Tricky Plainfield - like $10 rolex?

Asked by Monika, New York, NY Sun Aug 10, 2008

We saw two beautiful homes in Sleepy Hallow, Plainfield, NJ. I saw more online. What makes me stop and think is.. why such nice properties are being sold so inexpensively, and why so many of them? Is there a problem with Plainfield that people do not want to talk about? I can't ask my agent - she is not being fully honest about it. Says there is nothing wrong with Sleepy Hallow. Like there is nothing wrong with a 10 bucks Rolex?
Please help. We are from Brooklyn, NY and looking to buy in NJ a single family home. We are not familiar w/NJ so finger on the map where ever it lands... Any advice? (PS We must be able to commute to NYC on a daily basis...)

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Alex’s answer
Alex, Home Buyer, West Orange, NJ
Tue Aug 12, 2008
As a former Plainfield resident, and an owner of a 90 yr old home in essex county, I can agree with much of what has been written. Sleepy Hollow has beautiful prestigious homes, some possibly historic. Living in plainfield does mean that your children will need to attend private school (I attended Wardlaw-Hartridge in Edison with many other children who lived in Sleepy Hollow). However, something I have noticed in the area I live in is that many beautiful prestigious homes have been owned and occupied for many years by residents who are now aging or do not want to invest any more in the (expensive) upkeep of the home. A good deal in a prestigious location would make me wonder 'what is wrong with the house'. The house may have great 'bones' - just know going in what leaks and cracks and creaks. If you are serious - get a very thorough inspection so you know what you will have to do going forward (or why the price is a better deal that you thought it should be). We bought a house with great bones and great land that should have been 7 figures (it was listed as that once) but due to roof, gutter, basement leaks and other plumbing issues (not to mention cosmetic changes), there is no way anyone would have paid that much. But we knew (most of it) going in. Not sure of your budget, but the commute to NY thing is why we are in Essex county (more/better trains, less travel time) Have you looked at South Orange, Maplewood, West Orange? Prices are higher, but commute is much better. You will also have school systems there that won't require a private school education and a downtown you can actually hang out in instead of drive through quickly.
1 vote
Gina Suriano…, Agent, Scotch Plains, NJ
Mon Aug 11, 2008
The Sleepy Hollow area of Plainfield has always been the "prestigious" area of Plainfield, with grand homes and beautiful properties. However, like many cities, Plainfield is not known for great schools and does have its share of crime and drugs. Sleepy Hollow has always been set apart from the downtown, where there is mostly commercial properties and multifamilies that are not as well kept , but it's still Plainfield. You must consider whether you can trade off on the ultimate resale value and appreciation on your home vs having a grand home that you probably wouldn't be able to afford in most of the surrounding communities. There is alot more inventory in many towns, so seeing many homes for sale is not unusual in this market. I would look at the school reports, and see if you would be satisfied with the statistics (if this even applies to you),and drive through the other parts of town, too. Depending on your price range, there may be other options for you in surrounding towns. I do know many affluent families that live in Plainfield and love it, but they do have the means to send their children to private schools, and they rarely venture through downtown.
1 vote
Jack Vollenb…, Agent, Flemington, NJ
Mon Aug 11, 2008
Hi Monika,

I understand your concern.....a deal that sounds too good to be true usually is. However, your agent is correct. There really is nothing wrong with the Sleepy Hollow area in Plainfield. What you are seeing at the moment (as I explained in detail on your other post) is the local fallout of a larger nationwide problem. Plainfield does appear to be harder hit than surrounding areas and my guess is that this may be because potential buyers view Plainfield at the moment as a less attractive buy because the local school system does not appear to be scoring as well as others in the immediate area. Be careful here now, we are talking about perceptions here that are often hotly debated between the different town inhabitants. The scores are freely accessible at but are averages and must therefore be treated and interpreted with great care.
But if you are a home buyer without children or plan to place them in private schools anyway (of which there is a plentiful supply) then the perceived weakness or strength of the local school system does not matter. You are then left with a neighborhood that has some of the most gorgeous historic homes in the greater market area within walking distance of Netherwood train station that has a direct connection to NYC courtesy of NJ Transit.
So continue to carefully weigh what factors are important to you and then take advantage of this buyer's market if you are in a position to do so. And I truly regret that you're feeling that your agent is not being honest with you. It's my opinion that that is what you need most while navigating these strange and unknown environs in New Jersey. Good luck!

