HOUSING & REAL ESTATE
in Burlington and Ocean counties
A rich history reaching beyond colonial settlers paired with abundant access to outdoors and metropolitan adventures contribute to a high quality of life in Burlington and Ocean counties. In 2016, an estimated 449,284 people called Burlington County home, while about 592,000 resided in Ocean County, the U.S. Census Bureau says. Population density in Burlington County was 557 people per square mile and 936 in Ocean County in 2010, the Census found.
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is spread across Burlington and Ocean counties. About 40,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and their family members live and work on and around the joint base, which has a huge economic impact on the state of New Jersey. Additionally, nearly 75,000 veterans live in the two counties.
The counties’ communities give newcomers plenty of choices when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. The New Jersey Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and assistance. Those interested in purchasing a new home can find the expertise and professional services they need at www.njrealtor.com.
Part of the Delaware Valley, Burlington County is the largest county in New Jersey with a total area of 915 square miles. About 449,000 people call the county home. Burlington County is bordered by Camden and Atlantic counties to the southwest and Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties to the east. It also shares a border with Bucks and Philadelphia counties across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Most of the county’s land is coastal plain, and the land is dotted with rivers, streams and wetlands. There are a few hills, such as Apple Pie Hill and Arney’s Mount, which is the highest of not only the county but also among the highest in South Jersey at approximately 240 feet above sea level. The low point is sea level along the Delaware and Mullica rivers.
Although officially incorporated in 1694, the rudiments of county government were established with Burlington County in 1681 and were in effect before William Penn laid out the city of Philadelphia. Rich in historic lore, with a developed system of highways, the county calls to travelers and tourists. While the county is principally known for its agriculture, there is considerable manufacturing, particularly along the Delaware Riverfront. Burlington County has always been one of the leading agricultural counties in the country.
Communities in Burlington County associated with Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst include Mount Holly, Evesham, Pemberton and Wrightstown.
Township of Mount Holly
Mount Holly Township is the county seat of Burlington County as well as an eastern suburb of Philadelphia. The city’s 2.8 square miles are home to about 9,500 residents.
Northhampton, as the city was originally known, was formed in 1688 and eventually incorporated in 1798. The township is composed of portions of land gathered from surrounding counties over decades, and settlers were attracted to the area early on after the establishment of several mills. The township played an important role during the American Revolution. Not only was it a temporary capital of New Jersey, but the township was the site of the Battle of Iron Works Hill in 1776. This crucial battle distracted thousands of Hessian soldiers from Trenton, New Jersey, where Gen. George Washington would stage The Battle of Trenton on Christmas night. The victory at Trenton proved to be a much-needed boost of morale for the Continental Army.
During the 19th century, Mount Holly was established as the county seat and several important municipal buildings were constructed, including the county prison in 1819. In operation through 1965, the Burlington County Prison is now a museum on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Mount Holly Historic District. In 1849, the Burlington and Mount Holly Railroad was established, connecting communities along the Delaware River to Philadelphia, the major city of the area. The railroad supported industrialization along its route.
In 1931, the township held a referendum and renamed then-Northhampton as Mount Holly, based on nearby hills covered with holly trees. By mid-century, the city experienced economic challenges from industrial restructuring and loss of blue-collar jobs. Many traditional employers such as mills and dye factories struggled in the post-World War II period. However, increased activity at Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base helped offset those economic losses, especially during the Vietnam War era. Retail businesses suffered from the advent of shopping malls in the suburban Philadelphia area, but today shopping and dining developments on Main Street Mount Holly are increasingly attracting residents, businesses and visitors.
Homes in the area range from well-established neighborhoods to new developments. Median rent is $1,084, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,695. Mean travel time to work for those living in Mount Holly is 26 minutes.
The area now known as Evesham Township was originally settled by Quakers in 1672. Welsh and English settlers named the spot for Evesham, England, near Stratford on River Avon, but the name may also have been taken from one of the prominent settlers, Thomas Eves. The township was incorporated in 1692 and was substantially larger than it is today, originally including what are now Mount Laurel, Medford, Lumberton, Hainesport, Shamong and Washington townships.
