One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
For a place where home values tend to be high, Bryn Athyn isn't a hotbed of real estate activity, not by a long shot.
No real estate transactions were recorded here in the third quarter, and only one was recorded in the second - boosting total sales to one for the year thus far, says Lisa Fazio, of Weichert Realtors in Jenkintown, who lives in neighboring Huntingdon Valley, where she grew up.
In the last two years, says Sharon Ermel Spadaccini, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors in New Hope, three properties have gone to settlement.
Those ranged in price from $180,000 to $1,359,000, with the average list price $723,000 and the average sale price $706,000, she says. The average settled price was 87.69 percent of the original asking amount.
"There's really not much else to share on real estate happenings," Spadaccini says.
Bryn Athyn is among those postage-stamp-size suburban communities - Langhorne Manor in Bucks County and Hi-Nella in Camden County come to mind immediately - where few houses change owners regularly.
"Only about 1,400 people live in this area, so as far as real estate is concerned, there is never much of a turnover," Spadaccini says. "The people who move here stay for a long time."
Some houses can be quite pricey. The sole second-quarter sale pushed the median up to $1.39 million, although Diane Williams, of Weichert Realtors' Blue Bell office, notes that the actual median is less than half that - $580,000, based on the three settlements recorded over two years.
Many homes in Bryn Athyn are splendid examples of 19th- and early 20th-century residential architecture - "awesome," as Williams puts it - that complement the rural nature of this municipality of about two square miles, situated about a mile from the Philadelphia line.
Carved out of Moreland Township in 1916, the home-rule municipality was founded in the late 19th century by members of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, known as the New Church.
Bryn Athyn is the church's international headquarters and is home to its cathedral and schools, including the Academy of the New Church and Bryn Athyn College.
Industrialist John Pitcairn Jr., cofounder of what is now PPG Industries, built his home, Cairnwood, here. It is now part of the academy.
Glencairn, the home of his son Raymond, is a museum. Cairncrest, built for John's son Harold, serves as church offices.
Included among active listings are two houses on the Pitcairn estate.
One, Pitcairn House, designed by Austrian American architect Richard Neutra in 1962, is described as "a very private, hidden masterpiece." The quintessential house in the woods, it is for sale for $4.8 million.
The other, listed for $1.1 million, is a 4,800-square-foot contemporary that overlooks a pond.
Lazio has a listing, at $679,000, that she says is "a sprawling stone house I've shown several times that is in walking distance of the schools, but not that many buyers these days are interested in seven bedrooms."
Another contemporary that sits on a hillside is priced at $475,000, and, Fazio says, is unusual for Bryn Athyn:
A house with an asking price between $300,000 and $500,000 that is actually listed for sale.
"Houses in that price range don't often come on the market," she says.
Bryn Athyn is such a close-knit community that when something comes up for sale, it is snapped up quickly with no need for a listing, Fazio says.
Until recently, in city neighborhoods such as East Falls and Roxborough, the same thing happened: Longtime residents with children ready to live on their own would buy houses before they made it to the market.
Bryn Athyn Borough lies within the Bryn Athyn School District, which does not operate public schools, so there is no school tax, Fazio says. Ninety percent of school-age children here attend New Church schools.
For those who choose not to send their children to New Church schools, the borough pays $15,000 per student to districts such as Lower Moreland, Upper Moreland, and Centennial in Bucks County.
"It can add up quickly," Fazio says, and is "the reason that the mid-range houses [$300,000 to $600,000] don't come on the open market much."
"When new families move to Bryn Athyn, they are invited to come to church," Fazio adds. People here "are very welcoming and don't keep to themselves."
Bryn Athyn has no business district or train service (the old station is the post office), so nearby Bethayres serves both functions, she says.
Proposed sidewalk improvements would link the college to Bethayres and the SEPTA Regional Rail station on the West Trenton line.
Coldwell Banker Hearthside agent Martin Millner recalls taking the train from the George School to Bryn Athyn to play sports against the academy in Friends League competition.
There had been talk about resuming service to the Bryn Athyn station, which ended in 1983, but Montgomery County decided to extend Pennypack Trail over the derelict bed.
"They are using metal from the railroad ties to help fund the project," Fazio says.