The corner of it all

20160403_inq_townby03z-c
A house listed for $95,000 at 623 11th Ave. Property taxes are much lower here than in nearby communities.

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

The first thing you notice about Prospect Park is that it's easy to get to.

The Delaware County borough is just 20 minutes from Center City on SEPTA Regional Rail's Wilmington/Newark line.

The Prospect Park station is on Maryland Avenue near Lincoln Avenue, which prompts Weichert Realtors agent Barbara M. Mastronardo to talk about a house she sold on 13th Avenue.

"It was a terrific listing, a cute Dutch Colonial," she says, noting that Prospect Park has a lot of single-family homes in that style.

The seller had put in a new kitchen and another bathroom, the sort of renovation that attracts many buyers to older houses, she says. The house also was just a block-and-a-half walk from the train station.

"To people who say, 'But I can hear the train,' I answer, 'Big deal,' " Mastronardo says.

In fact, she and other agents are finding that first-time buyers who are being priced out of Center City and its adjacent neighborhoods are choosing less expensive ones in Delaware County communities on the SEPTA rail lines.

The median price of sales here in the last three months was $155,000 - half the homes sold were more expensive, half less so - but some distressed housing and that in need of work have put a drag on that number, she says.

The market's sweet spot is probably $170,000 to $175,000, Mastronardo says.

Renters, too, are drawn to Prospect Park by its easy access to Route 420, Interstate 95, Philadelphia International Airport, and Center City.

In late 2015, Friedman Realty Group, an investment firm based in Gibbsboro, purchased Colonial Park West, a 96-unit townhouse apartment development in Prospect Park, for $8.725 million.

The property's location adjacent to Route 420 and just 0.03 miles from Interstate 95 "put it within everyone's visibility," owner and president Brian Friedman said.

What has been rebranded as the Preserve at Darby Creek is not Friedman Realty's first venture into the Prospect Park rental market. The firm owns five other properties in the borough, and a total of 16 in Delaware County - which Brian Friedman praises for its "stable demographic profile and strong employment base."

Prospect Park is "a strong community" with a commercial and industrial base, Mastronardo says, that translates into property taxes lower than many surrounding municipalities.

For example, the highest-priced listing among the 25 properties for sale in the borough is a nine-year-old single of about 3,000 square feet for $279,900. Annual property taxes would be about $9,600, Mastronardo says.

"Move that house to Bethel or Concord, and the bill would be $12,000 to $13,000 a year," she says.

The twin homes in Prospect Park tend to be larger than those in other towns. "Where typically a twin might be 14 feet wide, here they are often 18 feet in width," she says, adding, "You can do a lot with that four extra feet."

"The inventory is older, and probably in need of updating," she says of houses here, noting that a new kitchen (not necessarily with top-of-the-line appliances), central air-conditioning, a half-bath, and an upgraded full bath will sell an older house quickly.

The oldest house in town, the Morton Homestead, has portions that date from 1698.

Although many sellers complain about the borough's strict use-and-occupancy requirements on resales, "enforcement is consistent among the building officials, and the requirements benefit the buyers," Mastronardo says.

"It is almost like a home inspection," she says of the borough's checklist.

Among the 25 active listings, the lowest price is $51,500 for a HUD-owned, three-bedroom single that might make a good flip, she says. An absorption rate of 3.5 months means that if nothing else came on the market, Prospect Park soon would be sold out.

Seven sales are pending, ranging from a single for $75,000 to a twin for $174,000, she says.

The 17 houses that sold in the last three months ranged from a $50,000 twin to a $215,000 single, a 2,200-square-foot, 77-year-old ranch-style house that went in 111 days, Mastronardo says.

"It is a nice town," she says: "Low taxes, low crime, and good schools - Interboro."


By the numbers:

Population: 6,480 (2013)

Median household income: $67,962

Area: 0.8 square miles

Settlements in the last three months: 17

Homes for sale: 25

Average days on market: 71

Median sale price: $155,000

Housing stock: 2,683 units, with many singles and twin homes.

School district: Interboro

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; Barbara M. Mastronardo, Weichert Realtors, Media.

aheavens@phillynews.com
215-854-2472
@alheavens

Real Estate Tools
Looking for a new home? Search Philadelphia real estate »
Browse Recent Home Sales »
Compare Philadelphia mortgage rates »