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Old 09-13-2014, 11:24 AM
 
2 posts, read 2,659 times
Reputation: 10

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Please help me, oh knowledgable ones, to narrow our search.

My family (with kids ages 8 and 10) lives in a Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn apartment (1.5 br, 1 bath) that is getting smaller every minute. We desperately need to move. The options and possible future lives are making my head spin. We are considering three possibilities: (1) We move to a house in Brooklyn, but our $800K (maaaybe $900K) probably takes us away from Prospect Park and into Bay Ridge or Sunset Park. If weíre very lucky we might find something in Kensington, Prospect Park South, or Prospect Lefferts, but I feel like the city is kicking my butt. We donít make enough money to enjoy it, and I increasingly hate the crowd of my subway commute. Many days it looks better to (2) move to Portland, OR where my husbandís parents and a few friends live. We would get the beauty and comparative ease of life in Portland, but my husband would have to find work, and I would have to get relicensed (Iím a psychologist) in OR and start a new practice. All four of us would have to leave our dear friends. A final possibility is a middle ground, (3) we move outside the city. We think Westchester makes the most sense because itís got the beauty of the Hudson and itís NY so I can work there soon or at some point in the future without relicensure. We still have to uproot all four of us, but we have a prettier, easier life. We get to keep our jobs, have the benefits of NYC, and could occasionally see our Brooklyn friends.

I would love any reactions or thoughts about any of these three, but I most need help with imagining the best version of #3. My husband will commute five days to 52nd and 6th Avenue. I will commute three or four days and can move my private practice to an office near Grand Central. Where should we be looking to find a house where we can be close to a good school and close to the train? Which Westchester schools focus on giving kids a love of learning? We donít care about test scores -- we care about quality teaching and communities of warm people.

Finally, Iíve heard parking at Westchester train stations can be awful. We donít want to spend all our time away from the kids. How do people manage that? Bonus points for a place where the parks or the woods are lovely and the people are not pretentious.

Any thoughts or advice are welcome!

Tess
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Old 09-13-2014, 12:05 PM
 
116 posts, read 308,143 times
Reputation: 66
Door #2. You won't see your city friends anyway once you've moved to Westchester!
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Old 09-13-2014, 03:35 PM
 
21 posts, read 34,864 times
Reputation: 22
North of 287 in Westchester, or stay in Brooklyn...Portland is fun to visit..
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Old 09-14-2014, 06:59 AM
 
2 posts, read 2,659 times
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AliciaN, was that your experience? And hobby49, what makes you say North of 287? Because things are cheaper once you go farther out or more pleasant? What about Hastings, for example? Say more, please!
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Old 09-14-2014, 08:56 AM
 
1,562 posts, read 2,733,953 times
Reputation: 1537
Quote:
Originally Posted by TessC View Post
AliciaN, was that your experience? And hobby49, what makes you say North of 287? Because things are cheaper once you go farther out or more pleasant? What about Hastings, for example? Say more, please!
Hastings is scenic, commute is great but you're in the middle third housing budget wise. Most of the town is walkable to the train and I do not think there is a wait for parking. As far as fostering a love of learning, not so sure about that. But there isn't quite the Jones-keeper-upper mentality as some other districts.
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Old 09-16-2014, 02:00 PM
 
Location: NYC
30 posts, read 66,475 times
Reputation: 41
Hi Tess -- we are in a very similar boat. We are starting to grow our family and have come to terms with the fact that the city is untennable in terms of prices/neighborhoods/ease of life. I am from the City -- lived here on and off my entire life (from BK to Manhattan to Forest Hills) -- and it's becoming increasingly difficult price-wise to compete. Brooklyn has changed so much and the prices are skyrocketing by the day. We too live in BK, though have had to move south to BR, a neighborhood you mentioned, just to afford the increasing rents. While more affordable than other areas, single family homes are not, and while safe, it's not an area in which we wish to stay/purchase. We are looking to purchase in Westchester next year.

Don't let others discourage you regarding not getting to see any of your City friends if you move to Westchester. Yes, there are limitations since many do not have cars or ease of transportation, but I am a firm believer in making the "schlepp" to see others, and encouraging my friends/family to do the same -- no matter where you live in the metro area. It may be easier said than done, but I think as the City becomes increasingly difficult for families to live comfortably and afford, more and more people will be moving to the "outer reaches" as well!

