Here is an OAQ (Occasionally Asked Questions) breakdown for people considering moving to Cranford.

Q. [We’re]…looking to move out of New York City and into the suburbs.  We visited Cranford and thought it was very nice.  We are also looking more north, the Bergen County area

Best of luck in your house hunt. It is definitely not a bad time to buy.

We like it here. We feel it is less judgmental than the more exclusive communities (like the ‘my Volvo’s trim level is nicer than your Volvo’s trim level’ type of stuff. If you’re into comparing your Volvo’s trim level to your neighbor’s, Westfield and Summit have more Volvos for comparing.)

It seems like you get more for your money in Cranford than you do in towns in Bergen County or even compared to Westfield.  How come that is?

While I can’t explain completely why Cranford is cheaper than Westfield or Ridgewood, here’s my thinking:

* Cranford’s housing stock has many more small, modest homes. Westfield and Ridgewood have a lot of pretty stately places, while Cranford has a limited number, mostly on the north side. So telling others you’re from Cranford usually does not get the reaction that you would get saying you’re from Westfield, Short Hills, Summit or Ridgewood. Half of the time when I tell people where we live they think I mean Cranbury (which is actually a nice little town) near Exit 8 of the Turnpike.

* Cranford up until oh, 25 years ago, had a decent amount of industry. There are still some plants in town, but fewer every year. A big GM ball bearing plant became the Hyatt Hills Golf Course, for example. Having smokestacks nearby keeps prices down. The other towns are more professional / residential. I don’t think that Cranford now has any disadvantage from having industry than any other town around. I don’t consider anything close by to be a danger. (UPDATE Dec 2012: By now, with the US Gypsum plant on Raritan in Clark, and the businesses on North Avenue by the Parkway all closing, there is even less industry to worry about.)

* Cranford’s downtown does not have critical mass. Based on the footprint and the Rahway River, it probably won’t anytime soon. That’s not saying it’s bad, it’s not. Even though a lot of people are really critical. But because of it’s limited size, the foot traffic, parking, etc., mall stores probably won’t find it cost-effective and there’s no room for a supermarket or major department store. You can take care of a lot of weekend errands in town, and there are some pretty good restaurants. There are also some nice offbeat local stores. But Westfield with it’s wider sidewalks, more outdoor dining choices and big name stores will always be considered to be more desirable.

* Cranford has no direct midtown train service. We like Cranford since you have the choice of train and express bus to NYC. Not every town does. But since we’re on the Raritan Valley line, we have to switch in Newark. That stinks. We’re supposed to get direct service, but it will be years. When Summit got direct to midtown service their property values went up about 15% in a year. Westfield is on the same line but it has a couple of express trains to Newark. (Update Jan 2015: There are now off-peak direct trains to NYC during the day and in the evening, which is great if you have flex time or shift work or want to meet up for drinks in the city in the evening; the train trip is reduced to a manageable 37 minutes or so.)

The fact that the express buses stop at the train station has been a life-saver more than a few times when the trains are broken (which is less rare than we’d like). Early morning express buses can get you into Port Authority in under an hour.  Taking an express bus home from NYC can take 35 minutes at the right time of day (the 8:05 pm express, for example). My commute to downtown near the WTC was an hour and five minutes door to door using NJTransit to Newark and the PATH.

Since you came from the same sort of situation not too long ago of moving from NYC to Cranford, would you suggest it to be a good move?

We had a little kid learning to walk in a one bedroom on the West Side. We felt it was the right thing to do. If we stayed, we figured we’d have to do private school and move to a 2 bedroom. We had a car in a garage. We had stuff in a storage bin. Our rent was at market rates, which in 2002-2003 was not a good thing.

If we were going to bother moving, why not go where we can have a yard, decent public schools (so that they were an option), a garage, a basement and an attic? (Which is what we got.) Our mortgage is less than our rent was. Food shopping is a breeze with supermarkets nearby in Clark, Garwood and Kenilworth. Daycare here is much cheaper than NYC and we found places we liked. No more NYC resident income tax. Other than the commute, we’re ahead.

