What Families THINK They Need When They Start Exploring Suburbia (but don’t…)

Nov 20, 2019

Leaving the city is tough. And it’s tough to imaginenothaving certain amenities. But, in reality, once you move these features likely won’t be as important…


Every family has a unique list of must-haves and nice-to-haves when they start exploring suburbia—but that doesn’t mean the town they land in will check every single one of those boxes.



“A downtown. A train in town. Total walkability,” says Erika Ades, Suburban Jungle NYC Strategist. “We hear those three requests a lot, and it makes sense. Families are coming from the city and they want to maintain some of those perks. In the city you walk everywhere. In the city you can hop on the subway and get anywhere.”



In the suburbs, though, things are different. “The reality is, most people don’t shop or eat out in their downtown—at least not exclusively. They’re going to Whole Foods in the next town over to get their produce, and their favorite restaurant is 15 minutes away.” While, initially, city families might consider that an inconvenience, post-move it’s easy to see how the convenience of suburban living eases those fears.


“Hopping in your car and driving 10 minutes is nothing in the suburbs,” adds Suburban Jungle Head of National Strategy & Emerging Markets Patti Natiss. “You’re there and back, whether it’s to the grocery store or soccer practice or a playdate.”



That’s also important to keep in mind when families insist on a train station in town. “It’s nice to have,” Patti says, “but many families quickly realize it’s not necessary—or, in some cases, even more convenient to head a town or two over and get a better train into the city.” West Orange residents, for example, don’t have a train station, but they do have a free jitney that takes them to the South Orange station—and that’s a very quick ride into the city, without even having to park.



“It’s similar in Cortlandt Manor,” Erika adds. “Lots of families are seeing they can easily drive to the Croton-on-Hudson station quickly and grab parking there—there’s tons of it. Then, they hop on a train and be in the city in less than an hour. It’s very easy.” And for opting for a town without a train—and about 10 extra minutes of commuting time—families can often snag a great house for a fraction of neighboring communities.



“It’s a trade off, but it’s one many, many families are happy to make,” she says.



Walkability, both she and Patti note, are another “must” that, often, drops off the list as families begin exploring. “Families say they want to walk everywhere, which is great,” Patti says. “There are many, many walkable communities. But the reality is, in the suburbs you’ll be driving, at least sometimes. And, as many families discover, they love the convenience that comes with driving. So while you might be walking distance to the train, it’s not uncommon to drive—that way you can grab something on the way home, pick up the kids at practice or meet friends for a quick drink. Suddenly, driving becomes the new norm.”



“Walkability is great,” Erika echoes, “but you need a car in the suburbs—even if it’s just one. There are amazing towns that are super walkable, but it’s almost impossible to find everything in that walkable community. Your kids will have playdates or lacrosse practice or Girl Scouts or you’ll just want to catch a movie in the theater a town or two over—you’ll want to drive, even in the most walkable community.”



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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