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January 16, 2018 | home-buying

Suburban vs. Urban Texas: Both Offer Huge Advantages


Perhaps you’re in the market for a new home, and you have a good idea about the size, style and features you’d like to have.

But have you given serious thought to whether you’d be happiest entrenched in the suburbs or living in the thick of things in the city? Maybe you’ve never really thought about what each style of living entails on a day-to-day basis.

Interestingly, a recent poll by the National Association of Home Builders found nearly two-thirds of respondents across generations prefer to live in or near a suburb, while about a quarter would opt for a rural location and only 8 percent prefer a spot in the city. The fact that the pattern is nearly identical for millennials as well seems to baffle analysts.

“One frequent conclusion has been that (millennials) have a unique love of cities,” writes David Z. Morris in Fortune. “A deep-seated preference for night life and subways, the thinking goes, has driven the revitalization of urban cores across the U.S. over the last decade-plus. But there’s mounting evidence millennials’ love of cities was a passing fling that became a shotgun wedding thanks to the Great Recession.”

What should you consider when determining where you really belong? Think hard about the characteristics of each locale before making an informed decision.

Advantages of City Life

  • Public Transportation. Taking the bus or train is considerably cheaper and usually less stressful than owning and driving your own vehicle. For example, AAA places car ownership at closer to $8,558 annually, including insurance and gas, and notes the average Uber trip only costs $13.36. “(Public transit) is allowing many people to live in better housing, eat better food and even take vacations that would not be possible if they owned a car,” writes Christopher MacKechnie on Thoughtco.com. Bonus: Sitting on a train or bus may allow you to use commuting time productively.
  • Close-by Businesses. City life typically includes a wide range of amenities — bars, shops, restaurants, libraries, gyms, community centers, etc. — within walking distance, so you needn’t navigate through traffic or search for parking.
  • More Walking. Using your feet to get around burns calories and keeps you healthier than merely plopping your gluteus maximus in a car seat.
  • Spiraling Home Values. A study last year indicated average urban home values were around $198 per square foot, compared to $156 per square foot for suburban homes, a trend driven by demand in major talent and knowledge hubs. “The suburban home — long a symbol of success, stability and the American Dream — appears to be losing some of its luster as the appeal of city living gains steam and urban homes grow in value more quickly,” reports the Zillow study. In addition, Time.com points to studies indicating the value of your home may increase if you’re close to popular retailers including Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
  • More Jobs. In many professions you’re likely to find better job opportunities in or near cities, making for shorter work commutes.
  • Better Healthcare Options. Nationally ranked medical centers tend to be located in big cities.
  • Cheaper Groceries. A recent study determined food prices are cheaper in cities because their product supply is 20 percent greater than in suburban areas, leading to greater price competition.
  • More Hustle and Bustle. People who may feel isolated in the suburbs may feel less lonely in close proximity to businesses, community services, traffic and pedestrians.
  • More cultural diversity. In general, the museums, festivals, restaurants and various neighborhoods within cities are bound to expose you to a greater cross section of America. “You’re able to people watch and experience being around people from all over the world,” writes Lori Rochino in the Huffington Post. “You will hear different languages. In the suburbs, dining options are limited to chain restaurants and shopping malls.”

Advantages of Suburban Life

  • Family Friendly. The suburbs may work better for raising kids due to lower crime rates, less traffic, greater amounts of green space, better sense of community, etc.
  • Better Schools. Public schools are often of higher quality in the suburbs, since cities tend to house more disadvantaged students, draw fewer resources and produce lower graduation rates. You may have to pay for private tuition in the cities to get a comparable education.
  • More Space For Your Money. The average price per square foot is almost always considerably lower in the suburbs; check out averages in your Texas neighborhood here. The average home in the suburbs costs $230,000 compared with $431,000 for a home in a city, according to Realtor.com.
  • More Green Space. Cities try to offer intermittent parks and landscaping, but can seldom compare to the ample access to nature available in the suburbs.
  • Lower Crime Rates. In urban areas, one year-long study recorded 3,240 violent victimizations per 100,000 persons age 12 or older, compared to 2,380 in suburban areas. But others say cities are unfairly stereotyped as crime centers. “There are dozens of neighborhoods in both New York and Chicago where the homicide rate is near zero,” Daniel K. Hertz points out on Thetrace.org.
  • Newer Homes. New residential properties are scarce in cities, partly because commercial properties tend to incur more value and partly because city infrastructure makes building trickier. If it’s important to you to build from scratch, you’re likely to do that more cost effectively in the suburbs.
  • Cheaper Taxes. Suburban homeowners often pay more in property taxes, but their total payments tend to be slightly less than city dwellers once state, local and income taxes are factored in, reports Realtor.com.

In Texas, the wide range of excellent places to live can make your choice of location a tough one. Creating a checklist of the pros and cons of each potential locale may help.

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