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Old 06-14-2020, 11:31 AM
 
2 posts, read 466 times
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Hi everyone,

Looking for advice for a great subsurb to move to near Philly for a young family. We're looking for a place to buy a single family house in a good public school district, walking distance to a cute walkable downtown with lots of good restaurants (hole in the wall and authentic street food, not fancy restaurants). We want a town with it's own vibe, not a bunch of suburban houses that could be anywhere in America. A real community feel is important. 45 minutes or less to downtown Philly with a train/subway line to get there ideally.

Here's our pasted blurb:

When are you moving? At any time during 2020
Where are you coming from? Boston area
Why are you moving? Moving to be closer to family in NY and MD
Where will you be working? Home
Have you been here yet? We visited Philly as tourists, but aren't familiar with all the suburbs and towns around it. We're hoping to use the advice people give us to plan a trip to get to know the area soon.

Will you buy or rent? Buy
If buying, are you looking for a house or a condo? How much can you spend? Single family house with yard ideally, 3/4 br.

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

Are you married or single? Do you have children? We are a young (30's) family with 1 infant and 1 toddler.
Do you prefer public or private schools? Good public schools, but we're hoping to avoid any school systems that have high ratings based on standardized test scores but where students are constantly stressed from homework and test prep, and don't get a chance to be kids. Not sure how possible this is, but public schools that are more child-centric (e.g. Visible Child mentality as opposed to standardized testing mentality) would be amazing.
Do you have pets? Yes, a dog.
Do you want or need a yard? Yes, but it doesn't have to be huge. Enough to run around in and kick a ball.
Are you keeping a car? Yes, just one.
Do you prefer bustling activity or calm and quiet? Quiet where the house is, but walking distance to the happening area.

What do you want to be closest to?
We want to be near a grocery store, and walking distance to a cute walkable downtown with lots of restaurants (home in the wall type not fancy places). Nightlife not important but probably inenvitable based on this. Train/subway station a huge plus, which goes to Philly, bus not as great. 45 minutes or less drive to downtown Philly also important.

Do you want to live with people of a similar age, race, religion or sexual preference or do you prefer a diverse neighborhood? We want an inclusive community because those are the values we want to teach our children. Also trying to avoid an area that's too snoody, though we understand that some of this may be inevitable in good school districts.

Favorite Beverage - Craft Beer, wine, water? Non-alcoholic beer and craft cider.

Thanks so much for all your help!!
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Old 06-14-2020, 07:57 PM
 
3,169 posts, read 2,495,742 times
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I think a big defining factor is usually $$ you can spend. If you can provide a ballpark figure I am sure suggestions will follow.
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Old 06-15-2020, 12:29 AM
 
Location: SW Florida
4,646 posts, read 6,393,812 times
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Right, you left off the most important answer: "How much can you spend?"
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Old 06-15-2020, 06:01 AM
 
2 posts, read 466 times
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Ideally we'd spend $300K - $400K, unless you all think that's unrealistic in which case we may be able to go up to $500K.
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Old 06-15-2020, 09:16 AM
 
101 posts, read 28,251 times
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300-400k is low for closer in suburbs. Even the suburbs that look like good value on paper have shockingly high property taxes, like Elkins Park. So be careful. Or not very good schools.

If you're patient you're likely to get something in Wyndmoor (Springfield Township), but it will be smaller/older. Or a twin in Ardmore. Both have good schools and are close to the walkable areas/transit. Glenside may appeal to you but be careful of the taxes.

Maybe Drexel Hill, but it is Upper Darby schools and has terrible taxes. But it works for some people.
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Old 06-15-2020, 09:25 PM
 
Location: Wyncote,PA
52 posts, read 24,981 times
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I would recommend Glenside for your budget. It's a inner circle suburb so it's a 25 min train ride to Jefferson station in CC. Close to York rd shopes and Greenleaf at Cheltenham . Nice but small downtowns in glenside, keswick village and Jenkintown. We are close
to great parks, like wissahoken valley (15 min) , fort Washington state park (15 min) curtis arboretum ( 5 min ) and many small ones. Next to 309 ( connects to PA turnpike) when you need to go away for a road trip . Two train stations ( glenside and jenkintown/wyncote). Willow grow mall (15 min too) . It has sense of community and houses are beautiful.
Taxes can be high though and schools are good but better in abington township.
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Old 06-15-2020, 10:29 PM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
6,945 posts, read 3,345,697 times
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Only the last of the posters appear to have peeped the OP's statement "walking distance to a cute walkable downtown with lots of good restaurants (hole in the wall and street food, not fancy restaurants)."

