Who Are You People?

Spongebob

A friend of mine has decided to sell her house and move from one Rivertown to another, mostly because she feels like the people in her current village aren’t “her people.” From an outsider’s point of view, the residents of the Rivertowns* all look pretty much the same. And as history shows, that kind of a statement could be misconstrued as bigoted. But as birds of a feather flock together, we members of the human race also like to be with our people. For some, that means sticking with your race, ethnicity, religion, or age. But the way my friend means “her people” is something less tangible, less definable by a check-the-applicable-box standard.

To simplify this point, let’s use one of the greatest TV shows ever created. No, not All in the Family. Not MASH. Not Game of Thrones. No. Instead, we’ll look at Beverly Hills, 90210.

Andrea

Brenda, Donna, and Kelly were best friends. Sure, they were all white and they all had money, but that’s not what made them friends. They spoke the same language. And the fact that Andrea Zuckerman was never really a part of their posse wasn’t because she was poor or Jewish (thank you, Aaron Spelling for always playing the “Jewish” music whenever we visited her house.) It was because Andrea didn’t love shopping as much as they did. She didn’t drool over boys the way they did (her love for Brandon was always on a superior level, right?) And she always picked working on the school newspaper and helping the deaf kid at summer camp over lying out and getting a tan. She spoke a different language than Donna, Kelly, and Brenda did. Not better, not worse (well, maybe a little better.)

I could try and tell you the personalities, and likes and dislikes of the people in each town in Westchester, but who am I to make that deep of an evaluation on a population? Speaking of groundbreaking television programs, it is a known fact that the characters in Scooby Doo were based on the five liberal arts colleges in the northeast that make up the “Five College Consortium” (Scooby was UMASS, Shaggy was Hampshire, Velma was Smith, Fred was Amherst, and Daphne was Mt. Holyoke.) I’d love to make a snap judgment and, say, use the TV show Friends to tell you that Rachel is Scarsdale, Phoebe is Hastings, Monica is Irvington, Chandler is Dobbs Ferry, Ross is Ardsley, and Joey is Yonkers, but I won’t.

Scooby

That same friend of mine, when she was explaining their geographically small move to a demographically different town, asked me: do you feel like Dobbs Ferry people are your people? I hadn’t ever asked myself that question in quite the same way. But I’ll admit that since most of our friends were made from our daughters’ preschool, where the population comes from all over lower Westchester, that most of our friends aren’t from Dobbs Ferry. Now that our oldest has finished kindergarten in the local public school, we’ve gotten to know a few more of the Dobbs Ferry residents, and so far we like them very much.

I don’t want to live in a town of only Gwyneth Paltrows, but I also don’t want to live in a town of so few Gwyneths that the school system hasn’t been coerced into being top notch. If you’re hunting for a town to move to, how do you know if the people are like Andrea, or Scooby, or Monica? You can do a few things: first, read my blog 🙂 After that, you can go sit in a Starbucks and people watch. Are there a lot of baby carriages? Are there a lot of college students? Are there a lot of spoiled kids? Drive around the neighborhood and see if there are a lot of Bernie lawn signs, or a lot of Trump bumper stickers.

While no town is perfect, I hope you find the town that’s perfect for you. And if you buy in the wrong town, and you end up needing to sell it, just remember what my father says: “There are no mistakes in real estate.” Of course, he’s completely wrong, but hopefully you’ll catch his sentiment.

Happy hunting!

 

* “Rivertowns” refers primarily to the towns/villages of Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, and Hastings, with the occasional add-on of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.

Is Owning a Home WORTH IT?

Our house, circa June

Our house, circa January

Our house, circa January

Our house, circa February

Our house, circa February

While cleaning up ten gallons of water from my basement floor the other day, caused by a clog in our plumbing’s main line, with the help of my friend’s innocent husband, he said something I thought was interesting. He’s a guy in finance, who owns a house twice the size of ours, and makes plenty of money to spend, and he said, “Owning a home isn’t worth it. You’d save money if you spent your life renting.”

He might be right.

