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Old 06-30-2019, 04:31 PM
 
127 posts, read 591,182 times
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Hello all,

With apologies for yet another one of these threads... my fiancee and I are planning our first visit to check out the Philly area for a potential relocation. I’ve been reading this forum for a while and get the sense that we can find what we’re looking for in this region. But I was hoping to get some more specific suggestions, as an outsider who’s thoroughly confused by the number of options, as well all the different geographical and municipal demarcations in PA!

When are you moving? Fall of 2020

Where are you coming from?*Originally from Long Island, currently living in Astoria, Queens, NY

Why are you moving? Hoping to find an area to settle down that’s not too far from family here in NY but with a more moderate cost of living / better bang for the buck.

Where will you be working? I’m the primary breadwinner and work remotely in the software industry. I hope to continue working remotely, but just in case remote opportunities dry up in the future, I would prefer to be within commuting distance of NYC and/or Philly. (I don’t care if it’d be a long-ish commute, I just want it to be possible to commute in case the need arises at some point.)

My wife-to-be is a speech therapist and may or may not continue working after we have a family. If she does, she’d be looking for a job in the school system — so a location that’s not too remote and commutable to a number of different school districts would be ideal.

Have you been here yet?*No, this will be our first time.

Will you buy or rent? Probably buy, but might consider renting for a year first.

If buying, are you looking for a house or a condo?*How much can you spend? $550-700k. We’re hoping for 3000+ square feet, newer build or recently renovated at that price point. Not super excited about yardwork so would prefer an area where the lots aren’t enormous.

Do you have a preference of living in a NJ or PA suburb? Probably PA

Are you married or single? Do you have children? We will be married shortly and plan to have children.

Do you prefer public or private schools? Public

Do you have pets? No

Do you want or need a yard? Yes

Are you keeping a car? Yes

Do you prefer bustling activity or calm and quiet? Yes. We definitely want to be in the suburbs, and thus don’t need to be in the middle of the action necessarily. But coming from NYC, we also don’t want to be too far from “civilization” — so we’d hope to be reasonably close to restaurants and shopping and would love an area with (or near) a walkable downtown area.

What do you want to be closest to? Shopping, basic services, restaurants, transportation… the usual things I guess!

Do you want to live with people of a similar age, race, religion or sexual preference or do you prefer a diverse neighborhood? We come from a Jewish background — although we’re not super observant, we’d like to be in an area / school district with a decent Jewish presence.

Favorite Beverage - Craft Beer, wine, water? Water. I’m no fun.
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Old 06-30-2019, 08:37 PM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,616 posts, read 3,656,024 times
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Off the top of my head:

Consider one of the communities listed below first. In descending order:
  • Media
  • Narberth*
  • Ardmore*
  • Jenkintown
  • Glenside
  • Wayne
  • Bryn Mawr*
  • Doylestown

That I list them in this order does not mean to imply that the differences among the communities on this list are all that great. All of them have walkable, lively downtowns/Main Streets. All of them have (should have, in Wayne's case) housing within your budget. All of these have rail connections to Center City Philadelphia.

If easy access to New York City is an important matter to you, Doylestown, the Bucks County seat, should jump to the top of your list. While there's no direct rail connection to New York from it - you'd have to go all the way into Center City for that - it's close to I-295, which will take you to Trenton, from which you can catch trains to New York, or go around the city to reach I-195, which takes you to the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95 by this point).

The three communities with asterisks share the Lower Merion School District, a longtime powerhouse in the region. Narberth Borough is completely surrounded by Lower Merion Township, which contains the northern parts of Ardmore and Bryn Mawr. (The southern parts are in Haverford Township, Delaware County, whose school district isn't too shabby either.) Wayne's school district, Radnor Township, is one of only a couple that outrank Lower Merion, but all the other communities have excellent or at least good school districts (Media: Rose Tree Media; Jenkintown: Jenkintown; Glenside: Cheltenham Township; Doylestown: Central Bucks).
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Old 06-30-2019, 09:48 PM
 
2,203 posts, read 6,937,484 times
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Newtown and Yardley in Bucks County are close to New Jersey Transit, Amtrak or the NJ Turnpike. Both have good schools and a decent Jewish population with choices of synagogues.
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Old 07-01-2019, 06:15 AM
 
