Where the rural lifestyle attracts the rich and famous

One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.

This is about the other Tinicum Township - the one in Bucks County, not the one with the airport in Delaware County, right at the edge of Philadelphia.

The only thing the two share is the Delaware River and a view of New Jersey across it.

"There's no comparison," says John Suchy, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Hearthside Real Estate in the township's Ottsville section, best known for the inn that dates from 1873 and a traditional arts center.

"People do mix the two townships up," he says with a laugh.

This Tinicum is actually 40 miles north of Philadelphia on Route 611, across from Frenchtown, Hunterdon County, N.J. It had 3,995 people at the last official count in 2010, and is spread out over 30.1 square miles.

Because it was settled in the early 18th century, Tinicum has the requisite amount of Pennsylvania history.

It's rural and quiet there, says Horsham native Suchy, and Tinicum attracts people who moved years ago to central Bucks when it was sparsely settled, as well as Jersey residents looking for a break on taxes.

In New Jersey, a "house can have an annual tax bill of $22,000, but the same one this side of the river is just $11,000," says Suchy, who moved from Lahaska 25 years ago, before he became a real estate agent.

Then, too, there are the second-home people from Manhattan "who can't understand why they used to drive three hours to the Hamptons when they could have gotten here in an hour and a half on a Sunday morning."

Some local residents travel to Philadelphia for work, but not a lot.

Tinicum attracts celebrities, some of whom Suchy has shown around town but is not at liberty to identify.

"Millionaires and new arrivals mix with farmers and families who have been here for six generations," says Suchy, adding that it is often impossible to tell the difference.

"The guy who looks like a farmer comes into our office and turns out to be a millionaire software developer," he says. "There used to be a lot more artists and writers here, although we still do get some."

Longtime residents always come in handy, he says, offering John Quinby Jr. of Quinby & Sons, an excavation contractor, as an example.

"If you want to know if a certain area has ever flooded and the last time it happened, he can tell you," Suchy says.

Flooding along the Delaware is always a concern, but since Pennsylvania persuaded New York City to lower the level of its reservoirs to reduce the chances of that happening, "we haven't had any," Suchy says.

Still, many residents remember the devastating 1955 flood, and the township has strict regulations to control building.

"When you go to the township with a proposal, you are shown a wall map with seven different overlays," he says. "Your lot could, for example, fall into 'the wild and scenic area' designation, or not [be] the required 50 feet back from a steep slope along the river," he says.

The strictness of the building code, the efforts of the Tinicum Conservancy - 38 percent of the township is protected - and the absence of public sewers and water have helped keep larger developers at bay.

"You must be able to install an on-site septic system, and most of the zoning areas require a minimum of two acres to get a building permit," he says.

Tinicum is a community of primarily single-family detached houses, many of which sit on 30 acres or more.

Resale homes range from the mid-$200,000s up to many millions of dollars, although "the high-$200,000 to mid-$400,000 homes sell the best," Suchy says. Anything over that, except for "million-dollar properties with something special," sell slowly.

A buildable vacant lot, anywhere from two to five acres, will sell between $175,000 and $285,000, depending on views and the setting, Suchy says.

Lots are scarce but occasionally pop up, and there are three houses under construction, building typically done by locals such as Joe Billingham or Jay Maxwell, he says.

Although the number of sales in Tinicum has increased over the last eight years for his office, the township is not a hotbed of transactions, Suchy says.

"It's slow and steady."

aheavens@phillynews.com

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