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Old 04-29-2015, 10:51 AM
 
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My spouse has the opportunity to work in either NYC or DC, so we're trying to weigh the pros and cons of the two areas. We lived in NYC years ago so the city always has a special place in our hearts. Of course, we're older now and have little ones so Westchester County is more in line with where we are today.

We've heard Northern Virginia can be a bit type-A (not our words) and mostly government workers or contractors. We're used to being around a lot of creative types, and we're guessing we might have a better chance of finding pockets of creative people in Westchester than we would in Northern Virginia. Between that and really loving NYC, we're certainly leaning toward Westchester County.

My question is that we've noticed a lot of people in the Westchester forums tend to be pretty down on the area. Why is that? I understand the insane amount of taxes, which is something we really need to consider, as I'm sure Northern Virginia would most likely have significantly lower taxes than WC. But what are some of the other aspects of Westchester that you don't find to be very appealing?

So far, this is what we've come up with in terms of pros and cons of both areas. Both of these lists are open to interpretation and I'm mainly going from word-of-mouth and forum feedback:

Northern Virginia
Pros
— Fairly quick access to DC
— Significantly lower taxes
— Very mild winters
— Mostly good schools
— Easy access to things like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's
— Good job market if you are in the right field (government, non-profits, etc)
— Beautiful spring and fall seasons

Cons
— Pretty lousy traffic and congestion
— Not as many creative people
— We've heard from friends who live in Northern Virginia that people generally aren't friendly. It's not that they are unfriendly, but common courtesy (saying thanks when someone opens a door) isn't a general occurrence.
— Fairly one-dimensional job market
— Hot and humid in the summer
— Houses we've seen and liked online tend to be in the $600-700k range (we're looking more in the $400-450k range)
— Doesn't really have towns with character. Seem to be more housing developments and big box stores (although we've been to Old Town Alexandria and it is absolutely beautiful and has a rich history, but it seems to be the exception).
— Public transportation isn't as good/frequent as NYC area. I know most DC area people like the Metro, but it sounds as though it's designed more for morning and evening commuters than it is for general use at all hours)

Westchester
Pros
— Close to NYC!!
— More diversity in terms of what people do for a living
— Mostly good schools
— Towns seem to have character and history
— Better/more frequent public transportation
— Beautiful area in the spring, summer and fall
— Houses we've seen and liked online (in areas like Croton and Irvington) tend to be in the $400-500k range (but then you're hit with significantly higher taxes)

Cons
— Extremely high taxes
— Can be a bit stuffy (again, not our words. Just comments we've heard)
— Winters can be long and dreary with much more snow than Northern Virginia, which probably only has a less than 10 inches of snow annually.
— Commute seems to be a little longer than a Northern Virginia commute into DC (but probably not by much)
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:17 AM
 
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you've nailed the cons. except the stuffy part. i barely notice that at all tbh.

i'd also add "boring".
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:50 AM
 
Location: Westchester County, NY -> Pinellas County, FL -> Dutchess County, NY -> Denver?
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Westchester
Pros
— Close to NYC!!
You won't be going to NYC too often. You may think you will but you won't.

— More diversity in terms of what people do for a living
Not really.

— Mostly good schools
Yes but at what cost.

— Towns seem to have character and history
They do but people go there to hang out in Starbucks.

— Better/more frequent public transportation
No. You will not use public transportation in Westchester unless you can't afford a car. The public transportation feels like 3rd world in NY. I'm from Europe.

— Beautiful area in the spring, summer and fall
Fall is my favorite.

— Houses we've seen and liked online (in areas like Croton and Irvington) tend to be in the $400-500k range (but then you're hit with significantly higher taxes)

500k? Can you even buy a decent house in this price range in those areas? Maybe in Yonkers.


Cons
— Extremely high taxes
Yes and more taxes.

— Can be a bit stuffy (again, not our words. Just comments we've heard)
Extremely stuffy, self-centered and pretentious people.

— Winters can be long and dreary with much more snow than Northern Virginia, which probably only has a less than 10 inches of snow annually.
Not that bad but they're extremely annoying if you have go about your life and like being outdoors.

— Commute seems to be a little longer than a Northern Virginia commute into DC (but probably not by much)

Commute to where?


