One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
"Chi will buy Chi," veteran real estate agents in this part of Delaware County know well.
That is to say, people in Lower Chichester (the census-designated place known as Linwood is its biggest component) will move up to Upper Chichester (whose counterpart is Boothwyn) when they want larger and newer homes.
"They feel comfortable with living here and within the [Chichester] school district," says Barbara M. Mastronardo, associate broker with Weichert Realtors in Media.
But we're getting ahead of the real estate story. In the third quarter, Lower Chichester Township had just nine sales, with a median price of $58,000 - half the houses sold for more, half for less. In the same July-August-September period, meanwhile, there were 60 sales in Upper Chichester, with a median price of $169,000.
"Lower Chichester is a difficult sell," says Mastronardo. "The taxes are extraordinarily high."
The reason: The property-tax base is largely residential, with few commercial/industrial properties to offset it.
To illustrate, she offers this example: If she moved her house from Aston Township (in the Penn-Delco School District) to Lower Chichester, the tax bill would rise by 60 percent.
Compounding the problem, she says, is a 1 percent earned-income tax recently enacted and collected by the township.
How high are the taxes?
Currently, there are 15 properties for sale in Lower Chichester, ranging from a three-bedroom, 11/2-bath rowhouse for $29,900, to a three-bedroom, two-bath rancher for $199,900.
The rancher has a tax bill of $5,400 a year, with the 1 percent earned-income tax on top of that, Mastronardo says. The house has been on the market for 131 days, listed at the same price it started with.
More than 50 percent of the houses for sale in Lower Chichester are bank repossessions after foreclosure or short sales, in which the lender accepts less than the balance owed on the seller's mortgage.
There are two houses in Lower Chichester that are under agreement of sale.
One is a $22,500, three- bedroom, 11/2-bathroom rowhouse that was a bank-owned property originally listed at $24,000.
The other, listed at $43,800, also is a bank-owned property "that is being sold as is, with no warranties," Mastronardo says.
"There are bargains galore, and just too many of them, unfortunately," she says.
Of the 18 houses that settled in the last six months, the lowest sale price was $17,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bath rowhouse, while the highest price was $144,000, she says.
"That was a cute single, with three bedrooms and 11/2 baths," Mastronardo says. "It wasn't bank-owned but was a very good investment opportunity just the same, because there are a lot of garages behind it that are available."
The transaction included a $6,000 seller assist, which means that, effectively, the property sold for $138,000.
The buyer purchased the property with the intention of fixing it up, using a 203K purchase/renovation mortgage, "but looking at the inside, the house was in very good shape, and like many homes in Lower Chichester, needed modernization," Mastronardo says.
Who is buying in Lower Chichester, which is not experiencing a huge number of sales, by any measure?
"There is the savvy first-time buyer who realizes that it is much cheaper to own than rent and is attracted by the easy commute to northern Delaware or Philadelphia," Mastronardo says.
More likely, however, the buyer is an investor, "motivated by getting houses at the lowest price, putting the least amount into it, and then turning it around quickly to add it to the revenue stream," she says.
The housing stock here, and in adjacent older communities such as Marcus Hook, Trainer, and Eddystone, was built to accommodate workers in the refineries or at Westinghouse, Boeing, and other industries along the Delaware River, says Mastronardo, whose father worked at the Sinclair refinery.
"This area was critical to this country," she says, recalling that, on a trip to Hawaii, she saw the anchor of the USS Arizona at the memorial to the battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor.
"It said, 'Cast in Chester, Pa., 1911.' "
Population: 3,444 (2015)
Median household income: $55,969
Area: 1.1 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 9
Homes for sale: 15
Average days on market: 36
Median sale price: $58,000
Housing stock: 1,356 units, mostly smaller and older
School district: Chichester