One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
It was the week before Christmas. You could tell by the way traffic moved through Upper Southampton's shopping areas along Second Street Pike.
Unless there were accommodating signals, left turns were not easy to accomplish, as car after car of shoppers jammed the road, also known as Route 232, around lunchtime.
"It can be confusing if you aren't a local," says Sharon Ermel Spadaccini, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors in New Hope, who sells in the township.
"The Street Road corridor is a mix - a hodgepodge, of sorts - of retail, residential, and offices, so getting around often isn't easy," she says.
One of Upper Southampton's major attractions is its proximity to major highways, especially I-95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, "but it requires a knowledge of the back roads to get to them," Spadaccini says.
It's not a place for those who want to commute to and from Center City every day, says Carol McCann, an agent with Re/Max Millennium in Philadelphia's Fox Chase neighborhood.
"Just getting to Interstate 95 can take 40 minutes or more during rush hour," McCann says, noting that the township has not had rail service since SEPTA ended it in 1983.
"Traffic is bad everywhere," says Jodi Costin, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors' Upper Southampton office, in the middle of it all on Street Road.
"They built a lot of houses," she says, "but they never built big-enough roads" to handle all the traffic those houses produce.
Costin, a Lower Moreland resident who has been selling real estate from offices here for 30 years, doesn't think the Center City commute is all that difficult, but she agrees that "people don't want to drive that far to work."
In terms of real estate, Upper Southampton remains affordable, with a diversity of home styles and prices.
"That has always been a major strength of the township, its affordability," Costin says - though that may be changing just a bit. She says NV Homes has opened a model for a new single-family-home development with prices starting in the $500,000s.
"It is a steady market," says McCann, who sold a few homes in the township in recent months, with "85 percent of them single-family homes."
There are "not a whole lot of rentals," she adds.
Based on data from Trend Multiple Listing Service, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors' HomExpert Market Report says the median sale price here is $300,000; the average, $296,632.
There are 182 active listings in the township, priced from $109,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit, to $1.09 million for a six-bedroom, six-bath home, MLS data show.
In the last 12 months, 186 homes have sold here, ranging from $99,500 to $499,900.
Spadaccini considers the property taxes "reasonable," with the average for a $300,000 house about $5,000 a year.
Newly constructed homes may have higher taxes, but the new 55-plus Village of Southampton, with two-bedroom, two-bath homes starting at $219,000, has the same average tax bill, she says. That development is near Street Road, meaning that residents can walk to shopping if they wish, Spadaccini says.
Notes McCann: "The relatively low taxes compared with Huntingdon Valley and Lower Moreland, and the Centennial School District [shared with Ivyland and Warminster] are both big draws for buyers."
Costin says Upper Southampton's commercial tax base, with more stores and restaurants every day, helps reduce the burden on property owners.
The Centennial district has "built all new schools, which has pushed the township up a notch," she says.
Buyers in Upper Southampton tend to be from Northeast Philadelphia.
"Last year, I sold a house that backed up to the turnpike," Spadaccini says. "The sellers were the original owners, who came from the Northeast. The buyers were from the Northeast."
"People like it here," says Costin. "They tend to develop long-term friendship and don't think about leaving."
Town By Town: U. Southampton By the Numbers
Population: 15,152 (2010)
Median household income: $73,229
Area: 6.6 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 56
Homes for sale: 182
Average days on market: 53
Median sales price: $300,000
Housing stock: 6,123 units, variety of styles and price points.
School district: Centennial
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market Report