One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in this region's communities.
For most visitors passing through, the Moorestown experience is limited to Route 38, home to the mall, strip shopping centers, car dealerships, and corporate office parks.
Beth Berry's first visit 25 years ago brought her instead to the Burlington County township's picturesque Main Street, with its historic buildings and quaint shops.
"It was purely by accident," says Berry, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Moorestown for the last 13 years. "I was lost, and I found the downtown first."
It was love at first sight. Berry and her husband, Charles, both Southerners by birth, found Moorestown much to their liking.
"It was just so quaint and charming, and convenient, too, because my husband was traveling a lot on business," she says.
While Moorestown's highly rated school system has long been a huge draw for young families, "we didn't even have children yet," Beth says.
The three sons that followed - one now selling real estate with them - went the K-12 route.
"Ninety-one percent of all Moorestown High School graduates go on to college," she says, "and that brings a lot of families to the town."
David Lewis, broker/owner of the venerable B.T. Edgar & Son Realtors on Main Street, was born and raised in Moorestown and attributes not only the quality of the schools but the township's central location to its attractiveness for buyers.
"We are close to Philadelphia and it is easy to get to New York City and Washington, D.C., as well," says Lewis, who has sold real estate since 1989 at the agency, founded in 1923. That means it has "survived two depressions - the big one and the one a couple of years ago."
"Of course, we are convenient to both the beaches and the Poconos," Lewis says.
As both Lewis and Berry point out, the residential real estate market in Moorestown is on the way back, but, as with many other locations, prices are not anywhere near where they were at the peak of the boom.
The median price, which Lewis tracks every week, is up to $520,000 today, still below the peak when it was well above $600,000, he says.
But sales are recovering, Berry says.
"We stumbled a bit in the downturn, of course, but we started rebounding last year, beginning at the end of 2011," says Berry, adding that last year's prices hit $485,000.
For all of 2012, 209 houses changed hands in Moorestown, she says. So far this year, sales have reached 249 and climbing.
Berry credits the school system with not only easing the effects of the real estate downturn in Moorestown, but turning things around faster than in many nearby communities.
Lewis said that could be the case, adding that he believes the range of available housing - from $100,000 "in need of fixing up" to $2 million - is a factor.
Although developers have found a place in Moorestown since the 17th century, Toll Bros. has made the biggest impact on housing and spreading the word about Moorestown in the last two decades, Lewis says.
"Its advertising about living in Moorestown put us on the map," he says.
New construction on the scale Toll Bros. brought to Moorestown also served to raise home prices, much as the company does in other communities, he says.
Toll's 100-acre Moorestown Hunt added 252 single homes, while its 450-acre golf course community, Laurel Creek, brought 452 singles and townhouses.
These days, Toll is building the over-55 Mews at Laurel Creek, 122 carriage homes and a small clubhouse on the same side of Centerton Road as the existing development, says Chris Gaffney, Toll's group president for New Jersey.
Prices range from the high $400,000s to the mid-$600,000s, "depending on locations and options," Gaffney says.
The Mews was delayed for several years, he says, but since April, "we've taken 12 to 14 deposits."
As Berry discovered so many years ago, Main Street is a big draw for buyers, Lewis says.
"It reminds a lot of them of their childhood," says Lewis, although merchants still complain that Moorestown Mall, built in the 1960s, draws away a lot of their business.
The township "has gotten a lot bigger since I was growing up," says Lewis - so big, in fact, that it began building a new town hall and library between Church and Washington and Second and Third Streets in January and expects to be finished by mid-2014.
The "canopy of trees" is another thing residents like about Moorestown, says Lewis, who, as a former member of the Shade Tree Commission, played a role in keeping it that way.
That canopy covers Main Street, of course, which is the center of the township's activities throughout the year and is designed to draw residents and outsiders there.
The 250-member Moorestown Business Association sponsors several events on Main Street during the year, with "Autumn in Moorestown," featuring fine arts and crafts, antique and classic cars, scarecrows and pumpkin painting, set for Oct. 12 this year.
"There's always a lot to do here," says Berry, with sports and civic associations' activities - "a whole lot for families to do."
"It is easy to assimilate here," she says, "and easy to become involved."
Population: 20,726 (2010)
Median income: $139,755 (2011)
Area: 14.9 square miles
Homes for sale: 72
in the last three months: 90
Median days on market: 123
Median price (single-family homes): $545,000
Median price (all homes): $542,000
Housing stock: Townhouses, single-family homes, condos, apartments; dating from
the 18th century to 2013
School district: Moorestown
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; Money; Zillow.com; Prudential Fox & Roach HomExpert Market ReportEndText