Town By Town: Housing to dining, Voorhees offers options

TOWNBY13-E
The Voorhees Town Center has increased interest in the west end of the township. Besides the High-Speed Line station, new restaurants and shops have also made the area more popular.

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

Even for those who don't live within its borders, Voorhees is an incredibly useful place.

It has just about everything, including an emerging town center that Val Nunnenkamp, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Homes Services Fox & Roach, says is turning the township's west side into very hot property.

"People once looked at it as an apartment area, but the town center is making the area trendy," Nunnenkamp says.

Though the market isn't back to prerecession highs, the diversity of housing styles introduced by a succession of builders since the 1970s is luring first-time buyers to this eastern edge of Camden County, just 20 minutes from Center City.

Lifestyle - restaurants and shops - is a lure, too, as is the Ashland station of the PATCO High-Speed Line, says Nunnenkamp, who lives in Voorhees.

He notes that older single-family homes dating to the 1970s "seem to be really popular with first-timers" between the ages of 25 and 32, who like the older contemporary styles, "the unique designs, the multilevel living and, especially the yards, which at 150 to 200 square feet are much bigger than elsewhere."

"These are houses built by Pond & Spitz and Canuso, and not just old Colonials, styles that you don't find in other towns, a real variety of styles, as well as over-55 [housing] and high-rises," he says.

Similar homes would cost $100,000 more in Haddonfield, says Nunnenkamp, who has sold there recently.

Property taxes, though high, are not the highest in Camden County. A 4,300-square-foot, three-bedroom house that sold recently for $252,000 had $7,000 in annual property taxes, for example.

To encourage people to shop in Voorhees, the township has introduced a property-tax rebate program.

When a resident shops at participating retailers, a percentage of the purchase price is tracked in his or her account. At year's end, the total will be taken off the homeowner's tax bill; a renter receives a rebate check.

The mix of housing styles brought Weichert Realtors agent DeKarla Guice-Armstrong and her family to Voorhees when they relocated from Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood in 2005.

"We looked all over South Jersey," she says, and discovered that many municipalities (Mullica Hill, for one) were under construction.

"Voorhees had been in the works for many years," however. "We were referred here by a couple who had lived in the town for a long time," Guice-Armstrong says.

"We liked wooded areas, and the diverse style and character of the houses, as well as the diversity of cultures, since we were moving from a big city," she says. That there were shopping centers, hospitals, movie theaters, and a school district for her two children closed the deal.

These days, she says, many buyers are Voorhees move-ups "looking for three- or four-bedroom singles with a basement" or longtime residents downsizing to over-55 communities. Prices can start as low as $60,000 for a condo, with an average home price of $211,128.

The median price for a house in a really good neighborhood is about $370,000, says Nunnenkamp, who, with his real estate team, sells 200 properties in an average year.

For-sale inventory is down about 40 percent in the $250,000-to-$500,000 price range, he says, adding that the winter has delayed the spring market, and that homes priced above $650,000, which had been selling off the shelves in 2013, are glued to them this year.

Real estate consultant Gary G. Schaal remembers when Voorhees began taking off in the 1970s.

"It was the new community past Cherry Hill," says Schaal, who worked for legendary South Jersey home builder Bob Scarborough in those days.

In 1978, in fact, housing in Voorhees was much more affordable than in Cherry Hill, and the township, like many communities in nearby Gloucester County today, offered more bang for the buck.

Schaal and his family lived in Scarborough's Sturbridge Lakes, which offered Voorhees home sites in a wooded community on water, until 1989, when they moved to a large place at Sturbridge Woods. (As empty nesters, a couple of years ago, the Schaals moved to a Medford townhouse.)

Bruce Paparone is building 49 single-family houses starting at $400,000 in the final section of the Sturbridge development - Sturbridge Hill, which Nunnenkamp says is the only new construction here aside from over-55 homes.

The buyers "are a good mix of people," Paparone says: doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, mostly local, especially from Cherry Hill, drawn to Voorhees' wooded areas, shopping and other amenities, and convenience to Center City and New York.

New single homes have been in short supply, Nunnenkamp says, though a lot of buyers "are asking for Voorhees" but are looking to build.

Resale prices are coming back, he says, about 5 percent to 7 percent.

"They have somewhat stabilized, but when you look back at what they were in 2004, we are still a little under the break-even point," Nunnenkamp says.

Demand, he says, is "not as strong as it could be."

 


Voorhees By the Numbers

Population: 29,131 (2010)

Median income: $86,675 (2009)

Area: 11.6 square miles

Homes for sale: 89

Settlements in the last three months: 43

Median days on market: 96

Median price (all homes): $257,470

Housing stock: 12,260 units, primarily post-1970

School district: Voorhees, Eastern Camden County

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com; Berkshire Hathaway

Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert Report; DeKarla Guice-Armstrong, Weichert Realtors

 


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