In Cranford, there is a little bit of a dichotomy between north and south sides, which the Raritan Valley Line tracks divide. We’re on the south side. When we were looking, the north side houses were about 10% more expensive. Some of the old timers may think the north side is better but I think it doesn’t really matter (in fact, I have heard from multiple people that the south side elementary schools are thought to be better than the north side’s).

What is your read on the real estate market?  Do you think the housing prices will continue to fall in the area?  How desperate are the sellers in Cranford?  Please be honest.

I can’t predict the real estate market. However, I would guess that Cranford’s housing won’t crater relative to towns around us. There is no room for any large tract developments, so there can be no flood of new supply. There are potential developments on South Ave and Birchwood Ave, but they won’t happen for years, if ever, due to litigation. (Update Jan 2015: The South Ave development is nearing completion and the development by the train station is essentially done. I haven’t seen much going on at Birchwood.) Prices may fall some more as taxes increase and the impact of the Schering Plough buyout results in layoffs (the headquarters were in Kenilworth). But overall, there is good commuter access (GSP/78, train and bus), the housing prices are still affordable for people with a decent job, and we still have relatively low crime. Taxes aren’t worse than most of North Jersey. I’m sure you can find some desperate sellers, but not everybody. I honestly don’t see a huge property value drop that would be worse than what NJ will experience in general, but that is just my personal opinion.

Is there anything you can tell me about the town through your personal experience of living there compared to what I can get from brokers or other outside biased parties?

We’re pretty busy and we’re still getting to know people and exploring. Overall people in Cranford tend to be pretty decent and reasonably friendly. Our neighbors have been very easy to get along with. Our kid has made some very nice little friends. We have also made some good friendships (often with the parents of our kid’s friends). My family has been happy here.  The vibe I get is that the town is stable, family oriented, resists any kind of change, and is less corrupt than most NJ towns.

One thing: when looking at a house, make sure it doesn’t have a flooding problem. We got some water in the big storm of April 2007, but we have a sump pump that held up. A lot of houses on the north side and a few on the south get flooded when the river rises. The Cranford Taxpayer blog has some shots of that. Most houses don’t have a problem, but look out when the furnace is on blocks and evidence of water damage is on the basement walls. UPDATE Sept 2011: Of course, Hurricane Irene dropped more rain in 2011 (about 10 inches in less than 24 hours) than had been seen since Cranford became populated. Some houses were hit with flooding for the first time. We had water closer than ever and many people who live near us had some pretty bad problems. We have a perimeter drain with a sump pump, and have a manual bilge pump as a back-up..our basement stayed dry during the flooding. When looking at a home, consider this map…it may sway your decision…or if you choose to buy in this area, just factor in that an ornately finished basement may not be the best idea.

http://www.cranford.com/uploads/police/Evacuation_Zones.pdf

UPDATE: Dec 2012 – Here are new maps that were used for Sandy..which pretty much sum up the total of Irene’s flooding. There are a lot more homes in the evac zone – granted, Irene was pretty epic as far as rainfall was concerned. Sandy dropped only about 2 inches of rain and most of the issues were falling trees and power outages, like everywhere else.

http://www.cranford.com/uploads/police/North_Side_Evacuation_Map_1.pdf

http://www.cranford.com/uploads/police/North_Side_Evacuation_Map_2.pdf

http://www.cranford.com/uploads/police/South_Side_Evacuation_Map.pdf

Before you buy, find out if the property is on the FEMA map requiring flood insurance and determine what the flood insurance premium is. I do not have any info on how many homes in Cranford require flood insurance or how much it costs.

UPDATE Jan 2013: I spoke with a friend of mine who works for PSE&G. He made an interesting comment about the south side. The south side’s electrical infrastructure is newer and a completely different technology compared to the north side and thus more durable. Which may explain the fact that we on the south side didn’t lose power in the past three “storms of the century”. Also, the south side is served by a different substation than the north. The north side’s substation is near the train station on South Avenue..which was heavily flooded during Irene. This isn’t to bash the north side. It has a lot of great streets and homes, and we may live on the north side someday. But if you buy on the north side, just be aware of some of the risks and plan accordingly.