I am city person by nature, but have to say that I love Westchester for many reasons (it does not have a typical "suburb" feel) and think the benefits of staying in NY-metro (trust me, we moved out to the West coast once thinking the ease of life would make it worthwhile, and the effort of startng all over again work-wise and friend-wise just proved too hard), outweigh leaving....

I have been doing a ton of research and would be happy to let you know what I've learned -- either here on the forum or in PM. For us, it's not so much the cost of the house (we are looking in the same price-range as you), but the taxes in Westchester that are a killer. Still, there are some work-arounds if you are willing to consider certain towns over others, and if you would consider townhomes. In many cases they are larger (much larger in some instances) than single-familes, with much lower taxes and related maintenance costs. Towns I've researched that I like so far (and bear in mind some of these do have higher taxes, but I am still in the process of learning), include:
On the LI Sound:
Pelham (I actually think Pelham is a fantastic town and its close to the city too -- the people are incredibly educated, yet so down to earth)
Larchmont
Parts of Mamaroneck (it can vary from very nice to not as much)
Rye is gorgeous, but pricey -- that said, I do believe there are some nice properties in your pricepoint
Harrison (a lot of great down to earth people as well)

Rivertowns
Hastings (love it, very artistic)
Irvington
Dobbs Ferry (more affordable tax-wise and you can find a home for sure in that range)
Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown (is mixed bag -- the river parts are lovely, and I love the history, but parts can seem a bit neglected... I have not spent a huge amount of time there, it's just my impression).

Central
Ardsley (no central train station, but nice)
Scarsdale (doubt you'd find anything decent in your price-range and taxes are killer w/ highest pressure shools) -- only a little better in neighboring Hartsdale/Edgemeont but it would be worth looking there.
I am looking into Tuckahoe, but haven't learned much yet...

In terms of further north, I've heard great things about Katonah and Bedford area (gorgeous and peaceful -- great communities around there -- though this much farther north and more of a country-feel and so commute will be in the hour-range by train)...

I am still learning about Chappaqua...

I have more info if you need!

Last edited by DLMTAG; 09-16-2014 at 02:12 PM..
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:49 AM
 
174 posts, read 262,440 times
Reputation: 56
Also look into Stamford. Express trains to Grand Central, 15 minutes from NY border, affordable houses, big downtown.
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Old 09-17-2014, 09:37 AM
bg7
 
7,698 posts, read 8,125,625 times
Reputation: 15088
Quote:
Originally Posted by DLMTAG View Post
Hi Tess -- we are in a very similar boat. We are starting to grow our family and have come to terms with the fact that the city is untennable in terms of prices/neighborhoods/ease of life. I am from the City -- lived here on and off my entire life (from BK to Manhattan to Forest Hills) -- and it's becoming increasingly difficult price-wise to compete. Brooklyn has changed so much and the prices are skyrocketing by the day. We too live in BK, though have had to move south to BR, a neighborhood you mentioned, just to afford the increasing rents. While more affordable than other areas, single family homes are not, and while safe, it's not an area in which we wish to stay/purchase. We are looking to purchase in Westchester next year.

Don't let others discourage you regarding not getting to see any of your City friends if you move to Westchester. Yes, there are limitations since many do not have cars or ease of transportation, but I am a firm believer in making the "schlepp" to see others, and encouraging my friends/family to do the same -- no matter where you live in the metro area. It may be easier said than done, but I think as the City becomes increasingly difficult for families to live comfortably and afford, more and more people will be moving to the "outer reaches" as well!

I am city person by nature, but have to say that I love Westchester for many reasons (it does not have a typical "suburb" feel) and think the benefits of staying in NY-metro (trust me, we moved out to the West coast once thinking the ease of life would make it worthwhile, and the effort of startng all over again work-wise and friend-wise just proved too hard), outweigh leaving....

