Real-Estate

Aberdeen, N.J.: Reasonably Priced Housing Not Far From the Beach

Josh Naparstek spent his childhood living in the A section of Strathmore, a neighborhood in Aberdeen, N.J. Now grown and married, Mr. Naparstek, 33, a tech solutions consultant, recently moved into the W section.

He made a few stops along the way. Like others who grew up in this coastal township in northern Monmouth County, he found the draw of New York City — 40 miles north by car, or 23 miles by boat — irresistible. He moved to the city after college, and five years later he joined his future wife in Hoboken. Earlier this year, with plans to start a family and the confines of Covid-19 making their 800-square-foot condo feel tight, the Naparsteks began contemplating their next step.

“We’d talked about buying a house for a while, but that planning kicked into high gear in February, and we were under contract by the end of March,” Mr. Naparstek said, describing the lightning speed with which they bought their four-bedroom house with a big backyard for $585,000, offering $45,000 over the asking price to ensure their place in one of Aberdeen’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Susan Grace McGowan, a broker with Hometown Residential Realty and a 20-year resident of the township, said Aberdeen’s housing market has heated up lately, attracting buyers priced out of neighboring townships like Marlboro, Manalapan and Holmdel. “I have people calling me from New York, the Bronx and Queens about a for-sale house that doesn’t exist anymore,” she said. “Now they’re just saying, ‘Can you help us find a home?’ They start with a big circle radius, but once they start seeing houses, they like Aberdeen.”

Mr. Naparstek may not have planned to buy a house just blocks from his parents, but it has been convenient, especially as he and his wife, Krysti Naparstek, 33, a neurological physical therapist at JFK University Medical Center, in Edison, N.J., fix up their new home. Living in Aberdeen has also meant an easier commute for Ms. Naparstek. But perhaps the greatest benefit of moving back to the neighborhood where he grew up is knowing the lay of the land.

“I had friends who lived in each type of house here,” Mr. Naparstek said, referring to the four basic housing models in the Strathmore neighborhood, which was built by the suburban developer William Levitt. “I knew their configurations and how they’d been updated, so it was easy for me to visualize what we could do.”

Victor and Elda Marotti were among the first to buy a house in Strathmore. In 1961, they traveled from Flushing, Queens, to check out Levitt’s new development, which Mr. Marotti said “had gotten a great write-up in The New York Times.” They found a three-bedroom colonial-style house for just over $20,000, and they still live there today.

“We’ve always been very pleased here,” Ms. Marotti, 89, said. “Some people we knew eventually moved to Holmdel, which was fancier, and we thought about doing that, too. But our children were happy here, and we were happy here, so why leave?”

On April 26, Mr. Marotti turned 100, and to mark the occasion the Aberdeen Police Department and many neighborhood residents came out to honor their longtime neighbor, eating cake and listening to a bagpipe rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

“It was very festive. They had bagpipes and cars going by, and I think I saw a minister, who was there in case something happened,” Mr. Marotti joked. “I was very impressed, even at my age.”

With its tilted question-mark shape covering 5.5 square miles, Aberdeen comprises a number of residential neighborhoods, bisected by the Garden State Parkway and Route 35 in the north, and by the largely commercial Route 34 in the south.

Strathmore — which has about 2,000 homes, laid out in various sections designated by streets starting with the same letter — accounts for close to a third of the housing in the township. Other residential neighborhoods include Cliffwood, just north of the Garden State Parkway, where a flurry of apartment and townhouse development has occurred recently; the Cliffwood Beach section, jutting into Raritan Bay; and central Aberdeen, bordering Matawan, between Route 34 and the train station.

When Aberdeen broke away from Matawan in 1977, officials chose the name Aberdeen because it would place the town first in an alphabetical listing of New Jersey municipalities. But the name has had trouble sticking: Some of the township’s 19,330 residents say they live in Matawan or Keyport, which share the same ZIP codes.

