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Old 05-18-2016, 09:24 PM
23 posts, read 19,875 times
Reputation: 16


We will need to relocate from Baltimore for work in NYC (office in Empire State Building).

We like Pennsylvania. Can a daily train commute work for us?

We have 2 children in 2nd, 3rd grades. High quality, and highly rated schools are key to us. So is single family housing with a small private yard and all public utilities (NOT well, septic etc.,). Lastly, proximity to a direct train to Penn station is key with the train commuting time under 75 minutes.

We have a family of 6 with my mother in law and disabled brother in law living with us. So, we need 4 bedrooms with potential for 5 and a minimum of 3 baths.

All this in a Very Safe and Nice area. We can budget up to $800,000 assuming property taxes around $12,00/yr.

We will only consider a Single family home built in the past 2 decades with up to date baths, kitchen etc., Also, it will need to be in a subdivision with other families, great schools and within a 10 minute drive of a direct train to Penn Station NYC.

This would be a first choice if under $800,000 without compromise on the above.

Housing we have explored in New York was discouraging as prices to meet our requirements in West Chester county were $1.2-$1.5M with annual property taxes from $30,000 to $48,000.

While we would prefer Pennsylvania, we are unsure if anything other than Cronswell Heights train station could allow a daily commute with the train portion being within a few minutes of an hour (much more is too far for us). Also, it looked like the public high school for this area might not be highly rated (one source showed a 4 out of 10) if I understood correctly.

Any advice on where we might find a home, school and commuting process that meets our requirements would be much appreciated. Also, if frankly it's not possible knowing that and why would push us into the higher cost structure (high property taxes, high home prices) of a West Chester county NY move instead.

To be clear, we would prefer the Pennsylvania environment. We could do the alternative, but, have high expectations for the home, a family friendly neighborhood and great public schooling all hopefully with a considerably lower real estate price tag = both the price of the house and also the property taxes.

Our current residence is 6 bedroom, $995,000 or so in value and has property taxes under $1,000/month. Key for us was the public school which is a top local school district with the 3 levels scoring 9, 8 and 9 (out of 10) for grades k-12.

Your thoughts and advice are much appreciated! We have eliminated New Jersey, Connecticut and the NYC boroughs for various reasons. There are aspects of Westchester county that are good, including the shorter commute. However, we would prefer to avoid $3,000 to $4,000 in monthly property taxes that go with considerably higher housing prices in an environment we like less than Pennsylvania. Net, we are hopeful there can be some alternative with same or better quality and a much lower price on a similar home with high quality public schools.

Thanks again for your thoughts!
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Old 05-19-2016, 06:00 AM
Location: East Mt Airy, Philadelphia
1,095 posts, read 1,124,688 times
Reputation: 2100
The only place I can think of that meets all those constraints is Yardley: in PA, good schools, a short drive across the river to Trenton's NJ Transit center (where I think you can meet the 75 minute requirement with some of the early morning/later afternoon trains). I have no idea about taxes, but can only assume they're not as punitive as Westchester :-)
That's a nasty commute: figure 10 minutes home -> parking at NJ Transit + 5-10 minutes' buffer/waiting for train + 75 min ride + 10 minute walk to Empire State. Best case scenario is 1:45 each way. But if you want PA, that's probably as good as you'd get. Maybe Amtrak could shave a few minutes off train time, but that'd be way more expensive and probably not worth the extra $, assuming you're paying for commuting costs.
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Old 05-19-2016, 08:02 AM
Location: Dude...., I'm right here
1,243 posts, read 799,046 times
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Up to 2 hr commute each way is going to drive you crazy. You're better off sucking it up and paying the higher NJ property taxes for an older property in a good school district. If you are looking for the same quality of life, you're gonna have to pay for it, either in dollars, time, sanity, etc.
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Old 05-19-2016, 10:32 AM
11 posts, read 19,482 times
Reputation: 23
In Pa, Yardley and Newtown will be another options for you. There are many residents in these area work in NYC. You can drive to Trenton or Hamilton in NJ to take the NJTransit. In the express trains, it take about an hour from Hamilton to NYC Penn Station. I will say one way might take upto 2 hours from door to door.

