I know your dilemma. I moved from Brooklyn to NJ in 2001. I needed a good commute and great town, good schools. I researched everything and came up with East Brunswick. 35 miles to Manhattan, 30 miles into Brooklyn. Commute can range by bus and train, 60 - 75 minutes depending upon where upon where you need to be. I also looked at schools, Blue Ribbon schools and some of the best around. All in all a great town.
When I show homes I also point out all the attributes of the town we are seeing and I try to get people familiar with the area a bit more than just driving through.
Call or email me and I can send you what is available and discuss your initial choice with you.
Broker / Manager
Orange Key Realty
Check my website http://www.devrealtor.com under buyer section, you will get an idea on any particular town w.r.t school systems, commute, crimes, taxes etc....
If you need more information give a call or email me
All have high rated school systems.
As a real estate professional some of your questions I can not answer. Other questions you seem to have answered your own question and as a professional I cannot put my 2 cents in.
Hope this helps. If you need addtional information feel free to contact me.
Bill Farragher, Exit First Choice Realty. 732-326-9030 x 108