• Real Estate

    New Jersey’s Gold Coast

    • Dec 2, 2013

    • By:William Weathersby

    GARDEN STATE’S ROBUST HOUSING RECOVERY OWES A LOT TO THE SURGING LUXURY DEVELOPMENTS ALONG THE HUDSON RIVER

    Here’s a reality check; make that realty check. The Gold Coast on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River is a more vibrant place to live than ever before. With elegant high-rise condominiums cresting in Jersey City and other nearby communities, venturing across the river from Manhattan—or arriving from global stops elsewhere—might make you a proud new homeowner at a fraction of the cost. Luxury apartments in line with the finest design of a Manhattan penthouse or a suburban home are affordable amid a new building boom.

    What exactly is the Gold Coast? It’s the shoreline along the Hudson River facing Manhattan: the front row seat to the theatrical views of the Manhattan skyline, On The Waterfront, extending from Englewood Cliffs to Jersey City. Though the term Gold Coast often is used to refer to the waterfront only, it also signifies the urban area between the Bayonne Bridge and the George Washington Bridge. The municipalities composing the Hudson Waterfront/Gold Coast are Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg and North Bergen, Fairview, Cliffside Park, Edgewater and Fort Lee. With an aggregate population of an estimated 625,000, the area if incorporated into a single city, would be the 21st most populous municipality in the country on a land area of only 35.7 square miles.

    Although many areas of Manhattan from Fifth Avenue to Greenwich Village have had strips called a Gold Coast, the term in New Jersey real estate circles gained wide popularity in the 1980s. Rental and new condominium construction development in Jersey City and beyond surged for decades, but the economic downturn of 2008 left many observers wondering if there really was a future for more luxury living on the Jersey side. Now the luxury condo market is back on track, for builders and especially buyers expecting appreciation on their investment. The numbers are certainly encouraging.

    Median condo prices in Hudson County—the heart of the Gold Coast—are up a significant 17.6 percent from the same time a year ago, to $344,400, according to Zillow’s comprehensive data. In Bergen County, the news is also bright: up 7.3 percent from the same time last year to $301,700. When compared to New York City, where the median condo price exceeds $1 million, the Garden State’s Gold Coast could arguably be the best urban real estate deal on Earth. And let’s face it, the old saying that “I have to be in Manhattan,” is tired news. Still, New Yorkers and residents of Northern New Jersey may not be aware of the boom that is going on, a pivotal point today for New Jersey real estate. And the quality of the housing stock continues to rise. One example is 77 Hudson, a luxury condominium development in Jersey City owned by K. Hovnanian Homes. The recent sale of a two-bedroom penthouse on the 48th floor set a new record price for a condo in that city with its $2.8 million price tag. K. Hovnanian’s Scott Waldman, who assisted in the historic sale, says that the 2,100-square-foot home wasn’t even the most expensive unit in the tower. Two penthouse condominiums still available at 77 Hudson have a $2.9 and $3 million asking price, respectively.

    K. Hovnanian, based in Red Bank, has other luxury condo developments along the Gold Coast, and the company believes in the value of its properties when compared to New York City. According to Waldman, a comparable condo on the west side of Manhattan would command closer to $7 million, much more than his record-breaker. 77 Hudson—a building complete with luxury amenities including an on-site fitness center, private spa and rooftop bar—is predictably nearly 100 percent sold. It’s another strong indicator that the luxury condo market is gaining traction in Northern New Jersey. And real estate watchers insist the buyers are not just well heeled financiers or international moguls. The Gold Coast is attracting a cosmopolitan mix of pro athletes, actors, entrepreneurs, professionals in many disciplines—in short, families from all walks of life. Luxury at a comparatively affordable price with the best city view on earth.

    A CONVERSATION WITH K. HOVNANIAN HOMES’ SCOTT WALDMAN

    One of the area’s key developers breaks down the New Jersey Gold Coast

    Take us through the decision to develop 77 Hudson in Jersey City in the first place. Why there, when so few luxury developers were concentrating in Jersey City?

    The truth of it is that we contemplated and built 77 Hudson during the peak of the real estate market back in 2006-07. Subsequent to this time the market crashed and values everywhere went south. One of the risky and unique things about building a high-rise is that you can’t stop half way through it: you are forced to complete it to move people in. So, I guess you could say that our timing wasn’t the greatest. But we’ve always felt Jersey City offers people fantastic value for homeownership compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    You recently broke a record by selling the single most expensive condo ever in Jersey City with one of your 77 Hudson penthouses. But for people familiar with the metropolitan area’s real estate, that sale was “affordable” by Manhattan standards, where a similar condo would demand up to four times the sale price. So is Northern New Jersey still a smart bargain for the luxury condo buyer?

    Yes, the value here compared to similar homes in Manhattan is dramatic and it’s only a short ride by ferry or PATH train.

    Given that it is estimated that it takes about two years from concept to move-in for high-rises to be built along the Hudson River waterfront, is your development team concerned with the recent explosion of interest again as the economy emerges from the low of 2008-2011? In other words, will there be too many available condos on the market at the same time when someone has bought in?

    I think the cycle is somewhat inevitable. The best that you can hope for is to execute well and
    take the construction risk out of the equation. There will always be market risk.

    Do you plan to follow the same strategy of attracting Manhattan-bound professionals
    and foreign investors for your new waterfront developments?

    Our strategy is to attract buyers from everywhere: Manhattan, overseas and
    the local markets.

    Who, among your competitors, are doing a nice job with their own projects? What makes your
    developments unique?

    I think Lennar at the Avenue is doing a nice job, as is Toll at Maxwell Place in Hoboken. We’re fiercely proud of all of our developments and we work tirelessly to ensure every one of our buyers is satisfied. We don’t win everyone over, but we are running well ahead of 90 percent on our customer satisfaction reviews and we are very proud of this statistic.

    For the uninformed, give us the “elevator pitch” for why a Manhattan-based professional should consider moving to your developments on the Jersey waterfront.

    Value, easy commute and one-of-akind, awe-inspiring views of Manhattan.

    Would your company ever consider developing luxury rentals? After all, that is how the vast majority of Manhattan residents currently live.

    We’re strictly focused on ownership and sales. I think it’s truly difficult to be all things to all people, so we focus our efforts accordingly.

    Walk us through the most over-the-top property currently being developed by your company on the
    New Jersey waterfront. Is it one of the proposed penthouses?

    I have a magnificent two-bedroom penthouse in the center of the building where you can see from the
    George Washington Bridge to the Verrazano Bridge and everything in between. There are very few
    buildings in the world where you can get iconic views that feature the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty all from one spectacular home.

    Given that Bergen County, at 10 percent, has the second most active housing building
    activity in New Jersey (behind Hudson County at 17 percent), are there projects in other
    areas of Northern New Jersey to look out for?
    There’s always the next one.

    So many developers in Northern New Jersey are dependent on the successes of
    the Manhattan economy. Are your developments somewhat inoculated from that by equally emphasizing foreign buyers?

    I don’t think we set out with the concept that a particular project is going to be for mostly foreign
    buyers; sometimes it happens this way, sometimes not. The point is to start with a great design, execute well and provide value to the buyer.

    For potential first-time residents to any of your properties, tell us the significant differences in your
    projects in Jersey City, Edgewater and Weehawken.

    All of our projects have such different settings, the key to each is to try to be authentic to the area and take advantage of the light and views.

    Please finish this sentence: K. Hovnanian is different because…

    We care about our team, who in turn, care about our clients by delivering to them a high quality product with great service, which leads to repeat business and referrals.