Quality of Life in 07052>Question Details

Dan Ogden, Home Buyer in Verona, NJ

West Orange/South Orange - what are they like?

Asked by Dan Ogden, Verona, NJ Mon Mar 4, 2013

I was born and raised to adulthood in Manhattan on the Lower East Side, and have lived the past 20 years in Jersey City, and my wife and I are now looking into Essex County, which I know little about. We have ID'd a couple of houses in both West Orange and South Orange that we like, but need some local color.

What are West Orange and South Orange like? Arts scene? Nice downtown? Safety? Schools - particularly school district funding and/or resistance to special needs children? What are the desirable areas? How do they compare against each other, and against the Verona and Montclair areas?

Help the community by answering this question:


Moved to West Orange 8 years ago from Manhattan. West Orange is very diverse in population many nice people, nice neighborhoods, variety of housing styles. Also many activities, especially for kids. Downtown is not great but getting a little better. Taxes are ridiculous! South Orange is a "stupid" town and they hate commuters - they don't want you to park anywhere in their town for more than two hours or less! Great business model, I never do anything there anymore or spend any money there because they hate it if people from other towns use their precious parking. Fortunately West Orange has a jitney service to the train station in South Orange but if you have to stay late in NYC for work they make it almost imposssible to park anywhere. They do have SOPAC which has some great shows but you can't park there either! Like I said, "stupid" town.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed May 1, 2013
Yeah, I heard that taxes are insane. Prob why I can find so many homes for cheap.

Sounds like West Orange is the "better" Orange to live in. Is that right?
Flag Thu Jul 25, 2013
Sharita - we're all entitled to our opinions, but as agent, imo, sometimes those opinions (especially on an open forum on the inernet) are better kept to ourselves.

It's just not good business, in my opinion to personalize a consumer's question.

Whether your comments walked the lline of Fair Housing Laws or not, isn't for me to decide, but what I do know is...........if anyone from West Orange reads your following comment:

"although I work out of West Orange if I had to choose I would definitley go for South Orange. Montclair would be second"

I would bet they wouldn't be thrilled with you or your position on their town.

It's your opinion, yes, but as agents we don't just sell homes we "like", in towns we "prefer".......we sell what the buyer wants and needs.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 10, 2013
Deb, as a younger agent, I will digest your comments and try to understand it better, as you do have more experience. Although I do not believe that people are that small minded, that they will take the one post that I put up and dislike it so much they won't call; the small chance that it's true will alter how I respond to these posts. Because in the end, you are right, this is a business and my opinion doesn't matter. All in all, I do want to thank you because I didn't think of it the way you put it and now it has me thinking. I will take heed to your words. :-)
Flag Sun Mar 10, 2013
Hi Dan. There is some good community information on W. Orange and S. Orange on my website's communities page. http://www.azhomesnj.com. Check it out and let me know if you have questions.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 13, 2013
Hi Dan, if you haven't already uncovered this, one of the best sources to understand the "local color" of South Orange is to go to http://www.twotowns.org/, look to the left and register for the town tour. This is led by different long-time residents without any affiliation to a real estate agent or agency. I recommend this free service to all of my clients considering South Orange or Maplewood and have no context of the town. Unfortunately, West Orange doesn't have something similar but -- in reference to one of your questions -- it is considered to have a strong special needs programs. I know one of the city council members knows the programs very well intimately and can guide you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 13, 2013
I'm sorry if my response to the question at hand was perceived to be over the line when it comes to steering.

I am familiar with real estate laws as it pertains to the issue of steering and fair housing. Since I made it clear that my post was my personal opinion, and stated the reasons for my preference for one town over the other, which had no ties to race, religion, gender, etc., I feel it was an acceptable response. The definition of steering stated in the "Essentials of New Jersey Real Estate; Tenth Edition Update", In conjuction with Weichert Real Estate School, reads "Steering is the channeling of homeseekers either to or away from particular areas on the basis of race, religion, country of origion, or other protected class. On these grounds it is prohibited by the provisions of the Federal Fair housing Act."

Further more, all of the references to steering violations, including all the court cases that you can find, have the words "based on (one of the seven protected classes)." Since I didnt even reference any of the seven classes I feel i did not violate the Fair Housing act nor was I trying to steer Mr. Ogden based on one of the protected classes. Now if anyone knows of a legal precedent, or nuance of the law that stats that speaking on a towns size is a violation please enlighten me as I am always willing to learn.

