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Welcome to Westchester

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Each year, on average, 30,000 people move into our county—22,000 from elsewhere in the United States and 8,000 from other countries. (Likewise, on average, 28,000 county residents move elsewhere within the United States each year.) And while we never quite made it over to any of our new residents’ doorsteps with a fresh-baked pie or the name of a good plumber, it’s not too late to give these four new county homeowners a warm welcome to the neighborhood.

Dermatopathologist Melissa Gill, MD (interviewed here), husband Mathias Lilja, vice president of business development for MasterCard in Purchase, and their now one-year-old son, Viggo, relocated from a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan to a 2200-square-foot, four-bedroom house in Dobbs Ferry a little under a year ago. They viewed more than 100 houses over a nine-month period before settling on their mid 20th-century house with Hudson River views for $820,000.

Why Westchester? My husband works here. Did you look outside of the county? Yes, in Ridgewood, Glen Rock, and Tenafly, all in New Jersey. What other towns did you consider in Westchester? We liked the feel and personality of Pelham and Rye, but Rye was too expensive, and we looked at Rye Brook, but that didn’t feel like a fit. Ultimately, the Rivertowns became our top choice. What compromises did you have to make? We don’t have a pool or a master bedroom suite, and we have a one-car garage, not two. What kind of town feel where you looking for? Someplace very diverse—culturally, racially, and economically; Dobbs came across as very down-to-earth and friendly. Any criterion you wouldn’t budge on? I didn’t want our kids having to rely on a parent or nanny to drive them everywhere, so we wanted a house a walk away from a town center. Glad you moved? Very. I was nervous about moving because I had never lived in the suburbs before. But we had moved to a fantastic, very welcoming street, with lots of kids and where everyone really helps each other out. The biggest difference between living here versus Chelsea? Now we have space and can park our car in front of our house. Any surprises? We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how warm and friendly the neighborhood is, like a big family. People are very easygoing and we have a much more active social life than we ever did in Manhattan. One thing you’d change if you could? I’d have a great grocery store here. Why can’t we have a Fairway?

Jeffrey Crane (interviewed here), an equities broker with electronics brokerage house Instinet, and his wife, Linda, moved to Hawthorne from Hoboken, New Jersey, a year ago, before their now four-month-old son, Dillon, was born. After looking at more than 100 houses over a two-year period, they purchased a 2600-square-foot center-hall Colonial for $727,000. Located on two-tenths of an acre, it has four bedrooms.

Why did you want to move? It was just time to get out of a five-hundred-square-foot rented apartment and into someplace that had more room for all of our things. Why did you choose Hawthorne? We specifically wanted to live in Westchester, but we didn’t know where. We narrowed it down by school district—and realized that we could get more house for our money in Hawthorne, where we liked the school district. What was the home-buying process like? Houlihan Lawrence’s Lauren Zaccaria showed us this house eight months before we bought it. We put in a bid, but the seller didn’t want to deal with us because we were so far below what he was asking. We bid again, and it took us a long time to negotiate a price. What were the biggest selling points? We liked that it was brand new. It didn’t need any major construction and everything was updated. We also liked its location close to the train. How did the economy impact your plans? The economy actually helped us. We were able to wait to get a better price.

 

Jonathan Giannettino (interviewed here), co-owner of Curto’s Appliances in Yonkers, and his wife, Nicole, an attorney, moved from Hoboken, New Jersey, to the Mohegan Heights section of Yonkers in February, a short time before their now three-month-old daughter, Scarlett, was born. They purchased their 2500-square-foot, three-bedroom, 1926 Tudor for $662,000.

Why did you decide to move? We were starting a family and my wife wanted a backyard. We had been renting in a high-rise. Why Westchester? My business is here as is my whole family. Where else besides Westchester did you look? Northern New Jersey. So why aren’t you now in the Garden State? You get more for your money there but the taxes are probably even worse. Plus, staying there wasn’t going to improve my commute. Why Yonkers and not elsewhere in the county? Houlihan-O’Malley in Bronxville took us to Hartsdale, Eastchester, New Rochelle, and White Plains, but I wasn’t jazzed about any of them. Yonkers offered the most: low taxes, walking distance to Bronxville, and proximity to Manhattan. What kind of town vibe were you looking for? A place we could walk to that had some semblance of a heartbeat and activity going on. How does your new neighborhood compare to your old one? Hoboken soaks up the energy from Manhattan; here it’s more tranquil. But with the baby, the energy thing is not as important. What made your house “The One?” It needed zero work. And it was so much nicer than anything else we had seen in our price range. Was your transaction affected by the economic downturn? Two weeks after we made our offer, everything fell to pieces. We thought about pulling our offer, but I felt Westchester was not going to crash. What’s surprised you most about living here? I left Westchester as a single person in my late twenties convinced I was never coming back. And here I am back and very happy. How did you know you made the right decision? We had a huge tornado-like storm in early June after moving in. Not only did our house hold up like a fort, everyone was out there on the street helping everyone else.

In August, 2008, Richard Feldman (interviewed here), founder & CEO of EventPlanet, a company that designs and manages corporate and online events, his wife, Beth, senior manager of marketing for a retail fashion chain, and their then three-year-old daughter, Hannah, moved from Marlborough, Massachusetts, into a 1500-square-foot, three-bedroom Colonial (circa 1920s) in Dobbs Ferry. The couple looked for a home in Westchester for about a month. They paid $550,000 for their new home.

Why did you choose to live in Westchester? I was recruited for an opportunity in event marketing for L’Oréal in Manhattan. Six months after we moved, I was laid off, so I started my own company. What towns did you consider? Ardsley, Irvington, Hastings, and Dobbs Ferry. We knew we wanted to be in one of the Rivertowns—we liked being on the water. How many houses did you look at? About a dozen. What town feel where you looking for? Definitely family oriented. There’s always a lot going on to bring families together in Dobbs, like the waterfront park and music outdoors in the summer, so it’s a wonderful area to raise a child. Where’d you live before moving here? We owned a larger house on a bigger piece of property in Marlborough, outside Boston—you get more for your money there. How does living in Dobbs compare to living in Marlborough? It’s like night and day; we’re much happier here because of all the things going on in the area, and we’re much closer to our neighbors, too. Any surprises? The easy access to all the highways was a pleasant surprise. What areas other than Westchester did you consider? Bergen County in New Jersey. We would have gotten more for our money and the taxes are lower, but Westchester just had a better feel, and the commute to the City is much easier from here—thirty minutes versus an hour from New Jersey.

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