I like owning a home. It makes me feel like I’m putting money away (even if I might not be.) I also like that I can do ANYTHING to the house without someone’s approval (though if it’s the exterior, I need permission from the town, but whatever.) And you know what else likes owning my own home? My ego. My ego likes it a lot.

So let’s talk numbers…

A house our size, for rent, in Dobbs Ferry, NY, can go for $3,300-4,300/month.

A house our size, owned, in our town, can go for over $2,100/month in mortgage payments, plus $1,300/month in property taxes = $3,400/month. And all you have to do is put a little over $100,000 for the downpayment, right?

It would be that “easy” if nothing ever ever went wrong with your house. The two inches of water I was standing in in our basement cost us $220 of a visit from the plumber. Last month, we paid the plumber $850 to make repairs on our plumbing. And in December? $440. And FYI, when we bought the house “nothing was wrong with the plumbing”, so it’s not like this was something we accounted for.

"The Money Pit" - aka Tom Hanks' most awesome role ever

“The Money Pit”, and one of Tom Hanks’ best moments ever

All kidding aside, our house is certainly not a money pit. But is money falling through the cracks? A little.

We had a meeting with a contractor a few days ago to discuss all the awesome upgrades we can make to our new lovely little house. He had great ideas, all of which I was completely salivating over. Our house came with an unfinished basement and unfinished second floor. What’s an unfinished second floor, you ask? Picture an attic, with real stairs leading up, and a ceiling even higher than the one in your living room, and that’s an unfinished second floor. We want to make the upstairs an awesome master bedroom with master bath, walk-in closet, sitting area, and small office. We want to make the basement cozy and fun with a guest room and bathroom. We want to make the kitchen look goooood, and make a more open floor plan in the living room. We also neeeed to rebuild the deck, as it’s about to fall down, and the roof needs to be extended as rain and snow water is dripping off our roof and straight down into our doorways and into our basement (Mmmm… mold.) So there are gorgeous things we want to do, and simply necessary things we want to do, equalling a total of $250,000. Good thing I planted that money tree last summer! Too bad all this effing snow destroyed it.

Money tree

Needless to say, we won’t be doing all the renovations just yet.

So what if we just decided to do the necessary exterior stuff / deck and maybe the upstairs? Okay, so that’s only $150,000. But to take a line of credit from the bank for that amount? That would be $750/month in payments. And I was wondering what I was going to do with that extra $750/month that’s just been lying around!

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Yes. Am I actually complaining? No. I think I’m just doing it for effect. We feel very blessed to have what we have. Our house works. It’s small, and getting smaller, but it was built well, and it’s keeping a sturdy, though short, 10yr old roof above our heads. I’m aching to build our master bedroom with en suite upstairs, and I’m itching to move the girls into a larger room, and I wouldn’t mind having more than one bathroom for all of us. After all the visits from Douglas, the plumber (I swear, this guy is getting a Christmas card next year)… and after the $14,500 we’re spending on property taxes this year… I’m still glad we own the place. Why? Because eventually, we’ll be able to build the fantasy home the contractor told us about. Eventually, we’ll be able to sell it and automatically have the downpayment to buy an even better house. And of course…

My ego loves it.

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville, NY

Population: 7,055
Median home value: $556,825
Median household income: $110,368
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 92%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 63%
Individuals below the poverty level: 2%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 86% White, 12% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 4% Asian, 4% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: I dunno, but not the Upper East Side and not Williamsburg.

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville is a village in the town of Mount Pleasant in Westchester County just north of where the Saw Mill and Taconic Parkways meet.

Metro-North train from Pleasantville to Grand Central Station: 50-59 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 32 miles, or 45 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Pleasantville? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $480K-$600K range.

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Bedford Road School

10/10

10/10

Pleasantville Middle School

10/10

8/10

Pleasantville High School

9/10

6/10

Pleasantville did not get its name by accident. What a pleasant place with pleasant people. My husband had a shoot in Pleasantville last week, and met some of the residents, who were very pleasant and told him how pleasant Pleasantville is. Pleasantries all around. So we drove up to investigate.