Jacobus "Jack" Vollenberg
RE Appraiser/RE Sales Associate
Vollenberg Appraisers/ERA Statewide Realty
Web Reference:
1 vote
Jascontre, , 07060
Fri Nov 14, 2008
sleepy hollow is lovely, you have discovered a great deal if you want a gorgeous home built by manhattanites 150-75 years ago as residences or summer getaways and some community-minded neighbors to boot. if you want to send your kid(s) to private school there are at least 4 excellent choices within 20 minutes. we (younger family which moved back to the area from Park Slope) would buy there (and are already renting a nice place in a nearby county) but for one problem: New Jersey Transit trains always run late. They blame it on "Conrail". This is the Raritan Valley Line. We have been waiting and renting for almost 4 years for NJ Transit to get its act together but they just don't seem to care. If they did care the values of homes in sleepy hollow (along w North Plainfield, Dunellen, even Westfield) would triple overnight -- EVEN in this "economy."
0 votes
Oscar, , New Jersey
Sun Sep 14, 2008
Hello - - I'm from NJ/work in NYC and have also been looking in the Plainfield area.

Basically, Plainfield does not have a great school system. In NJ, Real Estate taxes basically determine whether or not you have a good school system which moreover affects home prices. Plainfield, especially the historical districts like Sleepy Hollow have some great buys.

For many folks from NYC, it's difficult to believe that there could actually be affordable homes within a reasonable distance from NYC, especially when you're used to the ridiculous and overpriced properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

I have family that lives in the neighboring towns, such as Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Westfield which all have very well rated public schools, and if you take a look you'll see that the home prices and real estate taxes match what I'm describing to you.

Plainfield seems to have a good demographic mix, ethnically, racially, gay, straight, etc. If you have children and/or plan on having, you can get a great home at a low price, pay lower taxes and split the difference and send the kids to private school.

Bottom line, Sleepy Hollow is a great area with long time residents and a very nice mix of families; not such great school system.

Good Luck!
0 votes
Cheng, , 08817
Sat Sep 6, 2008
Dear Monika,

By the way, do not blame your realtor since all realtors are licensed to be able to talk about real estate, NOTHING else. They can NOT talk about many things freely by law. e.g. if you ask them about mortgage issues, they will refer licensed mortgage banker to answer questions, if you ask legal issues, they may want you to talk to your lawyer ...etc, or refer one they know to you.

I can talk freely becaues I am not realtor, and not here to make commission from you or any buyers. If you do not feel comfortable with Plainfield, you can also consider this very nice area in Piscataway I feel comfortable with Plainfield is because we were there often and we passed by Sleep Hollow often, and we know many AT&T colleagues live there ...etc. In fact, Plainfield has lots of wealthy gay families moved in and made the old houses very shine and environment nice. They paid same property tax but have no kids to consume the school resources.

And, do not be afraid of so-called school system. Since many immigrants here are hispanic, their kids speaks Spanish, so in school their grade may not be as good, does not mean teachers are bad. Just like back in 90's when we moved to Piscataway, people said the same bad things about Piscataway, but we have found Piscataway schools are fantastic!

For example, my oldest son just graduated and got the admision to UC Berkeley one of the best university in the US and in the world. The Chemistry major he got in Berkeley is ranked #1. He also won top in NJ Science League Competition in Chemistry in his year over hundreds of all high schools in NJ. So, you know many school ranking are misleading.

Is my son the exception? no, in fact, his SAT is close to full score but is NOT one of 9 who got full score on SAT. Jennifer Wu got 2400 on SAT I and full score on SAT II, math, biology, chemistry, physics ...etc. going to Princeton Univ. Jolin Wang got admitted to Yale Univ, among others. She also won National Toyota Award that only 100 out of 8000 students from nation got it.

Most of top 10 students of Piscataway went to Piscataway public schools from K to 12. 100% made in Piscataway schools

If you buy this great house in Sleepy Hallow at Plainfield, all you need to do for schools is participation, and get to know principal of each school and tell all teachers your goal of you kids and they will get very excited and willing to achieve the high goal you said.

For example, the first day I ment Dr Wango, the principal of Piscataway High School at Open house of high school, when my oldest son was still in 8th grade of Schor School, I told Dr Wango that my son is going to win lots of medals of the school and he is going to go to UC Berkeley. Period. I introduce him to every teacher and every counseler and tell them the same expectation.

