Real Estate 2010: 10 Awesome Neighborhoods To Call Home

If the tanking of the real estate market has taught us anything, it’s that a house isn’t an investment. It’s a home — a place to retreat to at the end of the day, to raise your kids and hang with your friends, to build your life around and become part of a larger community. So, what are the best places to call home around Philly? Here, our guide to some great neighborhoods worth discovering … or rediscovering

The Up-and-Comer
Montgomery County

This borough, along the Wissahickon Creek, covers less than a square mile, including a downtown that’s five blocks small. Young professionals and families are moving here for trendy nightlife and shopping, five (five!) parks, and a mix of century-old single houses and newer townhomes.

Schools: Public: Wissahickon School District has five elementary schools, one middle school, and a high school Newsweek ranked in the top 1,300 nationally in 2008. Private: Germantown Academy in nearby Fort Washington.

Commute to Philly: 35 minutes by car; 30 minutes on the R5.

Things you get: Keller Williams realtor Pam Butera credits the 2003 renovation of the Ambler Theater for the influx of dining (try recently opened wine bar Deterra, and Trax for seasonal fare) and boutiques (green shelter shop Verde, Laney’s Kids Boutique, and a Free Shop outpost) in the Main Street area. Locals also love Twisters Wellness Center for yoga, and Barrymore Award-winning Act II Playhouse.

Things you don’t: The hefty price tags of homes in similar areas. Butera says prices are significantly lower here than in, say, Conshohocken, which she claims is already discovered: “Ambler is getting discovered. From an investment angle, Ambler is a no-brainer: great location and good school system.”

Residents you ought to know: Eight-time Gold Glove winner Bobby Shantz; State Rep Rick Taylor.

Betcha didn’t know: Ambler’s gone green. Eco-initiatives include a movement to banish plastic bags, and plans for an earth-friendly community center in Knight Park.

The future: Platform renovations to the train station, designed to improve traffic and pedestrian safety on Butler Avenue, are set to wrap in July.

Meet the neighbors: Weekends, you’re likely to catch six-year residents Kenny Hanson, 32, and his wife strolling downtown, or having dinner at Bridgets Steakhouse. “Since we moved here, we’ve seen tons of new restaurants and stores open,” Hanson says. “Friday and Saturday nights, the sidewalks are packed with people walking down Main Street.”

Wanna buy here? Don’t hesitate. “Right now, prices in Ambler are really affordable,” says Butera. “Once we get through the depression, people are going to kick themselves if they didn’t buy here.”

Just sold: A sunny three-bedroom 1930s bungalow on Ridge Avenue, with sunporch, fenced front yard and all the modern fixings, for $310,000.

You might also like: Narberth is a more finished version of the above — just with higher taxes.