Category Archives: Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media)

2014 Swarthmore Spring Market Wrap-up!

Days like this make my heart smile!It was certainly an exciting spring in the Swarthmore market! Our “spring” season stretches from January through June. (Of course there will still be summer settlements of homes that went pending in the spring and those are not included here.)

Here is a rundown of how this spring played out:

The Swarthmore condo market:

There were 11 condo sales in Swarthmore Borough this spring. Of the 11 condo sales this spring, 3 sold at the listed price and 1 sold higher than the listed price. Our condos seem to be slowly but steadily making up the value losses they took in the recession years. As you can reference in my post about last year’s market here, condominiums took a bigger hit than the rest of our market in the downturn. Last year there was a run on condos and we ended up with a limited inventory. It’s great to see sellers marketing their condos again and buyers continuing to purchase them.

What a beautiful view...

510 Riverview Road received 5 offers and sold for $28,000 over the asking price!

The Swarthmore single family home market:

There were 21 single family home sales in Swarthmore Borough this spring. Of the 21 single family home sales this spring, 5 sold at the listed price and 6 sold over the listed price. The theme of light inventory and robust buyer activity continued where last year left off. The multiple offer situations, particularly in the early part of the season were unprecedented. Two of the most noteworthy were my own listing at 510 Riveview Road which listed for $449,500 and sold for $477,500 with five offers and Heidi Foggo’s listing at 438 Riverview Road which listed for $934,900 and sold for $981,000 with multiple offers. Our own Becky Hansen brought the buyers! (Please see here for my blog post about the benefit of working with a local buyer agent who really knows the micro-market when entering a multiple offer scenario.)

I am proud to report that of the total 32 transactions, 16 sides were handled by D. Patrick Welsh agents! Our tiny boutique is comprised of just 10 local professionals. In context, the Suburban West Realtors Association that serves our area has 4,700 members.

Overall the market was robust and we’re seeing continued activity in spite of unusually hot and stormy weather.

If you are not working with an agent and would like to talk about buying or selling a home in town, please feel free to contact me!

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2014 Swarthmore 4th of July Bike Races Canceled due to inclement weather!

Last year's bike race...

Last year’s bike race was filmed by ABC News!

Sadly, the coming storm has forced Swarthmore to cancel tomorrow’s bike races.

Here is the updated schedule for tomorrow:

Bike races canceled.
Awards: 10:30 am (still on!)
Bell ringing: 11:15 (still on!)
Parade: 12:00 noon (still on!)
Horseshoes: 12:30 (still on!)

There may be updates – I will try to stay current.


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Captivating Cinderella!

Emma Sniegowski as Cinderella

Emma Sniegowski shines as Cinderella (Photo courtesy of LABC)


This Saturday was a gorgeous day – just the right kind of day for playing at the park or having a picnic!  It was exactly the wrong kind of day for sitting in a dark theatre. Nonetheless, when we arrived at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre we were not the only patrons who felt lucky to be there!

Lori Ardis Ballet Company performances are almost always sold out weeks in advance. If you want to take in this unique Swarthmore experience, you will have to plan accordingly.  I arrived about an hour before Cinderella tickets went on sale to the public for the first time. A line had already formed but I was able to secure five coveted tickets for the opening performance!

When we arrived, we were told that children could choose to sit on the floor, close to the stage. Two of my little helpers were delighted to be so near the action! I am happy to report that not one child seated on the floor made a peep during the entire production. Like the rest of us, they were mesmerized.

The lights dimmed, and Mrs. Ardis set the stage by telling the first part of the Cinderella story in a way that all members of the audience could understand. Then the Prokofiev swelled and the performance began.

Emma Sniegowski was a lovely Cinderella – her technique was beautiful and she had a modest demeanor and gentleness to her quality of movement from start to finish that really embodied the character.

Denise Hodges, Olivia Labows and Arbour Guthrie as the step-mother, and step-sisters Haughty and Flighty provided great comic relief.  Guthrie in particular, as Flighty, was exquisitely funny.  From the tips of her pointes to the ends of her ponytails she exuded an infectious happy-go-lucky goofiness.

When William Hodges as the dance master and Eleanor Runiewicz as his assistant joined the family to teach the step-sisters how to dance the silliness that ensued had the audience laughing aloud.

After the step-sisters left, Sniegowski was joined by Lucy Hall’s delicate yet dynamic fairy godmother, and a bevy of little dragonflies. The audience would have been captivated if the tiny dragonflies had simply come out and run around in circles, but Ardis and Flynn had much higher expectations. The eight little dancers whirled and leapt with a frenzied energy and in perfect unison. Precision was necessary for safety, given the size of the stage and the number of performers – demonstrating Ardis and Flynn’s confidence that these very young performers would be consistent in their performance. The little mice and horses were held to the same high standards and were also a joy to watch.

