Evesham: Healthy demand for housing - but limited stock

Evesham Township, NJ on Jan. 24, 2013. Here, the Pine Grove Baptist Church. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer

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

All the signs heading into town, and the ones on the school district buildings and on the Fire Department's headquarters on Main Street, clearly say Evesham Township.

However, when you announce that you're going to the Apple Store, or REI, or scores of other locations within Evesham Township's boundaries, the destination is Marlton.

"I couldn't even tell you where the township's borders are," says Mike Carr, who has lived in Marlton for 21 years and sold real estate for Weichert for the last 11 of them.

Mark McKenna, a lifelong resident who sells real estate for the firm founded by his parents 37 years ago, says residents of one part of town often can't identify others.

"There's been a big change" since McKenna, 45, of Pat McKenna Realtors on East Main Street, was growing up.

"This is a big town, almost 50,000, and big mix of people," he says. "It is a different society, and everyone seems in a hurry."

Evesham Township continues to be a destination for younger families in search of a good school district, as it was for the Carrs in the early 1990s, right after they married.

"We grew up in Pennsauken and attended Catholic schools, and education was important," says Mike Carr.

Marlton's problem, say Carr, McKenna, and other real estate agents, is a dearth of available houses.

"There are 255 homes for sale between $0 and $500,000, and 21 above $500,000," Carr says. "Inventory is low, demand high."

Toughest to find, McKenna says, are "$375,000 to $500,000, four bedrooms, 21/2 baths, and a basement, [and] under 15 years old." Also in short supply: those with four bedrooms, 21/2 baths, costing $275,000 to $350,000, and that are "a little older."

The 2012 real estate market was much better than in 2011. Carr puts the present median sale price at $244,500, about 4 percent above a year ago.

McKenna says 2011 was his worst year since the downturn of 1999. But he sold 153 properties in 2012 and has 25 houses under in agreement in January.

New construction, too, is showing much-improved health, says Long & Foster's Maria Andrea Pietrinferno.

Though builders won't start on a house if the sales contract comes with a contingency, most single-family-home buyers are upgrading from $400,000 models "to the mid-to-high fives," says Pietrinferno.

At 72-unit Sanctuary, for example, with its lakefront lots and prices from $365,000 to $620,000, "buyers are putting $82,000 to $150,000 in upgrades to the models before they close," she says.

It's much the same story at other developments in Evesham, which, Carr notes, no longer has the buildable land it once did.

The original Marlton - the unincorporated district near what is now the intersection of Routes 70 and 73, bisected by Main Street and Maple Avenue - is a historic district.

Houses began appearing, singly or in twos, between the 1830s and 1920s - large Victorians on the main streets, bungalows on the side streets. Extensive development began in the fields around Marlton starting in the mid-1950s.

Today, most buildings on Main, Maple, and adjacent streets house commercial enterprises. Several are for rent or for sale.

"It's tough to get a retail person on Main Street, to compete with the rest of Marlton, to generate enough foot traffic to sustain business," says McKenna, who is handling leasing and sales, "so you have the photography studio or law office."

Heading out of the historic district on East Main Street, on the site of the old municipal building, Fieldstone Associates is building Marlton Gateway, 58 luxury apartments. There are small rental complexes around town and some large ones, as well, such as Sagemore Apartments at Marlton Parkway.

"Different audiences," says McKenna. Marlton Gateway targets young professionals who don't need much space but want an on-site gym, while Sagemore is more for "snowbirds" who spend winter in warm climates.

More than 16,000 single homes, townhouses, and condos were built between 1955 and 2010. One of the largest developments, Kings Grant, covers about 2,800 acres and was consciously designed to limit environmental impact.

"I come home from work and run around the loop [road] when the weather is warm," says Pietrinferno, who has lived in Kings Grant for eight years and describes it as "woodsy."

Upwards of 2,500 homes, condos, and apartments were built there by several developers from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, often slowed by soft real estate markets. Those homes range from $70,000 to $300,000, and residents "upsize and downsize within the development all the time," she says.

Marlton's condo market did not fare well in the economic downturn. Carr says prices have fallen low enough to attract investors looking to get tenants in them, but units in the low $100,000s are scarce.

With every New Jersey town, there are taxes. A $244,000 listing for sale shows a $7,400 annual tax bill, for example, but Pietrinferno says an average is difficult because of assessments and methods of calculation "and the fact that house prices range from $49,000 to $5 million."

Some listings do show a decline in tax bills in 2012 from 2011. "The township did some reassessments, especially of higher-priced houses," Carr says.

"But not my house."


Evesham, By The Numbers

Population: 45,538 (2010)

Median income: $85,518 (2009)

Size: 29.7 square miles

Homes for sale: 276

Settlements in the last three months: 19

Median days on market: 116

Median sale price (single-family homes): $244,500

Median sale price (all homes): $244,500

Housing stock: 18,303 units, mostly singles; 75 percent built since 1970.

School district: Evesham Township

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com; Zillow.com; Moveto.com; Mike Carr, Weichert Realtors

Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com or @alheavens at Twitter.

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