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Old 10-28-2009, 03:57 PM
8 posts, read 38,916 times
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We currently live in Jersey City and are planning to move west so that wife can be closer to work. Husband commutes to NYC, wife drives to Parsippany. We have a child who is preschool age. We both grew up in NJ (husband in Middlesex County, wife in JC), so we know the names Millburn, Summit, Chatham and Madison, but we don't know much about them besides good schools and high price. We are looking in the 600-800K range for a house. In particular, what we'd like are opinions on:

1. How is the train service from Chatham and Madison? It seems the trains are less frequent than Summit and closer. How big a problem is this?

2. How hard is it to get parking at the train stations in each of the towns? We heard that Chatham Twp residents are not allowed to park at Chatham. How about the other towns?

3. Housing dollar seems to go further in Madison and Chatham Twp. Is this a function of Madison's distance and lower (but still great) ranked schools and Chatham Twp's inability to park at train station, or something else?

4. How do commuters from Chatham Twp get to and from the train station (husband works late/unpredictable hours - hate to have wife pick up all the time)? Are there any buses or other commuting options?

5. What are your opinions on best value/convenience/community in all of the towns?

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Old 10-28-2009, 04:27 PM
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Personally, I'd go with Summit or Millburn. Excellent schools & easy commute. Madison is also nice but Summit & Millburn is definitely a higher class. Chatham is also in the same class as Summit & Millburn in terms of wealth, transportation accessability & excellent school system.

But one thing ( and this is big for some people) that Chatham is NOT compared to Summit & Millburn is diversity. Summit & Millburn offers some diversity that Chatham does not.

There has been a historic unspoken avoidance of Chatham by Jewish & Asian-Americans due to its perceive reputation.

My wife used to own a realty franchise for 12 years in Morris county. One observation she always had was Jewish & Asian families ALWAYS flocked to allfluent towns who happen to have very GOOD SCHOOL districts. Places like Millburn, Livingston, Ridgewood, Summit, Oradel, Basking Ridge, etc.

But when it came to Chatham, realtors who shared their stories 'privately" would relate how many Jewish & Asian-American wealthy families seem very uncomfortable in considering Chatham. We even had incidents of Jewish families moving out to neighboring wealthy towns.

Past racial/anti-semitic incidents certainly did not help.

Since your wife is from Jersey City, she may be used to some diversity. Summit & Millburn offer that.
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Old 10-28-2009, 07:28 PM
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I think all of the towns the OP mentions are fairly similar. The OP will probably get a bigger lot in Chatham Twp compared to the other towns he mentioned. Also more for his money. The schools in Chatham are quite good. But if you want a walking town, stay away from Chatham Twp--you have to drive everywhere! (bigger lots means more driving)

I grew up in Chatham Twp, went to high school in Summit and had friends all over the place. Back then some towns were more popular with Jewish families, Livingston, Maplewood, S. Orange, Montclair, Millburn and Short Hills. Chatham, Madison and Summit (and all of Morris County) were more Catholic/Waspy. But that all may have shifted over the years.

I have found the largest concentration of Asian people is in Bergen county drawn to the good schools there and the presence of a large existing Asian community, as opposed to Essex, Union or Morris

Good luck!
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Old 10-30-2009, 07:52 AM
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I live in Chatham Twp (and funny enough am of an Asian background with a preschooler). In general, my wife and I love the area. The people are very friendly and the community seems very family focused. It is not the most diverse town (we moved from Hoboken) but it does appear to be changing. There is a noticeable influx of young Asian/Indian families and you can see the difference in the when looking at the younger kids.

Regarding your specific questions

1&2&4. Of the towns you listed, train service from Summit is the best. There are two lines that meet there and you get the most frequent service. Chatham Borough is one stop further along one of the lines splitting from Summit and is an extra 5-10 mins. Madison is further along the same line and an additional 5-10 mins. If you live in the Chatham Township, you can either park in Summit or Chatham Borough. Both have per-day non-permit parking. Summit is about $10/day and Chatham Borough is about $7 although I think you can get monthly discounts. The spots in Chatham Borough fill up fast though.

3. Summit is the most expensive of the towns no matter how you slice it. Chatham Borough tends to have more affordable houses but they tend to be smaller. There just aren't that many large houses in the area. Chatham Twp and Madison both have larger lots and larger houses. Quite a few teardowns turned into new homes. On a $/sqft Chatham Twp & Madison may be cheaper than Chatham Borough but in absolute terms given the inventory they are more expensive.

5. We started out focusing on Summit but it seemed a expensive and a little too "large" for us. Madison seemed a little far. Getting to Madison from 24 can be tough and even though it was only an additional 10 minutes on the train that did seem to add up. Chatham (other than the parking the two Chathams do seem like one town) seemed like a good fit. Other than Millburnn, it has the best schools in the area and it a little more centrally located. It is right off 24 and smack in the center of Summit, Madison, New Providence so you can easily use all the towns.
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:52 PM
2,312 posts, read 7,233,791 times
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Very good analysis of the area!

I think the OP just has to go look at the towns and see what he can get. Many times when someone is deciding between a bunch of different towns it's the house itself that drives the decision.
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Old 03-13-2010, 02:34 PM
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Parking is a at a premium in the towns with rail access and reserved generally for its own residents with some towns having wait lists for their own residents (Westfield I know had one at one point). Summit and Milburn of the towns mentioned provide quicker train service to NYC.

Summit used to have many smaller or mid size homes that over the last 20 years have been either bulldozed or added on to making it much more difficult to find a more affordable home. As a result, the town to be considerably less diverse economically then it was years ago. Summit historically always had some ethnic diversity.
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