Evesham is also known as Marlton, and the names are practically interchangeable. The Marlton area was recognized as a village in 1758. The name Marlton originated in the early 19th century. Marlton stems from the word “marl,” a naturally occurring mixture of green clay with remnants of shells that was used as a fertilizer. Its discovery in the area helped local commerce and fueled the township’s first building boom in the 1830s and 1840s. In 1845, the Evesham post office and the Evesham Baptist Church both had their names changed to Marlton Post Office and the Marlton Baptist Church. Marl continued to be mined locally until 1930, when the pits were finally closed. No trace of them remains today, but the name of the village endures. Many maps and directional signs refer to Marlton instead of Evesham. The historic village, Olde Marlton, remains mostly intact and is a locally regulated historic district.
Evesham Township remained mostly unchanged until the 1950s, when developers began buying farms and building the township’s first housing developments. Today, no significant farmland remains. In 1955, the United States Army opened the PH-32 Nike Ajax facility on Tomlinson Mill Road. This battery was one of 12 used to shield Philadelphia from aerial assault during the Cold War. The base was decommissioned in the mid-1960s and used for various functions, including a civil defense center. The site of the base is now a housing development which was built in the mid-1990s.
The median monthly gross rent was $1,355, and median selected monthly costs for homeowners with a mortgage were $2,212, the U.S. Census says. Workers’ average commute time was 29 minutes.
Township of Moorsetown
The Township of Mooresetown is about 15 miles east of Philadelphia across the Delaware River and the border of New Jersey. About 20,565 residents within the township’s 14 square miles call the area home.
Native Americans occupied the area, drawn to its two springs. The first English-speaking settlers put down roots in 1682, and in 1686, three years after the founding of Philadelphia, the area soon became known as the Village of Rodmantown. In 1700, the first Society of Friends’ Meeting House was built on the King’s Highway. The community at that time probably consisted of a few farmhouses along the King's Highway from Stanwick Road to Locust Street.
Moorestown has been from its beginning a town of homes rather than industry. In these early days, the tanning industry was important probably because of the abundance of oak and hemlock bark that could be obtained from neighboring forests. The nursery and fruit business was also established at an early date.
Thomas Moore and his wife, Elizabeth, settled in the area in 1722. Moore set up a hotel on the northwest corner of King's Highway and Union Streets. With so much land eventually being owned by Thomas Moore, the name Moorestown gradually replaced Chester informally in what is now the center of town. Finally, Moorestown formerly split off from Chester and became a township.
Although Moorestown is more than 300 years old, it was incorporated by the New Jersey State Legislature in 1922.
The township had banned all liquor sales in 1915 and retained the restrictions after Prohibition ended in 1933. Referenda aiming to repeal the ban failed in both 1935 and 1953. In 2011, voters repealed the liquor ban; however, liquor sales in the township will be restricted to the Moorestown Mall.
In 2005 Moorestown was ranked No. 1 in Money magazine’s list of the 100 best places to live in America. Moorestown earned the top spot because of its community feeling, in addition to good jobs within the commuting area, excellent schools, a low crime rate, affordable housing and proximity to Philadelphia.
Median rent in the township is $1,124, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $3,084. Mean travel time to work is 28 minutes.
Township of Pemberton
Pemberton Township, with approximately 30,000 residents and 64 square miles, is one of the largest of Burlington County’s 40 municipalities. Pemberton was incorporated as a township in March 1846 from portions of New Hanover Township, Northampton Township (now known as Mount Holly Township) and Southampton Township. The township is named for James Pemberton, a property owner in the area.
Located adjacent to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the township developed as a mill town. During the mid-19th century, the Browns Mills section served as a luxury retreat for city dwellers who were attracted to the clean water of its streams, hailed for its medicinal purposes, and its healthy forest air. At this time, residents began growing cranberries, a crop which prospered in marshy land near the Township's creek and streams. Nineteenth-century Pemberton residents also manufactured charcoal, iron and glass. In the early 20th century, Elizabeth White began experiments which led to the area’s first cultivation of wild berries.
The U.S. Army’s Fort Dix, built during World War I and rebuilt and expanded for use during World War II, lies within the township’s boundaries. After the expansion of Fort Dix during World War II, the township’s character began to change from strictly rural to rural-suburban. Planned communities were built to accommodate the growing population, a few of the small communities of the 19th century disappeared or merged with newer developments, and the lines between individual communities blurred.
Mean travel time to work for residents of Pemberton is 29 minutes. Median rent is $1,167, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,538.
Wrightstown is a census place in Burlington County, New Jersey. It was incorporated as a borough by the New Jersey Legislature in 1918, from portions of New Hanover Township and North Hanover Township, based on a referendum in March 1918. The borough was named for John Wright, an early settler who contributed the land that became the settlement of Wrightstown.
