Town By Town: Oreland, a good place for starters and stayers
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Here's a short description of Oreland, courtesy of Long & Foster agent Cheryl Miller: "The quintessential starter-home community."
A U.S. Census-designated area shared, though not equally, by Springfield and Upper Dublin Townships, Oreland is more like a neighborhood, filled with affordably priced, three-bedroom/two-bath houses of every style that draw younger, first-time buyers with families, says Kathleen McDevitt, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach in Chestnut Hill.
"Farther out from Philadelphia, buyers can get more for their money," McDevitt says, "but they like the community feel Oreland has and its proximity to Chestnut Hill."
Though Pennsylvania Avenue is the dividing line between the two municipalities, McDevitt and Miller pretty much agree that the bulk of this Montgomery County enclave lies in Springfield, and that most of Oreland's children attend its highly rated schools.
Nasrat Ghattas and his family have lived in Oreland for 18 years.
"It is a wonderful place to raise a family, and has great public and private schools," Ghattas says.
Springfield is a township with neighborhoods, says McDevitt, who lives in Erdenheim, one of those enclaves. Another, Wyndmoor, commands the highest prices, she says, and Erdenheim and Flourtown are desirable places to live, especially for people moving from the city, on the east side of Stenton Avenue, who want to be close to it.
Then there is "little Oreland," says Miller, who often uses "sweet" to describe an area that "was selling consistently in the down real estate market because of its price point."
There are trackable price differentials within Springfield, as well - although, except for Wyndmoor and its rambling turn-of-the-20th-century homes similar to the ones across Stenton Avenue in Chestnut Hill, no one is certain why.
"Buyers who come to Erdenheim can find a small brick single for $325,000 to $350,000, but the same house in Oreland goes for $290,000 to $300,000," McDevitt says.
Oreland also is closer to Route 309 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Miller notes, and its station on SEPTA's Doylestown-Lansdale line has parking for 100 cars.
As for the two-township overlap, it's safe to say, based on what agents and residents suggest, that houses in Upper Dublin are larger and pricier than those in Springfield, and that the latter benefits from a lower tax rate.
You can pay $600,000 for a house in the Upper Dublin part of Oreland, but $250,000 three blocks away on the Springfield side, McDevitt says.
Here's how the numbers crunch:
Houses on the Springfield side go for $170,000 to $470,000, "although these high and low prices are not typical," McDevitt says. The median sale price is $270,000, the average $253,000. There are more older developments here (50 years or more).
On the Upper Dublin side, prices range from $200,000 to $557,500, with the median $327,000 and the average $345,000, McDevitt says. The houses are larger, many are newer, often with different styles on the same street.
Homes on both sides of Oreland are overwhelmingly single-family, the real estate experts say, and attract first-time buyers looking for affordability.
"They tend to stay put, even as their families grow," says Miller. "If they buy a three-bedroom with one bath, they have no qualms about adding a second bathroom."
Sometimes, it isn't possible, she says: "I sold a rancher to a client six years ago for $200,000, but the house couldn't be expanded, so they ended up moving over to Whitpain Township and spent $400,000. They were sad to go."
Residents do seem fond of Oreland, even while noting its shortcomings.
"It is very clean, very safe, very quiet, and has lots of greenery," says Claire Gawinowicz, who has lived here 24 years. "There is a quaint but very small shopping area in the middle of Oreland, with a small food market, hardware store, bakery, Dollar Store, a pizza shop with a good craft beer selection, a Chinese takeout, and a post office."
Another plus: convenience to "regional rail, with a stop in Oreland and a stop in North Hills up the road," Gawinowicz adds.
On the other hand, she writes in an e-mail, "Oreland itself is very suburban (read: boring), not many sidewalks and not very walkable unless you live close to the shopping area or station."
Kathy Sheeder-Bonanno moved with her family to Oreland from Philadelphia 12 years ago, and "we are glad we did," she says. "We enjoy the fact that our cars and our house have never been broken into. We can take walks whenever we want to - even at night."
"It's a calm, peaceful, safe place to live and raise children," says Sheeder-Bonanno, adding that "we also found some neighbors who we love who have literally improved the quality of our lives."
And, Miller says, let's not forget Candy Cane Lane, which appears in Oreland at Christmas and says a lot about the people and the community.
The two dozen houses in the 100 block of Garth Road are decorated with 13-foot-tall candy canes, lights, Santas, sleighs, and snowmen.
"Whenever we get in the car at Christmastime, my kids ask if it means a trip to Candy Cane Lane," Miller says.
By the numbers
Population: 5,678 (2010)
Area: 1.5 square miles
Homes for sale: 34
Settlements in the last three months: 11
Median days on market:
37 (Upper Dublin)
Median price (all homes):
$270,000 (Springfield), $327,000 (Upper Dublin)
2,188 units, smaller and older in Springfield, larger in Upper Dublin
Springfield, Upper Dublin
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com; Zillow.com; Kathleen McDevitt, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach