The Surprising Costs of Living in the Suburbs

The Surprising Costs of Living in the Suburbs

Life changes dramatically when you move to the suburbs. Several factors come into play when choosing the best place to raise your family. These usually include finances, safety, schools, and personal preferences. However, before you decide to relocate, you should consider some of the surprising costs of living in the suburbs.

Cost of Commuting from the Suburbs

Although there are many advantages of living to the suburbs, you will have a significant increase in your drive time every day. While you gain space for your family, you are probably sacrificing convenience when commuting to work. You will be spending more time in your car, which translates to more money in transportation costs. This includes gas, tolls, parking, and monthly maintenance of your vehicle. If your spouse is also commuting to work daily, you can count of doubling these expenses. Vehicles are an essential expense for any family choosing to move away from urban areas.

Higher Shopping Prices

Since there are fewer suppliers in the suburbs, prices are not as competitive as in the city. This means you will spend more each monthly for groceries and other necessities for your family. To find the best discounts on food and clothing, you will need to drive further distances. The good news is that many suburbs have discount shopping clubs to help your family balance the surprising costs of living in the suburbs.

Increased Energy Costs

A larger home will require more energy to keep you comfortable through extreme weather. Heating and cooling units will work overtime in the summers and winters to keep the temperature in your home regulated. You can drastically reduce your bills by ensuring air isn’t escaping your house through doors and windows. Teach your family simple ways to conserve energy and inspect the home before you sign anything. However, if you do notice leaks, you will need to get it taken care of right away. Replacing windows, seals, and HVAC units present another unexpected cost of living in the suburbs.

Property Maintenance

If you are a homeowner, it’s wise to keep an emergency fund in case you encounter unexpected home repairs. Unfortunately, these expenses are unavoidable and usually come at the worst possible time. However, the longer you wait, the bigger the problem becomes. Whether it’s a fallen tree, hail damage, a broken water main, or the HVAC systems, property damage requires immediate action. Furthermore, these headaches are usually accompanied with huge repair bills. Disaster can strike unannounced, so it’s best to plan ahead so these costs don’t blindside you.

Service Fees for Living in the Suburbs

Many suburbanites are surprised by how many services were included in their apartment’s monthly rent. Most building fees include water, cable and trash removal. In addition, many apartment complexes also include free access to health clubs, pools, and laundry facilities. However, when you live in the suburbs, you will be responsible for the additional service fees. Not only will you need to pay for these services out of pocket, but you may also be subject to a homeowner’s association fee. If you don’t read the fine print of your neighborhood’s housing association rules, you could wind up with huge membership dues while you settle into your new home.

The Final Decision

There is more to consider than just the cost of housing when deciding between the city and the suburbs. At the end of the day, your final decision comes down to your priorities and preferences. There are many surprising costs of living in the suburbs that you may never have even considered. Before you make this tough decision, get as much information as possible. The better informed you are, the less likely you will make a costly mistake.

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Is It Really Cheaper Moving to the Suburbs?

Is it Cheaper to Leave the City?

Perhaps you have grown tired of the busy city traffic and noise. The solitude of the suburbs may seem like an answer to all your urban woes. Before you uproot from the city and move to greener pastures, there are many things you and your family should consider. As you weigh the pros and cons of life in suburbia, here are a few unexpected expenses that may have you asking  if it is really cheaper moving to the suburbs.

Hidden Costs of Moving to the Suburbs

Hidden Cost #1 Gas and Transportation

Most suburban neighborhoods do not have efficient public transportation, so you will need a vehicle to get around. Since things are more spread out, you will spend more time completing daily errands. In addition to the extra drive time, you will also spend more money on fuel each month .

Moving to the suburbs means that you will also have a longer commute if you work in the city. Remember to include the cost of tolls, parking, or public transportation when calculating your monthly expenses. According to the Housing and Transportation Affordability index, suburban commuters pay 15% more each year in transportation costs. This figure surges up to 28% in more inaccessible locations.

Hidden Cost #2 Property Maintenance

Homeowners can predict some expenses of property maintenance, but nature has its own plans. If you live in an apartment complex, your responsibility begins and ends at your doorstep. Any problems with the roof, basement or foundation fall on the shoulders of the building management.

However, there is greater liability when you move to the suburbs. Homeowners are responsible for damages from storms, flooding, and trees on their property. A burst water pipe or hail storm is more costly than you might expect. These out-of-pocket expenses may have you thinking whether it’s really cheaper moving to the suburbs.