My major cons:
- ABRASIVE, UNHELPFUL and NOSY neighbors
- Expensive food (organic and healthy options)
- Potholes, terrible roads - it is enough to go Dutchess County or Danbury area to see the difference
- Metro North is getting very expensive
- Congested
- Most houses are neglected and require substantial improvements once purchased
- Astronomical heating bills in winter

My major pros:

- South and North County Trail for cycling
- Easy access to Ulster County (beautiful scenery and farms) and great roads for cycling.

If you have business to do in NYC/Westchester County then it's a place to be. If not, I don't see why you would even bother living here. These are all subjective so people may disagree. If you're a big shot none of those should ever bother you.
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:06 PM
 
Location: Westchester County, NY
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Wow, Iching's comments were harsh enough to make me want to post!

We are moving to Westchester County this summer (from San Francisco), and we anguished over these kinds of factors with many of our friends in Westchester County and New Jersey.

Pros
— Close to NYC!!

People who want to go to the city for an occasional dinner or show love it for this purpose. If you recall fondly the constant barrage of things to do in the city on the weekends and being able to plug into it frequently, Iching is right. Most of our friends in Westchester reported that they go from 6-12 times per year.

— More diversity in terms of what people do for a living
A little more than my DC area friends suggest to be sure. But a lot of lawyers and financial professionals, so it does kind of feel like exchanging most of the politicians/government employees with them.

— Mostly good schools
Actually, some of the best public schools in the country. As Iching suggests, however, they better be for what we will be paying for them.

— Towns seem to have character and history
They do. Iching seems to wish there was more hustle and bustle walking about, but these are all TINY towns at their core.

— Better/more frequent public transportation
For commuting, I would agree that Metro North is SLIGHTLY more civilized than DC Metro. Certainly more so than San Francisco BART. There is not much public transportation for anything other than going back and forth to work, however.

— Beautiful area in the spring, summer and fall
Yes. Although coming from San Francisco, my wife will likely complain about the weather year round.

— Houses we've seen and liked online (in areas like Croton and Irvington) tend to be in the $400-500k range (but then you're hit with significantly higher taxes)
Don't know where you're coming from, so I can't speak to this. Like Iching, however, my perception is that Irvington is actually more expensive than that.

Cons
— Extremely high taxes

No disagreement here. San Francisco has similar price points, but at the same price point property taxes in Westchester are 2.5 times more.

— Can be a bit stuffy (again, not our words. Just comments we've heard)
I haven't seen that from the people that I have met and know. There are stuffy people everywhere in my experience.

— Winters can be long and dreary with much more snow than Northern Virginia, which probably only has a less than 10 inches of snow annually.
Yep. Think about the comparison to San Francisco in my case. Ugh.

— Commute seems to be a little longer than a Northern Virginia commute into DC (but probably not by much)
Depends where you live. You'll need to get a pretty good handle on the express train schedule.

As to Iching's "major cons":
- ABRASIVE, UNHELPFUL and NOSY neighbors
This is truly neighborhood dependent. In San Francisco, I know in my town I had a great neighborhood and just a mile west was a neighborhood of people who would all characterize each other in exactly this manner. I have moved cross country many times, and this was my biggest concern.

- Expensive food (organic and healthy options)
Don't know where you're coming from, but this is true in San Francisco as well, so we didn't see this as a change.

- Potholes, terrible roads - it is [t]ough to go Dutchess County or Danbury area to see the difference
Can't speak to this one.

- Metro North is getting very expensive
Concur with this one. Don't know that it isn't getting worse in DC, though. BART in SF is totally in denial about where they need to put their rates to stay solvent. They will have to figure it out soon.

- Congested
For towns in a big metro area like NY, Westchester is surprisingly uncongested. DC is definitely worse in large chunks.

- Most houses are neglected and require substantial improvements once purchased
Older homes are indeed in need of work. This is why some higher end towns are dominated by new buildings built on old homesites.

- Astronomical heating bills in winter
In older homes, this is absolutely true. Newer homes are quite efficient, but the older homes are shockingly under-insulated for the region.


My perception is that the region can be a little tough on people because of money. Large groups of people seem to have a ton of it, and it's wearing on the rest of us to live amongst them, since it impacts our everyday lives on a daily basis because it drives up prices of housing and the overall cost of living. The same is true in San Francisco as well.