Is there a bad part of town?

If there is, I’m not as aware as I should be. I can’t say “avoid there and there”. And I think that parking a car overnight on any residential street in Cranford would be okay.  If you’re looking for  a house, you should be able to get a good feel walking around the neighborhood. Some neighborhoods are more upscale than others. The houses on the north side around Casino are very different than the south side near the Centennial Ave Pool. (Although the Casino houses can flood.)  The town has lower crime than most, but it is not crime-free. The police do seem to patrol more around the entry points of town…Raritan Road by the Parkway and Centennial, and North and South Avenues (as well as downtown).

What surprised you after you moved into the town of Cranford that you weren’t expecting?

Nothing comes to mind as a surprise. One thing I did think of was traffic, as North Ave in rush hour can get bad, but one thing I liked about Cranford traffic is that it can’t get worse. It is pretty much as developed as it ever will be. If anything, people were tearing down two small houses to put up one big house. Well, I was surprised when a few mobsters who were arrested apparently lived in town. But what town in NJ doesn’t have a couple of mobsters? It IS New Jersey.

UPDATE: The NY Times got around to Cranford for its “Living In” series.
Some of the assertions should be taken with a grain of salt (especially the downtown management corporation and starting a business portion which would spark a lively debate with the locals)…but a lot of it is basically correct.

31 Responses to “So, You’re Thinking of Moving to Cranford…”

  1. Bob Frahme Says:

    Nice write-up. I grew up in Cranford decades ago and everything I see here could have been written in the 1950s. That attests to the stability of the town. (CHS ’61) We lived on the river and the activities available there for a young boy influenced who I am today. The schools were good, and apparently still are. They prepared me well to earn a B.S. in geology and MBA in finance plus a rewarding career that I’m finishing out. I now live in the mountains in Colorado. I couldn’t go back but Cranford was a great place to come from.


  2. […] you are still considering it search the internet for pictures/videos of the aforementioned storms. https://cranfordpundit.wordpress.com/so-youre-thinking-of-moving-to-cranford/ I would not hesitate to buy a home anywhere else in Cranford; it is a great town. As mentioned […]

  3. Lynn Miller Says:

    I agree with Bob Frahme above. Cranford is a great place to have gone to school. We lived on the north side (CHS ’70) on the river at the end of the street from the high school (Berkeley). I see our former house is not indicated as in the flood region which is interesting since I remember it being surrounded by water back in the late 60’s flooding. Wonderful schools…served me well…I have my Ph.D. in psychology and have been a Professor for many years at USC….I’m very grateful for those Cranford years and a wonderful academic foundation.

  4. Transplant Says:

    We’re in the North side of town, and I can’t help but notice there’s a snottiness to Cranford; kind of an insular attitude, where lifelong residents still act like it’s high school and resort to clique-ish snobbery. We have seriously been given the cold shoulder as newcomers. The snobby attitude probably pales to that of Westfield’s, but it’s still there.

    1. Amanda Says:

      Has your situation improved? We are planning on putting an offer on a house this week in Cranford. We are moving from Oklahoma. I am so worried about my kids making friends (and me!)

      1. Cranford Pundit Says:

        I think you’ll be fine. You may find that the people here talk really quickly and with an accent you’re not used to from Oklahoma, but you should be able to find your way. Good luck.

      2. Christopher Says:

        You’ll love it I’m a live long resident, my two sister have lived here, one move to the beach. My niece and nephew had great educations , got my nephew a full ride and my niece to JMU. Which she loves, and says it was her education at gave her the leg up. people from Cranford are mostly down to earth, great parks great pools great school system you’ll enjoy it

  5. Cranford Pundit Says:

    There is a bit of the “two Cranfords”, between the transplants and the lifers. I must admit that most of our friends here are also transplants. I think that is pretty typical, though. I transferred high schools in my sophomore year…and almost all the friends I made in my new high school were also transplants.

