Suburbs..In or Out?

By
Real Estate Agent with RealWorks Residential Brokerage

This is a great read. I came across this article which talks about two young professionals from Freehold New Jersey who left the life of the suburbs for something more trendy. The decision was made easy because the two were able to now work from home. Please read the article and pass it along..

 Courtesy of the NYTimes.com  Written by Joyce Cohen..

UNTIL last winter Puneet and Shelly Tandon were living in central New Jersey, just about equidistant from their offices. They paid $1,800 a month for a two-bedroom rental at the Avalon apartments in Freehold, and Mr. Tandon headed southwest to work, while Mrs. Tandon went northeast.

Mr. Tandon, 32, had a 75-mile trip to a town on the other side of Philadelphia to his job as a product manager for a consulting firm, and the drive became a habit. He knew, "every day, what's going on with N.P.R."

Mrs. Tandon, 29, a medical scientist who works with doctors who conduct clinical trials on H.I.V. medications, had an equally tiresome travel situation. Three times a week she headed either to New England or upstate New York, traveling by car, train or plane. The rest of the time she worked from home.

Last winter they were able to ease the burden. Mr. Tandon received permission to work mostly from home, so the couple decided to find a rental on the Hudson waterfront, nearer a transportation hub, to make Mrs. Tandon's commuting days easier.

They were glad to leave suburban central New Jersey for a more urban setting. "We are city people," Mr. Tandon said. "We were willing to pay a premium for living close to a city or in a city. We understood it comes with a price tag."

Renting suited them fine. At some point, after the arrival of children, they expected to "move to the suburbs and buy a place there just like everyone else," Mr. Tandon said.

The couple found a place that pleased them at the Peninsula at City Place, a condominium on the waterfront in Edgewater, N.J., about four miles from the George Washington Bridge. For a two-bedroom there with 1,300 square feet, including ample closets, the rent was $2,900.

But the building offered two free months on a 14-month lease, making the rent effectively $2,486. And the parking situation, with unlimited space at no extra cost, was ideal.

Storage space is important to the Tandons. They were married three and a half years ago in New Delhi, India, in a traditional Punjabi wedding that lasted four days. They needed space for their many wedding gifts - mostly kitchenware and appliances - as well as clothing. "When you get married, you get a lot of Indian clothes," Mrs. Tandon said, "so you have another wardrobe of Indian outfits. It just sits in the suitcase and I don't get to wear it, which is kind of sad."

After their 2009 move, the couple often worked in close quarters, which revealed two different schools of thought as far as home offices go.

Mrs. Tandon, who has a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Maryland, made the guest room into her office, filling it with papers, school notes and pharmacy texts.

"Is she ever going to look at it?" Mr. Tandon asked. "But she gets emotionally attached to things. She is very organized and everything has to be noted down. She will have calendar entries for everything."

Mr. Tandon, who has a master's degree in computer science from the Rochester Institute of Technology, set up shop in the master bedroom. His philosophy is more spartan: "Toss, toss, toss. Everything is within my laptop or P.D.A."

Mrs. Tandon said: "Puneet's office has a lamp, a phone and his laptop. Period."

The couple knew their rent would rise after the lease expired, but they had many months before they would need to think about rerenting at a higher rate, moving or buying. Then, last summer, they received a wake-up call. They were notified that two potential buyers were interested in seeing their apartment. According to their lease, if the unit sold, they had 60 days to vacate.

"That whole thing made me queasy in the stomach," Mrs. Tandon said. "What if they like it as much as we do? I started cleaning because: Oh! Someone is coming to my place and I need to make it look good! Puneet is: Why are you doing it? You don't want them to like it!"

Alarmed, they began to hunt for a place to buy where they could settle for a longer stay. They wanted a relatively new home that would need little maintenance. "I am not at all handy and cannot do anything in the house except changing bulbs," Mr. Tandon said. He was willing to pay up to $650,000. Mrs. Tandon's goal was to keep the monthly outlay the same as the rent without sacrificing space, which would translate into a price closer to $400,000.

"Our concept of buying was a house in the suburbs with stairs and a huge backyard," Mrs. Tandon said. So that's what they went looking for.

They wanted to stay along the Hudson waterfront, where "we have friends, we know the roads, we know the area," Mr. Tandon said. "Everyone has their favorite setup in any given place, and we had all that." Besides, for Mrs. Tandon the travel situation from their new location was "working out to be great."

The closest they came to their suburban-house concept were town-house-style duplexes and triplexes at Bulls Ferry at Port Imperial in Guttenberg, N.J. The setup struck them as a happy medium between apartment-style living and "a house house feeling," Mr. Tandon said.

Condominiums there, built in the late 1990s, were available in their price range. But the couple were deterred by the high property taxes.

They liked the interiors at Independence Harbor in Edgewater, a 14-building condo complex completed in 2002, that included some duplex layouts. But the architectural style - especially the textured facade - was not to their taste.

Something else didn't sit right. The sellers were often couples with young children, moving because they needed more space. The Tandons felt that they were looking at themselves in the future.

"Four years from now, we will be in the same boat," Mr. Tandon said. They were reluctant to spend in the $600,000s for a place they would need to leave relatively soon.

"I don't want to put that kind of investment down," Mrs. Tandon said. "I would do that in a bigger place where I am going to be there for 20 years."

Only then did it dawn on them: they needn't keep looking. They could buy the place they were already renting, which was listed at $465,000, well within their budget.

"It was anxiety because we've never bought a place - what do we do?" Mrs. Tandon said. "Why didn't we think of that before?" They began to fear that if they didn't move quickly, their place would be snatched from under them.

The building went up in 2003 as corporate rental housing. Its conversion to condos began in 2007, and 136 of the 201 units have sold, said Sheena Guido, a sales associate for the Marketing Directors, the company handling the building's sales.

Their place "was working fine for us," Mr. Tandon said. There was no reason to "invest $150,000 more in a property just for a little bigger space when all we need is this. Would we love a bigger place? Yes. Would we love being on the water and having a full-blown view of Manhattan? Yes. But are we happy with what we have? Yes."

The Tandons bought the apartment late last summer for $435,000. The common charge is less than $700 a month, with taxes of $5,500 a year. Their monthly outlay is just $10 more than when they rented.

They still find themselves surprised that their first purchase was an apartment-style condominium and not a house with stairs and a yard. That will come when the time is right, they now say.

On the one hand, owning provides them with a sense of satisfaction, Mr. Tandon said. "We have more peace of mind that we don't have to vacate."

On the other hand, ownership is a big responsibility. "If something goes wrong," Mrs. Tandon said, "we get worried about it now."

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