Then the fairies and their helpers arrived. Each performed beautifully.  The standout was Anna Si as the Summer Fairy. When she arrived on the stage, one little audience member sighed “She’s beautiful!” Si is beautiful and she was beautifully costumed too.  Her graceful arms and glamorous smile were reminiscent of a young Patricia McBride. During the ball scene, Si dropped the glamour and had the whole house giggling as she performed as the mischievous instrument played by hapless musician William Hodges.

Other favorite dancers at the ball were Daniel Cho and Grace Hodges in the Waltz, and Mia Davis and Ellen McCullough as the dancers with oranges. But truly, every performer was wonderful to watch. And of course, Cinderella and her Prince rewarded us with the stunning pas de deux we were waiting for!

After the Ball, the Prince searched the world for Cinderella. The princesses danced and tried on shoes with elegant abandon, while Tony Venuto kept us all laughing as the punctilious courtier.

Cinderella got her Prince at the end, but not before step-mother, Denise Hodges, tried to force her foot into the magic slipper while throwing coquettish gazes at the Prince, Donn Guthrie, to the audience’s delight!

All in all, it was a wonderful, light-hearted performance! Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn’s choreography was carefully crafted to show off the very talented dancers, and highlight their acting skills.  As I blogged after seeing The Nutcracker at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre last winter, I am again blown away at the care given to each detail of the production. Every dancer, large and small, was fully committed to his or her role and the resulting performance was beautiful because of it.

Tickets to this production of Cinderella are nearly sold out – there may be a few seats left for performances at 11am and 7:30pm this Saturday, June 7th – ticket sales begin 30 minutes before each performance.  The best way to remember your tickets to the next production is to sign your children (or yourself) up for classes!  You can visit for more info!

The program notes that Lori Ardis Ballet Company is a non-profit educational organization. All dancers in LABC productions are provided with costumes and at least two hours per weekend of professional level ballet rehearsal at no cost. Donations to the Ballet Company are tax deductible.

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Welcome to Swarthmore!

This wonderful family became Swarthmoreans today! I'm so glad to welcome them home to Swarthmore!

This wonderful family became Swarthmoreans today! I’m so proud to welcome them home to Swarthmore! (They allowed me to share this photo from their visit to last year’s Swarthmore Charity Fun Fair! It puts me in the mood for this year’s celebration!)

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Clue #3 in the 2/13/14 Guess the Address Contest!

We’re getting closer!  The sellers have their very special home nearly ready for you to visit!  While they add the finishing touches, I will keep teasing you with the details!  The first to guess the address of this charming farmhouse on a magnificent double lot gets a one-year subscription to The Swarthmorean newspaper on me!

Listen closely, all around,Built-in

There’s not a single blue route sound,

Just the gentle rustle of,

The ancient copper beech above.

Come inside, relax a while

Hit the books farmhouse style

Built-in shelves hold every tome

Sit by the fire – welcome home!

Clue #1 is here and Clue #2 is here!  Happy guessing!


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Clue #2 in the 2/13/14 Guess the Address Contest!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!

The sellers of a very special Swarthmore farmhouse are preparing their home for showings!  While they work, I am sharing clues with you!  You know the routine – if you are the first to guess the address of this new listing I will buy you a one-year subscription to The Swarthmorean newspaper! Check here for Clue #1 , here for Clue #3 and here for Clue #4!

Details, details…

Penny tiles

You’ll never guess from today’s clues,

But I had to share these baby blues!

(They’re penny tiles from the powder room floor,

Accessed by a pocket door!)

And one more treat for your viewing pleasure:

A special stair for secret treasure!

See the hinges at the top of the lowest tread?

See the hinges at the top of the lowest tread? I don’t know about you – but the complicated dream houses I drew when I was 8 years old had lots of secret compartments JUST LIKE this one!


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New Guess-the-Address Contest 2/13/14!

My belated Valentine to Swarthmore will be a very lovable farmhouse on a glorious lot in the $450,000 to $550,000 range!

I am very excited to introduce this home to the public next week.  As the sellers make a few last-minute preparations, I get to have my fun teasing you here!

You know how this works – if you are the first to guess the address of this new listing I will buy you a one-year subscription to The Swarthmorean newspaper!

Today’s clue is a silly homage to Robert Frost (you can tell the snow has me a little stir-crazy)!

Whose farmhouse this is, do you think you know?

Peaceful but near the village, though,

To the swim club, school and train

It’s a picturesque walk (especially in the snow)!


Step in to see the heart of pine floor,

Fireplace and built-ins galore,

A screened porch, deck and patio,

And this welcoming wreath on the front door!

