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

Lisa Fazio doesn't remember living anywhere else but Lower Moreland.

That doesn't count the years she lived in Philadelphia while attending Drexel University for her architecture and civil engineering degree.

"My parents, who grew up in Olney, were living on Brous Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, and when I came along they decided they needed a larger house for four children," says Fazio, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Jenkintown.

That was May 1968.

Fazio was 6 months old when the family moved to a brand-new development of four-bedroom, 21/2-bath houses on half-acre lots in what was still a rural Montgomery County township, bisected by Huntingdon Pike and grazed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

That development, she says, remains an entry point for young buyers looking for good-sized houses and the Lower Moreland School District.

"At $400,000, it is a price point that cannot be beat," says Fazio, whose husband, Michael, also grew up here.

Sale prices in Lower Moreland "are almost back to where they were in 2007," she says.

A house that sold for $430,000 at the market's peak would get $415,000 now. During the depths of the real estate downturn, it would have brought just $350,000.

Prices here typically range from $200,000 to $2 million, "although you aren't going to find anything for $200,000," Fazio says.

Most buyers - many also from Northeast Philadelphia - are looking for houses in the $300,000-$400,000 range, she says, noting there are rarely more than 100 active listings at any time.

"Those $400,000 houses are strictly for people looking for schools," Fazio says.

Still, says Robert P. DeMartinis, president of the township Board of Commissioners, "while I believe a lot of people move here for the good schools, more than half of households do not have children in the school district.

"My wife and I do not have any children of our own, but we have never minded paying school taxes because we enjoy the quality of life in the community, including what a strong school district adds to everyday living," DeMartinis says.

Those school taxes are "significant," necessary to pay for a high-quality education, he says, although the township tax rate is lower than those in some nearby towns.

"We enjoy the small-town feel of the community, the easy commute into Center City [less than 30 minutes on the West Trenton line from the Bethayres station], and the parks, trails and open space in the area," DeMartinis says.

Fazio's parents moved over the city line as this venerable farming town was evolving into a suburban one.

In 1960, the township's population was 5,700. By 1970, it had grown to 11,600, and it has remained near that number since.

The focus now is on preservation. There are more than 1,000 acres of open space and miles of trails within and adjacent to Lower Moreland.

DeMartinis, a professional fund-raiser and self-described "military brat" who was born in South Philadelphia, moved here 20 years ago, "impressed by the greenery."

Allison Schwartz grew up in "the last house on Paper Mill Road in Upper Moreland before you are in Lower Moreland."

She went off to college and then spent nearly 15 years in a pharmaceuticals ad agency in New York, then moved back five years ago after starting a family.

"When you are young, you never realize how important community is," says Schwartz, who owns GFit Women in what was, until a year ago, the Bethayres Market on Welsh Road.

"I realized after opening the gym how supportive people are," she says of clients "who have been loyal to me since I opened" a few years back.

Schwartz is impressed by the township's efforts to promote small business and reinvigorate Bethayres and historic areas of Lower Moreland, and she points to the ever-lengthening Pennypack Trail.

Noting the return of wildlife to a place adjacent to a major city, DeMartinis says, "Perhaps Lower Moreland has managed to achieve a good balance of modern living and community growth along with the protection of beautiful and vital natural areas."

Town By Town: Lower Moreland By the Numbers

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Population: 12,982 (2010)

Median household income: $101,643

Area: 7.3 square miles

Settlements in the last three months: 17

Homes for sale: 101

Average days on market: 58

Median sales price: $340,000

Housing stock: 4,548 units, primarily single-family detached houses.

School district: Lower Moreland

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; Lisa Fazio, Weichert Realtors; Lower Moreland Township, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market ReportEndText

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