When my son went to Piscataway High School on 9th grade and got 100 full score on NJ Science League Biology Completition in Piscataway High School, they knew I am not joking, and I went talk to all teachers every year and share the same goal and encourage them to be the best teachers in NJ or US and share all the tips and suggestions with them.

By the way, do you know there are streets full of brand new stores in Plainfield near downtown own by hispanic people? I found the stores are great and very affordable, and I felt I was back to Costa Rica, just like you visit NYC Chinatown, you feel you are in China. You got lots of diversed culture in different area around Plainfield as well.

The huge new Walkmart, Borders, Target, Home Depot ...etc off Rt 22, all a few miles drive from Sleep Hollow. that is to say you go the same great stores as multimillionaires at the mountain, the other side of Rt 22, but you paid much less mortgage a month. e.g. if you pay $500,000 less on the same great size of house, that is $5,000 different each month. That you can use it to pay off your mortage much earlier.

Along Rt 22 has many auto dealers that you will find very handy when you need to buy cars. e.g. we were just at the Honda Dealer near Plainfield off Rt 22 last night. We saw some great deals and good cars that made us feel great! If you live far away, you may not easily catch the great opportunity. Basically, we are thinking to buy a new 2008 for our freshman son, and the dealer will give us thousands deduction at certain time of the month ...etc. You just need to visit often to catch that moment such as one day sale, without living closely, you can not do enough homework.

If you drive west from Rt 22, about 10+ minutes, you also hig huge Bridgewater Commons Mall that is another fantasy and life style for your family years to come. I can tell you thousands of good places to go from Sleep Hollow Plainfield area and that adds to the value of the community.
0 votes
Stop bragging about your kids and their SAT scores. You used this forum to boast about your annoying brats. If the kids have any brains, they obviously didn't inherit them from you.
Flag Wed Dec 9, 2015
Stop bragging about your kids and their grades. If your kis is smart, he or she did not inherit the brains from you.
Flag Wed Dec 9, 2015
Cheng, , 08817
Sat Sep 6, 2008
Plainfield has been chosed by Forbes as one of the "Most Livable Metro-Area Suburbs" in Greater New York City area.… It uses statistical database that gathers figures from the U.S. Census, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department at the granular neighborhood level.

That is to say, many here who seemed to described an outdated past impression of brand new Plainfield.

Firstly, I passed Plainfield Train Station twice a day going to Wall St and coming back and eyewitness the huge change since 2000. The train station has been totally renovated by NJ Transit, the train cars replaced to be new, and there is direct train from Plainfield to Newark with seats and very fast.

Many townhouses and homes near train station got renovated and many people working at NYC moved here. In the downtown, many new stores came out and new building finished such as huge JP Morgan Chase bank. That also implies many professionals come to Plainfield and working here.

Sleep Hollow is only about 1+ miles to Plainfield Train Station… where many commuters from wealthy area such as Warren, Watchung, Piscataway, ...etc. that is to say if you commute to NYC, your cars should be as safe as those of the millionaires.

The population has been changed for past decades, many people I met living there are hispanic. One night we saw a worker walking on the dark street at Piscataway and stop the van and gave her a ride home, she lived at Plainfield, and it took a few miles to get her home, and she told my wife that she has been walking to work for two years this way, each way is about 45 minutes walk, and she said it has been pretty safe, at least, she never encountered any problem.

We visit Plainfield Library and kids love the kids library at downstairs, and believe or not, it has one of the best kids library in the area. Some winter time, we even went to shuffle the snow for the library parking and side walk. We met many nice people there.

Along the Park Ave not far from Plainfield, it is the huge Chinese Buffet,-74.3998… that often hold parties or gathering of all sorts of Chinese clubs or organizations. right next that buffet is one of the best price gas station. We passed by there every weekend, having a nice buffet before heading to Menlo Park Mall at Edison.

Why we passed Plainfield every week? because we went to Murray Hill Chinese School every week for kids to learn Chinese. That is to say, if you live at Sleep Hollow, your kids will have a great chance to learn Chinese at little cost every weekend, that based on nearby Watchung Hill Regional Hills high school that has brand new huge auditorum and many good facilities. You would get to visit many good park, play grounds, lake views...etc as if you live at Watchung and Warren.…

There is also a huge Asian Food Center off Rt 22 very close to Sleep Hollow at Plainfield. That is to say, for past years, many Chinese from 8th Av Brooklyn and Queens moving to this area. I said so is because I chat with many Chinese people shopping at Asian Food Center, and many relocated from NYC to here.

