The Hottest Suburban Philadelphia Neighborhoods

Whether you prefer the idyllic open spaces of Montgomery County or Conshohocken’s quick city commute, these are the best, most sought-after spots in Philly’s suburbs.

East Greenwich

A place for Philadelphia expats in search of great schools and wide-open spaces.

East-Greenwhich-Credit-Jauhien-Sasnou

Median home price: $248,000
Decrease in average days on market (2011 to 2012): 27 percent
Increase in median household income (1999 to 2011): 60 percent

In East Greenwich Township, New J­ersey, life revolves around two hallmarks of s­uburbia: friendly schools and competitive sports. Indeed, the local school districts, which include award-winning Kingsway Regional, are the main reason many out-of-staters—especially young families decamping from Philly and its challenges—have been pulled to this affordable slice of South Jersey of late. The Quaker-founded township (population 4,200) doesn’t have a downtown hub to call its own, so locals bond around Saturday-morning soccer games, and revel in the lack of congestion. “It’s been our little secret,” says realtor and East Greenwich lifer Ron Venuto.

The town’s seen steady growth in the housing market in recent years as more families are drawn in, but land preservation grants keep the landscape green, the lots spacious, and the parks clear for baseball, lacrosse and football. (“You’re always at the ball field here,” says Cissy Cuthbert, a Mississippi transplant.) Mickleton, with its well-maintained historic homes, is the most coveted section of East Greenwich, though no houses here sit on the market very long. That’s mostly due to location: It’s an easy 30-minute drive to Philly for work, excursions to the Franklin Institute, and date nights away from the little ones.

East Greenwich: The Post-Philly ‘Hood for Young Families

  • East Greenwich is a hit with … young families, including many self-employed people and employees of bigger corporations in Philly and South Jersey.
  • The food scene … is sparse, but residents can drive to nearby Swedesboro and Pittman for more options. And Philly is 18 miles away.
  • Nightlife … is nonexistent. The place is quiet.
  • Residents’ pet peeves … are few, though recent developments in housing have some worried that the township will get too populated. Regardless, considering its teeny boundaries and land protections, the place likely won’t change much.
  • Residents describe the area using words like … “gracious” and “Small Town, USA.”
  • Neighborhood gossip … is that another couple hundred homes will be built in Mount Royal soon.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see the story on Conshohocken.

Conshohocken

A decade of growth, plus accessible price points and a quick city commute, have 20- and 30-somethings flocking.

Conshohocken philadelphia suburb real estate

Median home price: $267,500
Increase in residents with a B.A. or higher (2000 to 2010): 114.5 percent
Increase in residents aged 20 to 54 (2000 to 2010): 21.3 percent

A group of townhouses in West Conshohocken wedged between a McDonald’s drive-thru and I-76, all selling for their listed prices (between $382,000 and $450,000), seems ludicrous. Realtor B­ette McTamney was surprised by it, too, but something about this tiny borough has homebuyers eager to snatch up pr­operty. New construction in the 1.03-square-mile area boomed between 2004 and 2009; these days, Conshy is managing the line between welcoming prospective builders and maintaining the existing aesthetic of a place where locals can enjoy a taste of convenient small-town life (though proximity to Center City is a major perk, with a commute of under 30 minutes by rail). The once-industrial-and-manufacturing-driven borough now touts modern riverfront apartments, restaurants that cover all the basics (with a major bonus in Chip Roman’s Blackfish), and a growing list of retail along bustling Fayette Street, catching the eye of more and more 20- and 30-somethings over the past several years. The only downside? Traffic on the Fayette Street Bridge is a nightmare at rush hour. Starter homes here are priced to sell—2012’s median home price was in the comfy mid-$200,000s—and that shows itself in the plethora of young families (and their dogs) you see out and about.

My Conshohocken: Hot Real Estate for 20- and 30-Somethings

“Originally I was nervous about opening in Conshohocken because there’s not as much retail, but the clothing scene in Manayunk was too congested. Plus, real estate never seemed to decline here like it did elsewhere—housing here is booming among 20- and 30-somethings. I never feel an itch to go to Center City—Conshohocken has everything. It’s a nice option, being only 20 miles away, but here, you can breathe.”

