One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
It's been a long time since passengers on the Paoli Local had only ceiling fans and open windows to cool them on hot summer afternoons. Yet the trip from 30th Street Station to Wayne for a wedding in August 1971 created an enduring first impression for me.
Today, SEPTA's Paoli-Thorndale line still stops at the four stations within Radnor Township: Wayne, Villanova, St. Davids, and Radnor, names that signal the Main Line to Philadelphians and outsiders alike.
Riders are much more diverse now than the mostly male executives in seersucker suits who were heading home that hot Friday afternoon nearly 43 years ago.
The small-town feel hasn't changed, however, says Lynne Nicander, who grew up here (so did her husband, Rob) and moved back nine years ago.
"Some of the people at the Lancaster County Farmers Market in Wayne I recognized as having been there 30 years ago," says Nicander, who sells real estate in Radnor.
"It is a community with traditions," she says. Most of her high school classmates went away to college, but many have returned and settled here, she says.
The area remains affluent, with a 2011 median income of $89,114, compared with $74,272 in 2000 - reflecting, as the township's website says, "the community's strong income base and ability to pay."
That "ability to pay" also is reflected in the sale prices of Radnor's homes.
John Duffy, president of Duffy Real Estate, with offices in St. Davids and Narberth, says that last year, sale prices ranged from $87,500 to $4 million.
The average sale price was $661,703, Duffy says, "if one can find a home at that price."
"As in most areas, buyers are looking for move-in condition, as they tend to pay for completed improvements rather than doing the work themselves," he says. Sale-price ranges for 2013 were consistent with 2011 and 2012, he adds.
"The same things that determined the market 10 years ago do so today: price, location, and condition," says Nicander, an agent with Duffy.
The market this year has been strong, with multiple bids and sales above asking price, she says.
Duffy cites schools, walking to town and train, and proximity to major highways as huge draws for younger families, as well as downsizing boomers.
Construction of the Blue Route "was a huge driver of population movement to Radnor from Philadelphia and the eastern suburbs," says Duffy, who opened the St. Davids office in the mid-1980s.
Radnor has always been a bit pricier, "in relative terms," than most areas of the region, says Bernard J. Drueding III, a veteran builder on the Main Line, who 40 years ago moved to Wayne, where his wife grew up.
"We bought our first house, an 1890s bungalow on North Wayne Avenue, for $65,000," recalls Drueding, who built several custom houses here. (Although he has been "retired" for three years, he says he's working on a project with a longtime client.)
Seven years and three daughters later, he says, they bought a 1912 house that had "pretty much been let go," for $165,000. He rehabbed it, and they lived there for 25 years.
Ten years ago, "we sold it for $1.1 million and built a new one," Drueding says, adding that, while Radnor's high taxes have made it hard for many retirees to stay here, "I'm not leaving."
Walkability - a buzzword typically linked with today's urban-oriented buyers - also drew the Druedings in the 1970s.
"We walk to lunch in Wayne twice a week," says Drueding, who adds that his daughters, who went to parochial school, walked everywhere, including to townshipwide sports programs "that brought them into contact with all the kids in town."
Shawn Lynch, a lawyer who practices in Exton, grew up near Birchrunville in car-dependent Chester Springs. So walkability was a big issue for him and his wife when they moved here 15 years ago, when they were expecting their son.
Used to the wide-open spaces of Chester Springs, all his parents could say is, "You can see your neighbors."
Four years after they moved here, their daughter, now in fifth grade, arrived, and the Lynches needed more room.
"It was too expensive to move to a bigger house in Wayne," Lynch says, "so we added a third-floor master bedroom."
Christopher Todd - who opened Christopher's restaurant in Wayne 12 years ago, bought a house here at the same time, and has two children - agrees.
"The township encourages family-oriented businesses, and the result has been a successful mix of mom-and-pops and chains," says Todd, vice president of the Wayne Business Association.
He will open a second place in Malvern and attributes his success to luck and timing. When Wayne's movie theater reopened, he changed from a "white tablecloth" eatery to one where "the kids get balloons and the parents wine with dinner."
Nicander, with daughters in middle school and high school, and Lynch, whose son is in ninth grade, say that the township's small-town, walkable nature allows their children a large degree of independence.
That freedom is evident on Fridays, when "the kids fill the pizza joints and are at Red Mango to get yogurt," Todd says.
"Note to self," Nicander says: "Avoid downtown Wayne on Fridays at 3."
Town By Town: Radnor Township By the Numbers
Population: 31,531 (2010).
Median income: $89,114 (2011).
Area: 13.8 square miles.
Homes for sale: 80.
Settlements in the last three months: 69.
Median days on market: 50.
Median price (all homes): $535,000.
Housing stock: From townhouses to multimillion-dollar, multiacre estates, about three centuries' worth.
School district: Radnor.
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Zillow.com; Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach; HomExpert Report; Duffy Real Estate.