Are you thinking of moving from New York City to Westchester County? Read this first before you make the big move to Westchester County! Westchester is a big county in New York with over 40 cities, villages and towns. How do you decide which town in Westchester to move to? Here are the criteria to consider before making the move from NYC to Westchester County.
Where Should You Move to in Westchester County?
You will need to narrow down which towns in Westchester County is best for you. Below are some criteria to consider for your move from NYC to Westchester County.
How Long is the Commute from Westchester to NYC?
The commute from Westchester to NYC is probably the number one criteria for deciding which Westchester County town to move to. Are you looking for a 35 minute one-way commute from Westchester to NYC? If so you may want to consider Bronxville, Pelham or Scarsdale. Are you ok with an hour commute to NYC? Then that opens up more towns for you in Westchester County. You can consider Chappaqua, Rye, Pound Ridge and Armonk. It will be easy to narrow down your home search in Westchester if you base your search on how long the commute is from Westchester to NYC. Remember when you are calculating commute times from Westchester to NYC, you should add in the time it takes for you to drive from your home to the Metro North train station parking lot, add in the time it takes to walk from your parking spot to the train platform, add in the time it takes for you to wait for a train to come and add in how long does it takes to get from Grand Central to your office- all this should be added to your total commute time so you get the full door to door total. You should also know that there are waitlists (some are years) to get a parking permit at some of the more popular Westchester County Metro North train stations. This may affect your commute times (at least in the short term).
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Know Your Budget
Before you start house hunting in Westchester County, it’s smart to know your budget. Knowing your budget will help you to narrow down which towns in Westchester to move to since there is a wide range of home prices from town to town. If you are planning to calculate your budget based on how much down payment you have saved up, don’t. The down payment is just one factor when determining how much you can afford. You need to look at your finances from a holistic view, the best way to do this is to get a mortgage pre-approval. Your mortgage lender will base your pre-approval on your income, assets and liabilities, credit score and debt to income ratio- this will help determine your budget. Once you know your budget, you can narrow your home search in Westchester County based on your budget. When determining your budget, don’t forget to take into account the property tax on the homes you are looking at in Westchester. Westchester County property taxes are known to be high, so definitely add that into your expenses when figuring out where to live in Westchester. Use our Westchester Cost of Living Calculator to get an idea of how much it costs to live in Westchester County. Our Westchester Cost of Living Calculator will calculate your mortgage expense, property taxes, commuting expenses, transportation expenses and home maintenance expenses. If you have kids, you can also add in your childcare and other child-related expenses to the cost of living calculator.
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Decide Which Westchester School District is Right For You
The school district plays a big role when it comes to deciding the best places to live in Westchester County. Westchester County is known for having good schools. Every year, families move from NYC to Westchester so they can enroll their kids in a Westchester County school. I suggest you do your research to find the Westchester school district that is the right fit for your family. Ask friends and colleagues for their opinion on Westchester schools. Read our interviews of Westchester locals for their take on Westchester schools. Check school rankings on Niche.com or GreatSchools.org to find out which school districts in Westchester County is right for your kids. Go visit and tour the schools, call and make an appointment to get a school tour. Sometimes these school tours are conducted by volunteer moms which will give you a sense if the school is a good fit for your child. Make sure school is in session when you do the tour so you can see the classrooms in action. Once you have narrowed down the Westchester school districts, you can then focus your home search within these school districts.
A word of advice, when looking at homes in Westchester County, double check to confirm the school district that home is districted to. Westchester can be confusing with PO addresses. For example, a home with a Scarsdale zip code does not automatically mean it is districted to the Scarsdale School District. The Scarsdale home might have a Scarsdale zip code (Scarsdale PO) but it is not located within the Village of Scarsdale so it’s not zoned for the Scarsdale School District. Before you put an offer to buy a home in Westchester County, do your research and confirm the school district zoning for the home you are thinking of buying in Westchester.
Confused? We explained it: What is the difference between Scarsdale and Scarsdale PO?
