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by Billy Broyles

Posts about Real Estate

Benefits of Urban Living vs. Suburban Living


What do you think of when someone mentions urban living? Do you have an opinion about suburban living? The majority of Americans live in one of these two types of communities, however many of us give little thought to why we are living where we are. We are not trapped in one or the other, we have a degree of mobility that I believe most of us have forgotten. Would our lives be better if we made a conscious decision about urban living rather than suburban living?

I think so, but it depends. After comparing urban and suburban living and understanding whose lifestyle is more suited for which type of community, many Americans might even have an aha moment of “Wow – I really wish I had figured this out much sooner than now”.

Suburban Living: More Space, More Distance

Let’s talk about suburban living for a few moments. When someone mentions suburbia, the American Dream, complete with images of a 1950s sparkling clean home and its two car garage with white picket fence come to mind. Suburban living was of course made possible after the automobile and its rapid proliferation after World War II. Suburban living allows us to have much more space, however we make many sacrifices in terms of our time and expense in order to enjoy this particular benefit.

Most suburbanites do not work in the same community where they live. As a result, significant travel time and automobile expenses are unavoidable. Sometimes folks live in one suburb and work in another suburb, creating the need to drive from one town to the next. Often times, the suburb to downtown commute is even worse than the suburb to suburb commute. One can feel as if they are helplessly parked in a sea of automobiles, trying to get home in the afternoon or to go to work in the morning. By the time the workday and all the time necessary for the commuting is finished, there is little time left over at the end of the day to spend with children, preparing meals, going to the gym or even enjoying all that extra space for which you moved out to the suburbs in the first place.

Suburbs Don't Necessarily Mean Countryside

If you’ve lived in a suburb for any length of time, you will notice that everything seems to look and feel the same. This is because there is typically a lack of diversity in the suburbs. Suburbs were created after World War II by people who used to live in the city center. With their newly discovered car keys in hand, they wanted to live in the country… or some semblance thereof. As much as the suburbs can lend themselves to feeling like “the countryside”, they definitely do not provide true rural living.

Urban Living: Less Space, More Convenience

Urban living is quite different than suburban living for many different reasons. For some of us, urban living is contrary to what we have been taught is acceptable and safe by our society and our parents/family. Home prices and rents tend to be higher in the most desirable urban living communities than in most suburban settings. This isn’t necessarily all bad. For the space you sacrifice in urban living, you gain in convenience. You will feel like you’ve won out in terms of time saved by either living where you work and/or being close to where all the action is.

Urban living does have its drawbacks. Public school systems tend to be inferior to those found in suburban areas. In addition, the price per square foot of living space is typically more, so you may feel cramped if you move into a trendy urban loft from a large suburban tract home.

Loft apartments are common in urban areas.

Urban vs. Suburban: They Both Have Pros and Cons!

Even so, when comparing urban and suburban living, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Some find that urban living is better suited for people in their youth than it is for people who are older. I know when I was younger, I really enjoyed being in the center of everything.

I purchased my first home in suburban Charlotte, NC back in 2003. I stayed there for a couple of years and decided to make a change. After selling my first home in the burbs, I bought a trendy condo in the booming community of downtown, or “Uptown” as it’s been dubbed in Charlotte. After the move, I found myself feeling like Mr. Popularity. When you can easily walk to restaurants and nightlife, it’s easy to entertain family and friends. In Uptown Charlotte, some of my neighbors  got married, had children and then after a few years of raising toddlers, moved to the suburbs to take advantage of better public school systems.

For the same price as new, swanky condo in downtown Miami you can buy a new 4 bedroom house with a two car garage in western Broward County | Photo: Miami Herald

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer. Suburban living is great for some, urban living is also great for the rest of us. It all depends upon where we are in life, our careers and on just plain individual likes and dislikes.

Consider the benefits of both, the drawbacks, what your likes and dislikes may be and always do what is right for you. For me, moving from the suburbs to the center of the city was the best thing I could have ever done. Looking back, that was 15 years ago. I am certainly at a different stage in life and am living in a different part of the country, however I can’t imagine going back to the suburbs after enjoying the convenience and diversity or urban living.


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