The Suburban – Millennial Paradox – Part 2

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In my previous blog post, I began a discussion on why some suburban enclaves have buyers fighting for position, while other areas, although rising in value, sometimes seem like “consolation prizes” to buyers priced out of the more popular areas. This second part deals with what homeowners (and potential home sellers)  should be pushing for in their towns if they want their home values to be sustainable going forward.

Some market concerns…

Although nearly every area of Westchester is increasing in value, the divergence in home values is a concern. When a few tiny slivers of local real estate are sprinting away with the lion’s share of the market appreciation, the health of the suburban market has to be considered.

A recent article in The Boston Globe,  shows us that this situation is not unique to Westchester. In the Boston suburbs, there are a few winners and quite a lot of losers in their real estate boom. The article rightly points out that in past booms, as affordability became an issue, the boom expanded outward in a relatively even manner to the surrounding suburbs. This provided relief from pricing pressure on the middle and working classes.

What we have right now is a land-grab for the tiniest portion of the real estate market while the rest rises slowly with the tide. Other portions of our suburbs need to be able to join the party, so that healthy growth can continue and the benefits to home owners can be more evenly spread.

Municipalities need to wake up!

Completely reconfiguring suburbia to be urban is not really doable or desirable. Short of that, we can maximize convenience and community feel. Millennials, who tend to be more city-oriented, will have to adjust somewhat as well. But there is much that can be done to move the 20th century suburban dream into 21st century reality.

Mom & Pop local commerce…
We need to look at suburban areas and see where we can fit small businesses (local Mom & Pops) that have been driven out by catastrophic rent increases from city centers. This will add character, community feel and convenience to outlying areas. I live in the south end of White Plains and the few restaurants that we have do a booming business. You see people walking to Lombardo’s from their homes. More of that would be a positive thing that would bring a stronger sense of a defined community to these neighborhoods.

Make the commute to the train station easy peasy…
This generation does not have the luxury of a stable job market. Most anticipate that a commute to NYC is somewhere in their future. So almost ALL home buyers see a convenient Manhattan commute as an absolute must-have before pulling the trigger on a home.

For those who are against large parking lots for environmental reasons, you aren’t going to save the planet by taking away this one critical convenience. Even though most millennials are notably car-averse, wait lists in excess of a year for train station parking are not acceptable if they are buying a home in an outlying suburb. Even the greenest millennial is likely to hit the open road for a 50 mile daily round trip if it will save them an hour a day in overall commuting time (about 10 days a year).

Trying to force commuters to eat their spinach and be relentlessly “green” to the point of rationing train station parking is counterproductive. It reduces ridership and encourages driving. More to the point, it pushes home buyers into bidding wars in areas that have already been run up like crazy while diminishing the recovery in outlying areas. It actually feeds this problem.

Suburban areas need to become a priority once again…
This is particularly true for towns that have distinct urban and suburban neighborhoods. There is a tendency to treat outlying areas like the poor step-child. Making gains in urban areas is easy to accomplish. Developers flock in and want to _build, build, build_. But the sign of good governance is to make sure that less popular areas get equal attention and smart growth.

A lack of concern about suburban needs on the part of the municipality shows a lack of dedication to outlying areas. That can be a big red flag for home buyers. Are they buying into an area that the municipality has on autopilot or considers “low priority”?

For homeowners who are thinking about downsizing…

Potential home sellers need to be aware of these trends and take a dispassionate view of their neighborhood and town. If they have several years to go before they can downsize, they should be active in the community, pushing for amenities that will help their neighborhood thrive.

For those who don’t like what they are seeing and are thinking of making a move in the next couple of years, sooner might be better than later if it looks like a trend is becoming entrenched.

© 2016 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – – All rights reserved.

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