I live on the Raritan Bay (in Monmouth County) portion of central New Jersey. I'm in Middletown, in a section between Keansburg and Port Monmouth, about a block or so off a stretch of sand called Ideal Beach.

Monmouth and Middlesex counties (New Brunswick is in Middlesex) are rather congested. Cost of living is high, especially housing. Property taxes are very high. I have a 1200 sq ft (including attached garage) 3 bedroom ranch style house (no basement) on a 50X100 foot lot and my property taxes are a little over $4000 a year. At the time of my last refinance 3 years ago, my house appraised at $257,000 and prices have gone up considerably since then. Now, the median home price is $525,000 in Monmouth County, $441,658 in Middlesex County. The state median home price is $379,733 (these are 3rd quarter 2005 figures from the NJ Builders Association).

If you plan on renting, most one bedroom apartments run about $1200 or so a month, depending on where you are located. In bigger towns like New Brunswick, there will be a larger swing between the high and low prices.

Car insurance... We have the highest rates in the country. I don't know how much you have to pay in Utah, but here, full coverage on a late model car will run about $1000 a year - IF you have a good driving record.

So much for the downside. On the plus side of the ledger, central NJ is one of the best places to live if you like convenience. If it is or has been made, you can find it here. Just about everything retail is open 7 days a week, we don't roll up the sidewalks at 5PM (most major retail is open to 9:30 or 10:00 PM). 24 hour grocery stores are common. Contrary to popular belief, NJ isn't just oil refineries. Monmouth Country has a park system that is better than many State Park systems. Public transportation is generally good. NJ Transit runs train and bus service into NYC. Speaking of NYC, central NJ is becoming more and more popular with people who are moving OUT of NY. The commute to NYC (Penn Station or Port Authority Bus Station) is generally less than an hour. I live about a mile from the Belford NY Waterways ferry terminal. The boat trip is also about an hour (but kinda expen$ive, so I usually take the train).

I'm not originally from this area, I was transplanted here in 1982 by the Army. I liked it here so much that when I got out of the green suit in 1986, I decided to stay. No regrets...

If you need more info, feel free to give me a shout.