Of the walkable suburban downtowns around Philadelphia, I'd actually say that Glenside brings up the rear in the good-affordable-restaurants category. Jenkintown, the next stop in from Glenside, definitely outdoes it in that category, and I think the OP can find housing within their budget.

$400k should get you a modest place in just about any of the nice walkable suburbs around here, but it won't get you much. On the Main Line, you will be relegated to the neighborhoods south of Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore and Bryn Mawr and pretty much priced out of Wayne. (South of Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore is also where you will find the oldest and largest African-American community on the Main Line, largely between Cricket and Ardmore avenues.)

You may — may — be able to find something in Narberth, the "Mayberry RFD" of the Main Line. This wedge-shaped borough surrounded by Lower Merion Township has a genuine small-town feel and a strong community spirit as well as a compact downtown centered on its Regional Rail station. Restaurant pickings aren't as good as in Ardmore, but there are some good ones as well as a very good pub in downtown Narberth.

OP: In terms of restaurants/pubs/bars, I'd rank the suburbs you might want to check out as follows, in descending order:

Ardmore
Media
Jenkintown
Doylestown
West Chester*
Wayne
Narberth
Bryn Mawr
Glenside

*The Chester County seat has no Regional Rail service, unlike all the other communities listed here.

I'd highly recommend Media, but there is a problem: Most of the housing stock in the borough itself is rental property either owned or managed by the local real estate firm, Media Real Estate.

Upper Darby's school district doesn't enjoy the lofty reputation of Lower Merion's (Ardmore/Bryn Mawr/Narberth), Jenkintown's, Radnor Township's (Wayne), Media's or Doylestown's, but it does a decent job of educating students and is the most ethnically/racially diverse in the Philly 'burbs. Therefore, I wouldn't rule out looking in Pennsylvania's most populous township; it has lots of eateries of the kind you specify in its business district around 69th Street Terminal, including a Korean food court above the H Mart. But UD does have just about the highest property taxes in the 'burbs.

There is one more community that it's a shame you can't consider: Lansdowne. It too has a very walkable downtown, which is light on restaurants like Glenside is, and some fabulous turn-of-the-20th-century residential districts. But its school district, William Penn, is the worst in Delaware County.
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Old 06-16-2020, 10:13 AM
 
550 posts, read 477,470 times
Reputation: 583
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
Only the last of the posters appear to have peeped the OP's statement "walking distance to a cute walkable downtown with lots of good restaurants (hole in the wall and street food, not fancy restaurants)."

Of the walkable suburban downtowns around Philadelphia, I'd actually say that Glenside brings up the rear in the good-affordable-restaurants category. Jenkintown, the next stop in from Glenside, definitely outdoes it in that category, and I think the OP can find housing within their budget.

$400k should get you a modest place in just about any of the nice walkable suburbs around here, but it won't get you much. On the Main Line, you will be relegated to the neighborhoods south of Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore and Bryn Mawr and pretty much priced out of Wayne. (South of Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore is also where you will find the oldest and largest African-American community on the Main Line, largely between Cricket and Ardmore avenues.)

You may — may — be able to find something in Narberth, the "Mayberry RFD" of the Main Line. This wedge-shaped borough surrounded by Lower Merion Township has a genuine small-town feel and a strong community spirit as well as a compact downtown centered on its Regional Rail station. Restaurant pickings aren't as good as in Ardmore, but there are some good ones as well as a very good pub in downtown Narberth.

OP: In terms of restaurants/pubs/bars, I'd rank the suburbs you might want to check out as follows, in descending order:

Ardmore
Media
Jenkintown
Doylestown
West Chester*
Wayne
Narberth
Bryn Mawr
Glenside

*The Chester County seat has no Regional Rail service, unlike all the other communities listed here.

