New Jersey is one of the happiest U.S. states — and it's easy to see why.
Recreational and economic opportunities play a major role in choosing where to settle down. As one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, New Jersey's economy is booming while also offering residents direct and quick access to New York City and Philadelphia. But the state also has a spectacular variety of natural sights—more than 900 lakes and rivers, 127 miles of picture-perfect Atlantic coastline dotted with quaint resort towns and beaches, over two dozen state parks, and even more natural areas. Add to that its exceptional public school system that often ranks in the top three in the country, and you get an idea why people are drawn to the Garden State. Unsurprisingly, all of this makes for some pretty happy residents—New Jersey took the fifth spot in WalletHub's recent survey of the happiest states, ranking high in emotional and physical well-being, work environment, community and environment, and low in suicide rates, depression, and separation and divorce.
So to narrow down your search for the best place to live in Jersey City, we reached out to experienced local real estate experts who shared the most popular and sought-after communities in the state right now.
New Jersey's second-largest city sits along the Hudson River, rewarding its residents with postcard-perfect views of the Manhattan skyline. The city has grown incredibly in the past 15 years, from sleek high-rises along the waterfront to the trendy bars and restaurants that have popped up along its historic, tree-lined streets.
"The public arts in Jersey City are a veritable force, and street murals can be found all over, showcasing local, national, and international emerging artists," Julia Kovacs, real estate agent at Weichert Realtors, said, adding that new developments and projects pop up in the city all the time.
"Good properties — those that tick all the boxes for location, amenities, and ease of transportation — go quickly, but still offer a relative value compared to New York City alternatives." The median home price in Jersey City is $589,891, according to Zillow.
For jaw-dropping views of the Big Apple and convenient public transportation options, consider settling in Newport, while Paulus Hook offers classic brownstone buildings, quiet streets, and top-notch dining.
This former industrial port town across from midtown Manhattan is now a trendy destination with sidewalk coffee shops, bars, and diverse architecture spanning 1800s brownstones, classic row houses, and sleek waterfront high-rises.
"Geographically, Hoboken is only about one square mile in total," Peter Cossio, a sales agent at Brown Harris Stevens, said, adding that its nickname is Mile Square City. "On the west side of this mile, you'll find one of the fastest-growing areas with new sustainable parks and services to be found on nearly every corner, including the Monroe Center, a factory [that was converted] to a multiuse space where you can find boutique fitness and health studios, kids' programs, office lofts, retail spaces, dining establishments, and artist studios.
Currently, the median home price in Hoboken is $782,317. However, if you dream of waking up to those stunning New York City views, that will cost you well over $1 million.
"Settled in the late 17th century, Princeton offers incredible gothic architecture, historical monuments, and a deep respect for natural beauty," Katherine Weidel, chief operating officer at Weidel Real Estate, told Travel + Leisure.
Princeton may be a small town, famous for its Ivy League university, but it also draws new residents with its robust jobs market and proximity to Philadelphia and New York City. From locally owned shops to world-class brands like Hermes and trendy farm-to-table restaurants to classic diners, Princeton has it all.
Weidel added, "Whether you're drawn to the convenience of a luxury condominium in town overlooking Princeton University, the tranquility of a secluded oasis in the woods, or a home within walking distance of our various high-ranking schools, the best way to discover your dream neighborhood is to come visit."
Known for its blend of urban and suburban conveniences, Montclair is the perfect choice for New York City commuters (it's only 15 miles away from the city) seeking top-notch schools, a vibrant year-round cultural program, excellent restaurants, and an abundance of parks and green spaces.
However, settling down here doesn't come cheap. The median home value in August 2023 was $974,979, but new residents can find two-bedroom condos for as low as $365,000, according to Allison Maguire, a sales associate at Brown Harris Stevens.
She added, "One of the many reasons buyers mention they love about Montclair is the wide variety of home styles. Each street in Montclair can offer a mix of colonials, Tudor, ranches, mid-century modern, contemporary, and Victorian homes, with the occasional split-level and bi-level homes in the mix."
