It’s what most people are searching for when looking to buy a home. In the big picture, that special something could mean an outstanding school system for the kids, a sense of security that comes from a well-policed city or the financial assurance that your home will appreciate in value.
But there are smaller things too. Maybe a new playground down the street, pristine sidewalks for your evening stroll, garbage collectors who save you the trouble of taking out the trash or a rec center with indoor batting cages.
Sometimes, though, the smallest details can make all the difference: granite countertops, built-in bookshelves in the den, a wood-burning fireplace in the family room, a washer and dryer on the first floor.
Whatever it is, your something special needs to resonate to make your city a community, your street a neighborhood and your house a home.
And since we’ve been doing Rating the Suburbs, Cleveland Magazine has attempted to quantify what makes a city desirable. Safety, schools and home values have been our primary concerns over the years, while adding things such as property tax rates, environmental quality and diversity to the mix.
This year, however, we dug deeper than ever before by covering all 66 of the suburbs we rate, not just the top 15. (Consider it a free home inspection.) Each capsule gives a peek behind the numbers and highlights a special point of interest.
In addition, our research partner, TRIAD Research Group, conducted an exclusive survey to discover exactly what you’re looking for in a community. (Turns out we’ve been right all along.) We also discovered your overall satisfaction with where you live. (The answer is “very,” apparently.)
Of course, numbers can’t tell you everything about a community, but they sure are fun to talk about over the picket fence (or while taunting your friend who lives on the other side of town). So here are some from our survey to try out at the next barbecue:
4 Sure, the West Side hasn’t claimed the top suburb since Westlake won back in 2001, but maybe that’s about to change. Thirteen percent of people in their 30s would choose to live in Westlake if money were no object, the most of any city and any age group. Second? Westlake, among people in their 60s (10 percent). Shaker Heights, Avon, Avon Lake and Chagrin Falls came in third at 7 percent among people in their 20s.
4 East Siders have a sense of history in determining where to live. Twenty percent of East Siders bought a home more than 50 years old, while 28 percent of West Siders purchased new construction. East Siders also preferred older suburbs with higher population density, with 13 percent saying it was “extremely important” (9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10) in deciding where to live, compared with only 3 percent of West Siders.
4 But East Siders seemed unconcerned with their property tax bill. Eleven percent rated it “extremely unimportant” (a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 to 10), compared with 3 percent of West Siders.
4 Seven percent of West Siders rated their sidewalks a 1 (on a scale of 1 to 10), while only 3 percent of East Siders rated them that poorly. Likewise 4 percent of West Siders said they’re not at all satisfied with how they fit in their community (rating it 1), while only 1 percent of East Siders were that dissatisfied.
4 Maybe we need to get out more. More than 20 percent of native Clevelanders never go downtown for a reason other than work. That number dips to 13 percent for people born outside the area. Of those who leave the burbs, 15 percent of people born outside Northeast Ohio visit downtown to shop, while only 4 percent of natives do the same.
4 The older you are, the more you like where you live. Seniors 65 and older gave their communities the highest marks for satisfaction (10 on a scale of 1 to 10) in almost every category including overall (47 percent), schools (30 percent) of safety (46 percent), roads (31 percent), sidewalks (36 percent), community spirit (30 percent), community services (49 percent), their fit with the neighborhood (42 percent) and access to recreation facilities (42 percent).
Needless to say, your choice of where to live is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Hopefully, this issue will help you find a place you can grow old — and happy in.
Check out more from our Rating the Suburbs survey online at www.clevelandmagazine.com. n