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville is, for starters, much larger than I thought it was. I had no frame of reference for it, but it is significantly larger than all the other Westchester towns I’ve visited. It’s like Larchmont, without the beach and the money, or like Yonkers, without the racial discrimination and the poverty.

Burns Film Center

Any part of you that might want to think it’s a little “hick”-like, will be surprised to see all the cultural offerings of the town. There are dance studios, martial arts studios, and acting studios all over. And Pleasantville houses the very chic movie art house, the Burns Film Center.

Pleasantville, NY

 

They have a number of mom n’ pop businesses, including the fantastic and adorable toy store, Try & Buy. But Pleasantville is big enough to warrant some of the big guns too: Starbucks, McDonald’s, and a VW dealership. It’s small enough that you’ll run into all your friends at the post office, but you can still get a 99-cent Filet o’ Fish any time a day.

DSC05519

It’s so cozy of a town that we even ran into the same woman who my husband met on his shoot. She told me about the other “moms” in the town. She said you can have as many playdates as you want, as the mom community is very active. Everyone’s up for playgroups and playdates. And a number of your neighbors will watch your kids when you’re in a bind. It’s just that kind of place. She said a lot of the mothers work, but a lot stay home too. “Barely any nannies”. I asked her the kinds of jobs people in town have, and she said every kind. Blue collar mixed with “a guy from the New Yorker” and “a trainer from the Mets teaches at the high school part time” (or something like that… don’t quote my quotes, please.)

All in all, I liked it. As it’s bigger than other Westchester towns, it’s nice to know that there’s a movie theater right nearby. But the larger size also attracts some anonymous tomfoolery, like when some guys in a car hooted and hollered at me as they drove by (good for my ego, bad for my desire to be in a cozy, friendly town.)

May I introduce to you… Pleasantville!

Dear Real Estate Websites: You Lied to Me

Westchester tax

I was wrong on the property taxes in Westchester. Oh, how I was so, so wrong.

I trusted Zillow. I trusted Realtor. I trusted Trulia. I was fooled. The taxes listed on all these real estate websites are completely and totally incomplete.

In every one of my previous posts, I listed what your property taxes would be if you purchased a home in one of these towns. If you didn’t already realize that I was absolutely wrong about the taxes in Westchester County, then I have some very, very bad news for you: for most of the towns I’ve researched, you need to add at least another thousand dollars to your monthly cost. That’s right. If I said $600/month, I meant $1,600/month. No, it wasn’t a typo. My mother’s guess is that there’s the base property tax (i.e. the $600/month) and then there’s the school and additional tax for the town you’re in (i.e. $1000/month.) All these real estate websites only calculate the regular taxes.

So when I said that a $600,000 house would cost you $3,100/month with taxes, mortgage, insurance combined, what I meant to say was: $4,100/month. Yeh, big difference.

But that’s in Westchester, rated #1 in cost of taxes compared to home value. In the country.

“What can I do?” you ask. Well, here are your other choices: buy a house at least an hour from Manhattan in Putnam County. Or Jersey. Or Connecticut. Or cross the Hudson into Rockland County. “So why would I, in a million years, opt to pay that kind of money in taxes when I could move to a different county and pay more like $800-900 in taxes? “Why”, you ask?

Why would you buy a house in Hastings-on-Hudson instead of some of the towns in these other counties? Because Hastings-on-Hudson is a 22-minute drive from the Upper West Side. Because it’s beautiful. Because the residents are (more or less) cosmopolitan, educated, intellectuals, Because it’s a 30-minute, $8, lovely train ride to Grand Central. Because the schools are top notch. Because it looks like a village, and not like a suburban strip mall. And because your children will poop diamonds.

(Well, the last part is an exaggeration.)

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Population: 8,127
Median home value: $446,766
Median household income: $108,424
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 91%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 58%
Individuals below the poverty level: 4%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 87% White, 11% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 4% Asian, 3% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Bay Ridge? Upper West? There weren’t any people there to see!

