One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in this region's communities.
Developer Marshal Granor recalls being corrected at the first public meeting on his proposal to turn an industrial site along the Schuylkill into townhouses and condos.
"You don't drive a 'Ferd,' do you?" Granor says he was asked.
That was, he recollects, one of the few bones of contention he and Granor Price Homes had with borough officials and residents in the process of building RiverWalk on an 18-acre site once covered primarily by the Anchor Glass Co. factory.
Eventually, more than 300 units of housing were built on a tract zoned to accommodate up to 500.
Ninety-eight were townhouses, of which all but five have sold, and "those are under lease-purchase agreements," Granor says.
The condos were sold to an apartment developer as the for-sale market soured in third quarter 2007.
In effect, "we increased the population 15 percent to 20 percent, bringing in people with the ability to contribute financially to the borough," he says.
These days, with the real estate market recovering, the problem with Royersford is that there aren't enough houses for sale to meet demand, says Scott Troxel, manager of the Weichert Realtors office in nearby Collegeville, a town with similar lack-of-inventory issues.
"There are only 27 active listings and a 3.3-month supply, making Royersford a strong seller's market," Troxel says. "Values are up about 3 percent to 31/2 percent in the last couple of quarters, with average sale prices in the low-$200,000 range."
Sales are up 40 percent over last year's levels, he says.
Andrew Himes, an agent with Prudential Fox & Roach's Collegeville office, calls Royersford "a slightly different marketplace."
"There are a few houses for sale on par with the surrounding communities," such as Limerick, Collegeville, and East Vincent, "but most are at the less expensive end of the spectrum," Himes says.
One example of Royersford's higher end is a pending sale at $350,000, he says - "the most expensive so far this year."
Though houses here fit into the "affordable" category, "some buyers don't want 'old-style' homes because they involve work and expense to get them into shape," Himes says, echoing what real estate agents everywhere are saying these days.
That, he adds, is why a 17-year-old townhouse that had been renovated by the owners "and was priced right" at $259,000 sold in six days.
The Spring-Ford Area School District, along with the more affordable home prices, "definitely attracts a lot of younger buyers and first-time buyers," says Deb Sanna, an agent with Weichert Realtors who has lived in the area since 1998 and who has been selling real estate for nine.
Royersford's housing market is reaping the benefits of what Troxel calls "a shift westward from the city along Route 422."
"People are trending back to these boroughs, looking for places where they can walk to restaurants and shopping," he says.
Completion of Route 422, stretching from King of Prussia to Reading, accelerated development of western Montgomery County starting in the late 1980s.
One thing holding Royersford back is the absence of passenger railroad service from Philadelphia, Granor said, noting that "every morning, Route 422 is a parking lot."
When RiverWalk was under construction, Granor Price negotiated with Norfolk Southern to lease the decaying railroad station here, then renovated it, first as a model for its units and later for retail.
"There is an area in the station dedicated for passenger service if it ever comes back," Granor says.
Proximity of the railway to RiverWalk makes some homes a tough sell, however. Even though few trains rumble through, "it takes a while to sell townhouses that back up on to the tracks," Himes says.
Says Sanna: "I've been in the model when the train comes by, and you definitely know it is there."
Thus far, the Main Street success of resurgent older towns such as Media and West Chester has eluded Royersford, though Sanna says she has heard talk that plans are in the works for revitalizing the business district.
"There are two very good restaurants there - Annamarie's Place and the French Quarter Bistro - but there isn't much more," says Sanna, who lives a few minutes away in Limerick Township and who grew up in Skippack.
Although the French Quarter Bistro is open late, "there is not much of a nightlife," she says.
Retail doesn't have much of a chance, she notes, considering that most people gravitate to Providence Town Center on Route 422.
The most recent setback to Main Street revival was the decision by the Lebow family to close its furniture store after 63 years because of declining business, adding to the number of vacant buildings.
The business was founded by the late Chick Lebow and his wife, Adele, in 1949.
"Chick Lebow was chairman of the Planning Commission when we were working on RiverWalk," Granor says.
"He once asked if the borough was doing everything it could to help us with the project, something I'd never heard anyone ask us before or since."
Town By Town: ROYERSFORD BY THE NUMBERS
Area: 0.79 square mile
Homes for sale: 49
Settlements in the last three months: 20
Median days on the market: 65
Median price (single-family homes): $154,000
(all homes): $154,000
2,029 units, with new construction along
School district: Spring-Ford Area
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Prudential Fox & Roach HomExpert Market Report
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