—Antoinette Poluch, 30, owner of Obvi Boutique on Fayette Street

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see our thoughts on New Hope.

New Hope

A mass migration from tax-happy Jersey has meant great things for this picture-book town.

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Median home price: $505,500
Increase in median prices of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 48.7 percent
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 17.9 percent

Though this population-2,500 borough has long been a draw for the young, the restless and the gay, the lure of so­lid schools, a walkable town, and something-for-everyone housing stock has now made it the perfect choice
for community-minded folk yearning for a hipper slice of the Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow. “It was really quirky and alternative when we moved here,” says Dan Kramli, who owns the New Hope Fitness gym and has lived here with his wife and daughters for a decade. “It’s gotten way more family-oriented since.”

An influx of Jerseyans clobbered by big property taxes (in some cases twice as high) and relentless flooding along the Jersey side of the Delaware has also fed the New Hope boomlet. The median price of a si­ngle-family home shot up almost 50 percent from 2011 to 2012; home sales increased by 18 percent. “I get a lot of calls from people looking to retire,” says Dee Dee Bowman, a realtor and 30-year resident. “They’re downsizing from New Jersey, and Pennsylvania doesn’t tax retirement income.”

While New Hope does impose an unpopular one percent income tax, the math still works out for many. The sell is the Sesame Street neighborliness, reflected in everything from the lines at Gerenser’s Exotic Ice Cream to the annual beanbag-toss tournament at the Landing Restaurant. “It’s just a wonderful mix of people,” Bowman says. “A very interesting place to live.”

New Hope: Spirited Nightlife for Empty Nesters

  • New Hope is a hit with … empty nesters; coupled hipsters who want a boho vibe and good schools; gays.
  • The food scene …is eh. Marsha Brown, housed in an old baronial church, draws platinum-card-waving tourists, but in-the-know locals flock to clubby, members-only Fred’s Breakfast.
  • Shopping … is a bit tacky (Radko Christmas ornaments! Wiccan candles!), but the Celt-Iberia Traders, featuring Irish and Spanish wares, is gift-giver heaven.
  • Nightlife … is spirited. Locals love the open-air patios at the Landing, Havana and the Logan Inn. The Raven is a gay mecca.
  • Schools … The New Hope-Solebury district is one of the state’s smallest but best. Sports culture is strong; even those without kids turn out to cheer.
  • Residents’ pet peeve … The $(@*&! motorcycles on weekends. Many bikers sport souped-up engines, wrecking your alfresco brunch. A crackdown has been MIA.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see the scoop on Thornbury Township.

Thornbury Township

Bucolic living and great schools are luring families away from the more-developed ‘burbs.

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Median home price: $420,000
Increase in median prices of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 60.4 percent
Decrease in average days on market (2011 to 2012): 28.5 percent

Ask most people to list Philly suburbs, and they’ll tick them off like so: Main Line, Bucks County, South Jersey, and then … the others, that vague swath of land 25 or so miles west of the city. But ask any of the 7,000 residents of Delco’s Thornbury Township—which encompasses Cheyney, Thornton and a sliver of West Chester—and they’ve found, as township chairman Jim Raith describes it, “the diamond in the rough.”

Here, there’s just one traffic light (really, just one on all of the winding country roads); residents don’t have to worry about any extra real estate tax from the township; and homeowners can stretch out in relatively new construction (much of which is situated on more than an acre). “It’s the new Chadds Ford,” realtor Susan Schroeder says matter-of-factly, noting the competitive prices and can’t-beat accessibility (just minutes from 202, Route 1 and I-76, with a train station five minutes away).

But beyond stark numbers is the feeling—that unmistakable neighborly charm that manifests itself in movies in the park, sand castle displays and public fishing derbies. It’s a place that seems to be unfazed by the way other towns are doing things; leave the flashy shopping centers to the guys up the 202 corridor, thankyouverymuch. And people—specifically, young, move-up families with school-aged c­hildren (the school district is top-ranked West C­hester)—are taking notice: Home sales surged by more than 60 pe­rcent from 2011 to 2012, and, conversely, the average days on market dipped by 30 percent in the same time period. Translation: People are grabbing up a good thing while the gettin’s good.

