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Old 04-10-2014, 09:40 PM
 
9 posts, read 16,859 times
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Hi Everyone,

This is my first post but I've lurked on this forum for months and have say this place has already been incredibly helpful. Here's my situation:

My wife and I are both professionals, late 30s with an infant son. We're being relocated to the Philly area and now we are looking for homes. My wife will be doing the commute to center city every day, while I'll be working in Trevose. We love our current home which is about 5K sq ft with nice outdoor space and a pool. While we like having lots of green space around us, we also love having easy access to things like good restaurants, museums, walkable shopping areas with people watching etc, so we tend to not live TOO far out in the burbs.

We both really like some impressive looking, older homes we've gone to see because of their history and character. The price range we're looking in is 1-2M. We've seen a house we love in Rydal (in Abington Twp) as well as a house in Penn Valley. We've done some research on Abington/Jenkintown but don't know as much about the Main Line towns. My understanding is that the Main Line is considered more affluent and less diverse, while having a much better school district. Taxes seem similar in both areas. I really like Abington, the location is great and the home is amazing, but it seems like a safer investment buying this type of home on the ML where there are many other similar homes.

All that said, we're struggling to understand the nuances of both areas and I'm hoping you folks can help add some insight. Anything you can tell me about these towns and what life will be like there, the differences between the two, your opinions on which may be a better fit would be hugely helpful. We really need to make this decision within the next few weeks and start to close in on a house. If I've left any info out that would be helpful, just let me know

Thanks in advance
Michael
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Old 04-11-2014, 08:30 AM
 
Location: North by Northwest
7,473 posts, read 10,235,627 times
Reputation: 4755
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
Hi Everyone,

This is my first post but I've lurked on this forum for months and have say this place has already been incredibly helpful. Here's my situation:

My wife and I are both professionals, late 30s with an infant son. We're being relocated to the Philly area and now we are looking for homes. My wife will be doing the commute to center city every day, while I'll be working in Trevose. We love our current home which is about 5K sq ft with nice outdoor space and a pool. While we like having lots of green space around us, we also love having easy access to things like good restaurants, museums, walkable shopping areas with people watching etc, so we tend to not live TOO far out in the burbs.

We both really like some impressive looking, older homes we've gone to see because of their history and character. The price range we're looking in is 1-2M. We've seen a house we love in Rydal (in Abington Twp) as well as a house in Penn Valley. We've done some research on Abington/Jenkintown but don't know as much about the Main Line towns. My understanding is that the Main Line is considered more affluent and less diverse, while having a much better school district. Taxes seem similar in both areas. I really like Abington, the location is great and the home is amazing, but it seems like a safer investment buying this type of home on the ML where there are many other similar homes.

All that said, we're struggling to understand the nuances of both areas and I'm hoping you folks can help add some insight. Anything you can tell me about these towns and what life will be like there, the differences between the two, your opinions on which may be a better fit would be hugely helpful. We really need to make this decision within the next few weeks and start to close in on a house. If I've left any info out that would be helpful, just let me know

Thanks in advance
Michael
The Main Line is great, but I can't imagine a commute to Trevose would be fun. I'm guessing around 50 minutes in traffic?
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Old 04-11-2014, 01:09 PM
 
9 posts, read 16,859 times
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Thanks HeaveWood.

I'm not opposed to that commute time if the differences in location make it worth it. I would love to have an easy commute, but if the consensus was: thumbs down on Rydal/Meadowbrook and huge thumbs up for the Main Line, I'd do it. I'm much more concerned with the school systems, local attitude/personality, safe investment value, etc. But I feel like the info I have today on those things doesn't give me the ability to decide one way or the other - both sort of seem equal and so I'm floundering

Thanks again

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeavenWood View Post
The Main Line is great, but I can't imagine a commute to Trevose would be fun. I'm guessing around 50 minutes in traffic?
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Old 04-11-2014, 02:45 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
5,673 posts, read 10,245,988 times
Reputation: 9515
The main line covers a wider area, so information might vary a bit from township to township. You'll find more million dollar homes there than you will in Rydal/Meadowbrook, so for resale, you might find more people looking for that level home on the main line. Of course, you would also have more competition. Investment value depends a lot on the individual home. Rydal and Meadowbrook are great areas. Abington is a very good school district but not on the level of Lower Merion. Not many districts would be. Abington schools will certainly be more diverse, especially in terms of socio-economics. More parts of Abington are working class, so by the time your kids would hit the junior and senior high, they would be interacting more consistently with kids from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds. If that bothers you, then stick to the main line.
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Old 04-11-2014, 04:45 PM
 
Location: North by Northwest
7,473 posts, read 10,235,627 times
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Going one by one...