In NJ, you can check West Windsor and Princeton High school districts. You can save at least 30 minutes one way from Pa locations but the property tax is high. For your housing budget, $800,000, you should be able to get a decent house in these areas and might pay about $2,000/per month for property tax. The drawback in NJ schools is the school is very competitive. The students might suffer high study and peer pressure in daily life.
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Old 05-19-2016, 01:44 PM
90 posts, read 96,909 times
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I'm interested in hearing how the commute works out for you. I know a few people who live in the apartments near 20th and Market who commute to NYC on Amtrak from 30th St Station. I live in Mt.Airy , but near one of the rail lines so it wouldn't be as convenient but still doable. I'm seriously considering looking into jobs in NYC. I think Amtrak would be about $1500 a month or so, so I'd need a salary north of 160k to make it worth my while. Maybe I could deduct the train cost as some kind of express, not sure.
I wish there was some kind of express train that didn't stop until it reached NYC. That way I could relax/sleep for the hour I'm on the train
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Old 05-19-2016, 03:06 PM
23 posts, read 19,875 times
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Thank you all. We plan to explore and test out the transit in June. I think we will look for housing in PA, near a NJ train station as suggested for commuting. Will let you know...also, any further comments or thoughts are welcomed.
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Old 05-21-2016, 09:42 AM
3 posts, read 1,510 times
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it seems to me your dream of house, tax, location, school, job, salary....you need to get into a time machine and go back to 1955. good luck, lol.
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:00 PM
23 posts, read 19,875 times
Reputation: 16
Exphillyguy, you make a lot of assumptions. We could pay for a Westchester county home exceeding $1.5M in cash. But why? I see similar homes in Yardley for $825,000 as for $1.5M in Westchester. Also, the property taxes are around $12,000/yr for the Yardley home vs $48,000 for the Westchester home. That sunk property tax expense is the size of a mortgage itself and adds no value vs. a home in Yardley.

We also will continue to be in a high income tax bracket, the top one. However, avoiding the NY taxes on a portion of our household income and getting the same quality housing and schools without having to live in Westchester NY -- where we would be paying double for housing purchase and quadruple for property taxes seems attractive for an option that simply adds 20 to 30 minutes of commuting time on in each direction and allows us to live in friendly Pennsylvania.

I really don't see how any of this has to do with the 1950's.

Hopefully, your 3rd post will be better...

Much thanks to FrankinPhilly and cwtrees for your help!

We will explore Yardley and Newton and take a practice run from a potential home commuting through to the office and back during normal times.

Any other positive suggestions would be welcomed.
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Old 05-22-2016, 07:32 AM
Location: East Coast
3,493 posts, read 2,180,061 times
Reputation: 5297
I know you said you eliminated NJ, but have you thoroughly investigated the Princeton, NJ area? I know the property taxes are higher than PA's, but the commute into NYC would be SO much better. If your husband is doing this on a daily basis, I think that is going to be a huge quality of life factor. While living in Bucks County does give good access to NJ transit (and therefore NYC), which I extol frequently, if you're doing it every day, that extra 20-30 minutes is really going to be a grind.

Princeton is generally much more reasonable than Northern NJ, and it has great access -- my inlaws used to live in Bergen County but moved to Skillman (right next to Princeton) a few years ago. I like the train access from Princeton better than what there is from Bergen County because when we went from Bergen County, we used to have to take the train to the PATH, then take the PATH into NYC, whereas from Princeton, you just go directly into Penn Station.

Don't underestimate how much a bad commute affects your daily life. A commute from Princeton would be a tad longer maybe than ideal, but at least for me would still be in the realm of acceptable, and if, when you get off the train, you're only 5-10 minutes from your house, it's not so bad. But if you add in another 20 minutes each way (maybe longer if there is traffic) that could tip the scales into really making the day extra tiring. My husband and I learned that lesson the hard way, and we recently moved, and commute was one of our very top priorities.
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Old 05-22-2016, 11:09 AM
23 posts, read 19,875 times
Reputation: 16
Thanks Chicagoliz, will look into options there online first and potentially on our visit this summer.
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