One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Once, Blue Bell was known for "Realtors and gas stations," says Keller Williams Real Estate agent Gary Segal.
The gas stations are largely gone now from this section of Whitpain Township, Montgomery County, replaced "by a lot of banks," Segal says. But just about every area brokerage - his included - has a Blue Bell office.
Skippack Pike (Route 73) is "Real Estate Row," says Weichert Realtors' Diane Williams, who is based in its Blue Bell office.
Location has a lot to do with it, says Fran Radosh of Re/Max Services.
"Blue Bell is the hub of a wheel with the spokes going everyplace," says Radosh, who moved to Whitpain 42 years ago and has sold real estate here for 37 of them.
During morning and evening rush hours, those spokes get a bit congested: There are "two-lane roads and a lot of people trying to get to work," Segal observes.
Blue Bell is just a part, albeit an important one, of Whitpain, accounting for about one-third of the municipality's 18,000 people.
Originally called Pigeontown because of its large population of passenger pigeons (long extinct), the census-designated area was renamed in 1840 for the Blue Bell Inn on Skippack Pike, which reopened in 2014 after a year-long renovation.
"In the renovations, they uncovered the stone wall from when it was first built in 1743 and used that as a focal point in the main inside dining room," Williams says.
There are other great dining spots, Williams says. So many that Radosh asks, "Who needs Center City?"
Within the boundaries of Whitpain Township are Unisys, Aetna, a number of corporate office parks, the Normandy Farms hotel and conference center, shopping areas - all of which help keep property taxes low, Segal says.
More than 100 aircraft are based at Wings Field. And Whitpain has three country clubs: Blue Bell, Cedarbrook and Meadowlands. The township is working on permanently preserving 128 acres of Meadowlands, Williams says.
The price of real estate now on the market ranges from $100,000 to $2.8 million, Segal says, "with about half the 106 houses for sale under $500,000 and half above that."
The highest sale price in 2015 thus far was $1.25 million in April, Williams says.
"It is a well-established community with nice lots and tree-lined streets," she says, noting that Morris Road's canopy of trees is a must-see in spring, summer and autumn.
Says Segal: "It is a pretty active market, "and a relatively upscale one."
In last six months, 141 properties have sold, with 37 going for $380,000 to $600,000, Williams says.
Demand for houses here is always high, the agents say, because of the reputation of the Wissahickon School District, which Whitpain shares with affluent Lower Gwynedd Township and rapidly reawakening Ambler Borough.
It is an area awash in pharmaceutical and service industries, which explains the volume of relocations handled in the offices along Blue Bell's "Real Estate Row."
As you might expect, there have been many changes since Radosh moved to Whitpain from New York in the 1970s.
"There were a lot of farms and fields," she says, adding that her son and daughter were teased by fellow students at the University of Pennsylvania who would say that "if you blinked, you would miss Blue Bell."
Developments were built here in the 1960s and early 1970s, but most of Whitpain's houses were constructed in the 1980s through early 2000s.
The largest development - a game-changer, according to Williams and Segal - was Blue Bell Country Club, built by Toll Bros. across Route 202 from Montgomery County Community College starting in 1992.
"It was a new concept in our area: luxury estate homes, carriage homes, and townhouses," Williams says.
Among active new construction are 14 houses ranging from $625,000 to $2.5 million, she says.
There isn't much building today, Radosh says, because larger tracts are a thing of the past and Whitpain is strict when it comes to commercial and residential development.
"That's a good thing," she says.
Population: 18,875 (2010)
Median household income: $109,440 (2009)
Area: 12.9 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 109
Homes for sale: 106
Average days on market: 75
Median sale price: $410,000
Housing stock: 7,305 units, condos through estate homes
School district: Wissahickon
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Diane Williams, Weichert Realtors, Blue Bell; Berkshire Hathaway Homes Services Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market ReportEndText