Town By Town: Langhorne: Small and all in the family
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Real estate agents could not retire on their shares of commissions if they limited their home sales efforts to Langhorne Borough.
At this moment, there are just two houses for sale in the half-square-mile Bucks County community.
One of them is a twin house priced at $283,000; the other a single home listed for $259,000.
The last year is even more of a gauge of the historic borough's property market.
Martin Millner, an agent with Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Yardley, says just 11 houses changed hands in Langhorne in 2013, and only six in the last six months. "Less than one a month for the whole year," Millner noted.
That's better than 2012, when just seven houses traded hands, according to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert's report.
As a slice of the real estate market, therefore, this visit to Langhorne reflects just a sliver of the borough's housing pie.
But even a small morsel says a lot about this historic borough, which began life in the late 17th century and became an important stop on the stagecoach route between Philadelphia and Trenton.
In the last year, sale prices have ranged from a high of $405,000 in May for a four-bedroom, 21/2-bath, 2,337-square-foot Victorian to a single "in need of work," says Millner, for $160,000.
Jill Small, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Yardley, says there aren't many fixer-uppers among the few houses for sale in this "cute, tiny, home-towney" borough.
"Many of the houses have been renovated," she says, and buyers who like the borough's bumper crop of historic houses tend to keep them up.
She describes the borough's minuscule inventory as a "scattering of things for sale," noting that many homes in the borough remain in the same family for generations, not coming on the market until the supply of relatives runs out.
"The kids grow up, go to college and move away, but some liked the quiet, slow-pace, small-town life and want to come back there to live," Small says.
Still, many close-knit families often have relatives living within a couple of blocks of one another.
Millner's last transaction, on West Richardson Avenue in November, offers something of an explanation for the paucity of houses for sale in Langhorne Borough.
"It was a five-bedroom historic house that sold for $337,000," says Millner, adding that it was an estate sale by the late owners' eight children, all of whom were raised there.
"They told me stories of what it was like growing up in the house, including sitting on the front porch watching parades pass by," Millner says.
The buyers were a young couple with children who are ready to start school. The next-door neighbors were similarly aged people with school-age children.
Langhorne "is similar to other boroughs" - Media and Doylestown, for example - "where people move in but they rarely move out," Millner says.
Said Small: "Once you get there, you don't want to leave," citing the Neshaminy School District as a big plus for younger buyers with families.
That makes houses for sale in Langhorne rare commodities, which, if properly priced, are scooped up quickly - often with multiple offers.
Taxes, Millner says, are in line with other Bucks County communities and school districts.
Property values are lower than Newtown, for example, but that makes houses - when you can find them - "reasonably affordable," Millner says.
For example, fourth-quarter median price, according to HomExpert, was $265,000, up from $217,000 in 2012. Newtown Borough 2013 median was $449,900 on 39 sales.
Proximity to Interstate 95 - a selling point for many Bucks County communities - is a plus for Langhorne, as well.
The train is not a fixture in the borough - the Langhorne station on the West Trenton line is in Penndel - but there are stations in Woodbourne and Yardley.
Millner says many commuters take I-95 to the Cornwells Heights station on the Trenton line.
To say Langhorne is "historic" is an understatement. Of the 649 housing units in the borough, 252 of them, built between 1738 and 1937, fall within the 185-acre Langhorne Historic District, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.
Many of the wood-framed or stone houses were built by wealthy Philadelphians, and include styles from Federal, Victorian and bungalow, all 21/2 stories.
Little wonder that the motto on the borough's website reads: "Preserving the past, to enlighten the present, and provide for the future."
It has a small-town feel, with a farmers' market on Tuesday afternoons, an active business association, shops and restaurants within walking distance, concerts at the community park, and Rotary Club spaghetti fund-raisers.
As a way of shaking off the winter blahs brought about by recent weather, the Historic Langhorne Association touted an "extended holiday model-train exhibit" at its headquarters - the original borough library, which was built in 1865.
All this and more lend to Small's vision of the borough, with the words "little walking town" added to "cute."
"Many people don't know about Langhorne Borough," she says, explaining that use of the zip code by Middletown Township leads people to think of "new houses" and Sesame Street.
By the numbers
Population: 1,622 (2010).
Area: 0.5 square miles.
Homes for sale: 2.
Settlements in the last three months: 4.
Median days on market: 76.
Median price (all homes): $265,000.
Housing stock: 649 units, pre-World War II and one-third in the historic district.
School district: Neshaminy.
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Trulia.com; Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert Report; Martin Millner, Coldwell Banker Hearthside, Yardley