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Old 01-20-2012, 07:15 PM
14 posts, read 27,212 times
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Hi all,

My husband and I are looking to move to a commutable town in NY. He's found employment and hopefully I'll find work but in this economy we don't want to count on a second income right away. (We're moving from England so I won't be able to interview until we get there. I'm a US citizen and he's British.)

We'd like to rent first and get more familiar with the area, then buy. Some folks on City Data gave us great suggestions about New Jersey, such as Highland Park and Metuchen. We're also hearing a lot of good things about Westchester though, so after a bit of research I'm curious what people might suggest for us.

We don't have kids and don't plan to, and our range for an apt. is about 1,500.00/month. Priorities are a stable community/home, quiet, and ability to get to the train station, preferably by walking. We're in our forties so are past the party age but are very active in the outdoors and would like to be near parks with trails for walking, running, etc. A good gym with a pool is important too.

Since schools aren't an issue, are there any towns (Rye...? White Plains...?) where we'd get a little more bank for our buck?

Thanks so much for any info.! Much appreciated.
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Old 01-20-2012, 08:32 PM
258 posts, read 595,182 times
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Hi... I'm living your life a few weeks ahead of you... sort of... We do have children but we recently spent several weeks in NJ and are now in Westchester County for our home search. In NJ we were in the South Orange/Maplewood area during our search.

It's just my .02, but hands down I prefer Westchester County. I haven't visited the towns you mentioned and I can't quite remember where they are, but I found many of the nicer areas that I did see to be islands of gentrification surrounded by some seriously high crime areas. It made us uncomfortable enough that we couldn't sign a lease there.

The highway drive from NJ towards Manhattan is pretty ugly. Some of the ugliest I've ever seen in the US, as a matter of fact. I've been told the trains into Manhattan are not reliable. I did take the PATH train from Hoboken into Manhattan and it was amazingly fast. This was not at peak hours though.

Once we were in WC a few days, we (my husband and I) knew very quickly that it was a much better fit for us. There are lots of cute towns/areas here and fewer pockets of less desirable/higher crime areas. It's also a fairly quick commute to Manhattan (depending where you choose to live) and the trains are very reliable for the most part.

Your budget sounds a bit on the low side for Westchester Cty, but you don't mention how many beds you want. If you can do with a 1bed/1bath, I think you can probably get close to that from what I've seen and possibly right around $1500. Keep in mind that if you choose WC, you are choosing some of the most expensive areas to live in ALL of the United States. I might be off on this though, I'm not from around here, just basing my guess on what I've seen when searching for a SFH to rent. Others here may have much better insight on what a reasonable budget is.

There are some fabulous pre-war buildings in Riverdale, Larchmont and Mamaroneck. Possibly New Rochelle as well. You might find something in those areas that you'll like that fits your budget.

The only other advice I have to offer is that while CD is a wonderful resource, there is absolutely NOTHING like actually being here. Before coming here we were sold (mostly by agents) hard on living in NJ vs. Westchester. Couldn't have been more wrong, NJ is absolutely not where we want to be. And we could only know this by being here. Take everything said here -- including my own comments -- with a grain of salt. Allow yourself time to explore all you need once you get here if you can and you'll probably figure it out pretty quickly just as we did.

One other thing: basically the farther away from Manhattan you get, the better RE pricing gets. There are quite a few towns farther north: Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Ossining, Chappaqua that are worth checking out as well. If you get a metro map of Westchester County (mta.org) look along the commuter lines that head into Manhattan. The towns along those lines (or close to them) are often very nice and will have plenty of apartment buildings.

Best of luck to you!
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Old 01-21-2012, 10:47 AM
Location: Washington, DC & New York
10,913 posts, read 27,644,761 times
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Riverdale is a good suggestion, but it's the Bronx, so subject to NYC resident income tax, which may or may not be a factor for the OP. Because of the larger numbers of apartments on the market at any given time, you will also tend to have more selection in Riverdale than you would in some Westchester areas that have more single-family homes.

You can occasionally find apartments in built up areas of Westchester villages that come close to the range you are considering, but it might be on busy street, or above a commercial property. However, if you do find such a property, it may be the only one in a particular area, hence why it could be difficult to recommend a specific area to search.

Since schools are not a consideration, you may want to look at Tarrytown, better parts of Yonkers (areas closer to Bronxville and Tuckahoe are good in Yonkers), White Plains, and even the Fleetwood area of Mount Vernon. One word about those ares, especially the co-ops in the Bronxville P.O. of Yonkers is that parking can be very difficult as the buildings were constructed without adequate (by today's standards) parking, and you cannot park in Bronxville as a non-resident, limiting the accessibility to off-street parking. I don't know if you would find anything in the $1500 range, but Hartsdale might also be worth a look, as it neighbors White Plains, and has easy transportation options to Manhattan.

