New New York: From Brooklyn Rent to Owning Condo in Jersey City

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It’s a matter of pride. Living in New York City is more than just a lifestyle it’s a mentality; an entire state of being that transcends all self-ascribed identities and realities. “Planet New York City” is definitely a thing, and, for its millions of inhabitants, being a New Yorker comes with a code of honor and conduct for all the joys that it brings (as well as a stiff lipped acceptance of the harsh realities). Because, as we all know, NYC is bonkers expensive. In our nation’s most expensive city, earning enough to get by doesn’t come easy.

Even boroughs like Brooklyn, once a refuge for young professionals and artistic crowds, home sale and rental prices that have gone through the roof over the past five years. Brooklyn used to be reasonable in price, which is why it experienced a renaissance several years back. Now, like so many other New York locales, finding anything affordable that’s much more than a closet is a tall order. There are other options though, of course. 

Right across the Hudson river, places in New Jersey, much as Brooklyn, offer a Manhattan adjacent experience at a fraction of the cost. Yet they’re largely overlooked by the average New Yorker as a suitable destination for relocation. Why? It’s a matter of pride in many cases.

That could all be changing, and New Yorkers might finally be seeing a new light. A recent article in the New York Times encapsulated this perfectly. The piece, which centered around around a young Brooklyn couple looking for a new home, painted the picture of a struggle that’s quite typical for area residents.

Chris Maiurro and Kathryn Bringle wanted to find a larger place that also would cut down on their commute times, but BK neighborhoods weren’t doing the trick. They were willing to spend at or around $500,000 for a new condo, but nothing came close to that price with a decent amount of living space. The couple was willing to settle for a fixer upper in Ridgewood Queens, but that also fell through. At other locations, space was always an issue, and monthly maintenance fees were high.

Finally, after visiting a friend in Jersey City, they decided to check the market across the Hudson. They found a two bedroom, two bath 3rd floor walk up at 950 square feet and quickly pulled the trigger. They paid 433K.

The couple was ecstatic with their decision. Financially, they couldn’t have done better. The cost of living difference between Brooklyn and Jersey city—which was actually closer to Manhattan than their old BK neighborhood—is night and day. According to Zillow, the median home value price in Brooklyn is $657,000 compared to Jersey City which is half that at $327,000. For two cities separated by a river, the difference in the overall price of living is staggering. The price of a gallon of milk, which is a good indicator of the price of living in the US, costs over a dollar more on average in Brooklyn compared to Jersey City.

The average New Yorker might find this all well and good. After all, you get what you pay for, and in NYC you pay for the privilege of living in one of the world’s most internationally renowned megacities; an epicenter of culture and unparalleled human experience. Except maybe it’s not so unparalleled. Jersey City is right there, just across the Hudson after all. In all the ways that Brooklyn became a hub for people wanting a low cost launching point for the Manhattan life, Jersey City offers much of the same. The chief difference being, of course, that Brooklyn is no longer approachable.  

Indeed, more than a few analysts claim that Jersey City is the New Brooklyn. It’s in the midst of a major renaissance parallel to Brooklyn’s own in years past. Condos and buildings are going up at a rapid pace and businesses are flocking across the bridge in the pursuit of lower property values. For Chris Maiurro and Kathryn Bringle who had recently taken up residence there, they were pleased to find a young, hip neighborhood with plenty of local hot spots not unlike the venues in Brooklyn.

“The restaurants and bars and cafes that we didn’t notice on the first pass are even better than we thought,” Mr. Maiurro noted to the Times.

Residents of Jersey City also enjoy convenience. The light rail transit system that runs through the city and Hoboken makes getting around a cinch, plus cabs are much cheaper. Residents also have no problem getting to midtown and Manhattan with the PATH train which makes commuting quicker than it often is from Brooklyn. With those factors, add in much lower city and state taxes, less crime, and easy parking, and it’s no mystery why more and more New Yorkers are choosing to enjoy the city they love in comfort from across the river. The biggest convenience however may be that young people without millions of dollars to spend can afford to rent or even buy a condo in New Jersey . . . whereas in Manhattan, they simply can’t. 

New York City is truly one of a kind, and there’s something to be said for living, working, and recreating exclusively in the Big Apple. At the same time, it’s difficult to put a price on having a liberated expense account. Except in Jersey City you absolutely can . . . and it’s to the tune of thousands of dollars.