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Old 03-03-2009, 10:48 PM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,423,670 times
Reputation: 2396


Hi all,

I had posted a few months ago searching for housing in the Philly suburbs (see below). After reading through tons of helpful threads and feedback, we have narrowed our search down considerably to a few specific homes which we will visit later this month (yay!!).

So, I was hoping for feedback about these 3 neighborhoods:
Huntingdon Valley, Wyndmoor and Somerton.

Generally, I'd like to know the vibe of the community (friendly, reserved, etc), more urban or suburban feel, perceived safety/crime and any subjective opinions about how to best characterize the areas. Of course, nothing beats an in-person visit, but we want to make sure our eyes are wide open going in.

Also, is Somerton a neighborhood within Philadelphia and Wyndmoor a neighborhood within Springfield? I seem to be very confused as to how neighborhoods, townships, cities, etc. are delineated.

Thanks so much for any feedback!

Relocation Questionnaire:

When are you moving? June 2009
Where are you coming from? We're originally from NY, have also lived in Birmingham, AL and currently live in Seattle, WA.
Why are you moving? Both for my husband's career and to be closer to east coast family
Where will you be working? Berwyn & Center City
Have you been here yet? will be house scouting in late March; have visited in the past

Will you buy or rent? Rent
If renting, are you looking for an apartment, a townhouse or loft? How much can you spend? We are looking for a 3-4 bedroom detached house in the north or western suburbs with a yard. Our budget is between $1300-1800/month.

Are you married or single? Do you have children? We're in our early 30s, married, with an 8-month old
Do you prefer public or private schools? Public schools in good school districts or Catholic schools in less-good school districts.
Do you have pets? 2 Australian cattle dogs and 3 indoor-only cats
Do you want or need a yard? We need a yard, preferably fenced or with a dog-run.
Are you keeping a car? We have one car
Do you prefer bustling activity or calm and quiet? We prefer a quiet suburban neighborhood within 30-45 minute driving distance of activity.

What do you want to be closest to? In order of importance, high to low:
Basic services (supermarket, drugstore, etc.)
Train or subway stations

Do you want to live with people of a similar age, race, religion or sexual preference or do you prefer a diverse neighborhood? We strongly prefer diversity but have lived in homogeneous communities before. We would like to be in close proximity to some other families with small children.
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:43 PM
Location: Villanova Pa.
4,910 posts, read 12,774,932 times
Reputation: 2635

IMO I think you are in the wrong area if you are commuting to Berwyn.

If Berwyn is going to be a daily commute then the Berwyn area is where Id be looking if I were you. Berwyn is arguably part of the best school district in the entire area which speaks volumes for that general area.

Somerton is a nice section in NE Philly but is definitely not recommended if you are commuting to Berwyn.Huntington Valley and Wyndmoor are both beautiful suburban towns of Montgomery County on the N side of Philly, But again not great choices if you are working in Berwyn(W side of Philly), there are just as nice if not ncer towns near Berwyn.

Also you may find a larger collection of younger families and newcomers in the newer areas of the region which tend to be further away from Philadephia. Somerton,Wyndmoor, Huntington Valley are older parochial areas and have deep roots of older families that get passed down from generation to generation.

You might want to check out newer areas in the western suburbs but the downfall is the commute to center City will be a bit longer, upwards to 1 Hr.

Newer areas in the western suburbs

Plymouth Meeting
East + West Norriton
King of Prussia
Great Valley
Chester Springs
West Chester

Older towns in the western suburbs near Berwyn

Gulph Mills
St Davids
East Goshen

Good luck.
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Old 03-04-2009, 09:54 AM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,423,670 times
Reputation: 2396
Thanks for the feedback RainRock. I wish I could afford to rent in Berwyn!! I appreciate your input.....please keep them coming folks!!
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Old 03-04-2009, 09:35 PM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,423,670 times
Reputation: 2396

Not sure if I asked a silly question - if so, could someone point me in the right direction.......
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:16 PM
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I'm not sure how you came up with your short list but I'd re-examine it.

Check out places like Media, West Chester, Conshohocken and Phoenixville for walkable downtowns/semi urban feel. Places like Collegeville, Blue Bell, Downingtown will be plenty quiet as well..

Or just check the immediate vicinity of Berwyn and look where you can afford...
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:44 PM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,423,670 times
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Hi Orrmobl!

Is it the commute to Berwyn that would lead to re-examining the short-list or something else that as an "outsider" I'm not aware of?? I'm starting to get nervous.....

