Friday, August 1, 2014
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Town By Town: House-hunting here? Act fast

On Trellis Lane. What hits the market gets snapped up fast, often with multiple bids.  ( DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer )
On Trellis Lane. What hits the market gets snapped up fast, often with multiple bids. ( DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer )
On Trellis Lane. What hits the market gets snapped up fast, often with multiple bids.  ( DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer ) Gallery: Town By Town: House-hunting here? Act fast

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

If 22 people are considering buying houses in Westtown right now, one of them could well end up elsewhere.

There are just 21 active listings in this Chester County township, ranging in price from the mid-$200,000s for a townhouse to $1 million, says Kit Anstey, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach's West Chester office.

"The price mix of homes for sale averages in the upper-$200,000 range," Anstey says, adding that Westtown and surrounding towns are "healthy and the housing is diverse."

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    Guy Matteo, of Re/Max Preferred Realtors in Newtown Square, calls Westtown a "suburban setting with a wonderful mix of housing choices."

    "The townhouses are attractive to first-time buyers, while the detached housing is for move-up buyers," whether they're moving into Westtown or trading up within the township, Matteo says.

    Townhouses typically range from $150,000 to $300,000; detached homes, from $300,000 to $1 million, Matteo says.

    Berkshire Hathaway's HomExpert Market Report puts the first-quarter median price here at $385,000, though Matteo says it's running about $373,000 in the second quarter thus far.

    There are 18 houses under agreement of sale, he says.

    The absorption rate is about 90 days, meaning that what goes on the market gets snapped up quickly, Anstey says - and often after several people have bid on it, says Jane Wellbrock, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Chadds Ford.

    "There's not enough inventory," Wellbrock says, and that makes anything for sale a good bet.

    "I listed a house on Woodridge Road. The sellers were an older couple, and the house was a four-bedroom, 21/2-bath, 2,600 square feet with a 25-year-old tennis court," she says. "I had five offers the first week."

    Anstey says he had a listing for $500,000 that had multiple offers, and "a house for $1 million that sold in a week."

    As it has in other areas, Matteo says, lower for-sale inventory has reduced average days on market here, from 74 days in 2012 to 58 days in 2013. Sales rose in 2013 vs. 2012, he says: to 142, from 111, a 28 percent increase, with prices up 11 percent in the same period, to $373,068 from $336,600.

    Houses on big lots abound in Westtown, says Weichert Realtors' Linda McKissick, mainly because much of the township lacks public sewers.

    "If you need to replace your septic system, you have enough room to do so," she says.

    McKissick moved here from Media when she got married 24 years ago.

    "My husband grew up in Nether Providence, but he was very familiar with Westtown since he mowed the fields as a kid at Pleasant Grove before it became a development, and at other farms as well," she says. "It was more rural than where we had grown up, and we were looking for more space, a larger yard and a garden, but someplace that was convenient, as well."

    Though Westtown today is "a town with no new construction," Wellbrock says, it grew tremendously in the last two decades.

    The 29 houses that sold in the last three months pushed average prices to the high $400,000s - another effect of the shortage of inventory.

    The limited new construction is focused at the moment on Westtown Reserve, an active-adult community with prices in the mid-to-upper-$200,000s range, Anstey says.

    "The last new construction I sold was at Arbor View - a five-bedroom home for $730,000," he says.

    Much of the construction that built Westtown occurred in the 1970s through the 1990s, Matteo says, but is now restricted to "one house or maybe two on an infill lot."

    "It is an established community, and that makes the detatched single-family homes older - 15 to 35 years old," he says.

    McKissick notes that she and her husband are not the only transplants from Delaware County. Many, like them, came for the open spaces; others, for the tax advantage.

    "In the West Chester Area School District, taxes on a house around 1,500 to 1,600 square feet are $3,300 to $3,400 a year, besides the 1 percent earned-income tax," McKissick says, while in the Rose Tree-Media School District in Delaware County, an 1,100-square-foot house has a $3,300 annual property-tax bill.

    Except for the bump in foreclosures and short sales during the real estate downturn - more obvious in Delaware County than in much-larger Chester County, McKissick says - values have held over the years.

    "When I started selling real estate, Chester County values were lower than Delaware, but they've flip-flopped over time," she says.

    McKissick, who has lived in the same house since she and her husband moved to Westtown, misses the township's more rural past.

    "When we came, there were no traffic lights from the Granite Run Mall to the intersection of [Routes] 926 and 202," she says. "Now, there are seven."

     


    Westtown  By the Numbers

    Population: 10,827 (2010).

    Median income: $106,150 (2009).

    Area: 8.8 square miles.

    Settlements in the last three months: 29.

    Homes for sale: 21.

    Median days on market: 135.

    Median price (all homes): $385,000.

    Housing stock: Older homes, many dating from the 1970s and 1980s; some new construction.

    School district: West Chester Area.

    SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com; Kit Anstey, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert Market Report

     


    aheavens@phillynews.com

    215-854-2472 @alheavens

     

    Alan J. Heavens Inquirer Real Estate Columnist