When Alison Bernstein decided to move outside the city with
her young family in 2005, she found a house in a beautiful suburb that everyone
was buzzing about—Westport, Connecticut.
But soon after the family settled in, Bernstein realized that the town wasn’t
exactly a perfect fit. It was the ideal neighborhood on so many levels, but for
a family that values a small-town feel and seeing familiar faces on Main
Street, it was simply too big.
Several years later, armed with experience and a wealth of
knowledge, she and her husband, Jay, decided to move to a different suburb. This
time, it was Armonk, New York—a
town in popular Westchester County.
Armonk was a great choice for the couple and they remain happy there today
along with their four children.
From this real-life relocation, the idea for a specialty
real estate company was born. With the goal of helping families making similar
decisions, Bernstein, an veteran broker, launched The Suburban Jungle Realty
Group in 2008—a company that acts solely as the buyer’s broker, representing
city-dwellers who are ready to make the move to the suburbs.
“Most of our clients are at this wonderful stage in life
where they have just had children and are excited,” Bernstein says. “They want
a lovely place for their families to grow up and to establish themselves in a
But with over 500 suburbs in the tri-state area to choose
from, families can easily be overwhelmed by the task of finding the place that’s
right for them.
Of course, many potential buyers from the city will start by
looking at the most well-known suburbs, including Westport
in Connecticut, Port
Washington in Long Island, Montclair
in New Jersey and Larchmont, Rye
and Scarsdale in Westchester.
But there’s a lot to consider beyond popularity.
To fully understand a buyer’s needs, Suburban Jungle first
asks its clients to fill out a questionnaire before meeting with the client.
The company helps its clients sort through important considerations, like what
kind of school the parents would like their children to attend, and even has a
division dedicated to finding the best local education options for special
needs children. Moreover, Suburban Jungle encourages clients to consider
whether a community is a two-parent-working kind of place or a stay-at-home mom
neighborhood. And, by extension, whether it’s a creative-writing town or a
sports town, a walking town or a driving town, and how long the commute to the
city is—whether it’s by car, train, bus or boat. Furthermore, parents may even
be asked if they plan to send their kids to camp.
“If you pick a town where everybody is sending their kids to
sleepaway camp and you don’t believe in that, I think you’re going to have a
hard time because your kid is going to be the only [one] home during the
summer,” Bernstein advises.
Adding to its niche appeal, Suburban Jungle gives buyers
access to Town Consultants—ex-Manhattanites currently living in the suburbs who
can say what it’s really like to live in a certain town. These representatives
can shed light on daily life in the community, such as how far you have to
drive for milk at midnight.
Beyond such personalized attention, Bernstein’s company also
has a complimentary interior design division. She explains that her clients are
usually moving out of smaller apartments into larger homes and they can feel
overwhelmed by the enormity of decorating a much larger space. Suburban Jungle
takes care of that.
“I think that there’s nothing more incredible than seeing a
family moving…to a town where they’re going to start their life,” Bernstein
says. “You know this is a place where they’re going to be raising their kids
and to have helped them figure that out is truly rewarding.”
Megan Maxson, a lawyer, is currently working on a collection of short stories. She lives with her husband and daughter in Maplewood, New Jersey.
SEE WHAT SUBURBAN JUNGLE IS ALL
With young families in focus, Suburban Jungle is hosting an
event with Mommybites on Wednesday, May 16 at Portrait Bug on the Upper
West Side. For couples considering moving to the suburbs, you’ll
find out the good, the bad and the unexpected when it comes to life outside the
city. For more information, visit our family calendar at newyorkfamily.com/events.