The borough is one of 56 South Jersey municipalities that are included within the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, a protected natural area of unique ecology covering 1.1 million acres that has been classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve.
According to the U.S. Census, Wrightstown had a total area of 1.768 square miles, all of which was land, with a population of 802 in 2010. Mean travel time to work is 17.4 minutes. Median rent in the city is $850, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $2,441.
East of Burlington County, Ocean County is the second-largest county in New Jersey, containing 638 square miles of pine barrens and barrier islands and a 45-mile coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Its county seat is Toms River. Ocean County is one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing counties. As of the 2017 Census estimate, the county's population was 597,943, a 3.7 percent increase from the 2010 United States Census, making Ocean the state’s sixth-most-populous county.
About 50 miles east of Philadelphia and 70 miles south of New York City, Ocean County’s location on the Jersey Shore makes it a prime destination for tourists and residents alike seeking recreation. From beachfront communities to Six Flags Great Adventures, there is something for every enthusiast. For more information, visit www.co.ocean.nj.us and www.oceancountytourism.com.
Communities in Ocean County with ties to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst include Toms River and Lakewood.
Township of Toms River
The Township of Toms River in Ocean County counts nearly 92,000 people within its 52 total square miles, according to 2016 estimates by the U.S. Census. Formerly known as the Township of Dover, in 2006 voters approved a change of the official name to the Township of Toms River, adopting the name of the largest unincorporated community within the township. The settlement and the river were usually spelled Tom’s River in its early days, though its current spelling has been standard since the middle of the 19th century.
Toms River was located in the southern section of the Township of Shrewsbury that obtained a royal charter to secede in 1767 and form Dover Township. During the American Revolutionary War, Toms River was home to a strategically important salt works that supplied colonial militias, as well as a base for privateer ships that plundered British and Tory vessels off the coast. In March 1782, a group of British and loyalist soldiers attacked a blockhouse along the river that housed the colonial militia. The township’s salt works and most of the houses in the village were destroyed.
In 1850, Toms River became the county seat of the newly created Ocean County when it was formed out of southern Monmouth County. During the 19th century, Toms River became a center for shipbuilding, whaling, fishing, and iron and lumber production.
While the village is still the center of municipal and county government, the population in the area exploded in the decades after World War II, due in part to the completion of the Garden State Parkway in 1954. In the last two decades of the 20th century, the demographics of the township changed substantially, adding over 20,000 residents just in the 1990s.
Today, Toms River is a vibrant waterfront community, boasting activities for residents and visitors alike. From kid-friendly activities and arts and culture to shopping and outdoor recreation, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy by the ocean and a little inland.
Median rent in Toms River is $1,340, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $2,018. Mean travel time to work 30.3 minutes.
Township of Jackson
Ocean County’s Jackson Township counts about 57,000 residents in 100 square miles, according to the U.S. Census. Immigrants from Europe came to and settled throughout the area in the 1700s. The township itself was created from portions of other townships in 1844, specifically to honor former President Andrew Jackson. Even today, after other municipalities have carved out their own space from its former boundaries, Jackson Township is still the largest municipality in Ocean County.
Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, the township’s main industry was agriculture. Forestry, with the hewing of trees for boards at local sawmills and the manufacture of charcoal for furnaces, was the first industry. As the forests were removed, land owners converted properties to farmland. In the early 1840s, cranberry crops flourished in the area’s bogs. After the civil war, more than 200 cranberry bogs ran at peak production, and the fruit was shipped to Philadelphia, New York and Boston in wood crates fabricated in local sawmills. After World War I, charcoal and cranberries declined and poultry became a major industry until the 1950s.
As the 1950s came to a close, the Garden State Parkway reached Ocean County, opening more opportunity for families in larger cities to relocate to the township. In 1960, land development in Jackson shifted from agriculture to new home development as the North Jersey megalopolis reached out into southern Monmouth and upper Ocean Counties.
Today, Jackson is defined as a commuter community, but there is enough play in the township to balance the work and home life. Jackson is home to the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park, which features the 456-foot Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in the world. Jackson also boasts the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park and the 350-acre Safari Off Road Adventure animal park. Near Six Flags is Jackson Premium Outlets, a retail outlet center with 70 stores.
Median rent in Jackson Township is $1,323, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $2,281. Mean travel time to work 34.7 minutes.
