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Old 12-02-2015, 09:33 AM
 
Location: Brooklyn
39 posts, read 41,872 times
Reputation: 44

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My husband and I have a 21 month old with another on the way in late January (plus a Labrador) and we are looking to relocate from our current digs in Park Slope to the suburbs of New Jersey. I've been doing pretty extensive research for a year plus -- we've visited towns, scoured city data, met with realtors, looked at houses, etc. -- and are finally ready to pull the trigger and make a move in the spring as we quickly outgrow our current space. Our budget is about $600K - $750K but this is pretty variable based on taxes. We are looking for a starter type home -- coming from apartment living we don't want a lot of space right away. Three bedrooms and 1.5 baths would be adequate.


I wouldn't describe us as super Park Slope-y -- we've been there for a less than two years (before that we lived abroad and before that in other cities in the U.S.) -- and while we like it, we think the expense of it isn't justified by the neighborhood, the apartments or the time we spend commuting into Manhattan on unreliable trains. We're ready for more space and both of our families live in Pennsylvania, so NJ is the only option that seems to make sense for us. My husband works in finance in midtown and I currently work full time but will be quitting after baby #2 (and again we figure that with just one parent commuting into the city, the burbs make more sense than they did a couple of years ago).


Using criteria that included good schools, a smallish, tight-knit community and a reasonable commute, we narrowed our choices down to Glen Ridge and Fair Haven -- two very different options but both ones that (we think) are small, family-oriented communities. With Glen Ridge, we like the commute time, the proximity to the city and everything else Northern NJ has to offer, the beauty of the town and the housing stock. Negatives are property taxes, worse traffic and the crowded, rat-race lifestyle of Northern NJ, and the proximity to areas that are high in crime. With Fair Haven, we like (obviously) the proximity to beaches/water, the property taxes (not great but still better than GR), the fact that it seems like you can get more space/yard for your money (even though there also seem to be many houses in the $1 million plus range), the fact that the ferry is a commute option, the slower, less-crowded Monmouth County lifestyle, and the fact that it and all the surrounding towns are very safe. Negatives for Fair Haven include mostly the commute (which would be longer for my husband) and that I'm not hugely wild about the housing stock there (I prefer the more charming historic type houses although I also recognize those come with their fair share of headaches -- but it just seems like everything in Fair Haven is new construction).


My husband seems to favor Fair Haven but my hang up is that if the trains are running on or close to schedule, the commute time different between the two will be about 40 minutes for Fair Haven. My husband would take the 6am ferry or the 6:12am train so mornings would be ok, but in the evenings I think it would come down to the difference of him getting him at 7pm in GR or him getting home at 7:40pm in FH. He maintains that lots of guys in his office have commutes that are 1.5 hours and that they all manage and that it's worth it for the opportunity to raise our kids in a community like Fair Haven, right next to the beach and water with taxes that are more manageable than they are in Essex County and a commute by ferry which is nicer and more reliable than the train even if it takes longer. I maintain that while the beach and Monmouth County in general are an amazing place to raise kids, that 40 (even 30) minutes every evening is a lot and that it could basically mean the difference between him being able to give our kids a bath and read them a bedtime story and him coming home when they're basically already asleep. It's possible that in the future, he may have better hours and more flexibility to leave the office earlier. But my concern is the interim.


Would like to know what everyone's thoughts are on Glen Ridge vs. Fair Haven, if you think the commute time justifies the better lifestyle in Monmouth County? I'll admit that Glen Ridge seems more like a place where people move to raise kids and vacate as soon as the last one graduates high school bc the taxes are so egregious. Fair Haven strikes me as more of a balanced community that could become a lifelong home. Oh, FWIW, the only other town we seriously considered were the South Mountain and Wyoming sections of Millburn (and these are still in the running, I just think it less likely we'll find something in our price range there).


Just looking for opinions from current and past residents of both towns. Thank you!
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Old 12-02-2015, 10:10 AM
 
3,988 posts, read 1,757,223 times
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If the commute issue is something you guys can live with I'd recommend FH- it's a wonderful place to live. As someone who moved to Monmouth County not too long ago I may be biased. We moved from NYC after deciding to abandon our options in NNJ (more so Union & Morris counties). Now I get queasy driving north of the Driscoll Bridge. Everyone we meet around the peninsula (5 towns of Red Bank, Fair Haven, Rumson, Shrewsbury, and Little Silver) seems to have either moved from NYC/NNJ to escape the rat race or has lived here for several generations and they can't imagine ever leaving.