Thornbury Township: That Neighborly, Small-Town Feeling

“This is a unique community—small enough that your neighbors are your friends and there’s a genuine concern for each other, large enough that you can maintain your privacy and not feel crowded. Shopping is very convenient; stores like Target, Staples, Home Goods, Acme, Giant, Wawa, Starbucks, CVS, banks, pizza places, etc., are all within a five-minute drive. We used to have a neighborhood restaurant that everyone gathered in frequently—the kind of place that reminded you of Cheers. It has closed down and is being renovated. We’re all anxiously waiting for it to reopen.”

—Susan Daudert, 43, a municipal worker who lives with her husband and three children

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see our thoughts on Bryn Mawr.

Bryn Mawr

A Main Line classic with more price points than you’d think.

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Median home price: $601,400
Increase in median prices of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 12 percent
Residents with a B.A. or higher (2011): 70.7 percent

If you’re a family leaving the city because number two is on the way, but you’re loath to sacrifice your ability to walk to everything, from the train to your favorite cafe to a heap of shops, you might be lured by the siren song of gleaming Bryn Mawr. (The schools—lauded Lower Merion and Radnor Township districts, plus privates like Shipley and Baldwin—don’t hurt, either.)

In fact “walkability” is such a buzzword right now, says realtor Cathy Reimel Hamilton, that her company includes a “Walk Score” for every home it lists—and 19010 scores huge. She thinks that “live-ability” factor in particular is a big reason Bryn Mawr has been glowing with good real estate health over the past few years, with home sales and prices both on the rise—more so than anywhere else on the always-robust Main Line. Plus, she says, housing inventory is varied, so there are options for buyers looking at the more affordable housing in Garret Hill and near the Haverford border, and for those interested in the old stone manses dotting the pricier north side of the zip code.

Bryn Mawr: A Thriving Main Line ‘Hood

Over the past few years, Bryn Mawr Hospital has expanded into a behemoth of a medical community—and taken the town along with it. The brand-new Whitehall condominiums and townhomes, constructed within spitting distance of the hospital, sold out in about a second flat.

The Ludington Library reopened in September after a two-and-a-half-year makeover, complete with a daylight-flooded reading porch, to the delight of all Lower Merion residents.

A Bryn Mawr Farmers Market opened last spring—residents are almost as excited about that as they are the debut of the cult favorite Pinkberry, set to open next to Bertucci’s on Lancaster Avenue this spring.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see the story with Haddon Heights.

Haddon Heights

America never goes out of style.

Haddon Heights New Jersey Real Estate

Median home price: $218,000
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 52.8 percent
Decrease in average days on market (2011 to 2012): 36.1 percent

Haddon Heights is a town that time forgot. Or maybe not forgot, but ignored, mostly. A town that time looks on fondly and thinks, “Hey, not a bad job there. Maybe I should just leave that alone and not mess it up.” The town is a throwback—an old-style place with tree-shaded streets and single-family homes, a place where John’s Friendly Market is open 365 days a year.

It’s the town that Steven Spielberg grew up in (one of them, anyway) and probably still lives in his brain as the archetype of perfectly preserved Americana. At one time, the entire town was part of a resort area for Philadelphians looking to get out of the city. When year-round houses started going up, it became a commuter suburb, touted in advertising materials dating back to 1904 as “a short commute to Ph­iladelphia”—which is exactly what residents (and real estate agents) still say today. It has good schools and a couple restaurants, kids on the streets riding their bikes, and neighbors who still know each other’s names. The place is booming now, realtors say, basically because it’s recovering from the 2008 crash faster than a lot of other towns (probably thanks to its many charms), with prices on the rise and an impressively brisk pace of sales. Also of note? The median income per household these days is $88,954, which is up pretty drastically from $58,424 just over a decade ago.