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 10.44.01 AM

Croton-on-Hudson is a village in the town of Cortlandt in Westchester County on the Hudson River.

Metro-North train from the Croton-Harmon station to Grand Central Station: 47-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 40 miles, or 52 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Croton-on-Hudson? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $450K-$600K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,400 and $3,100 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up $1K more per month. Oh yes. That’s $1,000 more. Per. Month. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Carrie E Tompkins School

9/10

8/10

Pierre Van Cortlandt School

9/10

6/10

Croton-Harmon High School

8/10

8/10

I had great hopes for Croton-on-Hudson. When I attended Vassar College, I would drive over the bridge that carries the Taconic Parkway over the Croton reservoir and wonder how lovely the rest of Croton-on-Hudson must be. Well, I finally saw it. And… it’s fine. It’s small. It’s cute, don’t get me wrong. A mini farmer’s market was packing up as we arrived, there’s an adorable preschool called Children’s Space, and an ice cream parlor called The Blue Pig, which you really want to go to, just because it has a blue pig (a fake) standing guard outside. They have a wellness center, a frozen yogurt spot, and a few more childcare centers (you wonder if they have enough children in the town to fill these places!) Croton-on-Hudson has a number of locally-owned businesses, including the Black Cow Coffee Company, which was the first micro-roastery-coffee house in Westchester County! (note: I have no idea what micro-roastery coffee is.)

The Black Cow

As I was taking photos of the town, an older gentleman stepped out of his parked car and said, “Are you here to raise my property taxes?” Ha ha, I thought. He’s making a joke about how he doesn’t want me promoting his town so that tons of city folk are gonna move in, consequently making his taxes go up. Then I thought, maybe he’s not joking. Maybe he really wants us to… stay. out.

Downtown

Though Croton-on-Hudson is perfectly lovely with it’s heavily tree-lined roads on the way from the Taconic, there are barely any houses for sale and the town center is lacking a lot of standard necessities, which makes one wonder how far you need to drive to buy milk. It’s got one restaurant, a church, a bunch of childcare centers, yogurt, and a chance to get your wellness on. My husband and I just kept saying to one another, “This is it? Is there another part to it?”

So no, strange older gentleman, I don’t believe I will be raising your property taxes. It seems like a really nice place, but sometimes I just need to buy some milk, ya know?

May I introduce to you… Croton-on-Hudson!

Katonah, NY

Katonah, NY

Katonah, NY

Population: 1,691
Median home value: $626,762
Median household income: $86,296
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 95%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 61%
Individuals below the poverty level: 9.7%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 87% White, 12% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 2.6% Asian, 2.5% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Brooklyn Heights and the Upper West Side

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 2.01.03 PM

Katonah is a village in the town of Bedford in Westchester County

Metro-North train from Katonah to Grand Central Station: 60-75 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 43 miles, or 57 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Katonah? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $450K-$650K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,400 and $3,400 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up $1K more per month. Oh yes. That’s $1,000 more. Per. Month. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Katonah Elementary

9/10

8/10

John Jay Middle School

10/10

8/10

John Jay High School

8/10

8/10

So it’s an hour away. That’s it. That’s the only problem. This place is adorable. It has this real country kitchen feel, but with sophisticated people. (Boy, that really sounded like I’m insulting authentic “country kitchen” people.) What I meant to say was- it has a down home, rural feel with the interests and education of urban residents. Did that sound better?

Katonah, NY

They even have a Healing Arts Alliance- whatever that is!

Katonah, NY

I mean, look at their library! You would go read a book too, wouldn’t you?

Like all the other towns I’ve visited, it has a little downtown village area. This one consists of a sort of L-shaped, two-street village with a few real estate offices, restaurants, grocers, and the store Kelloggs & Lawrence, which seems to have pretty much everything.

Katonah, NY

This last store is one I actually went into, as it also touts “Tourist Info” on the sign. Well, the tourist info part of it consists of one spinning shelf thingie with some flyers and maps on it. But that was good enough for me. When I asked for info on the town (before I could see the overwhelmingly small spinning shelf thingie) three salespeople came to assist me. They were really friendly and helpful.

