Town By Town: In Penndel, good schools, good location

Bellevue in Penndel Borough, Bucks County is full of stores and services all in front of a new SEPTA station. (VIVIANA PERNOT/Staff Photographer)

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

It's difficult to think of a particular Bucks County borough without remembering Big Marty's.

Classic 1980s TV commercials exhorted, "Big Marty really does sell better carpet cheaper - Route 1 in Penndel, Pa."

And, indeed, Big Marty's is still at Business Route 1 and Bellevue Avenue 41 years after Martin Schienholtz, now deceased, moved it there from Levittown in 1973.

"I remember it when it was the Acme," says Sue Anderson, who has lived all but nine years of her life on Cynthia Avenue in Penndel, moving to the then-3 1/2-year-old neighborhood with her parents from Oakford in Lower Southampton in 1959.

Gianpiero Lo Piccolo bought carpet at Big Marty's recently, but what brought him to Penndel from Bensalem to begin married life three years ago was the housing and the schools.

"Penndel really did seem like a good fit, a good place for my wife and I to start a family," says Lo Piccolo, now a borough councilman and father of Gianluca, who turns 1 this weekend.

"It is a great spot, convenient, and there is a nice mix of housing, especially my Victorian-style home built in the 1930s," he says. "We were looking for something charming and with character and with good neighbors, and we found it here."

Penndel - before 1947, known as Eden Post Office, Attleboro, and South Langhorne, in that order - is small: just over 2,300 people and 927 housing units, very few for sale.

In fact, there are only 19 active listings, up from 18 a year ago, priced at $131,500 to $415,000, says Frank Dolski, an agent with Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Lahaska who sells in the area.

"There aren't a lot of sales here," Dolski says, just 13 since July 2013 compared with 16 in the previous 12 months.

But "the market is headed in the right direction," he says, with the average sale price up 5 percent, or $10,000, year over year, to $223,946 from $213,150. List price vs. sale price also is rising.

"Prices are definitely improving," he says.

Average days on market have dropped since mid-2013, to 47 from 66, Dolski adds.

There isn't much building these days in Penndel, says Lo Piccolo, primarily infill on a few vacant lots.

"Some houses they are building look like the homes around them," he says, "and some are those very new-looking ones."

Lo Piccolo mentioned Penndel's convenience as a plus - for him, that means a clear shot down I-95, when there are no construction delays, to Essington, near Philadelphia International Airport, where he is vice president of Station Management Consultants Inc.

"You're already on Route 1, and you are between the Neshaminy and Oxford Valley Malls," he says.

Then, of course, there's the Langhorne SEPTA station at Bellevue and Comly Avenues, on the West Trenton line.

The borough's history says Reading Railroad service from Philadelphia began in 1876, transforming what had been, since the days of Thomas Langhorne in the 18th century, a quiet farming community into a bustling town with homes, businesses, and industry.

"It is a quaint borough," Dolski says, and "a lot of people like that lifestyle, especially being able to walk to places."

Says Anderson, who has lived in Penndel for 53 years: "My husband and I met on Cynthia Avenue. He lived at one end of the street and I lived at the other, and when we got married, we moved to the house in the middle," where they remain.

So many relatives live on Cynthia that they call it "Anderson Avenue," she says with a laugh. Her eldest daughter is the only one of her children who has moved away.

"The houses in my neighborhood may be what they call 'cookie-cutter,' but they were built well," she says, adding, "I feel very safe here."

Anderson says her father, a German immigrant and a member of Ironworkers Local 401, moved the family to Penndel to be closer to work. Her father-in-law worked at U.S. Steel in Fairless Hills, as did many borough residents. Others commuted to the Frankford Arsenal.

"It is centrally located and has become more so over the years," says Anderson, who works for Yard Truck Specialists Inc. in Bensalem.

Penndel has changed, "as everything does," she says, noting that a onetime landmark, Flannery's restaurant and its famous airplane, are now a gas station.

"The trees have gotten taller - no one ever expected they'd grow as much as they did - and there are no more corner grocery stores," Anderson says, "but the people are the same - good people and neighbors."

Lo Piccolo says the business district, hurt as many are "being between two malls," needs more reasons to walk there.

To his mind, one of the best things about Penndel is the Memorial Day parade it holds with Hulmeville, for which fund-raising and planning run the rest of the year.

"I'm first-generation American," Lo Piccolo says. "That parade, with the flags and all the people involved, is what this country is about."

By the Numbers

Population: 2,328 (2010)

Median income: $49,622 (2009)

Area: 0.4 square miles

Settlements in the last three months: 4

Homes for sale: 19

Days on market: 47

Median sale price: $243,450

Housing stock: 927 units; smaller and a variety of styles; some infill construction

School district: Neshaminy

SOURCES: U.S. Census,; Frank Dolski, Coldwell Banker Hearthside, Lahaska