Jersey City house hacking

20 Replies

Hi all!

So I'm looking to get into my first deal within the next coming months. I've been looking OOS (Jacksonville FL and Kansas City) and while these are both great options, I'm looking to build a little bit more wealth. I know Jersey city is extremely saturated with investors but I haven't seen much on house hacking in JC. I'd love to get some opinions on buying a MF in JC with an FHA. Ideally, the plan is something that needs minimal work (cosmetic only), live in the unit that needs the work and fix it up over the coming year and rent out the others to cover some of the mortgage. I'm not sure if this still makes sense to do in JC and there's not a calculator for house hacking.

Has anyone else done this? What was your experience? 

I feel that house hacking my first deal might mitigate some of the risks of investing OOS. I'd appreciate any and all input!

@Charles Mitchell Jersey City varies greatly depending on the neighborhood. The neighborhoods span from luxury highrise condos to 1-2 family class D sketchy neighborhoods.  Jersey City Heights and Journal Square are hot and expensive but have multifamily houses that are house hackable. It makes sense to house hack in these expensive neighborhoods if you are commuting to NYC for a job/ salary that justifies living in an expensive area. You can lower your housing costs by house hacking but you will not live for free or make any additional cash flow in these areas. A 2 family house sells in the 750k-1.5M range in these areas.

Bergen-Lafayaette is another area that is hot these days. Personally I find this area still too sketchy to live in for me. But the hipsters are moving in and this neighborhood will be totally transformed in 5-10 years. A 2 family house sells for 500k-950k  in this area. 

There are parts of JC where you may be able to get a 2 family house for 350K. Or more realistically 400-600K. These are class C/D areas so you need to visit these areas to see if you would be comfortable living there. 

I would recommend checking out Union City, North Bergen & West New York. These are more affordable than the better areas in JC and still relatively safe, nice places to live within easy commute to NYC. A 2 family house would go for 400-900K. 

On the lower end (400k) you could get a 2 bedroom with a studio in-law suite and if you could live in the studio and rent the 2 bedroom then this would be a great idea! 

@Charles Mitchell It will be hard to house hack in JC with a traditional Multi-Family at that budget especially seeking something that needs little rehab. You may want to try an online auction house to see if you can get lucky and snag a multi for under market value, just know that it wont be in a prime location and theres a great chance you'll need a healthy rehab budget.

@Charles Mitchell I started out 2 years ago doing this very same strategy in JC Heights. While I didn't start with a multi-family (mine was a condo), it was based purely on my budget. I have rented out 2 BR's in my 3 BR condo for almost 2 years now and have found that this was a great way to get into RE investing/being a landlord as a newbie. It's sort of like landlord training wheels in that you're able to be much more attentive with tenants/roommates than you would if you didn't live there. My tenant's rent nearly covers my entire monthly expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.) and the inconvenience of living with 2 different people isn't really an issue for me. Plus, financial freedom (my ultimate goal) is worth having to a share a bathroom! It'll be a great decision for you and if you have any questions along the way, feel free to PM me.

@Mala S. I spent last weekend walking around some of the neighborhoods in Jersey City and noticed some pockets in Bergen-Lafayette that seemed to be turning around. 

Are you familiar with the Communipaw area at all? If so Id be curious to hear your thoughts on the potential to house hack there. 

@Luke Wolmer I just picked up a house near in Bergen-Lafayette. The area is definitely turning around and prices are reflecting that. I still think its reasonably priced relative to some of the other JC areas and there are a couple of rail stations right there that will continue to make it an attractive place to live for NYC commuters. House hacking will still be kind of tight i doubt youll break even but it will still beat renting in my opinion.

@Allan Szlafrok yes in a perfect world the househack would break even or even cash flow. But I understand this may be a bit of a dream scenario in the NY market. But even if I still am paying some out of pocket, it will certainly beat continuing to shell out rent each month in Manhattan.

@Luke Wolmer Yes, I'm familiar with the Communipaw area. It looks like a great area to house hack. The Foundry is a great development in the area. (https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+Foundry/@40.... ) 

And I forget the name of the street with a few  unique little shops....definitely has potential.

Liberty State Park is nearby which is a beautiful park. 

I heard the commute can be disappointing (the train can be infrequent) but maybe this would change over time as more people commuting to Manhattan move in. It can also feel more disconnected from the rest of JC with all the highway off ramps and underpasses..kind of reminds me of a mini version of Red Hook, Brooklyn... 

