A historic place with a tight real estate market

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

Next year will mark a milestone for Trappe.

The Montgomery County community founded by German immigrants - it's the birthplace of Frederick Muhlenberg, the first (and third) speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives - will be observing its 300th birthday in 2017, and there's a steering committee already organizing the celebration.

The past is, of course, on the front burner every day in this historic community. Planned on May 1, for example, is an afternoon gathering of supporters of the Speaker's House - Muhlenberg's home - at the Barn on Bridge for the fourth annual "Raise the Roof" fund-raising gala to benefit restoration.

"It is a place filled with history, of buildings made of traditional materials," says Robert Tronoski, of Re/Max Services in Blue Bell, who has been selling real estate in Trappe and the rest of that area for more than 30 years.

Growing up in Blue Bell, he saya, "I knew Trappe well," adding that until Route 422 was completed, "the best way to get to the borough was on Germantown Pike."

Though Route 422's completion resulted in the growth of communities around the borough, "Trappe held its own," Tronoski says.

"Trappe gravitates to a different era," he says - it's a slower-paced place that reminds many people of days gone by.

Before looking at the real estate market, a word about the name from Diane Williams, of Weichert Realtors in Blue Bell, who also sells homes in the borough.

"Legend has it that John Jacob Schrack built the original tavern in 1717 with high steps," she says. "One day, a man tripped and shouted, 'Verdamt die Treppe' or 'Damn the steps,' and that is how the tavern and the place got the name."

The original tavern - the current one dates from the late 1700s - was officially called the Sign of the Three Crowns, but it was better known by its nickname, "the Trap," the borough's website says.

Whatever the origin, Trappe has what Tronoski describes as an "active real estate" market of mainly townhouses - many built in the 1990s, while Route 422 was under construction.

The average price is $250,000 to $300,000, he says, adding that the chief problem he and other agents are seeing is a lack of inventory. There are just 14 houses on the market here.

In March, the start of the peak spring market, there were only 10 listings, and 11 sales were recorded that month. (Closings typically take 45 to 60 days from the signing of the agreement of sale.)

Over the last 12 months, with average days on market at 54, there were 69 sales - 51 were townhouses, Williams says; the highest price was $475,000, and the lowest, $120,000.

The average sale price was $247,665, she says.

Sales are averaging five a month, Williams notes.

Trappe was once a market dominated by vintage homes, but development in the mid-to-late 1990s caused a shift to townhouses, she says.

For example, Granor Price Homes was active in adjacent Collegeville and Trappe in the late 1990s and built Heritage Park, with 240 townhouses, between 1995 and 2001.

Though the community sold out, attached homes were not a phenomenon in the area, "and we did have to scramble a bit with the product because the sales volume was not what we expected," says Marshal Granor, a principal in the company.

There is little room to build in Trappe, which also limits supply of homes, Tronoski says.

An exception is a subdivision of 20 single-family homes and 30 condos by Old School New House L.L.C. on 11 acres of the old Trappe school property. It received zoning approval with conditions in fall 2015.

"This shortage of inventory is a problem for the surrounding area as well as Trappe," Tronoski says, which thwarts young buyers with children "who want to be shown houses in the Perkiomen Valley School District."

There's a lot to Trappe: Rambo Park; Augustus Lutheran Church; Dewees Museum; Northern Star Farm's "agri-entertainment": and the Henry Muhlenberg House.

And for the fun of it, mark May 28 on your calendar as the day you get the chance to bike with Mayor Connie Peck for three miles from Borough Hall to 17-acre Waterworks Park, which Trappe shares with Collegeville.


By The Numbers:

Population: 3,509 (2010)

Median household income: $73,749 (2013)

Area: 2.2 square miles

Settlements in the last three months: 16

Homes for sale: 14

Average days on market: 54

Median sale price: $238,000

Housing stock: 1,351 units, vintage homes and townhouses

School district: Perkiomen Valley

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; Trappe Borough; Diane Williams, Weichert Realtors

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

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