First Person: Buying in the Suburbs Killed My American Dream

Yahoo Contributor Network

I feel as though I was the victim of a "bait and switch" by buying my cookie-cutter home in the suburbs. It's not that I have anything against the cookie-cutter Florida-style homes. It's that I didn't expect the value of my home to dramatically decrease during the housing collapse. What's even more surprising is the fact that everything I didn't like about the cities is now happening to my suburbs.

According to a recent article by Fox Business, I'm experiencing the "death of the suburbs," as more Americans flock to the cities. An article featured on Yahoo Homes illustrated the fact that there are now more poor people living in the suburbs than in cities. In fact, the number of poor people in suburbs rose by more than 63 percent between 2000 and 2011. It's just an unfortunate reality that most poor people can't afford to make improvements to the homes in which they live, which is bound to decrease property values.

Avoiding the city blight

One of the reasons I wanted to live in the suburbs was because everything was shiny and new. We purchased a new home in a Florida subdivision. After just a few years, homeowner after homeowner went into foreclosure. Vandals damaged some of the homes as the grass and weeds took over the once-pristine landscaping. Meanwhile, real estate agents are showing more people newly-renovated condos in the city. Some call it the new American dream.

Finding stability as homeowners

Another thing I was looking for was some permanence in the suburbs. I expected to be surrounded by other homeowners looking for their forever home to raise families. Instead, investors came in and bought up many of the single-family homes in my neighborhood and turned them into rental properties. Because of the high turnover, most renters don't stay long enough to make improvements to the houses or landscaping. They probably aren't motivated to invest in a property they don't own.

Retiring in place

As baby boomers retire, many of them are moving to the big cities rather than the suburbs, according to real estate experts. A recent Case-Shiller home price index showed housing prices rose in 20 cities in the United States, showing an increase demand. While the value of properties in so-called "trophy cities" such as Miami and New York increase, my property value has barely recovered. Our home that was worth $220,000 during the housing bubble is now worth $118,000, according to Zillow. We wanted to "retire in place" in the suburbs, but that's before the suburbs turned into the slums.

Looking for safety

I thought it would be safer to live in the suburbs. However, we aren't immune to the crime that happens in the city. We also have our share of pollution with industrial plants located on the fringe of the subdivisions. Because officials have been slow to keep up with the growth in the suburbs, we don't have all the necessary traffic lights. I witness car accidents on a daily basis in my community. Meanwhile, experts point out New York City is the safest large city in the United States.

Even though some people want to downsize to condos or live in micro apartments, I don't have any intention of moving into the city as I grow older. If my neighborhood doesn't improve by the time I retire in another 25 years, I may have to make a major change. But it's more likely I'll move out to the country if any green space remains by then.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

More from this contributor:

I Should By Real Estate Like my Grandparents

Finding Work-Life Balance

My Home is a Forced Savings Account


View Comments (145)