I'm assuming you have moved by now but your question showed up in my advice section. I, too, am from Suffolk County and I relocated to Middletown Township last Spring. I love it here. The taxes and schools are very good. The neighbors are great. I'm still getting used to the whole jughandle thing ;-)
The wrong side of the tracks would be Port Monmouth, Keansburg, and Highlands, I think Navesink is the nicest area - it's a lot like Dix Hills.
I am a realtor in Middletown, NJ and would be more than happy to assist you with your search. Feel free to contact me directly at 908-907-3274 and I can collect some brief information from you and forward listings that may interest you and we can take it from there. I have plenty of inventory available in the Middletown market. As far as the "wrong side of the tracks" is concerned, everyone has a different opinion as to what is a desirable and undesirable area. I would have to have that conversation with you to pinpoint exactly what you are looking for in a new home and exactly what you "desire" in your surrounding neighborhood.
Middletown is a very large geographic area, over 40 square miles, with many smaller areas within it (e.g. Belford, Navesink, Lincroft, Locust, Oak Hill, Chapel Hill, Leonardo, North Middletown, etc.) They range considerably in zoning requirements (e.g. minimum lot size, square footage limits, etc.), location (e.g. riverfront, bayshore, horse country, etc.), architecture (e.g. some neighborhoods date back 200 years and have historic designations, others were originally summer bungalow areas and still others were )subdivisions built in the 1980's, etc.) and price ranges (currently from $149,500 to over $16 million).
In addition, Middletown has multiple school districts (two high schools, multiple elementary & middle schools) and different neighborhoods are of greater or lesser interest depending on transportation options (e.g. distance to the NYC train, ferry, bus service or Garden State Parkway.) So you can see, there are many factors that are considered and that impact value.
That said, what I generally recommend to buyers considering all of Middletown is to tour the area with an experienced agent who can give you a sense of each neighborhood. Most customers are fairly quick to identify which areas they prefer and then we focus on those neighborhoods. There are many sources for additional objective data relating to a given area, (e.g. crime statistics from local police department. school ratings from state educational association, etc.) and I encourage customers to seek out those sources as well.
I hope that helps... if you're ever down this way and want the "nickel tour", please let me know. I'd be glad to help.
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