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Moving to the Suburbs? 3 Things to Keep in Mind

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Just picture it: 2,500 square feet of living space, a beautiful green yard that’s all yours, and neighbors that are at least 50 feet away. If this suburban set-up sounded appealing to you a long time ago, it might sound like an absolute dream these days. 

And if you’re considering a move to the suburbs to get away from the densely packed city during a pandemic, you wouldn’t be the first one making that choice! Or maybe you’ve been wanting to move to a new city for ages, and you don’t want to put it off any longer. 

Whatever your reason, we’ll review a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you embark on this new adventure. 

1. Some aspects of your work life may change

Whether you wanted to move to the suburbs pre-pandemic or not, Covid-19 has changed the work landscape for many of us. A Gallup poll conducted in April 2020 found that 62% of employed Americans have been working from home during the crisis.

If your workplace has shifted from office to home, you might be craving more space, which a move to the suburbs may often afford. But before you scour home listings outside of the city, consider the ways in which such a move could impact your job.

You may have a commute in the future

While some companies have announced they’ll continue work-from-home policies until at least the beginning of 2021, your job may not stay remote forever. Should your current job move back in-office, think about if you’ll want to commute from your new home. 

If a commute is in your future, you’ll want to research the logistics of how you’ll get to and from work each day. A move might give you more space, but will it make getting to work a headache? Does the suburb you’re dreaming about have a well-connected public transportation system that can get you to the office or will you have to buy a car

It’s also a good idea to consider the costs of a potential commute, as well as the expenses associated with driving if you’ll be hitting the road, (e.g., parking and tolls). Looking into these details ahead of time can help you make a more thoughtful decision and feel more prepared – financially and otherwise – if you do add a commute into your life.

Consider the costs of a potential commute and whether the move could impact your take-home pay.

Will your salary change if you move?

The shift to remote work might have you house-hunting in a cheaper location where your dollar can stretch further on your current salary. But keep in mind that if you move, your company isn’t obligated to keep paying you your current salary. With remote work, some companies may cut back the pay of workers who move to less expensive areas.

Trimming wages allows businesses to base salaries on where employees live as opposed to an industry standard, which can help a company’s bottom line, but may be not so great for your wallet if you were counting on retaining your same paycheck. 

Bottom line: if you’re moving from an expensive city to a less-expensive area, it’s worth checking in with your manager and human resources department about whether that move could impact your take-home pay. 

2. Think about current and future living costs

Sure, you may get more bang-for-your-buck when it comes to home prices in the suburbs. But even if you’d pay the same for a 5-bedroom in the burbs as you would for a 2-bedroom city apartment, it’s a good idea to consider all your possible living expenses before committing. 

Housing costs may not be the steal you had in mind

In August 2020, 30-year mortgage rates fell to their lowest in history. If you’ve been considering moving to the ‘burbs and buying a home, that news is probably music to your ears! But take note, housing prices have not moved in a similar direction, and in some areas of the country, they’ve even risen. 

What’s more, cost hasn’t always deterred buyers; in fact, in some places for-sale homes have even lead to bidding wars. For instance, according to one real estate agent in an interview with NPR, some sellers in Montclair, New Jersey are receiving 20 offers on their home, with those offers being as much as 30% over the asking price.

So if you were hoping to snag a deal on a home price, you’ll want to do some research to ensure that’s still the case given the current market and where you were planning to buy.

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Reaching your goal starts with saving for it.

Suburban life can come with its own unique expenses  

City-dwellers plotting a move to more space may have already taken some costs into account, like buying new furniture, a potential hike in utility bills, and landscaping expenses. But there are a few costs you might be surprised to learn about. 

For one, property taxes may be higher in the suburbs than they are in the city. That’s not the case for every area, but definitely something you’ll want to look into ahead of time so you’re not ambushed by a way-higher-than-expected bill. Chicago suburbs like Oak Park and Elgin, for example, have higher property taxes than the city center. 

Depending on the type of property you buy and where it’s located, you may also have to take Homeowner’s Association (HOA) fees into account. HOA fees are typically charged on a monthly basis and pay for the establishment and maintenance of the community (like garbage disposal and landscaping) and shared community spaces, such as a pool or clubhouse.

HOA fees can differ widely based on the location, size of your home and the amenities provided, but according to realtor.com they can run around $200 to $300 a month for a typical single family home. 

And what about regular home maintenance expenses? We’ve put together a home maintenance checklist that could give you a sense of other costs to consider.

3. Have realistic expectations when it comes to childcare and schools

Many folks make the decision to move from the city in hopes of making some upgrades for their kids: more living space, a big backyard to run around in, or a desire for better school districts. While you could likely find all of those outside of a city center, raising kids in the ‘burbs might come with a few unexpected realities. 

Your childcare options may be more limited

In the suburbs, you could be faced with fewer childcare options. If most people in your neighborhood have live-in help, there may not be as many daycare centers or traditional babysitters. And even if daycare is the norm, there may not be as many centers as in the city. 

In addition to limited options, you might also have to shell out more money to cover the costs of childcare when you move out of the city. While it’s not the case everywhere, certain major cities have lower childcare costs.

A joint 2017 study conducted by Care.com and Zillow found that annual childcare costs for two children were almost $2,000 less a year for families living in cities like Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and New York City compared to their surrounding suburbs.

Raising kids in the 'burbs might come with a few unexpected realities. 

Do your homework before deciding on a school district

Some people flock to the suburbs for smaller class sizes and potentially well-ranked school districts. But, be sure to ask what the expected class size is for the following year – an influx of new students could dramatically change the class size and experience for your child.

In the Hamptons school district of Amagansett, for example, enrollment is predicted to double this 2020-2021 school year. This change could make for a very different learning experience than what you had in mind. 

Another thing to consider: at least for the time being, Covid may affect what your child’s schooling looks like in the immediate future. Before you move to a place for the great school district, find out if that school will be in-person or online.  

Additionally, your property taxes could also be affected by what school district you live in. Just this year, a wealthy Chicago suburban school district hiked up property taxes that cover education for homeowners in the area.

There are usually caps set on how high school districts can raise property taxes, but in some areas, like York County (a suburb in Pennsylvania), those caps have been raised to their highest in a decade. 

Whatever your reason for getting out of dodge, it can be helpful to consider all possibilities before making a final decision. If Covid-19 or your ability to work remotely is playing into your decision, be sure to think about how your commute and salary could change with this move.

Relocating may also mean paying up for new expenses that you might not find in the city. And of course, if you’re drawn to the suburbs by the allure of excellent school districts and more space for your kiddos, remember that you’ll want to have airtight childcare options and realistic expectations regarding schools in the near future.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.