3,344 posts, read 2,605,193 times
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I am a lot older than you-but think I can share some valid suggestions.
Yes to the suggestions already mentioned, and additionally I would suggest West Chester area as well. (West Chester, Willistown, Newtown Square, East and West Goshen, Westtown)
We originally looked closer in to Philly (Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, LowerMerion)- and then expanded a bit further (Malvern and Paoli which should also be on your list) and further to West Chester.
It's absolutely wonderful and way more suburban.
We are Jewish, originally from NYC and had previously lived in Central NJ. What did get us to Pa was our kids/grandkids who are in Lower Merion. They love it but to our taste, aside from being pricey, it's a bit too congested.
Being born and raised in NYC, we are less enamored with the urban congestion.
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Old 07-01-2019, 06:44 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,616 posts, read 3,656,024 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayvenne View Post
I am a lot older than you-but think I can share some valid suggestions.
Yes to the suggestions already mentioned, and additionally I would suggest West Chester area as well. (West Chester, Willistown, Newtown Square, East and West Goshen, Westtown)
We originally looked closer in to Philly (Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, LowerMerion)- and then expanded a bit further (Malvern and Paoli which should also be on your list) and further to West Chester.
It's absolutely wonderful and way more suburban.
We are Jewish, originally from NYC and had previously lived in Central NJ. What did get us to Pa was our kids/grandkids who are in Lower Merion. They love it but to our taste, aside from being pricey, it's a bit too congested.
Being born and raised in NYC, we are less enamored with the urban congestion.
Equus Capital Partners is doing an urbanity retrofit at Newtown Square's central intersection, but if I understand the OP's expressed desire for some walkability correctly, this community doesn't really cut the mustard, nor do the townships surrounding West Chester Borough (the two Goshens, Willistown and Westtown).

West Chester Borough itself, though, should satisfy them. All it lacks is train service to Center City, which it once had. The borough has formed an advocacy group pushing for its return. The only problem: The train would follow a route that curves to the south, then curves back northward in order to reach West Chester. The chord of the arc this route describes is Market Street (in the city)/West Chester Pike (from 69th Street west). A trolley route followed West Chester Pike from 69th Street Terminal to West Chester until the early 1950s. I suspect that today, it would be welcomed again as an alternative to frequently traffic-choked West Chester Pike. (SEPTA's Route 104 bus, which replaced the trolley, crawls amidst all that traffic on the street.)
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Old 07-01-2019, 07:33 AM
 
Location: Chadds Ford
416 posts, read 204,227 times
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West Chester is my recommendation. If you work from home and access into Philadelphia isn't a priority*, it's the best bang for your buck. If you occasionally go into Philly, you can just drive (especially if you're not a drinker). After Route 322 gets widened, driving into Philly should be pretty convenient.

A big complaint about West Chester is that the secret is already out; it's (allegedly) overdeveloped, overcrowded and overpriced. I think those complaints are overblown, but if you want to be ahead of the curve, Kennett Square reminds me of what West Chester was like in the 90's (although it is slightly further away from Philly).

As far as school districts go:
  • West Chester Area School District has good schools and low taxes.
  • Garnet Valley School District has higher taxes and a slightly better schools.
  • Unionville has the highest taxes and the most renowned schools in the area.
  • Kennett School District has "meh" taxes and "meh" rated schools - although people who live there say it's a great district whose test scores are diminished by a disproportionate number of ESL students.

*I understand you want to be within commuting distance to Philadelphia as a fallback for future jobs, if needed. While there are lots of jobs in Philly, the city's government has successfully chased a lot of businesses into the suburbs. Being within proximity of Great Valley and King of Prussia is just as advantageous as being close to Philly.
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Old 07-01-2019, 11:20 AM
 
127 posts, read 591,182 times
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Gang, thanks of much for the suggestions so far. A few thoughts from what I've seen so far:

- It seems that one gets the least for the money in Montgomery County, but that the distance from Philly, Jewish presence, and school ratings in many of the areas there make it worth consideration nonetheless

- West Chester hadn't been on my radar. It seems like a really appealing area, although the Jewish presence seems like it may be limited from reading a few past threads here about it. For my wife-to-be, the walkability issue is less important than the Jewish presence.

- I like the look of a few of the Bucks County areas suggested. I get the sense that at least in parts, Bucks has a good Jewish presence, good schools, and better prices than much of Montgomery County (and proximity to NYC which is of value to us also). Would certainly value any further suggestions.

I'm a bit confused about something a bit broader, and forgive me if I'm overthinking this. But in this thread and many others, folks recommend an area -- take Newtown as an example. I understand that there is a Newtown Township, as well as a Newtown Borough. And then there's a Newtown zip code, 18940 -- but that also seems to include other areas, like Upper Makefield Township. The real estate sites I've looked at (such as Redfin) don't necessarily make it clear, when you search for Newtown, which Newtown they're showing you. So I click on one of the search results in Newtown and the description says it's really in Upper Makefield. And then I have no idea how the school districts overlay on top of any of that.