To answer your question, part of our short-list generation has to do with having a lot of specific needs (3 cat and 2 dog friendly, fully fenced sizable yard, not a twin/row house, no well water, landlord experience/character, etc.) and we happened to find them met in properties in Wyndmoor and Abington. I have been combing through rental ads/speaking with landlords and just haven't come up with anything that we would rent/would rent to us in the areas suggested. I will keep looking!

Thanks for taking the time to answer
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:25 AM
Location: Pennsylvania
5,674 posts, read 10,248,929 times
Reputation: 9523
Wyndmoor and Huntingdon Valley are definitely suburban-feeling, low crime and good, relatively small school districts. Wyndmoor is indeed a section of Springfield township, Huntingdon Valley is primarily Lower Moreland township, though some parts of what people consider HV are in Abington township (which is a much bigger school district).

Wyndmoor borders Chestnut Hill, which is a very good neighborhood in Philly, with a nice 'Main St.' type of area. There are two train lines into Center City from there, and the commute from Wyndmoor to Berwyn would be shorter than from HV by probably 10-15 minutes regularly. However, if you had to take local roads instead of the turnpike, that 10-15 minutes probably becomes 20-30 minutes extra.

HV borders Somerton, which is a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, which is a good neighborhood, but much newer housing and less charming than Chestnut Hill - the shopping would be more of the strip-mall variety. Also, if you are in Somerton, you'll be dealing with Philly schools, which are iffy.

The advice to look elsewhere would be mainly about commuting time - no reason to be nervous about your choices as far as quality of life. If the rents are equivalent, I'd avoid Somerton because you'll be paying a high city wage tax and possibly higher car insurance. Real estate tax is higher in HV and Wyndmoor, but if you're renting, you wouldn't be paying that.
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Old 03-05-2009, 08:13 AM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,423,670 times
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Thanks so much maf! I feel better already! We're somewhat used to a long commute (we're in the suburbs of Seattle and also lived on LI where everything is a long commute!). I appreciate the feedback on the area.
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Old 03-05-2009, 02:09 PM
1,623 posts, read 5,967,012 times
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Having lived here my entire life, I just know what I would consider a reasonable commute to Berwyn and center city. Also Somerton would not make any cut due to being in the city, the schools, just like any older suburb with less charm and more taxes and potential for spillover from bad sections of the NE. No thank you.

Being from WA I would think you would be more liberal and probably outdoorsy. I would recommend places like Wallingford and Media all the way up 252 to Berwyn. Also you will want to be along a regional rail line for the city commute. That means the R3 or R5 trains. R3 area is more affordable than R5 and not a totally horrendous commute to Berwyn. I would also think Phoenixville may be really nice fit with all your needs - have you looked there?

If you want more rural you can look to places like Downingtown, parts of Malvern, Chester Springs, West Chester, Exton, Lionville, all the way up to Collegeville/Trappe, Oaks, Trooper, Blue Bell, White Marsh.

Then there is the big bucks Main Line - Radnor, Devon, Berwyn, Wayne, Paoli, the last 2 being less snobby than the others.

In a nutshell, if I worked in Berwyn and my wife worked in Philly, these are the areas I would consider. Also the schools in most if not all of those areas are very good to great as well.

I would toss some of your soft criteria out and focus on geography and commute, then house, then other stuff.

By example, I'm renting a 2500 sq foot house plus 500 sq ft finished basement out in Thorndale/Coatesville for $1650 a month. We have a cat but our landlord probably wouldn't care if we had more - although he does require a month's rent deposit for the cat! I could have rented a much smaller home in Springfied, Delaware County, next to a fire house! for the same price...my wife actually wanted me to consider it LOL!

Why not go to realtor.com, pick the rental tab, center the radius on Berwyn, plug in your rent number and go from there? I agree you will not find a super-nice home on the Main Line that takes pets, but there are so many other nice areas close by and homes languishing on the market, I'm sure you can find something. Also why the problem with well water?

Last edited by orrmobl; 03-05-2009 at 02:25 PM..
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Old 03-05-2009, 03:25 PM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,423,670 times
Reputation: 2396
Thanks for your feedback orrmobl. I'm glad to know it's mainly commute time that drove your earlier response. I guess everyone's sense of a workable commute is different. As for everything else, we know what we're looking for and what is important to us. Commute time is actually lower on the list than a number of the "soft" criteria. And yes we're liberal but no we're not outdoorsy - from NY, not WA (though that made me laugh!!). Again, I've extensively checked the resources mentioned in the areas mentioned and I can't rent what's not on the market right now. But I will keep it all in mind for the future.
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