Since the onset of COVID-19, there has been a noticeable trend across the U.S. of urban dwellers looking to relocate to the suburbs. With lower home prices and larger properties, suburban areas have become more appealing for residents who are now learning and working from home.
In the second quarter of 2020, half of the home searches by city dwellers in America’s 100 largest metros were for nearby suburbs, according to Realtor.com. Additionally, in their ranking of the ten hottest zip codes last month, the majority were in suburban areas as well.
These included Colorado Springs, CO – 80911 (#1); Reynoldsburg, OH – 43068 (#2); Melrose, MA – 02176 (#4); South Portland, ME – 04106 (#5); Hudson, NH – 03051 (#7); Worcester, MA – 01602 (#8); and Springfield, VA – 22152 (#9).
Many of these markets offer larger and more affordable homes, while also being conveniently located close to the amenities of bigger cities. Some are also near highways or public transport, which increases their appeal.
According to Realtor.com’s data, homes in these ZIP codes are selling in an average of about 18 days, which is four weeks faster than in their neighboring metropolitan areas. That’s also about 51 days faster than properties in the rest of the country.
As more urban residents switch to remote employment and look to the suburbs for their next home, the increase in demand has started to drive suburban home prices up. Even so, Zillow estimates that working from home could allow almost 2 million urban renters, who currently can’t afford homeownership where they live, to purchase more affordable starter homes outside of town.
For city dwellers who haven’t spent much time in the suburbs, the move might bring about some surprises and learning curves. Here are some key things to consider when relocating to suburban areas:
Multiple Things to Consider
Suburbs tend to have well-regarded public schools, but they can sometimes include several school districts with very specific boundaries. Be sure to ask about what school your child will attend when looking at homes in the suburbs, as it’s not always straightforward.
Some suburbs may require your home to have a septic tank instead of a sewer connection, and these septic systems must be pumped out every couple of years to prevent backup and possible property damage. The cost of emptying septic systems is usually about $500.
Trash collection is also something to consider. Suburban homeowners often must contract household waste companies to pick up their garbage, as opposed to city dwellers who rely on their landlord or property manager for this. Having uncollected trash or waste that is not disposed of properly could result in penalties.
What’s more, regular home maintenance in the suburbs can take up a lot of time and money, from mowing the lawn to getting the roof repaired. There is always something to do around the house, and homeowners are the ones responsible for scheduling and paying for such maintenance.
Experts recommend setting aside 1% of a home’s purchase price to cover home maintenance each year. For example, a $300,000 house would need a $3,000 annual maintenance budget. You can also take the approach of setting aside $1 for every square foot of the home. Some more extensive repairs, like replacing the HVAC system, however, could require the entire annual maintenance budget.
Requesting a list of service companies that the home seller has used before is a good way for homebuyers to find reputable companies that may already know the property.
Some suburbs have homeowner associations, which take care of property maintenance tasks like snow removal and lawn mowing. Some even handle the upkeep of shared pools and parks, as well as private roads. Fees for these services can vary from hundreds of dollars per year to thousands.
Suburban property taxes can also vary but are often higher than those paid in urban areas. This is usually because suburbs may not get as much revenue from business or sales taxes, and suburban homes tend to be larger than urban ones.
Even in the same area, property taxes can vary from suburb to suburb. For example, Bureau County (about two hours west of Chicago) has a property tax rate that is about two percentage points higher than nearby La Salle County (4.17% versus 2.30%), according to Attom Data Solutions.
Moving to the suburbs does come with added costs and responsibilities. However, the benefits of having more space, a smaller mortgage and fewer neighbors make it a desirable option, especially for those living in urban areas, that are no longer tied to an office or a worksite.