Hidden Cost #3 Property Taxes

Property taxes are subject to increases every year. New laws and gentrification can also affect how much you pay annually. When the value of your home or neighborhood goes up, so do your taxes. What’s more, homeowners only have a short window in which to appeal increases with the local government. If your salary raises can’t keep up with taxes or you have a costly emergency, you could find yourself in serious financial trouble.

Hidden Cost #4 Food

Surprisingly, you actually pay more for groceries in the suburbs. Since there are more supermarkets and grocers in the city, urban food suppliers lower prices to beat out the competition. Although you may have more space in the suburbs, you also have fewer shopping choices. However, as a city grows so do the variety of products available, if you don’t mind driving.

Hidden Cost #5 Energy

Opposed to city dwellers, suburbanites spend significantly more for power and energy. This is largely caused by HVAC costs and warm air escaping your house. Replacing doors and windows can help reduce your bills. However, energy costs will be a big portion of your monthly budget.

Before you decide to move to the suburbs, take some time to create a budget. You should also research the average property expenses for the neighborhoods where you would potentially live. While you may think it’s cheaper moving to the suburbs, there are several hidden costs you should take into consideration.

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Suburbia in the City? Pros and Cons to Bringing Suburban Life to Urban Areas.

suburbia in the city

I recently read a New York Times opinion article about the trend to have suburbia in the city. It caught my eye specifically because it highlighted changes in San Francisco, which is where I live. I live here because I love the city, with all of its pros and cons. I don’t enjoy spending time in the suburbs, so naturally, I’m a bit skeptical about this trend.

What Does It Mean to Have Suburbia in the City?

Before I read the article, my mind immediately drifted to the store Target. I moved to San Francisco about fourteen years ago. When I did, there was no Target in the city. We had a Best Buy and a few other similar large chain stores – mostly out of the way in areas that I didn’t typically walk around. But then Target came in.

I hated it at the time. I still don’t really shop there much, although I admit I’ve been in a time or two to pick things up because it’s convenient. But increasingly I see chain stores here and there. My own street of mostly local restaurants now has a few big names you’d recognize if you’d traveled here from somewhere else.

I don’t like it. If that’s what it means to have suburbia in the city, I’ll pass. After all, if I wanted that cookie-cutter life, I’d certainly prefer to pay far less than city rents to have it. One of the key points in the article is that those people who do decide they want suburbia in the city will pay a pretty penny for it. It’s not as cheap as actually moving to the suburbs.

Bringing in the Good Parts of the Suburbs

The article does mention those chain stores. It highlights the fact that people used to flee the cities for the suburbs in order to start families. Now they don’t. So perhaps they want some of those creature comforts – those familiar foods, those familiar stores. But that’s not the thrust of it. What it seems the article wants to highlight is that there is a way of life in the suburbs that people yearn for in the city.

It specifically mentions The Landing apartment building, in which residences are clustered around yards. Ah, yards. Yes, we don’t have too many of those in the cities. Having a dog myself, I can see why there are people who long for the yards of the suburbs. Personally, I’m okay with visiting the local parks every day. But a yard does sound appealing. You can grow vegetables in The Landing’s planter boxes and rest on their hammocks. I get the appeal in that.

What People Want is Connection

What I realized in reading the article is that it’s not really about suburbia in the city at all. It’s about connection.

Historically, people may have found a strong sense of connection and community in the suburbs. All of the kids would run from house to house to play with their friends. The cul-de-sac was a safe spot for football games. Neighbors joined one another for big backyard barbecues.

To be honest, I never experienced that living in suburbs or smaller cities. I have always found those places to be isolated. People seem to stay in their own yards, in their own cars. I, personally, have found so much more connection in the city, where I walk or ride the bus, visit the park, and talk to strangers.

But I can certainly see how the city can feel disconnected for people. If you’re walking with your headphones on then you’re not connecting with people. And so, I can see the appeal of The Landing, which is really all about creating community in your own little part of the city. You get to connect with your neighbors. If you can do that while lounging in a hammock, that sounds wonderful (although I question how many days per year the weather in San Francisco is really hammock weather.)

So, I think suburbia in the city could be good or bad – depending on what it means. When it creates connection and adds a little convenience, great. When it makes a city look like every other place in the world, I draw the line.

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