One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Warminster may not be widely known as a garden spot, but the Bucks County town is, without question, an important spot for the nation's gardeners.
For dedicated growers of flowers and vegetables everywhere, the arrival of the Burpee catalog just after Christmas is a much-anticipated event.
And, as most recognize, that gorgeously illustrated catalog with the "world's biggest beefsteak" tomato on its 2014 cover emanates from 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18974.
That's right across the street from the final stop on SEPTA's Warminster Line, which was rebuilt in 1974, when the W. Atlee Burpee & Co. - founded in 1881 and owned since 1991 by Ball Horticultural Seed Co. - moved from Philadelphia and passenger service resumed from Hatboro after the line was electrified.
For a time, says company chairman and CEO George Ball, "we did, in fact, have an area outside the Burpee building where we had a small garden plot. It was not so much a trial/experimental garden, but was for show and for employee use, to admire and to grow in some small areas."
Warminster residents earn their livings in service industries, retail, and manufacturing, in that order, says Frank Faber, broker/owner of Faber Realty Inc. The relative ease of commuting by car or public transit is a sales tool for real estate agents.
"Access to Interstate 95 and Route 1 and the Warminster train station are a major advantage in attracting buyers here," says Anthony E. Maras, president of the Pennsylvania and South Jersey area for K. Hovnanian Homes, based in Edison, N.J.
K. Hovnanian recently sold out its Whispering Pines townhouse community here, which opened in 2011. The last spec house sold the first weekend in March, Maras says.
Faber's research shows that, at $377,000, townhouses in Whispering Pines were the most expensive of that genre in Warminster. Townhouse prices here start at $119,000, he says, offering another option for first-time buyers trading up from rental apartments.
That all 78 Whispering Pines townhouses sold in less than three years in a recovering real estate market - and were sold to people ranging from first-time to move-down buyers - says a lot for Warminster and Bucks County in general.
"People who live in Warminster want to stay here, and there wasn't much new single-family townhouse product for them" until Whispering Pines, Maras says. "There are a lot of advantages to living here. We see this area has a very good market."
Even one of the worst winters in years failed to disrupt business for long, says Pam Vollrath, an agent with Re/Max Center in Jamison.
"The winter? It was very busy for me, but I work 24/7, and no matter what the weather, it did not stop buyers in the range of $325,000 and below purchasing homes," she says.
There are over-55 options, here, too, including 103-acre Ann's Choice, one of 18 senior communities around the country owned by Erickson Living.
Ann's Choice is just one of the occupants of the 643 acres of Warminster that was, until the 1990s, the Naval Air Warfare Center. A 243-acre community park, an industrial park, and Stormtracker 6, WPVI-TV's Doppler radar, also are there now. Vertical Screen, an employee-screening company, just moved its world headquarters there.
"The market is great for the over-55 and Ann's Choice," Vollrath says, adding that she does a lot of business with that market segment, handling home resales for those moving to retirement communities.
Faber, who has been selling real estate in Warminster since 1993, says that from his research of sales data, "there seems to have been an uptick in activity" over the last two years.
"The most pertinent data probably are 2012 vs. 2013," he says.
In 2012, 372 properties were listed for sale at an average asking price of $230,167. Of those, 251 sold for an average sale price of $235,291, or 98.7 percent of list, in an average of 82 days.
In 2013, Faber found, there also were 372 properties listed, with an average list price of $241,737. Of those listings, 270 sold for an average sale price of $240,806 in 77 days on the market - 99.6 percent of list price, which, to Faber's thinking, means "that sellers are being realistic," and that what is for sale may be meeting buyers' expectations.
The Warminster market is diverse, he says. The median age in the township is 44 years, but, because of the presence of active-adult communities and trade-down buyers, 22 percent of the nearly 32,000 residents are 65 or older.
Right now, he says, there are 83 active listings, with 53 singles ranging from $174,000 for a three-bedroom rancher to $499,900 for a five-bedroom, 3,612-square-foot house.
Twenty-five condos are for sale, at prices ranging from $49,000 for a 375-square-foot studio to $249,000 for a penthouse at Centennial Station, a midrise condominium project, Faber says.
There is demand, but really not many houses available at any one time, he says.
"The low of active listings in 2013 was 17, and the high 50," he says, which is why days on market are falling.