Welcome to the ‘Jungle’: Realty group offers young families information before a move

Alison Bernstein can well remember the confusion and worry that followed her family’s decision to move from New York City to the suburbs.

Without any resources, she didn’t know where to turn with questions about the schools, the local businesses and what amenities each potential home community could offer her as a mother with a young child. And that’s why she went on to form the Suburban Jungle Realty Group, which serves as a source of information to families moving from the city to the suburbs about what you can get and where.

The group has had its New York City office humming for years now and just a few weeks back it opened its first satellite office in Greenwich at 50 Greenwich Avenue. And from there it manages to cover 100 towns in Connecticut and areas like Westchester County and Long Island in New York and suburban New Jersey.

“Our goal is to provide truly objective advice to young families moving,” Ms. Bernstein told the Post in an interview last week. “When they’re starting their home search, a family will typically consider a few different towns and even different states so they’ll be comparing a Short Hills, N.J., to a Chappaqua, N.Y., to Greenwich. Before we created this group there really was no truly objective resource to give them the information. Young families had to rely on cold calling brokers in different areas, and obviously the Greenwich agents would say ‘Greenwich is perfect’ and the other towns would say their town is perfect. But no area is perfect for everyone. All of them have pros and cons.”

To assist those families, the group assigns a strategist to them and they work together to determine what will work best for each individual family. Families fill out questionnaires and the work begins from getting that very specific detailed information. A search strategy typically includes four or five areas and the group acts as a go-between working both with the families searching for a home and the Realtors who are eager to sell them one, getting needed information and helping fine tune the idea of what exactly they’re searching for in terms of a new community outside New York City.

“When you’re looking for a home, the real estate part is actually pretty simple,” Ms. Bernstein said. “Understanding the dynamics and personality of each town is what’s difficult. People can have a bad impression of Greenwich because they think it’s so fancy and they don’t realize there’s so much more to the town than that.”

Ms. Bernstein said the group would take a town like Greenwich and compare it to a nearby town like Rye, N.Y., and show families how they differ in areas like schools or taxes or personality. She said the goal is to find a situation that will suit each family’s individual needs, in effect matching the personality of a town to that of a new family moving to it. In the end, the group is not there to make a recommendation of where a family should move, but simply offer information so the best decision may be made.

“We present the options,” Ms. Bernstein said. “But each family is going to make a decision based on the look and feel of a town and the personality of it.”

In each town the group has what it calls “local town consultants” who give these families information based on their own experiences living in the community. In Greenwich they have two because the town has both a large public school system and several private school options, and those consultants can offer differing perspectives to help families determine if the town is for them based on questions about areas like busing or after-school activities or sports or what is there to do over the summer.

“Our local consultants are here to tell you the good and the bad,” Ms. Bernstein said. “They’ll tell you if the commute sounds like it’s 30 minutes but it’s really 45 or that you might have to drive 20 minutes to pick up milk if you live in the backcountry.”

When considering a town like Greenwich, Ms. Bernstein said that one of the main things a family has to ask itself is if they want to live in a smaller town or a bigger one. While Greenwich has a lot to offer, she also notes it’s not a place where you can go down to the corner store and they know immediately how you like your coffee and your bagel in the morning. Greenwich does, however, have the ability to let people live more anonymously, which Ms. Bernstein said can be a real draw.


“Greenwich has so much to offer and there are lots of pockets here that are really unique,” Ms. Bernstein said. “It has the best of both worlds and something we find is that we have New York City families looking for a second home that come to Greenwich and like it so much that they end up living here full time because the taxes are low, there’s a vibrant and sophisticated downtown, the people here are sophisticated but still down to earth and you have great access still to New York City. You can live near the beach or be in the backcountry. It’s one of our favorite destinations for families.”

But the downside of the town can be the size, because Ms. Bernstein said families can sometimes value a smaller town where you get to know people better and see them more often. That also is a factor with the schools, where Ms. Bernstein said the size of Greenwich High School can be intimidating. It all comes down to what the individual needs and wants are for each family that is eager to leave the city for a more open living environment.

More information is available online at suburbanjunglerealty.com.


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