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Old 07-12-2009, 11:08 AM
 
Location: New Jersey
70 posts, read 250,303 times
Reputation: 43

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Hi, we are thinking of relocating to the Philadelphia area. We like nature, hiking, wooded areas. We want a house with a 1/2 acre of land or more. But we also want to be within an easy 30 minute commute at rush hour to downtown Philadelphia. What areas (if any) do you think might appeal to us? And would we be looking at $1 million homes? $2 million? More?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:52 PM
 
Location: Villanova
2 posts, read 10,006 times
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I would recommend the Main Line, specifically Wayne, Radnor, Villanova, St Davids and Rosemont. Philadelphia is of course a huge metro area with a population over 5 million, so finding something within 30 minutes with vast walking trails and 100 acre farms is of course a no go.

However, the Main Line, particularly the areas I mentioned should fit the bill. You have beautiful old stone colonials and sprawling estates on acre or more properties. There is a lot of mature growth, less congestion and beautiful, hilly, tree covered scenery. The areas I mentioned are mostly within the Radnor trail, which is a paved 2.41-mile trail for walking, roller blading, etc. It is very scenic, passing through woods and treed areas.

Starting with Villanova you are about 10 miles from downtown and reaching Wayne, the furthest community I mentioned is about 14 miles out. It is definitely a 30 minute or less commute by train during rush hour, but you are looking at closer to 30 or 40 minutes by car during rush hour. I don’t even take the highway during rush hour as it is generally a crap shoot. I actually just take a route called Lancaster Ave. that goes straight through much of the Main Line. It is a little stop and go, but usually quicker (as you deal more with traffic lights than stop and go congestion) than the 76 (a major highway) which is often ridiculous at rush hour. There are other similar Main Line communities a little closer that would fit the bill of 30 minutes or less like Haverford, Gladwyne and even Bryn Mawr that are also a little more wooded and less congested and would be great as well.

The Main Line area is Philadelphia’s nicest suburb in PA and has an abundance of train lines and major thorough fares. It is expensive, but your stated price range is more than enough to get something nice in the area. It is expensive for Philadelphia, but coming from New York City you will probably amazed by how much you can get for the money. Many people view Philly as the last affordable big city on the East Coast. Sure some areas get a bad rap, but if you can afford to live in nicer areas like the Main Line, you won’t find much better as far as scenery, safety and amenities in any other big city.

There are a lot of other great suburbs outside of Philly, some with a nature feel. However, the Main Line has the most options for transport, so if reaching the city comfortably and relatively quickly is important to you it’s probably where you should look first. Your real estate is more likely to hold its value on the Main Line as well (obviously important in this market) and based on your price range, finding something will not be difficult. There are other places on the Main Line even farther out like Devon-Berwyn and Paoli that you would love. However, 30 minutes by car at rush hour would be a no go. But, if you are thinking of taking the train, they have express trains which reach the city in roughly your desired time, so a little planning can save you a lot of time.

Best of luck,
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Old 07-12-2009, 04:55 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
5,674 posts, read 10,248,929 times
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You'll find a lot of trails in the Gladwyne area, which also fits the commute time to CC. You could also look in parts of Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill or Roxborough which border Wissahickon Park. Price will vary, of course, but you can find some places under a million.
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Old 07-14-2009, 06:02 PM
 
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I have to cast my vote for Chestnut Hill. Most homes are within a few blocks of one of the entrances to Wissahickon park, one of the largest urban parks in the world. You could spend an entire day hiking and never see the same trail twice. You can also walk to two train lines and Germantown Ave, which is lined with shops and dining. My wife and I have a car but rarely use it.

Chestnut Hill is technically in the city of Philadelphia so you will be faced with the city wage tax and less than stellar public schools... but there are numerous private schools nearby and lower property taxes (compared to the suburbs) that somewhat off-set the wage tax (at least for now, there is talk of raising property taxes in response to the economy).

It's a personal decision, but my wife and I prefer Chestnut Hill (and Mt. Airy) head and shoulders above the Main Line. We've lived in 7 different cities over the years and Chestnut Hill is by far the greatest place that we have ever lived. The only downside when compared to the mainline (at least in my opinion) is the lack of high end public schools.

There are many large old stone homes from the 1800s on larger lots, you will probably be broaching the $1 million mark for a house on a 1/2-1 acre lot. The bigger houses don't come onto the market that often and generally don't stay on the market for too long, even in recent times. The $400-$600 range will get you into a smaller single family home on a smaller lot, but you will generally be closer to Germantown Ave. You will see what I mean when you pass through the neighborhood.

Obviously I am biased as I live in Chestnut Hill, but check it out before making your decision. Good luck in your search.
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