HELMETTA — Construction is about 65 percent complete on Lofts at Helmetta, but more than 100 of the luxury townhomes and apartments are already occupied, with another round of leasing set to launch in the next couple months.

"It's not just a place where you sleep; we've created a lifestyle here," said Jason Kaplan, president of Kaplan Companies, which owns the premium complex.

That lifestyle includes less maintenance compared to owning a home, an on-site saltwater pool and fitness center, and granite countertops and stainless steel appliances inside each unit. Lofts at Helmetta represents just a sprinkle of a trend that has taken New Jersey by storm as the face of the state's housing market makes a dramatic change, along with their wants and needs.

For years, multifamily housing and apartments had been known to mostly attract people struggling to afford anything else. But driving the rental market today in New Jersey — especially in the area of high-end units — are folks who can easily afford to buy a place to live but are choosing to rent, according to Jeffrey Otteau, president of Otteau Valulation Group in Matawan.

"It's the experience they prefer," he said.

Otteau said similar housing patterns are unfolding in other states along the East and West coasts, but it's "more exaggerated" in the Garden State, mainly due to the makeup of households.

"Today, 60 percent of all households are only one or two persons in size, and 70 percent of all households have no children under the age of 18," he said.

So with no young ones to care for, or make room for, the "book end generations" are feeling the pull towards luxury rental living. Millennials also place a very high value on mobility; the ability to pick up and move to another location for a job opportunity or to chase a dream is more attainable when renting rather than buying.

"They are now being built pretty much everywhere," Otteau said of luxury apartment complexes, noting the trend started in Hudson County. Early adopters include Morristown and Red Bank.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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