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East Lansdowne: A tiny place with investment potential

One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities. Let's see a show of hands: How many of you have heard of East Lansdowne?

This home in East Lansdowne is on East Baltimore Avenue.
This home in East Lansdowne is on East Baltimore Avenue.Read more

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

Let's see a show of hands: How many of you have heard of East Lansdowne?

It's in Delaware County, east of the better-known and larger Borough of Lansdowne.

East Lansdowne is just 0.2 square miles and, with an estimated population of 2,665 in 2015, is very densely settled.

It's a community of plenty of single-family detached homes and twins, but few rowhouses, says Barbara M. Mastronardo, associate broker at Weichert Realtors in Media.

To hint at when East Lansdowne came into being, the lion's share of the housing stock is in the Victorian Vernacular, Craftsman Bungalow, and American Foursquare styles.

The borough has a small business district along Baltimore Pike and Long Lane, five churches, and an interesting history, which - as is the case with many Delaware County communities - is tied to real estate development in the early years of the 20th century.

In the beginning, this place was a single-family farm, part of Upper Darby Township and owned by a Dr. George Smith.

According to the borough's history, in 1902 Wood, Harmon Co. - a real estate firm headed by Clifford B. Harmon, a pioneer aviator and balloonist - purchased the farm from Smith's heirs.

Harmon called his new development East Lansdowne, and brought in civil engineers Harris & Damon from Darby Borough to survey and plot 130 acres into streets and lots. Opening day for lot sales was June 9, 1902.

The lots were priced at between $160 and $440, with $2 down and payments of $1 to $2.20 per week.

There were no taxes, no mortgages, and no interest for a year.

By June 1903, there were already 30 homes built and occupied, including one twin, and there was one store.

East Lansdowne was built out by the 1940s. The population of this primarily residential community peaked at 3,500 in the 1950s, according to the borough's history.

"It is its own itsy-bitsy area," says Mastronardo, and is part of the William Penn School District, which also includes Lansdowne, Alden, Colwyn, Darby Borough, and Yeadon.

Unlike Lansdowne and Yeadon, which are linked directly to the city by SEPTA's Media-Elwyn Line, East Lansdowne has no rail service, and that's a disadvantage to attracting new residents.

"The fact that East Lansdowne is just 0.2 square mile, the only public-transportation option is the bus, and the borough has been built up for more than 60 years, has limited its claim to fame," Mastronardo says.

"While a commutable distance to Philadelphia, it isn't an easy commute," she says.

William Penn, which was ranked 517th of the 585 districts in Pennsylvania by in 2016, is also not considered a strong attraction, she says.

"This is a prime area for gentrification and investors, but you need a school district people are attracted to," Mastronardo notes.

She compares East Lansdowne with Parkside Borough as a draw for investors, saying, "Parkside is part of Penn Delco School District, which makes it much more attractive."

Based on median family income ($50,716 in 2013), houses in East Lansdowne fall into the affordable range, she says.

"If you make $40,000 to $50,000 a year, the prices of the eight houses sold in the last six months, ranging from $37,000 to $165,000, are doable," Mastronardo says.

As with many communities in Delaware County, however, taxes "are not reasonable," she says.

For example, a home recently settled at $67,000 - a three-bedroom, 11/2-bath twin typical of the housing stock in East Lansdowne, Mastronardo says. The annual tax bill is $4,000, based on an assessed value of $66,180, she notes.

"This is prime real estate for a tax appeal," Mastronardo says.

Sale prices in East Lansdowne average from about $30,000 to "$155,000 to $175,000, if you are lucky," she says.

Right now, there are eight houses for sale, mostly singles and twins, ranging from $49,000 to $189,000 (a single), and there are four pending sales, Mastronardo says.

"The absorption rate is three months - not bad," she says.