Sharita Hyppolite :-)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
Sharita, I am gald you found my thoughts helpful, as that's how I intended them! You'd be amazed at the people who have contacted me from Trulia who were just watching and observing and forming opinions about me and my business. So - it's never good to say anything that someone could find offensive - always think how it may look from a consumer's point of view - how you're presenting yourself - if I lived in W Orange and saw what you wrote, I'd think to myself, why would I ever call an agent who doesn't think W. Orange is nice enough to recommend to someome else?
So - best advice I can share - follow the laws, never say what is "better" than somewhere else..... and filter your personal opinion from your public response when it comes to this kind of question. All the best!
Flag Mon Mar 11, 2013
Hi Dan,
I love dogs and you may be crazy about cats. Point is, it's hard for others to distinguish what's more or less desirable for you and your family. Ask locals in each town and they will tell you that theirs is the best...

I recommend you spend some time and see it firsthand. Visit shops, restaurants, parks, downtown. Stop by the board of education and get answers to your questions on school funding, etc.

When you finally zero-in on the town, contact a local Realtor we will be more than happy to show you around!

Best of luck,
Armin Lusinyants
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Hi Dan,

Great questions that could lead to a lengthy answer. South Orange offers a great town tour run by local non-Realtor residents to give you a great sense of the town you should take advantage of.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Awesome tip, thank you!
Flag Mon Mar 4, 2013
Hi Dan,
I would love to answer that question but that is a conversation best done face to face or over the phone. I would love to fill you in on all of the towns and get more info on what is important to you. So if you wish to do that you can reach me at 973-632-4774 that is my cell.

Keller Williams NJ Metro
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Hi Dan

All these towns are very close and you can enjoy the best of each regardless of which town you choose.

I suggest you sit down with a couple of agents and see who you like to work with.

My favorite on this board is Sharon Avram & Karen Abramson, I'm sure they will take very good care of you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
to those who think it is appropriate to "rank" towns - you might want to read up on the Fair Housing Laws...I'm just saying........

and, not to mention............what might be your personal "favorite" town, might not be the right one for the consumer - especially a consumer you don't even know!

Why add a prejudicial slant to your comments?

Dan, its not that agents want to skirt the issue of "desirable, better, sought-after", etc. towns......but those are subjective terms and we risk breaking the Fair Housing laws by showing any kind of preference.......... .or steering a consumer in any one direction.

We can offer facts: charts, graphs, information, stats, and links, but the final conclusion and determination must be left up to the buyer after they have throughly investigated the area.!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Thank you for your feedback..new to the business.
Flag Mon Mar 4, 2013
I think its wonderful that you are looking in Essex County!!! Since you are asking, ;-) , although I work out of West Orange if I had to choose I would definitley go for South Orange. Montclair would be second. All the schools districts in the towns you have listed are A+ in my book. Thats the best thing about NJ schools, you win anywhere you go. So the thing that sways me towards South Orange is the local community. There local scene is small and exciting. Its the type of place where everyone knows your name as you go and get your Starbucks. :-) This is not to trash West Orange though. I would say that West Orange is the same but its alot bigger and because of its size you dont get that small town feel. Montclair is awesome too!! They have a great Art scene and are known for their restaurants as well. In the end I would love to talk more with you about what your options are. I would love to help you and your family find the right neighborhood to fit your needs. :-)

Sharita Hyppolite
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Hi Dan.........

So far, you have received a lot of good information - now you need to digest it all!

I grew up for part of my childhood in W. Orange, and have lived in the area, in Essex County, my entire life - and I'm still here, so I certainly know it well.

One person's favorite ice cream is chocolate, and one person's favorite is vanilla (and then there are those people who love strawberry, like me)!.............my point is, as an agent I can lay out the facts - tell you, for example, what town has a performing arts center (S Orange) or which one has a unique dine-in movie complex with cushy seats - one of onlyt 3 in the state ( W. Orange)...........I can tell you which town has hiking trails (BOTH!)......and how to get into Manhattan from either..........but what I can't tell you is which town might work better for your needs and wants....which town will simply "feel right".
That you have to experience and decide for yourself.

It's kind of llike a blind date - you really have to try it out - experience the town and then see if you want to spend more time there!
Have lunch in W. Orange overlooking the reservoir at The Boathouse near Turtle Back zoo.........or simply sip a cup of coffee at Starbucks in S. Orange Village and people watch.......

All the descriptions online and informational links..........(I have a number of them on my website, so please visit and take a look: http://www.DebbieRoseSells.com) are great, but nothing will be more productive than getting out there - driving around with a local agent who can point out all the things being discussed here, and let you get the feel and flavor ot the various towns.

Who knows - maybe another option will surface once you get the process started.

