In some ways, Costanza's prediction may have even underestimated the importance of the rail line, especially because as real estate values level off, people seek homes that are better-connected to jobs in Manhattan.
Costanza said the Light Rail line is one of the keys to Bayonne's future and part of the reason it is so attractive.
"The Light Rail has been a tremendous boost to Bayonne. It has connected us to the rest of the world," he said.
The Light Rail may become an anchor for maintaining property values in Bayonne when markets elsewhere in the state and nation sink, said Dianne Brennan of Coldwell Banker Jablonski Real Estate Agency.
The train runs from several stops in Bayonne all the way to North Bergen, and will eventually extend to Bergen County. For $1.75 per trip, it allows connections to trains, buses and ferries in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken that run to Manhattan.
A leveling market
As in most places nationwide, the selling price for Bayonne property has dropped, yet local agents are not singing the blues.
"The real estate market is leveling," Costanza said. "This started back in June 2006, although we didn't feel it then. Prices have leveled, turning things from a seller's to a buyer's market."
In some ways, the lowered market brings prices back within reach of first-time homebuyers, for whom last year's inflated prices put the possibility out of reach.
"Things have leveled off and prices are coming down," Brennan said.
This means that the market has shifted, giving buyers more of an advantage than in the past.
"There has been something of a slowdown," said Anthony Ward of A.J. Ward Real Estate. "But I don't think it will affect anything in Bayonne, especially with the development coming to the [former Military Ocean Terminal]."
With at least one and possibly as many as three projects slated to break ground at the former Military Ocean Terminal, Bayonne's real estate market may actually be healthier than in many places throughout the state.
"We're lucky to be in Bayonne," Costanza said. "No matter what the market is doing in the state or the nation, we have a special niche here. The former Military Ocean Terminal is two-and-a-half miles of the best real estate in the world, and it needs to be developed."
Old or new?
Taxes remain an issue, especially in regards to choosing between an older home or one that is newly constructed. While an older home will likely have significantly lower taxes, newly constructed homes often make up for the difference in additional amenities and the lack of repairs needed.
Agents like Brennan claim many older homes require additional maintenance after they are purchased, something newer homes won't. Also, additions or other major upgrades to older houses will likely result in reassessment, potentially erasing most if not all of the tax advantages of purchasing the older homes.
Costanza in past years predicted that traditional Bayonne would change less than in other places, such as Hoboken, partly because of the way development is being managed here.
Brennan said people - particularly young professionals - seem to be seeking out Bayonne precisely because it retains much of its traditional character. She said two significant national events have changed some of the focus of home-buying: the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the natural disaster in New Orleans resulting from Hurricane Katrina.
In a sharp change from the 1990s, many new buyers are looking for safety and security, Brennan said.
Brennan said rising fuel prices are also a key factor in Bayonne's attractiveness, because people appreciate mass transportation more. Bayonne is a key urban area because its lower prices make it more attractive to homebuyers than places like downtown Jersey City and Hoboken, where prices rival those of Manhattan.
Newcomers using rentals as a sampler
Some local real estate agents believe that the rental market may see a spike, despite the lowered purchase prices of houses, as newcomers seek to sample the lifestyle in Bayonne to see if they wish to settle here.
Costanza, however, said rental for the most part is a very temporary option, partly because of the very low interest rates.
"Many people who would have rented in the past are able to purchase homes because of the low interest rates after 9/11," he said.
Amenities for seniors, young buyers
While Bayonne's traditional neighborhoods may see no great obvious shift, the aging population here may take advantage of some of the age-restricted development at the former Military Ocean Terminal, selling their larger houses for more manageable newly constructed units and the amenities the new developments may offer.
"In general we have different people and they all have their special needs, but some of our customers are senior citizens," Costanza said. "Many of them are living in one-family homes and may want to move into condos where they have washers and dryers, a porch and other amenities and don't have to climb down into the basement."
Brennan said most new young buyers in Bayonne will also be looking more closely at the amenities homes offer, such as whether a building has elevators, exercise rooms and other services.
For Costanza, two-family homes remain his agency's biggest seller, because the additional rent helps offset the mortgage and taxes.
The development of new commercial elements, such as along the Route 440 corridor, will also influence housing purchases, since shopping and entertainment are two key features younger people are looking for in a community.
"We have very educated buyers now," Brennan said. "They are not just buying homes, but they are looking for the American dream. They still have a picture of older Bayonne in their minds. That's why they're coming here."