Are you contemplating buying a home in the suburbs? If you did not grow up in a suburban setting, you’re right to give this serious thought before committing to a home purchase.
You’ve heard that suburbs are bland, lonely, and far away from everything. Generally speaking, these criticisms possess some validity, but your point of view and lifestyle goals have a big influence on how you’ll experience life in the burbs.
Millions of people live in suburbs, and some of them like it. Let’s examine how living in the suburbs will feel for you.
Primary Reasons People Choose to Live in the Suburbs
1. Spacious homes with yards
Many people and families like the thought of having plenty of living space and yards where they can relax, let a pet romp, or grow gardens and trees.
A roomy house with a yard is the top reason why people look for real estate in the suburbs. They are done with living in an apartment or small, cramped house or condo.
With housing prices being what they are today, you might scoff at the notion that affordability attracts people to the suburbs, but it’s true in comparison to higher prices for single-family homes or condos in urban centers.
Housing tends to cost more close to urban centers where more jobs are plentiful, such as at big hospitals, Fortune 500 companies, and universities. People like living near where they work because it’s more convenient, and they’re willing to pay for it.
Those who can’t compete in a high-cost housing market go farther afield. Locations farther from employment generally have lower housing costs. Homeowners trade a long commute for a lower mortgage payment and usually a roomier home.
For this reason, buying a home in the suburbs may be the only option for people in major metropolitan areas because they cannot afford houses in the urban core.
3. Quieter Environment
Suburbs are known for quiet living. First of all, many residents are gone all day at work, leaving the neighborhoods with lower daytime populations.
Second of all, most homes are occupied by families and some retirees. These demographics are not known for loud parties or an excess of assault and property crimes.
You simply won’t hear sirens all of the time like you do inside a city with a dense population and more chances of conflict.
4. The Suburbs Feel Familiar
For generations, tens of millions of people have grown up in the suburbs. They know this environment and feel comfortable living it.
5. Quality School Districts
By and large, suburbs have a reputation for decent schools. A variety of socioeconomic factors have contributed to this perception, and discussing them is far beyond the scope of this article. However, suffice to say, people raising children will frequently favor suburban school districts and choose to live in them.
Secondary Reasons for Living in the Suburbs
1. Social Status
In many ways, a home in the suburbs means that you have attained a higher social status. Some people are sensitive to how others view them. They make life choices, including where to buy a house, based on how they think others will perceive their status.
2. Sometimes Lower Taxes
When you’re buying a home, you need to pay attention to your annual property tax cost. This figure could be a deal breaker.
Taxation in suburbs varies quite a bit. One place might have lower taxes whereas another has relatively high taxes.
However, cities typically have high taxes because the municipality must support many social services, like big police departments, large school districts, and water and sewer infrastructure.
Benefits of Living in the Suburbs
1. Historically Stable Real Estate Values
You may view buying a home in the suburbs as a chance to build wealth. You expect your home to appreciate in value. For the most part, this is true because if you choose to sell, others will want your home for the same reasons that attracted you to living in the suburbs.
2. Quiet Life
As mentioned, people consider the suburbs to be quieter.
3. More Privacy
Single-family homes give you privacy. You don’t have to hear a stranger flush his toilet on the other side of the wall. No one will be walking by your patio to get to the door of someone else’s apartment. You can build a privacy fence and know that the neighbors can’t see in your windows.
Disadvantages of Suburban Life
Well, the so-called quiet life comes with…not very much. You might have a park close by where you can jog or take the kids to the playground but don’t expect the town to have much culture in terms of museums, music venues, or nightlife.
2. Quiet Life May Not Be So Quiet
Suburbanites have an inordinate love of lawnmowers and leaf blowers. Many of them like to operate their noisy machinery at early hours. For some, a single leaf in the middle of the driveway warrants firing up an excessively noisey, fume-belching leaf blower to torment the little scrap of vegetation into oblivion.
3. Expensive Upkeep on Big Homes
McMansions comprise many suburbs, but not all. These big boxy homes built for the sake of maximizing square footage produce significant ongoing expenses, not the least of which being property taxes partly based on square footage.
Big houses mean:
- Big utility bills – You have more square footage of space to heat and cool.
- Big equipment bills – Furnaces and air conditioners are built in different sizes to service different amounts of square footage. More square footage means you need to buy costlier HVAC equipment capable of managing larger spaces.
- Big maintenance bills – Need a new roof? Well, you’ll be paying for a big roof.
- Big landscaping bills – A big yard requires more gas to operate mowers and more water. You’ll either do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it.
4. Hard to Meet New People
Suburbs are somewhat notorious for people keeping to themselves and not meeting their neighbors. Many of them are “bedroom communities” where people go home to sleep between days on the job.
Young people in particular miss the dynamic atmosphere and diversity present in urban settings because they want to make friends and potentially find a mate.
5. Annoying Homeowner Associations (HOA)
This issue is not exclusive to suburbs because urban neighborhoods may be managed by associations as well. However, many suburban communities are overseen by HOA overlords who regulate what you can do with your yard, what your home looks like, and so on. When buying a home in the suburbs, take the time to understand HOA rules.
6. Car Centric With No Walkability
Living in the suburbs means that you probably have to drive to meet the most basic needs, such as buying groceries. Many communities lack sidewalks because the whole place is designed for cars only. This aspect of suburban living can be very limiting and isolating. It makes you utterly dependent on automobiles, which saddle you with another set of expenses.
How to Choose a House in the Suburbs?
1. Decide How Big of a House You Really Want
Not every suburban house is a sprawling McMansion. Just because you can afford a high-square-footage home does not necessarily mean you want one.
2. Is the Local School District Important to You?
If you’re raising children, you obviously want to investigate the quality of the local school district. A suburban district is not automatically great. Even if you won’t need to utilize the local schools, keep in mind that market values will be stronger in good districts. This may be important to you for the sake of home valuation.
3. What Do You Want to Be Near?
Although suburbs have a reputation for lacking culture, many of them are close to cities with plenty of entertainment, sports, and cultural venues. You could look for suburbs close to the places that are important to your quality of life.
Similarly, you might like a suburb that is closer to outdoor recreational areas than urban cultural venues.
Commuters may want a suburb with good freeway access.
4. Investigate the HOA
Not only do you need to assess how an HOA’s rules might impact your life, you have to know what it will cost. HOAs collect fees, and these vary widely in amount. If you don’t pay an HOA, you could ultimately lose your home to the entity.
To avoid the hassles of an HOA, look for older suburbs that are less likely to have HOAs.
5. Can you imagine being happy in this place?
Don’t buy a house in a suburb just because you think this is the dream. Don’t talk yourself into something if you’re feeling misgivings in your gut.
Some suburbs are wonderful places to live. Others might be ruled by overcontrolling HOAs that strip away the freedom associated with buying a single-family home.