Apartment Search Tips & Tricks for Renters

When Is a Suburban Rental the Best Bet for You?

suburban rentals

Historically, tenants associated the rental lifestyle with an apartment in an urban area. In the post-recession boom, millennials moved en masse to major metros as apartment construction reached record-high levels and homeownership declined. It seemed cities and renting were inextricably linked.

While major metros remain an attractive option for younger people, cities are no longer as popular as they once were. During a five-year period between 2011 and 2015, suburban areas surpassed urban areas in renter household gains in 19 of the country’s 20 largest metros. So what’s the appeal? Take a look at the questions below and visualize what you need to know. You can explore some of the benefits of both urban and suburban rentals.

1. How Essential Is Transportation for Your Work?

Unless you have a remote position, you’ll need to account for transportation when deciding between the city and suburbs. You have no shortage of options in the city, with public transportation like buses and subways. They’re reasonably dependable and follow schedules around which you can efficiently structure your day.

In some suburbs, owning a vehicle is a basic necessity. You’ll have to buy a car if you haven’t already, and that comes with secondary costs like gas, maintenance, and insurance payments. A car might make things easier, but it can also be a big responsibility that can complicate your financial situation.

2. What Are You Prepared to Pay for Rent?

It goes without saying that differences between urban and suburban rent prices depend on where you live. It’s important to learn your local market so you know what to expect when it comes to housing costs. Although in the suburbs people usually rent larger units, the square-footage does not raise the prices by that much.

Because of the high demand and the lack of supply in urban centers, rents continue to rise, whereas renting in suburban areas is cheaper in 18 out of the 20 largest metros. Before you decide where to rent, make a comparison and see how much you could save in a year if the rent is lower in the suburbs.

When you’re reviewing your options, you should also consider additional costs such as that of commute, because such costs compound over time. Whether you find the city center or the suburbs near you more expensive, it will help to carefully go over your budget and decide if you’re willing to pay for location, or if the costs balance each other out.

3. What Are Your Goals for the Future?

Recent graduates are often content to live in a smaller space with fewer rooms. At this point in life, your comfort doesn’t always depend on a backyard, and you might not need a large property to feel satisfied with your living situation.

Ask yourself if you can see your goals changing in the next couple of years. Are you hoping to expand into a larger space, or is the city lifestyle something you could never give up? The amenities you’re willing to pay for when you start off on your own are likely different by the time you hit your 30s. The extent of this change depends on your own lifestyle and preferences.

As you grow older, it’s possible that you’ll find suburban amenities more and more appealing. If your plans and goals include settling down and starting a family, an apartment won’t provide enough space to grow. In these situations, renting in the suburbs is often the better choice.

suburban family lifestyle

4. How Much Do You Value Peace and Quiet?

Imagine the following scenario: After a long day at work, you come home for the evening, rest your head on your pillow and start to drift. Then, a next-door neighbor decides to blast their stereo system at full volume while cooking a pan full of garlic. Sure, it’s an exaggeration, but experiences like these can be common for people who live in close-quarters apartment units.

Suburban neighborhoods, on the other hand, are often quiet and peaceful, separated by fences and hedgerows to avoid any conflict. You won’t run into anyone in the driveway as you walk to your mailbox, and the most interaction you’ll get is a wave from the person next door. It’s just one of many reasons for the exodus to the suburbs.

Are you a private person, or does the idea of missing out on neighborhood activity give you serious anxiety? If you can say goodbye to late-night noises, then a suburban rental might be your best bet.

5. Are You Ready to Adjust to Suburban Life?

It might seem like a strange question, but if you’re familiar with renting in an urban area, moving to the suburbs could prove challenging. Professionals in real estate claim city-to-suburbs tenants often need reassurance, and it makes sense that a renter might be nervous about the switch. It can be a big transition for many, especially if you’re attached to city living.

Oftentimes, tenants who move to the suburbs are worried their social lives will change. They’re afraid they’ll no longer have access to the art, culture, and restaurants they were familiar with. While making the switch is a compromise to some degree, you’ll have to determine your priorities and decide what is and isn’t important to you.

Is a Suburban Rental for You?

As you calculate your budget and assess your options, keep an open mind. You’ll enjoy many advantages when living in a suburban rental, with more privacy, peace, and space to grow. It could be the perfect fit for you if you’re in need of some extra square footage and prefer the rental lifestyle. And remember — moving to the suburbs isn’t some inevitable decision. You might find that renting in an urban space continues to suit your lifestyle best. As long as you set aside some time to review your plans and goals, you can feel confident you’re making the best decision for your unique situation.

About the Author: Holly Welles is a real estate blogger and the editor of The Estate Update. When she’s not writing, she’s probably finding creative ways to furnish her tiny apartment.

About the author

Mihaela Buzec

Mihaela is an online content developer for RENTCafé.com. She has a BA in English Language and Literature and is now studying for an MA in Current Linguistics. She is a passionate reader, writer, and researcher, with a background in academic writing. You can get in touch with Mihaela at mihaela.rentcafe@yardi.com.

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