SONY DSC

Up the road from the village is a playground and public pool. My husband and kids played while I wandered the town. It’s a little hilly, with pretty adorable houses lining the semi-skinny roads. Some of the architecture is almost fun in how interesting it is. There are these “painted ladies”, which are a set of Victorian houses painted in purples and reds and green.

When I spoke to a real estate agent, she asked if we wanted a village house or one further out. No one had asked me that before. The choices are (1) close to the shops and (2) not close to the shops. I always opt for option 1 as I need good walkability. I want to be able to walk to get milk, if I feel like it, or walk to a restaurant. My husband feels the same way. Lucky for us, option 1 is also the less expensive option. Guess most people prefer to be further away. Sure, there are benefits to living further from the village: you get more quiet and more space. Though in a small town like this, I can’t imagine living two blocks from the village would be any noisier. But the “more space” would be nice: bigger property and more room between you and the guy next to you. But again, in a town like this, it’s not like a village house will be like a NY apartment building where your view overlooks a brick wall.

So let’s talk about the distance. I don’t really want to move this far away. However, there is an advantage, and that is that distance leads to difference. Katonah is far enough away that life really is different there. I don’t want the hustle and bustle and the crazy New York feel anymore. All I want from New York is the intellect and the walkability. That’s about it. I don’t go to bars anymore, I don’t party like a rock star. I have two small children and a business at home. I want to feel happy and at peace where I live. Katonah doesn’t even have a traffic light. Seriously. In a New York Times article about the village, a resident was quoted as saying “Living here is like living in a beautiful bubble.” But that’s not to say that tumbleweeds are tumbling their way across the street. There are tons of shops and restaurants, and people milling around. There’s also the Katonah Museum of Art and the Caramoor International Music Festival. For goodness sakes, Martha lives there!

The Metro-North comes right into the village, so you may even be able to walk to the train. And after a pleasant hour-long ride of reading your book, you’ll cruise into Grand Central Station (or in my case, probably hop off at 125th, since my family lives on the Upper West Side.) When we first started talking about moving out of the city, I felt so strongly that we had to be close enough to be able to drive into the city, let my parents babysit, go to dinner and a movie, and then drive home with the kids. An hour is just too far for that kind of evening, right? Right?? But as I learned from our last real-estate shopping chapter of our lives (when we ultimately purchased a town house in the g-h-e-t-t-o of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley) things that are oh-so important to you when you’re looking for a house may wind up being moot in the end. So, I want to be close enough to the city to go out to dinner? Maybe we won’t have any interest in coming into the city for dinner. Maybe we’ll love the restaurants locally and find a great (inexpensive) babysitter to watch the kids. Maybe an hour isn’t as far away as we think it is…

May I introduce to you… Katonah!

Bedford Hills, NY

Bedford Hills, NY

Bedford Hills, NY

Population: 3,022
Median home value: $404,740
Median household income: $61,750
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 50%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 31.65%
Individuals below the poverty level: 12.29%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 74% White, 34% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 5% Asian, 5% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Inwood and the Bronx

Bedford Hills, NY

Bedford Hills is a village within the town of Bedford in Westchester County
Metro-North train from Bedford Hills to Grand Central Station: 56-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 42 miles, or 53 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Bedford Hills? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $430K-$600K range (with plenty of others in the $1M-$3M range as well)

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,300 and $3,200 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up $1K more per month. Oh yes. That’s $1,000 more. Per. Month. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Bedford Hills Elementary

8/10

8/10

Fox Lane Middle School

9/10

6/10

Fox Lane High School

8/10

6/10

When you Google “Bedford Hills”, before you can even finish typing, it gives you the search for “Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.” This is the largest women’s prison in New York State. Yeehaw!