Township of Lakewood
About 20 miles north of Toms River via the Garden State Parkway, Lakewood Township is about 8 miles northeast of the Lakehurst Naval facilities. The city, with an estimated population of 100,758 in 2016, covers 25 square miles.
The earliest European settlers of the region were operators of sawmills and ironworkers, from about 1750 forward. In 1865 the town was renamed Bricksburg, and in 1880 it was renamed Lakewood and became a fashionable winter resort. The name Lakewood was intended to focus on the location near lakes and pine forests. The township was incorporated in 1892.
Today, Lakewood is a hub of Judaism, and more than half of the town’s population identifies with the Orthodox Jewish faith. The town is home to one of the largest schools of traditional Jewish religious texts in the world, the 6,500-student Beth Medrash Govoha. However, the town is also home to sizeable Hispanic and black populations.
To accommodate a rapid influx of residents from the New York City metro area, the town has undergone a building boom over the past few decades. Selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $2,068, and median rent is $1,355. Mean travel time to work is 23 minutes.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or the nation, preparation and organization make all the difference.
For military moves, visit www.move.mil for information about moving resources and to learn about the allowances and responsibilities of a military-sponsored move.
Decide whether or not to make your move a do-it-yourself operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit www.goodwill.org, www.salvationarmyusa.oror www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
- Consider what you are packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term financial and emotional commitment with various pluses and minuses. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property values.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is a loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
To determine your best choice, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding an Apartment
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting like a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you sign a lease, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
“Tenants’ Rights in New Jersey,” a legal manual for tenants in the state, can be downloaded at www.lsnjlaw.org/Publications/Pages/Manuals/TenantsRights.pdf
Buying a Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules changed in 2015, but according to www.ginniemae.gov (Government National Mortgage Association) and www.homebuyinginstitute.com (the Home Buying Institute) loan programs continue to vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders balance debt against income to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. Most conventional loans require borrowers to have no more than 43 percent total monthly debt versus their total monthly income, though there are exceptions, such as for those with significant savings. The Federal Housing Administration has a two-tier qualifying system: FHA sets its top thresholds at 31 percent front-end debt (housing expenses as a percentage of income) and 43 percent back-end debt (all debt as a percentage of income) for a 31/43 qualifying ratio. Like commercial lenders, Veterans Affairs combines front-end and back-end debt for a 41 percent limit against income.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it would be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and complete and submit the request form online.
Home Loan Application
To complete a home loan application you’ll need: photo IDs (such as a driver’s license); Social Security numbers; residence addresses for the past two years with landlord contact information if you rented; names and addresses of your employers for the past two years; your current gross monthly income; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers and balances on all checking, savings, CDs, money market, bonds and mutual funds accounts; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers, balances and monthly payments on all open loans (including student loans) and credit cards; addresses and loan information of all other real estate owned; estimated value of furniture and personal property; W2s for the past two years and current paycheck stubs; copies of all divorce decrees, child support documents or any other court proceedings that affect your financial status; verification of any child support payments; and evidence of any retirement or pension benefits. VA or military forms include: DD 214 (veteran), Form 22 (National Guard), DD 1747, Off-base Housing Authority (active duty) and Certificate of Eligibility (active duty).
For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan is invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting.
New Jersey provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit www.hud.gov and select “New Jersey” from the “State Info” drop-down menu.
The county’s Department of Community Development administers federally funded Housing and Urban Development programs, Home Improvement Loan Programs, Home Investment Partnership Program, First-Time Home Buyers Program and Community Development Block Program.
The First Time Home Buyer Program provides direct financial assistance to low-income Burlington County residents to help with the purchase of a first home. Eligible applications may receive a loan for up to $4,000 in closing cost assistance and an additional $5,000 toward their down payment.
For more information about eligibility requirements, visit www.co.burlington.nj.us/257/Community-Development-Housing.
The Ocean County Consortium, with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helps provide affordable housing for first-time homebuyers in low- and moderate-income households. OCEAN Inc. administers the county’s HOME Program, which helps pair individuals and families with area lenders.
The first-time homebuyers programs assists with funds for closing costs and down payments. The program uses HUD income guidelines to determine eligibility. All eligible applicants must attend a free introductory seminar that covers the basics of home-buying and homeownership, including topics such as determining how much you can afford, the importance of your credit report, the mortgage application process and a review of homeownership responsibilities.
For more information, visit www.planning.co.ocean.nj.us/frmCEHome.
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