Aberdeen’s population has grown by more than 1,100 in the last decade, thanks in part to several new housing projects in Cliffwood that were spurred by post-Hurricane Sandy funding. Fred Tagliarini, the town’s mayor, said the funds allowed Aberdeen to clean up former industrial sites and turn them into residential neighborhoods. One such project is Glassworks, where hundreds of rental apartments and townhouses have been built in recent years on the former Anchor Glass bottling plant site, which had been vacant for 20 years. Another is The Link at Aberdeen Station, a mixed-use complex next to the train station that includes 200 upscale rental apartments.

“Everything we’ve built in Aberdeen in the last couple of years has had a component of cleanup, beautification and bringing in some nice, new neighbors,” said Mr. Tagliarini, who has been the mayor since 2009.

In late September, there were 38 active listings in Aberdeen, including seven condominiums, with another 18 homes under contract, according to the Monmouth Ocean Multiple Listing Service. The average sale price for a house in the first nine months of 2021 was $476,162, compared with $372,221 during the same period in 2020 — a 28 percent increase. The most expensive home currently on the market is a five-bedroom colonial built in 2007 on 0.41 acres, listed for $769,000. At the low end is a two-bedroom bungalow in Cliffwood Beach, built in 1930, listed for $214,999.

Homes are less expensive in the Cliffwood Beach neighborhood, where some of the original shore bungalows still stand, although many are getting face-lifts.

Condominium prices range from the mid-$200,000s in older developments to the mid-$500,000s for the newest townhouses.

The most commonly cited reason for moving to Aberdeen is its proximity to major highways and the beach. Despite its name, Cliffwood Beach has no beaches where you can swim, but the beaches in Belmar, Spring Lake and the Sandy Hook Recreation Area are about a half-hour away.

Route 34 is the commercial heart of the township, with two supermarkets, big-box stores, a New Jersey outpost of Staten Island’s popular Denino’s pizzeria, and the township’s first microbrewery, Alternate Ending Beer Co., which opened last fall in a space that was previously a Bow Tie Cinemas theater. Patrons of can sample craft beers and pub food while watching free films on a movie screen that remains intact.

Thousands of area residents come out in the fall for Aberdeen Day, an annual celebration that spreads across the township with entertainment, food vendors, a car show and a mechanical bull.

The Aberdeen-Matawan Regional School District, which also serves neighboring Matawan, has one prekindergarten school, three elementary schools for students in kindergarten through third grade, one school for fourth and fifth graders, one middle school for sixth through eighth grade, and Matawan Regional High School, in Aberdeen.

The high school currently enrolls 1,086 students. During the 2019-20 school year, average SAT scores there were 533 in math and 520 in reading and writing, compared with state averages of 536 in each section.

Students can also apply to one of Monmouth County’s magnet high schools, which specialize in high tech, biotech, marine science and communications. Private school options include the Catholic St. Benedict School, in neighboring Holmdel, serving students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

New Jersey Transit offers train and bus service from Aberdeen to New York City. A direct train to Penn Station in Manhattan takes just over an hour and costs $14.75 one way or $421 for a monthly pass. The bus also takes about an hour and costs $13 one way or $303 monthly.

Some commuters choose to drive 20 minutes to Middletown, N.J., and take the Belford Ferry, which goes to Wall Street and Midtown Manhattan. The trip to Lower Manhattan takes about 45, and the trip to 39th Street takes about an hour; it costs $21 one way or $635 for a monthly pass.

Cliffwood Beach was once a popular resort, with a large saltwater pool, boardwalk amusements and the Cat ’n Fiddle Restaurant, where one could “dine and dance on the water’s edge,” while sipping a 25-cent cocktail, according to a 1935 ad in the Matawan Journal. The area was destroyed by Hurricane Donna in 1960, and the saltwater pool is now buried under the new sea wall lining a passive park along the coastline.

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