But don’t worry, Bedford Hills isn’t crawling with orange-suit-wearing convicts. They’re all properly locked away. Instead, Bedford Hills is less expensive looking, less fancy looking, less elegant looking version of Bedford. Though as my husband said, it has more character than Bedford. And from him, that’s a compliment.

Little facts about Bedford Hills: it houses the Community House, built in 1919, which was originally meant as a memorial and a service for the needs of veterans returning from World War I. Potluck dinners and theatrical productions were held there. It remains, now offering meeting space for various local organizations, as well as dance and exercise classes! Bedford Hills is also the former home of Alcoholics Anonymous founder, Bill Wilson. The house now serves as a museum.

There’s not much in the downtown area of Bedford Hills, but the Metro North station, as well as a couple of restaurants, a bakery, a cleaners, a florist, and a few other shops. People in the town of Bedford (which includes the hamlets of Bedford, Bedford Hills and Katonah) do their main shopping at the A&P, the ShopRite and Target. But none of these monstrosities are right inside town, so the shops are all pretty much local.

Knowing nothing about Bedford Hills before going, I assumed it was the upper crust of the Bedford area, honestly just because it had “hills” in the name. However, it is just the opposite. You can see this by the lower housing prices. Most importantly, you can see this by the 12% of people living below the poverty level and 68% of people who are not college graduates. In 2010, when the last census was taken, it had an unemployment rate of 14.7%. This is compared to the 7.5% for the rest of New York State.

All that said, there is plenty of affluence and education in Bedford Hills as well. I was really surprised to see how many multi-million dollar houses there were. It’s no shlump of a village. Or a hamlet, for that matter. Plus, the shops are pretty cute looking. It’s just odd to me to have such low-income life surrounded by the affluence of the rest of Westchester County. Does a subway run through it? No. Is there a sewage plant up the street? I don’t know. Is it simply… the women behind bars? I don’t know if they have that much influence.

It’s worth checking out- especially if you’re looking for lower housing prices in a great school district and a naturally lovely area.

May I introduce to you… Bedford Hills!

Bedford, NY

Bedford, NY

Bedford, NY

Population: 1,834
Median home value: $891,940
Median household income: $181,985
Median resident age:  44 years
% of the population with white collar jobs: 91%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 61%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 95% White, 5% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 2% Asian, 3% Mixed Race
Residents would hang out with: Upper Eastsiders and other Hamptons vacationers

Bedford, NY

Bedford is a town in the center of Westchester County
Metro-North train from Bedford Hills to Grand Central Station: 11 minute drive to Bedford Hills and then a 56-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 44 miles, or 58 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Bedford? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $600K-$800K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $3,200 and $4,100 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up $1K more per month. Oh yes. That’s $1,000 more. Per. Month. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Bedford Village Elementary

9/10

10/10

Fox Lane Middle School

9/10

6/10

Fox Lane High School

8/10

6/10

You might see above that I’ve added a new “fact” in this post. I’ve included the usual “population”, “median house value”, etc., but I’ve been hoping to give a more personalized, subjective observation of these towns, so I added the “hang out” factor. That is to say, who would these people hang out with of other demographics we might know. I want to reiterate, over and over, that my assessment of these towns is based on a brief visit. I’m usually not friends with people in these towns, nor do I sit down for a long meal with any of them. However, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover (which is most of all you can do when investigating a town to live in) then I’m going to just tell you what I see in the people. This is not simply based on age, or race, or apparent wealth- it’s also based on the types of shops available and the activities people are engaging in.

Bedford, NY

All that being said, I listed Bedford’s “hang out” factor as that of one similar to the Upper East Side and Hamptons vactioners. As I mentioned, I based this on a few different things I saw.

Point #1: Bedford Gourmet: a lovely little, seemingly independently-owned coffee/pastries/gourmet/teeny grocer. Everything was gourmet/artisan/handmade. The only name brand I recognized was Carrs Water Crackers. $5 a box. So I looked at more prices… a box of wheat crackers? Not gluten-free, not fancy pantsy wheat grown in the Himalayas… $8 a box. I don’t mean to be a penny-pincher here- that’s not my point. Point is, Bedford is the kind of place where they sell brands you’ve never heard of for $8 a box. (side note: as long as I have an extra $8 to spend on crackers, I love a little place like this.)