Decide If You Want to Send Your Child to a Private School or Public School in Westchester County
Many families move to Westchester for the public schools, however, Westchester County is also home to the best private schools in the country. For example, Rye Country Day School which is located in Westchester County is ranked in the top 10 private schools in the United States*. If you are thinking of sending your child to private school instead of public school, then your criteria for finding homes in Westchester will not be the same as a family who is looking to send their child to public schools. Finding a home in a top Westchester school district may not be as important for you since you are sending your child to private school. You will probably want to live close to your Westchester private school. And you may want to live in a Westchester town that provides school bus transportation to private schools. You may also want to live in a Westchester town where a higher percentage of kids go to private schools. Some families who are sending their child to a Westchester private school may decide to move further up north to Greenwich, Connecticut because property taxes are significantly lower in Connecticut. After all, there is no need to be paying high Westchester County property taxes if you are not taking advantage of the public school system in Westchester.
Can’t decide between Public schools or Private schools? We asked local moms for their input: Public Schools vs. Private Schools
Find Out If Your Westchester School District Provides School Bus Transportation
Don’t assume that your Westchester school district will provide school bus transportation. For some families moving to Westchester County, having school bus transportation is an important criteria when deciding where to move to in Westchester County. Not all Westchester towns provide school bus transportation, by New York State law, cities in New York are not required to provide school bus transportation to residents. The decision to provide school bus transportation is dependent on the specific city. Some cities in Westchester County provide school bus transportation while others do not. Non-city municipalities in Westchester County are required by law to provide school bus transportation. Do your research to confirm that the home you are thinking of buying in Westchester County is in a school district with school bus transportation. If you plan to send your kids to private school, you can also look into municipalities in Westchester County that provides school bus transportation to private schools in Westchester.
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Know Where the School Bus Pick Up Point Is At
Don’t assume the school bus will pick your kids up right in front of your house. More often than not, the school bus pick up will be at the end of the block so you will have to walk (or drive when it’s cold) to the school bus pick up point. It can be a major inconvenience to have the school bus pick up a block away, specially if there are younger siblings at home. It’s a pain to have to wake up a napping baby when you have to bring the baby with you to pick up your older child from the school bus stop (Imagine waking a napping baby everyday!) Do your research, find out exactly where the school bus pick up point is for the home you are buying in Westchester County. Who knows, the school bus pick up point may become a tie breaker when deciding between two homes in Westchester!
Is Your Westchester Town Walkable?
There are some towns in Westchester County that are walkable and there are some towns in Westchester County where everything is spread out so you will need a car to go anywhere. If you are moving from NYC to Westchester County, you may want to move to a Westchester town that is walkable. Maybe you don’t know how to drive? Or your driving skills are rusty? You may feel more comfortable living in a home where you can get by without a car because you are within walking distance to the train station, to school, to shops and restaurants. You may want to consider living in a town that is walkable (such as Bronxville). Otherwise, you may want to live in a home that is within walking distance to the train stations and the main downtown area where the shops and restaurants are located. Usually your real estate agent should be able to help you find the homes that are walkable if that is something you are looking for.
Are there more Stay at Home Moms or Working Moms in your Westchester Town?
Are you or your spouse a stay at home mom or are you a working mom? If you are a stay at home mom, you may prefer to live in a Westchester town where there are more stay at home moms. When you do playdates at school, if it is in a town predominantly comprised of working moms, you may end up doing playdates with nannies and au pairs. While if you live in a town with many stay at home moms, then your playdates will be with other stay at home moms. The school dynamic will also be different depending on the stay at home mom/working mom situation of your Westchester town. If your child goes to school where there are more stay at home moms, school committee meetings will probably be held in the weekeday mornings while if your child goes to school where there are more working moms, then school committee meetings will most likely be held in the evenings after work. Of all the criteria on this list, this is not a top reason for selecting which Westchester County town to move to. However you should still take it into consideration because whether you like it or not, the dynamic of stay at home moms and working moms may affect your social life in your new town.
Is Your Westchester Town Transient?
If you plan to settle down in Westchester County, then you want to live in a town that is less transient. You want to find a Westchester town where the residents are more permanent and live in their home for many years. Do your research, find a Westchester town where there are more owner occupied homes and less rentals.
Need a Real Estate Agent in Westchester?
Suburbs 101 has a free service to connect you with Westchester real estate agents. Check out our FREE find a real estate agent service! We will connect you with hard working real estate agents that come highly recommended.
PS: If you are thinking of buying a home in Westchester County without the help of a real estate agent. Don’t! Your real estate agent is an expert in the local community. It’s good to have someone you can trust to help with the home buying process.
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