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New York vs New Jersey

A friend of mine who is working as a quant in Boston plans to move his family to the tri-state area for a new job. He is looking to buy and soliciting opinions from Quantnet members who are living in either NY or NJ.
What are the pro/con of NY vs NJ in term of tax, commute time, quality of life, real estate values, etc...
If you know your neighborhood well, where would you recommend him to look. He is looking into Queens, Brooklyn and anywhere in NJ that has convenient commute to midtown NYC.
I'm also interested in reading suggestions too so thanks in advance from both of us.
I think it depends on what sort of lifestyle he's looking for. If he's moving a family to the area, then the schooling options are probably better in north or mid Jersey. Housing is expensive and property taxes are high--especially if you want to live near a NJ Transit station. Plus, you're probably looking at a 1 hr commute, minimum, to midtown. I don't know much about Brooklyn or Queens but I'm guessing its mostly urban living, no yards (or tiny ones), etc.

A great place to start in NJ is this map for NJ Transit:

I know this is pretty vague, but I'll add more input when I can.
One other thing to consider about the NJ Transit stations...some of them have 5-10 year waiting lists for parking. That's why its better to live walking distance to one, if you can.


Older and Wiser
In my train line (Morris Essex - Midtown Direct), here are some towns that are considered desirable:

- Milburn - Expensive, I think it shares the school system with Short Hills
- Short Hills - More expensive than Milburn don't know why.
- Summit - It's like a hub for trains. Seems like a nice town with a downtown. Don't know much about it.
- Chatham - It's technically two towns: Chatham Borough and Chatham Township. The borough is expensive and cute (i.e. smaller houses). The township is way more expensive. Chatham was ranked as the best place to live in New Jersey by NJ Monthly magazine
- Madison - Nice town with a downtown area. It's a college town since there are two universities in here: Drew University and Farleigh Dickinson University. In general, less expensive than the towns above but there is a section where the prices are off the charts.
- Convent station - The home of the College of St. Elizabeth. This town doesn't really have a school system. It's really quiet but the train station is perfect, plenty of parking.

Prices haven't changed much in these towns and the builders keep building more, at least in Chatham and Madison which are the towns closer to me.
A friend of mine who is working as a quant in Boston plans to move his family to the tri-state area for a new job. He is looking to buy and soliciting opinions from Quantnet members who are living in either NY or NJ.
What are the pro/con of NY vs NJ in term of tax, commute time, quality of life, real estate values, etc...
If you know your neighborhood well, where would you recommend him to look. He is looking into Queens, Brooklyn and anywhere in NJ that has convenient commute to midtown NYC.
I'm also interested in reading suggestions too so thanks in advance from both of us.
Just tell him to leave his Red Sox hat home.
Tax-wise, there's a small benefit to living in New Jersey. You have to pay NY&NJ taxes, although you can credit your (non-resident) NY taxes against your NJ taxes, which are slightly lower.

Generally speaking, housing prices in NJ are quite high, although nowhere near what it costs to buy an apartment in Manhattan, ie what gets you a big house on a large property in a nice town in NJ gets you a one-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a walkup in the West Village. Housing prices have largely flatlined over the last year or two, from what I understand, the greater NY area seems to be the only place where they haven't gone down.

When thinking of a commute (via public transport), geographic distances can be quite misleading. I grew up in Bergen County, and to get NYC from my hometown by bus takes 45-50 minutes under good conditions. On the other hand, if you get the express train from Princeton, which is much further away geographically, the ride is only an hour.

It's also worth noting that there are some hidden costs in being a suburban homeowner, like taking care of the lawn - you're either going to pay someone to take care of it, or spend quite a bit of your free time on it during the warm months.
chrisd makes some excellent points. I take the train from Hamilton everyday and from that station to Penn Station is exactly one hour (from Princeton Junction its about 53 minutes). Co-workers that live half the distance to NYC have train rides that are sometimes longer. The Northeast Corridor Line for NJ Transit runs a lot of express and super-express trains. As an example, the express from Princeton Junction stops only at Newark and New York, and these run often during peak hours. However, at stations like Princeton Junction there is little parking (for the large # of people there) and I'd guess that 5% of the people there do not get seats on the train. On the plus side, that NEC line has the new double-deckers, which are spacious and comfortable. These issues may sound trivial but doing it everyday...all of the inconveniences add up. Unfortunately, the worst part of my commute is taking the E-train to midtown each day--its the least reliable transportation method I take.
Don't worry. He's originally from NY and knows the consequences of such acts.

