4 Huge Mistakes You Might Make Moving from a City to the Suburbs

There comes a time in many people’s lives—usually after having kids—when people consider moving from the city to the suburbs. Only where should you go and why? Here, realtor.com shares some key advice parents and others should adhere to when they’re considering a move to the ’burbs.

1. Focus on the entire neighborhood rather than just the house

When picking a new home, most people focus solely on the property itself—how many bedrooms and baths, how big is the lot? But no house is an island: It’s part of a community, as you will be, too. To make sure you fit in, get a feel for the community and whether it offers the lifestyle and kinds of neighbors you’re seeking.

Don’t just visit the well-known towns. Instead, take as much time as you can to hang out in different neighborhoods and check out their cafés, parks and playgrounds.

Have dinner in the town, see what the people are like, what the mood is like. Think about whether this feels comfortable and like a good fit. It’s only when you settle on a place that does that you are ready to begin comparing whether you like a bungalow better than a Colonial.

2. Find a good school district that’s an ideal fit for your kids

Education is one of the top motivators for a move to the ’burbs. Everyone talks about wanting a good school district, but what does that mean for your family? A school that ranks well on standardized tests may be a pressure-cooker that your child won’t thrive in, or it may not have much of an arts program.

Also don’t getting hung up on class size. While no one wants their child in a class of 50, also look at the total school enrollment. Would your child do well in a school that typically has a total of 1,000 kids per grade, even if the class size is acceptable?

Do you want a district with one elementary school or are you looking for something with several elementary schools and possibly some specialized schools attuned to your child’s interests and talents? Here’s another tip: As you narrow your choices, go to a local school at the morning drop-off time and take a look.

Who is dropping off the kids—nannies? Moms and dads en route to the train station? Yoga-pants-wearing at-home parents? This will also help you see if this community reflects the lifestyle you’re seeking.

3. Think about quality rather than commute time

Before heading to the ’burbs, most people lock in on a commute time. But that can cause them to overlook a lot of the intangibles. Ask yourself, “Would I want to be on a packed, standing-room-only local train for 40 minutes a day, or would I rather be seated on an express train for 45 minutes a day?” You won’t be able to really evaluate the commute unless you try it out, so make sure you do that at rush hour to see exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Sure, it takes time, but can help you avoid locking into a dream house that comes with a difficult commute twice a day. (Note: A little research also will yield info on a train line’s on-time record, which is another good bit of data to know.) While you are doing a dry-run commute, scope out the parking situation, too.

Many hot towns have packed parking lots with waiting lists and parking permits costing thousands a year.

Be prepared by calling the town office and inquiring about the details. Another tip: Pull out an area map and scan it carefully. There are wonderful small towns that don’t have their own train station.

These communities tend to be overlooked by people moving to the suburbs, but they’re worth your attention. (Ask your real estate agent for help with this, too.) You might be able to move to one of these places and walk or drive three minutes to a neighboring town’s train station.

4. Make sure you can easily find nearby child care

Most people moving out of the city do so for the sake of children (current or future), but you can’t assume the child-care options are the same in the suburbs as in an urban setting. If you are a two-career couple, see what options exist nearby.

Few suburbs are truly walkable. If you need daycare, how far a drive would that be, and how long would it take during the morning rush hour? What time at the end of the day do they close, and what happens if you are running late?

Is the town one that has a strong au pair network, or are most moms home with their kids? This info doesn’t just let you envision your daily schedule, but it also will tell you a lot about the community and whether it will be a good fit for your family.

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