Over the past decade, Jersey City, New Jersey’s second-largest city, has been drawing New Yorkers in search of good commutes and lively communities. But most importantly, they’re looking for apartments to rent or to buy that are more affordable than NYC.
Thanks to a development boom downtown, there are now more options than ever for living in Jersey City. In downtown alone, since 1997 nearly 23,000 units have been added, with another 15,000 currently under construction or approved for development.
So how do you search for a new apartment in Jersey City? What neighborhoods are good for renters? Brick Underground spoke with a handful of agents and developers with deep ties to the area. Here’s what they told us.
If you’re looking to rent—downtown or anywhere in Jersey City—you can check listings sites like Realtor.com, StreetEasy, Zillow, Trulia, Zumper, Hotpads, and Craigslist. If you know for sure you want to live in one of the luxury buildings downtown, you can contact a building’s leasing office directly, and generally avoid a broker’s fee.
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What type of buildings are in Jersey City?
If you looking for a high rise, the majority of new residential construction above six stories are in downtown Jersey City because of strict zoning regulations (although Journal Square allows a few high-rises). Jersey City also has almost no co-op buildings: There are just three downtown; all built in the 1970s. Most buildings in Jersey City are condos and townhouses, with most of the condos located downtown and most of the single-family houses in outlying neighborhoods like Bergen/Lafayette, the Heights, and Greenville. According to one agent, in 2018 there were 29 single-family homes and 13 co-ops sold in downtown Jersey City, compared to 506 condos.
Renters will find the most opportunities downtown, says Joelle Chilazi, a licensed realtor with Keller Williams City Life Realty Jersey City. With so many new buildings there, renters are in a good position to score deals and concessions.
According to apartments.com, rents in Jersey City have risen by 2.9 percent over the past year; as of January 2019, the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $3,344 month. The increase can be attributed to new construction downtown skewing rent numbers, as opposed to landlords raising their rents.
On the sales side, the market is considered softening, with opportunities here for buyers as well. According to Halstead’s fourth quarter 2018 market report for the area, sales of condos and townhouses downtown declined by more than 15 percent over the previous year.
Buyers coming from New York City may find it’s easier to seal the deal here. “Closings are much quicker (45-60 days) and the closing fees are lower than NYC,” Chilazi says.
Think broadly when picking a neighborhood
“I don’t think people are quite aware of how large Jersey City is,” says broker Lana Walsh Falcicchio, the owner of Boutique Realty. “They just think of downtown, but there are many more neighborhoods elsewhere.”
Just as you do in New York City, Falcicchio recommends establishing both your budget and commuting requirements when scouting neighborhoods. On that note, it’s worth remembering that there are multiple PATH train stations in Jersey City (three downtown and one at Journal Square) compared to Hoboken and Newark (which have just one each), plus multiple ferry lines and the NJ Transit light rail.
Jersey City neighborhoods are diverse, and each offers something different. In addition to downtown, there’s also:
- Bergen/Lafayette: An “up-and-coming” area according to multiple agents, adjacent to downtown and with great access to Liberty State Park. There is a lot of commercial and residential development happening here, but it’s more of the boutique low-rise variety. There’s also a light rail stop here that connects to the PATH train.
- Journal Square: Sits on the hill above historic downtown and has a bustling, urban feel, due to the density of commercial development in the neighborhood. It has the most-used PATH train station, plus bus service directly to NYC.
- The Heights: An affordable neighborhood north of Journal Square, with a light rail connection and bus service to the city. “People from Brooklyn seem to love it,” says Falcicchio. “There’s an artsy vibe, and a lot of new businesses on Palisades Avenue.”
- Greenville: The southernmost tip of Jersey City, with single- and two-family row houses, though there is a lot of development slated here in the next few years. Falcicchio sees a lot of people moving here from Queens.
- Paulus Hook: A historic area on the waterfront, and therefore pricier. There are two ferry service providers, the PATH at Exchange Place, and new boutique rental buildings. One broker compares it to the West Village in terms of aesthetic.
If you want luxury, go downtown
“There is a huge appetite for luxury in Jersey City,” says Richard Wernick, the managing director of residential leasing at the LeFrak Organization, a developer of six luxury high-rises in the Newport section of the Jersey City waterfront.
In 2017, the company opened its largest project yet: Ellipse, a 41-story glass tower. A four-bedroom penthouse apartment rents for $10,995—the highest rent in Jersey City, according to Wernick.
“Years ago, it was back-office support and IT workers in financial services moving in,” Wernick says. “Now it’s more people on the front end coming in, plus young couples starting their lives together, having their first child. There’s also a huge international draw.”
Another luxury high-rise, 90 Columbus, is representative of the downtown luxury boom. A full-service 51-story tower above the Grove Street PATH Station, 90 Columbus is near restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and nightlife spots that have opened in recent years, and it’s loaded with amenities.
Like many of the new buildings on the Jersey City waterfront, it’s also a piece of a bigger project: the fourth and final phase of the Columbus Collection, a mixed-use complex jointly developed by Ironstate and Panepinto Properties that comprises almost 1,500 units, a luxury hotel, a parking garage, and street-level retail space.
“Step out of what you think you know about this place and come see what it’s about,” Falcicchio said. “I don’t know that people realize what’s possible living in Jersey City.”
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