One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in this region's communities.
It doesn't take long to figure out what draws people to Medford Township.
It's the water.
Of the Burlington County community's 39 square miles, water encompasses slightly more than one, which might not seem like much. Still, it's not the volume of water that makes the difference, but how well nature and people have arranged it into ponds and lakes.
Many housing developments here, from oldest to newest, were sited around these water courses, some created by dams on creeks to make farming, especially cranberry cultivation, easier and profitable.
Those lakes, ponds, and streams, as well as considerable open space, afford recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.
"There is an outdoorsy element to Medford. The pine foliage, the lakes, and the log cabins all add to the atmosphere," says South Jersey builder Bruce Paparone, whose company in 2005 built Lantern Village, 10 single-family houses on Stokes Road near Birchwood Lake, priced from $400,000 to $600,000.
"You have a sense of family here," says Michelle Basmajian, an agent with Weichert Realtors, who moved here 22 years ago from Delaware County. (Her husband was from Medford.)
"A lot of my younger buyers grew up here and had great memories, so are coming back here to live and start families," Basmajian says.
She also works often with over-55 buyers, since the focus by builders here is more on the active-adult market. "Otherwise, there isn't all that much building here these days," she says.
Bob Meyer Communities, which has built 18 developments in Medford since the 1960s, has two over-55 projects under construction: Wyngate at Medford and Heritage at Medford.
"We've sold to a lot of buyers of houses in our past communities in Medford, with the strong [demographic] among the baby boomers from 52 on up," says Meyer, who has lived in Medford most of his life and followed his grandfather and father into the business.
He offers different home plans to accommodate the various age segments. His research has shown that some younger active adults have college-age children who return home for the summer, so they want a second floor. Older buyers look for single-floor living, he says.
Meyer and the others cite the Medford school system as a big draw for buyers. Its schools feed into the Lenape Regional District for grades 9 to 12.
Basmajian and Meyer say proximity to I-295 and Route 70 makes the township attractive, but Paparone says it takes a "special buyer" to move to Medford, because "it is removed from most of the world and takes extra time to get anywhere."
According to MapQuest, it should take 31 minutes on Route 70 East to get to Medford's picturesque downtown from Center City. At rush hour, it usually takes much longer.
"It is a little bit farther out, but it doesn't seem to matter," says Gary Schaal, a real estate consultant, who, with wife Susan, downsized in 2012 from a single-family home in Voorhees to a Pulte-built townhouse in Medford's Cranberry Lakes development.
Basmajian says that prices, which fell about 25 percent in the real estate downturn, have flattened and that she is seeing multiple bids and houses selling for list price.
Prices range from $75,000 (for a farmhouse on Mount Holly Road) to $2 million, although she says there are few houses for sale under $200,000 and not many at the highest end. Four-bedroom single-family houses with no updates near the lakes go for the upper $200,000s and low $300,000s, Basmajian says.
Medford resident Ron Murphy grew up in North Philadelphia and moved to Cherry Hill in the 1970s, where he met his wife, Kathleen, when they worked in a supermarket on Brace Road.
"An opportunity to open our own store in Medford came up," says Murphy, 63, and so the first Murphy's Market opened in 1978 on Stokes Road. He bought the building a short time later.
There are now four other markets, including another in Medford.
"I don't think Medford has changed much since then," Murphy says, acknowledging, however, that Route 70 was extended over those years.
"There are more developments, of course, but with two-acre zoning and being in the Pinelands, there is a limit to the amount of building here."
Two-acre zoning affords residents "a lot of privacy as well," Murphy says, noting that more open space, in the form of bike and walking trails, is being added all the time.
"It's a great community, and people are very active, and the schools are excellent," he says.
Taxes are high, "as they are everywhere," Murphy says. The township went through reassessment recently, according to Schaal.
"People move here and don't ever leave," says Schaal, who has worked for South Jersey builders since 1973. "From experience, there are few other towns in this area that can say the same thing."
Basmajian agrees with Schaal, citing her own experience.
So does Murphy.
"When we moved here in 1978, we built a townhouse," he says. "In 1998, with five kids, we moved into a single-family house in Medford.
"Now, I'm 63 years old, the kids are grown, and we're looking to downsize," Murphy says. "In Medford, of course."
Town By Town: Medford Twp., By the Numbers
Median income: $88,055 (2009).
Area: 39.93 square miles.
Homes for sale: 190.
Settlements in the last three months: 50.
on market: 69.
Median sale price (single-family homes): $365,000.
Median sale price (all homes): $344,500.
Housing stock: 1950s through the present; average age of house, 33 years.
School district: Medford, Lenape Regional.
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, City-Data.com, Trulia.com, Realtor.com, Movoto.com.
Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @alheavens.