Pulse: Real Estate: The Neighborhood: Swarthmore


The scoop: Swarthmore is a college town in denial. The biggest draw in the small borough is the eponymous liberal arts college, but there’s none of the hubbub that usually accompanies such an institution: no record stores, no cafés, and certainly — the town has been dry for a half-century — no bars. The town shares the college’s Quaker values: It’s quiet and far from ostentatious. It’s “watered-down Main Line,” says real estate agent Dave Welsh, of D. Patrick Welsh, who handles nearly half the sales in town. “Swarthmore is not into beat-the-Joneses-next-door. It’s more down-to-earth.”

The scene: Swarthmore’s heart is a
cute four-block downtown — locals call it
“the Ville” — with a fire station, a SEPTA stop, an antiquarian bookshop, and a purveyor of Finnish crafts. Around the college, the houses tend to be big old Victorians and colonials. In the southern part of town are more recent (and less expensive) split-levels, in brick and stone.

Who’s there: Couples move out from the city with young children to take advantage of the well-regarded Wallingford-Swarthmore school district, whose high school offers more than 100 electives
and has an average SAT of 1137. Local academics—despite a generous mortgage program administered by the college — have slowly found themselves priced out of town.

The cost: Statistics—admittedly skewed by a small number of transactions — show a 44 percent jump in sale prices over the past year. The average is just under $380,000, and if any part of the market is slowing, it’s the upper end (from $700,000 to $1 million). Some recent sales:101 South Swarthmore Avenue, $300,000: A mid-century ranch by architect Horace Mather Lippincott, with four bedrooms and 3.5 baths. Wide-open layout, with a domed, sky-lit foyer from which rooms spiral outward, and a large deck in back.
303 Elm Avenue, $975,000: Five-bedroom, 4.5-bath stone colonial with a 400-square-foot foyer, wide-turn staircase and Palladian windows. A master bedroom addition has a Jacuzzi and large shower. Three-car garage and koi pond.

Inside buyer info: It’s a small town, and just getting in the zip code (for school enrollment) is often key, so homes don’t stay on the market long. Act quickly, with full-price bids on mid-range homes, agents advise. But “as you go into the higher range, houses are staying on the market a little longer, which can invite a little negotiability,” says Welsh.

Titles & Deeds

The latest in real estate gossip

Word is that the St. James, developer Peter Shaw’s glossy apartment building on Washington Square, where studios start at a New York-worthy $1,500 per month, is for sale. The building, which opened last year, could be sold to an investor who will continue to lease apartments, or to a developer who will convert it into condominiums. … Former Sixer Eric Snow has sold his house on Black Rock Road in Gladwyne for about $2 million. … Prudential Fox & Roach agents Lavinia Smerconish and Alan Wood have sold four lots on Spring Mill Road in Gladwyne, near Philadelphia Country Club, to developer Michael Haines; three of the lots can be bought as a parcel, with a house to be constructed, for $12 million. … Julie and Jerry Marshall, the socialite and Amerimar executive, have sold their Delancey Street townhouse for more than $3 million, and are relocating to New York City.