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Old 11-07-2011, 06:08 PM
 
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After a short stint in the DC area, my family (originally from Raleigh, NC) are planning to relocate to NJ. I have a lot of family in the area, love NYC, and we think New Jersey is a great place to raise a family with the town atmosphere and great schools. We are trying to figure out the best town for us and any help is appreciated! Here is our info:

Where are you coming from? Northern VA, Raleigh NC prior to that
Why are you moving? Family, work, schools, cold winters and outdoor skating
Where will you be working ? If NYC, what part of NYC? Jersey City

Will you buy or rent? Buy
What is your budget ? 500k to 650k
What kind of place are you looking for ? Single Family home, 1800 to 2000 sq ft

Will anyone (spouse, children, pets) be moving with you ? Hubby, Wife, 5 year old, 2 year old, 2 cats
Do you need/want good public schools? YES! Great public schools required!

Briefly describe the kind of neighborhood you'd like to live in
(examples: families with young children, young, mature, artsy, diverse, safe, close-knit, block parties, etc) - We are looking for a neighborhood with families with lots of young kids, safe, close-knit, block party type

List three things that are important to you in order of importance.(examples: nightlife, outdoor activities, rural/urban, safety, downtown area, charming, new construction, proximity to XYZ, family oriented, easy parking, short commute, etc) - family oriented, downtown area, safety

We are looking for 1. Great schools 2. Young families 3. Town walkability and convenience 4. Town activities

Thank you for the help in advance. Reading these threads have brought a wealth of information that is very helpful.
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Old 11-07-2011, 07:16 PM
 
1,449 posts, read 2,643,690 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doverborn View Post
After a short stint in the DC area, my family (originally from Raleigh, NC) are planning to relocate to NJ. I have a lot of family in the area, love NYC, and we think New Jersey is a great place to raise a family with the town atmosphere and great schools. We are trying to figure out the best town for us and any help is appreciated! Here is our info:

Where are you coming from? Northern VA, Raleigh NC prior to that
Why are you moving? Family, work, schools, cold winters and outdoor skating
Where will you be working ? If NYC, what part of NYC? Jersey City

Will you buy or rent? Buy
What is your budget ? 500k to 650k
What kind of place are you looking for ? Single Family home, 1800 to 2000 sq ft

Will anyone (spouse, children, pets) be moving with you ? Hubby, Wife, 5 year old, 2 year old, 2 cats
Do you need/want good public schools? YES! Great public schools required!

Briefly describe the kind of neighborhood you'd like to live in
(examples: families with young children, young, mature, artsy, diverse, safe, close-knit, block parties, etc) - We are looking for a neighborhood with families with lots of young kids, safe, close-knit, block party type

List three things that are important to you in order of importance.(examples: nightlife, outdoor activities, rural/urban, safety, downtown area, charming, new construction, proximity to XYZ, family oriented, easy parking, short commute, etc) - family oriented, downtown area, safety

We are looking for 1. Great schools 2. Young families 3. Town walkability and convenience 4. Town activities

Thank you for the help in advance. Reading these threads have brought a wealth of information that is very helpful.

Right off the bat I'd say Chatham fits the bill nicely. The schools are listed amongst the best in the state, plenty of houses in your price range, (in both the Twp and the boro) Nice downtown in the borough with shopping and dining. There is also a train station, so that is an option for work commute. (take the train to Hoboken and then transfer to the light rail to JC)

Mendham Borough also fills the bill. Again top tier schools, great quaint "small town" community. The downtown is pretty small, but there is shopping, banking, health care, and restaurants. You are less than 10 minutes to all Morristown has to offer. (Lots more shopping, dinning, arts, etc) Also Morristown has the train station which makes it easy for trips into NYC (midtown direct line too!) Do not let anyone tell you that Mendham is all estates and mil+ property. The borough has many homes in your price range, and you will even find a smattering of homes in the Twp in your price range. (while the Twp and the Boro have separate K-8 schools, both are excellent and feed into the very highly regarded West Morris School District.)