How long a commute is tolerable? If you could deal with about an hour from Midtown, Mount Kisco might be well worth a look. It's Northern Westchester, but the town center is comprehensive, and there are a good number of apartments in the area. Some parts of Mount Kisco are nicer than others, but your budget would tend to go a bit further in that area; however, since you can focus on areas that are not sought for school districts, you may find a bargain in Lower Westchester in a good neighborhood.

Yonkers is difficult because there are some great neighborhoods in the city, but the schools are not stellar, overall. It's because of a desegregation lawsuit that the city lost in the 1980s with respect to schools, so all schools are essentially magnet schools now. There are some great neighborhoods in Yonkers and Mount Vernon, though, despite the reputation that both cities have overall.
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Old 01-22-2012, 11:17 AM
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Try looking in Hartsdale, NY, especially the apartments on East Hartsdale Avenue. Very good commute to the city, walking to the Hartsdale Train Station.
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Old 01-24-2012, 06:35 AM
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Default Thanks!

Thanks everyone. I'll check out those spots. In terms of how long a commute would be tolerable, an hour and a half door to door would be OK, but of course the shorter the better. Being able to get a seat on the train is a factor as well so I'll be looking into how crowded each line is.

jojoboulette--I hear you about not being able to really tell what will work until you get there! Glad to hear that you're narrowing things down in your search.

My husband and I have discussed the fact that a lot of people favor Westchester, and one of his concerns is that we don't know anyone there. We have one friend of a friend in New Brunswick, and my husband's best man from our wedding is in South Jersey.

Re. the pockets of crime--yeah, that doesn't sound great. Although I guess I'm a bit used to that after living in Richmond, VA, which has a pretty high crime rate overall but if you know what you're doing you can stay away from it. I lived in an apt. complex that was fine but half a mile from me it was a pretty rough place. However, I just never went there and usually shootings and violent crimes were isolated. I've heard a lot of warnings about car theft in Jersey.

Anyway, I'll be finding out soon enough as we leave for NY/NJ next week! Thanks again for your input.
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Old 01-24-2012, 06:52 AM
258 posts, read 595,182 times
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Commenting further having explored this area even more since my previous response: if you like the outdoors and want to keep your rent down, I strongly suggest you look into upper Westchester County: Thornwood, Valhalla, Pleasantville, Mount Kisco, Chappaqua.

The latter is the most expensive of all of those, the last three are really cute little towns, very walkable. They are all located in really beautiful areas with lots of trees. And the commute times would all be around an hour or less.

Very safe areas as well. And I think most of them have gyms nearby. You can do a search on 'gym+town name' and you'll find lots of options.

Good luck in your search!
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Old 01-24-2012, 02:06 PM
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You want Westchester; specifically, you want Hartsdale. I may be partial to it since I live there myself, but here are some reasons:

1. Train takes 35 min to get into Grand Central.
2. Trains from NJ get into Penn Station. Penn Station isn't exactly cream of the crop, if it were they wouldn't be making plans to connect NJ trains to Grand Central.
3. If you need to drive, you can be in Manhattan in about 40 min (without traffic of course). Since you'll be commuting during the week, chances are the only times you'll need to drive in will be weekends, traffic-free.
4. Driving from NJ into NYC costs money. Driving from Westchester is free.
5. Public schools in Hartsdale suck because they're combined with White Plains, but that makes taxes lower. If you don't care about schooling, you'll get a good bang for your buck here.
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Old 01-24-2012, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Lamprey View Post
5. Public schools in Hartsdale suck because they're combined with White Plains, but that makes taxes lower. If you don't care about schooling, you'll get a good bang for your buck here.
What's your view on taxes in Hartsdale from a first hand perspective? When I checked the realtor websites, taxes on a cash basis seemed a bit high (double K digit) - sometimes almost as high as Eastchester and higher than Yorktown Heights. Are taxes there not as high as they seem?
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Old 01-24-2012, 02:35 PM
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They're not so bad really, about 2.5%/year. That's not so bad, for Westchester. For the price range we were looking in when house hunting a few months ago, taxes in Hartsdale were around $10-$14k/yr, compared to $15-$18k in any other town that we visited (and liked).

Yeah, they're still 10k+, but I don't know if it's possible to get under $10k in a NYC suburb without ending up some place you wouldn't want to live.
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Old 01-24-2012, 02:42 PM
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I see. I think taxes in Crestwood are less than $10K but I understand the point about not ending up some place you wouldn't want to live.
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