Town By Town: Buyers stay in Rose Valley, if they find it
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Visit Rose Valley and you've journeyed to a Delaware County borough so small, most people who pass through don't even know they've been there.
Or so say those who live or sell real estate in this creative and artistic community, where local government is housed in the Old Mill and the venerable Hedgerow Theatre is offering Charles Ludlum's spoof The Mystery of Irma Vep until April 6.
"It's otherworldly," says Gloria Carpenter, of Keller Williams Real Estate, who lived in nearby Swarthmore for many years.
Rose Valley also isn't a real estate hotbed, even though much of the day-to-day conversation is a product of the Arts and Crafts-style houses this 410-acre community is known for, some of which could do with work by new owners.
Seventeen houses sold here in 2013, with a median price of $410,000, according to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors' HomExpert Report. There were 14 sales in 2012, and 10 each in 2011 and 2010.
"There is not a lot of selling going on there," says Carpenter, but the houses are highly sought after, and when they do sell, "they get their price."
S. Clark Kendus, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Media, said there were "only 10 active listings in Rose Valley, and six are for a newer community called Traymore." Prices of those houses range from $246,000 to $825,000, he says.
In the last three months, there have been just two sales, says Kendus: one, a single on Applebough Lane for $288,500; the other in Traymore, for $721,000. Four sales are pending, at prices ranging from $299,900 to $692,500.
The single, a gardener's cottage on 0.75 acres, awaited "your restoration or renovation," the Trend Multiple Listing Service description shows.
Houses here "are not for everyone," Carpenter says, "but some are being modernized inside and restored on the outside."
A few years back, developer Nelson "Chip" Vaughan was presenting his proposal for Traymore. It was the borough's first new-home development since the 1960s, when Todmorden, a complex of Colonials and contemporaries, was built on the estate of Scott Paper founder Arthur Hoyt Scott. (He and Saul Ewing law firm founder Maurice Saul led the 1923 effort that created Rose Valley, much of which is on the National Register of Historic Places.)
Looking at the site plan, a planning commission member asked Vaughan why there was a cul-de-sac. Vaughan replied that since the property backed up to open space, the cul-de-sac was needed so residents could turn their cars around to leave.
"Why don't they just use the last driveway?" the member asked. "This is Rose Valley, and if you don't know your neighbor well enough to be able to use his driveway, you should get to know him better."
That anecdote was recounted by Andrea Detterline, now a commission member, and "Chip's much younger sister," who handles public relations for Vaughan & Sautter of Wayne and other area builders.
Seven years after moving here, Detterline says, she knows at least 50 percent of the 944 people who live in this community, situated just a stone's throw (a mile) from Media, the county seat.
"I'm also one of the Gardeners of Rose Valley," Detterline says proudly, pointing to the greenery at the Moylan-Rose Valley SEPTA station as one of the group's achievements.
There are so many activities and so few people, it's easy to get involved, she says.
Christopher Reynolds, who moved here from Lansdowne with wife Jennifer and the first of their three sons 19 years ago, says Rose Valley has exceeded their expectations.
The Reynoldses own Reynolds Ink, a public-relations firm they run out of a third-floor office in their house on Rose Valley Road, the borough's main thoroughfare.
They chose Rose Valley because they were expanding their family and looking for an older house in a good school district (Wallingford-Swarthmore).
Christopher Reynolds believes they were lucky to find a house designed by the Swiss-born draftsman of architect William Lightfoot Price at an afternoon open house one November Sunday.
It was Price who bought 80 acres of what was a mill town in decline along Ridley Creek for the Rose Valley Association in 1901 and began creating, according to borough history, the Arts and Crafts movement's vision of "the art that is life."
The commercial side of Rose Valley was not a success, but Price's homes attracted owners with interest in the social and artistic side of the movement. For example, Rose Valley Folk was begun to deal with the problems of self-government and evolved into a social organization.
So little real estate changes hands in Rose Valley, in part, because the descendants of many original buyers remain here.
Detterline says many buyers at Traymore are longtime Rose Valley residents looking for low-maintenance living who can't bring themselves to leave.
The Reynoldses, much newer to town, share that feeling.
"We have so many friends," Christopher says. "We can't think of another place we'd want to live."
Rose Valley By the Numbers
Population: 944 (2010)
Median income: $136,769 (2011)
Area: 0.74 square miles
Homes for sale: 10
Settlements in the last three months: 2
Median days on market: 119
Median sale price (17 homes, 2013): $410,000
Housing stock: From 1695 (Bishop White House) through 2014 (Traymore), many Arts and Crafts style
School district: Wallingford-Swarthmore
SOURCES: U.S. Census, City-Data.com; S. Clark Kendus, Weichert Realtors; Trend MLS, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert