I'm a local so maybe I can answer some of your questions. This website will help with your general questions about the town: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manalapan,_NJ and this is their town website: http://www.mtnj.org/
The school district has a good reputation. It's a rural area that has become more suburban (built up with new housing, stores, etc.) in the past 30 years. There is no downtown area. Freehold, which is the next town over, has a nice downtown, and a huge shopping mall with a movie theater. Manalapan has a county library with free music events. New York is about 55 miles away (an hour drive with no traffic; with traffic, could be up to 1 and a half during rush hour), and the beach is about a 20-30 minute drive. There is bus service to New York City along Rt. 9 in Manalapan, but trains are about 10 miles away in Matawan. I would say it's a good area for kids, pretty safe, but kind of boring for teens and adults. I'm not sure what you are looking for, or how much you already know about NJ or the area. FYI New Jersey has high property taxes. For example, a house in the price range of the house you mentioned might be $10,000 a year in property taxes. Good luck in your search.