However, the virtues of raising children into adulthood outweigh the cons he isolated. The great schools, shorter commutes into the City, wonderful opportunities in the City. The nice small towns provide a cozy atmosphere in which to live.

It's no slam dunk, but I would favor Westchester over DC.

Kensington
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Old 04-29-2015, 06:58 PM
 
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Thanks for the responses—really informative. The DC area vs the NYC area sounds like a rock and a hard place.

We saw several homes on Zillow that were under $500k in Croton. On second look, I'm only seeing one home under $500k in Irvington (that's at least somewhat close to the train). Granted they weren't really the style we were looking for, but they do exist! Of course, the property taxes would make them more expensive than Northern Virginia in the long run.

I'm surprised to hear that there aren't more creative types in Westchester, especially publishing, tv or theater types. You certainly won't find as many from those fields in the DC area.

Really happy to hear Westchester doesn't sound as stuffy as I have heard. It's also great that it's not overly congested. Our friends in Northern Virginia complain about the traffic quite a bit. They said rush hour lasts 3-4 hours at each end of the day and the roads are jam packed, making the commute much longer than it should be. Apparently, the roads are pretty empty after 9 p.m. though.

I have to say, neither place is sounding very desirable at the moment!
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Old 04-29-2015, 07:14 PM
 
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there are lots of "creative types" in westchester, especially as you go farther north to places like croton and beyond. i live in croton...there are no starbucks here and there is a good sense of community. that said it's not exactly super exciting. as for people commenting on the quality of roads, if that is a factor in where you want to live i don't know what to tell you. yes, taxes suck, but you don't have to pay for private school (or garbage pickup, plowing, etc) so there's that. Not sure if public schools in DC/NVA are good or not. it's also very pretty up here.

i go to DC 10-12 times a year for work and i could never, ever live there (mainly because i ski but also because of climate -summers are horrid there- and other reasons that are more substantive). But, if i had to, i would live in the District, not in N VA.

i'll also say that for a nice (i.e. not a fixer-upper) house <500k in croton you are going to have a ton of competition from other buyers...from personal experience. i can't imagine its even possible to get that in irvington which is more expensive generally.

-chris
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Old 04-29-2015, 07:39 PM
 
173 posts, read 178,856 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisbkillian View Post
there are lots of "creative types" in westchester, especially as you go farther north to places like croton and beyond. i live in croton...there are no starbucks here and there is a good sense of community. that said it's not exactly super exciting. as for people commenting on the quality of roads, if that is a factor in where you want to live i don't know what to tell you. yes, taxes suck, but you don't have to pay for private school (or garbage pickup, plowing, etc) so there's that. Not sure if public schools in DC/NVA are good or not. it's also very pretty up here.

i go to DC 10-12 times a year for work and i could never, ever live there (mainly because i ski but also because of climate -summers are horrid there- and other reasons that are more substantive). But, if i had to, i would live in the District, not in N VA.

i'll also say that for a nice (i.e. not a fixer-upper) house <500k in croton you are going to have a ton of competition from other buyers...from personal experience. i can't imagine its even possible to get that in irvington which is more expensive generally.

-chris
Thanks, Chris. Some great points, especially when it comes to not having to pay for private school.

Croton was a place that appealed to us (from word of mouth. We haven't made a trip up there yet). If I may ask, what about Croton appealed to you? It seems like a really nice area, and I've heard the commute isn't too bad since there are express trains running from the Croton station. Is there much of a downtown or main street? We'd really be quite content with a nice cafe or two and a couple of decent restaurants.

In all honestly, I don't think the DC area would be a good fit for us. Mainly for reasons that are probably similar to what you mention above ("...and other reasons that are more substantive."). We're really only considering it because of the possibility of getting more for our money. In the end, I think the NY area is probably the better fit for us.
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Old 04-29-2015, 09:30 PM
 
Location: Westchester County, NY -> Pinellas County, FL -> Dutchess County, NY -> Denver?
348 posts, read 456,838 times
Reputation: 348
I apologize for the harshness. We are DINKS in our thirties so our priories are different. OP, you may also explore New Jersey. If you have a family in Westchester then you may want to stay. If not, you might live in CT and also enjoy the historical aspect.

