Your budget, combined with a fairly modest requirement of 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, opens you up to most areas in central and northern NJ. The only wrinkle: "My commute can't be that long". Monroe Twp is a terribly long commute to NY City. The bus ride by itself is 70-80 minutes. Add 10-15 minutes to get to the bus, 10-20 minutes subway, and 10 minute walk to your building and you are talking a solid 2 hour involvement each way.
Driving might cut that down to 90 minutes. Then there's gas, tools, parking and killing a car every 4 years. But that's too far in my book if you have a family. Underestimating what a long daily commute does to your health and psyche is one of the most common buyers mistakes I see all the time. 3-4 hours of daily evaporated time is bad enough, but the energy output involved leaves nothing for the wife and kids.
Other than that, Monroe is a nice enough. But if it were my choice, I would not commute from that distance. Since a private school is on the menu anyway, move really close to New York to save the wear and tear. Southeastern Bergen County or Western Hudson County might be some places to consider. Very close to the city, and if you leave early, you can drive into midtown in 45 minutes. You can find 3BR and 2 baths for $500,000 quite easily. Think Secaucus, Ridgefield Park, Teaneck, Hasbrouck Heights, Lyndhurst, Wood-Ridge, Fair Lawn, Saddle Brook, Little Ferry.
If you want a sample of some listings from those areas contact me via e-mail.
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Based on your requirement, I would suggest Monroe Manor close to Exit 8 of NJ Turnpike. Following is the information on schooling and commute to the NYC from this development:
Elementary School Grades 1st thru 4th is Oak Tree Eleementary School with ratings 9 out of 10.
Elementary School Grades 5th and 6th is Applegarth.
Middle school is Monroe Middle school. This was originally a High school converted into a Middle school.
High School- Monroe has a new High School built few years ago.
Commute to NYC:
Bus to NYC:
Either take a bus from Applegarth road (small park-n-ride)- 5 minutes drive from Monroe Manor or take a bus from Rt.130- NYC Park-N-RIde in Jamesburg which is approximately 10-15 minutes drive from Monroe Manor.
Either take Jersey Ave Train Station- 20 Minutes drive from Monroe Manor Or Princeton Junction Train Station which is about 10-15 minutes drive from Monroe Manor.
I hope this answers all your questions. Any further help, Please contact me at my Cell# 732-277-9321. Or Visit my Website at http://www.vishalmaher.com
Please don't start picking towns like Monroe or Cranbury from a distance. Go see the NEIGHBORHOOD and figure out what works for you. The township of South Brunswick is also fine and so are Franklin, West Windsor, Plainfield and the towns of Mercer County. You say you have your eye on a private school for your child or children in Monmouth Junction. You may find that, after a while, you want to utilize the public high school, and the local ones nearby are very good to excellent. I just monitored and judged a high school competition for the entire state and West Windsor Plainsboro South had some very impressive students, let me tell you, just for an example.
Mark Paolella has a fixation about commuting, seems to feel that his area of Morris Count is SO much better in that regard and as been asked by Trulia to move beyond this argument. You're a big guy, you can figure out how long you want to sit on the bus (Available at exit 8A on the turnpike or train (Princeton, Jersey Avenue and New Brunswick stations) After all, once youâ€™re on the conveyance, coffee and the paper take up a lot of the time.)