Throughout the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way we live, from our mental health to our relationships, our jobs, and how we spend our free time. It’s also impacted our desire to move away from bustling city life for a slower pace in the suburbs.
A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found an increase from 42% to 46% of Americans wanting to live in the suburbs since 2018. However, according to the same study, city life still beckons for one in five people.
Before you uproot yourself and your family to either location, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons. Of course, finding your ideal home comes down to personal preference, needs, and budget.
What Are You Looking for as a Buyer?
Choosing between city and suburban living may depend on where you are in your life, such as a young professional trying to make it up the corporate ladder. That’s why you should consider what kind of buyer you are.
- >Are you a first-time homebuyer?
- Are you young, single, and social?
- Are you interested in being near restaurants, shops, entertainment, and nightlife?
- Do you want to commute via public transportation?
- How important is a fast commute to work?
If you’ve answered yes to most of these questions, the city may better suit you. On the other hand, if you want a place you can grow into, raise children, own a car, and benefit from lower living costs, the suburbs are probably a better choice.
The types of homes you’ll find in each location are also going to vary. Urban areas are more likely to have an inventory of condos, row houses, and apartments on the smaller side at a high cost. If you’re looking for a large home with a yard, you’re better off looking on the outskirts of the city.
One of the best ways to determine what you want the most in a home is to make a list. Do you have a dog or active kids? Then a fenced-in yard could be in the cards. Do you own a car? If not, you’ll need public transportation.
Pros of City Living
There are several reasons buyers may opt for life in the big city. Here are some advantages you might consider.
Amenities and Entertainment
When you move to the city, expect to have restaurants, shops, and entertainment at your fingertips wherever you go. Cities are known for hosting all the action, from coffee shops on every corner to a bumping nightlife scene.
They’re also home to museums, live shows, outdoor concerts, and famous tourist attractions. Envision yourself catching a matinée at New York’s Broadway or strolling through the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. You never seem to run out of things to do or see.
Public Transportation and Walkability
Mass transit systems take you where you need to go – and in the city, it’s often crucial for the people who live and work there.
In 2019, 5% of all American workers used public transportation to commute to the office. Of those workers, 3.6 million people commuted by bus, with another 2.9 million by subway.
Public transportation isn’t the only way city residents get around. Typically, cities offer greater walkability than the suburbs. In fact, the top 10 places with the highest walkability scores in the United States include cities like New York, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Diego.
Although 70% of companies are adopting a hybrid or fully remote work model following the pandemic, cities are still an employment hub.
About one-third of the nation’s largest 500 companies are headquartered in only six U.S. cities. These corporate giants enjoy the perks of having an enormous talent pool, plenty of commercial space, and access to other organizations to do business with. Even if workers continue to telecommute as the world reopens, companies will likely stay in the city.
The Cons of City Living
Of course, city living has a few downsides, as well. For some people, the cons may outweigh the benefits.
Higher Cost for Less Square Footage
If you move to the city, expect to pay more for less space. While the average cost per square foot is $144 in the U.S., San Francisco, California, will charge $1,100 per square foot. Manhattan is even more expensive at $1,400.
In contrast, buyers can save nearly 29% on the cost of square footage by looking for a larger home in the suburbs right outside the city.
Higher Cost of Living
Square footage isn’t the only thing you’ll spend more on in the city. Groceries, transportation, and apparel are also more expensive. Over time, those costs can add up, making it difficult for city residents to save.
According to a survey by Credit Karma, city dwellers have about $1,000 in savings, while suburban residents have nearly $3,600. Additionally, only 29% of city folks have a 401(k) retirement plan compared to 40% in the suburbs.
Cities are typically more cramped than the suburbs. If you’re someone who likes their space, you’ll likely have to share a wall with noisy neighbors.
Condo or apartment living is very different from a single-family home, and you’ll need to consider whether you can handle the lack of privacy.
The Pros of Suburban Life
The city isn’t for everyone, which is why the suburbs may be better suited for you. Here are some pros of suburban living.
The suburbs may offer a greater sense of community than the city. If you want to get to know your neighbors better, you may have an easier time doing so in an actual neighborhood.
Many suburban communities host special events in town like picnics, parades, and neighborhood happenings for everyone to gather and meet each other. If you have young kids, organized sports leagues offer ample opportunities for parents to make friends, as well.
More Space and Privacy
Unlike the city, the cost of square footage in the suburbs is usually lower, meaning you’ll get more bang for your buck. In the city, you might only afford a small condo compared to a large, single-family house with a yard and more privacy at the same price in the suburbs.
Having more space will provide many opportunities for growing your family, sprawling out an at-home workspace, or having others stay with you.
Better Public Schools
Let’s say you have school-age children to consider when choosing to live in the city or suburbs. If schools play a role in your decision, keep in mind that public schools in urban areas get $2,100 less per student than suburban schools.
Suburban schools may also have a smaller student-to-teacher ratio, allotting more individualized attention when needed.
The Cons of Suburban Life
Although there are many advantages of living in the suburbs, there are also some disadvantages.
Hidden Living Expenses
Although the cost per square foot may be less expensive than the city – as is the overall cost of living – owning a single-family home comes with higher maintenance expenses.
Many city residents don’t have yards. However, in the suburbs, simple lawn care like mowing can run upwards of $150 to $200 per acre. Other essential landscaping services – seeding, fertilizing, and planting flowers – could cost $50 to $700 or more, depending on the project.
Home insurance may be another hidden cost suburbanites need to account for. The average cost of homeowners insurance is $1,249 per year, while buyers may spend $506 for a condo.
The suburbs are typically less bustling with activity than cities, meaning you’ll likely not find as many amenities, such as restaurants, shopping, or entertainment.
While it doesn’t mean you won’t have access to museums, shows, and other attractions, you may need to travel a bit farther to get to them.
However, you might take advantage of having more nature and wildlife experiences in the suburbs than you would in the city.
Less Public Transportation
If you don’t own a car, getting around the suburbs may prove to be challenging. City dwellers used to higher walkability and public transportation will need to invest in a vehicle, as well as the associated costs of car insurance, gas, and maintenance.
Buying Your Ideal Home
Only you can know for sure if city living or the suburbs is right for you. After weighing the pros and cons of each, be sure to make a solid offer to stand apart from other potential buyers. Purchasing a home in this market is challenging, but there are plenty of great deals available for buying the house of your dreams.