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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 10-17-2017, 01:33 PM
1 posts, read 1,398 times
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My husband and I are looking to relocate to the Harrisburg area in May 2018. We have two sons ages 2 and 6 months. We have been living in Madison, WI for the past 7 years but are both originally from back east (western PA and NJ). We are not really familiar with the area and are hoping to get some advice on neighborhoods/towns as well as some awesome preschools in the area.

We prefer to be in a safe and quiet suburb and one with great schools. We are looking for at least a 4 bedroom home, but ideally 5. We are open to adding the 5th bedroom into the basememt if its not there. It'd be great if we could get at least .5 acres of land too. My husband has to travel for work so ideally closer to the airport, but schools and safety are much more important. Here in madison there is a ton of options to keep the kids busy during the week so it would be great if it was closer to things like that as well, but as long as it's driveable that's fine too. Although I like to be close to my grocery store and everyday errands a nice wooded lot would be great. How is the housing market? How quickly do homes sell?

Are there any really top notch preschools in the area? We love the one our oldest son currently goes to, but we had to reserve our spot almost a year in advance. Is it the same way in Harrisburg? If I wanted him to start in September 2018 when should I have my deposit in by?
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Old 10-17-2017, 03:39 PM
Location: Raleigh
8,168 posts, read 7,809,163 times
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Can't help with the schooling, but the houses you seek are common in the area. I have lived in Lewisberry and Enola, the son-in-law is in Elizabethtown. All these areas have nice housing available. Lot sizes are possible over an acre.
I'd avoid Camp Hill which is not going to provide big lots.
I'd start searching on Real estate sites around the intersection of I-81 and PA 581. C-D encourages one but I prefer the ZIL*** web site.There are nice places all along Wertzville Road going west.
West Shore vs East Shore is a big divide in Harrisburg. For airport access look towards East Shore, Hershey and Elizabethtown.
If you don't mind being out a bit, Mechanicsburg and Dillsburg are great country locations.
PS: Roundtop Mountain Resort is a wonderful year round recreational area with a fun ski area and great facilities for kids.
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Old 10-17-2017, 07:33 PM
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The best school districts in Dauphin county would be Derry Township and Lower Dauphin, best in Cumberland county would be Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, and Cumberland Valley. I would stay away from the Harrisburg city public schools, Central Dauphin-East, and Susquehanna school districts (Central Dauphin proper is a decent school district which is located around Lower Paxton and Middle Paxton townships). Cumberland Valley and Lower Dauphin school districts might be best if you're looking for lot sizes of 0.5 acres or more. I agree with Crashj007 that the Susquehanna is a great divide between the so called East Shore (Dauphin county) and West Shore (Cumberland county). Some things to note are out around Hershey and Palmyra sinkholes are an issue that pop up now and then, and crime in Harrisburg city can be bad. Cumberland county seems to have high levels of radon and has bad air quality from all of the trucks traveling the highways and going to the warehouses. If you're from Madison, WI you're probably going to experience a more socially and politically conservative feel here in south central Pennsylvania (as one would in many parts of western Pennsylvania), though certain areas such as Harrisburg city, Hershey, and Camp Hill tend to be more on the moderately-liberal end of the spectrum compared to the rest of the surrounding area (though Madison is probably more liberal than that from what I've heard). Hershey, Camp Hill, and Mechanicsburg are very suburban areas that seem to match what you're looking for. Hope this helps!
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Old 10-18-2017, 10:45 AM
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Conewago and Londonderry Townships, Dauphin County (watch for repetitive names nearby) in the fairly well rated Lower Dauphin school district could have large, large-lot homes not too far from the airport and highways, or frequent Amtrak service to Phila/NYC. These townships each still have small elementary schools that folks seem happy with. Postal addresses are mixed up, could be any of 17022, 17033, 17036, 17057. One factor cheapening large, large-lot homes in parts of this area is a view of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_...rating_Station

There also are large, large-lot homes for a large budget in Derry Twp/Dauphin County, in the high rank Hershey schools. The portions of Derry Twp with a 17036 zip might be slightly less astronomically priced than those in 17033. Places in the flatter valley areas close to US 422 and US 322 are more likely to be on sinkhole-prone geology than in the wooded hills to the south, or the more shaley slightly hillier valley to the north (South Hanover Twp and East Hanover Twp mostly).

While large, large-lot homes can be found in Harrisburg area, they are relatively less abundant and more expensive than in some similarly sized metro areas. PA's relatively strict on-lot septic rules compared to other states might be a more significant constraint than lefty planners, though there are some of those folks too. The leftover farmhouse from the subdivision tends to go up for auction sale around here, more often than through realtor listings.

Basic grocery shopping in Middletown Borough or Hershey can be supplemented by Lancaster area Whole Foods and Wegmans to open in 2018 (hopefully), and the (very) old standby Lancaster Central Market

Politically you will find this area very different from Mad City. Compare the programming on the local PBS/NPR affiliate witf.org with what you may be used to. The foodie aspects of Madison are likely more replicated in Lancaster area than closer to Harrisburg, too. But if it's Harrisburg focus, and preschool similar to what you might find there that you're looking for, check out https://circleschool.org/

Last edited by ki0eh; 10-18-2017 at 10:57 AM..
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Old 10-18-2017, 10:46 AM
Location: Philadelphia
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What is the price range you are looking to purchase? There are charming parts to the Harrisburg area, but some of it is bad sprawling suburban development. The Harrisburg area is divided geographically by the Susquehanna River, and it does create a real culture barrier between the area; which is quite comical given its smaller size.

The west side of the river (known as the west shore), tends to be less diverse and leans way more conservative politically. The pockets of wealth in this area are concentrated in Camp Hill and Hampden Township. The east side of the river (also where the city is located), tends to be more diverse and leans left politically, and tends to vote left in elections. I feel that the East side offers a more cosmopolitan feel, based on its more left and open minded base.

I lived in the Harrisburg area for years, and therefore I also preferred the East side because of this.

1) Hampden Twp. which borders Camp Hill and Mechanicsburg (West Shore)
2) Camp Hill (West shore)
3) Linglestown/Lower Paxton Twp./West Hanover Twp. (East Shore)
4) Hershey and Hummelstown areas. (East Shore)

All 4 locations I recommend have great public schools. Central Dauphin is a huge school district, and is split between 2 high schools. The Central Dauphin and Central Dauphin East High School. Central Dauphin is an excellent high school and is on par with every other recommended one. Hershey (Derry Twp.) will offer the best school district, but is also the most expensive real estate in the area.
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Old 10-18-2017, 01:51 PM
Location: Raleigh
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Wow. As a long time former Harrisburg area resident I can see you are getting some great information. This is amazing considering CD often devolves into ranting.
There are some homes with astonishing views of the city just north of I-81 where it crosses the Susquehanna. You do get noise from the Interstate, and the steepness can be a challenge in Winter, but the view is wonderful. Great place to watch the fireworks in July and September!

Last edited by Crashj007; 10-18-2017 at 01:52 PM.. Reason: interstate i-81
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