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View Poll Results: Where should we look for our new home?
Maplewood/South Orange 6 46.15%
Millburn/Chatham/Summit 0 0%
Montclair 3 23.08%
Glen Ridge 2 15.38%
Someplace else! 2 15.38%
Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-07-2016, 10:44 AM
 
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My family (myself, my husband, kids ages 3&4) is planning to move to North Jersey from Williamsburg, Brooklyn this winter. I know, I know …we're part of a huge herd of Brooklynites heading over!

Why are we leaving Brooklyn? We need more breathing room, the kids need more space to run around, and we also need a lower cost of living (ha! I know NJ is still tremendously expensive). We'd also like to be closer to our families in Delaware and Philly area. We're selling our condo - it's currently in contract- and I'm incredibly grateful that once it sells we'll profit enough that I can cut back on work, and spend more time with the kids.

My husband works in the music industry and will be commuting to NYC, near Penn Station. I will be primarily working from home as a freelancer (design), but will still frequently be heading into the city (midtown, Soho, and DUMBO Brooklyn) occasionally. We'd love to be able to walk to the train station, and have a <30 minute commute from station to Penn Station, but that may not be realistic.

We will be buying; our budget is <650k. (Though we may be able to stretch up to 700k, especially for an area with slightly lower property taxes). We're looking for a home with at least 3 bedrooms, 1.5+ bathrooms. Hoping to find a house with some architectural character (I love the Arts + Crafts style homes), and open to doing some renovation work ourselves.

We were pretty set on Maplewood / South Orange, because it has all the things that we're looking for: a quick commute into Penn Station; lots of families with young children; a friendly, artsy vibe, diverse, walkable. We'd like our kids to go to an excellent public school, but want to avoid a pressure-cooker atmosphere and snobbery. I'd also like them to go to a more diverse school then the homogeneous ones my husband and I attended. Finally, we aren't a very sports-focused family, and don't want to go to a school that revolves around the lacrosse/football/basketball teams (I mean, one of my kids could turn into a super athlete, but it's not likely!)

Why the second thoughts on Maplewood? I'm starting to think that we need better then a "good enough" school district. Seems that my 4 year old may have some special needs, possibly on the autism spectrum. She's having a rough in her current Pre-K, and I need to make sure that we can enroll her in a progressive school (she really thrives in a Montessori environment) with a good student-teacher ratio. I'd written off Millburn/Summit and Chatham as too expensive and possibly too straight-laced or snobbish for our family, but the schools do seem excellent and I have found a few homes within our price range. We also saw a lovely house in Glen Ridge. And Montclair has a public Montessori school, which is really intriguing.

Anyway …dear strangers on the Internet…any suggestions? Where should we move?

Cheers!
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Old 11-07-2016, 11:32 AM
 
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Maplewood/South Orange school district is more than "good enough". It's just not one of the elite districts, and the elite districts are synonymous with pressure cooker atmosphere. Also probably out of your budget unless you buy a wreck in a flood zone. You had the right idea; stick to it.
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Old 11-07-2016, 11:41 AM
 
Location: Randolph, NJ
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We had friends that moved to Maplewood specifically for their son with aspergers because of her research into the town's school programs. He had a great experience and is graduating from Columbia High School this year.
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Old 11-07-2016, 11:43 AM
 
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@nybbler - thanks for responding to my novel of a post! Your reassurance is appreciated.
@HallFull - That's great to hear. Thank you!

Last edited by smileyworth; 11-07-2016 at 11:46 AM.. Reason: Responding to an additional comment.
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Old 11-07-2016, 01:04 PM
 
462 posts, read 550,302 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
Maplewood/South Orange school district is more than "good enough". It's just not one of the elite districts, and the elite districts are synonymous with pressure cooker atmosphere. Also probably out of your budget unless you buy a wreck in a flood zone. You had the right idea; stick to it.

+1. With elite districts comes the pressure cooker, no one can have it all, though we all try to get as much as we can. Maplewood/South Orange seems a good fit for what you are looking for.
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Old 11-07-2016, 01:12 PM
 
538 posts, read 733,616 times
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Thoughts!

