City dwellers and country folk have always seemed miles apart — in physical distance as well as in rituals, habits and attitudes. But the grass is not always greener on the other side.
- If you live in a city, you may daydream of rolling hills and fresh air, only to be awakened by noisy upstairs neighbors or police sirens coming from the streets below.
- If you live in the country, you might find yourself yearning for the thrill of the city: the theatre, the restaurants, the sights, the sounds.
Telecommuting and weekend getaways are giving urbanites, suburbanites and ex-urbanites a taste of how the other half lives. Let’s explore the differences of city life versus country life.
Advantages of living in the country
Peace and quiet:
As you get further away from the hustle and bustle of a city, you’ll notice the sounds of construction sites and 24/7 traffic are replaced with birds singing, crickets chirping and small-town church bells. Life in the country seems to scream “slow down,” and for some, the quiet can be deafening. Looking for a home in the countryside? Consider how the ambient noise of your surroundings might affect you and whether absolute silence is the goal.
Lower housing costs:
With shorter commutes, more career choices and a variety of cultural and entertainment options, living in or near a city adds to the value of a property. So while you won’t find a small rural town on a “most expensive places to live” list, you will get way more house for your money outside of the city. As for choice, single-family detached homes are in abundance out here, many with a proper garage, a laundry room, tons of extra closet space and outdoor space, probably for less than a standard condo might cost in the city.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a new home in the countryside, look into getting pre-approved for a loan that’s perfect for rural homebuyers. USDA-backed mortgages offer qualified buyers the option of no down payment for homes in designated rural areas.
Living in the countryside offers remarkable lifestyle and health benefits, and at a much lower cost per square foot. Country homes are generally larger, with gardens, lawns and spaces to stretch out. In contrast, outdoor space in city apartments — if they exist at all — come at a premium, usually in the form of a small patio, or shared roof deck. But with nature at your doorstep, living in the countryside provides lots of room and plenty of fresh rural air — a bonus for your physical and mental health.
Rubbing shoulders with thousands of other people every day — on public transportation, in crowded elevators and on city sidewalks — doesn’t necessarily translate to more connections. Even though cities can be socially energizing, you can go years without ever knowing your neighbors.
Life in the country works differently. With a slower pace and lower crime rates, neighbors make a point of getting to know each other. And local book shops, cafes and hardware stores become regular gathering spots. Finding a welcoming community is half the battle when searching for a new home in the country.
Benefits of living in the city
City dwellers looking to switch jobs find it a lot easier to sneak in an interview before or after work, or during lunch hour, especially when prospective employers are only blocks away. That’s not always true for people living in the country who might spend long hours commuting or stuck in traffic. Unless you can work remotely, residing outside of the city can also mean fewer career options. High-paying jobs in finance, medicine, law, advertising, retail and more, tend to be found in cities. That can mean more opportunities, better salary prospects and shorter commutes for those choosing an urban life over a rural one.
Owning, insuring and parking a car in a city can be expensive, so you may ask yourself if you really need one. Public bus routes, subways, inner-city trams and ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, make it easy to get just about anywhere you need to be. That’s why many city dwellers — especially millennials — have shunned car ownership altogether, and carry a driver’s license for ID purposes only.
Compare that to those living in rural areas: without wheels, they’d find themselves stranded when it comes to groceries, doctor’s appointments and even dating. Love it or hate it, you can’t argue that public transportation puts everything in the city within reach.
Cities generally have more choice when it comes to restaurants, bars, theatres and cinemas, meaning far more options for fun nights out with family and friends. And if you are into something a little more niche, there’s a better chance of finding like-minded people in a compact city than in an area that’s more sparsely populated.
Common amenities such as supermarkets, dry cleaners, banks and doctors are usually within walking distance. Plus, getting around by foot is an excellent form of exercise and helps reduce your carbon footprint, too. Don’t forget about services you’ll need to stay connected: Wi-Fi and telecommunications coverage are almost always better in the big cities, so if you need online access for work, the country life may be a little challenging.
Choice in housing:
Depending on the size and location of the city you’re considering, you’ll see many different housing options. Detached, single-family homes are rare in major metropolitan areas but are relatively common in smaller cities like Pittsburgh, Sacramento, California, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Washington DC, Philadelphia and Baltimore are known for their row-houses. High-rise apartments pervade cities that need to build up, rather than out, like Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston. Then there’s LA, the poster child for urban sprawl: as one of the densest cities in America, it has an abundance of modest-scale multi-family buildings.
It can cost more to live in a city and inventory can be tight, so be open to all financing options. For example, you might consider a jumbo mortgage to finance your urban dream home, or if you’re buying an apartment in the sky, a condo loan might be best. A qualified loan officer will be able to help you get pre-approved and steer you in the right direction.
Are suburbs the best of both worlds?
If you can’t make up your mind between city vs. country living, consider the suburbs. You’ll be closer to nature than city dwellers and probably get more room and more privacy. Plus, a suburb will put you closer to decent restaurants and shopping options than you may find in a rural setting. Granted, you’ll still probably need a car, but everything’s a trade-off!
Despite how you feel about big box stores, many suburbs have retained charming downtown districts that can temporarily satisfy your fix for some urban-style shopping and dining. But don’t fool yourself, just because you’re looking outside the city, it might not be cheaper: prices can sometimes be comparable to luxury apartments in the city limits. In many cases, a conventional mortgage will cover your financing needs. You might also want to look at renovation loans that can help you turn a suburban fixer-upper into a real dream home.
Whether you decide to live in the country or the city, you’ll want to get pre-approved before you start house hunting. Try our online app to get started, or connect with a Movement Mortgage loan officer in the area you’re looking to buy.