I'm curious if anybody can point me to an explanation of how all this works, and/or if there's a particular real estate site that makes it easier to browse by the municipality in PA, and/or easier to access market trends and demographic data by municipality.

Thanks again to all!
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Old 07-01-2019, 01:56 PM
 
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Newtown is within Upper Makefield Township. Otherwise communities within the township include Washington Crossing and New Hope.

This map should help.

https://www.trulia.com/PA/Upper_Makefield/

BTW, you don't want Newtown Square, which is a totally different area.
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Old 07-02-2019, 12:34 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,616 posts, read 3,656,024 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newmarlig View Post
Newtown is within Upper Makefield Township. Otherwise communities within the township include Washington Crossing and New Hope..
That really isn't an accurate statement, and the OP's post immediately above indicates why.

The first problem, which the OP identified: ZIP codes (postal districts) do not conform to political boundaries.

I've had to argue this myself in Philly's Germantown neighborhood, which many (erroneously) consider as coterminous with the delivery zone for ZIP code 19144. Most of G'town does lie within it, but the postal district includes some of the uppermost part of East Falls, and far East Germantown lies within ZIP code 19138, a district that lies mostly in West Oak Lane, as does the post office serving it - which is called East Germantown Station. (I live in 19138.)

Newtown Borough and Newtown Township are both separate from Upper Makefield Township. The borough lies near the southern edge of ZIP code 18940 ("Newtown, PA"), which includes all or part of Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield townships. Most of Upper Makefield lies in ZIP code 18938 ("New Hope, PA"), which includes almost all of Solebury Township as well as New Hope Borough - both separate municipalities from Upper Makefield Township (which includes the community known as Washington Crossing, which is neither a postal district nor a separate municipality). Solebury Township, not Upper Makefield, surrounds New Hope Borough.

This issue is also live on the Main Line, six of whose communities straddle both a municipal and a county boundary. Parts of Wynnewood (19096), Ardmore (19004), Haverford (19041) and Bryn Mawr (19010) lie in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, while parts lie in Haverford Township, Delaware County, most of which lies in another ZIP code, 19082 ("Havertown, PA").

Townships and boroughs are separate municipalities. The places I call "communities" above are neither; they are agreed-upon names for certain territories that may or may not cross municipal boundaries.

babadi: My advice to you is to obtain (or find online) two maps: one that shows the boundaries of the postal districts and the other showing municipal boundaries. Eventually you will be able to sort things out.
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:04 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,616 posts, read 3,656,024 times
Reputation: 4841
Quote:
Originally Posted by babadi View Post
I'm a bit confused about something a bit broader, and forgive me if I'm overthinking this. But in this thread and many others, folks recommend an area -- take Newtown as an example. I understand that there is a Newtown Township, as well as a Newtown Borough. And then there's a Newtown zip code, 18940 -- but that also seems to include other areas, like Upper Makefield Township. The real estate sites I've looked at (such as Redfin) don't necessarily make it clear, when you search for Newtown, which Newtown they're showing you. So I click on one of the search results in Newtown and the description says it's really in Upper Makefield. And then I have no idea how the school districts overlay on top of any of that.

I'm curious if anybody can point me to an explanation of how all this works, and/or if there's a particular real estate site that makes it easier to browse by the municipality in PA, and/or easier to access market trends and demographic data by municipality.
I gave it a shot in the post upthread, but I'm going to try again:

The easiest way to get information by municipality is to enter "Borough" or "Township" after the place name in the search engines. Otherwise, the search engine will default to the zip code, which does not conform to any municipal boundary in most cases. You will find in several places within the region boroughs (or cities) and townships with the same name (Doylestown, Newtown, Chester...); in all cases, the municipalities are separate but adjacent, and sometimes the township completely surrounds the borough. The unincorporated places (Washington Crossing, Lumberville, the string of stations along the Main Line) you'll just have to wing; the search engines will return their zip codes if they have one.

Many, even most, Pennsylvania school districts share boundaries with their municipalities. The rest comprise two or more. Bucks County's top-ranked school districts especially do this: Central Bucks, for instance, includes Doylestown Borough, Doylestown Township and Buckingham Township, while Council Rock encompasses Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, Wrightstown Township and Upper Makefield Township. Yardley, another place that has been recommended to you, shares the Pennsbury School District with Lower Makefield Township, Falls Township, and Tullytown Borough; this district includes part of Pennsylvania's Levittown, which straddles Falls and Bristol townships. At least New Hope-Solebury bears the name of its two constituent municipalities.

I wish you luck in sorting things out.
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