Monroe: Best Place to Live For Empty Nesters

Empty nesters flock to Monroe. The town has more active-adult developments than any municipality in the state, comprising 50 percent of the local housing stock. As a result, almost half the population is 55-plus.

Robert Gough sums up the appeal of Monroe Township in two words: space, affordability. Monroe, he says, has plenty of both. But wait. Gough, past president of the local Chamber of Commerce and a retired mortgage broker, also cites the township’s “convenient commute and low taxes.” In fact, he says, the Middlesex County community is “an ideal spot with a little bit of everything.”

Empty nesters in New Jersey and New York began figuring that out in the 1960s, with the advent of Rossmoor, the town’s oldest—and most affordable—55-plus community. These days Monroe has more active-adult developments than any municipality in the state, comprising 50 percent of the local housing stock. As a result, almost half the population of 40,795 is 55-plus.

Many of the Jersey towns with a significant number of 55-plus communities—such as Manchester, Stafford and Little Egg Harbor—are located farther south, in Ocean County. Monroe has the advantage of being closer to the population centers of Northern and Central New Jersey and even New York City. That makes it a good choice for empty nesters eager to downsize, but not ready to retire. Express buses stop at Rossmoor and other locations to pick up passengers for the 55-minute commute to Port Authority in Manhattan. There are also several park-and-ride lots. New Jersey Transit riders typically drive a half hour to Matawan, New Brunswick or Princeton for the direct train connection to New York City.

A reasonable cost of living is another Monroe enticement. At the newest of Monroe’s age-restricted communities—the Stonebridge and the Regency—prices range from about $319,500 to $689,900, according to Angela Vellucci, a broker/associate with Century 21 About Town Realty. She describes these homes as single family or semi-attached.

As for taxes, the average residential bill in 2013 was just $6,823. The presence of industrial ratables (drawn to the proximity of Exit 8A off the New Jersey Turnpike) helps keep taxes under control. The abundance of seniors also has spurred “overwhelming growth in the [local] health-care industry,” says Vellucci. The nearest hospital is in New Brunswick, but a substantial medical establishment has grown up in and around Monroe.

There’s no real downtown in Monroe, but it does wrap around the quaint little town of Jamesburg. “It’s hard to talk about Monroe without mentioning Jamesburg,” says Gough, citing the latter’s “small-town ambience.”

Although senior living identifies the town, many families with school-age children are moving in for the combination of good schools, low taxes, minimal crime and reasonable home prices. Monroe Township High School ranked number 124 last year on the New Jersey Monthly list of Top High Schools. Younger families seek out three-bedroom ranches for about $325,000 or the higher-priced four-bedroom colonials. Like the empty nesters, they appreciate the access to nearby centers of employment and culture, such as New Brunswick and Princeton.

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Top 10 Towns for Empty Nesters

Rank Municipality County Average Residential Tax Bill ($) Number of
Age 55+ Communities
% of Population Age 55+ % of Housing Structures with 20+ Units
1 Monroe Township Middlesex 6,786.89 12 47% 4%
2 West Caldwell Essex 9,486.02 1 34% 9%
3 Pennington Mercer 11,816.35 2 30% 7%
4 Florham Park Morris 8,724.20 1 32% 7%
5 North Caldwell Essex 14,480.91 1 30% 0%
6 Manchester Ocean 3,744.27 10 66% 2%
7 Oradell Bergen 12,479.52 1 30% 3%
8 North Haledon Passaic 9,681.87 1 30% 1%
9 Cedar Grove Essex 9,223.84 1 37% 7%
10 Washington Township Bergen 10,066.49 0 35% 2%

Read about our methodology.

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