I can't really speak for Glen Ridge at all, but I can say FH and Monmouth County are wonderful. MUCH more laid back then up north, more open space, people seems friendlier. FH has great amenities like rec for kids, parks, the Fireman's Fair, cute little downtown, some nice restaurants. They have a cute tradition where the kids ride their bikes to the middle school too. You can also take advantage of the beach clubs and some great restaurants, shopping, and plays/shows in Red Bank.


I guess in my opinion it would all come down to the commute- if you can live with it I can't recommend FH enough.




To be honest though, depending on where in Midtown the boat might not be so great- it's AMAZING if you work downtown. Would the train he might catch be in Little Silver? If so I would suggest LS too, would make the trip to the train painless- the express from LS might be the way to go. If you need top 10 HS then it's a no go, but if you can settle for top 40 it might work (reason for the difference is the HS is Red Bank Regional which has some diversity- the LS & Shrewsbury kids score similar to RFH kids though). The grade schools are all on par- LS may even be better, but its splitting hairs at that point.
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Old 12-02-2015, 10:45 AM
 
Location: Brooklyn
39 posts, read 41,872 times
Reputation: 44
Thanks for weighing in. My husband works at 53rd and Park so honestly neither the ferry nor NJ Transit into Penn Station are super ideal (Metro North into GTC would work best but CT is too expensive/far from family and Westchester is too expensive and we can't stomach the property taxes there either). And we figure there's no guarantee that his office or job will always be in midtown.


Basically it comes down to--


Glen Ridge
-5-10 minute walk/bike or jitney ride to the train
-35 minute train ride
-15 minute walk/subway from Penn Station to office
Total time I estimate about 1 hour 5 min


Fair Haven
-15 minute drive to ferry dock in Highlands
-1 hour ferry ride to E. 35th St.
-10 minute cab/uber to office
Total time I estimate about 1 hour 30 mins


This doesn't seem so bad on the face of it, but I estimate it will take him a bit longer in the afternoons to get from his office to the East River ferry dock and, on top of it, there are a lot fewer ferries available than trains. So the timing isn't as flexible and if he misses one he has to wait awhile (like an hour) for another. He also stays out late usually on average about 2 nights a week with clients. So I'd be worried about transportation accessibility during those later hours, too (like 9pm) although if he's at the actual office late he can take a black car home.


I agree with you that were commute not an object, Fair Haven is pretty clearly the overall better choice -- it really seemed like a wonderful way of life there and we'd like to make it work. I'm just not sure it's worth the extra commute time and my husband going days in a row without even seeing our kids!
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Old 12-02-2015, 11:09 AM
 
3,988 posts, read 1,757,223 times
Reputation: 2275
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasis84 View Post
Thanks for weighing in. My husband works at 53rd and Park so honestly neither the ferry nor NJ Transit into Penn Station are super ideal (Metro North into GTC would work best but CT is too expensive/far from family and Westchester is too expensive and we can't stomach the property taxes there either). And we figure there's no guarantee that his office or job will always be in midtown.


Basically it comes down to--


Glen Ridge
-5-10 minute walk/bike or jitney ride to the train
-35 minute train ride
-15 minute walk/subway from Penn Station to office
Total time I estimate about 1 hour 5 min


Fair Haven
-15 minute drive to ferry dock in Highlands
-1 hour ferry ride to E. 35th St.
-10 minute cab/uber to office
Total time I estimate about 1 hour 30 mins


This doesn't seem so bad on the face of it, but I estimate it will take him a bit longer in the afternoons to get from his office to the East River ferry dock and, on top of it, there are a lot fewer ferries available than trains. So the timing isn't as flexible and if he misses one he has to wait awhile (like an hour) for another. He also stays out late usually on average about 2 nights a week with clients. So I'd be worried about transportation accessibility during those later hours, too (like 9pm) although if he's at the actual office late he can take a black car home.


I agree with you that were commute not an object, Fair Haven is pretty clearly the overall better choice -- it really seemed like a wonderful way of life there and we'd like to make it work. I'm just not sure it's worth the extra commute time and my husband going days in a row without even seeing our kids!
Yeah- that's the rub- it all comes down to that extra 30 min- some people do it and never look back. There is a bar on the ferry if that helps swing things!!!