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
My wife will be doing the commute to center city every day, while I'll be working in Trevose.
The commute to Center City from the Eastern Main Line (Lower Merion Township) will be much easier via car, and moderately easier via train. Back roads to CC from LM >> back roads to CC from Abington. I don't know the exact times for Abington but I would guess you're looking at a 40-55 minute car ride vs. 20-35 in LM (other posters with more intimate Abington commute knowledge please weigh in). If you take the train (which I'd recommend from either location) there's less of a disparity. LM is still more convenient to CC, but the difference, station to station, is probably somewhere in the ballpark of 10 minutes riding time.

Abington wins hands down for a Trevose commute, as I posted before. Whether the pros of the LM section of the Main Line are enough to draw you there is up to you. Even as a Penn Valley native and general Main Line fan, I'm not sure I would pick it just based on commute reasons alone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
We love our current home which is about 5K sq ft with nice outdoor space and a pool. While we like having lots of green space around us, we also love having easy access to things like good restaurants, museums, walkable shopping areas with people watching etc, so we tend to not live TOO far out in the burbs.
LM is closer to CC, but both are about the same distance to the city limits, so they each definitely have that charming, inner ring suburban feel. Getting a house with those specs either Penn Valley or Rydal (I'd also recommend looking into Gladwyne, Haverford, Villanova, and Rosemont in LM, along with Meadowbrook and Huntingdon Valley in Abington for similar homes). Neither location is strong on walkability (as, unfortunately, getting a home with your desired specs in a walkable area is really hard). You are very close to walkable areas via car, however. Downtown Narberth, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr (and just a bit beyond there, Wayne) better match your village center scene than Jenkintown (or a little further out, Ambler).

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
We both really like some impressive looking, older homes we've gone to see because of their history and character. The price range we're looking in is 1-2M.
You can find outstanding homes in either area. You will generally get more bang for your buck in Rydal & Co.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
We've seen a house we love in Rydal (in Abington Twp) as well as a house in Penn Valley. We've done some research on Abington/Jenkintown but don't know as much about the Main Line towns. My understanding is that the Main Line is considered more affluent and less diverse, while having a much better school district.
Lower Merion schools are better regarded (Radnor/TE are just as outstanding, but since you mentioned Penn Valley, I'm going to stick to discussing LM for now). A motivated child will succeed in either district, as Abington is beyond the necessary threshold for honors/AP classes, sports, extracurriculars, etc. LM has the benefit of the IB program for those who want it. It also consists of two medium-sized high schools, compared to one very large high school. LM/Harriton are also more competitive than Abington, though not to the point that I'd say it's detrimental. A bit of competition (as long as its primarily self-motivated) is a healthy thing IMO, and good practice for someone who wants to succeed in a competitive world. To clarify, I'm not in any way suggesting that Abington kids come out ill-prepared for college and beyond than their LM peers of similar intellectual caliber.

LM is significantly more affluent than Abington, though (a) Abington is far from poor (Rydal/Meadowbrook/Huntingdon Valley aren't that much less wealthy than Penn Valley) and (b) Lower Merion isn't universally rich. Abington is mostly middle to upper middle class, while Lower Merion is mostly upper middle to lower upper class, but both have affluent/poor pockets. Overall, Abington is definitely more socioeconomically diverse.

