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Tips & Guides / Moving Guides

City vs. Suburb Living: Which Is Right for You?

By Bri Hand

Torn between a quiet home in a tree-lined neighborhood or a bohemian apartment in the heart of the city? Choosing where you live is a difficult decision made more difficult by the range of options when it comes to city vs. suburb living.

If you’re looking for a go-to guide to help you decide between a home in the suburbs or one in the city, you’ve found it. This article will weigh all the options between city and suburb living, analyzing things like:

  • Lifestyles
  • Costs
  • Job opportunities
  • Entertainment options

Find out what to expect before you move, and use this guide to decide whether an urban or suburban dwelling is the best pick for your new home.

Lifestyles and demographics

It’s easy to make generalizations when it comes to the interests, affiliations, and demographics of city vs. suburban residents. While some of your preconceptions might be true, there is far more than meets the eye when it comes to urban and suburban lifestyles.

City lifestyle

A city is more than its stretching skyscrapers and white-collared businesses. Typically, cities are a community of small, coexisting neighborhoods that guarantee a dynamic and diverse lifestyle. 

If you imagine yourself jogging between skyscrapers, ordering takeout at 2 a.m., or building a whole new social circle, city living might be the ticket to starting your best life. When deciding to move to a big city, consider the following:

  • Diversity: From Koreatown to Little Italy to Boystown, cities are known for their diversity. If you’re looking for a place where you can integrate into a community that reflects your background, interests, or identity, you’ll have the best luck finding it in a city.
  • Younger population: The demographics of cities typically skew toward younger adults. If you belong to Gen Z or the Millennial generation, you may find more people your age in a city. Statistically, young adults skew more urban than previous generations, but that shouldn’t hinder anyone of any age from moving to the metropolis. Cities are bustling with life and diverse activities that suit transplants both young and old.
  • Smaller homes: Most city residents are apartment renters, which means fewer yards, less square footage, and less space for indoor activities. This is offset by the fact that living in the city means spending more time outside of your home—whether you’re visiting a local museum or spending time at a nearby park. Most often, city apartments are used as home bases for morning and nighttime activities.

If you’re less prone to creature comforts and love the glitz and glamour of new faces, cuisines, and cultures, a city apartment may be your gateway to a lifetime of urban living.

Suburban lifestyle

Quiet, quaint, and serene, suburban living can be highly rewarding if you favor leisure time, open space, and convenience.

The suburban lifestyle is frequently misunderstood—it’s rarely noted that suburban residents express higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness than city dwellers. That’s because the suburbs offer residents easy and quick travel to nearby attractions.

While the suburbs might not be right for everyone, consider the following lifestyle benefits that the suburbs have to offer:

  • Tight-knit blocks: While you’re not living as closely as you would be in the city, there’s no reason not to get to know your neighbor. Suburbs can offer tight-knit communities on a block-by-block basis. Neighborhood mingles, shindigs, and backyard barbeques are all integral parts of suburban life.
  • Family-sized living: It’s not uncommon for city residents to move to the suburbs when planning to start a family. With more space and options when it comes to housing, raising a family can be made a little bit easier in the suburbs.
  • Privacy: We all need a little alone time, and that can be hard to get in a small city apartment. Even if you live on your own, you’re most likely in close proximity to your neighbors. Conversely, the suburbs offer quiet seclusions for when you’re looking to get away. Whether you’re sipping tea on a peaceful patio or in a climate-controlled basement, suburbs provide residents with more privacy than the concrete jungle.

However, the suburbs aren’t just about larger houses and bigger yards. These areas also offer an alternative to the loud, bustling city streets and provide conveniences like nearby grocery stores, retail shops, and residential parks.

Shopping, entertainment, and amenities

Shopping and entertainment venues offer residents weekday and weekend activities, and maybe even a little taste of culture. No matter your tastes, both cities and suburbs provide ample opportunities to get out on the town—although the types of activities do differ a bit depending on location. 