Can you guys maybe rent a place for a month or even stay at a hotel for week down there to see if the commute is viable? There's a few decent hotels down there- nothing amazing but Red Bank and Atlantic Highlands have some nice places.
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Old 12-02-2015, 12:08 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
39 posts, read 41,872 times
Reputation: 44
It's a good suggestion but a finagling a short-term rental/hotel room with a 75-lb dog, a toddler and a newborn smacks of a nightmare scenario to me, personally


I guess I'm looking for someone on these boards who has traded a longer commute and less time with family for a better location and either does or does not regret it!
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Old 12-02-2015, 12:19 PM
 
166 posts, read 251,338 times
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Another consideration and maybe this doesn't matter for you is the cost of that commute you just described from fair haven. The ferry is very expensive and so would be taking a cab / uber every single day.

A train to the subway is much cheaper. That is probably a 4 to 6K extra expense in commuting costs versus Glen Ridge which would probably make your taxes + commuting costs equal the taxes in Glen Ridge.
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Old 12-02-2015, 12:49 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
39 posts, read 41,872 times
Reputation: 44
Hi spoonman -- yes I definitely have considered that the premium price for the ferry (not to mention gas for my husband's car to drive to the ferry parking lot) would probably make it a wash in terms of commuting costs vs. taxes. The only plus one there for Fair Haven is the fact that if my husband lost his job or started working from home (unlikely, but still), the commuting cost would disappear whereas in GR the taxes will always be there to haunt us... For some reason this idea just makes me kind of uneasy. But I recognize this is just kind of a fact of life in this area of the country...
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Old 12-02-2015, 01:03 PM
 
3,988 posts, read 1,757,223 times
Reputation: 2275
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasis84 View Post
Hi spoonman -- yes I definitely have considered that the premium price for the ferry (not to mention gas for my husband's car to drive to the ferry parking lot) would probably make it a wash in terms of commuting costs vs. taxes. The only plus one there for Fair Haven is the fact that if my husband lost his job or started working from home (unlikely, but still), the commuting cost would disappear whereas in GR the taxes will always be there to haunt us... For some reason this idea just makes me kind of uneasy. But I recognize this is just kind of a fact of life in this area of the country...
just did a quick search- looks like about $500 a month difference between boat and train. so 6K a year- but taxes look about $12K a year difference. Also- keep in mind that commuting costs can be deducted from pre-tax pay (upto a limit I assume), so that would eat at some of the 6K as well, so you could be looking at a 4K commute difference offset by a 12K tax bill that like you said- never goes away.


If you want to make that a bigger difference you can even look at Rumson- you'd get smaller home on smaller lot, but you might be able to walk to town in some spots and taxes would be much lower (based off of your initial post you said housing sixe and lot don't need to be maxed out).
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:03 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
39 posts, read 41,872 times
Reputation: 44
Taxes on a similarly priced home in Fair Haven and Glen Ridge aren't a $12K a year difference -- more on the order of $4K to $8K a year and in some cases less. The other plus for Glen Ridge, as far as I can tell, is that there seems to be more housing available in our price range. Not that Fair Haven doesn't have options, it just seems like most of the houses on the market there are $1 million plus... But that could be a misconception on my part. And as far as I understand it, property tax is mostly deductible up until a certain AGI...

Moreover, the pre-tax commuter benefit is capped at $130/month for transit and $250/month for parking, so I'm not sure that we'd incur any extra pre-tax benefit by taking the ferry vs. the less expensive train since they are both over the cap.


Rumson, great in theory, but I'm not sure we can afford anything there at all...?


Thanks for the help, though.
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Old 12-02-2015, 04:46 PM
 
166 posts, read 251,338 times
Reputation: 166
I live a little west of the Glen Ridge / Montclair Area (priced out of Glen Ridge for the time being) but I have taken the Glen Ridge train to Glen Ridge before. So for perspective the Jitney is waiting right there to pick up people and second it seems a good number of commuters know each other which I thought was neat. Small town, lots of people work in the city and use that train so it seems that you'd see a lot of your town friends on your commute or on the platform. It just felt friendly to me.

Glen Ridge reminds me of the streets in the Movie Home Alone. Beautiful homes on tree lined streets with side walks and gas lamps.

I don't know much about Fair Haven but I do like Red Bank a lot but on the flip side you have Montclair right there if you live in Glen Ridge.


I think the best way to do it is to have your husband do both commutes. That is annoying due diligence but I think it's smart considering that will become his life long term.

I opted for a house closer to NYC b/c I didn't want a very long commute and I wish I was even closer. However I have partners at my firm that live in Manalapn, Marlboro, Holmdel and take that 50+ mile bus ride up to the city every day. I couldn't do that.
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