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 Hamlet
Montgomery County

Rolling farmland transformed, via benevolent developer Dave Markel, into a quaint, modern community featuring ample dining, good shopping, and New Hope-esque summer traffic.

Schools: Public: Perkiomen Valley School District. Private: nearby Valley Forge Baptist Academy (K-12).

Commute to Philly: 45 minutes by car; no public transit.

Things you get: Lovely old stone homes; lots of new construction; cute-as-a-button municipal park; community pool (with wi-fi!); the Perkiomen Trail for hiking and biking; Spring Mount for skiing (of a sort); Evansburg State Park for trout fishing, picnicking, horseback riding and golfing; the Playhouse community theater (in a converted barn, natch).

Things you don’t: Reality. Lord Markel keeps his properties in tiptop shape even in a recession.

Betcha didn’t know: Skippack was Grand Central Station during the Revolutionary War; George Washington camped his army alongside Skippack Creek seven times.

Residents you ought to know: Graterford Prison is right outside town. But don’t worry; former Montco D.A. and current county commissioner Bruce Castor lives here, as does his old buddy, fellow former D.A. Michael Marino.

The future: Markel shows no signs of running out of dough. His luxe new Hotel Fiesole, on the site of the old Trolley Stop restaurant (the trolley’s still there), cost $8 million and took seven years to complete.

Meet the neighbors: Stephanie Wolsky, 47, moved here with husband Jamie in 1994; they have three teenagers. “Our development backs right up onto Evansburg State Park,” she reports. “People keep horses in their backyards. The village is really cute. I’m in a bocce league the township runs.”

Wanna buy here? Re/Max 440 realtor Dale Joy points out new developments near the village, including an over-55 community. Taxes are lower than elsewhere in Montco, and layoffs at nearby pharmaceutical firms — which include Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline — could mean bargains.

Just sold: A five-year-old, 3,600-square-foot stone-and-stucco four-bedroomer with morning room, giant master suite, three-car garage and outdoor pool and waterfall, on 1.4 acres, for $637,500.

You might also like: Collegeville, 15 minutes away, with its own Main Street and strip-mall conveniences, is less twee, but namesake Ursinus College has an art museum, outdoor sculpture on well-groomed grounds, great sports teams — and babysitters galore.