When it comes to buying a house, whether you’re looking at homes for sale in San Antonio, TX, or Sarasota, FL, there’s a saying about what’s most important, and first-time homebuyers repeat it like a mantra: It’s all about location, location, location. For example, the perfect home doesn’t create a lengthy, headache-inducing commute, nor does it require a long trek just to get to the grocery store. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s a smart move to buy a house in a great school district. However, many stop their train of thought right there, forgetting one of the most important reasons to think hard about your potential first home’s location — the community around it.
That’s just what Kristy and Ryan Crocetto found when they decided to move from the city to the suburbs. The Crocettos were living in a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom apartment in the Spruce Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. Yes, the location was great, especially because Kristy was able to walk to her job at the University of Pennsylvania. But there was a downside.
“We loved our old neighborhood for its walkability, but we didn’t know our neighbors all that well,” Kristy says. In addition, that convenience came at a price, with rising rent and an increasingly high cost of living in the city. But there was one big decision that made the desire for community and affordability even stronger: Kristy and Ryan were hoping to start a family in the next year. “We wanted more space and affordable child care options, which we weren’t going to get in the city,” she says.
Their search for a home focused on nearby suburban neighborhoods with a good school district that weren’t necessarily car-dependent. “Since we only have one car, being able to easily get into the city was very important to us,” Kristy says. “We narrowed our focus to houses within walking distance to train stations and with highly rated elementary schools.” On top of that, Kristy and Ryan wanted to stick to a budget of $150,000 or less.
Although it might sound like those specifics would make a search difficult (especially to those of us in high-cost-of-living cities where homes fitting this description cost upward of $500,000 or more), Kristy and Ryan found no fewer than 25 homes that fit their needs when they started looking in April. Out of that number, they visited 12 in person. Ruling out any homes that needed major renovations, they found their dream home in June: a 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath townhouse in Drexel Hill, PA.
Kristy, in particular, felt drawn to the neighborhood for personal reasons. “The street that we live on now has no outlet, and the neighborhood kids play outside all of the time in the street. That was exciting to me, because that is how I grew up,” she says. Ryan also loved the fact it was within walking distance to a Wawa — the convenience store that everyone who has grown up in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey area will rhapsodize about (it’s all about the hoagies and coffee, folks).
The price tag was perfect at $128,000. Even better, the neighborhood is still convenient for a commute: It’s only a 20-minute trip to get the Crocettos back to their old Spruce Hill neighborhood. Yet, their new home differs in one big way: It’s part of a true community. “One of our neighbors gave us flowers when we first moved in, and we met a lot of families on Halloween. There is definitely a sense of pride in the community, which is great,” Kristy says.
Moving to Drexel Hill also led to bigger changes: Kristy and Ryan just recently announced they are expecting their first child, a baby boy, in June. “I really get the sense that having a baby is going to introduce us to different kinds of relationships,” Kristy says. “It’s going to be great to talk to the parents in our neighborhood about day care centers and where to spend a rainy Saturday with an infant. I think our new neighborhood just lends itself to these kinds of discussions more than being in the city.”
While starting a family was on their radar when they began their search, the safety and security of their new place empowered them to take the next step. “We feel secure in our home,” says Kristy. “Walking in the door and knowing that this place is truly ours is a great feeling. I think owning a home allowed us to really move forward with our family plans, and we are so excited [about] what the next year will bring.”