Active Rain August 8, 2010

What You Must Know if You Are Buying a Westchester Home

Westchester CountyGiven Westchester’s close proximity to Manhattan, we have many people moving up from New York City as well as a high number of folks who arrive due to a job change or transfer. Whether you are arriving from California, Manhattan, or Europe, there is a degree of culture shock. Consider the following: 

        • In most southern Westchester towns, your yard may only be about a quarter acre or less. To a Manhattan expatriot, this is a farm. To a guy from Idaho, this is a postage stamp. 
        • Property taxes in Westchester are really high. I mean really high. While it is lower in some of the cities, you could be looking at 2.5-3% of your homes value. The taxes on my old 2000 square foot home are over $12,000. Why they are so high is another book, not a blog post. But it is a fact, and there is no getting around it. Buyers who pass on a house because “the taxes are too high” are dismissed as uninformed morons by some. I say welcome to Westchester- there is no escaping those high taxes. 
  • There are three Metro-North train lines that serve the county and take you directly to Grand Central Terminal: the Hudson line along the river towns, the Harlem line through the middle area, and the New Haven line along the Long Island Sound shore communities. There is no “east-west” train line, as all lines lead to New York. 
  • Most highways and parkways are north-south thoroughfares because all roads lead to New York. I-287 is one exception, and the other is the Cross County parkway. Both are in southern Westchester. There is NO east-west highway in north Westchester County, and this has been a source of consternation since north Westchester was discovered. Route 6 and route 35 at rush hour make Hell seem like Club Med. 
  • No one, and I mean no one, calls Westchester “The 914” in regular conversation.
  • No one, and I mean no one, calls Westchester “upstate” who lives here. My wife considered it upstate when she lived in Queens. She no longer does. 
  • Have I mentioned that the property taxes are high?
  • Westchester has 40 school districts with huge differences in size. Some high schools have fewer than 400 students from 9-12. Some have over 2000 students. The smaller one will never consolidate. If anything, we’ll see more fragmentation. 
  • There are 45 municipalities in Westchester– 20 villages, 19 towns and 6 cities.
  • We have close to 100 zip codes, which means that you can live in a town with a different name fromWestchester County your postal address, which can also differ from your school district. For example, you can live in Millwood, but actually be in the town of New Castle, and also be in the Ossining school district. Or, you could live in Eastchester but be in Tuckahoe schools, or live in Scarsdale but actually be in Eastchester schools. You could live in Yorktown, have an Ossining mailing address, and be in Croton schools. It is like this all over the county.   
  • The six cities are Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Rye. I have sold homes in all six Westchester cities. I know of no other person who has. 
OK, so that last point was a little spammy. My blog. You still know more about “The 914” than you did a minute ago.