It's more racially diverse too, but not by a huge margin. Both Penn Valley and Rydal (and their peers) are pretty white, with some Asian thrown in. The Townships as a whole shake out as follows:

LM is ~85% white, 6% black, 6% Asian, and 3% Latino.
Abington is ~80% white, 12% black, 5% Asian, and 3% Latino.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
Taxes seem similar in both areas. I really like Abington, the location is great and the home is amazing, but it seems like a safer investment buying this type of home on the ML where there are many other similar homes.
Taxes are generally a bit higher in Abington, but as you've probably seen, current fair market values relative to their dated assessments can vary quite widely, so it really depends on the house. You'll probably get a better return on a Main Line investment, but an Abington home is far from a poor investment. I'd put these factors secondary to your other concerns.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
All that said, we're struggling to understand the nuances of both areas and I'm hoping you folks can help add some insight. Anything you can tell me about these towns and what life will be like there, the differences between the two, your opinions on which may be a better fit would be hugely helpful. We really need to make this decision within the next few weeks and start to close in on a house. If I've left any info out that would be helpful, just let me know

Thanks in advance
Michael
Penn Valley and Rydal both have large Jewish populations (~40% and ~25%, respectively). The remainder is largely new money white ethnic Catholic with some Protestant as well. Since you didn't mention religion as a concern, I won't go into further detail unless you'd like me to.

Rydal/Meadowbrook/Huntingdon Valley are the creme de la creme of Abington. Penn Valley, while, as stated before, a somewhat wealthier town, is also half a socioeconomic step down from Gladwyne/Rosemont/Villanova/Haverford. Both towns have their snobs. LM, being a wealthier town, naturally experiences somewhat more wealth based pretension. These people, however, are a small (though persistently annoying) minority that FORTUNATELY is not hard to avoid on a day-to-day basis. Send your kids to public schools, avoid the restricted country clubs, and you're good for the most part. The people as a whole are fine in either place.

Hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask (whether here or via direct message).
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Old 04-11-2014, 07:42 PM
 
9 posts, read 16,859 times
Reputation: 10
Thank you so much HeavenWood, your information and perspective is incredibly helpful.

We have also been looking in Meadowbrook/Huntingdon Valley as you suggested and really like it but we just think the ML is so incredibly beautiful (at least from what I see in pictures and from bing/google maps). The biggest issue for me , in addition to my commute, is we have some family in lower Bucks Co, which makes the Abington area extra appealing - if it weren't for that, I think LM would win out more clearly.

I'm hoping some Abington area folks weigh in to give me some additional perspective on that area

Thanks again
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Old 04-11-2014, 08:42 PM
 
Location: North by Northwest
7,473 posts, read 10,235,627 times
Reputation: 4755
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelontheMove View Post
Thank you so much HeavenWood, your information and perspective is incredibly helpful.

We have also been looking in Meadowbrook/Huntingdon Valley as you suggested and really like it but we just think the ML is so incredibly beautiful (at least from what I see in pictures and from bing/google maps). The biggest issue for me , in addition to my commute, is we have some family in lower Bucks Co, which makes the Abington area extra appealing - if it weren't for that, I think LM would win out more clearly.

I'm hoping some Abington area folks weigh in to give me some additional perspective on that area

Thanks again
The Main Line is a beautiful area, and no other contiguous stretch of the Philadelphia region is quite like it. You're absolutely right to be concerned about that commute though; I'd imagine it would get very tiring very fast. Obviously you know how to set your own priorities, but I'd think having family in Lower Bucks would be much less of an issue. If you're going on weekends when traffic isn't as much of a factor, the drive from Penn Valley to, say, Yardley would be about 45 minutes. That same drive would be a half hour from Rydal.

BTW, I forgot to mention Glenside as a charming, walkable destination that's only a short drive from Rydal. That's more on par with the aforementioned Main Line towns in terms of amenities.
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Old 04-12-2014, 10:55 AM
 
184 posts, read 691,162 times
Reputation: 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeavenWood View Post
Rydal/Meadowbrook/Huntingdon Valley are the creme de la creme of Abington. Penn Valley, while, as stated before, a somewhat wealthier town, is also half a socioeconomic step down from Gladwyne/Rosemont/Villanova/Haverford.
This is a small but good point. Penn Valley is a very nice area, but if I were spending $1-2 million and my main goal were to try to maximize my future return on investment, I would limit myself to looking at properties with a Gladwyne (or Rosemont/Villanova/Haverford/Bryn Mawr) postal address. That isn't a knock at Penn Valley, which is an area I like a lot, just that there is a certain kind of purchaser in that price bracket who would want the snob appeal of the better (and it is, unquestionably, "better" from that perspective) address, and I think from a resale perspective it could matter.

