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

On the map, Mantua Township looks as if it's quite a distance from Philadelphia.

But it's closer than, say, Washington Township, and that's what makes the Gloucester County municipality a magnet for many people looking for homes.

"It is a diverse little town," says Mike Lentz, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Sewell, who lives in neighboring Pitman.

"Housing here ranges from $100,000 to half a million dollars," Lentz says. "There are a variety of houses, from a lot of inventory built in the 1950s and 1960s all the way to new construction."

Unlike some of the more developed townships around Mantua, "houses here can come with land," Lentz says.

With working farms and lots of open space, large lots are still available, he says, citing a recent case in which he was able to find a house with six acres for one of his buyers.

Although Mantua houses generally have larger lots, prices are in line with those in larger townships, such as neighboring Washington, Lentz says.

"It is the stock of older homes in Mantua that makes prices in the township more affordable," he says. "A lot of buyers are attracted to Mantua because its location is closer to Philadelphia and they can get more house and land for their dollars."

That said, the majority of buyers are from other parts of the area - Camden and Gloucester Counties, primarily, with just a few of them from Philadelphia, he says.

Yet Route 55, which passes through Mantua, "provides an ease of commute to Philadelphia . . . and it also means you can avoid the New Jersey Turnpike," Lentz says.

Also desirable are the schools, he says: elementary schools in the township, the Clearview Regional district for middle and high school.

"After completing a number of communities in Mantua over the past 20 years, it continues to be a place we like to provide luxury new-home communities," said South Jersey builder Bruce Paparone, who is now working on construction of the Village of Country Gardens.

"Mantua is a quiet, quaint town nestled among Washington and East Greenwich Townships, Pitman, and Mullica Hill," Paparone says.

"These are very strong towns in Gloucester County to draw from, which are desirable with home buyers, as is the Clearview school district, with an exit off of Route 55 making it very easy and convenient to get to," the builder says.

Shopping and restaurants are another positive, Paparone says, with Clancy's, Carolina Blue, the Barnsboro Inn, the Telford Inn, and some major retail stores.

There are 110 active listings in Mantua Township, which Lentz considers about average for the housing market here.

Although Mantua didn't suffer as much as some of the surrounding South Jersey communities did in the real estate downturn and foreclosure crisis, the township is still working through a few distressed-home sales, Lentz says.

"Of the 125 year-to-date closings, six have been short sales," in which the lender accepts less from the borrower than is owed on the mortgage, "and 10 REOs," or "real estate owned," meaning houses that went through foreclosure and were repossessed by the lenders, he says.

Last year, there were 190 overall sales. Lentz says the current pace suggests that Mantua will reach or exceed that number by the end of this year.

In the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, there were 70 sales, five more than in the same period of 2015 and nine more than the second quarter's 61 sales, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market Report shows.

The median sale price year-over-year rose 25.7 percent in the third quarter, from $144,000 to $181,000, HomExpert shows.

The median price in Washington Township was $210,000; in East Greenwich, $318,500; and in Harrison Township (Mullica Hill), $375,250, according to HomExpert.

Notes Lentz: "A diverse little town, as I said, and affordable."

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