I'd highly recommend Media, but there is a problem: Most of the housing stock in the borough itself is rental property either owned or managed by the local real estate firm, Media Real Estate.

Upper Darby's school district doesn't enjoy the lofty reputation of Lower Merion's (Ardmore/Bryn Mawr/Narberth), Jenkintown's, Radnor Township's (Wayne), Media's or Doylestown's, but it does a decent job of educating students and is the most ethnically/racially diverse in the Philly 'burbs. Therefore, I wouldn't rule out looking in Pennsylvania's most populous township; it has lots of eateries of the kind you specify in its business district around 69th Street Terminal, including a Korean food court above the H Mart. But UD does have just about the highest property taxes in the 'burbs.

There is one more community that it's a shame you can't consider: Lansdowne. It too has a very walkable downtown, which is light on restaurants like Glenside is, and some fabulous turn-of-the-20th-century residential districts. But its school district, William Penn, is the worst in Delaware County.
I feel that Ambler is conspicuously missing from you list. Ambler, IMHO, would be in the top three of downtowns in the pa suburbs and is also in the OPs price range.

I would also throw in Wyndmoor. The commercial strip on willow grove is tiny but has all the basics:
(1)Coffeshop - Locals coffee
(2) Restaurant/Bar - Enza
(3) Hole in the wall bar - Fattys
(4) Market - Captain Andys
(5) Other food - A decent indian restaurant and the very good Tommy D's for cheesesteaks/sandwiches. It is also very close to Chestnut Hill and its excellent main street and generally feels like an extension of chestnut hill.

Glenside also has limited options but whats there is actually pretty good. The keswick village screams the type of environment OP seems to be looking for. It was two breweries, several bars (Glenside Pub, Blue Comet, Keswick Tavern etc.) a couple coffee shops and some retail. Glenside elementary is a well regarded school but Cheltenham High not as much (though its not terrible). Taxes on the Cheltenham Side are much higher and, consequently, the house values are lower.

I like Jenkintown alot but the fact that most of its downtown is along the very busy old york road takes away from its "cute" factor IMO. Wouldn't stop me if I found the right house but something to keep in mind.

I would note that the downtowns in West Chester, Ardmore, Media, Wayne have many "fancy" restaurants which the OP wants to avoid.

If the OP would be willing to consider the NJ side there are a few appealing options over there including Collingswood and Pitman. Haddonfield would likely be too expensive.
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Old 06-16-2020, 10:33 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
6,945 posts, read 3,345,697 times
Reputation: 4408
Quote:
Originally Posted by KansastoSouthphilly View Post

If the OP would be willing to consider the NJ side there are a few appealing options over there including Collingswood and Pitman. Haddonfield would likely be too expensive.
Point taken on Ambler, which indeed should have been on that list.

Also, yes, Pitman is a surprisingly (IMO) good fit — I've had the chance to visit it on a few occasions since a former marketing coordinator for a real estate agent I used to work with closely moved there from South Philly. She makes fun of the borough seal, which she says looks a little too Kinder-Küche-Kirche for her liking, but the community is very pleasant with that small-town character that typifies those walkable suburbs. The town's water tower is emblazoned "Everybody Likes Pitman," and I'd say that's not an inaccurate description of the place.

Collingswood is IMO an even better fit — that town underwent an incredible transformation that turned it from down-at-heels to the epitome of (family-friendly) cool. It does have one thing Pitman lacks: rail transit into Philadelphia.

The OP expressed a preference for PA 'burbs, but I wouldn't rule out your NJ options either given that they will be working from home. (A third Jersey suburb that they might want to consider is Merchantville.) State taxes and property taxes, however, may be a sticking point.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:36 AM
 
1,578 posts, read 1,447,662 times
Reputation: 935
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
Only the last of the posters appear to have peeped the OP's statement "walking distance to a cute walkable downtown with lots of good restaurants (hole in the wall and street food, not fancy restaurants)."

. . .

There is one more community that it's a shame you can't consider: Lansdowne. It too has a very walkable downtown, which is light on restaurants like Glenside is, and some fabulous turn-of-the-20th-century residential districts. But its school district, William Penn, is the worst in Delaware County.
Arguably, Chester SD is the worst in delco. Not that William Penn is much better. Unless that has changed.
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