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Old 04-28-2016, 08:34 AM
 
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We are going to be relocating to the NYC area over the summer, and I am completely overwhelmed by the information I have read about where to start looking for a home! We have 3 elementary school aged children, so schools are very important to me. We would like to be within a 45 minute commute to NYC. I like the idea of a very walkable town (easy to get to shops, cafes, etc), and safety is important to me.


We will be living on an income of $275,000 and hope to find a rental to live in before purchasing (hopefully staying in the same school district). Am I off to be looking at rentals $6000 and below? We are open to apartment/single family housing, although we are coming from suburban Chicago, and have never lived in a city environment. I love small-town living.


Any tips on where to narrow my search? I have been primarily looking in Westchester County. Should I look in other counties as well/instead? NJ?


Thanks in Advance for any tips
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Old 04-28-2016, 08:45 AM
 
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Welcome!

I think the Westchester Rivertowns of Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, and Irvington would fit the bill quite nicely. They tick all the boxes: Small towns, fit rental budget, good schools, walkable, and very conveniently located for commute to the city...

With your family income, almost any Westchester town would fit. The lower-middle Westchester towns of Scarsdale, Ardsley, Larchmont, Bronxville (within that 45-minute commute window) are all very, very nice, too, but I'm partial to the Rivertowns due to access to the riverside and their general accessibility.

I would take spend some time in each place and see which fits you best. Each aforementioned place has a distinct "feel."

Best of luck in your search!
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Old 04-28-2016, 08:50 AM
 
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Thank you! Your advice reassures me that I am on the right track!
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:16 AM
 
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Since you are not from the area, the most important piece of advice you can get is to shop for houses/apartments by school district and NOT by address. What this means is that a house at 123 Main Street, Scarsdale, NY may or may not be in the Scarsdale school district. A house at 123 Main Street, Bronxville, NY may or may not be in the Bronxville schools district. Over in Rockland, there are houses with Pearl River addresses that are in the Nanuet School District, and houses with Nanuet addresses that are in the Pearl River school district. Houses with West Nyack addresses can be in one of three school districts. Orangeburg addresses may be in PRSD or South Orangetown SD. There are a million examples. School district means everything when shopping for houses, especially when you have have small kids. A very high percentage of your overall property taxes comes from your school district. Of course, you school district will control where you kids go to school (assuming you don't send them to private school), and it will define your experience, where you consider "home" to be, where your kids will play youth sports, etc. Unscrupulous real estate agents may take advantage of you and steer you towards undesirable school districts with addresses that make it seem the location is elsewhere if you are not directing them to certain districts.

Bottom line - select which School Districts you like and them work from there, making sure that all prospective homes are located within one of your favored districts.

There are approximately 35 or so districts in Westchester. The majority of them are very good, but there are a lot of differences in terms of culture, vibe, religion, etc., and also of course logistical differences, like proximity to good trains, NYC, large lot sizes, smaller sizes, walk to downtown, etc.
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:23 AM
 
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Thank you 987ABC! We currently have our kids enrolled in a Catholic school, but would like to take advantage of the public schools if they are good (hope that came our right!). We want the school environment to mirror our values to some extent. One important factor is the commute time for my husband, as family time is very important to us. Do you have recommendations on school districts that we should look at/stay away from? We are not too concerned with lot size (as long as there is some green space).
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:36 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NY Bound 78 View Post
Thank you 987ABC! We currently have our kids enrolled in a Catholic school, but would like to take advantage of the public schools if they are good (hope that came our right!). We want the school environment to mirror our values to some extent. One important factor is the commute time for my husband, as family time is very important to us. Do you have recommendations on school districts that we should look at/stay away from? We are not too concerned with lot size (as long as there is some green space).
Without any ties to the area, an NYC commute, and money to afford it, Lower Westchester is the best place to be in my opinion. I don't live there because I have life long ties to another nearby area and don't comment to NYC. Where will you/spouse be commuting - which part of Manhattan?

Bronxville and Rye are two places that come to mind. Good commutes and they are two places I think you will like coming from Catholic schools. Of course its illegal to promote Catholic values in a public school, but neither place will be adverse to them. Pelham also would be good. These places have a lot of Catholics, as does nearly all of the areas you will be looking at. Avoid Mt Vernon or Yonkers. Both have much higher single/young parent homes, drop out rates, crime rates, etc. Others can comment on these and other nearby districts.

Keep in mind that even with your nice family income, you may not afford a portion of the housing stock in some of these school districts. That will depend on other variables such as down payment, etc. Million dollar houses are rather ordinary in the good lower westchester districts.
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:39 AM
 
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Originally Posted by 987ABC View Post
Without any ties to the area, an NYC commute, and money to afford it, Lower Westchester is the best place to be in my opinion. I don't live there because I have life long ties to another nearby area and don't comment to NYC. Where will you/spouse be commuting - which part of Manhattan?

Bronxville and Rye are two places that come to mind. Good commutes and they are two places I think you will like coming from Catholic schools. Of course its illegal to promote Catholic values in a public school, but neither place will be adverse to them. Pelham also would be good. These places have a lot of Catholics, as does nearly all of the areas you will be looking at. Avoid Mt Vernon or Yonkers. Both have much higher single/young parent homes, drop out rates, crime rates, etc. Others can comment on these and other nearby districts.

Keep in mind that even with your nice family income, you may not afford a portion of the housing stock in some of these school districts. That will depend on other variables such as down payment, etc. Million dollar houses are rather ordinary in the good lower westchester districts.
I will add to my post above that I have not taken into account the rental stock in the SDs I have named. Just don't know much about what is available and for how much. But my instincts tell me their may not be many rentals available in these communities. They are heavy on SF homes.
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Old 04-28-2016, 10:07 AM
 
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It looks like my husband could have his office as far north as Mount Vernon.
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Old 04-28-2016, 01:07 PM
 
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I'll add that along with 987ABC's comment about starting with school district (look at sites like this one, goodschools.com and schooldigger for insight there), also look at the metro-north schedule for real information about train commute. Some areas like White Plains have 31 minute trains every 10 minutes (but there could be a multiple year wait for a spot at the train station), and other towns that look much farther away can be very commutable given express train schedules (i.e. Chappaqua schools are very well known, and it's further south than Briarcliff Manor, but the trains to NYC take longer). Note also that Briarcliff Manor (Scarborough station) offers valet parking to annual pass holders. Consider also that some districts offer busing to schools and some do not.
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Old 04-28-2016, 05:51 PM
 
Location: Westchester County, NY
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As a recent transplant living in Rye, I would definitely advocate Rye, Rye Neck, and Larchmont. There are many great areas (Scarsdale, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, Irvington), so it really will be quite a personal decision. However, my biggest piece of advice is that you really need to be very specific and honest with yourself about what you are asking for from your commute. If you mean a "door-to-door" 45 minute commute:
  • You really have to know your limits imposed by your spouse's work location.
  • You also need to ask yourself how often you will want to go into the city for non-work events.
  • Finally, how much certainty of commute time do you need? There are express trains to more distant locations in Westchester, but any delay in the train will be multiplied on the longer lines.
Since you're coming from Chicago (a big city), it probably won't be as jarring as it would be for someone coming from further away. There are many rentals, by the way, cost can be an option in the more expensive cities.
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