Wreath clueClue #2 is here!


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Thoughts on the 2013 market in Swarthmore (and looking forward to 2014…)

At this time of year I often find a little extra time to reflect on the market and look forward to what next year may bring.  I’ve had my cup of tea and made a fun spreadsheet, here are my observations on our micro-market!

The biggest news…

5.1 DR

The penthouse unit at the Strath Haven Condominium sold for $365,000. More modest units are also available.

This year Swarthmore had 14 sales of condos and we are down to only 3 active listings!

In 2011 our town had only 5 condominium sales. This was a shame, but not a surprise. In the preceding years our condos were hit hard by three separate events:

  • The first was the development of the Plush Mills Senior Center.  Prior to Plush Mills there were no hyper-local options for assisted living. Many seniors who would have purchased condominiums chose instead to move to Plush Mills.  And many seniors already living in condos listed their properties to move there.  This caused a swollen inventory, which ultimately affected prices.
  • The second was the changing lending environment. For a time it was nearly impossible to obtain mortgage financing on a condominium. In the national environment many condo owners were living in half-built communities that went under because there were not enough owners paying dues to maintain the community. As a result mortgage criteria were changed nationally in ways that discouraged making mortgages on condominiums. That was a shame for markets, like ours, where there are established and thriving condominium communities.
  • The third was the recession, which of course, had a profound effect on all real estate values.

As the economy improved and consumers became more confident in the real estate market, condo sales began to thaw. Although obtaining a mortgage on a condominium is still difficult, a few local banks have indicated a willingness to make loans. As the rental market heated up many condo owners even chose to rent their units for profit – eliminating the need to sell at a lower price.  Between increased sales and some renting of units, the excess inventory appears to have been worked through at last!  In 2011 there were only 5 sales of condos.  Last year there were 20 sales.  And this year we had 14 sales of condos and are down to only 3 active listings.  This is a true break-through.  Although prices are still down substantially from their heights, they are strengthening. It is gratifying to see this progress.

The big picture …

Our market has such a limited inventory that it can be hard to produce data with true statistical significance.  Instead, here are a few observations that seemed to be in effect across the board:

315 Dickinson Avenue will be open this Sunday from 1-3pm!

315 Dickinson Avenue after a charming Arts & Crafts style renovation

- Fixer-uppers: After several years of sluggishness in the fixer market, 2013 was a strong year for fixers and for the re-sales that followed contractor renovations.  A few examples of fixers that were snapped up quickly are the charming colonial at 18 Oberlin, the beautiful Thayer-built home at 215 Lafayette, and the solid colonial at 544 Westminster.  All three were in desperate need of rescue inside and out. Three post-renovation beauties were the Arts & Crafts rethinking of 315 Dickinson Avenue, the open and sunny renovation of 340 Haverford Place and the clean restoration of 544 Westminster. Fixers in good locations with personality were all the rage this year and I expect this trend to continue into 2014.

- The $550,000 to $650,000 price point: Although there was healthy activity in the market in general this price point saw 10 sales in 2013.  There were only 2 sales in 2012 and 2 in 2011 at this price point so it was nice to see a spike!  In all, 15 of our 55 single family home sales were over $550,000 this year.  This follows 10 out of 59, and 12 out of 51 in 2012 and 2011 respectively.  (I do not mean to indicate that prices are rising at a swift rate.  Rather, I note that inventory in this price range is popping up, and that buyers are ready to buy it when it does!)

- The prevailing theme: From the perspective of an agent on the ground, the resounding cry from my buyers was that we had a profound shortage of inventory. We never seem to have quite enough houses in Swarthmore for the number of people who would like to live here, and many buyers need to compromise on luxuries like master baths and Central Air!  However this year was more painful than usual for buyers as many of them struggled to find a house through a spring market and into the summer. Like in the early 2000s, we are often rushing to see homes as soon as they pop up rather than waiting for a convenient weekend tour!

Thoughts for 2014…

Of course I don’t have a crystal ball!  But here are my hopes and expectations for 2014. (These are just my opinions, don’t bet your farm on them, etc!)

-  I hope that owners of single family homes who held back on listing their homes during the slow times will have the confidence to market their homes this spring.

- I expect that our “inventory” of buyers will continue to snap up well-priced single family homes with very short days-on-market.

- I hope that more condominium owners will choose to sell their properties rather than rent them indefinitely, now that the market is warming.

- I expect that condominiums in beautiful move-in condition will sell quickly. However, I believe that the fixer market for condos will continue to be sluggish through 2014.

- I hope that the Millennial Generation’s fondness for walkable communities will continue to bring Swarthmore an influx of excited new buyers who appreciate all that we have to offer.

