Home in Rahway, NJ

As we enter another busy real estate season, it's a seller's market in New Jersey. With more and more millennials searching for homes and proximity to major metropolitan areas like New York City and Philadelphia in high-demand, competition is rising and inventory remains low.

Homebuyers – especially young, first-time shoppers – are being priced out of in-demand markets like Hoboken, Montclair, and Millburn. Just last year, Maplewood experienced skyrocketing prices with a pricing increase of 22% over the past 12 months with another 8% expected in the coming months according to Zillow.

If you're searching for the next “it” location, here are 5 towns to keep on your radar:

Rahway, NJ

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/RahwayArtsandBusinessPartnership

Starting in the late 1990s, the City of Rahway began investing in its downtown with the construction of new restaurants, art galleries, gyms, apartment buildings, and a refurbished train station and train station plaza.

While the redevelopment plans experienced a slow down throughout the recession, projects are now swiftly moving ahead. Currently, home prices remain affordable to first-time homebuyers but with foreclosed properties being snatched up by investors, school rankings on the upswing, consistently low crime rates, and ongoing investments in the town, Rahway is positioned for a major growth spurt.

Major selling points include:

  • Convenience: Rahway is one of the few locations with access to two New Jersey Transit lines, offering double the trains to New York City as well as train access to popular shore destinations.
  • Active Community: The city is anchored by residents and local officials committed to redevelopment with events like a weekly Farmer's Market at the train station, a “Dine Out” program the first Tuesday of each month, and a summer concert series that has brought in big names like the 10,000 Maniacs. Here are a few of the active organizations in town:
    • Rahway Arts District features the 199 seat theater Hamilton Stage, the historic Union County Performing Arts Center plus dozens of commercial business and retailers, restaurants, and eateries.
    • RahwayRising.com provides news about redevelopment efforts in Rahway to members of the community.
    • Cinco Rahway is a group of locals that gather every 5th of the month to celebrate the town and each other.

The town runs a popular Halloween Parade every year

  • Walkability: Downtown offers a number of restaurants and convenient shops. Lively additions like Irving Social (pictured below) and Wet Ticket Brewing Company are bringing in new crowds.

  • Access to the Arts: As the city has redeveloped, an emphasis has been placed on the arts. When artists settle in an area, restaurants, galleries, music venues, farmer’s markets and other desirable amenities soon follow. Concerts, plays, and even salsa lessons take place at local theaters, including both the Union County Performing Arts Center and Hamilton Stage. An affordable housing development geared toward artists is set to begin construction in 2017.

Collingswood, NJ

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/CollingswoodNJ

It began on July 11, 1996 with the acquisition of Sutton Towers and the monumental effort to convert the complex into what is now the Heights of Collingswood.

Collingswood has been designated as a Transit Village with increased walkability including three business improvement districts. Pewter Village and gourmet food establishment Bobby Chez have restored dilapidated structures to become magnificent successes.

Collingswood home values have gone up 3.7% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 1.7% within the next year.

Cranford, NJ

Founded in 1720, Cranford has grown as a commuter-friendly town offering picturesque streets and historic architecture.

In 2000, Cranford was awarded one of the first Smart Growth grants from the state Department of Community Affairs; the township used the grant to develop a comprehensive Downtown Vision Plan.

Over the past several years, downtown housing has increased with the construction of Woodmont Station, Cranford Crossing, Riverfront at Cranford Station, 29 Alden, Northgate on Miln Street and 4 Centennial Avenue drawing in a young, hip demographic.

Made up of independently owned shops and restaurants, as compared to neighboring Westfield, locals are drawn to innovative business owners. Top rated restaurants like A Toute Heure, Pairings Palate+Plate, and 100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar offer New York City dining with the price and convenience of the suburbs.

Family friendly festivals like Food Truck nights and Scarecrow Festivals are a regular occurance, and families can also take advantage of the sprawling Nomahegan Park.

Asbury Park, NJ

Asbury Park home values have gone up 14.9% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.0% within the next year.

Ten years in the making, the plan represents one of the most significant redevelopments ever undertaken on the Eastern Seaboard, and one of the nation’s most ambitious urban-revival initiatives. Urban Partners helped the town identify key areas for growth:

“Short-term projects included aesthetic, parking, and code enforcement
enhancements while long-term projects included redeveloping the City Hall site, redesigning the City’s train station, constructing new gateway features and undertaking new infill developments.”

The rising beach community offers a newly developed Waterfront Redevelopment Area with 3,164 residential units and nearly 450,000 square feet of commercial space and a thriving Central Business District with nearly 600 residential units.

West Orange, NJ

Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/West.Orange.NJ/, West Orange St. Patrick's Day parade

West Orange home values have gone up 13.9% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 2.8% within the next year. West Orange is benefitting from the explosive growth in neighboring Maplewood and South Orange. Residents enjoy a free jitney to the train and family-oriented entertainment, including their popular St. Patrick's Day Festival and the Turtle Back Zoo.

The West Orange Arts Center is helping to cultivate the arts within West Orange through education, outreach, arts programming and facilities enhancement.

Once home to Thomas Edison and his factory into Edison Village, West Orange is actually restoring the 400,000-square-foot Edison Storage Battery factory, a $230 million redevelopment project.

Renderings of Edison Village. Credit: Minno Wasko Architects