I love Short Hills. I've been there once summer of 05 at someone's BBQ. Houses there have huge backyards. The neighborhood is really quiet with a cul-de-sac feeling to it. I checked online and houses there going for 800-900K. Remember it was in 2005.

I'm always under the impression that NJ has ridiculously higher property/income tax than NYC. I know single family houses in Queens, BK, BX have property tax in the range of 3K-5K.

For a family of 3 with an income of say 100K, what would be the income tax bracket in NJ?
Also, the thing about living in NJ is that you MUST have a few car. There is no way you can go on without one. I used to have a car in NYC for 4,5 years and I'm so happy to get rid of it. Public transportation is so conveniently available 24/7.

Looks like we have a few NJ residents here. What do you dislike about living in NJ?


Older and Wiser
Also, I like another town close to mine, Harding. Not only houses are expensive there but the properties are huge. I used to run around there while training for the Marathon. I heard the reason they are so big is because you can consider them Farms and pay less taxes
The property taxes can be quite high... but that varies from town to town, and also varies depending on how large the property you own is. Car insurance can also be brutal, particularly if you have a teenaged son. As far as the tax bracket goes, you can probably find that info on this website: State of New Jersey Division of Taxation - I'd look it up myself, but I recently did my taxes and can't handle looking at those forms for another year.

Most people I know that moved out to the suburbs, did so to save money, and to have more space. That having been said, these people usually were living in Manhattan and were sending their kids to private schools; it's definitely possible to live more cheaply in NYC than they were.


Older and Wiser
I know Morris County taxes are not as high as other counties for the same size property/value and the further west you go, the cheaper it gets.
I can't imagine how I would adopt to life in suburban in places like NJ. I was born and grew up my entire life in big city so it would be lots of adjustments if I somehow end up there.
I have relatives in NJ and everything there seems to stop after 8pm. I used to go to college in Rockland county, NY and it was miserable without a car there.
I also notice that it's hard or impossible to invite friends over if you live in NJ or outlying boroughs. Unless you live within 30 blocks of Grand Central, nobody is going to visit your crib in your hood ;)

What do you think about Jersey City or Hoboken?
For the past few years, I use NYT Real Estate section to learn about various neighborhoods in the tri-state area. Without it, I wouldn't realize there are great neighborhoods in our states.
Real Estate - Communities - New York Times

I've come to learn about Riverdale in the Bronx, Douglaston, Kew Garden, Jamaica Estate, Bayside, Forest Hills in Queens.

Anyone knows of any websites that focus on real estate in various neighborhoods in the tri-state? Something like a forum for people to learn about those places?
For families, the Queens neighborhoods of Baside, Little Neck and Douglaston are quite good with public school districts near the top of the city and good private schools, some yard space and low city property taxes. These neighborhoods are near the Nassau County line and are served by the Long Island Railroad Port Washington Branch with a 30 minute commute to Penn Station. The houses were mostly build in the 50's and 60's and go for about $700 - $900K and higher.

I currently live right over the border in Nassau county of Long Island where many people from the financial industry reside. The communities of Manhasset, Great Neck, Plandome, Searingtown, Roslyn have the same Port Washington LIRR commute with taxes about 3X that of Queens (average about $15K?..) but you save the City tax which becomes substantial as your salary grows. The schools districts on Northern LI are near the top of NY State so you do get your taxes worth in education. Most of this school districts spend $17,000 to $24,000 per student so if you have kids your real estate tax dollars are well spent.

If you need to be very close to the City but want to save some money, the Queens neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria are very convenient with subway rides of 15 minutes to midtown but probably not ideal for larger families.
To tack onto what Gus said, if you've got young kids (or no kids, even) then Forest Hills in Queens is a good bet as well. The neighborhood has a lot going on without being overwhelming, and there are a good number of private/parochial schools around. As far as what property costs, I have no good idea. And apparently the residents don't either. I looked at one neighborhood, a cozy two-bedroom two story townhouse was going for about 600K. Fine, except within a few block radius there were like eight other similar properties for sale. Uh, guys....

If you're single and still looking for cheap, Sunnyside is not much longer commute time than LIC and Astoria and a bit cheaper. And Jackson Heights is also an option with a quick commute to the city - but try to live near the 74th street so you can catch the express E/F train.
Growing up in Bayside , then living in Forest Hills and now Riverdale - I can say all those neighborhoods listed above are great for a couple with or without kids. There are plenty of parks and schools to chose from, and other activities. Riverdale is the most suburban of all (unbelievably since its in the Bronx) but easy commute to Manhattan. I'd recommend any of the nieghborhoods to a family.