10 Best Northern NJ Towns to Buy a Starter Home

When it comes to the first-time homebuyer experience, choosing the right place to live can be one of the biggest challenges. Each town and neighborhood is different, so each will meet your needs differently. When buying a home in New Jersey, there are many important factors to consider, including commute time, entertainment options, school districts, and more. 

Not to mention, there are seemingly limitless options to choose from! The best way to approach your purchase is to narrow down your options and work with your realtor. To help get you started, here’s a breakdown of the best northern New Jersey towns for first-time home buyers. Let’s get started!

Union Township

You won’t find a better northern New Jersey neighborhood than Union Township. It’s a diverse, family-friendly locale with a wonderful suburban feel. With just a 40 minute commute time, Union Township provides direct access to the heart of Manhattan.

New residents have been flocking to Union Township for years now. They are drawn to the unique mix of houses in the neighborhood, including Cape Cods, colonials, and split-levels. The lower property tax rate is also a major draw. 

New mixed-use development projects also point to economic growth in the neighborhood, so it’s definitely a place to keep high on your list.


Rahway is located just 18 miles south of Manhattan, sitting in Union County. Residents of this neighborhood are drawn to its blossoming local scene filled with restaurants, coffee shops, and great parks. It’s a neighborhood that’s tailor-made for young professionals. 

For those who want to live in a diverse neighborhood, Rahway delivers that and more. With a mix of people from different backgrounds, the neighborhood is a little melting pot. 


Fanwood, named for the legendary character Fanny Wood, is a beautiful little town undergoing significant growth. The number of new development projects in the works makes Fanwood a great location for both young professionals and families. 

The commute from Fanwood to the city is fast and easy via train. The school district (shared with Scotch Plains), is good and offers a lot of choices. LaGrande Park is awesome for a day of outdoor recreational activities. 

Many buyers are drawn to Fanwood’s Victorian and colonial homes. That said, there are also Arts and Crafts-style homes, Capes Cods, split-levels, and ranches.


Sitting in Middlesex County, Carteret is a diverse neighborhood offering densely populated suburban living. The town is notably diverse and offers affordable house prices, which is especially helpful for first-time buyers. 

Whether you’re setting down roots with your family of four or are a young professional looking for a place to call home, Carteret is a great choice.

The numerous parks make the neighborhood very family-friendly. That isn’t surprising, considering most residents own their own homes and are raising families themselves. 


Bayonne is a great mix of both suburban and urban living. It’s a great location for city-lovers, who want a taste of suburban life. The housing market is relatively stable with plenty of choices for those looking to make Bayonne their permanent home. 

Bayonne has one of the best varieties of bars, restaurants, parks, and coffee shops. Residents have a lot of recreation and entertainment options in Bayonne. There are many stores and eateries on Broadway, which functions as one of the town’s commercial hubs. Better yet, many of the town’s buildings feature interesting architecture — the library has a gorgeous Beaux-Arts facade. 

North Bergen

With awesome views of the Manhattan skyline from the Boulevard and views of the Palisades, North Bergen is among the most scenic neighborhoods in Northern New Jersey. 

Your neighbors will consist of a relatively young population, including a lot of young professionals. Additionally, North Bergen is wonderfully diverse, including a large Hispanic population. The result is an eclectic mix of Mexican grocery stores, burger joints, and Cuban restaurants adorning the streets. 

Head over to Manhattan with a quick train trip or stay in town to visit one of the many thriving local businesses. Perhaps make a stop at James J. Braddock Park to enjoy some good old-fashioned pick-up basketball. 

New Milford

New Milford is a neighborhood that definitely flies under the radar, especially for those home-buyers looking for a more urban/suburban mix. 

Much of New Milford’s housing landscape consists of mid-20th-century houses. So there are fewer style options available. 

That said, New Milford has a lot to offer any prospective home-buyer. New Milford offers a ton of private school options. So, families have more of a say in where they send their children to be educated. 


In a nutshell, Randolph is considered one of the most elite towns in northern New Jersey, and the state as a whole. This high ranking is due to Randolph’s high rate of homeownership, economic growth within the town, high safety rating, and commerce options. In short, Randolph is the kind of neighborhood that a first-time buyer dreams about. 


Rockaway is a very small town, with most residents owning their homes, so there won’t be too many houses on the market at once. 

That said, for residents looking for a suburban town that doesn’t feel over-crowded, Rockaway is a great option. There are more than enough recreation and entertainment options to keep things interesting, including restaurants, bars, and other shops. The fact that the town has a great school district doesn’t hurt, either. 

Rockaway residents usually commute from the Denville & Dover stations via NJ Transit. That said, expect commute times to be at least an hour each way, so bring a book!


Hillside is another suburban town that gives residents a sense of space and comfort. It’s a great location for those who want to get away from the confines of the city, without giving up access to it. However, your access to the city will be limited by lengthy commute times. 

You’ll need to count on at least a 1.5 hour commute time from Hillside to Manhattan. On the upside, you can grab a coffee from your local coffee shop and enjoy the ride.

Key Takeaways

Buying a home for the first time can be an overwhelming experience, regardless of where you’re looking. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to choose an experienced, dedicated real estate agent to help you get the most out of your home purchase. 

Not only will an agent advise you on how best to proceed, but they will also advocate for you and ensure that your purchase goes as smoothly as possible. It’s a win-win! 

Are you looking to buy your first home in New Jersey? Get in touch today!


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