I'd add Madison and Chester to the list as well, they fir your criteria, although IMHO the downtown area of Chester is not so walkable, save for the touristy "specialty village shops" - the other shopping/banking is along very busy rte 206 and therefore is not pedestrian friendly also you are not near a train station, so you'd be driving in to work, something to consider. Madison's downtown is walkable, nice restaurants & shops , train station, it is also home to two colleges (and a third right over the border in Convent Station) which can be a plus and a minus. (I am sure having lived in Raleigh, you know what I am speaking of!)

Denville is also an option, fits all your criteria, food schools, walkable downtown, etc. has a train station, though I'd be very cautious as they do have flooding issues.

In Somerset County you should check out Bernardsville, Basking Ridge, again they both fit the bill nicely. (train stations as well for commuting)


All of these towns are more suburban than urban, and wonderful places to live. You should note that the schools overall in NJ are much better than those in NC, so even those that are not considered "top tier" in jersey school ranking are still quite good. Check them out online - one source is 2010 Top High Schools in New Jersey-www.njmonthly.com there is also schooldiggger.com as well as a few other good sites to use. If you have further questions, just ask!

KoalaNJ
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:04 AM
 
Location: Randolph, NJ
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What kind of commute can you live with? The poster above has some good suggestions, but commute from Mendham/Chester will be significantly longer than Chatham/Madison.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:44 AM
 
2,508 posts, read 5,261,048 times
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Chatham is a great suggestion but you might have to settle for a little bit smaller of a house there, probably more like 1200-1600 sq ft for your price range. You might be able to get a larger house but it will need a lot of work. You could get more in a town like Springfield or New Providence.

I would suggest Livingston. Great schools, tons of young families, no train station but very accessible. Your budget will go further than it will in Chatham.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:22 AM
 
1,449 posts, read 2,643,690 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdstyles View Post
Chatham is a great suggestion but you might have to settle for a little bit smaller of a house there, probably more like 1200-1600 sq ft for your price range. You might be able to get a larger house but it will need a lot of work. You could get more in a town like Springfield or New Providence.

I would suggest Livingston. Great schools, tons of young families, no train station but very accessible. Your budget will go further than it will in Chatham.

While Livingston is not a bad place to check out, when you factor in the extremely high taxes in Livingston, you will actually do better budget wise with Chatham, Madison, Mendham Boro. With the current housing market finding a ~1800 sf home for 600-650 is not an issue. Livingston does not have what I would consider a small town, "block party" type of vibe either as the OP specified in their "wants list". Although I would consider Livingston a generally safe place to live, the crime rate is def. higher than those towns I mentioned above with many more car thefts and home robberies.

As far as Springfield, to me hands down there is not question, Chatham/ Madison/MendhamBoro wins. Quieter, far less crime, much better schools, more of a small town feeling.

HTH

KoalaNJ
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:35 AM
 
2,508 posts, read 5,261,048 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KoalaNJ View Post
While Livingston is not a bad place to check out, when you factor in the extremely high taxes in Livingston, you will actually do better budget wise with Chatham, Madison, Mendham Boro. With the current housing market finding a ~1800 sf home for 600-650 is not an issue. Livingston does not have what I would consider a small town, "block party" type of vibe either as the OP specified in their "wants list". Although I would consider Livingston a generally safe place to live, the crime rate is def. higher than those towns I mentioned above with many more car thefts and home robberies.

As far as Springfield, to me hands down there is not question, Chatham/ Madison/MendhamBoro wins. Quieter, far less crime, much better schools, more of a small town feeling.

HTH

KoalaNJ
I notice you jumped right to the top of their budget and despite the favorable market, 1800-2200 sq ft is going to be quite a challenge. That budget gets you expanded capes and small center hall colonials, even with a finished basement they are going to be hard pressed to hit that size. Unless they want to do a gut renovation, that's the trade off. Anyway as I mentioned Chatham is a good choice, but they will have to sacrifice on size or condition of the house, no doubt about it.

As for crime, all of those towns are perfectly safe with crime rates at most 1/3 of the national average. New Providence actually has a lower crime rate than Chatham, but you are really splitting hairs.

Last edited by Goldendoodle1969; 11-08-2011 at 09:47 AM..
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Old 11-08-2011, 06:56 PM
 
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I'd really like both Essex and Bergen County. All of these towns have easy access via train to Hoboken, where you can easily get to Jersey City from, and are in the price ranges you're looking for (You can spend $450,000 and get a nice home in any of these towns. $650,000 is about the average). I've grouped neighboring towns together, because the general idea behind them is the same.

