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These 5 former Manhattanites love/hate the burbs and are barely breaking even there

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | January 28, 2016 - 3:59PM

It can happen at any moment.

Sometimes it's while lugging your groceries up to your fifth floor walkup. Sometimes it's when you're listening to your neighbor’s dog barking. Often, for mothers of pint-sized city dwellers, it’ll happen on a rainy day when you feel trapped in your shoebox-sized apartment. 

That’s when you ask yourself the question all New Yorkers in possession of children pose at some point: "Wouldn’t it just be easier to move to the suburbs?"

We checked in with five moms who’ve exchanged the urban grid for the suburban one to see if it really is easier (or cheaper) out there. 

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Leah: Moved from an Upper West Side two-bedroom rental to a three-bedroom house in West Hempstead, Long Island

What I love about the suburbs:
"After growing up in an apartment with three brothers and never really having space for myself, I'm overjoyed that my kids won't have to lock themselves in the bathroom in order to have a little bit of time to themselves, like I used to do... I love that both my kids have their own rooms and aren't constantly on top of each other. My son can play in the backyard or in the attic playroom, while my daughter crawls around the den."

What I miss about the city:
"Mostly, I miss the amenities [and services] available in a building. When our floor buckled suddenly in our apartment, a maintenance man came and replaced the entire floor that same day. When the radiator broke or the oven gave off a smell of gas or a window was stuck, someone was there to fix it within a few hours—at no cost to us.... 

In the suburbs, everything is different. When we had a leak, we had to hire a roofer, who fixed one leak, but created another. When a pipe burst in the basement, we had to find a plumber to fix it before the entire basement flooded. And when the boiler broke late on a Sunday night, we had to call a repairman, who flicked a switch and then charged us $200."

Cost differences:
“Mortgage and insurance and taxes are a little less [than rent], but there are also tons of tax benefits for leaving the city (we’re able to deduct our mortgage, for example)." [Ed's note: You also don't have to pay the 3.5 percent NYC income tax.]

But you also have commuting costs and have to pay out of pocket to fix stuff. Month to month, it's less, but if you have to replace the roof or the boiler, it's an added cost you wouldn't have in a rental.”

2. Sari: From a Carnegie Hill two-bedroom rental to a five-bedroom house in Westfield, New Jersey

What I love about the suburbs:
“For someone who lived in and loved the city for 10 years, I thought it would take me a while to get comfortable in the 'burbs. NOT the case—I love everything about the burbs, the space being the best thing, obviously. There are some good surprises too—learning how neighborly people can be, or being reminded how nice it is to go to sleep with your windows open and not be woken up by blaring sirens.”

What I miss about the city:
“What I miss about the city would be the proximity to my closest friends. And, sure, there are always surprises with buying a house.  We needed a new furnace, for example. And new gutters! Also, I'd feel badly for my husband if it had snowed a lot this winter.”

3. Eileen: From a two-bedroom condo in NoHo to a four-bedroom house in Summit, NJ

What I love about the suburbs:
“I love the space.  I have two boys and having a yard is wonderful. I also like being able to drive in and out of the house and minimize my exposure to bad weather. And I love having my own laundry room and not having to share a bathroom."

What I miss about the city:
“I miss the vast array of good restaurants that would deliver.  I miss my husband’s vastly shorter commute.  I miss my very helpful doormen and apartment staff.”

Cost differences:
“It all evens out. Especially as we became a two-car family with all the attendant expenses of that.”

4. Rikki: From an Upper East Side junior 4 co-op to a four-bedroom house in Harrison, New York

What I love about the suburbs:
“It’s all about the space! I love that my son and I can go from room to room playing on a rainy or snowy day. In the city on a day like that, I had to worry about scheduling time at a play space or walking in the crummy weather to a class just to get out of the house.  Now we just don't go and can stay indoors without going completely stir crazy. I also love hosting play dates and having guests over for meals. What a treat to have large, eat-in kitchen and an extra freezer (the damage I can now do at Costco)!"

What I miss about the city:
“I do miss being able to put my son in the stroller and go for a walk while doing multiple errands. I would put him in once and in an hour’s walk we’d stop off at the supermarket, bank and Baby Gap without taking him out. Plus my friends in the neighborhood could join me. Now to run those same three errands, I have to get my son in and out of the car seat six times.”

5. Elana: From an Upper East Side two-bedroom condo to a three-bedroom house in Montclair, New Jersey

What I love about the suburbs:
“We like having more space! I enjoy driving seven minutes to the grocery store rather than walking six blocks--especially in the rain. Also, we live in a suburb with six train stations, ten parks and six downtown areas so for us this is the best of both worlds.  With no traffic, we can be in the city in 18 minutes!

Real estate-wise, we miss little about living in NYC. Inability to control our heat during the winter, no central air, no screens in the windows, little closet space, complaints from neighbor below us to remove our shoes in the apartment, and lack of space!  Our apartment was 'ground zero' for the 2nd Ave Subway construction, so we also don't miss the mess and the noise from below.

Also, the area we live in is much more diverse in that private pre-K is not only for millionaires.”

What I miss about the city:
“We miss having a super! Also miss walking down the hall to toss our trash at any time.”

Cost differences:
“[They’re] slightly more in NYC, but not by much.”

A rough first year:
“One week after we moved into our home we experienced our very first earthquake! A few days later, we had a hurricane and our finished basement (which was the selling point of the house) flooded.  A few weeks later our insurance company and FEMA rejected our damage claim so we spent thousands on a lovely French drain and sump pump.  

In order to drill the drain, they had to remove some walls which were apparently supporting the ceiling.  As it began to get cold in October, we turned our heat on for the first time and a portion of our basement ceiling fell down. 

Since our heat seemed to not be working properly, we had a plumber come out to check our heating system which was shutting down in the middle of the night. We learned that our five-year-old boiler was rotted and needed to be replaced immediately. Our water heater needed to be replaced as well as all the pipes leading to the water heater. 

Two months after we moved in—and after decorating our home for our first suburban Halloween—New Jersey got a surprise blizzard. Not only did we lose power for six days, but Halloween was officially canceled in Montclair. So we went back to New York City to trick or treat!

In the end, all of the crazy things that happened during our first few months in the burbs helped us to get to know our neighbors pretty quickly. Strangers brought pumps and candles and flashlights and chocolate, etc., and we felt embraced by our new community.”

Related posts:

People in the suburbs: They're just like us (mostly)

4 things you need to know before you move to the 'burbs

My suburban nightmare

Suburbs in the city: Buy a house, get a yard, save majorly on taxes

Sexhaustion, just another reason not to move to the 'burbs

The importance of a yard is vastly exaggerated



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