If you've already seen a coupke of homes you liked, then clearly you have identified a price range and are familiar with the property taxes...so that's a big hurdle you've overcome!

In regard to school systems with help for special needs students - I can say that my relatives have 2 special needs children and have been extremely thrilled with the support they received and the education their children are currently enjoying. I don't want to share any of their personal information here, but would be happy to disucss this one on one.

All the best with your search, and please reach out to me if I can be of help in any way!

Debbie Rose
Prudential NJ Proerties
email: Debbie.Rose@PrudentialNewJersey.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013

I agree, a lot of good questions. As mentioned by some of my colleagues, we really can't steer buyers to any particular town based on any kind of ranking system. We can tell you, however, that the 4 towns you mentioned do fit many of the needs you specified for your home search such as Good Schools, accesss to the arts, access to NYC transportation, etc. I noticed that you have a preference for Victorian Style homes, as well. The towns you mention do have a decent inventory of older, Victorian era or turn of the century homes you prefer as do many other Essex County communities. It really comes down to your price range and space needs.

As far as schools are concerned, there are sites that rank schools. It is a good idea to check these sites and see what the community is saying about them in their feedback sections. Here are a couple of sites you might check out.



I would be happy to talk with you and help you find a home that is the right fit for your family. Being a life long resident of Essex County, I am familar with all the towns you are considering. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Hi Dan,

Great questions! with that said, as realtors we are not allowed to rank towns and stir you into one direction or another.

The schools in most towns in the area are funded by taxes and some federal and local funds. As to the special education programs, you will have to check each school individually... It depends what type of special needs you require (if any).

All the twons you have mentioned are great for commute and have many different sections in them.
South Orange and Montclair both offer Train transportation to NYC.

Montclair is a town that most people that come from the city find appealing. Many restaurants, boutiques, great parks, beautiful older charming colonial and victorian homes. Lots of places to eat, drink and enjoy some concerts and plays.

South Orange has the SOPC which bring lots of shows and entertainiment. Great town with lovely older charming homes and a downtown village area. A train and bus to NYC. Taxes in both South orange and Montclair are similar ( a little higher than verona and west orange).

West orange is a large town with many sections that vary in their style and population. There is no "downtown" but it is by the south orange reservation. There is the turtle back zoo and the south orange arena that will allow you lots of great activities with kids and also a great hub for transportation if you need one. West Orange does not offer a train but has a Jitney shuttle to East orange and South Orange trains in various parts of town.

Verona is a smaller town than the other 3. It is tucked between Cedart Grove, West Orange, West Caldwell and Montclair. Great town with lots of great italian restaurants and bars. Nice and close community. Beautiful Verona park is a wonderful place to spend the day with the family. Only bus transporation to NYC.

So..... Many choices and if you ask me, you should definately consider few other options in the Essex County as well.

If you have not yet selected a local realtor to assist you in your search, and give you lots of information about the different towns in the area, please feel free to call me and schedule a buyer's consutlation so you can interview our team and we can share more informaiton with you.

Feel free to call or txt at any time.

Sharon and Karen Home Team
Keller Williams Suburban Realty
917-294-0356/ 201-738-3158
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
Sounds like you know what you want from a town. I suggest you start checking the town web sites which will give you information as to the Art and Social theme with links to the school districts. Take a look at the NJ Monthly School ranking report for 2012 to see where the town rank. Spend some time on the weekend in the downtown areas and visit some of the parks. Speak to some of the locals . I have found that people love to talk about their towns! This will give you a sense of the community and whether you think it's a good fit for you and your family. Next I would view homes in each town and compare. If the homeowners are home, you can ask them some community questions too. You didn't mention if you need to commute to work by public transportation. South Orange, Montclair have the train station, with West Orange a jitney service to the South Orange train. Verona would be a bus.

I am Prudential relocation certified . I would be happy to take you and yours on a tour of the towns and help you to reach a decision as to what community is right for you.

Hope to hear from you.
Best regards,
Carol Eisenstein
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
I have put together some insider community information these towns:




One of the major differences is that unlike S. Orange and Montclair, W. Orange has no train service to NYC. My recommendation is talk to friends who live in these communities and spend some time taking them in yourself. Go have lunch. Walk around. Check out the movies, shopping, etc. Each town has its own vibe and you will know if you feel that it's a fit for your family or not after spending a bit of time there.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
I am a Realtor at Weichert in Montclair and cover all of Essex. Would like to meet with you and your wife to discuss your concerns. I can be reached at 201-424-2329. Rosemary Tuohy
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 4, 2013
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