Nowadays, some older residents are returning to the townhouses, while others are investigating new adult communities like Gateway at Royce Brook. In June 2016, Mr. and Mrs. Palinkas paid $604,000 for a three-bedroom house in a gated 55-plus section there, after selling a 3,800-square-foot Country Classics house they bought in 1997 for $430,000.
Younger families are also discovering Hillsborough. Pinal and Abhay Shah and their two daughters, seeking more space and good schools, and wanting to remain close to their Jain temple in Somerset, moved in 2014 from a townhouse in Somerset to a four-bedroom colonial on an acre in Hillsborough’s west side. They purchased their house for $541,000.
“The lifestyle is pretty urban, and the schools and town are quite high tech, but when you come out and see the farms, you realize it’s really rural,” said Mrs. Shah, 40, a pharmaceutical chemist. ”Right outside our house is a huge farm and the big mountain. We watch the sun set there each evening. It’s very pretty.”
What You’ll Find
Sourland Mountain to the west, and the Delaware and Raritan Canal and Millstone River to the east, serve as the natural borders of Hillsborough. The town’s most distinguishing marker, however, is the line that runs down its middle, Route 206.
This north-south highway is the commercial spine of Hillsborough, with numerous shopping plazas, big-box stores, and individual and chain restaurants lining both sides. It is also the bane of many drivers’ existence as they crawl from one intersection to the next on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Once meant to be a two-lane highway serving New Jersey’s more rural areas, the stretch of Route 206 between Somerville and Princeton has become a major thoroughfare as towns like Hillsborough and neighboring Montgomery become increasingly populated. Plans to build a Route 206 bypass have been in the works since 1974, and a stretch of that 1.66-mile bypass was built in the early 2010s, but the project was halted in 2015 because of local opposition and a lack of funding.
Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Gloria McCauley said the project is scheduled to resume in 2018, and will hopefully be completed by 2020. By then, Ms. McCauley said, Hillsborough should be “better able to compete for business against bigger towns like Bridgewater and Somerville.”
For now, the highway serves as an unofficial dividing line, with larger properties, including older working farms, occupying the west side, and most of the newer homes, including the Country Classics development, on the east side. The more concentrated multifamily housing is found in the central and north sections of town.
Jacqueline Haren, an agent with Coldwell Banker who has owned three homes in Hillsborough, said that besides the school system, buyers are drawn to Hillsborough for its inclusiveness and diversity. “There’s a great sense of community — there are tons of sports programs, all run by volunteers,” said Ms. Haren, who volunteered as the Pop Warner cheerleading coach for seven years.
What You’ll Pay
There are currently 116 properties on the market in Hillsborough, about a third of which are townhouses or condominiums, according to Karl von Loewe, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Hillsborough.
The median selling price of homes in 2017 was $318,000, down from $335,000 in 2016. Mr. von Loewe attributed the drop to increased activity at the lower end of the market last year.
The highest priced home on the market right now is a five-bedroom 1720 farmhouse on three acres, listed at $1.199 million. The lowest priced is a one-bedroom, one-bathroom 1985 townhouse being sold “as is” for $94,000.
Houses in the Country Classics development typically list in the $700,000s to high $900,000s. Townhouses range from $250,000 to $300,000, while monthly rentals go from $1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment in one of the older developments to $2,895 for a two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse in Sunnymeade Run.
Sports fields abound, according to Deputy Mayor McCauley, who took part in last April’s ceremonial opening of the 369-acre Mountain View Park, a former federal storage site, which added state-of-the art ball fields.
The 4,000-acre Sourland Mountain Preserve offers more passive recreation, like biking and hiking trails and a stocked fishing pond.
Hillsborough’s crown jewel is Duke Farms. It was once home to the tobacco and power tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his daughter, Doris, and is now a 1,000-acre estate with barns, an orchid house and nature preserve, with trails and programs that are free to the public.
For the less outdoorsy, the Bridgewater Mall is about five miles north, while downtown Princeton is a 15- to 20-minute drive south.
The public school system has six elementary schools serving students from kindergarten through grade four. Auten Road Intermediate School is for fifth and sixth graders, while Hillsborough Middle School serves seventh and eighth graders. Hillsborough High School has 2,420 students in grades nine through 12.
Beginning in the third grade, all students are provided their own Chromebooks, supplied by the district. The high school offers 29 interscholastic sports programs, and more than 80 extracurricular activities, including marching and concert bands, regionally and nationally competitive debate and robotics teams, and a model peer mentoring program.
For private schooling, the Immaculate Conception School in Somerville serves 460 students from prekindergarten to grade eight.
For the 2015-16 year, the average SAT reading score for Hillsborough High School was 599 and the average math score was 614, as compared with the state averages of 537 and 538.
Hillsborough is around 50 miles southwest of Midtown Manhattan, and takes about one and a half hours to drive via Interstates 287 and 95.
The town has no train station. Commuters to Penn Station have a couple of options: They can take a New Jersey Transit train from Bridgewater, N.J., with a change in Newark, which takes about 80 minutes and costs $14.75 one way, or $421 for a monthly pass; or they can go direct from New Brunswick to Penn Station in about an hour for $14 one way, or $393 monthly.
In October 2016, Suburban Transit added a daily express bus route from Hillsborough, making four stops in New York City. Every half-hour from 6 to 7:30 a.m., buses depart from the Hillsborough Promenade shopping center, with four returning from the city each evening, starting at 4:30 p.m. The trip takes about an hour and 20 minutes and costs $15 one way, or $420 for a monthly pass.
Encamped in Sourland Mountain during the Revolutionary War, General George Washington ran drills with his soldiers using corn stalks as pretend guns. This fooled the British into thinking the colonists had received reinforcement troops and weapons, and caused them to retreat to New Brunswick.