I wanted a fireplace.
When we were looking for our first house more than a decade ago, the real estate agent asked for a wish list, something to narrow the search. We wanted three bedrooms, two baths, a finished basement, air conditioning, easy freeway access. Nothing out of the ordinary.
But I thought it would be nice to have a wood-burning fireplace, something for those cold winter nights. We had one in my home growing up, and though I hated having to carry in logs for the fire, I loved the smell, the crackling, the warmth.
The house we decided on had check marks in all the right boxes on our list, except the fireplace: The blond-wood mantel and brick cutout in the living room was for decoration only.
Not a bad percentage if you go by the numbers. But when it comes to finding that perfect place to live, numbers don’t always tell the story.
It’s something I stress every time we do our Rating the Suburbs issue. Our rankings are a valuable tool to get you started on evaluating communities to call home, factoring in what our readers have said is most desirable, including good schools, safe streets and low taxes. But there is a lot more to a town than just the hard data.
Back before we owned a home, we lived in an apartment just outside the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation. It was nothing to bop down the hill for a quick nine holes of golf or a run before work. And the canopy of trees just on the other side of the parking lot gave the impression that we had some green space to call our own.
So staying near the park was right up there on my list of priorities for that first house. And over time, being just on the other side of the valley has far outweighed the value of a fireplace.
This year, our Rating the Suburbs feature (pg. 134) provides all the data you’ve come to expect. We’ve also added profiles of communities based on characteristics that are harder to quantify: suburbs that border the lake or have a bounty of shops and restaurants or preserve their history. And yes, there are even towns for nature-lovers, places with plenty of green space. That’s something our other profile subject, ParkWorks’ Ann Zoller, would appreciate.
As for that fireplace? Well, we’ve adjusted. We’ve since traded visions of winter evenings around the hearth for cool summer nights outside with friends around a fire pit. And that’s really what a community is about anyway.