16 Hot Towns

Looking to buy in a town that's still on the rise? Here are some of Jersey's most desirable markets.

Leonia
Bergen County
Chart rank: 29 (2015: 91)
Median home price: $475,000
Change since 2014: +15.2%
Average days on market: 83
High school rank, 2016: 85
Why It’s Hot: Homes with front porches look out over shady streets, making it hard to believe this small town is just two miles from the George Washington Bridge. Leonia is wedged into a sloping, 1.6-square-mile area between Fort Lee and Route 95; NJ Transit buses make the trip to midtown Manhattan in about 45 minutes. Some commuters hop out at the uptown Port Authority Bus Terminal across the bridge, just 22 minutes away. The compact business district means “it’s a walking community,” says agent Leonel Morales of McAlear Cavalier Real Estate in Leonia.

The Art Scene: The Erika and David Boyd Sculpture Garden features two dozen artworks in a shady park downtown. The century-old Players Guild of Leonia performs in the historic Civil War Drill Hall.

Fun Fact: A number of businesses have signs in both English and Korean; Leonia’s population is 43 percent Asian.—KL

Illustration by Greg Stevendson

 

Medford
Burlington County
Chart rank: 149 (2015:266)
Median home price: $345,000
Change since 2014: +6.2%
Average days on market: 82
High school rank, 2016: 81
Why It’s Hot: Situated between farm country and the vast Pine Barrens, Medford evokes both settings, with a number of houses on large, open tracts of land or nestled alongside the many lakes and streams that lie within the borders of this 39.9-square-mile town. “When the town started to grow in the 1970s, there was a real dedication to protecting the environment,” says Janet McClure, manager of ReMax Connection. “They worked hard to maintain the water quality and make sure houses were set back so they didn’t have to chop down all the trees.”

Neighborhoods: Gas lanterns line Medford’s Victorian-era Main Street, home to antique shops, the historic Braddock’s Tavern and two new breweries. Medford Lakes is a separate municipality fully surrounded by Medford, where many of the homes are updated log cabins originally built as lakefront summer cottages. Medford’s Freedom Park dog park was rated among the country’s top 10 dog parks in 2015 by USA Today.

Fun Fact: A handful of 19th-century homes once occupied by employees at the long-defunct glassworks factory still stand along South Main Street, along with the former company store and manager’s house.—JPC

Morris Township
Morris County
Chart rank: 60 (2015: 82)
Median home price: $556,500
Change since 2014: +8.5%
Average days on market: 55
High school rank, 2016: 80
Why It’s Hot: Buyers are attracted by the inventory of relatively affordable homes. They also like the proximity to downtown Morristown (a separate municipality), which offers culture, dining, nightlife and a more urban feel. “It’s like an extension of Morristown,” says Lou Ann Fellers, a broker with the Kienlen Lattmann Sotheby’s International Realty office in Basking Ridge. “You have the same school system as Morristown, but it’s a little more rural.” That generally means newer homes on plots of up to four acres.
Neighborhoods: Choice sections include Convent Station (popular among commuters), Gillespie Hill, Loantaka Terrace, Normandy Heights, Normandy Park and Washington Valley. Listings are varied, with small homes, large ones, new construction and vintage Victorians and Cape Cods.
Fun Fact: Morris Township’s 15.76 square miles completely surround Morristown, making it part of 21 pairs of “doughnut towns” in the state, where one municipality entirely surrounds another. —TLG

Mountainside
Union County
Chart rank: 12 (2015: 70)
Median home price: $595,000
Change since 2014: +6.3%
Average days on market: 51
High school rank, 2016: 19
Why It’s Hot: The four square miles of Mountainside appeal to buyers who seek beauty and seclusion. Mountainside is a retail relief zone, with no urban downtown. It’s also a good fit for those who drive to work or work at home, because there is no train station. “It’s a little quieter than its neighbors, Westfield and Summit,” says Marta Knauff, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Chatham. “But it’s still situated in a high-end area, which people like.”

Back to Nature: The borough borders the 1,945-acre Watchung Reservation, the largest nature reserve in Union County.

Fun Fact: Techies, take note: According to the website Neighborhood Scout, Mountainside is in the top 5 percent among U.S. towns for people who work in the fields of computing and math. —TLG

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  1. MsSumida

    You leave out Montclair due to bidding wars but put in South Orange? Houses don’t even go to market before they are sold and bidding wars are common.

  2. Betsy Miller

    I have also been impressed with the new Freedom homes in Glassboro NJ! But overall great article! I understand it is hard to get everything. Thanks