Town By Town: Schools the draw in Tredyffrin Township
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
There's a lot to Tredyffrin Township once you get past spelling its name - Welsh for valley town - correctly.
So much, in fact, that the township takes in parts of Paoli, Radnor, Wayne, Strafford, and Berwyn and is accessible to SEPTA'S Paoli-Thorndale Line via five stations.
"The only part of it not within a half-mile of a train station is Chesterbrook," said Guy Matteo of Re/Max Preferred in Newtown Square, and that sprawling neighborhood of 1970s-to-1980s townhouses and singles is "easily accessible to office parks like Great Valley and other employment centers along Route 202."
When talking about Tredyffrin, buyers' conversations often start with what is generally known as "T/E," the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, and Conestoga High School, said John Duffy, president of Duffy Real Estate in Narberth and St. Davids, whose agency focuses a lot of its sales efforts on neighborhoods in Wayne and Radnor.
"T/E is a highly desired school district, and the draw to it is extremely strong," said Duffy, adding that it is "perennially ranked in the top five in Pennsylvania."
And taxes in the district remain reasonable compared with other districts in Chester County and districts in adjacent Delaware and Montgomery Counties, Matteo and Duffy say.
Private education affects the higher end of the Tredyffrin real estate market - $750,000 to the $2.85 million Matteo puts at the top of the range of prices for the township's current 136 active listings.
The least expensive listing is $130,000, he said.
"I'm hearing, 'Anything close to Episcopal,' " said Debbie West of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach in West Chester, who has been selling houses at the higher end.
Episcopal Academy's 123-acre campus is in Newtown Square. The school relocated there from Lower Merion in 2008, and its enrollment exceeds 1,200.
"It is a huge draw," said West, offering an example of an Episcopal-motivated sale in recent weeks: a buyer who paid more than $1.9 million for a house that needed work.
"He had been an unsuccessful bidder last year for a house listed at $4 million," West said.
That house sold recently for $2 million after four years on the market. The sellers had "put about $4 million into it and walked away from a $2 million offer last year," West said.
A lot of sellers, especially at the market's higher end, are stubborn about getting their asking prices, "trying to justify what they think their properties are worth," she said. "We tell all sellers that their properties are worth only what buyers are willing to pay for them."
Yet Tredyffrin is not about really expensive houses, the agents say.
"Our clients happen to be the ones selling the bigger houses," West said, "but you can also buy a townhouse for $200,000 here, as well as something in the multimillion range."
Matteo and Duffy also note that there is, in Matteo's words, "a great variety of available product, from a modest two- to three-bedroom condo in Glenhardie in Wayne or Old Forge Crossing starting at $125,000, to [houses listed] from $1.5 million to $2.5 million."
Tredyffrin is full of "nice little neighborhoods," Duffy said, such as Cloverhill, where he recently sold a house for $475,000 after four days on the market.
"Cloverhill is walkable to the Strafford station, and that is what buyers, especially the younger ones, are looking for in these older neighborhoods," he said.
While there are 136 houses listed for sale here, there are 43 sales pending - meaning that they will be going to closing in 30 to 60 days, Matteo said. Average sale prices from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013 rose 8.5 percent, from $405,566 to $440,756, he said.
Unit sales year-over-year have risen 9.5 percent, from 443 to 485, according to Matteo.
But even with 136 listings, there's still not a lot available.
"There is a tremendous demand for condos and townhouses in the $150,000-to-$350,000 range, and single-family in the $400,000-to-$900,000," he said.
Chesterbrook townhouses and condos are a big draw, especially among first-time buyers and empty nesters trading down, Matteo said, even though the housing there is older.
"One modest two-bedroom/two-bath unit in Chesterbrook is listed at $175,000, and it is 33 years old," he said.
Chesterbrook is an example of what happened during the population's east-west movement in the 1970s and 1980s, when buyers bypassed Villanova for wide-open spaces, Duffy said.
There isn't much new construction in Tredyffrin today except for infill projects, the agents say, though demand is great for building sites and lots.
And when newly built homes are available, they are spoken for quickly:
A single-family development of five homes in the Maplewoods section has just two lots remaining, Matteo said.
Tredyffrin Township By the Numbers
Population: 29,332 (2010)
Median income: $102,113 (2011)
Area: 19.9 sq. miles
Homes for sale: 136
Settlements in last three months: 40
Median days on market: 56
Median sale price (all homes): $390,000
Housing stock: 12,551 units, from 18th century to present
School district: Tredyffrin/Easttown
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Guy Matteo; Debbie West; Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert Report