Charlotte

Point #2: the sweater around the shoulders. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t take a picture of the woman I saw in Bedford without her knowing. Instead, I have used an image of Charlotte York Goldenblatt from the 1980s flashback in the sequel to the Sex and the City movie. Though a little less cute, and a decade or two older, this is pretty much what the woman I saw looked like. I should mention, however, that not five minutes before I saw this woman, I also saw a woman who looked like she was right out of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but with less money. So what do I know.

Bedford, NY

Point #3: The Horse Connection. In the tiny village of Bedford, which you have to keep your eyes un-blinked in order to see as you drive through it, there is a store just for horse-lovers. They sell everything from riding supplies, to horse clothing, to horse gifts for your loved ones. I don’t know much about horses, so I’m not going to say much more about this, except for one thing: poor people don’t ride horses… and if they do, they don’t buy matching powder-blue cozies for their riding gear.

Bedford, NY

1980’s sweater fashion aside, Bedford is a really attractive place. It’s very small- I’d say about a quarter of the size of Larchmont– and with an old world charm I haven’t seen in any of the other towns yet. A lot of the architecture in town is over 200 years old. There are a number of old colonial houses in the area, and the Court House, now a museum, was built in 1787. And the Bedford Historical Society has a noticeable presence in town.

Bedford, NY

There is a beautiful field, the Bedford Green, in the center of town that has a sign posted in it, which reads “Part of a common laid out in March 1681 for grazing cattle, horses, and swine.” This town is, for realz, old school.

You might be surprised that the housing prices I listed are so low, considering what type of town this is. I mean, there were Audis, BMWs, and Lexuses everywhere (even saw a hot little Porsche drive by.) So you should know that I also found a number of houses with 3 bedrooms that are worth $1.2M-$2M.

My husband is interested in us getting a real “small town feel” in the town we find. We nixed New Rochelle as soon as we saw the hustle and bustle of the main street with busses and pedestrians everywhere, that vaguely resembled a slightly nicer version of 125th street in Manhattan. Larchmont, which I loved, was too big for my husband. Wow, I thought. It’s a small town! But Bedford? My husband thought it was too small. Food for thought.

May I introduce to you… Bedford!

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Population: 10,949
Median home value: $554,418
Median rental price: $1,260
Median household income: $104,170
Median resident age: 41 years
% of the population with white collar jobs: 95%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 54.24% 
% of the adult population who are high school graduates: 95.12%
% of people living below the poverty level: 3.8%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 79% White, 10% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 7% Black, 9% Asian
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Park Slope and the Upper West Side

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Dobbs Ferry is a village in the town of Greenburgh on the Hudson River
Metro-North train from Dobbs Ferry to Grand Central Station: 34-52 minutes, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 22 miles, or 36 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Dobbs Ferry? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $500K-$800K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,680 and $4,230 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up $1K more per month. Oh yes. That’s $1,000 more. Per. Month. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

 Springhurst Elementary

9/10

10/10

 Dobbs Ferry Middle School

8/10

8/10

 Dobbs Ferry High School

7/10

8/10

I’m realizing that you can tell how much I like a town by how many photos I take of it. Dobbs Ferry? Me likey.

