Do even a cursory web search, and you can easily find examples of how New York City—particularly Manhattan and much of Brooklyn—is becoming increasingly expensive and its neighborhoods gentrified—but the city’s status as a global business hub never wavers. This begs the question: Where can residents or potential buyers who are unable to afford to live in the Big Apple, who are unwilling to make certain compromises on space or amenities, or who are simply uninterested in the city’s 24/7 breakneck pace turn to when it’s time to put down roots?
For a while now, many New York City defectors have fled westward across the Hudson River to Jersey City, a burgeoning refuge for those seeking diversity, entertainment, and Manhattan-style apartments at a more affordable price than Gotham itself can provide. In effort to ascertain what’s new off the PATH train, and what might be on the near horizon, The New Jersey Cooperator spoke with some Jersey City real estate professionals to get their take.
The luxury high-rise scene in Jersey City has really blossomed since the early 2000s —especially on the waterfront, directly across from Manhattan’s west side. In the intervening decade or so, higher-end condominium residential has spread throughout the city’s many diverse neighborhoods, providing potential buyers with options at just about every price point.
“Jersey City is growing, providing great transportation and ease of access to Manhattan,” says Tejas Kadia, CEO of Reliance Property Management Group, which has a regional office in Jersey City. “Many residents live in the former, while working in the latter.”
And while Kadia’s firm manages properties ranging in size from 20 to over 500 units, he notes that “Our typical sites in Jersey City are in the 60-120 unit range. That is basically the middle of the road, or slightly larger than the middle.”
Sawyer Smith, founder, president, and principal broker with the Jersey City-based Sawyer Smith Residential Brokerage, explains that the local high-end market – where units go for just over $900,000—has leveled off in the last couple of years. “But your mid- and lower-end markets are still aggressive, still strong,” he says. “And that’s mostly in downtown Jersey City. Then, if you go to the Heights – which is quite similar to Greenpoint in Brooklyn, in terms of architecture, demographics and access to transportation – it’s still very strong across the board.”
Elaborating on Jersey City Heights, Smith explains that development there is on an uptick. “The resale market is really strong,” he says, “and there are a lot of smaller investors coming in and building two-, three-, and four-unit condos, with some larger developments mixed in as well. Not large like the downtown and waterfront areas, necessarily, but at least medium-sized.”
According to the Q3 report put out by Jersey City-based real estate agency Pure Properties, “The region continues to soar, boasting record-breaking numbers with positive quarterly growth across 1-4 family homes, condominiums, and rentals in both median prices and sales figures. Last quarter, the Heights showed strong growth, rebounding past peak pre-recession numbers. This quarter, the region continued to expand on these impressive figures. Year-on-year median prices for 1-4 family homes increased 14% to $570,000 (from $500,000) with a 21% increase in volume. Year-on-year median prices for condominiums have skyrocketed a staggering 50% to $412,000 (from $275,000) with a 30% increase in volume. While median rent decreased by 3%, rental volume rose 50% year-on-year. Yet another exceptionally promising quarter, the Heights is expected to see continued growth as interest in the area shows little sign of slowing.”
“And,” adds Smith, “the Journal Square/West Side areas – which admittedly refers to a broad region – is strong as well. It’s much like our version of Downtown Brooklyn. Although there aren’t really new-construction condos on a larger scale, there are smaller condo buildings on the West Side that are selling quickly at a high price. But it’s more of a resale market.”
Apartment value and continued development are certainly two good reasons to buy into a burgeoning area, but community and culture are also important —and fortunately Jersey City seems to have plenty of both as well.
“I love going out in Hoboken, but it can be somewhat monotonous,” says Christopher R. Antonacci, vice president of Association Advisors, a property management firm based in Freehold, New Jersey. “And New York City is undeniably a fun place, but you can spend $1,000 and not know what happened. Jersey City has all of the benefits of being a thriving city, but it has its own singular assets, like the waterfront area. And a lot of people are moving here to start families. There are parks and amenities that other places don’t offer—or when they do, it’s at a premium that many can’t afford. And Jersey City has a diversity of styles. That, and easier parking compared to its neighbors.”
Kadia agrees, adding that “The cultural, art, and leisure scenes are getting better and better, with more new businesses opening up on a regular basis. Jersey City is extremely diverse, and is currently seeing an influx of both families and young professionals. The scene caters to both demographics.”
And Smith insists that no neighborhood has been entirely left out of this current boom. “That’s the really cool thing; it’s happening everywhere,” he says. “I came here from Williamsburg about 17 years ago, and opened up a cafe – one of the first ones in the Hamilton Park area. At the time – and for awhile after – the retail and restaurant business was tough. But now, people are able to make some money. It’s spreading to the Greenville area; the Heights have things coming up – like when Williamsburg used to have something new opening every week. And the quality is high. Even near Route 440, where a Lowe’s and some car dealerships are... that area is coming into its own. For a long time, we had a lot of people, but not as many services -- and that’s changing.”
“Jersey City appeals to people who want to live comfortably while still enjoying high-end activities and amenities,” adds Antonacci. “There’s restaurant after restaurant, bar after bar, but they’re all unique.”
And Kadia predicts continued growth in 2018. “We will start to see new developments continue to spring up downtown, in accordance with increased activity in other areas, like the Heights and Journal Square.”
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer at The New Jersey Cooperator.