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Old 09-08-2012, 03:07 PM
 
225 posts, read 562,414 times
Reputation: 128

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Greetings,

Potential first time home buyer here looking for some advice/feedback in terms of potential towns. We’ve done a lot of research, and have driven around/visited many towns, but are having trouble moving our search forward b/c we can’t decide on a town(s) to focus on since each town has its pluses and minuses.

To give some background:
Both NJ natives; no children, but it is a possibility in the next few years, so while don’t need absolute best school system, don’t want bad one either. We are somewhat active in town (i.e. like going out to eat, going to the gym, taking classes).

We tend to stay in one place for a while so I wouldn’t necessarily want a place w good middle schools but a bad high school in the hopes of moving in a few years b/c buying a “starter” home often becomes someone’s “ender home.”

Budget: not completely cemented but likely 400-450 (though less is always welcome)

Location: as mentioned, this is our biggest problem. One of our jobs is in Bergen Co., the other is in Union. Essex is in the middle. The Bergen job will be moving to Hoboken in approx 2 years unless a different job is secured in the meantime (which may mean a NYC commute). The Hoboken factor complicates things since very few towns have transportation here. While the town we bought in wouldn’t necessarily have to have train service here, we’d need to be right by a town that did (and had parking at said train station). Presumably any town with Hoboken transport would also have NYC transport in the event a different job was secured in meantime.

We’d like a town with parks and preferably some sort of downtown with decent restaurants (seems to always be on people’s lists, I know) or in the very least close to a town that fits this bill. It probably goes without saying, but being in a nice, safe town where we can feel comfortable walking around at night is a must.

We’d like a town like Montclair, but I fear that would be difficult with our budget unless we wanted to live in the less desirable end of town, get a fixer upper (we aren’t handy enough to take on any big projects), or have the train in our backyard. I know Maplewood is supposedly similar to Montclair but its proximity to Irvington gets me nervous, plus the taxes are ridiculous (which says a lot in NJ).

Then you have towns like Bloomfield and Clifton where we’d probably get a decent house for our money, but school systems are so-so (especially high schools) and there are only small areas of each town we’d want to consider.

But then you have towns like Cedar Grove or Caldwell that are “better” and safer, but less diverse and more small conservative suburb feel. And no train options.

There is also Union with a town like Cranford, which fits the bill in many ways (with the obvious caution of not wanting to buy in the flood zone), but that would make for a rough 2 year commute to Bergen Co.

I’ll cut it off before I ramble more, but we’ve been stuck in an endless loop of where to look and therefore keep not looking.
Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:23 PM
 
303 posts, read 767,008 times
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Recomends: Metutchen.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:43 PM
 
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PPs advice is of its usual quality, Metuchen being nowhere near Bergen and not having direct train service to Hoboken.

As you've probably figured out, something has to give. For your budget you're not going to get a modern, well-kept home in a train town in a good location with less than outrageous taxes.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:53 PM
 
1,449 posts, read 2,646,260 times
Reputation: 722
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJHomebody View Post
Greetings,

Potential first time home buyer here looking for some advice/feedback in terms of potential towns. We’ve done a lot of research, and have driven around/visited many towns, but are having trouble moving our search forward b/c we can’t decide on a town(s) to focus on since each town has its pluses and minuses.

To give some background:
Both NJ natives; no children, but it is a possibility in the next few years, so while don’t need absolute best school system, don’t want bad one either. We are somewhat active in town (i.e. like going out to eat, going to the gym, taking classes).

We tend to stay in one place for a while so I wouldn’t necessarily want a place w good middle schools but a bad high school in the hopes of moving in a few years b/c buying a “starter” home often becomes someone’s “ender home.”

Budget: not completely cemented but likely 400-450 (though less is always welcome)

Location: as mentioned, this is our biggest problem. One of our jobs is in Bergen Co., the other is in Union. Essex is in the middle. The Bergen job will be moving to Hoboken in approx 2 years unless a different job is secured in the meantime (which may mean a NYC commute). The Hoboken factor complicates things since very few towns have transportation here. While the town we bought in wouldn’t necessarily have to have train service here, we’d need to be right by a town that did (and had parking at said train station). Presumably any town with Hoboken transport would also have NYC transport in the event a different job was secured in meantime.

