Town By Town: Route 611 development sweetens Warrington housing market
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Ask about Warrington real estate, and agent Sharon Ermel Spadaccini mentions a huge fringe benefit of selling in the Bucks County township:
The cream doughnuts they make at Warrington Pastry Shop.
"They're heaven on earth," she said. "I'll sell a house in Warrington based on the cream doughnuts alone."
Confections aside, home sales here are "exploding," she said, and the township's affordability is providing the spark.
Although its website touts Warrington as "the gateway to Bucks County since 1734," Spadaccini said the community was "overlooked and sidestepped" for years.
Continued development of the Route 611 commercial corridor to Doylestown and Willow Grove helped put Warrington on home buyers' radar.
This development includes the Shops at Valley Square at Route 611 and Street Road and a 24-hour Wegmans, Spadaccini said.
"If you are looking for a four-bedroom, 21/2-bath with a garage and basement for an affordable price, it is Warrington," she said.
In the last six months, 101 houses have sold here, she said, from a $118,000 Cape Cod on an acre but in need of work, to new construction at Toll Bros.' Warrington Glen for $632,725.
These are not first-time buyers, but "someone who may be moving up from a condo or smaller house," she said.
The 130 active listings range in price from $169,900 for a flat to $687,700 (again, at Toll's Warrington Glen), Spadaccini said - with 39 of these under contract.
Of the 130 actives, 86 are resales, she said, adding that there are several other builders at work in Warrington these days.
Among them is Pulte Homes, which is building "upscale townhouses" starting at $365,000 at Warrington Pointe, she said.
There are also active-adult communities, including Katz Builders' Lamplighter Village and Meridian of Valley Square, Spadaccini said.
Good prices are not the only thing Warrington real estate has going for it. Frank Faber, owner of Faber Realty in Warminster, mentions both location and the Central Bucks School District.
They were the two major factors that brought Faber and his family to Warrington from Churchville five years ago - five additions to a township that grew 26 percent between 2000 and 2010.
"My wife works in North Wales and can get there even more quickly thanks to the new bypass," Faber said.
One of their three children is in first grade, the second heads to kindergarten in the fall, and the third is in preschool, Faber said, "and Central Bucks is routinely in the top 10 of Pennsylvania districts."
Ninety 90 percent of graduates attend postsecondary school, he said, with SAT scores in the top 5 percent of the state's high schools.
All these are factors contributing to a market that - despite 10 fewer sales between January and Memorial Day than last year - is still "gangbusters," with sale prices averaging 96.5 percent of list price compared with 93.7 percent in the 2013 period.
The 2014 average price of $403,562 is almost $40,000 higher than 2013's average, Faber said.
A shortage of homes for sale continues to encourage multiple bids in all price ranges, but "only if the property has perceived value and it is priced well," Spadaccini said - a marked departure from the days of the housing boom, when buyers went to extremes and bought almost anything.
Sale prices today are controlled by appraisal limits, she said, adding that when an offer of $205,000 came in recently for a $189,000 listing, "I asked the agent where he got his comps."
People are drawn to Warrington by both quality of life and education, said Faber. But when Lynda Barness' grandparents Joseph and Mary arrived here in 1925, there wasn't yet much of either.
In fact, when Lynda started school at Warrington Elementary (now F.D. Titus) many years later, "I had just missed out on going to a one-room schoolhouse," she said. The school is on Lower Barness Road - abbreviated to L. Barness on maps - "but people think it's named for me," she said.
Barness' grandparents tried chicken farming, but Joseph began building second homes for immigrants "one at a time," she said.
A brochure from the early 1930s boasts that the Barness houses have "electricity and running water," which were not yet common in many areas.
Her father, Herbert Barness, joined the operation after graduation from Bucknell University, where he met Lynda's mother, Irma, and the Barness Organization took shape. "They built lots of houses and commercial buildings" in their 80 years in business, she said, including the Warrington Country Club.
Lynda Barness joined full time in 1985 and took over in 1998, when her father died. She closed the company in 2005, selling the last 800 lots, and now owns I Do Wedding Consulting.
Barness' offices were behind Warrington Pastry, and "I always thought we were keeping them in business," she said.
"I remember having them make me a cake for my daughter's birthday. She was living in London at the time, and I took it there on the plane."
Warrington By the Numbers
Population: 23,418 (2010).
Median income: $84,633.
Area: 13.8 square miles.
Settlements in the last three months: 41.
Homes for sale: 130.
Median days on market: 103.
Median price (all homes): $314,000.
Housing stock: Heavily single-family, with new construction and over-55 homes.
School district: Central Bucks
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com; Frank Faber Realty; Sharon Ermel Spadaccini, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach; BHHS Fox & Roach HomExpert Market Report