    When we first moved here, there was a block party (there hasn’t been another one in years) and we did feel like outsiders. A large group of lifers were sitting around reminiscing about events and places that we didn’t know. Only a few people really reciprocated the effort to say hello.

    We’re not pals with everyone in our neighborhood. Not everyone driving by waves. We know the folks about three houses up and down and after that not so much.

    But I would still characterize our experience here as positive. Maybe also affecting our experience is that our neighbors on both sides are transplants and I would guess maybe 40% our block as well.

    And not to bash the lifers, but the transplants we’ve met and become friends with are all caring parents with smart kids and good jobs…which is not a bad demographic to have in the community.

    Some of the lifers are in fact nice…we have a few lifer friends who are hilarious. But they do take longer to get to know.

    So my advice is to hang out with some transplants.

  6. Lynn Miller Says:

    My experience as a “transplant” in my junior year of high school might have been different because we were lucky to get pretty engaged right away. I was in one of the high school plays my first year in Cranford (and in “summer stock” performances…I joined a lot of clubs…my parents hosted a lot of parties (“cast parties” “political parties” etc.) at our house for me and that may have really helped smooth the way for connecting me with a number of folks who had lived here for a long time….I had a pretty easy time of it actually. I came from a high school with about 1000 kids in each grade…so to me this was heaven…I met so many interesting peers that I got to know in classes and in clubs/activities– many shared a lot of my academic interests and for the first time in my life I felt like I “fit in.” My mom was invited into various clubs pretty quickly (she’s very sociable) and right away the minister from the local church got us all engaged (I was in the choir…although really I did not have a great voice…I think the minister from the Presbyterian Church — where I eventually got married — thought it was a good way to help me meet people…a sweet gesture). Maybe the lesson in this is keep reaching out to people. Join clubs/groups where you have something in common with others and those division lines over “lifers” and “transplants” are likely to fade. Although it sometimes may take a while you’re likely to eventually find your “home”. I know that was my experience in Cranford…and in every town where we lived (then as an adult) for more than a few years….

  7. Amanda Says:

    Hi Everyone…Great article. My husband and I are looking to buy in Cranford. Can anyone give us feedback regarding Johnson Avenue? Thanks!

  8. Lori Says:

    I grew up on Elizabeth Avenue in Cranford, NJ! It was a great place to grow up and the schools are excellent. I graduated in 1991 and many of my classmates are raising their children there today. From what I heard, it’s still a great place to live.

  9. John M. Duryee Says:

    I don’t know if anyone ever answered Amanda — houses on Johnson Ave are mostly owned by African-American families and have been for years. Indeed, some of he oldest “lifers” in Cranford are African-American. My parents and I moved to Cranford in 1944 when I was in the second grade. I still live in the same house (south side). It’s a great town, particularly for families. One comment about governing — I was Cranford’s tax assessor from 1966 to 1997. In 31 years I only had one governing body member try and play political games with me.

  10. Bob Frahme Says:

    Interesting dialogue. Lynn Miller (above) mentioned that she was married in the Presbyterian Church and mentioned, in particular, the kindness of the minister there. That would most likely be Rev. Bob Longaker. I knew him well and he was one of the kindest gentlemen I’ve ever known. He and his family lived on Hampton Road, around the corner for us. We were on Crescent Place, on the river, as I said above. I was a classmate with his younger son Les (CHS ’61) and my older brother was a classmate of Les’s older brother. Many great softball games on those quiet streets on summer evenings. Many great hockey games on the river, too, on winter days. I’d like to think that Cranford still offers that to young kids growing up. I think it does. Since my last post, I’ve moved from the mountains of Colorado to the mountains of Idaho, still trying to retire. I absolutely love it here.