Ridgewood, together with neighboring Ho-Ho-Kus, are often stated as two of the best places to live in the country for their excellent public schools, family-friendly amenities, and safety. Realtor.com also recently named Ridgewood as the third most popular zip code in the U.S. for its idyllic setting, proximity to Manhattan, and many parks. Both towns are located in Bergen County, about 18 miles from New York City, and are two of the most affluent communities in the Garden State.
"The historic Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Travern sits at the center of the quaint downtown area that features a handful of stores, bagel shops, fine dining, casual restaurants, cafes, salons, and spas," said Sarah Drennan, executive vice president and broker at Terrie O'Connor Realtors. "Ho-Ho-Kus is known for its Cheelcroft section with distinct Tudor-style homes."
However, the median home value in both towns is about $1 million, and Drennan added that most homes receive multiple offers.
"People are often initially drawn to Millburn for its reputation as one of the top public school systems in New Jersey. But in addition to an outstanding education, Millburn offers extensive recreational activities (a public pool, golf, and tennis), lovely outdoor spaces, and the locally renowned theater, the Paper Mill Playhouse — all with two train stations and Midtown Direct service to Penn Station in New York," said Sue Lemkau of Harrison-Lemkau Real Estate Partners, Lois Schneider Realtor.
She explained that buyers can find a consistent inventory of newly built homes in traditional and contemporary styles.
This town in Passaic County has a high-ranking school system — both public and private — which is a draw for many families seeking excellent education and suburban amenities close to Manhattan. Wayne is also home to three lake communities — Lionshead, Packanack, and Pines Lake — with beaches, playgrounds, and picnic tables, according to Joseph Simone, a realtor with Howard Hanna Rand Realty.
The median home value here is $637,000, and an overwhelming majority of properties — 86 percent — sell for above asking price.
Simone added, "It can be a little bit of a roller coaster ride with multiple offers, so be patient, and if you miss out on a home, have your realtor stay in touch with the listing agent because in multiple offer situations, buyers do sometimes back out and you can step right back into the home of your choice."
You'll find the coastal towns of Avalon and Stone Harbor at the southern end of New Jersey's idyllic Seven Mile Island. Residents here enjoy several white-sand beaches, dunes, a maritime forest, a bird sanctuary, and a conservation area, with many hiking and biking trails, water sports, fishing, and boating.
"Avalon and Stone Harbor offer the perfect combination of a vibrant, luxury summer resort atmosphere and the peacefulness of serene beach living during the off-season," said Jennifer Gensemer, a sales agent at Long & Foster.
Avalon, nicknamed Cooler by a Mile (it stretches a mile into the ocean), boasts beautiful oceanfront properties nestled among the dunes. Gensemer explained that only a single block runs between the beach and bay in southern Avalon, so residents can enjoy practically empty beaches.
Spanning more than 40 square miles along Sandy Hook Bay, Middletown offers beautiful city views, as well as a large variety of homes and lifestyles.
"Middletown dates back to pre-Revolutionary War times, and there's a distinct sense of history in many areas. Housing styles vary considerably, from French chateau and Tuscan [designs] to grand center hall colonial to modern," Thomas McCormack, senior partner and broker at Resources Real Estate, said, noting the town is also home to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and musician Jon Bon Jovi. Regular commuter train and ferry services guarantee a fast and convenient commute to New York City.
Because the town is so large, McCormack suggested getting acquainted with each school district, neighborhood, and property values before deciding where to settle.
Sitting along the Navesink River, between Rumson and Red Bank, Fair Haven draws new residents with its beautiful waterfront views, historic district, excellent schools, and many parks.
"Fair Haven has long been one of the most popular towns in Monmouth County. It has a wonderful small-town yet sophisticated feel. With restaurants, a library, and retail like the corner hardware store and River Road Books right in the heart of town, it's easy to see why it's a favorite place to live," Katherine Raftery, a sales agent at Resources Real Estate, said, adding that in recent years, the town has been popular with families moving from Hoboken and Jersey City. The town has a diverse mix of homes that run the gamut from Victorian to sleek new constructions.
Neighborhoods like River Oaks, The Gentry, and downtown have been in high demand, according to Raftery.
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