If you’re considering packing up and leaving San Francisco for suburbia, you’ve got A LOT to think about. From where to live, to what schools make sense, to how you’ll tackle the commute -- and then there’s the childcare options, activities and sports...
In short, it’s a lot. Our advice? Start with these three details as you’re exploring the suburbs. While they won’t tell you everything -- you’ll need some time to fully experience the personality of each town -- focusing on these key features first will help you suss out communities and steer you towards areas that make sense. And, from there, you’re so close to finding the perfect suburb to call home.
#1. Check out the SCHOOLS -- and decide what gets an A+ from your family.
Finding a “great school” is always a priority. But with so many different approaches to education, what exactly does great really mean?
To find the right school for your kids, start with the specifics: do you want a big school with tons of APs and extracurriculars, or something smaller with loads of individualized attention? Are you looking for special programs like IB, language immersion or college prep? What about test scores -- how important are those numbers to you? What about team sports? Music? Arts?
With your search narrowed, it’s time to dig in and see what’s what first-hand. Try scheduling meetings with principals and setting up tours of potential schools. What do the actual classrooms look like? Are students and staff warm and inviting? Engaged? Eager to learn? And be sure to stick around for pick up or drop off -- you’ll get a chance to see who’s picking kids up and where they’re headed after the bell rings.
#2. See who’s with the kids all day…
And at those school drop offs? Really pay attention to the people and the what next of it all. Are nannies scurrying around getting kids into the building, or is the scene totally dominated by SAHMs heading to barre class after? SAHDs, or working dads rushing to get where they need to be? Executive moms? Work-from-home parents? Nineteen-year-old au pairs? Grandma? Someone else?
While it might not seem important now, it will once you’re settled. Most towns have a pervasive childcare personality. If you don’t sync, you could be the SAHM hanging with the teenage German-speaking au pairs all year -- probably not your key social circle. Or, maybe, you’re heading off to work every day but all the playdates and birthday parties are happening right after school -- when your child is in daycare. Neither is particularly ideal…
Finding a town that syncs with your childcare plans will help the entire family better integrate into the community -- you, your spouse and your kids included. That’s not to say you can’t work if a town is heavy on the SAHM front -- or vice versa -- but, by understanding the lay of the land, you’ll be able to adjust your expectations and childcare plans to sync from day one.
#3. Understand WEEKENDS and SUMMERS.
Don’t forget, you’re going to live in this town 24/7 -- and that includes weekends and summers. So before you make a move, make sure you understand a town’s “off hours” personality. Does everyone dash off to Tahoe as soon as class lets out? Or do they stay put for sports and activities all weekend? Do kids go to day -- or sleepaway -- camp? Summer intensives? Sports camps? Are they hanging home at their pools -- or pool clubs? And, if that’s the case, will you have a pool -- or be able to join the club?
Again, like the childcare scene, this one is more important than you may think. There’s nothing worse than gearing up for a great summer in your new town, only to discover it’s a wasteland from mid-June through Labor Day.
After that? Think COMMUTE -- but not just minutes and hours. Focus on the quality of your commute -- how comfortable you’ll be, if you’ll be able to snag a seat, if drop off is close(ish) to your office and, yes, how long you’ll spend sitting in traffic or on congested tracks. But don’t start here. Why? Because it’s easy to eliminate towns because it doesn’t have the sub-40 minute commute you’re looking for -- and that could leave you glossing over some amazing suburbs that align with your family’s wants and needs otherwise.
Suburban Jungle is an award-winning firm that specializes in moving families from urban to suburban. The company’s innovative “town first” approach helps buyers find the right suburb for their family based on personality and lifestyle, not just the house. Services are FREE and fully customized to each family and their unique journey. To learn more and to connect with a Suburbs Strategist and find the place your family truly fits in visit www.suburbanjunglerealty.com and click GET STARTED.