4 Things Nobody Tells You About Buying a Home Near a State Border

published Dec 17, 2023
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USA, New Jersey, Pennsylvania state line
Credit: Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

When I bought my first home, I moved to a place five minutes away from the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border. I’d lived in the area most of my life and had never really given any thought to what impact living so close to another state would have, other than the benefit of being in close proximity to the shore. And while I quickly learned all about Jersey’s more relaxed rules about alcohol — living on the border allowed me to take advantage of everything from discounted prices to easier access when it was time to stock up for a party — it took a little bit longer to learn about the more important things I should’ve kept in mind when shopping for a home on a state border… especially when it came to living in one state and working in another! 

Filing Taxes Can Get Complicated

There was a downside to living next to another state that had an even bigger impact on my finances: taxes. I ended up crossing the river every day to enter New Jersey for work. And while I knew I had to alter some of my driving habits for my commute — you’re not allowed to pump your own gas in the state, and roundabouts are a bit tricky to master at first — I didn’t find out that there was more to working in another state until tax time came. 

Because I worked in one state and lived in another, I had to file an extra state return. Fortunately, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are good about not double dipping on those income taxes, but it was an extra layer of paperwork that I hadn’t even considered. 

You Can Get a Discount on the Essentials

When I was younger I was more focused on getting a bargain on alcohol, but there are some other more important things you can get a discount on when you get to choose which state you shop in, and that’s especially true for one Pittsburgh native who says her family frequently pops over to Ohio to shop. 

Not only is gas a little cheaper over the border, but Meg St-Esprit, parenting and travel journalist, says that there are other things her family of six make sure to get from the Buckeye State. “My favorite thing to buy in Ohio though with four kids? Milk! It’s often a lot cheaper due to how Pennsylvania taxes milk,” she says. “When I drove to Ohio to pick up our puppy I tucked him in my coat to run into a Walmart and grab four gallons of milk before heading back to Pennsylvania.” 

And, just like I was running over to Jersey for drinks, St-Esprit says locals in her area sometimes do the same. “For example, their Aldis and Costcos are allowed to sell alcohol, so everyone stocks up on Three-Buck Chuck while in Youngstown.”

The Laws Are Different

St-Esprit also jokes that some people may soon be crossing state lines to take advantage of something else Ohio has to offer: drugs. “Since Ohio just passed recreational marijuana while Penyslvania still lags behind, I’m sure that will become another common state-line-crossing activity.” That’s something to keep in mind when shopping for a home, especially if you’re looking to live somewhere that borders a state with different laws. 

Your Kids May Have Friends from Out of State

Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, St-Esprit says that it was totally normal to cross the border to do daily tasks — although she and her kids both grew up lifting their feet to “jump” state lines when crossing between the two —  in fact, some kids do it twice a day.

“There’s even a public school in our area of Pennsylvania that has students from Pennsylvania and Ohio,” she says. While that may not be the thing that sells you on purchasing a new home, it is good to keep in mind if you’re house hunting with school-aged children because your children could end up traveling out of state for their education which means they will be subject to different rules and regulations from the state where they go to learn. In today’s day and age, that education could be vastly different than what they would’ve received in another state.