In Bergen County:

1. Ridgewood/Glen Rock - Cute downtown, considered one of the best school systems in the state, and almost no crime (literally, it's almost non existent). Town is very, how do you say, er WASPy, though. And you can get alot of the snobbery and spoiled, sheltered kids driving Lexuses that come along with it. (This can be a pro or con for you). Neighboring Glen Rock is basically the same as Ridgewood, but a smaller downtown. Short distance to Ridgewood's downtown though.

In Essex County:

1. Montclair/Glen Ridge: Montclair is one of my favorite towns in New Jersey. Ethnically diverse, and the town runs the gambit from ultra rich to poor, and has two awesome downtowns, with New Jersey's best restaurant and culture scene (everything from an Independent Film theater to Art Museum to minor league baseball team) . Tight knit community, with a school system is considered fantastic (Keep in mind the richer the town, more kids can afford to go to college.) I also love the old homes here. Neighboring Glen Ridge (which is like, 5 streets wide) has one of the top 5 high schools in the state, charming gas lamps, and amazing old homes. It doesn't have it's own downtown but you're 5 minutes from Montclair's. And because the town is so small, you and your kids can walk to everything within it (schools, post office, etc). These towns have a younger, hipper vibe to them then Glen Rock or Ridgewood, but crime is slightly higher in both due to the proximity to Newark and East Orange. Both are still largely safe towns. (I live in Glen Ridge, and I don't think there's one family in this town that doesn't have children. No exaggeration.)

2. Maplewood/South Orange: Maplewood may compete with Montclair to be the coolest town in New Jersey. Cute little downtown (no Starbucks, they keep their own independent coffee shop) and great old homes. Also ultra diverse, it's also filled with young, hip families, and beautiful old homes. Your money goes a little farther in Maplewood than Montclair. Neighboring South Orange is filled with expensive, beautiful old homes, and like Glen Ridge, is lined with gas lamps. You're a short drive to Maplewood's downtown. Both towns share Columbia High School, which is a highly regarded school. Crime is higher in both of these towns than any above, because they share borders with Orange, Newark, and Irvington. In all of these towns, crime is still low - below the national average (especially violent crime) but it is, overall, higher here than the other towns listed.

All of these towns have high taxes, but you get your money's worth with great school systems, well maintained homes, and easy access to New York City.

Last edited by labcjo; 11-08-2011 at 07:10 PM..
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:06 PM
 
8 posts, read 11,684 times
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Thank you for all of the great information. We have several excellent towns to research now. To answer the commute question, we are hoping for 30 to 40 minutes by car or hour by train.

Anyone have thoughts on Westfield to add to the list?
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Old 11-09-2011, 07:22 AM
Status: "Even better than okay" (set 7 days ago)
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
51,195 posts, read 50,480,930 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJsolarguy View Post
You might want to consider Ocean or Monmouth counties as well. Brick was ranked the safest city in the US a year or so ago. You can easily get a home in that price range, and your close to the beach
I agree with what you say--but it doesn't fit into the desired commute time.

I commute to J.C. from Little Silver, and it takes an hour and a half if all the trains are running the way they should.
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:21 AM
 
390 posts, read 1,118,146 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doverborn View Post
Thank you for all of the great information. We have several excellent towns to research now. To answer the commute question, we are hoping for 30 to 40 minutes by car or hour by train.

Anyone have thoughts on Westfield to add to the list?

30 to 40 minutes by car may be tough from anywhere outside of Jersey City itself because of traffic leading to the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. By train you should be under an hour fine from Ridgewood/Glen Rock, Montclair/Glen Ridge, and Maplewood/South Orange. From Chatham I would imagine you would be slightly over an hour (about an hour and twenty minutes). Livingston doesn't even have a train station.

If Chatham appeals to you, you should also check out Millburn (The town in between Chatham and Maplewood). #1 Ranked school system in the state for quite some time now (very wealthy town), and the train ride to Hoboken is about 30-40 minutes.

Check New Jersey Transit - Home for station to station times. Obviously, you'll want to take the Light Rail to Jersey City once you arrive in Hoboken.
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