    Bob Frahme

    1. Lynn Miller Says:

      Bob I’m not sure if I responded to your comment earlier, but Yes, the kind minister was indeed Bob Longaker. We lived at 4 Berkeley Place, on the river, close by. Loved the neighborhood and the very bright, engaging, neighbors. It might seem odd for a teenager to want to spend time talking to the older women on the street, but they had such interesting lives, had traveled and lived in so many — what seemed like exotic places and disparate cultures yet so fundamentally familiar– and such stories to tell and had such wisdom to impart…loved to have a sip of tea and cookies with them…and learn… it makes me smile remembering those sweet days. Glad you are finding your way to retirement on your terms in beautiful country… After more than 30 years in Southern California…these vistas …and the ocean here along the coast never cease to captivate. I think it’s that tie to nature — water, mountains, trees– I’ve realized are more important then I knew. I loved the river and the old trees in Cranford for that reason too… lazy afternoons following one’s imaginings down the river.

  11. Karen Jones Says:

    I’m a transplant to Cranford (almost 38 years now). We live on the South side in a modest Cape Cod. All my neighbors are transplants (45 years ago, etc). We say hi and talk but I believe it’s been years of us all working and not being home. It’s a very nice town, pleasant shops, good places to eat and plenty for kids to do. My son has long moved out, lived here till he graduated college in ’97. He does not hold pleasant memories of this town. He was very aware of the north side/south side problems in sports and high school. I had heard certain women speak of it but since I never involved myself, couldn’t have cared less. I’m a senior citizen now and have earned my say in Cranford. Schools are great, it’s easy here. I truly believe that if you are looking to move into a nice NJ suburb, this is the place. My advice…get involved. You’ll make great friends.

  12. Transplant Too Says:

    Echo what the other transplants are saying. We moved here about five years ago from outside the NYC metro area. People are not deliberately mean but don’t really know what to do with you if you did not go to high school with them and are, God forbid, not Irish/Italian Catholic. It has gotten easier over time but sometimes we wish we had moved somewhere that was a little less insular. I want to reiterate that no one is deliberately mean, just often already ensconced in their little group of friends and not especially motivated to make new ones.

  13. Jasona Allen Says:

    Riverside Drive flooded so badly in 1954 or 1955 that we had to take a rowboat to get to ‘the footbridge’ that goes across to Balmiere Pkwy in order to get to the High School. From what I understand, the flooding has only gotten worse. Willow street, never flooded, until Brookside School and College Estates were built. If you move to Cranford and you qualify, get all the flood insurance you can.

    1. M Says:

      Hi how’s is Spruce Street? I see some many housess for sale there, not sure if it’s because of flooding issues. Curious to know more about that surrounding area, thank you in advance!

      1. Cranford Pundit Says:

        Spruce Street did flood during Hurricane Irene. You may need to purchase flood insurance. It is a nice street and would enable your high-school age students to leave for school 5 minutes before homeroom starts.

      2. Cranfordgal Says:

        Some of Spruce Street flooded during Irene, notably those homes closest to Brookside Place. Many homes on Spruce were ok, esp. those who used a backup generator to keep sump pumps going.

      3. M Says:

        THANK YOU FOR THE INFO! Due to all the surrounding schools, is that street and surrounding area hectic during school dismissal? How are the public sewers during long periods of rain?? THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL AND ANY HELP making this life changing decision! : )

  14. John Says:

    What a great blog and excellent comments. My family and I looking to move into the south side….looks like “outskirts” of Cranford going towards Roselle in neighborhoods of Dermody, Dietz or Hory. Neighborhoods seem real nice, even tho from what I read above may not be the “desirable” place of Cranford. Do I have anything to worry about “safety” wise or other for my family living in this part of town?

    1. Cranford Pundit Says:

      Hi John
      I don’t think you’d need to worry about major safety issues, but perhaps the chance of property crime may be higher (just a supposition on my part) given the location. Roselle does have some problems that Cranford does not. I would suggest calling the non-emergency number for the Cranford police (272-2222) and ask them what the history has been for the neighborhood and if you’re comfortable doing so, asking some of the prospective neighbors how they’ve been. Hope that helps. CP

    2. Kira Says:

      Hi John,
      Did you end up moving to the south side you mentioned? My husband and I are looking in the area but all that commercial area sort of bothers me. Has it been an issue for you?

