Investing in Hudson County, NJ

14 Replies

Hi All,

Been a member for some time, but looking to invest in the Hudson County area (specifically Jersey City, Weehawken, and Union City). I'm currently at the point of getting to know the markets and building a team. If anyone is familiar with the area and has time to talk that would be great. Looking for referrals!

If anyone has some insight into the following questions please let me know...

Did some research into Weehawken and I'm still trying to understand how their rent-regulation laws work. Seems like you can't do much with rents unless it is owner-occupied. Perhaps, someone knows if there is a way to bring them to market rents without owner occupancy (ie. renovations)? Also, rumor has it that property taxes are due for a hike sometime in the next 2 years, any confirmation?

I know Jersey City has the PATH train into Manhattan and a lot of development has been going on there because of that, are there still areas of opportunity?

Don't know much about Union City yet, I heard there is a lightrail to the PATH train, but not sure if that make's it convenient to get to the city or if it even matters?

Looking forward to meeting you all! 

Weehawken rent regulation:

courtesy of Miguel Rosario @miguelrosario

Rent regulation applies to all rental units and parking spots unless:

owner occupied 2 and 3 family. 4 unit and more always rent refulated.  There are ways when the unit is vacated to renovate and raise the rent, as well as the ability to raise rent based on hardship and or tax increase.  

A 2/3 family can be deregulated by owner moving in.

Tax revaluation is going on at this time and taxes for next year may reflect that.  Whether it is an across the board increase or some go up and some go down is not known at this time.  A meeting is scheduled May 24 at 11am if I remeber correctly which may have some details.

Union City does have a light rail station to both the ferry at port imperial and the Path in Hoboken/Jersey City.  The main difference between Weehawken and Union City is there are many more condos in Union City and is more dense.  Investment opportunities are there at a lower entry point, you may get better rental return from the start, however appreciation may be greater in Weehawken due to the much smaller inventory at any given time, as well as other factors such as a large area of properties 1-2-3 units on 50-100 foot lots.  

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Hey @Arthur Goldstein , there are a fair number of Hudson County investors here on BP. I live and invest in Union CIty--I'd be more than happy to help out of I can and refer you to the people that we use. We also have a meetup group of mostly BP members every month (we're having a happy hour this Tuesday) that you'd be more than welcome to attend--feel free to PM me if you'd like.

My general take is that the remaining investment opportunities, at least if you're considering smaller buildings (< 5 families) are in Union City, and "deeper" into Jersey City--so like Journal Square/Bergen Lafayette/Greenville in Jersey City. Prices have gone up appreciably in all of those areas and in Union City in the past 18 months but I think there are still opportunities to potentially exploit, although you'll be competing with a lot of investors. Weehawken, other parts of Jersey City, Hoboken, etc. are already quite pricey, and it's, in my experience, more difficult to make the properties work financially--although, depending on how much you want to invest, may be worth checking out (particularly Weehawken). 

Most people that live in Union City and commute into Manhattan generally take the bus across the Lincoln Tunnel, or you can also take a bus to Journal Square and take the PATH in (this is also true of Jersey City heights). The buses are very convenient: either the NJ transit bus (which runs less frequently but is nicer), or the jitneys (private buses that run very frequently, are cheaper, but are generally less "nice"). Proximity to the light rail is, at least in my opinion, not super valuable in Union City, but proximity to the Lincoln Tunnel (approximately 30th St) is more desirable, and/or closer to Weehawken (Park Ave north or 30th, Palisade south of 30th).

Best of luck!

@Jill DeWit Thank you for the warm welcome! 

@Nick M. Thank you for all the information. My understanding is even if you renovate, you still are limited to how much you can increase due to New Jersey's unconscionable rent increase laws. 

I hear what you are saying about the short inventory in Weehawken. I'm just concerned if taxes go up dramatically and you can't increase your rents in step, then value will go down. Then again if demand is there, maybe that all doesn't matter. Would love to speak further when your available.

@John Errico Thank you! Just PM'd you. 

I've been more interested in Union City and the Journal Square area of Jersey City, precisely because I share your feelings. 

I probably should have put this in my first post, but I am looking for multifamily (3+ units) or mixed-use with value-add plays. 

If you are in Jersey City, be careful for mixed-use /value-add plays that you properly estimate the construction cost. If you are doing bigger changes, city often is going to make you make many changes even a architect that deals with city often may not fully account for of. I rehabbed a building with an estimate of 400K for rehab and the the extra money for items that were not anticipated came out to almost a 65K (not a small amount as I had accounted 15% for overage on the original 400K but not for this type of stuff)

Small/cosmetic rehabs are fine but be careful of changes to ground floors may result in the the need to add sprinklers, etc. which will be pricey. Also note that zoning changes will take a while and they may ask for an arm and a leg for some of of the changes ( just to change from Commercial to residential on ground floor, I had to plant trees (7.5k total cost digging, their special grates are 1K per tree), use a certain type of siding  (Hardy) that cost a lot of money). All in all, Jersey City is a lot more organized in Union City though and the Construction Inspection and Zoning staff are good guys to deal with. Just too much going on in Jersey City so allocate way more time than normal for your permit process if you're doing large changes.

If you have a property in mind where you want to make changes with mixed-use, etc., feel free to shoot me an email and I can help with my experience.

  @Arthur Goldstein first of all, welcome to BP. 

I agree with a lot of what @John Errico stated. He was pretty spot on. I live in Jersey City and think that the public transportation is a bit more accessible here than in Union City. The area is definitely more expensive and the prices are climbing. There are still gems in the city. 

If you would like to know more about the area I would suggest sitting in on a planning board meeting in Jersey City to find out the next areas that are going to be developed. 

Jersey City Planning Board Meetings

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I commute to Midtown Manhattan daily taking the bus through Lincoln Tunnel. Light Rail + PATH is in my mind dramatically inferior for anything say north of 34th Street in Manhattan, and even for lower streets closer to Midtown bus + subway seem to be at par.

My take is taking the bus where the distance to the city is short enough (such as from near 30th street in Union City, or most places in Weehawken) works very well even if adjusting for any volatility/absolute deviation due to traffic.

There is a psychological barrier with buses, where the latter are perceived to be significantly volatile vs subways, though I have observed decent volatility with subways as well. There are some good reasons behind this perception as much any distances traveled by bus above say just 3-4 miles can have significant absolute deviation (traffic delays appear quite evenly spread across the short distance from these towns, not just "getting stuck in front of tunnel")

That said much of Union City/Weehawken are impressively close to Midtown Manhattan from a pure distance perspective (within 3-4 miles) and most of Jersey City except Downtown can't hold a candle to their commute times to there in particular. I think these two towns deserve a much more prominent spot on the NYC metro "commuters' perception map".

I used to live in Brooklyn (as another comparison point) and my commute length and quality improved dramatically since moving to the area.

Really good observation. However, every time I tell a person that lives in NYC to move to These areas you are talking about. They tell me “Ugh Jersey is to far.” 

Sometimes I feel like renting one of those Buses that pass through  Bulevard east and Bline and take them all on a field trip...just to show them how short of a commute it is.

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