Town By Town: Options for everyone in Ridley

On Jefferson Avenue in Woodlyn, a home is listed at $199,900. The average list price in Ridley Township is $180,000.

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

The people who live here just call it Ridley.

But thanks to multiple zip codes, some census-designated areas (Folsom and Woodlyn) and some unincorporated ones, and the fact that this Delaware County township surrounds Rutledge Borough, it's much more than just Ridley. From a real estate perspective, that is.

It can get pretty confusing looking for a house here, or in the communities that share the township's multiple zip codes, says Barbara Mastronardo of Weichert Realtors in Media, who counts six mailing designations traversing the 5.3-square-mile municipality.

"A lot of real estate agents these days use Google Maps, and even they can cause major confusion," Mastronardo says.

For example, she says: "A buyer is looking for Swarthmore and is searching for houses by mailing address. If you do it that way, you can be looking either in Swarthmore or in Ridley Township.

"If the price is $150,000, you know it is Ridley Township."

The same is true for Ridley Park, where Mastronardo grew up and where the houses "tend to be older" than in the township, "which experienced agents can distinguish right away." Yet Google searches for Ridley Township homes will give you Ridley Park almost every time.

Then there's Ridley Township vs. Prospect Park Borough. Ridley Township is in the Ridley School District, and Prospect Park is part of Interboro, "where property taxes are lower and the houses are also older," she says.

Although it's home to more than 30,000, Ridley Township is a close-knit community where people have always bought their first houses, moved to a larger ones as their families grew, and "often pass them on to their children," says Nicole Ritchie, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors in Media.

Unlike many of the surrounding communities, Ritchie says, the township has a diverse housing stock: "condos, twins, and big single-families."

There are 152 active listings here, with an average list price of $180,000, she says, "a price attractive to first-time buyers. They'll start in a twin and move on to a single-family detached when it is time."

The lowest-price listing is $59,900, and the highest is $475,000, with the former likely distressed (a foreclosure or short sale) or in need of work, Ritchie says.

Of the 60 houses that went to settlement in the last three months, the average price was $169,000, with the lowest sale price $33,500 and the highest $360,500, she says; days on market averaged 67.

There is a small number of rowhouses and condos in Ridley Township. The highest prices here go to newer homes with four bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms, Mastronardo says.

"Getting $400,000 for a house is pushing it," she adds, "a tough call unless it is exceptional."

Notes Mastronardo: "Appraisers adjust for distressed houses but not very much for houses that aren't in good shape."

Current listings remain on the market an average of 134 days, so "if nothing new came on, we'd be sold out in six months," Ritchie says, adding, "There's not a ton of activity now."

With inventory so low, one might think Ridley is a seller's market, but Ritchie describes it as just "weird."

"Sellers still want the most they can get for their houses, but they need to do the right thing - price it properly and make sure it is in move-in condition, so it doesn't stay on the market," she says.

"Too many sellers believe they can list a house too high and then lower the price," she says. "Buyers don't want to spend a lot of money and want to move in immediately."

If the house isn't listed from the start at a price right for the buyer segment that would consider it, the right people don't look at it, and wonder what is wrong with it, Ritchie says.

A property Mastronardo listed in early January that was priced correctly received an offer after the first open house, she says. Compared with the winter of 2014, she adds, "we are already having a marvelous spring market."

There is new construction in the township, primarily townhouses, but because the state property-tax law uses what is paid for the house as its assessed value, "you pay through the nose the first year, until you can appeal," Mastronardo says.

Among Ridley Township's positive attributes for buyers are the school district and proximity to SEPTA Regional Rail service to Center City.

"If the traffic is with you, Center City is just a 30-minute drive," Mastronardo says.

Boeing remains a major area employer, and Taylor Hospital is part of the Crozer-Keystone Health System, she says. "There is sufficient employment to support the average sale price."

What seem to be the issue for buyers are property taxes, Mastronardo says.

"The assessments are not that far off, as far as calculated value is concerned," she says, "so the county is not likely to consider an appeal of your typical tax bill."