By Jason Adams | Partner of The Movement Group
The question for many people living in the city is whether or not to start a family in the city or move to the suburbs. Since most of Boston’s “city-center” inventory consists of condos (along with many other cities in the U.S.), the majority of families will not have the option of buying a South End, Back Bay, or Beacon Hill single family brownstone. There are large HomeOwners Associations (HOA in our lingo) and there are small ones. They range from 2 units to 200+ units.
To illustrate the challenges of city living with young children, I’ll share a personal story. My wife and I lived The booming Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood for nearly 9 years. Only the first half of that time was without kids. No problem. You don’t know what you don’t know until you experience the challenge that awakens you to it. In this case, living with kids in the city in a 118 unit HOA where our kids were the only ones in all 5 connected buildings is quite the awakening. Getting fined by a management company for leaving a stroller outside for 10 minutes awakened me instantly. The silent months consist of that period of time before a little one can walk. Once they learn to walk, they do so with a joyfully loud thumping.
On 6pm on a Friday evening, we get a “boom, boom, boom” to our floor from the unit below. Are you kidding me? My child is simply walking across our 3rd floor unit. IT’S 6PM!!! I then decide to take my little noisemaker downstairs to explain the situation. “Knock, knock….Hi neighbor. Meet my son, Amos. He just learned to walk and is enjoying himself. It’s 6pm on a Friday evening. What do you do for work?” I really tried to be friendly and stay calm but also be direct and not passive-aggressive and avoid a necessary yet friendly confrontation. She then told me that she was taking a nap before going out for the evening. I said, “I will try to keep it down for you but I can only promise quiet hours between 8pm and 6am(ish).” The HOA’s quiet hours are 10pm-7am. We did our best and the banging from below us ceased but the realization hit that raising kids in our unit was becoming more challenging. We began talking about the alternatives.
We had other condo-dwelling friends with kids who lived in other Boston neighborhoods and this experience had not happened nearly as often, if at all. Curious. I then realized something I originally overlooked; the HOA size. Most if not all of my condo-dwelling friends lived in an HOA of 4 units or less. Go figure. Our HOA consists of 118 units and there are ZERO other children. Our stubbornness to keep our urban, walk-everywhere-lifestyle was being challenged. We persisted for nearly 3 more years until another little one came along. It was at this moment that we realized we had to move to a small HOA situation where there may be kids or a single family home where anything goes as far as “kid noise.”
The point I want to convey in my story is not to instruct you to avoid city living or even condos. My point is to consider the size of the HOA and whether there are owners there who would be more sympathetic to the chaotic human condition called childhood. It is my experience that you’d probably want to consider smaller HOA’s of 4 units or less or a single family home and just accept that moving a bit farther out from the city-center is not the end of the world and the price per square foot changes dramatically in favor of buyers. A 620 square foot condo in The Fenway is worth more than an entire 1500 square foot single family home in West Roxbury. You get the point. In conclusion, if you’re considering raising a family or you’re considering moving your little ones to a more “kid-friendly” situation, my team can offer real insight and help you navigate to your ideal living situation. The Movement Group is empowered to help you.