We’d like a town with parks and preferably some sort of downtown with decent restaurants (seems to always be on people’s lists, I know) or in the very least close to a town that fits this bill. It probably goes without saying, but being in a nice, safe town where we can feel comfortable walking around at night is a must.

We’d like a town like Montclair, but I fear that would be difficult with our budget unless we wanted to live in the less desirable end of town, get a fixer upper (we aren’t handy enough to take on any big projects), or have the train in our backyard. I know Maplewood is supposedly similar to Montclair but its proximity to Irvington gets me nervous, plus the taxes are ridiculous (which says a lot in NJ).

Then you have towns like Bloomfield and Clifton where we’d probably get a decent house for our money, but school systems are so-so (especially high schools) and there are only small areas of each town we’d want to consider.

But then you have towns like Cedar Grove or Caldwell that are “better” and safer, but less diverse and more small conservative suburb feel. And no train options.

There is also Union with a town like Cranford, which fits the bill in many ways (with the obvious caution of not wanting to buy in the flood zone), but that would make for a rough 2 year commute to Bergen Co.

I’ll cut it off before I ramble more, but we’ve been stuck in an endless loop of where to look and therefore keep not looking.
Thanks for any suggestions.

The first three towns that come to my thoughts would be Maplewood, Summit and Springfield. They all fit your price range and would not pose horrible commutes and quick/easy major highway access. All three also have easy train access as well that will take you right into Hoboken. (while Springfield itself does not have a station they have a jitney that takes one to the Millburn station. ) Summit has the bonus of being a transit hub so trains and midtown direct trains are frequent.

When looking at Maplewood, you might want to limit your purchase price the lower end of your estimate, as taxes on a 400K home will be right around 13k - gotta love Essex County. But you will find very nice, already updated homes with 3/4 bd and 2 ba in that range. In Summit, the price of the same updated 3/4 bd 2ba home will be slightly higher, but your taxes on a 435k home is right around 9.5k, making your net mortgage payment the about the same.

Springfield would give you a slightly longer commute into Bergen County, but you do have quick and easy access to 78. Housing costs are slightly lower in Springfield, and taxes on a 400K house at that has been updated and with 3/4 bd and 2+ ba will be just over 8k.

All of these towns have good schools, and fit you other criteria as well.

HTH
KoalaNJ
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Old 09-08-2012, 04:52 PM
 
Location: New Jersey
405 posts, read 838,391 times
Reputation: 232
Summit fits all your needs!
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Old 09-08-2012, 06:12 PM
 
1,041 posts, read 2,442,505 times
Reputation: 764
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJHomebody View Post
Greetings,

Potential first time home buyer here looking for some advice/feedback in terms of potential towns. We’ve done a lot of research, and have driven around/visited many towns, but are having trouble moving our search forward b/c we can’t decide on a town(s) to focus on since each town has its pluses and minuses.

To give some background:
Both NJ natives; no children, but it is a possibility in the next few years, so while don’t need absolute best school system, don’t want bad one either. We are somewhat active in town (i.e. like going out to eat, going to the gym, taking classes).

We tend to stay in one place for a while so I wouldn’t necessarily want a place w good middle schools but a bad high school in the hopes of moving in a few years b/c buying a “starter” home often becomes someone’s “ender home.”

Budget: not completely cemented but likely 400-450 (though less is always welcome)

Location: as mentioned, this is our biggest problem. One of our jobs is in Bergen Co., the other is in Union. Essex is in the middle. The Bergen job will be moving to Hoboken in approx 2 years unless a different job is secured in the meantime (which may mean a NYC commute). The Hoboken factor complicates things since very few towns have transportation here. While the town we bought in wouldn’t necessarily have to have train service here, we’d need to be right by a town that did (and had parking at said train station). Presumably any town with Hoboken transport would also have NYC transport in the event a different job was secured in meantime.

We’d like a town with parks and preferably some sort of downtown with decent restaurants (seems to always be on people’s lists, I know) or in the very least close to a town that fits this bill. It probably goes without saying, but being in a nice, safe town where we can feel comfortable walking around at night is a must.

We’d like a town like Montclair, but I fear that would be difficult with our budget unless we wanted to live in the less desirable end of town, get a fixer upper (we aren’t handy enough to take on any big projects), or have the train in our backyard. I know Maplewood is supposedly similar to Montclair but its proximity to Irvington gets me nervous, plus the taxes are ridiculous (which says a lot in NJ).

