The charm of a New England village, in South Jersey

The first piece of public art installed in 2013 by the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture was “Uno” by Miguel Antonio Horn of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

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

Had it not been for Haddonfield, Julie Beddingfield and her family might still be in Raleigh, N.C.

Ten years ago, Beddingfield's husband, Thomas Janssen, was offered a transfer to the Philadelphia area. The couple were shown locations on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, but nothing spoke to them.

On their last day, as they thought about passing on the transfer, Beddingfield and Janssen discovered Haddonfield.

"We came from 'small-town South,' " she says of Raleigh. Haddonfield had that vibe, too.

It also would have good schools for their then-almost-2-year-old twins, and it was an easy commute by the PATCO High-Speed Line to Philadelphia, where Beddingfield practiced environmental law.

Eighteen months ago, Beddingfield left law and opened Inkwood Books on Kings Highway East in the borough's iconic downtown - about as close to a New England village as South Jersey gets.

"My husband travels a lot, law is unpredictable, and my sister has a bookstore in Tampa also called Inkwood, so the stars aligned," she says.

One could write a book about this 2.88-square-mile Camden County community of 11,507 people nine miles from Center City.

The first chapter would be about the Haddonfield School District, the main reason young families move here, says Lisa Wolschina, an agent with Keller Williams Real Estate in Haddonfield.

"The schools are No. 1 - that's a slam dunk," says Wolschina, who has been selling houses here for 14 years. "The manageable size of the borough is another big attraction, since the kids are able to get around town safely."

In addition, the High-Speed Line, which runs 24 hours a day and is accessible from downtown as well as in Westmont, makes a trip to Center City fast and quick, Wolschina says. Interstate 295 is a short hop down Haddonfield-Berlin Road in Cherry Hill, and that means access to New York, Delaware, and the Shore, she notes.

Haddonfield and Moorestown, in Burlington County, have long dominated the South Jersey housing market with both the highest prices and the highest property taxes.

In the first nine months of 2016, the median sale price of a house in Haddonfield was $505,000, according to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market Report, based on the sale of 179 houses. That's compared with $429,000 in the first nine months of 2015.

During the real estate downturn, the school district helped insulate Haddonfield from a major drop in prices, Wolschina says. They fell about 20 percent, and "have finally leveled out," she adds.

Living here also comes with a high price, though, in that the average property-tax bill, according to data from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, is $13,080.

"When you come from out of state, taxes are a slap in the face," Wolschina says, and "are a big hurdle for agents."

"One of our major challenges is to come up with reasonable budgets to keep property taxes level," says Mayor Jeff Kasko, noting that maintaining "excellent schools" and services makes budget preparations hard work.

To compensate for the taxes, buyers have to keep an open mind when they look for a house, and perhaps settle for $250,000 rather than $400,000, Wolschina says.

"It is challenging, but it is not all that difficult to find something," she says, noting that there are just 91 houses for sale - not unusual for this time of year, though 130 to 170 is normal.

Other challenges, according to Kasko, are teardowns in older neighborhoods, which "many residents complain are changing the look of the borough," and planning for the Bancroft school site, which Haddonfield bought last year.

One of Haddonfield's major pluses is its downtown, which seems fuller lately with the opening of several new businesses and restaurants, thanks to the work of the Partnership for Haddonfield.

The organization promotes the borough and helps businesses such as Inkwood Books, get started, Beddingfield says.

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472

@alheavens

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