Town By Town: Skippack sees steady growth while maintaining small-town appeal

Skippack Village, Wednesday March 19, 2014. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.

Can we get away with calling Skippack "New Hope on the Perkiomen"?

Maybe not, although residents, especially those who sell real estate, say the Montgomery County township is beginning to resemble that popular Bucks County destination.

" 'A little New Hope' is the way to describe it," says Anne Tulloch, a Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach agent who bought her townhouse here five years ago.

"Some friends of mine who live near New Hope came for a visit last year and said just that," says Tulloch, who cited being able to walk from home into Skippack Village as a reason for moving here.

Jason Ostrowsky, a BHHS Fox & Roach agent who has lived here for six years and "grew up just one town over," says people are drawn to Skippack because of its "boutiquey lifestyle, a lot of good shops and restaurants, and its small-town feel."

"It's changed an awful lot in recent years," says Ostrowsky, recalling that when antiques stores dominated the village scene when he was younger, "my mom would drag me there with her, and I didn't want to go."

The housing scene has changed in recent years, too, he says, with lots of new construction and higher-end properties, thanks to the availability of land.

Skippack's rural landscape made for "a lot of pretty lots," Ostrowsky says, but "land is now at a premium," and prices are increasing with it as the township gets trendier.

The result: Prices ranging from the high-$100,000s for a townhouse, to well over $1 million. And, he says, it's the upper end of that range that tells the story of recent development in the township.

With the introduction of condominiums in the last 10 years, "there is something for everybody," Tulloch says, and that has drawn buyers from all over - Philadelphia, other parts of Montgomery County, and the Lehigh Valley, "because of how near the Northeast Extension [of the Pennsylvania Turnpike] is."

The condos are at Biltmore, off Route 73 (the township's main drag, also known as Skippack Pike), which has a mix of housing types.

Overall, Tulloch says, there doesn't appear to be a shortage of properties for sale in Skippack, and prices, which fell when the real estate bubble burst, "are coming back, but much more slowly, just like everywhere else."

There are 58 active listings in the township, says Diane Williams, an agent with Weichert Realtors' Blue Bell office. She was just completing settlement of a house in Skippack and has sold two others in the last 30 days.

The active listings range in price from $87,000 to $1.7 million (only one of those), Williams says.

"Some new construction ranges from $465,000 to $588,000, while higher-end resales are $520,000 to $700,000 - newer to about 22 years old," she adds.

From March 2013 to March 2014, Williams says, 197 of 264 listed properties sold after an average 52 days on the market, and with an average sale price of $355,026.

About 16 properties sold each month, for a price-absorption rate of three months, she says.

"Skippack is an incredibly charming town, where almost any day you can see people walking the streets to visit the quaint shops and wonderful restaurants," Williams says.

That charm is paying dividends to Toll Bros., whose 255-home, over-55 community Meadow Glen at Skippack is "selling well," says the builder's area vice president, Rob Fluehr.

Sixty-five houses have sold since Meadow Glen opened in January 2012, Fluehr says, at prices starting in the mid-$300,000s to the $400,000s.

"They are two-bedroom/two-bath to four-bedroom/three-bath, 1,600 to 2,300 square feet," he says, with a $380,000 base price and an average delivered price of $456,000 - which means buyers are adding a lot of amenities.

"The customer base is 'active active adults,' " he says. "A lot of them still have jobs and commute to them, but they are looking for the kind of atmosphere Skippack offers."

Meadow Glen has a clubhouse and a pool, and the residents' association has just put in a dog park, Fluehr says.

Long known as the home of Graterford Prison, a major employer, Skippack was at the edge of suburban development when Ostrowsky was growing up.

But even as it has gotten larger and the city has seemed to get closer, Skippack has retained a spread-out, rural feel.

"I used to go fishing in Skippack Creek in Evansburg," he says. (The state park lies partly in Skippack Township.)

Ostrowsky, who does the Broad Street Run each year, among other races, says he gets his exercise on the trails that run into one another throughout the township - from nearby Palmer Park, through Evansburg, and into the Perkiomen Trail.

Tulloch says you can start on trails in Skippack and eventually end up in Center City, "although it would take you a long time to get there."

Most locals simply walk as far as they can in the township, to the village shops and restaurants on Route 73, she says, or drive across the bridge to Collegeville and on to the retail complex at Providence Town Center.

Though some have suggested that this year's snowy winter and the accompanying travel disruptions might be pushing people closer to Philadelphia, Tulloch sees no evidence of it.

"They do a really good job clearing the streets around here," she says.

By the Numbers

Population: 13,715 (2010)
Median income: $88,068 (2009)
Area: 14 square miles
Homes for sale: 58
Settlements in the last three months: 42

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