We hired a sleep consultant recently to help with the baby’s non-sleeping routine. She lives in Dobbs Ferry. And she had only nice things to say about it. She said that the more kids they had, the more they realized it was time to leave the city. I was raised in Manhattan, and I never understood why anyone would feel the need to have a YARD in order to raise their children. I thought it was cliche and left for people who weren’t “real city people” or people who didn’t give the city the chance, or people who were small-minded and didn’t see how raising your kid in the city was the best place to do it. After all, I walked to school by myself in the 3rd Grade, and I don’t have a single memory of my parents needing to take me anywhere- I was always able to get there on my own. I still believe this fosters a great sense of strength and independence in a child. But I was being self-centered. Child-centered. Sure, a number of suburb-bound parents leave the city because they want the more quiet life for their child’s sake (my husband remembers playing in the yard and riding his bike for hours around the neighborhood and wants the same thing for our kids) but there are people like me who don’t just want it for their child. They want it for themselves too. You don’t understand CRAMPED until you have children in Manhattan- I don’t care how small your apartment is- if you don’t have kids in it, then you don’t know. When there’s egg on the floor, and toys in the kitchen, and the smell of poopy diapers in the bedroom, and not enough space in the stupid checkout lane at the supermarket for your stroller, and speaking of strollers… you’re lugging your stroller and both children up to a 3rd floor walk-up (full disclosure: I actually get to leave my stroller on the second level), and no one offers to help you with your stroller on the stairs (seriously, people?), and you have to pack everyone up with all your belongings JUST so that your kid can get some fresh air, and you want to go visit daddy at work when he invited you but you just can’t bear the idea of lugging the stroller and the two kids down into the un-air-conditioned subway so you stay at home instead, and taking the 30 minute walk 13 blocks to the bank in the middle of summer with one child strapped to your body and the other complaining in the stroller about how they don’t want to be in the stroller or how they want to be in the stroller and they’re not in the stroller will definitely leave you feeling angry and exhausted when you return and make you never want to leave the house with your children EVER AGAIN, and so on and so on… that’s when you know you’re cramped.

I want to move for me.

So back to Dobbs Ferry and all its SPACE! Okay, so Dobbs Ferry doesn’t actually have any more space than any of the other towns we’re looking at. It’s not like it’s in Siberia. Or Canada.

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When you drive onto Main Street in Dobbs Ferry, you see a sushi restaurant, a Celtic restaurant and the cutest little stationary and sundries shop called “Say Cheese and Thank You”. Main Street is sheltered by trees and lined with various shops, all of which I would probably patronize. There’s a frozen yogurt shop, a pub, an art gallery, a pharmacy, a few restaurants, and little make-your-own-pottery shop.

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At the end of the village, you get a glimpse of a view of the Hudson, which as it turns out is quite a bit lower than the village. A steep(ish) windy street will take you down to the river.

My ideal is to live within walking distance of the main street, so that I can walk to do basic shopping. A lot of people feel the same way, which is why real estate is usually more expensive the closer you are to the action. But while driving down the street that runs parallel to Main Street, I was surprised at how unfortunate the houses looked. Not what I expected for a street that practically overlooks the river (practically, not exactly) and is mere feet from the fun. Who knows… maybe that street is built on top of a former toxic waste dump site. I don’t know. But what’s odd is that it’s covered in what I’ll call “Upper Middle Class cars”: the houses are dumpy, but the cars are not. Makes you wonder if it’s that people-with-money are settling for an ugly place just so they can get into a house they can afford.

Want to judge a book by it’s cover? Come sit next to me. Ready? Here we go: the people looked nice. Friendly. Non-racist. Non-money-grubbing, Non-fancy-pants. Non-stupid. Non-helicopter-mom-crazy. Non-white-trash. (Granted, I saw a woman outside the elegant Half Moon Restaurant which overlooks the Hudson who looked like she should be on Jerry Springer, but you can’t win’em all.) I’m not saying the people looked perfect. But they looked like people who just might smile when you smile at them. They just might be cool to have coffee with. They just might help you carry your stroller up the stairs (even though you don’t have stairs anymore because you now live in an awesome Craftsman style house that only has, like, 3 steps).

I want my daughter to get her haircut at Happy Kids Haircuts. I want to go to the Summer Music Series. I want to “say cheese and thank you”. Damnit, I want make pottery!

What’s next for our journey across the small towns surrounding NYC? Moving on further up the Hudson, I think. My friend Neil suggested I check out Jersey. Hmm. Jersey. More on that later. First, I’m doing Westchester. Then maybe some Long Island and some of NY west of the Hudson, and then maybe, just maybe, Jersey.

May I introduce to you… Dobbs Ferry!