Deciding on whether to move to the ‘burbs’ or remain in New York City has always been a persistent question for New Yorkers. Now, with the advent of COVID-19, this question has taken on a new impetus. Questions remain on when life can resume to a more normalized routine, and with so many people now working from home, the thought of swapping a small apartment for a more spacious one in the suburbs is more appealing than ever.
But does moving to the suburbs cost less in the grand scheme of things? As you’ll soon see, that answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. So here’s a look at what you need to consider when deciding on moving to the burbs vs. staying in New York City.
Being such a popular location, space is infamously tight and expensive in New York City. By comparison, a home in the suburbs can cost half of what you would pay in the city and come with twice as much square footage. A definite win for the suburbs, but it depends on where you are in life. If you’re single and just starting your career, living in the city might be an appropriate choice for you. But if you’re in a relationship and thinking of starting a family, then that extra space can come in handy.
Still, there are other options if you want to remain in the city. A home in Manhattan might be well out of your reach, but it is still possible to find affordable homes in the other four boroughs. Spend some time learning how to refine your search for a more affordable apartment. You could also look into buying a fixer-upper and slowly repairing it over time until you’ve got the home you’ve always wanted. Buying a home takes plenty of work and time, but it can be a great objective to achieve if you’re starting in your life and career.
Maintenance and UpkeepMaintenance and Upkeep
A significant downside to buying a home in the suburbs is that these homes tend to come with many maintenances and recurring upkeep costs. With square footage comes a higher cost in maintaining all of it. You’ll be entirely responsible for maintaining your water heater, the condition of your roof, landscaping, pest control, and a host of other issues. All of this has to be taken into account when determining how affordable a place is.
Yes, you’ll still have to pay for upkeep in the form of maintenance fees or common charges if you purchase a condo or co-op in the city. But on average, this will be less than you’ll pay for a home in the suburbs, and you won’t be directly responsible for overseeing any maintenance. In addition, renters won’t have to worry about maintenance because, for the most part, landlords are responsible for upkeep.
Living in New York City pretty much makes this a non-issue. The city’s extensive transportation network makes it easy to get around at a very affordable cost. So much so that most New Yorkers can get by without a car and the insurance, licensing, and parking costs. That changes, though, when you move to the suburbs. You may need a vehicle and the costs to be considered before deciding to move to the suburbs. According to AAA, the average annual cost of car ownership is $9,282, or $773 a month. For a two-car family, you’re looking at paying an additional $20,000 a year. The one benefit is that if you already own a car, then you’ll likely pay less on insurance premiums in the suburbs.
Of course, you could also make use of the intercity rail lines. Depending on your location, you’re looking at a monthly cost of $100-$400 for this service. When looking at homes in the suburbs, you’ll want to note how far you are from the nearest train station and the timetable.
For those who have children or are planning to, your school district’s choice will play a big part in deciding where to live. Even buyers who don’t have and aren’t planning to have kids will benefit from buying a home in a good school district. The home will likely appreciate faster and sell easier when it’s time to move on.
In general, you can expect to pay a lot less for schooling in the suburbs than you would in the city. Suburban public schools also tend to be better funded than many urban schools. Combined with the fact that kids in suburban areas will have a lot more access to open spaces, it looks like suburban schooling is the way to go.
Home InsuranceHome Insurance
Like maintenance costs, you can expect to pay more on home insurance if you move to the suburbs. How much more will depend to a large extent on the home’s location. For instance, a home located on the beachfront will cost a lot more than an identical home in a less risky area. On average, you can expect to pay an annual insurance premium of between $1,200 and $2,000 each year.
Whatever decision you come to, the primary rule-of-thumb still holds that you shouldn’t exceed 30% of your income on your mortgage’s primary interest and the taxes and insurance.
Property and Income Tax BillsProperty and Income Tax Bills
Property taxes are another thing you’ll pay more for in the suburbs. In New York City, the effective tax rate is 1.677%, while in the suburbs, you’ll pay twice that or more. However, the silver lining is that you won’t be paying city income taxes if you live outside New York City. The savings on this can be substantial, depending on your income and tax bracket.
So Which is Better, Suburban Life, or City Life?So Which is Better, Suburban Life, or City Life?
When it comes down to it, deciding whether to move to the suburbs or remain in New York City is a personal decision. On the one hand, you’ll likely pay less for a home purchase in the suburbs than you would pay for one in the city. But any savings you make here can be offset by higher maintenance costs, home insurance, and property taxes. The numbers don’t favor one more than the other.
Instead, what you should be asking yourself is what kind of lifestyle you prefer? Do you picture yourself having a front yard, plenty of fresh air, and spacious home to call your own? Or do you prefer the convenience, fast living, and diversity that only city living can bring? Either way, it’s a tough decision that you’ll want to gather all the information you can before deciding.