City shopping and entertainment

As a city slicker, you have access to ample shopping and entertainment opportunities just steps from your doorstep. Typically, shops and entertainment venues gravitate toward areas with large populations and cultural diversity. When living in a city, you’ll encounter:

  • Boutique shopping: Looking for a unique gift or a vintage curio? Cities offer boutique shopping experiences from bougie storefronts to indoor flea markets alike. Urbanites are known for their fashion sense—that’s why most cities are a hub for trendsetters creating the next big look.
  • Theatre and live music: With tons of options for live theatre and music, there’s no reason to stay in on a Saturday night—or any other night. Whether you prefer national pop acts or indie productions, the city is the primary spot to see live entertainment, outside of community theatre.
  • Medical care: Often cities offer top-of-the-line medical facilities, with world-class doctors. While more and more suburbs are upping their medical infrastructure, most cities typically offer top-notch treatment facilities.

The city offers a plethora of venues in a walkable environment. That means you’ll be able to sip on crafty cocktails and dine on boozy desserts without the need to designate a sober driver. If you’re not looking to lap up libations, the walkability of a city, as well as its public transit options, still offers urban convenience that you can’t find anywhere else.

Suburban shopping and entertainment

The myth that suburban areas lack entertainment is one that’s been touted for years—and one that’s entirely untrue. While there might not be the same range of cultural opportunities in the suburbs, these neighborhoods offer super-sized shopping and local exhibitions that are unique to provincial areas.

When living in the suburbs you’ll find options like:

  • Big box stores and malls: Whatever you want, you can find it at a big box store or a mall—frequently at a serious discount. Most cities can’t compete with the sheer space these enormous stores require, which makes them the shopping centers of the suburbs. 
  • Multiplexes: Few can compete with the suburban multiplex—with pristine sound, comfortable seating, and the best in concession, there’s no movie experience quite like it.
  • Schools: Another reason former city dwellers flock to the suburbs in preparation for starting a family is the educational amenities. The suburbs often offer higher-rank schools and more educational options overall in comparison to cities and rural areas. 

While the suburbs may be lacking in five-star, cultural performances, they make up for it in grandiose shopping opportunities and local amenities. Also, sometimes a car ride to the mall is a lot easier and more convenient than a crosstown bus.

Cost of living and job opportunities

When deciding on your next move, you may be weighing your options compared to your budget. Cost of living can vary widely between geographic locations. However, there are a few general aspects that apply across the board:

City cost of living

It comes as no surprise that the city takes first place in the category of priciest places to live. While you can certainly find suburban neighborhoods that outdo city real estate prices, by and large, city living is more expensive—in addition to high rental rates, food and transportation costs are also typically higher than other parts of the country. 

Major city living costs can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Higher rent: You can expect to pay about a third more per year on your rent compared to your suburban counterpart. While it may seem like a lot (and for less space), consider all the public amenities, local business, and unparalleled experiences the city has to offer—if that doesn’t sound worth it, you may want to consider living somewhere else.
  • Higher earnings: Economic opportunity abounds in the city. With more job opportunities and higher competition, salaries are typically higher in urban areas. While it doesn’t completely offset the higher rate of rent, it often means a higher level of job security and more opportunities for advancement.

City life elicits another balancing act—increased wages vs. increased costs. Depending on your career, moving to the city could be a highly lucrative decision, so consider your financial future when you imagine moving to the city. 

Suburb cost of living 

Looking to save for retirement, investment, or buying your own home? Perhaps some years of suburban living could offer you substantial savings to meet your financial goals.

While you’re very likely to save on your monthly rent when you live in the suburbs, there are a few other costs that could eat into those savings, such as:

  • Commuting costs: While you may have accepted (or may even be looking forward to) the amount of driving that comes with suburban living, don’t forget to factor in the price of gas and car maintenance when determining the budget of your suburban move. 
  • Utility costs: More space usually means more heat, more air conditioning, and more energy usage. Expect your utility bill to be higher in your suburban home than that in a city-sized studio. 

While there are a few additional costs associated with living in the suburbs, this type of living ultimately is less expensive than city living. Also, consider that you’re getting more space than you could ever find in the city.

Landing: Homes for everyone, anywhere

Are you leaning toward a suburban dwelling for your next home, or are you ready to ditch the backyard for a metro pass? There’s a lot to decide, but now that you’ve analyzed the pros and cons of each type of lifestyle, we want to share one more piece of advice to help you find your next home—check out Landing.

At Landing, we’re committed to finding you comfortable living options in the city, suburb, or anywhere in between. We offer 24-hour assistance, short-term lease options, and fully furnished apartments so you can start enjoying your new home the day you move in.

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Bri Hand published on October 7, 2021