You'll be living very close to Indian Point. It surprises me that most people do not really care about those things.

http://westfaironline.com/70872/indi...-in-manhattan/
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Old 04-30-2015, 11:52 AM
 
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We chose Croton because, among other things:

1. its a nice small town

2. train service (including no wait for resident parking, and a big lot)

3. good schools (+small schools, and good daycare options for smaller kids)

4. people not as snooty/pretentious as in more southern towns. Its not as clear that half of the town just left NYC if you know what i mean. many who grew up here.

5. natural areas w/in and nearby the town are abundant (there are town hiking trails, lots of parks, etc)

6. close to blue mountain for mtb riding

7. access to river (surprisingly lacking further south; croton has a big park, 1 mile+ walkway, etc)

8. far enough to feel "away" from the city but not so far as to be a pain

-

It does have a few cafes and decent restaurants. Not a ton. One local coffee shop (+1 dunkin donuts), bagel store etc. There are a few restaurants which range from decent to good. 1 really good homemade ice cream place.

there aren't any big-box or chains (except a CVS, the dunkin donuts, and a shop-rite). Not a ton of retail generally.

stores and stuff are in 3 distinct areas in town, so while there is a 1-stoplight downtown area, you'll be venturing around.

if you find a place mid-cleveland drive/sunset park/radnor area, you can pretty much walk anywhere in town in 10-15 min.

you can also move up the hill towards mt. airy for more space but still be village residents.

-

As regards Indian Point, yes i think we are 6-7 miles as the crow flies. But on the other hand, anyone south of Peekskill is screwed from the mass panic and lack of evac options that would follow any disaster. Think about it, people would be streaming out of the city, every single town, etc, and there are exactly 5 river crossings for 10 million people, and the prevailing wind blows east. So you have to go west or south. So in my calculus, if you live anywhere except for far northeast westchester w/ a quick escape into CT and not a lot of competition, you don't have good options. I think the best option is a boat you can float down the hudson in.

-

we explored new jersey. transportation sucks, property taxes not much better, and unless you go way out it's pretty ugly (IMO). And its new jersey.
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Old 05-01-2015, 06:22 AM
 
1,252 posts, read 1,408,164 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisbkillian View Post
We chose Croton because, among other things:

1. its a nice small town

2. train service (including no wait for resident parking, and a big lot)

3. good schools (+small schools, and good daycare options for smaller kids)

4. people not as snooty/pretentious as in more southern towns. Its not as clear that half of the town just left NYC if you know what i mean. many who grew up here.

5. natural areas w/in and nearby the town are abundant (there are town hiking trails, lots of parks, etc)

6. close to blue mountain for mtb riding

7. access to river (surprisingly lacking further south; croton has a big park, 1 mile+ walkway, etc)

8. far enough to feel "away" from the city but not so far as to be a pain

-

It does have a few cafes and decent restaurants. Not a ton. One local coffee shop (+1 dunkin donuts), bagel store etc. There are a few restaurants which range from decent to good. 1 really good homemade ice cream place.

there aren't any big-box or chains (except a CVS, the dunkin donuts, and a shop-rite). Not a ton of retail generally.

stores and stuff are in 3 distinct areas in town, so while there is a 1-stoplight downtown area, you'll be venturing around.

if you find a place mid-cleveland drive/sunset park/radnor area, you can pretty much walk anywhere in town in 10-15 min.

you can also move up the hill towards mt. airy for more space but still be village residents.

-

As regards Indian Point, yes i think we are 6-7 miles as the crow flies. But on the other hand, anyone south of Peekskill is screwed from the mass panic and lack of evac options that would follow any disaster. Think about it, people would be streaming out of the city, every single town, etc, and there are exactly 5 river crossings for 10 million people, and the prevailing wind blows east. So you have to go west or south. So in my calculus, if you live anywhere except for far northeast westchester w/ a quick escape into CT and not a lot of competition, you don't have good options. I think the best option is a boat you can float down the hudson in.

-

we explored new jersey. transportation sucks, property taxes not much better, and unless you go way out it's pretty ugly (IMO). And its new jersey.
guess you didn't make it down to monmouth county
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