Town By Town: Convenience, open space, more bang for the buck
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Sometimes, new developments have names that have little to do with the towns in which they appear.
At first glance, you might put Paparone New Homes' Fox Hunt development in that category. After all, East Greenwich isn't all that horsey, though it probably has its share of foxes and beagles.
But hang on a minute: The township may have an abundance of new construction, yet there's a part of it along Kings Highway that's much older.
At No. 217, just north of the railroad crossing, stands a meticulously restored private residence still known as the Death of the Fox Inn, an early-18th-century tavern where members of the Gloucester Fox Hunt Club merrily concluded activities that might arouse protests today.
Death of the Fox Inn inspired Bruce Paparone to name his 40-home development Fox Hunt. It's one of several he has built here over the last 10 years.
The last house in his Weatherstone development has been sold, and the fully furnished model in Fox Hollow, which Paparone worked out for another builder, is the last property for sale there.
His "foray into Gloucester County," which began in Washington Township, was prompted by the convenience of Interstate 295, Paparone says.
Fox Hunt is near Exit 18, which mentions two unincorporated parts of the township, Mount Royal and Clarksboro, and is "only 10 minutes to the Walt Whitman Bridge," he says. The third unincorporated area is Mickleton, on Exit 17's sign.
East Greenwich describes itself as "a residential and farming community," and it has been actively trying to preserve some farmland for future use.
But Paparone is not the only builder at work here. Beazer Homes has just sold out its over-55 community, the Gatherings, on Friendship Road in Clarksboro, with 161 single homes in the low-$200,000 to $300,000 range.
"They've done a good job of open-space preservation," Paparone says of the township, which has three parks for residents' use: 50-acre Hidden Acres off Jessup Road; Mickleton on Democrat Road; and the new 60-acre Thompson Family Park on East Wolfert Station Road.
Still, "if you build it, they will buy it," says Scott Rote, of Haven Homes Builders L.L.C. in Brigantine, who is working on a custom home on Cedar Road.
"If you want to buy a nice piece of land, you can still do it," Rote says, adding that prices for building sites have stabilized.
Whether they are looking for new singles, condos, or townhouses, buyers here get more house for their money than in suburbs closer to the city, says Pat Settar, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors in nearby Mullica Hill.
"With the average price about $250,000, there is a really good mix of buyers looking to live here," Settar says, "mainly because they have a real nice selection of houses to suit about any demographic."
There are townhouses less than 10 years old, houses built in the 18th and 19th centuries, farms, and single-family houses on quarter-acre lots for less than $300,000, she says.
New singles on an acre are selling for $450,000 and up, she says; four-bedroom, 21/2-bath singles are available for $350,000.
"It has a nice, small-town feel," says Settar. "For under $220,000, you can buy a nice single with walk-in closets, or a historic house in a cute neighborhood."
East Greenwich has the same shortage of homes for sale as other locales in the Philadelphia region. Settar expects that to ease as winter fades and the spring season revs up: "There are a lot of buyers in the pipeline."
In 2013, 115 houses sold, 12.7 percent more than the 102 sold in 2012, according to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach's HomExpert Report.
The median sale price is $260,000, up 4.8 percent from $248,000 in 2012, but just 0.4 percent from 2010. That reflects the slow recovery of prices in a region that last year saw an increase in the median of 2.4 percent from 2012.
In Gloucester County, higher median prices are found only in Mullica Hill (Harrison Township), where Beazer is previewing the Estates at Devonshire; South Harrison, a growth area where Paparone is building Cambridge and the Bluffs at Cambridge; and Woolwich Township, where just about every area builder is represented - $314,000, $280,500, and $289,900.
Harrison's median is 4.8 percent lower than in 2012. South Harrison's prices are down 1.6 percent year over year, however, while Woolwich - known for high property taxes and "a little too commercial compared with surrounding towns," Settar says - was up only 1.7 percent.
East Greenwich buyers haven't changed much in the last 10 years, says Paparone. They are primarily people relocating to the area to work in Philadelphia and Wilmington, or locals from places like Cherry Hill who are enamored of that "more-house-for-the-money" concept.
But they're not all move-up and well-heeled relocation buyers here, Settar says.
"Some older, established areas are perfect for first-time buyers, who can have a 20-year-old house if they are willing to make a few upgrades."
East Greenwich By the Numbers
Population: 9,555 (2010).
Median income: $47,440 (2011).
Area: 14.9 square miles.
Homes for sale: 86.
Settlements in the last three months: 23.
Median days on market: 89.
Median sale price (all homes): $260,000.
Housing stock: 3,405 units, built from 18th century to 2013.
School district: East Greenwich (K-6) Clark and Mickle Schools; Kingsway Regional.
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; East Greenwich Township; Trulia.com; BHHS Fox & Roach HomExpert Report