Town By Town: Why a lot of people want to live in Lansdale
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in this region's communities.
If you've been house-hunting and Lansdale is on your list of possibilities, consider setting aside Saturday to give this Montgomery County borough the once-over.
Don't expect to be alone, though, because June 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is Lansdale Day, which typically attracts up to 5,000 people downtown, from Green Street to Cannon Avenue, to a fund-raiser for the Rotary of North Penn.
Even without the lure of a day of fun along West Main Street, a lot of people - especially younger ones and first-time buyers in search of affordable housing - have been heading to Lansdale lately.
It's an incredibly diverse group, evident in Korean churches and ethnic dining spots and markets.
How does one define affordable here? In 2012, property data show, 121 houses sold, from rowhouses close to downtown, to the larger twins and singles of the West Ward. Prices ranged from $150,000 to $400,000.
In the last three months, there have been 27 sales, ranging from $91,000 for a 52-year-old two-bedroom/one-bath condo, to $334,268 for a West Ward four-bedroom/two-bath single on just under an acre.
"It's not like suburbia," says Diane Williams, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Blue Bell, who lived in Lansdale in the 1970s and 1980s and sells houses here. Though the borough is surrounded by Hatfield, Montgomery, Towamencin, and Upper Gwynedd Townships, "Lansdale is a small town in itself," she says.
Robin Black, who just settled on a circa-1920s corner house in the West Ward, says that the small-town feel helped lure her here from a much larger house in Upper Dublin Township.
"It reminds of a time back then, when things were simpler," says Black, 54, an artist who plans to use the light and airy enclosed front porch of her new house as her studio.
"I never knew this place existed," says Black, who has lived in Philadelphia and other area towns and considered Ambler and Willow Grove.
"You get a lot more here for the money, and taxes are much lower. Even my car insurance dropped $400," says Black, who also likes the walkability.
Her agent, Weichert's Amy Belsky, noting that this was the first house she has sold in Lansdale, says she, too, was impressed.
"It seems like a friendly area," Belsky says, adding that Black's prospective neighbors went out of their way to be welcoming, even as they were just looking.
"The house has a lot of original features, especially the woodwork," something you don't find these days, she says.
Williams cut her real estate teeth in Lansdale, joining Kenneth Kratz's office on West Main Street in 1983 and remaining there for 10 years.
"A lot of agents and brokers in the area got their start at Kratz," she says. "It was a great place for an education."
There are a lot of older houses in Lansdale because it's an old town. It's now on SEPTA's Doylestown line, but the railroad first came here in the 1850s, and the borough, incorporated in 1872, served an industrial hub.
Jenkins Homestead, a 1770s-era Federalist-style farmstead, is the oldest building within the original borders of Lansdale. The property, along with the former Interstate Hosiery Mill at South Line and Penn Streets, are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The mill is now Silk Factory Lofts, 115 apartment units renting for $1,145 to $2,230 a month.
Other older buildings have been repurposed, too. The old North Penn Hospital at Seventh and Broad Streets, for example, is Elm Terrace Gardens, a nonprofit continuing-care retirement community.
What little empty space there is here is being acquired by developers taking advantage of growing buyer interest in Lansdale, Williams says.
For example, W.B. Homes of North Wales is building Williamson Square at Fourth and Line Streets - 20 three-story townhouses and eight three-story twins just six blocks from the train station and starting about $258,000, according to Move.com.
The influx of new residents has helped downtown Lansdale, which suffered as malls popped up in the surrounding towns.
There are new restaurants and businesses, as well as many established ones owned by people who thrived in slower times. There are Asian grocery stores and a multicultural barbershop, reflecting the population's increasing diversity.
Kurt Seelig owns Cardinal Camera & Video on West Second Street, founded by his grandfather in 1937.
"We've always had a loyal following, customers who prefer to go to us rather than the big-box camera stores," says Seelig, a Hatfield resident who bought his current building in 1979 and continues to add services, including an area for children.
"My customer base has changed," he says. "There are a lot more females, especially young mothers and lots of kids."
In the old days, Friday night at Cardinal Camera was a "male hangout," Seelig says. "But not anymore."
Town By Town: Lansdale, By the Numbers
Median income: $46,202 (2009)
Area: 3.1 square miles
Homes for sale: 77
Settlements in the last three months: 27
Median days on market: 61
Median sale price (single-family): $183,500
Median sale price
(all homes): $183,500
Housing stock: Varied, with larger-lot singles in the borough's eastern
and western corners, rowhouses and twins near the center
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Movoto.com; Borough of Lansdale; Diane Williams, Weichert Realtors; Trend MLS
Contact Alan J. Heavens
at 215-854-2472, firstname.lastname@example.org or @alheavens at Twitter.