Town By Town: Houses sell like hotcakes in Collegeville

Main Street, Collegeville, across from Ursinus College, a hallmark of the borough that adds 1,300 to its population when school is in session. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)

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

There appear to be many more people who want to live in Collegeville Borough than can fit inside of its 1.6 square miles, so finding the perfect house right on the edge is just fine, too.

That's the impression you get talking with Drew Bergman, who, with his fiancée, Colette Lapinski, settled May 26 on a house in Skippack Township near Evansburg State Park that has a Collegeville post office address.

Bergman, who is selling his house in Franconia Township, Montgomery County, and Lapinski, who is doing the same with her Collegeville place, had been not-yet-seriously looking for seven months or so online when the couple found what he calls "the perfect property."

Although they didn't plan to buy immediately and they had not listed their houses for sale, "we put in a bid within 24 hours of seeing it," Bergman says of the Collegeville property.

The couple were lucky, even though they have a wedding to plan and are trying to get two houses on the market for sale.

Bergman and Lapinski know people who have been looking seriously to buy in Collegeville for much longer than seven months but have had no success.

"There are a lot of first-time buyers who want to live here and aren't getting very far," says Renee Bartlett, an agent at Weichert Realtors' Collegeville office, who has been selling in the area for five years.

There just aren't many houses on the market, and, as is the case everywhere, "the ones that are priced correctly for the market sell like hot cakes," Bartlett says.

The "overpriced stuff," however, lingers on the market, says Prudential Fox & Roach agent Andrew Himes, adding that "there is not even a lot of that on the market, where prices range from $225,000 to $650,000 - the higher end a 12-year-old with four bedrooms built by David Cutler Homes he sold recently.

"If we had more houses to sell, we'd be selling them," says Himes, perhaps in as few as three days if they were priced properly, adding that "it is discouraging not to have enough to sell this time of year."

Because of the shortage of inventory and the growing fear that interest rates will climb from their near record lows, "it is crazy right now, with multiple offers," Bartlett says.

Most of these first-timers are in their late 20s and early 30s, she says.

They come into the process pre-approved for the mortgage amount - a requirement "because of more restrictive lending that demands more documentation" of the buyers' resources, she says.

The last new construction was Claymont at Collegeville, a development of 20 single-family houses built by Michael Anthony Homes of Lafayette Hill starting in 2008.

All but one of the houses, including the model, were sold by September 2012, says sales manager Jack Barbary.

"We rented one of them, but expect to close on it in a year," says Barbary, noting that the current renter had some financing issues that will be solved by then.

The development opened in 2008, at the start of the downturn, and sales were slow because of it, taking almost 41/2 years to complete, he says.

Yet prices averaged $496,000, attesting to the attraction of Collegeville Borough to buyers, he says.

"We were first going to do it as active adult, but didn't want to pigeonhole ourselves," Barbary says. That said, although they expected an older buyer, "we had young people with children, instead."

The development connects to the 19-mile Perkiomen Trail, which winds through 10 Montgomery County municipalities, that the "residents use for walking and biking," Barbary says.

"There's not much land to build on in the borough," Barbary says. "I wish we could find more."

That would be fine for agents such as Prudential Fox & Roach's Bob Raynor, who just sold a four-bedroom single "listed at $500,000 and change relatively quickly."

Thanks to the pharmaceutical companies and other employers along Route 29 and 422, "there is a steady stream of folks looking to buy, but there isn't much," especially in the borough itself, Raynor says.

The hot spot, he says, is from the center of Collegeville "all the way out" to the surrounding townships.

You can't mention Collegeville without bringing to mind Ursinus College, which provides the borough with 1,300 more people when school is in session, and contributes mightily to the ambience of the community.

Himes says he is approached by parents of Ursinus students, looking for townhouses to buy in the borough close to the college.

"Collegeville is both walkable and convenient," says Bartlett, even if what you need isn't smack dab in the middle of the borough. As examples, she points not only to a growing Main Street (Ridge Pike) business corridor but to shopping areas along Route 29, such as the Providence Town Center.

There is also a farmers' market from May to November on East Main Street, she says.

It's a place that is convenient and full of things everyone wants, except enough homes for sale.



Collegeville Borough by the numbers

Population: 5,093 (2010)

Median income: $102,583 (2009)

Area: 1.6 square miles

Homes for sale: 33

Settlements in the last three months: 6

Median days on market: 110

Median sales price (single-family): $235,000

Median sales price (all homes): $235,000

Housing stock: 1,483 units from the 18th century to 2012

School district: Perkiomen Valley

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau;;;; Prudential Fox & Roach HomExpert Report


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