Then you have towns like Bloomfield and Clifton where we’d probably get a decent house for our money, but school systems are so-so (especially high schools) and there are only small areas of each town we’d want to consider.

But then you have towns like Cedar Grove or Caldwell that are “better” and safer, but less diverse and more small conservative suburb feel. And no train options.

There is also Union with a town like Cranford, which fits the bill in many ways (with the obvious caution of not wanting to buy in the flood zone), but that would make for a rough 2 year commute to Bergen Co.

I’ll cut it off before I ramble more, but we’ve been stuck in an endless loop of where to look and therefore keep not looking.
Thanks for any suggestions.
Threads like this kill me. Every town you discounted is EXACTLY the type of town you need to be looking at. Whats wrong with bloomfield and clifton? What about Nutley? Bad area of Montclair? LOL
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Old 09-08-2012, 06:34 PM
Status: "Even better than okay" (set 10 days ago)
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
51,252 posts, read 50,539,435 times
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What about Rutherford or Lyndhurst? Both have direct service to Hoboken. Both in Bergen County but not bad access to Union. Should be able to find something in your price range. Rutherford has more of the "downtown" of the two.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:10 PM
 
1,449 posts, read 2,646,260 times
Reputation: 722
Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyStarksNJ View Post
Bad area of Montclair? LOL

As much as I adore Montclair, there definitely are some areas that are decidedly seedy, and less than safe.
Seedy areas to avoid are the Pine Street area (near the Claremont CVS), New Street, and Mission Street because of the drug activity. Do not go near the Pathmark at Lackawanna Plaza late at night, esp. if you're alone. There are shady homeless people there. Parts of Montclair near the Glen Ridge Line (near Mountainside Hospital), are not the nicest. South of Bloomfield Avenue has some more seedy areas. Please note that these areas are a small fraction of a very nice town.

KoalaNJ
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:23 PM
 
225 posts, read 562,414 times
Reputation: 128
Thanks, everyone, for your advice so far. To address some specifics:

Metuchen, as another poster mentions, is too far south for a Bergen commute.

Certainly something will have to give, nybbler, and whatever that something is will likely be clearer once looking at actual houses. It doesn’t have to be in a train town, I’m open to towns close to train towns so long as those towns allow for parking (and don’t have 5 year waiting lists like some towns do).

Koala, thank you for your suggestions. All three towns are ones we have considered. Good point about going with a town lower on the budget if paying higher taxes or being able to spend more on a home in a town with lower taxes. In general, I lean toward wanting to put more toward an actual house than toward higher taxes, but that would all depend. We know a few people who have moved to Springfield within the past few years. We hadn’t considered it as much b/c of transportation, so I’ll look into that jitney you mention.

Regarding the Summit suggestion from a few of you—I was under the impression that finding a home in Summit with this budget would be quite difficult. A quick GSMLS search shows only a small # of homes in this price and many seem to need a lot of work or are located on top of the hospital (well, not literally). We are open to some work but wouldn’t want to have to do a lot since we’d have to hire someone which would obviously take away from what we could afford. Since a lot of homes go for more in this town, are there often bidding wars within this price range?

Tony, I didn’t discount any of those towns, as I mentioned early in my post, each of these towns has its pluses and minuses. Bloomfield is probably the town we’d consider the most out of the three you mention, but I know from some who live there that there is concern about the school system and frankly, I can’t tell if that town is on its way up or down. I can see why many would like Nutley, but from our experiences in town, it just doesn’t “feel” like it’s a fit for us. And I didn’t say “bad” area of Montclair, I said “less desirable”—you can’t tell me there aren’t more and less desirable areas of any town (though sometimes less desirable just means not as pretty where others it means unsafe). The police blotter is a good indication of those areas in Montclair. Koala pointed out these as well.

Mightyqueen, Rutherford is on our list as well. Seemed like our budget might be a bit of a challenge in town but possibly doable if we have patience. I’m more open to it than my spouse who doesn’t find the commute down south as appealing from there. Haven’t looked into Lyndhurst yet.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:32 PM
 
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How about Nutley? It's close to the Parkway & to rt3. Not sure about trains, might have to drive over bridge to Lyndhurst to get one.
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