Immigration from Suburbs Buoying Urban Real Estate Markets?

During the housing boom of the past decade in New York City, I have seen a noticeable trend of people who once believed the grass was greener (or that any grass at all was attractive) in Westchester, Connecticut, and the suburbs of New Jersey, moving back to "the city" out of the convenience the it provides or just plain boredom with the Burbs.   Zillow blog’s post Confessions of an Empty Nester gives some valuable anecdotal insight to one couple’s move from the suburbs of Seattle to an urban condo in downtown Seattle.

We now live in the middle of downtown Seattle in a condo that’s less than half the size of our last House. Our 3,200 square feet of Texas sprawl has been squeezed down to a cosmopolitan 1,200. We’ve gotten rid of most of our furniture, clothes, and surplus artwork, and all of our meaningless “stuff.” We’ve chucked the lawnmower and garden tools, and pared our dishes down to enough for only four. And best of all -– most gloriously of all -– we’ve sold our three cars!

Our everyday lives have changed in every way imaginable. We don’t own a car, so we walk everywhere, including to and from work. We use the bus or ferry if we want to go farther afield. This has had a profound effect on how we interact with people. We realize now that the cocoons of our cars kept us well insulated from the people around us. Our genuine interactions were with family and coworkers, the only people who saw us stripped of the metal that clothed and protected us. Our neighbors, we discovered, were virtually strangers.

Now, we stand face-to-face with people in our building’s elevators, at our corner hangouts, and on the sidewalks. We chitchat and pet our neighbors’ dogs. We exchange “good mornings” with the people we pass everyday on our way to work. We’ve developed friendships with several proprietors and servers at our favorite restaurants.

This post on Zillow blog is perhaps the best and most eloquent argument I have read thus far for why life in the city is far superior to that of suburban sprawl.  I moved to NYC in 1989 from the suburbs of Baltimore (can you say BORING?).  And although it took this suburban Baltimore boy about 10 years to feel comfortable in Manhattan (I didn’t leave my apartment for 4 weeks without my girlfriend when I first arrived here), I simply can’t imagine raising my family anywhere else.  The culture, the restaurants, the schools, the people:  the best in the world in my opinion.  Perhaps this is another reason that New York City real estate continues to appreciate while suburban markets across the country are literally collapsing? 

It’s not just empty nesters either.  They do make up some of those who are coming back "home," but many of the purchasers whom I meet are young families who thought they wanted the suburban lifestyle only to desperately miss all that urban life has to offer.  And many of those who I have worked with in the past 10 years who have explored both urban and suburban options have chosen the city to raise their families.  The following excerpt from the same Zillow blog post is precisely why many, whether it be Manhattan, Chicago, Seattle, San Fransisco, or Miami, prefer to call "their city" home:

One warm, sunny day last autumn, we wandered over to the park where a big band was playing great 40’s music. Several older couples were jitterbugging and waltzing, having the time of their lives. We grabbed some lemonade, sat in the shade, and watched and listened. As the lines of time on the dancers’ faces disappeared and their spines straightened just a little; as their eyes brightened and their laughter mingled with the birdsong above us, we looked at each other and smiled. We knew we were thinking the same thing. We might not have The House anymore, but we were most assuredly home.

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