Haddon Heights: A Classic, Family-Friendly Philly Commuter ‘Burb

  • Haddon Heights is a big hit with … Families, families, families.
  • The food scene … is small, but not nonexistent. There’s a steakhouse, some Italian, a couple of cafes. Enough to get you by in a pinch, but not so many options that you’re tempted to overlook the great food city right over the bridge.
  • Shopping … is found mostly along Station Avenue, where jewelry stores, dress shops and other small retail operations live.
  • Nightlife … is best sought on the other side of the Ben Franklin.
  • Schools … The Haddon Heights school district ranks in the top 20 percent of Jersey’s schools. “I can’t say enough nice things about our school experience,” raves 16-year resident Maureen Garrity. “Teachers have been amazing, the principal couldn’t have been nicer, and the parents are really involved.”
  • The most prevalent crime here is … small theft, vandalism.
  • Residents’ pet peeves … Exactly the reasons Haddon Heights makes our list: the rising home prices and influx of newcomers.
  • Neighborhood gossip … The restaurants in town are all BYOB, but recently three of the best places began working in conjunction with area wineries, allowing them to sell bottles of those producers’ wines on the premises without violating the BYO rules. Small step for man …

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see what’s going on in Northern Montgomery County.

The Northern Hamlets of Montgomery County

People and investors are migrating into the far reaches of wealthy Montgomery County, where land is still affordable and commuting is easy.

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Median home price: $153,000
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 36.7 percent
Decrease in average days on market (2011 to 2012): 18.2 percent

It’s pretty out here in the far stretches of Montgomery County; the rolling hills are dotted with old stone barns, cornfields and … vast new townhome developments, as a slow migration toward open land and affordable housing rolls northward.

Hamlets bleed together along what they all call “Main Street”—Red Hill, Pennsburg, East Greenville, full of handsome brick Victorians and homey small-town plumbers, a frame shop, antiques stores and pizza spots. Along with the Walmart Supercenter, you’ll find the American Legion and Kiwanis and churches; that main drag’s just built for parades, and folks here take any excuse to hold one … or a peach festival or oyster picnic. There’s nothing fancy at Green Lane Park, the 3,400-acre playground outside town—just hiking, camping, fishing, tennis, boats to rent. The restored 1920s Grand movie theater on the main drag shows one flick at a time on one screen, the old-fashioned way. But access to the Northeast Extension—it’s 15 m­inutes east—combined with the genuine small-town feel have made this corner a hot spot with young families; the median age is 10 years below that of the state at large, and home prices in Pennsburg and East Greenville have nearly doubled in the past decade despite the recession. “If the area didn’t have overhead power lines,” snipes one area realtor, “it would be as hot as Chester County.”

Northern MontCo Hamlets: Bucolic, Family-Friendly, and Gorgeous

  • This part of Montco is a hit with … families with school-age kids.
  • The food scene … is basic: Tosco’s for pizza, killer gyros at the diner, retro-’50s Goody’z for burgers and shakes with a jukebox on the side. Or have the chicken fry breakfast at the Powderbourne Sportsman’s Club before heading out for a pheasant shoot.
  • Shopping … isn’t a drawing point, though again, the basics are covered.
  • Nightlife … is the Grand, plus high-school sports and whatever the civic associations have cooked up. But you’re only an hour from Center City.
  • Schools … The Upper Perkiomen district is well-regarded and a perennial sports powerhouse, especially in wrestling and field hockey.
  • The most prevalent crime here is … nuisance stuff; rates are way below national averages.
  • Biggest selling points … It’s far enough from busier hubs of civilization (King of Prussia, Philly) to seem bucolic, but not too far. Plus, those gorgeous old houses.
  • Residents’ pet peeves … are the rate at which new developments are filling those lovely hills—plus the occasionally crowded parking along Main Street.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

  • Bob V

    We moved to Green Lane just about 12 years ago. It is a great place to live and raise a family!

  • east g

    If you think you can get from this region to center city in an hour…you’re going to have a bad time. You can make it in a bit over an hour if every driver on the road is smart or there is no construction/accident or it is 2 a.m.

    There are a lot of aggressive commuter and contractor drivers around here because they think every day should be smooth and quick for them.

    Your kids dare not bicycle or walk along any road at any time here, thanks to them.

  • kenny

    I love living in Lower Merion. It has a certain degree of panache and hubris which makes us glad that we don’t live in the inner city anymore. Hooray for snob appeal!