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Whether to move to the ‘burbs’ or remain in New York City has always been a persistent question for New Yorkers. With the advent of COVID-19, this question has taken on a new impetus. Questions remain when life can resume a more normalized routine, and with so many people working from home, 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? 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.
New York City is known for tight, small, and expensive apartments. 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. It’s a definite win for the suburbs, but it depends on where you are in life. Living in the city might be appropriate if you’re single and just starting your career. But if you’re in a relationship and thinking of starting a family, that extra space can be handy.
Still, other options exist 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 cheaper 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 maintenance and recurring upkeep costs. You’ll be entirely responsible for keeping your water heater, the condition of your roof, landscaping, pest control, and a host of other issues. With square footage comes a higher cost in maintaining all of it. This has to be considered when determining how affordable a place is.
You’ll still have to pay for upkeep in 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 an 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 consider the costs before moving to the suburbs. The one benefit is that if you already own a car, you’ll likely pay less on insurance premiums in the suburbs. According to AAA, the average annual cost of car ownership is $9,282, or $773 a month. You’re paying an additional $20,000 a year for a two-car family.
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.
Your school district’s choice will play a big part in deciding where to live for those who have children or are planning to. 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.
You can expect to pay less for schooling in the suburbs than in the city. Suburban public schools also tend to be better funded than many urban schools. Combined with kids in suburban areas having more access to open spaces, suburban schooling is the way.
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 mainly on the home’s location. For instance, a home on the beachfront will cost much more than an identical home in a less risky area. You can expect to pay an annual insurance premium of between $1,200 and $2,000.
Whatever decision you decide, 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. These savings can be substantial, depending on your income and tax bracket. In New York City, the effective tax rate is 1.677%, while you’ll pay twice that or more in the suburbs. However, the silver lining is that you won’t be paying city income taxes if you live outside New York City.
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 personal. On the one hand, you’ll likely pay less for a home purchase in the suburbs than 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, you should ask yourself 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; you’ll want to gather all the information before deciding.