Northern New Jersey Multi-Family House Hack

10 Replies

After months of reading, listening and learning, my wife and I are ready to get our feet wet. We are a couple of late-20s full-time working stiffs who want to get started in the buy and hold space.

Motivated by @Brandon Turner 's podcast stories, we think a house hack may be our best bet to start off. We bought our primary a little over 2 years ago in Bergen County, NJ with a conventional mortgage (prior to being inspired by BP). With our jobs now requiring us to be in and around NYC, we are exploring selling our property and buying a multi-family (3- or 4-family) in the developing, but low crime areas of Hudson County, NJ. We'd like to use a low down FHA loan, rehab it, rent it out and live in it for a year. Currently we are most interested in Jersey City Heights.

We'd love any input on possible locations or the feasibility of this plan. Also, we'd be very interested in speaking with any experienced agents in the area.

Thank you!

-Jon

Hudson County does have many multi-family style homes. North Bergen in Hudson might be an option for you also. A lot will depend on your budget too. FHA lowered their deposit limits down from 3.5% to 3%.

Southern Bergen County might be an option too, but of course Jersey City is close to the city.

Medium remaxelitelogoKevin Hill, Re/Max Elite Associates | [email protected] | 201‑214‑1349 | http://www.LiveBergenCounty.com

I live in southern Bergen County. We have easy and quick access to the city via train and bus. I am a 2 minute walk from the train and I live on the bus route. That was just a piggy back comment off of Kevin's.

I am also looking to house hack in this area as well. @Jonathan B. good luck.

@Jonathan B. I live in Hudson County (Union City) close to Jersey City Heights and own some properties here that we rent out. I like this area a lot and definitely think that are good opportunities.

Among other things, I'd suggest looking into rent control laws: 3+ families are rent controlled in Union City (and require a certificate of occupancy and other things), but owner occupied buildings I believe up to 4 families are not, so perhaps you can do something creative by owner occupying it. I own 2 families homes partly having to avoid dealing with the city regulations required in 3+ families and also because the majority of the housing stock in the Jersey City/Union City/North Bergen/West New York area consists of 2 family homes. You will likely find a lot of illegal "3" families homes with finished basements: Union City used to have a forgiveness program where you could legalize your basement without penalty (so, convert to a 3 family--my neighbor did this), but the cost of doing this is quite high, and I'm not sure if that program has continued. If it has, and you find a 2 family home with a workable basement, this could be a good deal. Absent this, most cities have a parking requirement to convert which is hard to meet (many homes do not have any parking here).

In my opinion, Jersey City Heights is already quite bought up/too expensive. I'm not sure of your price range, but if you're looking for deals, I'd suggest looking deeper into JC, Union City, North Bergen, West New York. With the exception of Greenville in Jersey City (the southernmost part of JC), most areas are quite safe and well-located to NYC. I'd suggest driving around to get an appetite for the area: it's definitely a street-by-street sort of thing.

As I've said elsewhere, I feel like the market here has heated up quite a bit in the last ~3 months, so it's been hard for us to find good deals, but maybe things will calm down in the winter. Best of luck, happy to grab coffee!

@John Errico  nice to see someone else in Union City on Bigger Pockets!

I am house hacking in a 2 family in Union City since last year and so far its been going great. I love the neighborhood and its very convenient to NYC.

Before buying this place I was really interested in Jersey City (Journal Sq and Jersey City Heights areas) but found those areas to be really competitive. I made several good offers and was outbid every time. But this was last summer. I am not sure if it is still like that or if it would be easier to buy in the winter. Also, beware of the properties with buried oil tanks, there are a lot of them in Jersey City - usually the ones that sit on the market for a while.

I think Union City is still off the radar enough that you can still find good deal here. Its also very safe, kid friendly with parks and farmers markets and in 15 mins you can be in Midtown Manhattan.

Thanks everyone! @John Errico and @Mala S. any suggestions for neighborhoods to target/avoid in Union City? I'm going to take a ride as soon as I can.

Originally posted by @Jonathan B. :

Thanks everyone! @John Errico and @Mala S. any suggestions for neighborhoods to target/avoid in Union City? I'm going to take a ride as soon as I can.

 also check out west new york on your way. 

@Jonathan B. hard to say in general, much of the area is street-by-street. The streets numbers run south to north in Union City: so 1st St is the southern border of UC and Jersey City, 49th St is the northern border with UC and West New York.

If you care about proximity to NYC, I'd recommend nearer to 30th St. (closer to the Lincoln Tunnel). Being north of 30th St is also advantageous: it's where more of the businesses are, where city hall is, and closer to some shopping areas (Pathmark grocery store is at 40th or so) and also Weehawken. Buses to NYC run down Bergenline (Bergenline runs in one direction through Union City, north to south) more frequently than buses run to NYC run on JFK or Palisade Ave (in my opinion). 42nd, 43rd, 44th etc. are seen as very nice, and I also like the area around the Monastery (18th-21st St near Bergenline). Bergenline is sort of the main commercial drag of Union City, although there are also shops/restaurants on Summit and Central.

Streets below 10th St are a little farther from New York and there are fewer shops and restaurants and more factories (auto repair, sausage factor, etc.). You are, however, closer to JC Heights and, if you're farther east in Union City (closer to New York City) in that area you have really easy walking access to Hoboken.

Anywhere on the eastern border of UC (Palisade or Park) is expensive, though usually quite nice, because (some) of those buildings have views of Manhattan and are right on the bus line.

It's really very much block by block. Some blocks look bad (burned out buildings, loud tenants, etc.), but you can turn the corner and you'll have beautiful, well-maintained brownstones.

@Jonathon B I think @John Errico nailed it. 

I'm a former resident of Union City, and manage/lease/sell property in the area. It is very much block by block, so driving the area is a very good way to get a feel for it. As others have mentioned, the market in Journal Square and the Heights markets are pretty competitive, due to a lot of foreign investment, and a couple funds still gobbling up properties, with others holding onto the properties they've purchased over the last year or three.(Look to US Masters Residential Fund out of Australia and Dixon Leasing if you want to do some research).

I'll second that Greenville is not the best spot to get started. The areas 10-15 minutes outside of Journal Square are still competitive, but deals can be found. 

West New York and North Bergen are good options as well - bus access into the city is convenient, but traffic may bother driving commuters, as it can get pretty jammed up during rush hour. I'm struggling to find more to add, as @John Errico pretty much knocked it out of the park.

If you need any market data or property info (sold pricing, rental comps, actives, etc.) just let me know, I'm happy to help with whatever I can.

Originally posted by @Tim Booz :

@Jonathon B I think @John Errico nailed it. 

I'm a former resident of Union City, and manage/lease/sell property in the area. It is very much block by block, so driving the area is a very good way to get a feel for it. As others have mentioned, the market in Journal Square and the Heights markets are pretty competitive, due to a lot of foreign investment, and a couple funds still gobbling up properties, with others holding onto the properties they've purchased over the last year or three.(Look to US Masters Residential Fund out of Australia and Dixon Leasing if you want to do some research).

I'll second that Greenville is not the best spot to get started. The areas 10-15 minutes outside of Journal Square are still competitive, but deals can be found. 

West New York and North Bergen are good options as well - bus access into the city is convenient, but traffic may bother driving commuters, as it can get pretty jammed up during rush hour. I'm struggling to find more to add, as @John Errico pretty much knocked it out of the park.

If you need any market data or property info (sold pricing, rental comps, actives, etc.) just let me know, I'm happy to help with whatever I can.

 I found property tax in west New York is higher than union city or north bergen. Not sure if it is true. I like west New York a bit better for living.