Surprisingly, most Chinese families moving in the area not buying at Warren nor Watchung, most Chinese from NYC move to cities such as Bound Brook, Middlesex, Piscataway, Plainfield, North Plainfield ...etc for the great deal of real estate, and they do not take train to NYC, instead, they take NJ Trainsit Bus to Port Authority along Rt 28 that you see also pass those towns.

Things that any Chinese family care is safety, good school, value of property, ...etc That is to say, if you see many Chinese families around and move coming, you know the area will be greater each year. A very famous Chinese fortuneteller Dr. Tsai has said that Piscataway area would be booming two decades ago, and this year many of Top 10 graduates from Piscataway High School are Chinese with 9 got full score in SAT. Dr. Tsai said just a few years ago that Plainfield would be the next booming area for Chinese families. I have seen many changes and expect to see more and more good things in future...
0 votes
Chuck, , New Jersey
Wed Aug 27, 2008
nobody seems to be giving you a frank answer... let me call it as it is.. first off, im a jersey resident all my life(montgomery/hillsboro/belleville and now union)... growing till now, plainfield has note been known for good schools and low crime rate... in fact it got pretty bad there at some point in past but possibly it has improved now(haven't been in touch)... i guess there are pockets of good areas but it would depend where those pockets are located... dont know what your price range is or your family situation but there are plenty of towns a couple mile up 22 East and couple miles down 22 West that you should consider... many of them have access to railways... since commute to nyc seems to be a priority, you should base you search on proximity to the city... plainfield is close but there are much closer and better towns
0 votes
Jeanne Feeni…, Agent, Basking Ridge, NJ
Sun Aug 17, 2008
Hi Monika, Sleepy Hollow is a beautiful area where you can buy much more home for your money, but as with everything, there are trade-offs. Consider your priorities, and then assess how Plainfield stacks up against them. If attending public school is a consideration, then you've got something to think about. There is a great tool, the Star Ledger Interactive School Report, that allows you see school stats and compare school districts/schools within districts (available at

Other advice has been good - all boils down to doing your homework and being sure that whatever community you select, you hit as many of your hot buttons as possible.

My husband and I moved our family from Brooklyn to NJ about 15 years ago - it has been a good move for us and I hope it will be for you as well.

Good luck and best,
Jeannie Feenick
Search and connect at
Web Reference:
0 votes
Pamela Roth, Home Buyer, Westfield, NJ
Sun Aug 17, 2008
Please do more research into the Plainfield town. I recently moved from bordering Fanwood and am familiar with many of the issues in Plainfield. 1. There was an MTV special about gun ownership for a variety of purposes. One of the people was from Plainfield and he was not a hunter. 2. Do some research into where people convicted of sexual crimes are currently living. You will find many in Plainfield.
These are things a Realtor is NOT going to tell you.
If it seems to good to be true in real estate...IT IS!!!
0 votes
Ron, Both Buyer And Seller, Plainfield, NJ
Wed Aug 13, 2008
I dont know if I agree that you have to trade off on resale value and appreciation. Plainfield underwent the same boom as the rest of the area in the early to mid 2000's. The difference is that it started much lower so the peak prices were still lower than the surrounding areas, mostly due to the school system.
However, there are still houses in sleepy hollow and other nice parts of plainfield selling for double what they were 7 to 10 years ago. The prices have definitely come down since 05-06, but thats not to say that 10 years from now a home wouldn't have appreciated. Its just that you have a much lower starting value in plainfield. But I do agree that it allows you to possibly get a huge home for much less money, especially if you get away from "sleepy hollow" and head into the evergreen/watchung for example, where you have some great quite streets and is still a safe area.
0 votes
Donald Hansen, Agent, Gillette, NJ
Mon Aug 11, 2008
Ask your agent. Their job is to give you the information you need to make an informed decision. If you don't feel like they are being honest with you when you ask questions, talk to their broker/manager. If you still don't feel like you are getting honest answers, look for another realtor. Your current realtor should know Plainfield and all of its positives and negatives. Good luck and feel free to contact me with any questions.
0 votes
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