South Orange and Maplewood are two towns that are often packaged together as one community. Town Hopper Tours spoke with Robert Northfield, realtor and a team leader with the Keller Williams Mid-Town Direct office in Maplewood. We wanted to learn more about these towns, what makes them similar, and what makes each individually unique and Robert had a wealth of information.
“Maplewood and South Orange both offer diverse neighborhoods. They’re very welcoming,” Robert explains. “The towns share an excellent school system, and they have great parks. They’re both about 30-minutes by train to New York City.”
Both towns; for instance, border the South Mountain Reservation, a 2,112 acre reservation, preserved primarily in its wild state, in the central section of Essex County. South Mountain has many hiking and biking trails as well as a popular dog park. The reservation’s vistas can see as far as New York, Elizabeth, Union, Staten Island, and Newark from the eastern ridge, 550 feet above the community of Millburn. A 25-foot waterfall, deep in the woods at Hemlock Falls, is a must-see dramatic feature.
As far as what sets each one apart – it’s the landscape and the distinct neighborhoods, and well, the gaslights. South Orange is one of only a few towns in New Jersey to retain gas light street illumination, offering at times a nostalgic feel. South Orange has multiple buildings listed on the State and National Historic Registers. The Montrose Park area features many stately homes. The Montrose Park Historic District Association hosts a yearly historic tour each Fall. South Orange also features the South Orange Performing Arts Center and a downtown area with shops and dining right around the South Orange NJ Transit train station.
Other homes in the area include colonial, tudor and craftsman-style bungalows, along with newer condos and luxury rentals. Floods Hill is a busy spot in wintertime where neighborhood children like to sled. Homes in South Orange can range from $300,000 up to $2 million.
“First time home buyers, if they’re on a tighter budget, might want to look at the Tuxedo Park neighborhood or around and behind Seton Hall University,” says Robert. “The areas have a beautiful collection of small to mid sized homes.”
The homes tend to increase in size and cost along Wyoming and Upper Wyoming. Though there are also some homes closer to the Maplewood border that are mid-sized, which might be more budget-friendly.
Maplewood has Maplewood Village across from the Maplewood NJ Transit train station. The village has many shops and restaurants. Homes in the immediate area range from $400,000 up to $2 million. The Hilton neighborhood has a good collection of starter homes, some between $250,000-$400,000. The Tuscan area is another great place for a beautiful home at a conservative cost, since prices start in the $400,000 range.
Robert says when looking for a home it’s very important that buyers are financially qualified. “It is a competitive market and you really need to have a pre-approval from a lender.” He stresses your pre-approval should be from an experienced processional. “Don’t get pre-approved online and don’t go to a friend that just started in the lending business,” he warns. “Lending today is a very complicated and involved process so you need someone who is experienced that can help you navigate the process and sort through any special circumstances that you may have.”
He also says working with a knowledgeable local realtor is key. “You need to work with a strong, local, realtor who will represent your best interest and has the contacts and the inventory within the realtor community.” This means, they know inspectors, handymen, and all the contacts you’ll need before, during, and after your home purchase.
Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:
Montrose Park Historic District Association
Robert Northfield – Keller Williams Realty
South Mountain Reservation
South Orange, NJ - Wikipedia
South Orange Performing Arts Center