (really!)

If you’ve got kids in town, your Strategist or Local can also help you find a sitter for date night! While it’s fun to scope things out with your entire crew in town, it’s also fun to check out the scene that exists beyond kid-friendly coffee shops, hip hop classes and perfect slices of pizza. Head out, grab a drink, chat it up with locals, then head to a local restaurant for a bite before heading “home.”

7. Recap the weekend

Sunday morning, hit the area bagel shop, diner or wherever serves the best pancakes in town, swing by the dog run (if you’ve got a four-legged family member…or want one…), then wrap up and head home. Before leaving, check in with your Strategist and give her your full review—and if you’ve still got burning town-related questions, your Local is standing by for a quick chat or a cup of coffee and full-on debrief. Just ask.

While no two towns are the same, we can guarantee this—you and your family will have a lot to debrief on during the trip back to the city. But, at the same time, this simple exercise will help you truly test drive a town and be ready to dive in headfirst when you find the ones that don’t.

Pros and Cons of Renting Long Term

PRO: You’ll get to try before you buy

Explore the downtown. Stroll the farmer’s market. Enroll your kids in the local schools, meet the parents and get to know the district. Sign up for sports teams, Girl Scouts, gymnastics and ballet. Spend your weekends exploring, the way “real” locals do—except without a mortgage. This is the major pro to renting—you’ll be able to dive into a community in a way taking the “weekend warrior” approach won’t afford you.

PRO: You’ll be able to make a move without a hefty down payment

Many families opt to keep renting to ensure they have sufficient time to save for the right house. Renting, of course, doesn’t require the same level of upfront cash—usually 1-2 months rent, plus a security deposit—as buying, and enables families to keep saving at a similar rate as they would in the city, but while jumpstarting their new suburban lives.

CON: Desirable rentals can be few and far between

Unlike the city with, literally, millions of rentals spanning the size, price and location spectrum, the majority of suburban homes in this area are primary residences. As a result, the perfect rental might not be so easy to find and secure as it is within city limits.

CON: You’ll still need to—and furnish a house

A major expense that comes with moving to the suburbs is, of course, moving, as well as furnishing a much larger space. Whether you’re buying or renting, those costs are more or less fixed. However, if your plan is to purchase in that town—or test drive another—in the next year or two, the furnishing piece can be a pricey proposition, as what “works” in one house may not in the next. That can mean furnishing two homes in a very short period of time, not to mention the added headache, hassle and expense of the actual move.

CON: One town, multiple schools

While your desired town may feed into one high school or, even, middle school, chances are there are multiple elementary schools. If you’ve got young children, an in-town move could still mean a new school, new sports teams, new after school activities and new childcare. Many parents opt to make a move to the suburbs in preschool or kindergarten, but the move from school to school—even within the same town—can be just as challenging as hopping from the city to the suburbs between or during school years.

PRO—then CON: You love your rental home

Great news—you love your rental home, and are thrilled with the immediate and extended community, the neighbors, the schools…the list goes on and on. Pro!

But then there’s the lurking con: it’s time to move. Chances are, you don’t plan on renting forever—but if you’ve fallen in love with your rental home, that can be a real hurdle in your long-term house hunt. You may not find something that’s exactly the same as the place you’ve temporarily called home, or may not even find something in the neighborhood you’ve come to love so much. And that can derail your future search.

Ultimately, there are plenty of pros and cons to renting before you buy in the ‘burbs. Only you know what’s right for your family and your finances—but be sure to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. It could mean an extra year or two in the city, or moving forward on a “starter” house—or it could mean forging ahead with your purchase plan or with a rental!

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.

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