@Mala S.   @Luke Wolmer   I think the street Mala is referring to is in fact the end of Communipaw Ave. Between Grand and Liberty State Park, Communipaw is seeing some real progress being made. One of my favorite coffee shops in JC is located right there and a few good bars/restaurants have popped up in the past 2 years. As for commute I can't point anything exceptional out besides the obvious that the light rail to Downtown JC is right there and also the 81 bus runs the same direction along Grand.

@Marc Weisi I'd love to connect with you! I've just recently started out my journey and I've been looking around to see if there's any fair value properties! I just wanted to get some advice from you on how you felt about house hacking and how you somehow ran the numbers for the property that you house hacked! 

@Mala S. Hello Neighbor, Thank you so much for your post 11 months ago. Your description and overview of the area is terrific, even today. Jersey City is such a sprawling city, like many cities rolled up into one. As I do my research I find googling the crime maps to be very useful. Good luck everyone on your paths to JC House Hacking. 

To all aspiring house-hackers, a word of warning from an agent & house-hacker/investor: be sure to reserve more than you think you'll need for rehab costs and unforeseen cap ex. The reality of house hacking hundred year old homes (what you'd expect to get in these areas), many of which have numerous deferred maintenance issues, is often very different than what the calculators or spreadsheets present.

The worst situation to be in is a cash-strapped, stressed out house hacker without the funds to repair/maintain an old home, especially if something bad happens (say the roof develops a leak and you need to shell out 10 to 15 grand for a new roof).  So make you allocate enough for upfront rehab as well as an annual cap ex and maintenance budget.


Also, if you see a property where the price looks really attractive (i.e. "below market"), there is probably a good reason for that.

@Sri Yalam   I am no longer looking in this market but I'd speak to a bunch of the agents on this site. They're clearly focused on investors and you can ask to be included on their email blasts so you're seeing as much of the market as possible.

@mala s. Said it well, class d areas 400k+ 

House hacking u will not be breaking even as I did that in greenville where there are shootings on my block weekly. However property already went up 60k in 1yr and they gutted two houses in front on mine, so ur rent income doesn't matter. I will be raising rent and already evicted few tenants, since area even greenville class D is becoming hot, new tenants are pace masters students moved from bronx. Ppl are flocking over. Issue is not sure if u got a place yet, investors will snatch up anything and everything ESPECIALLY in the worst areas.. since that's where the money is

Would love to hear any updates from those who house hacked a year+ ago (2017, 2018, etc.) Have rents changed much? Have you seen any appreciation even if it's slight?

Looking to get into the JC area in the next few months. I am currently looking into Journal Square, Heights and West Bergen.

Best,

Pat

@Charles Mitchell i just came on this post again, as im doing this exact same this atm, during covid waiting for prices to drop just got preapproved and putting in offers. 500kish 2fams 5-8%down FHA. whoever said cashflow cant be done doenst know.. just not in an area youd like to live in. but most also dont know that it will only cashflow with multiple rooms rented, which is ILLEGAL btw and professional tenants like one i had will take advantage of it. i have a condo in the heights like @Marc Weisi but its in fact a 1bedroom and i house hack it, as layout makes the living room into a room w a door. i took out a HELOC on this condo as it appreciated so much since 2016 when i bought it. essentially idk what stage you are in, but id highly doubt you will be buying anything in nicer areas, im still w my premise of mainly Greenville, not even Bergen Lafayette. Theres a bunch of new buildings being pulled up on Ocean ave under communipaw, id look around there. I dont see anything under 400k tho, that price is gone, my 2 fam was in the 300 range in 2018 and its around 480k ish now. im an agent btw w KW, see my IG > newyourcityrealtor happy to talk. newark is an option, but gonna be rough, just dont go south or cross the cemetery, or maybe West Orange, i just dont think those places will appreciate as much. im also putting in offers in Bayonne, but taxes r a bit high there. even w FHA if ur total is less than 3k a month, u can cashflow ie. its a 6bed 2bath u can rent each floow 1700-1900/m easy even in the roughest areas where mine is

@Mala S. that foundry area is def not going to be in the 350k pricerange, that part of BLF is untouchable its on fire, they just finished 2 major condo dvelopments next to I78. if Charles wants to do an FHA i dont think u can do much rehab, 350k would be good all cash for a distressed or badly damaged 2 fam in JC's worst areas..way south of Communipaw

Do you think COVID would lower prices at all? I know it hasnt happened but with people working remotely and not needing to be close to Manhattan, people are moving further away from big cities, will Jersey City see property value fall because of it?