  15. CJMik Says:

    You pretty much nailed it with this piece. I moved here in 1977 (when I was 10) with my parents. Like a lot of people, we moved from Bayonne. I went through the public schools here and got a good education. My kids are now in the public schools and are doing well. No place is perfect, but I can say I am happy to be an almost Cranford lifer. If you’re buying a house here beware the flood zones. Flooding WILL happen again. It’s just a matter of time.

  16. brwagenblast Says:

    It’s very enlightening reading the comments about Cranford “lifers” from Cranford transplants. While I haven’t exclusively lived in Cranford, I’ve lived here most of my life including all of my schooling from K-12. I appreciate what the transplants have said and want to make more of an effort to have those who didn’t grow up here feel as welcome whether they lived here one week or 50 years. I have a community service project called Cranford Radio (www.cranfordradio.com). The idea behind that is to promote positive things happening in the town.

    1. Kira Says:

      I need some advice from the Cranford resident. My husband and I are looking to move to Cranford and we saw a great new construction on the border of Linden. The area is pretty commercial but the house is amazing. Can anyone tell me about that part of Cranford? Is it considered not as nice? Does it have a bad reputation associated with it?

  17. John Says:

    Hi Kira, we did not end up moving there. I reached out to a cop friend whom is familiar when I was looking into it back then and he told me that I shouldn’t have anything to worry about in that area. Just remember that the “bad side” of Cranford borders the “good side” of Linden and Roselle.

  18. Catherine C. Says:

    The “bad” side of town is the south side and the “good” side of town in the North Side. I live on the Northside. I love in a big house and there is a definitely a different life style that the north siders have than the southsiders. the northsiders are definitely richer while the Southside isn’t as much. the sizes of houses is a big difference. growing up you were always reminded (again living on the north side) north side is better stay away from the south siders. they aren’t good. the south is known as cranhood. honestly there is no bad side of cranford but comparing them, the Southside is worse than the north. hate to say it but the people that were involved in drugs were the southsiders there are little to zero north siders that did drugs. the drugs was mainly smoking and cocaine. sorry to be so “graphic” I guess you can say. again this is from a north side perspective. GO NORTH SIDE (little dramatic lol). its always awkward going to high school as well when they the sides combine. just looking at someone you know what side of town they are from. People say that when you get to a certain grade everyone combines and you forget who went to hillside who went to orange who lives on the north and who lives on the south side and honestly no one forgets. if someone from the Southside gets caught with doing something, the northsiders always go well its because they are a southsider. still, in high school, the southsiders hang out with the southsiders and the north siders hang out with the north siders. AGAIN THIS IS FROM A NORTHSIDERS PERSPECTIVE 🙂

    1. John Duryee Says:

      I have lived on the south side of Cranford since 1944 (in the same house!) and have no visible scars or marks, physical or psychological. Went to Cranford schools from the second grae on..I was Cranford’s tax assessor for 31 years and know the town pretty well. True, the homes on the north side are generally larger but there are some neighborhoods on the south side which are comparable. Over the past few years builders have been buying smaller houses on the south side, tearing them down and building larger, new homes These are generally selling in the 6 to 700,000 dollar range. There is a recent sale at a little over $800,000. The point being that people are spending a considerable amount to live in otherwise more modest neighborhoods (which are generally very well maintained) so they can be in Cranford. The inventory of homes for sale right now is quite low. As to drugs, etc., I am told by a Cranford police officer who deals with youth that the present problem is pretty much the same from one side of town to the other..

      1. Catherine C. Says:

        thank you for your comment back but again this is from a northsiders perspective which I made pretty clear. I am best friends with people on the southside from growing up. nothing against that side of town but I was just saying how it was growing up. thats it. I was in the school system starting from kindergarten 🙂 also….the police don’t know everything that the kids do. again kids talk but I think some of the police officers themselves would be shocked at some of the students that do illegal things in our town. but I want to say AGAIN….. this is from a northsiders perspective and I have nothing against the Southside. That is pretty cool how you are living in the same house 🙂 again thank you for the comment back and for your opinion :))

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