With a growing family come new needs, including that for more space. If simply thinking about a move feels daunting, then taking everything into consideration becomes more of a must. With many Millennials opting for suburban life, it helps to know what the real pull factors are and if this environment would really make life with a baby easier.
Dreaming of Baby speaks with Ali Bernstein from Suburban Jungle on what parents-to-be should really be considering when planning a move.
Daniela: Hello and welcome, we have with us today Ali Bernstein who will be giving us some tips on making the right decisions when moving due to a growing family. Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to our readers?
Ali Bernstein: It is great to be here! I am Ali Bernstein, founder of The Suburban Jungle, an innovative firm focused on moving families from urban to suburban-based on personality, and lifestyle, not just real estate.
Daniela: Thank you for that and how long have you been providing this service?
Ali Bernstein: We initially launched in NYC several years ago and have grown tremendously. We have over the last year launched in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles; launching soon in Philly and DC, and Atlanta!
What to take into consideration before a move
Daniela: Excellent, so with your permission we are going to use your extensive knowledge and experience to discuss a few of the considerations families need to make when moving due to a new addition to their household and an anticipated change in lifestyle. What are some of the most important considerations that parents-to-be should make when deciding to relocate due to a growing family?
Ali Bernstein: The first thing is to think about why you would be moving, and ultimately how you want to raise your child (ren). A lot of it has to do with how you grew up, what you loved and didn’t love about that. It’s not just about bedrooms and bathrooms, there are so many details to consider that we can go over…
Ali Bernstein: “The first thing is to think about why you would be moving, and ultimately how you want to raise your child (ren).”
Daniela: What is the most common mistake you see people make when making this type of decision?
Ali Bernstein: They think they simply need more space…and they make a decision based on the house, not the town. Real estate is the last thing to consider when making this huge decision. It is a HUGE investment both financially AND emotionally, and you need the inside knowledge to truly understand you are objectively looking in the right places and asking the right questions.
Daniela: What are some of the questions they should be asking?
Ali Bernstein: A few key considerations:
- Stay at home mom v. working mom town. Both have pros and cons. You would also have to understand where you would fit into the mix.
- Type of childcare: towns have personalities based on the type of help most people have. To understand that dynamic could make a huge difference in the happiness factor … a live-in nanny, daycare, part-time driving nanny etc. And if you have a live-in nanny, how will they go where they need to?
- Commute: don’t just go by minutes on the train. Think about the quality of the commute. Simply because the schedule says 29 minutes, you need to understand the intangibles. Is there standing room only? Is it a fortune to park there and no passes available for 10 years? Is the train station 25 minutes from your home with school traffic etc. … and SO MUCH more.
- Good schools v. bad schools: no one calls us and says they want an underperforming school system, however, you need to understand how big a school is, and can it be too good (i.e. a pressure cooker…) or are their metal detectors at the doors and is that ok for you?
- Downtowns are great but overrated: today you can get anything delivered to your door. Think about where you REALLY are running your errands.
- Tons more!
Planning a Move: Prioritizing, Trade-offs, and Objectivity
Daniela: That is definitely some food for thought. In your experience how would a family best start their journey into making these decisions? What type of conversations should they be having and what kind of information would a good real estate agent need to better serve them?
Ali Bernstein: It helps to have a prioritized list of wants and needs and discuss the tradeoffs. There is no such thing as the perfect house or town. True objectivity from those helping you with your search is key. For example, at Suburban Jungle, we have locals on staff that are truly unbiased in helping families understand the true intangibles (the good AND the bad in every town). If families choose not use our free service, they should start by connecting with people in the community and ask questions. I advise against reaching out directly to agents until you KNOW where you want to go. To help you make your decision, try some local kids’ classes, grab brunch or hang out after school one day to get a sense of what goes on. Stop into preschool drop-off to see what the moms are wearing or who is dropping off (dads? nannies? moms?). We know how important all of these nuances are, and have engendered our company to take the guesswork out of it all.
Ali Bernstein: “There is no such thing as the perfect house or town. True objectivity from those helping you with your search is key.”
Daniela: It is obviously clear that not all towns are the same, many factors can turn a joyful move into a living nightmare. What are some of the biggest mistakes you have seen families make?
Ali Bernstein: It is not a particular thing, just a feeling of not fitting in or not feeling part of the community. That is the trick…everything may look great but then you discover that these are not the folks you really want to be raising your kids with!
Daniela: Would you recommend that the person stays put till they have truly done their research and potentially tried getting to know the community they would be moving into?
Ali Bernstein: I think that timing does not always work well with leases, finding the right fit etc. I think if you have done the research ahead of time, and understand all options – then you should be good to go! It is difficult and equally as stressful being in limbo…so having a great plan to execute will be your best bet.
How to make the moving process easier
Daniela: Moving can be a stressful event in and of itself; even when making the right decision. Any tips on the moving process?
Ali Bernstein: Purge everything! it is a great time to organize. if you organize toys, clothing etc., it will be a lot less stressful! Remember, the easy part is packing and unpacking…the hard part is meeting new people in your community. It is almost a full-time job!
Daniela: When you say purge everything, what do you mean exactly?
Ali Bernstein: Get rid of clothes you won’t really wear (anything you haven’t worn in several months …) Old toys that your kids have outgrown. Old things you don’t use… Keep it minimal. Tracking things from place to place is a lot more work than you think so everything should be assessed as to how much you need it.
Daniela: When deciding on moving to a town, do you ever advise against the move?
Ali Bernstein: Of course. That is our model – but our goal is to find the right town first. We would prefer you don’t make a mistake.
The costs to take into consideration when moving
Daniela: Excellent, one last question. What hidden costs are there that families often don’t take into consideration when deciding to move?
Ali Bernstein: I think that the closing costs if not explained properly are shocking sometimes, there are also taxes, and moving is not cheap in itself. And in the suburbs, lots of new costs come into play such as landscaping, larger heating/AC bills for the larger space, childcare costs can go up, insurance, additional cars if necessary…
Daniela: I would like to thank you for your time today as well as for sharing your knowledge with us. On a final note, is there anything you think our readers should know about that we haven’t covered sufficiently today?
Ali Bernstein: Thank you! Just to remind everyone to not get too swayed by the bells and whistles of the homes, and focus on the people of the community as you can always upgrade house but it is much more difficult to switch towns!
Suburban Jungle is a free service that works with young families helping them navigate a move from city to suburbs.
How it’s free: In real estate, the buy side of the transaction is ALWAYS free regardless of who you use, or if you do it yourself. In real estate, the seller pays all the commission. In more detail: The seller decides to sell his house and signs a contract with the agent of his choice. He negotiates that commission with the agent. That agent keeps ALL the commission if he sells directly to a potential buyer (buyer does NOT save any money representing himself). The agent will go out to the rest of the real estate community and let other agents know that represent buyers that if they find a buyer for the home, they will split the commission with them. Suburban Jungle represents the buyer.