Town by Town: Schools are Nether Providence's 'bread and butter'
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Nether Providence and its largest community, Wallingford, are used interchangeably to refer to the Delaware County municipality bisected by State Route 252.
To be clear, the township also includes part of the Media zip code north of Baltimore Pike and "some parts of Moylan," says S. Clark Kendus, an agent with Weichert Realtors' Media office and a Wallingford resident for 27 years who sells houses there.
What you really need to know, however, is that Nether Providence is in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District. That's the main reason why people move here.
The district "is our bread and butter," says Kendus. Thirty percent of people showing up to open houses are from Philadelphia "and pregnant."
"There are buyers in the region who only look at Wallingford-Swarthmore and Garnet Valley for the schools," he says.
It's what brought Frank and Michelle Grunseich to Wallingford in 2007.
"We owned a house in Springfield, Delaware County, but my wife grew up here and like a lot of people had such a good educational experience here that they come back when they have children," Frank Grunseich says.
"We found a house that had been on the market for six months, and the price had dropped significantly," says Grunseich, an investment manager for a pension fund in Center City.
It was big enough for a family with two children, now 8 and 5, and was a place "where we could spend the next 25 to 30 years," he says. "When the opportunity came up, we pounced."
Nether Providence has limited commercial property, Kendus says - a convenience store and a cleaners near the post office.
"That means we pay the second- or third-highest school taxes in Delaware County, even though we are the 18th highest overall," he says. "But people who come here know that, and it really doesn't seem to matter. You are willing to pay the price."
Sales volume has increased in the last few months, but home prices are down, Kendus says, comparing them with neighboring Media, "where prices are rising."
"We are losing buyers to Media all the time," he says, adding that "the price gap between Nether Providence and the county seat is "not as wide as it used to be."
In the last six months, 117 listings have settled, with an average price of $291,000, Kendus says. The lowest price was $50,000; the highest, $1.15 million.
Sale prices are about 93.16 percent of original list price, but 95.6 percent of the last asking price, he says, meaning that properly priced houses sell faster and for more.
From 2007 through late July 2014, prices remain down 11.3 percent, Kendus says, "pretty much in line with what Zillow.com is saying about the rest of the country."
Because the schools are such an important draw - even down to a particular elementary school - the age demographic for home buyers here is 30 through mid-40s, mostly purchasing their second homes, Kendus says.
There are a few new infill houses, but the average age of homes is about 52, he says. Two-story Colonials dominate, but the market is "eclectic." Older homes need some work.
Builder/remodeling contractor Jack Quindlan, of Quindlan & Associates in Rose Valley, just finished a custom house in Nether Providence, where he lived for 30 years.
"There's not that much open ground left in Nether, and what we are limited to these days is infill [lots]," Quindlan says.
Buyers of the older homes are upgrading bathrooms and kitchens, putting on additions, and making the houses more energy-efficient, he says.
"A lot of these buyers recognize that quality makes a difference," Quindlan says, but younger buyers tend to want the bells and whistles instead.
"I don't think people these days are as interested in maintaining houses as they were when I started 35 years ago, like keeping the home painted or having a good roof," he says. "They used to be interested in how we put things together."
Brendan Conway, an NBC10 producer, and wife Meryl, a speech pathologist, hadn't considered Wallingford for their first home. They had been looking around Blue Bell, where they'd been renting a townhouse.
"Someone was flipping a 50-year-old house, and it was ready to move into and we grabbed it," says Conway, noting that the couple wouldn't have minded doing a little work on what they bought.
In their late 20s, the Conways are planning children, so the school district, too, was a big plus.
With the Blue Route running through Nether Providence, Philadelphia International Airport 12 minutes away, and Center City just 20 minutes away, location is a selling point for the Conways and others.
Although his wife travels to Delaware County schools, Conway takes the Blue Route to Bala Cynwyd. Grunseich walks to the Wallingford station on the Media/Elwyn line for his Center City trip.
Media and its restaurant scene are a draw for Wallingford residents, Grunseich says, which his wife finds amusing.
"When Michelle lived here, Media was in a trough," he says, "but people who are new here think it was always this hip."
Nether Providence By the Numbers
Population: 13,706 (2010)
Median income: $82,968 (2012)
Area: 4.7 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 74
Homes for sale: 98
Median days on market: 46
Median sale price: $305,000
Housing stock: 5,125 housing units; average age, 52 years. Some infill construction.
School district: Wallingford-Swarthmore
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com; S. Clark Kendus, Weichert Realtors, Media