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Town By Town: 'More Wildlife Than People'

One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities. We have been down this road before, in a sense.

Laurence Kesterson / For The Inquirer

One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.

We have been down this road before, in a sense.

East Nantmeal, a township of 1,858 people scattered over 16.4 square miles, is lumped into the Chester Springs zip code, 19425, with fellow Chester County communities West Pikeland, Upper Uwchlan, Wallace, and West Vincent Townships.

Two years ago, a visit to Chester Springs and its component parts found, as in many other areas of the Philadelphia region, a housing market on what real estate agents were calling "the comeback trail."

A wave of improving sales and property values was washing over the landscape from the western edge of the county eastward. Because of relocations to the pharmaceutical companies in the area, employment had remained steady throughout the recession.

Chester County also had fewer foreclosures than any other county in the Philadelphia region, again because of the strong employment market.

Given that East Nantmeal is not densely settled and even today has open space and more than its share of farms - Why Not, Gristmill, and Birchrun Hills come to mind - this town is not what real estate agents consider a hotbed of activity.

"There is more wildlife than people," says Weichert Realtors' associate broker Barbara M. Mastronardo, noting that the population density is 109 residents per square mile.

"If there is a car on your road, you know that the driver is someone coming to see you," she says - many of the houses in East Nantmeal sit on lots several acres large.

There are just 11 active listings, data from Trend Multiple Listing Service show.

The lowest-price listing, Mastronardo says: $135,000, for a 37-year-old, one-bedroom, one-bath house. The highest price: a $3.9 million horse farm that has been on the market for 509 days.

In the last nine months, just 17 houses have changed hands - up from 11 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2014, according to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors' HomExpert Market Report.

Just 10 houses went to settlement in third-quarter 2015. By comparison, there were 57 closings in Upper Uwchlan, while West Vincent had 28 settlements in the third quarter, HomExpert shows.

In East Nantmeal, the average third-quarter 2015 price was $436,720, up 7.2 percent from $407,500 in the same period the previous year. The median price of $407,500 was 8.9 percent lower than third-quarter 2014's $447,500.

The houses that settled in the last three quarters ranged in price from $215,000 to $670,000, while three pending sales range from $442,000 to $599,000.

Average days on market was 65, but "how fast these houses move off the market depends on the property," she says. Absorption rate is about six months.

East Nantmeal is "frozen in time, to a certain degree, which is not a bad thing" if you like peace and quiet and come to Chester County for it, Mastronardo says.

"This is the northern tier of Chester County, close to Pottstown in Montgomery County, with Berks County not that far away, but it is a little out of the way for people who need to commute to Center City," she says.

West Chester and King of Prussia would be more likely work destinations for people who live in East Nantmeal, Mastronardo says.

Taxes are reasonable, and the Owen J. Roberts School District is another major draw, she says: "It is one of the top 500 school districts in the United States and in the top 20 in Pennsylvania."

In the beginning, this area was just Nantmeal, named for a Welsh village - Nantmel, in Powys - and settled by Quakers from Wales.

Nantmeal split into East and West in 1742, and became a center of the iron industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Though some iron-based industries remained for another century, East Nantmeal turned to agriculture, and the township attracted wealthy Philadelphians who bought up land and built estates.

"Many of the houses are older," Mastronardo says, and "give the community its character and charm."


Town By Town: East Nantmeal By the Numbers


Population: 1,858 (2013)

Median household income: $103,544 (2013)

Area: 16.4 square miles

Settlements in the last three months: 10

Homes for sale: 11

Average days on market: 65

Median sale price: $407,500

Housing stock: 587 units, built from the 18th century to the present

School district: Owen J. Roberts

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau;; Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach's HomExpert Market Report; Barbara M. Mastronardo, Weichert RealtorsEndText