1. Lower cost of living? My family (me, wife and a now 3 year old) moved from Upper Manhattan in early 2015. You're not going to find your overall costs going down much - if at all. You will have more space for what you're spending, but that's it. Living sure doesn't seem any cheaper out here. Compared to living in our old co-op I wouldn't be surprised that if when all is said and done we're actually spending more now.

2. Commute - The time tables look awesome, don't they? Well, my 8:05 from South Orange that is supposed to arrive at Penn at 8:37 arrives at 8:45 more often than not. And when it's not then it's usually later. Also, allow five minutes just to get from track level to the concourse (unless you stand at the right spot, etc.) Apart from that the commute is much more comfortable than the A train was.

3. Walkable to train - Most of the nicer and closer properties to either train station are going to be in higher demand. Fortunately both towns have jitney service which is affordable and reliable. As a bonus South Orange has a night jitney that last runs at 11:30 (Maplewood's stops at 9).

4. Maybe spend more if less taxes? - Don't worry about that. Taxes are going to be pretty major in any town with a quick commute and good schools.

5. Vibe - You definitely sound more like you'd be happy in South Orange/Maplewood than Millburn or Summit.

6. Schools - I can't say too much, my son is in a daycare/preschool program that we're happy with. It's largely play-based which is what we want, we're trying to avoid 'real school' until Kindergarten. Most of our neighbors and friends love their schools. You hear of occasional issues, but it seems to be about the level you'd expect in most places that aren't magical kingdoms.

7. People that actually know about all of these places - It's also good to keep in mind that people that live in one place may not know a ton about another. For instance while I know about South Orange and Maplewood (which are effectively the same place for most purposes) from living here, I really don't know that much about these other places you mention other than some restaurants and apart from Montclair a poorly researched assumption that people in those other places want to elect Donald Trump. Try to always get a local opinion about each place.
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Old 11-07-2016, 05:06 PM
 
2,132 posts, read 2,227,289 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smileyworth View Post
Finally, we aren't a very sports-focused family, and don't want to go to a school that revolves around the lacrosse/football/basketball teams (I mean, one of my kids could turn into a super athlete, but it's not likely!)
You don't need to worry about over-emphasis on sports in South Orange/Maplewood. Friday was the last football game of the season:

Montclair: 42
Columbia (SO/M): 0

But the Columbia marching band kicked ass!
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Old 11-07-2016, 05:24 PM
 
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You cant go wrong with Montclair or Maplewood/SO. I will note that Montclair has a few NYC busses that run through and 7 train stations so better chance you can walk to nyc transportation. We just bought in Montclair and were also looking in Maplewood/SO but being that we wanted to walk to the train and not be restricted to jitney it limited our choices. You budget is about the same as ours so you will have options but it does get tough under 600 and going up to 700 will help especially wanting to be near the train. Hopefully this time of year there will be less bidding wards.

Also of note, Montclair has a strong history of inclusive education for children with special needs. Check out the NJCIE they are a great resource. Good luck!
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Old 11-07-2016, 07:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kthnry View Post
Montclair: 42
Columbia (SO/M): 0

But the Columbia marching band kicked ass!
Ha, we'll fit in perfectly!
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Old 11-08-2016, 07:02 AM
 
Location: Central NJ and PA
5,069 posts, read 2,279,232 times
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Looks like the fine New Jersians here have it covered. One thing I wanted to add, though, is that you'll not find a lower cost of living here. We moved from the UWS of Manhattan last year, and our costs have gone up. Commuting eats up a big chunk of change, property taxes are higher than our associated costs in the city, I spend a ton on gas, and while the cost of my daughter's piano lessons is substantially lower, now that all the kids have the opportunity to play an instrument in school, we're paying for three kids' music now instead of one.


Cable/internet is the same, meals outside the home are roughly the same. Our school here asks for less money than what we got hit up for in the city, and it's easier to get to my MIL's house in PA from here. Even with the higher costs, we're still glad we made the move, but it was a tough adjustment because we didn't anticipate, financially, well enough.
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