couple carrying a moving box into a suburban house

What To Expect When Moving From The City To The Suburbs

Lauren Nowacki7-Minute Read
UPDATED: March 22, 2023

If you’re a city dweller, you may have considered moving to the suburbs at some point. Maybe it was when sirens or construction woke you up at 4 a.m. Or when you waited for the bus in the pouring rain. Or when you couldn’t find room in your home to put away the extra groceries you bought.

Perhaps COVID-19 has made you consider the move more recently. You aren’t the only one.

According to the New York Times, big cities were already “losing their allure” before a pandemic hit, with people opting for lower costs of living, starting families or trying to escape the stress of a bustling city. Now, after the first wave of COVID-19 hit areas with dense populations particularly hard and forced people to work from home, city residents may be interested in buying a home with room for an office and living in an area with fewer people packed into a square mile.

Whatever their reason for leaving the city life, brand new suburbanites are finding a new home and a new way of life away from the concrete jungle. If you’re thinking about getting a new home in the ‘burbs, we’re here to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Let’s start by explaining what exactly a suburb is.

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What Is A Suburb, And What Is Suburban Living?

A suburb is a residential area located outside a major city, within commuting distance. Many people who live in the suburbs travel to the city for work. By living in the suburbs, residents can enjoy the perks of the city when they want while enjoying more outdoor space, larger homes and more peace away from the noise and hustle of the city.

Switching To Suburban Living: What To Expect

Moving from the city to the suburbs isn’t just a change in scenery; it’s also a change in lifestyle. You’ll quickly realize that the suburban lifestyle is different from city life, down to where you eat, how you get around, what you spend money on and how you spend your time.

These are a few benefits you’ll want to know about when deciding where to live and determining if moving to the suburbs is the right choice.

More Space

Cities are known for having dense populations, boasting tens of thousands of residents per square mile. With only so much space to host both people and businesses, living spaces are often cramped. With space being such a hot commodity, real estate is so expensive, many people will opt to rent – for thousands per month.

The suburbs have fewer people per square mile and, with more space available, you can typically rent or purchase a home for less than you’d pay for a much smaller apartment or condo in the city. With that home comes more rooms, closet space and a yard.

Wondering just how much of a difference your location can make on your space? An editor at The Mortgage Reports did the research and found that $500,000 would get you a 660-square-foot, loft-style condo in Seattle, a major U.S. city. In a suburb just 20 miles outside of Seattle, that $500,000 would get you a 2,000-square-foot home with four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.

Different Business Hours

New York is known as the “city that never sleeps,” and the same can be said for many cities where bars stay open until dawn and some restaurants and convenience stores never close. In the suburbs, you may be surprised to find most businesses closing for the day between 5 and 9 p.m. With these different business hours, you may have to rearrange your schedule or find new ways to fill your time after 9 p.m.

Changes In Transportation Options

Cities often have several options for getting around without the use of a car. Public transportation is not only readily available, but it’s also the popular choice for many city dwellers who don’t want to sit in traffic or pay exorbitant costs associated with owning a car in the city. Depending on the suburb you choose, you may not have many public transit options.

You may also need a car because everything is farther away. With more space to spread out in the suburbs, the businesses that used to be a block or so away may now be miles from your home. You won’t be able to walk down the street to grab a bite to eat, go shopping or visit your friends.

You’ll also want to be aware that these changes – more driving, less walking – can have an impact on your health. With less time spent on foot, you may find yourself sitting more or gaining weight. You may want to add other activities, like walks around the neighborhood, to make up for lost steps in your new routine.

A New Budget

Typically, your cost of living goes down when you move out of the city – especially if you were living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. However, there’ll be additional expenses you’ll need to put in your budget if you’ll be moving into a house or owning a car for the first time. Make sure you adjust your budget to include these new costs:

  • Car payment
  • Car Insurance
  • Additional gas for your new commute
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Home maintenance costs
  • Utility bills
  • Lawn/yard maintenance tools

A Different Shopping Experience

Grocery shopping may seem insignificant, but the experience can be so different upon moving to the suburbs. If you don’t have a car in the city, chances are you’re carrying groceries a few blocks or taking them on the bus or train.

Since space is at a premium in the city, you can only buy so many groceries at a time. Chances are you’re making a few trips every week. And because you have to carry your groceries, you typically won’t be able to purchase heavy items (like a full gallon of milk) or buy in bulk.

When grocery shopping in the suburbs – with a car – you’re able to stock up for a week or longer and buy in bulk, which can help you save money on groceries and save time by not having to frequent the store.

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Tips For Moving From The City To The Suburbs

Knowing what to expect once you get to the suburbs is one thing, but knowing what to expect during your move is another. Follow these tips to be better prepared for the financial, logistical and emotional aspects of moving out of the city.

Make Sure You Love The Neighborhood

Often, people focus so much on the house that they forget they need to love their surroundings just as much as the home. Making sure you love the neighborhood is especially important when you’re moving from one way of life to a completely different one. Before you search for homes for sale, research the neighborhoods you’re considering to make sure you’re looking for homes in the right locations. Consider school district reviews, crime rates, the type of activities and events the area offers and your new home’s proximity to restaurants, entertainment, nature trails or other amenities that fit into the lifestyle you want.

Consider Your Commute

When it comes to choosing the right suburb, your commute should play a big role in your decision-making. Most people focus on the time it’ll take to get to and from work each day, but that shouldn’t be the only thing you consider. When factoring in your commute, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long will it take to get to work on a good-traffic day?
  • What are the rush-hour times in this area and do they coincide with your work schedule?
  • Are there other route options if the main route is backed up due to an accident, construction, etc.?
  • How much of the time spent getting to work will be sitting in traffic?
  • Will your commute be longer, but a more pleasant drive, with beautiful or engaging scenery?
  • Are there suburbs with nearby commuter trains or other modes of public transportation you can take to work?
  • How many miles is the commute and will it work if you’re leasing your car?

Budget For Moving Costs

The down payment and closing costs aren’t the only expenses you’ll incur when buying a home. There are also moving costs you’ll need to cover. These may include packing materials, a moving truck, professional movers, shipping costs and insurance. Shop around to compare prices and save money and make sure you put all of your moving expenses into your budget for the month you move.

Remember, Moving Is Hard

Along with dealing with the finances and logistics of moving, you’re also changing your lifestyle, moving to a completely new environment and saying goodbye to loved ones, cherished locations and a big piece of what helped shape who you are today. When it comes to the ups and downs of moving, the emotional impact it has on you and your family is a big one. It’s important to give yourself and others room to process, time to grieve and permission to feel whatever emotions pop up.

Don’t Forget Your Reasons For Moving

When experiencing the ups and downs of moving – especially the downs – it’s easy to lose sight of the goal and even ask yourself, “Am I reckless for doing this?” or “What have I done?!” Write down the reasons you’ve decided to move to the suburbs so when those questions and doubts pop up, you can quickly remind yourself that the scary or stressful stuff is worth it. Remember that the stress of the move is only temporary. The roots you’re putting down, the goals you’re hitting and the new life you’re building are permanent.

The Bottom Line

Moving from the city to the suburbs is a big decision for you and your loved ones. Before you make the switch, make sure that suburban living is right for your needs. Consider whether you prefer living in a bustling city with all the amenities and attractions you want at your fingertips or want a place where you can spread out and enjoy the fresh air.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren is a Content Editor specializing in personal finance and the mortgage industry. Her writing focuses on reporting the best places to live in the U.S. based on certain interests and lifestyles. She has a B.A. in Communications from Alma College and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.