For what it's worth, I would weigh commute heavily. It's not like there's a highway that will take you from the eastern Main Line to the Trevose area. (If there is, somebody please fill me in). It is a long, slow stop-and-start drive. And looong.
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Old 04-12-2014, 12:01 PM
 
Location: Montco PA
2,065 posts, read 4,290,092 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silverspringer View Post
For what it's worth, I would weigh commute heavily. It's not like there's a highway that will take you from the eastern Main Line to the Trevose area. (If there is, somebody please fill me in). It is a long, slow stop-and-start drive. And looong.
Kind of true, but not really. Get to 202 or 476 from the Main Line, then take that to the Turnpike (276 East). Trevose is right off the turnpike's Neshaminy exit.
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Old 04-12-2014, 03:08 PM
 
Location: North by Northwest
7,473 posts, read 10,235,627 times
Reputation: 4755
Quote:
Originally Posted by silverspringer View Post
This is a small but good point. Penn Valley is a very nice area, but if I were spending $1-2 million and my main goal were to try to maximize my future return on investment, I would limit myself to looking at properties with a Gladwyne (or Rosemont/Villanova/Haverford/Bryn Mawr) postal address.
There are plenty of $1-2 million dollar homes in Penn Valley. I was just adding the other areas as worthy of consideration based on the OP's desires/healthy budget range. Parts of Penn Valley do have Gladwyne-like elements, in great part due to the fact that until no sooner than the '70s, Gladwyne/Haverford/Villanova/Rosemont weren't really Jewish-friendly. True Bryn Mawr (the area around the Route 30 portion of the 19010 zip code) very much has a working class element. Most of the rest of the zip code (Rosemont) is where the ritz and glamor is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silverspringer View Post
That isn't a knock at Penn Valley, which is an area I like a lot, just that there is a certain kind of purchaser in that price bracket who would want the snob appeal of the better (and it is, unquestionably, "better" from that perspective) address, and I think from a resale perspective it could matter.
Shunning Penn Valley on this basis is silly, and I can't think of a single logical person who would do so, even a "snob." Look at houses, see what houses you like, and then move on from there. In addition to the fact that the OP specifically said that he liked what he found in Penn Valley in the first place, $1-$2 million price tags are fairly common in Penn Valley. The other areas do have a more in the upper real estate echelon (upper being $3,000,000+). But the OP isn't considering these kinds of homes. Regardless, each of these areas have appreciated very well, and will probably continue to do so. Let's do a little comparing and contrasting between 2000 and 2010:

2000 Census (In 2012 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars)
///
Tract 2046 (Penn Valley)
Median owner-occupied home value: $508,120

Tract 2048 (Gladwyne)
Median owner-occupied home value: $849,711

Tract 2049 (Rosemont/Villanova)
Median owner-occupied home value: $713,715

Tract 2052 (Haverford)
Median owner-occupied home value: $652,383

***

2008-2012 ACS in 2012 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars
///
Tract 2046 (Penn Valley)
Median owner-occupied home value: $640,400 (+26.0%)

Tract 2048 (Gladwyne)
Median owner-occupied home value: $924,300 (+8.8%)

Tract 2049 (Rosemont/Villanova)
Median owner-occupied home value: $826,200 (+15.8%)

Tract 2052 (Haverford)
Median owner-occupied home value: $831,600 (+27.5%)
\\\

So, contrary to your assumption, Penn Valley was actually significantly higher than Gladwyne and Rosemont/Vilanova when it came to real estate appreciation. That said, I repeat that investing in a property in any of these areas is a safe one. Rydal/Meadowbrook/Huntingdon Valley would be perfectly fine as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silverspringer View Post
For what it's worth, I would weigh commute heavily. It's not like there's a highway that will take you from the eastern Main Line to the Trevose area. (If there is, somebody please fill me in). It is a long, slow stop-and-start drive. And looong.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BPP1999 View Post
Kind of true, but not really. Get to 202 or 476 from the Main Line, then take that to the Turnpike (276 East). Trevose is right off the turnpike's Neshaminy exit.
Still far from a cakewalk during rush hour, I'd imagine.
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