Bedroom communities offer distance from hectic city life, but they also mean a longer commute and limited entertainment. What is a bedroom community and is it right for you? —-
If you’re getting stressed out just thinking of these things, then a bedroom community might be the right move for you.
The coronavirus pandemic and the rise of remote work have spurred an exodus from major cities. In 2020 alone, 8.93 million people moved between March and October — 94,000 more people than the same period in 2019. Many are craving access to nature, a slower pace, and more space to spread out at home — things that are hard to come by in the concrete jungle.
As a result, bedroom communities are showing up on lists of top places to live and up-and-coming real estate markets. And the rise of remote work over the last year is making this dream more and more realistic for larger numbers of people who can now prioritize their personal needs over the needs and location of their employers.
Choosing a place to buy a home and set down roots is a big decision. Depending on your situation, stage of life, career, future goals, and numerous other factors, there are lots of options open. And choosing between a bustling metropolis, quiet suburb, or sleepy bedroom community can be overwhelming. Cities and suburbs are pretty self-explanatory, but a bedroom community may need a little more explanation.
So, we did the digging to help you understand what bedroom communities are, their benefits and drawbacks, and even checked out school and crime statistics to help you make the best decision possible!
What is a bedroom community?
A bedroom community is essentially a town that is close enough to a major city that most of the community’s residents work in the city and return home to sleep and prepare for the next day. They are also found outside of resort areas where high-end, luxury home price tags preclude those working in the resort area from living there.
Bedroom communities generally offer larger lots and acreage, making them a great choice for families that need space to spread out. They usually have basic shopping and conveniences such as grocery stores, hair salons, and restaurants, but they definitely won’t have the variety found in a large city.
Many people who move to bedroom communities are tired of living in town. Small or nonexistent lots, limited housing options, and high prices of both housing and goods and services add up to an unpleasant living experience for some.
According to Tony Weaver, a Fayetteville, North Carolina-based real estate agent with over 30 years of experience, when people make the move to a bedroom community, they “normally want a bigger lot and more space, and in some cases a couple of acres.” For families with children or pets, having space to spread out or be outside is a huge consideration. This is why many first-time homebuyers, those looking to move up in house, and families find a bedroom community to call home — if only while they sleep.
Bedroom communities: A history
As with most changes in the housing market, many factors converged to pave the way (pun intended — you’ll see in a minute) for bedroom communities.
After Word War II, with soldiers returning home, getting married, and having kids, families grew by leaps and bounds. Between 1946 and 1964, the U.S. saw 76 million new babies born — the Baby Boomers. A group that, until the millennials, was the largest generational group in American history. This unprecedented growth of families made city life even more crowded. And families began to seek refuge away from the noise, crime, and crowdedness of the city.
This need for more space gave rise to what is known today as a bedroom community — a residential area where people spend most of their time sleeping, while their professional and social lives take place in a nearby major city or metropolitan area.
Another contributing factor to the creation of bedroom communities was the rise of the automobile in the 1900s. The decade after the war saw a boom in automobile ownership. The number of registered vehicles grew from 25 million in 1945 — most of which were built pre-war — to nearly 52 million by 1955. This revolutionized American life as people were able to move out of cities to more rural areas, while still maintaining their city jobs.
Then, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 earmarked $26 billion to pay for 41,000 miles of interstate highways. These highways were required to be four lanes wide and use overpasses and underpasses instead of intersections. Designed for high-speed driving, they made the trip from bedroom communities to the city feasible in a way it hadn’t been before.
Is it a bedroom community or suburb?
The description of a bedroom community can be easily confused with that of a suburb, but they are actually quite different.
Many times the delineation between a city and suburb is easy to miss. There is generally little open space between a city and its suburbs, leading to a barely noticeable transition. Suburbs are closer to the city and tend to have more employment opportunities than a bedroom community because of their own small businesses and industry. Depending on the size of a suburb, it may even employ people from the neighboring bedroom community.
Bedroom communities, on the other hand, tend to be clearly separate from the city and its suburbs. And there may even be undeveloped areas in the space between them.
Bedroom communities are generally composed of areas that are privately owned and developed and overwhelmingly residential. Planned neighborhoods and gated communities are likely to be the predominant real estate. Many of these areas can come with a homeowners association and community amenities, like a pool, gym, or play area.
