Town By Town: Spring City's location keeps it attractive to buyers

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A house for sale at 526 Broad Street, Spring City, is listed at $209,000. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer )

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

Location has served Spring City well during much of its history.

Situated along the Chester County side of the Schuylkill, with Royersford and Montgomery County on the opposite bank, the borough took advantage of the water to become an industrial powerhouse.

At one time or another, until recent years, Spring City produced stoves, flags, paper, glass, and cloth. Calling it home were two movie theaters, an amusement park, and horse racing, as well as trolley lines and rail service to Philadelphia and Reading.

Industry moved on, as it did from many communities. These days, however, the borough is an easy commute to the pharmaceutical firms of Collegeville and to King of Prussia, says Dan McIntosh of Re/Max Services in Collegeville.

Home prices are on the affordable side, and that's attractive to first-time buyers, says Ron Minges, who works with McIntosh at Re/Max Services.

"For $135,000 to $140,000, you can get quality two- or three-bedroom houses," Minges says.

Spring City's 19475 zip code includes East Vincent Township, among other locales. Average prices range from $450,000 to $500,000, McIntosh says.

There isn't much for sale here. Three of the 22 active listings are under agreement of sale, but the fact that sales to date are running close to the number of houses on the market "is pretty healthy," McIntosh says.

"In a normal market, actives are usually three times the number of sales," he says. "With days on market from 80 to 90 days, that's healthy."

As in other older towns, Spring City sellers are often longtime residents moving on to retirement. Yet Minges says many also "are younger [homeowners] who bought their first houses here five to seven years ago and are getting into larger houses."

Some older sellers move into Flag House, where there are 58 apartments for those age 62 and over and which opened in 2000 in the rehabbed Valley Forge Flag Co. factory at 250 N. Main St.

That complex, and 62 more apartments at the Bard Complex at 201 S. Main St., in the former Gruber Knitting Mills, were developed by the nonprofit Petra Community Housing in Spring City.

And for the first time in years, except for some infill properties, there is new-home construction.

Ryan Homes is building four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath single-family detached houses on Bridge Street priced from $294,990 to $325,990, McIntosh says.

One challenge to further development here, Minges and McIntosh say, is that part of the borough has no public sewers.

"Upgrade that, and there will be," Minges says.

Previously owned homes are "attractive to a lot of two-paycheck families who work in the area and are looking for starter homes, and they can find them here," Minges says.

"Unlike a lot of other communities in the surrounding area, there aren't a lot of rentals," he says. "Spring City is dominated by owner-occupants who pay attention to the condition of their houses. It isn't common to list a house that is in disrepair."

High employment levels and relatively high income among residents helped shield Spring City from the housing downturn's worst, McIntosh says.

"Buyers in this area are eligible for 100 percent mortgages from the U.S. Department of Agriculture because this is considered 'rural,' " he says, noting 25 percent of sales in the last year were financed by USDA mortgages.

Their firm manages bank repossessions for a couple of lenders, Minges says, "and there were few of these sales in Spring City during the downturn."

These days, location again is playing in Spring City's favor: specifically, the fact that it's so close to Phoenixville, the next stop along the Schuylkill.

"Spring City is a smaller version of Phoenixville," says Joseph Scott McArdle, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors who sells in both communities. "In fact, Spring City is often referred to as a suburb of Phoenixville."

Like Ambler, Media, West Chester, and others, Phoenixville is a reemerging borough: Younger buyers have moved in, businesses and restaurants have bloomed, and developers have developed, all of which has a major impact on home prices.

That has given Spring City, which McArdle describes as a "quaint, charming bedroom community," a real shot in the real estate arm.

The small business district along Main and Bridge Streets has retail on the first floor and apartments on the second, Minges says. And though there are vacancies, "the borough seems to have done well in spending money to improve the streetscape, taking a page from Phoenixville's experience to get more people to come there."

Businesses such as Mowrey Latshaw Hardware and George's Music are longtime fixtures, as, of course, is the Spring City Hotel, which dates to 1892.

A former theater, the 1908 gem at 66 N. Main, which started as a vaudeville showcase, "has been turned into Chaplin's Music Cafe, which serves food and live entertainment," McArdle says.

"It's called Chaplin's," he explains, "because Charlie Chaplin performed there."

Buster Keaton, too.

 


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