Should You Move to the Suburbs?

February 1, 2021

Suburb living typically offers more space and quieter neighborhoods, but it’s not for everyone. See if moving to the suburbs is right for you.

Even before the pandemic brought a desire for more space at a lower cost, city dwellers would often migrate to the suburbs as their families aged. Suburbia appeals to parents of school-age children because of its safe neighborhoods, highly-rated schools, and big backyards. And now that the coronavirus crisis has limited the advantages of cities, more people are considering a move to the suburbs.

A Harris Poll survey found that COVID-19 has prompted 39% of urban residents to consider moving some place less crowded. And it’s not just older generations. A survey from Quicken revealed that 37% of millennials plan to move from their urban residences within the next year.

Related: 2020 Housing Trends: Another Year of Growth

The COVID-19 pandemic has made working from home more popular, and it’s likely here to stay. However, some tech companies have already announced that they will reduce the salaries of employees who move out of urban areas. This would prevent transplants from getting more bang for their buck in the suburbs. Other companies may follow suit. And while many people are desperate for more space right now, fleeing the city due to temporary conditions might not be a wise choice in the long run. Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks carefully before deciding if you should move to the suburbs.

Related: How COVID-19 Is Changing Home Buying and Selling

Benefits of suburban life

  • More space for less money: The cost per square foot is typically less in suburban areas. You can get a bigger house than you would be able to reasonably afford in the city. Lots are bigger as well. That means more outdoor space for your family to enjoy.
  • Quieter, less crowded neighborhoods: A bustling city can be overwhelming, especially in the era of social distancing. Suburban life provides more peace and quiet.
  • More green space: Suburban areas generally have more parks and trails. The average suburb is about 40% green space, while principal urban centers are only about 11% green space. Living in the suburbs often provides more opportunities to enjoy nature.
  • Safety: Crime rates are much higher in cities and metro areas than in the suburbs. You may feel more comfortable going for a run at night or letting your children walk to the park by themselves if you live in the suburbs. A safe neighborhood can afford you more freedom and offer peace of mind.
  • Better schools: The most highly-rated schools are concentrated in the suburbs. Of the top 25% of highly ranked schools by U.S. News, about 45% were in the suburbs, compared to about 29% in cities. It may also be easier for families to afford housing in good school districts in the suburbs.

Drawbacks of leaving the city behind

  • Commuting: While many companies are moving toward permanent remote work arrangements, you shouldn’t count on staying remote unless your employer has already announced the change. A long commute could result in an undesirable lifestyle if you need to get to the city for your job. If you do continue to work remotely, check with your employer to make sure your salary won’t change if you move.
  • Moving stress: The process of moving is filled with negative emotions and can cause unnecessary stress. If you’re just moving to temporarily escape the crowded streets during the pandemic, it’s probably not worth it.
  • Less social engagement: Fewer people and more spread out amenities means you’re less likely to have spontaneous interactions with others. It may be more difficult to find like-minded individuals and make friends. In addition, you’re less likely to find restaurants, bars, theaters, and museums within walking distance. You may have to drive into the city to access your favorite attractions.
  • Car dependency: Due to the nature of urban sprawl, you usually need a car to get to the grocery store, drive your kids to activities, or try a new restaurant in the suburbs. This can lead to less exercise and greater isolation, not to mention higher transportation costs.

Related: Buying a House Out of State: 8 Tips

How the suburbs are evolving

As more people move to the suburbs, local governments are planning design initiatives to make suburbs more walkable and conducive to socialization. In an interview with The New York Times, authors of the book “Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges” discussed some of the ways suburban communities are evolving:

  • Some areas are being regreened for ecological purposes.
  • Strip malls are being converted into mix-used centers with offices, housing, and shops.
  • Wasted spaces are being repurposed for community use.
  • Some suburbs are adding more public transportation options.

Suburbs are also becoming more diverse. Experts predict that suburban planning efforts will result in more urban amenities in the next decade. That’s because well-planned developments so far have led to better returns for suburban communities in property taxes.

Homebuyers want the best of both worlds. Space to spread out, but plenty of nearby amenities as well. If momentum continues, suburban communities have the chance to deliver both. If you’re ready to sell your home in the city, don’t be turned off by misconceptions about life in suburbia. Visit potential communities to ensure they will be a good fit for you and your family, even after the pandemic subsides.

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