I have been doing a ton of research and would be happy to let you know what I've learned -- either here on the forum or in PM. For us, it's not so much the cost of the house (we are looking in the same price-range as you), but the taxes in Westchester that are a killer. Still, there are some work-arounds if you are willing to consider certain towns over others, and if you would consider townhomes. In many cases they are larger (much larger in some instances) than single-familes, with much lower taxes and related maintenance costs. Towns I've researched that I like so far (and bear in mind some of these do have higher taxes, but I am still in the process of learning), include:
On the LI Sound:
Pelham (I actually think Pelham is a fantastic town and its close to the city too -- the people are incredibly educated, yet so down to earth)
Larchmont
Parts of Mamaroneck (it can vary from very nice to not as much)
Rye is gorgeous, but pricey -- that said, I do believe there are some nice properties in your pricepoint
Harrison (a lot of great down to earth people as well)

Rivertowns
Hastings (love it, very artistic)
Irvington
Dobbs Ferry (more affordable tax-wise and you can find a home for sure in that range)
Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown (is mixed bag -- the river parts are lovely, and I love the history, but parts can seem a bit neglected... I have not spent a huge amount of time there, it's just my impression).

Central
Ardsley (no central train station, but nice)
Scarsdale (doubt you'd find anything decent in your price-range and taxes are killer w/ highest pressure shools) -- only a little better in neighboring Hartsdale/Edgemeont but it would be worth looking there.
I am looking into Tuckahoe, but haven't learned much yet...

In terms of further north, I've heard great things about Katonah and Bedford area (gorgeous and peaceful -- great communities around there -- though this much farther north and more of a country-feel and so commute will be in the hour-range by train)...

I am still learning about Chappaqua...

I have more info if you need!

When considering Westchester property taxes, make sure you consider what you are currently paying in NYC income taxes - because you won't be paying that any more (About 3.5-4% of you NYC income). That takes some of the bite out of the taxes. Plus look at the school you are guaranteed to get - sometimes it seems like a good deal if you look at even parochial school costs in the city.
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Old 09-17-2014, 09:50 AM
 
Location: NYC
30 posts, read 66,475 times
Reputation: 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by bg7 View Post
When considering Westchester property taxes, make sure you consider what you are currently paying in NYC income taxes - because you won't be paying that any more (About 3.5-4% of you NYC income). That takes some of the bite out of the taxes. Plus look at the school you are guaranteed to get - sometimes it seems like a good deal if you look at even parochial school costs in the city.
Thanks, bg7! I actually didn't think of that (re: not having NYC income tax taking the bite out of Westchester property taxes). That really helps! Plus, I agree with your take on the schools - if we were to stay in the City, you'd end up spending quite a lot on private/religious schools to boot.
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Old 09-21-2014, 08:24 AM
 
72 posts, read 204,348 times
Reputation: 31
In case you didn't know, the Greenburgh township, which includes the rivertowns, Greenburgh and I'm not sure what else, is currently undergoing a property reevaluations. Every single property will get a new tax bill, regardless of what their current one is. So do not buy a house there based on the current taxes - they could go up, down or stay the same. If it seems too low, chances are they will be going up.

I had similar reqs for schools when we looked - didn't care about test scores and only wanted an environment that created a love of learning. Fact is, if it's a public school, test scores are going to matter to some degree. Definitely some will care way more than others and I too avoided any pressure cooker districts. We ended up in Dobbs Ferry and as much as is possible, they downplay test scores. Our Superintendent just sent out a letter reminding parents that they do not need to share the scores with their children, which I really appreciated. I've heard her say many times that they never teach to the test. Having said that, there's still a huge set of standards that any public school teacher is scrambling to cover throughout the year. But if there's good experienced teachers, they will be able to accomplish this in a fun way and bring extras into the class as well. This has been our experience at Springhurst. You also have the option of "opting out" of the tests.

Btw, Dobbs Ferry made that top 500 schools ranked recently by Newsweek....I think 70 something. I could care less and don't like when parents tout their district as being great because they made the list. However, I was proud that Dobbs Ferry also had a little star next to it, which means they are reducing the achievement gap. So somehow they are bringing up the bottom scoring kids, closer to the top. I think this has more to do with the overall care and attention to each and every single child, which I've seen firsthand, starting in preschool. I think that's something to be proud of.
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