Earlier this year, as Covid-19 swept through the world, my family of four packed our SUV and set the GPS for our new home in New Jersey.

It wasn’t just the pandemic pushing us out of New York City. My husband and I came to the conclusion last summer that the returns of living in this expensive metropolis were diminishing. Our values had evolved as parents. We wanted more space as well as a strong school district. We were tired of the constant subway shutdowns and broken elevators in our building. And I couldn't remember the last time I’d been to brunch.

The health crisis further convinced us it was time to get the heck out. We’re not alone: A Harris Poll in April found that 39% of respondents living in urban areas cited Covid-19 as the main reason to consider moving to a quieter area.

The thought of moving to the suburbs inevitably crosses a city dweller’s mind at some point, perhaps with great resistance. Like a stubborn New Yorker, part of me wanted to stick it out and stay loyal to the place that, for 19 years, offered me so much prosperity.

But, after examining the trade-offs, I got over it.

You, too, may find yourself ready — dare I say, excited? — to start a new chapter in a more spacious house with a backyard, situated just minutes away from a Target. But before you begin packing, take note of these key points in the Do I Move to the Suburbs calculus:

The value of a house. One common reason people want to move out of the city is to stop renting and start building wealth in the form of real estate. But is purchasing a home “worth it?” What’s the return?

My take is that your primary home is not a financial investment but a cost of living. It’s a place to set down some roots and make memories. If the home does end up appreciating in value, that’s a cherry on top. The gains can often disappear over time after you adjust for inflation and subtract maintenance costs, interest and property taxes.

Liquidity concerns. For those currently renting: Would buying a house make you house rich, but cash poor? With a 20% down payment and another three to five percent of the sale price typically due at closing, where does that leave your bank account? Do you still have at least a 6-month rainy day reserve intact? If you lost your job soon after closing, would you be able to continue paying the mortgage? Now more than ever is not the time to shed liquidity if it means risking your emergency savings and financial stability.

The shift in expenses. Moving to the suburbs also doesn’t mean you’ll start saving loads of money. Yes, the price per square foot in our New Jersey town is a fraction of what it is in Brooklyn, and the move has meant we are no longer paying homeowners association fees, garage parking and private school tuition. Our nightly Seamless orders have also come to a halt.

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