As bedroom communities grow, however, many homeowners will begin to shift their business closer to home, bringing their shops and services to the community. Weaver says that “typically these homeowners in these areas bring their businesses with them and want to be set up fairly close to their house.” It’s not uncommon to see a Walmart or a Starbucks pop up, either. These conveniences, while … convenient, can begin to shift the area from a bedroom community to more of a suburb or city in its own right. Because of this, the line between bedroom community and suburb is frequently blurred.
Benefits of a bedroom community
Bedroom communities have grown since their establishment in the years after WWII, but their primary function is still to give people a place to go home to after their work in the city is done. And there are still many benefits to setting down roots in a bedroom community.
- Better schools: City schools have a tendency to become crowded and, many times, it’s expensive to live where the good schools are or to send your kid to a private school. Bedroom communities generally have good schools that don’t require breaking the bank. For instance, Waunakee, Wisconsin, schools are rated higher than the schools in Madison, Wisconsin.
- A driveway or garage = guaranteed parking: No more circling the block, moving your car for street cleaning, or walking a mile from your parking spot to your house. Along with the other benefits of a bedroom community, lots of homes come with a driveway and garage, so you’re always guaranteed the best spot.
- Peace and quiet: A bedroom community allows you to escape the city noise. Sirens, traffic, construction, loud people — all hallmarks of city life — are significantly reduced in a bedroom community.
- Larger homes and lots: Bedroom communities have more space to spread out, so homes can be larger. And most even come with a yard where you can relax on the weekends! With plenty of room for your kids and pets, this is a huge perk of moving out of the city. As a comparison, $450,000 in Raleigh, North Carolina, will get you a beautiful three-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a nice size backyard. But in Fayetteville, one of Raleigh’s bedroom communities, you can find a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2.5-bathroom house on 50-plus acres for just $30,000 more — and there’s even the possibility of lake frontage. Or if you’re in the market for a larger home, a six-bedroom, four-bathroom house is in the same price range.
- Less crime: Crime in bedroom communities is generally lower than in their neighboring metro area. For example, Tiburon, California, has a crime rating of A+ as opposed to San Francisco’s F. Boston’s crime rating is an F, whereas Quincy, Massachusetts, earns a C. In Idaho, Boise’s grade is a B, and its bedroom community, Star, has an A+.
- Cost of commuting: When you live in the city where you work, commuting can be as simple as hopping on the subway, walking around the corner, or driving a few miles. But living in a bedroom community almost guarantees a longer commute upward of an hour or more. This leads to more fuel costs if you’re driving. If the bedroom community does have public transportation, you’ll be on it longer, meaning higher ticket costs and more time away from home. You can use a commute calculator to figure out the cost of driving to and from work.
- Less to do: Since people who live in bedroom communities tend to spend most of their time there sleeping, it’s not really a bustling center for entertainment. The lack of entertainment options can lead to weekend boredom and trips into the city for a social life.
- Fewer connections: Less established than suburbs, bedroom communities often lack the neighborhood connection you’ll find in more rooted communities. Since most people come home only to sleep, there’s not a lot of interaction. Bedroom communities also typically have less in the way of neighborhood events and local meeting places than a larger city.
- Less access to goods and services: According to Weaver, many bedroom communities “don’t really have a town, but you have a ZIP code, and that’s about it. A con is the fact that you have to travel for goods and services that if you live in an inner city, you wouldn’t have to go so far for.” While there are basic conveniences, there isn’t usually a lot of variety.
Is a bedroom community right for you?
With the rise in remote work, many have left city life for more space and a slower pace. This exodus is an opportunity for bedroom communities to capitalize on the fact that people are tending to spend more than just their sleeping hours there. When the pandemic is over (but seriously, when???), Weaver believes that trends will begin to shift with people returning to the city and the entertainment and opportunities it provides.
But, if you are looking for a respite from city life where you can spread out and raise a family — or perhaps a place to slow down as you move up in house or move into retirement, then a bedroom community might be the perfect place to call home and a trusted expert can help you get there.
Header Image Source: (Alexander Cifuentes / Unsplash)
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