If you’ve been feeling the urge to get out of big cities such as New York City or Atlanta, you’re hardly alone. A recent Harris poll found the pandemic has caused nearly one-third of Americans, including nearly 40% of urbanites, to consider moving out of metropolitan areas to a less densely populated area —such as heading from Brooklyn or Manhattan to Connecticut or New Jersey.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been unprecedented demand for New Yorkers looking for real estate in the NYC suburbs,” says Michael Rossi, CEO of Elegran.
But there’s a big difference between panic moving and deciding that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown just moved up your timeline for something you had already been considering. If you’re mulling an exodus of your own, here are some elements to keep in mind.
Consider the Lifestyle You Want
One of the reasons New York City residents and others want to move out of big cities is that they want access to more recreational activities close by or even in their backyard.
“Buyers are looking for property where they can ride motorcycles, four-wheelers and enjoy walking trails, especially in case another crisis like a coronavirus outbreak were to happen again,” says Scott Campbell of RE/MAX United in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
But as you peruse properties, look around and evaluate if you are sacrificing diversity—whether in terms of people of different ethnicities and income groups or even various types of cuisines and shopping. Suburbs can tend to become a bit homogenous and those who love the buzz and creative environment of a metropolitan area might realize they miss that.
Give it a Trial Run.
If you were fortunate enough to leave New York City during COVID-19 to quarantine in a cabin upstate, you might already be test driving the lifestyle. Renting a place even temporarily can be a good option; you might decide that all this space suits your family well, or you might realize you miss walkable amenities that you took for granted.
If you will eventually be heading back to the office, consider what your commute will look like. What seems doable now in the short term might quickly become a drag if it’s your new normal. Remember that even companies that are embracing remote work now might eventually reopen. Talk to your supervisor about how likely it is, but keep in mind that no one can make a definitive decision at the moment.
Consider the Financial Implications of Being Farther Away.
Interest rates are currently at historical lows, but says Rossi, “On the flip side, demand is currently at an all-time high in many desirable villages and towns. You could encounter fierce competition and bidding wars that create high costs and stretch budgets.”
The financial implications don’t stop at the cost of the property, he notes, adding that taxes and commuting costs can create cost of living concerns. And don’t forget about property maintenance.
“There is very little new housing stock in the suburban markets surrounding NYC. Therefore, expect that you will be inheriting someone else’s existing problems,” he says.
On the other hand, if you live in the heart of the city now you are probably paying high rent to be close to all the action—at a time when much of the action is shut down.
Make a List of Requirements for the New “Dream Home.”
As inventory tightens, you might find that you don’t have as many options as you would prefer. But don’t just jump at anything. Consider how suitable the house is for your wants and needs.
If you are planning to work from home, make sure there is ample private space. If your goal is to spend more time outdoors, double check the backyard is adequate, with enough room for a play structure or a sufficiently large, flat area for a pool. You might be bowled over by all the extra storage, or you might realize that you prefer taking items that aren’t needed daily to a storage unit. The key is to approach this house hunt the same way you would any other, without rushing the decision.
And, one final thing to keep in mind is that—potentially—this, too, shall pass. After all, many residents of the Big Apple proclaimed the 9/11 tragedy to be the city’s death knell, and moved away from the epicenter, until a subsequent rebound and reopening.
Before you uproot yourself and/or your family, consider what you have in NYC or other big cities and if a suburban or rural area can replicate it or be a sufficient substitute.
“What works, what doesn’t work and what can a suburban town offer you? Is the trade-off worth the relocation?” says Rossi.
It’s a question you can only answer for yourself.