7 Surprising Costs of Living in the Suburbs

The Surprising Costs of Living in the Suburbs

Life changes dramatically when you move to the suburbs. After having been a city-dweller for the past decade, I finally made the move this past year. Although I loved the proximity to the downtown area and all its shopping and dining options, it was time. The rising cost of rent and real estate, increasing safety concerns, quality of the school districts, and space, in general, made the suburbs the clear winner. Several factors come into play when choosing the best place to raise your family. One of the most important is where you will get the most value for your money. However, before you decide to relocate, you should consider some of the surprising costs of living in the suburbs.

The Surprising and Unexpected Costs of Living in the Suburbs

Cost of Commuting from the Suburbs

Although there are many advantages of living in the suburbs, you will have a significant increase in your drive time every day. While you gain space for your family, you are probably sacrificing convenience when commuting to work. You will be spending more time in your car, which translates to more money in transportation costs. This includes gas, tolls, parking, and monthly maintenance of your vehicle. If your spouse is also commuting to work daily, you can count on doubling these expenses. Vehicles are an essential expense for any family choosing to move away from urban areas.

Higher Shopping Prices

Since there are fewer suppliers in the suburbs, prices are not as competitive as in the city. This means you will spend more each month on groceries and other necessities for your family. To find the best discounts on food and clothing, you will need to drive further distances or start searching for discounts and special deals. The good news is that many suburbs have discount shopping clubs to help your family balance the surprising costs of living in the suburbs.

Increased Energy Costs

A larger home will require more energy to keep you comfortable through extreme weather. Heating and cooling units will work overtime in the summers and winters to keep the temperature in your home regulated. You can drastically reduce your bills by ensuring air isn’t escaping your house through doors and windows. Teach your family simple ways to conserve energy and inspect the home before you sign anything. However, if you do notice leaks, you will need to get them taken care of right away. Replacing windows, seals, and HVAC units presents another unexpected cost of living in the suburbs.

Property Maintenance

If you are a homeowner, it’s wise to keep an emergency fund in case you encounter unexpected home repairs. Unfortunately, these expenses are unavoidable and usually come at the worst possible time. However, the longer you wait, the bigger the problem becomes. Whether it’s a fallen tree, hail damage, a broken water main, or the HVAC systems, property damage requires immediate action. Furthermore, these headaches are usually accompanied by huge repair bills. Disaster can strike unannounced, so it’s best to plan ahead so these costs don’t blindside you.

Service Fees for Living in the Suburbs

Many suburbanites are surprised by how many services were included in their apartment’s monthly rent. Most building fees include water, cable, and trash removal. In addition, many apartment complexes also include free access to health clubs, pools, and laundry facilities. However, when you live in the suburbs, you will be responsible for the additional service fees. Not only will you need to pay for these services out of pocket, but you may also be subject to a homeowner’s association fee. If you don’t read the fine print of your neighborhood’s housing association rules, you could wind up with huge membership dues while you settle into your new home.

Property Taxes

The increase in taxes is another huge expense that gives many first-time homeowners severe sticker shock. But…as they say…only death and taxes are certain in this life. While property taxes vary even between cities, you can expect to receive a bill every year. And, the property taxes are subject to increase when the value of your home increases as well. Although you can contest your home’s valuation through the County Assessor’s office, you have a very limited window to appeal. Owning your home significantly increases the value of your assets. However, if you are unable to cover the cost of rising property taxes or repairs, you could find yourself facing serious financial difficulties.

Home Decor and Renovations

While you have more control over these expenses, it should make sense that your home decor and renovation budget would increase when you add more space. Part of the attraction of living in the suburbs is that extra space you gain. But, it’s easy to fill your online shopping cart when you get a new idea. Before you know it, you could be spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on upgrades and new home decor. However, ask yourself how necessary the items are, and if you could find something cheaper through a competitor or second-hand store. It’s possible to add personal touches to make empty spaces feel more inviting without breaking your budget.

The Final Decision

There is more to consider than just the cost of housing when deciding between the city and the suburbs. At the end of the day, your final decision comes down to your priorities and preferences. What benefits would you be gaining versus what you would be giving up? There are many surprising costs of living in the suburbs that you may never have even considered. Before you make this tough decision, get as much information as possible. Read up on homes in the area and talk to friends and family members who have already made the same decision. The better informed you are, the less likely you will make a costly mistake.

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Is It Really Cheaper Moving to the Suburbs?

Is it Cheaper to Leave the City?

Perhaps you have grown tired of the busy city traffic and noise. The solitude of the suburbs may seem like an answer to all your urban woes. Before you uproot from the city and move to greener pastures, there are many things you and your family should consider. As you weigh the pros and cons of life in suburbia, here are a few unexpected expenses that may have you asking  if it is really cheaper moving to the suburbs.

Hidden Costs of Moving to the Suburbs

Hidden Cost #1 Gas and Transportation

Most suburban neighborhoods do not have efficient public transportation, so you will need a vehicle to get around. Since things are more spread out, you will spend more time completing daily errands. In addition to the extra drive time, you will also spend more money on fuel each month .

Moving to the suburbs means that you will also have a longer commute if you work in the city. Remember to include the cost of tolls, parking, or public transportation when calculating your monthly expenses. According to the Housing and Transportation Affordability index, suburban commuters pay 15% more each year in transportation costs. This figure surges up to 28% in more inaccessible locations.

Hidden Cost #2 Property Maintenance

Homeowners can predict some expenses of property maintenance, but nature has its own plans. If you live in an apartment complex, your responsibility begins and ends at your doorstep. Any problems with the roof, basement or foundation fall on the shoulders of the building management.

However, there is greater liability when you move to the suburbs. Homeowners are responsible for damages from storms, flooding, and trees on their property. A burst water pipe or hail storm is more costly than you might expect. These out-of-pocket expenses may have you thinking whether it’s really cheaper moving to the suburbs.

Hidden Cost #3 Property Taxes

Property taxes are subject to increases every year. New laws and gentrification can also affect how much you pay annually. When the value of your home or neighborhood goes up, so do your taxes. What’s more, homeowners only have a short window in which to appeal increases with the local government. If your salary raises can’t keep up with taxes or you have a costly emergency, you could find yourself in serious financial trouble.

Hidden Cost #4 Food

Surprisingly, you actually pay more for groceries in the suburbs. Since there are more supermarkets and grocers in the city, urban food suppliers lower prices to beat out the competition. Although you may have more space in the suburbs, you also have fewer shopping choices. However, as a city grows so do the variety of products available, if you don’t mind driving.

Hidden Cost #5 Energy

Opposed to city dwellers, suburbanites spend significantly more for power and energy. This is largely caused by HVAC costs and warm air escaping your house. Replacing doors and windows can help reduce your bills. However, energy costs will be a big portion of your monthly budget.

Before you decide to move to the suburbs, take some time to create a budget. You should also research the average property expenses for the neighborhoods where you would potentially live. While you may think it’s cheaper moving to the suburbs, there are several hidden costs you should take into consideration.

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