Moving is a big deal. Even if it’s just from the city to the suburbs. It’s stressful, particularly if home-buying; (In a recent Redfin survey, 57% said buying was more stressful than dating). So why go through the anxiety to move just a dozen or so miles?  We’re here to help you figure it out, to show the hidden gotchas, costs, and things to put on your check list.

BTW we’re Bellhop, your friendly and efficient long-distance movers. Even if you’re moving just a few boxes a few zip codes, we’ve got professional, low-cost teams that can help. Just give us a call. With that intro let’s jump right in.

Moving locally is still the #1 move

You’re not crazy and you’re not alone. Despite all the news during Covid of people moving to the ‘sticks’, local moves within a county still are the biggest (53%). Most people stay in-state and close to home. Out-of-state moves were up (17%) but not significantly (Source: The U.S. Census).

Why move to the suburbs?

Here are common reasons reported by the government:

#1. Upgrade Housing (45%)– It can be about space or features. A backyard, laundry room, guest room. In my case I woke up one day with a green thumb and wanted a garden.[ws1]   This was seismic because no one in my family gardened.

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#2. Family (25%) – Your family or caring for relations is the second most mentioned reason. Being near parents can mean extra help with the kids (day-care is expensive!), or conversely a middle-aged person (nearly always a woman) caring for parents. Interestingly in 2015 the New York Times reported that “the typical American lives 18 miles from mom.” Covid added meaning to being close by.

#3. Employment (16%) – This includes a new job, easier commuting, retirement.

We can think of a few more:

#4. To build wealth -The rapid appreciation in home values during Covid only reinforced the potential hidden value of a home.

#5. Make a Statement – The dream of home ownership started in the 1950s and is deeply engrained in our culture as a ‘marker’ of success.

#6. Interests, Amenities, Safety – Our habits changed during Covid. The out-of-doors is closer living in the suburbs. So did our tolerance for things we might have once overlooked, like trash and stolen bikes.

What you need to know if moving to the suburbs

School quality can vary by town – Schools are supported in part by property taxes and the state/community’s commitment to them. ‘Quality’ of education can vary. It’s worth checking out US News ranking of schools. Quality can have a noticeable impact on home values.

Property taxes vary too – Miniscule numbers like .0001 can make a difference in your annual home costs. This tax will come as a big sticker shock if you are moving from a rental.

How close is too close to family? – There is no right answer. Next door? 15-20 minutes? Day in and day out this may be the most important decision you make. Now’s the time for that candid conversation with your partner.

Covenants and Discriminatory Practices – Tract divisions of homes can issue covenants that you may find onerous. In freedom-loving America a neighborhood can still tell you to keep your grass cut, or what color to paint your home. Are you ok with that? Read the fine print.

Red-lining (when banks would refuse to lend to certain people for homes in certain neighborhoods) is supposedly a thing of the past. However, senior-only communities can stop you from moving in if you have school-age children. Check if you intend to care, or may end up caring full-time, for grandkids.

Anticipate home update costs – The U.S. Census says you are likely to spend $3,900 on fixes and improvements within the first two years of moving in. With all those empty walls someone will want a 70-inch TV too! New towels for the new bathroom?

Outdoor-related expenses – You can spend a small fortune on lawn mowers, rakes, grills, and patio furniture.

Family Activity Fees – Those ‘enrichment’ activities like soccer, ballet, and school band, require funding, a dedicated driver, and a heftier budget for gas. Carpools can be a welcome assist with opportunities to make new friends.

Different Social Interactions / Diversity – You may encounter welcoming 4th of July block parties, or not. Or snoopy neighbors. Look for ‘ethnic islands’ (areas with a large population whose ethnicity is different from yours) and measure your comfort level about moving into one. Check out The U.S. Census Bureau’s QuickFacts. It provides ethnicity statistics for cities and towns with a population of 5,000 or more.

The Better Way to Move

Personal Note: In Seattle’s suburbs we have some areas that have strong representation of Asians (38% in Bellevue), while others are South Asian (33% in Sammamish), Eastern European, or Hispanic. My daughters went to one of the top high schools with a 48% Asian student body. This had many blessings, one of which was to make this old Boomer aware of his unconscious bias. Ten years later my daughters are benefitting from the early exposure to the multi-cultural American experience that represents the new normal.

This concentrated diversity is happening everywhere driven by immigration. The NY Times reports that Texas’ ethnicity is rapidly changing as “the state is gaining two people of color for every white migrant.”

Commuting Times and Costs May Vary – It’s weird but times can vary depending upon direction. If you and your partner have vastly different commutes, it’s worth a little research. QuickFacts can help with commute times too. Also spend time researching rush hour tolls, bridge fees, and such. They can radically impact your budget.

Crime – Crime is about policing as much as it is about location. If curious, check out the FBI data on local towns. Reporting is incomplete so your town may not be there. Avoid websites that rank and compare towns; (it’s not recommended by the FBI).

Steps for successfully moving to the suburbs

Bellhops has some great moving guides and advice in detail here.

Before your move

Start conversations about what’s important. Moving is all about compromise. Teens are less likely to want to move away from friends; expect it.

Start early: Moving tends to be seasonal, built around school schedules. Homes get listed in early spring. Know your wants and finances before.

Declutter: Why pack and unpack extra stuff? You’ll hate yourself later if you don’t.

During your move

Be kind to yourself (and others): Remember it’s more stressful than just about everything you do.

Get help: Small tasks add up (wrapping kitchen china, for example). Kids can help with some (though maybe not with the china). Let them put different colored stickers on boxes for each room.

Think strategic: Get the bedrooms moved in first in case it takes the whole weekend to move. Takeout food will be welcome so the kitchen stuff can wait.

After your move

Celebrate! Make the move-in memorable with a special celebration, dinner or event. Recognize something special each person did to make it a success.

Expect weird emotions: Everyone will feel the passage, the losses (of friends, rituals, favorite hangouts). Do your best to find alternatives or better. Just remember promises made will be remembered and counted later (even years later). Keep them real; forget Disneyland unless you mean it.

Start putting down roots: Keep good routines; add new ones. Expect to meet your neighborhoods in accidental encounters so have your ‘game face on.’

The costs of moving to the suburbs

Costs can vary depending upon your location. If you want a quick estimate, contact your local Bellhop Mover. We’re located in most major cities nationwide and will be glad to help you get started estimating.

Helping parents move to the suburbs

This gets complicated but it’s likely to happen to you. We have some helpful information here.

Can you deduct the cost of moving to the suburbs?

Probably not. Most Americans cannot deduct from their taxes the cost of moving. Active-duty service members may if they meet the criteria. Link

Keep track of expenses so you will know what it may cost again next time. If you’re like most folks, you will move again. (People are likely to move 11.7 times in their lifetime.)

Like What You See?

That’s it! We hope this guide helps. If you’re feeling itchy for adventure and new sunrises, it’s understandable. If you decide to take the plunge, get in touch. We know some people who would love to help.

Warren Sly
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