Living in New York City: it’s taxis, subways, street performers, museums, music, dance, haggling, art, performances, parks, cars, bodegas, restaurants, rats, trash, sirens (and did I mention crowds?)

At its best, New York City is the global epicenter for everything metropolitan. At its worst, it’s an exercise in the limits of sensory overload. Even for the most die-hard New Yorkers, the saturation of sounds and sights can be overwhelming. 

This is why many New Yorkers — like many of those who make their homes in Paris, Milan, London and San Francisco — crave second homes outside the city. Our brains and bodies can only really manage and process so much information at any given time, and then we need a deep brain reset. So, off to the country we go. 

If your liquidity can only cover one purchase, should you rent in the country and buy in the city or rent in the city and buy in the country?

How my family gets away

My husband and I are the kind of die-hard New Yorkers that require somewhat regular retreats, but differ on what constitutes a true getaway. He feels like he has to leave the city every three weeks or he’ll go crazy. And when he leaves, he really leaves. Like, the kind of travel that requires hours on trains, boats or airplanes. I, on the other hand, only require a weekend away every now and then, and somewhere I can drive to is far enough. 

We’re lucky that we have some natural breaks built into our family schedule: a mother in nearby Westchester, annual summer trips to Europe, and lots of friends in the Hamptons. However, going to my mother’s, while it’s outside of the city, it is also Westchester. We end up piled on top of each other, there are kids everywhere, and sometimes it doesn’t feel exactly like the escape I’d like it to be. 

August trips to Europe are fantastic, but they’re more of a family vacation than a regular getaway. And the planning involved is always a ton of work. 

Then there’s the mythology of hanging out with our friends who stay in the Hamptons. We always wait too long to rent a place and the summer comes and goes and we only have our apartment in NYC to call home. Every year we say we’re going to rent a place outside of the city. Yet, somehow we manage to squander the opportunity, due to lack of proper preparation.

My weekday city/weekend country dream

If I were to design my dream home-away-from-home,  it would be old and beautiful, with high ceilings and character, a good amount of space, and decent property. Maybe it’s even been renovated. But do you want to know what matters to me just as much as all that? It’s a ready-made and ready-to-go-to retreat. Somewhere I know I can flee to, in a New York minute, without having to make phone calls or talk it over with my husband. We can just pack our weekend bags, throw our three kids in the car and go. And when I get there, everything else I need is already there. My home is my haven. It’s cute, it’s cozy, and it’s just ours.

That means I’d probably want to buy in the country, so that everything I want is there and I don’t have to worry about packing every little thing. 

Reasons to buy in the country and rent in the city

If you’re a parent and you enjoy the stability of your own place, buying in the country makes sense. There are other reasons too. 

No matter which way you slice it, it’s less expensive per square foot to buy outside of Manhattan, pretty much 100% of the time. If you want to buy something that’s less than what you already pay per month in rent in NYC, buying in the country is your chance to get into the market with less capital.

Buying outside of the city also gives you the experience of owning and the satisfaction of working on something that is just yours or your family’s. 

Owning a place you return to over and over also provides a sense of community. If you’re looking to build relationships, network, and get to know your neighbors, buying outside of the city is the way to go. Plus, on the days when you need your NYC fix (or are working), you can Airbnb your home as a getaway for other escapees.

Reasons to buy in the city and rent outside

In my experience, the folks who are looking to buy a second home outside of the city fall largely into two categories: people with kids or people who derive pleasure from investing in real estate. If you don’t fit in these categories or somewhere in between, buying in the city might be more attractive. Maybe you need more variety on your adventures into the wilderness. Maybe you don’t have kids or are single, or you’re a couple looking for excitement over comfort. 

 And actually from a pure investment standpoint, there’s a much better chance that the place you buy in the city will appreciate more quickly with time.. 

Buying as the market changes…

The market in NYC is still offering opportunity while outside of the city appears to be at an all time high.  If you are toying with the idea of buying in the five boroughs right now, and you have heard about the deals, you need to hurry up!  The vaccine effect has already spurred record activity at all price points and we are moving into a seller’s market.  There are still deals to be found and plenty of room for upside, but nothing lasts forever.  

As with all real estate markets, if you buy with the vision of holding the asset long term, you will never lose as the value of your home is nearly guaranteed to increase over the years.  Remember, “a rising tide lifts all boats” (JFK).

Are you ready to buy that second home or dive into the NYC opportunities?

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