- I expect that as more media attention is paid to Swarthmore for the above reasons, we will draw more buyers than ever who are new to the area. These buyers will need to learn about our older housing stock so that they have reasonable expectations!

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Home for the Holidays 2013 & YPTW “The Aristocats” Pictures

2013 Home for the holidays kids running

The kids ran around an inadvertent tree maze before the town tree was lit! The Swarthmore Fire Company is selling these beautiful fresh trees to raise funds!

2013 Home for holidays kids running 2

The children agree that running around the trees is a good way to keep warm on a cold, wet night!

2013 Home for Holidays Marty

Marty “Mr. Swarthmore” Speigel plays the guitar as the singing begins.

2013 Home for Holidays Caroling

The town is led in a rousing chorus of “Jingle Bells”!

2013 Home for the holidays kids end

The children are called up to sing “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” into the microphone! The evening ended with a visit from Santa. Each child was presented with a candy cane. (It was too dark to take iPhone pictures by then!)

Earlier in the day, Young People’s Theatre Workshop presented “The Aristocats” musical!  My little helper and I were impressed with the large and talented cast, great choreography and direction!

Aristocats performane

The audience jumps to their feet and joins the cast in a reprise of the chorus!

Aristocats cast

Cast members pose for pictures with their fans!

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Nutcracker magic…

Anna Si soars as Clara in Swarthmore Ballet Theatre's staging of "The Nutcracker"!

Anna Si soars as Clara in Swarthmore Ballet Theatre’s staging of “The Nutcracker”! (Photo courtesy of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre)

It is winter in Swarthmore.  Dusk comes earlier, garlands are wound around the street lamps, and the dancers appear!  Flowing out of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre and wandering down Park Avenue, the dancers big and small fill our town with bobbing buns and anticipation.

This year’s tickets to Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn’s “The Nutcracker” sold out within an hour.  In an act of generosity, the company agreed to add one more performance so that those of us with ballet students who weren’t in line at 9am for the original 12noon ticket sale had a chance to attend.

The tiny theatre was packed when we arrived.  An audience of adults and wide-eyed children gathered in the intimate space.  My little helpers and I were in the front row and actually had to pay attention not to step on the Marley! The lights went down and Ms. Ardis came out to explain the story in a way that helped the littlest guests understand what they were going to see.  Then the overture began.

Many ballet school companies would not attempt a full production of “The Nutcracker”.  We were delighted to see a complete ballet and to hear the whole score at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre. More impressively, the audience, with many four year olds in attendance, was rapt for the whole production.

Ms. Ardis and Ms. Flynn’s ballet offered us an older Clara, which is true to the Hoffman story.  Anna Si was absolutely lovely as Clara and so accomplished that she was a joy to watch.  Nearly as impressive as her excellent technique was her incredible stamina.  Ardis and Flynn put her to work and she delivered!

Soloist Emma Sniegowski’s Heart Doll was coolly convincing and her searing Arabian solo in an ethereal veil costume was complicated and exciting. Grace Hodges was a favorite with my little ballet students – her Spanish dance was compelling and she stood out elsewhere in the corps.  As a matter of fact several Hodges kept the night moving!  Denise Hodges’s Mother character was properly proper and her Mother Ginger was delightfully silly.  William Hodges (as the Nutcracker) Rose (in the corps) and Nathaniel (as a mouse) all helped to tell the story. The number of highly talented young soloists in the company was amazing and the entire hardworking corps was impressive in their skill and discipline. From the littlest of Mother Ginger’s children to the flowers, dewdrops, and shepherdesses, each member of the company brought something special to the whole.

The final standout was Alia Federico.  She got a laugh on her entrance as a snobby mother in the party scene. But we had no idea how she would transform for the second act!  Her Sugar Plum Fairy was absolutely exquisite. Partnering her was Donn Guthrie, who also played Drosselmeyer with flair.

In all, we were blown away with the professionalism of this production.  Although tickets are no longer available, the best way to remember your tickets for next year is to enroll your kids (or yourself) in classes!  You can visit Swarthmore Ballet Theatre here.

Ms. Lori Ardis kindly allowed me to post her beautiful production stills in this blog.  Feel free to visit the “audience pictures” post if you want to see the original pictures that went with this blog.  You can also email me your own audience photos to be posted there.

Emma Sniegowski's exhillarating Arabian dance

Emma Sniegowski mesmerizes with her Arabian dance (Photo courtesy of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre)


Grace Hodges performs a gracefully athletic Spanish dance (Photo courtesy of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre)

Grace Hodges performs a gracefully athletic Spanish dance (Photo courtesy of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre)

Alia Federicow's breathtakingly elegant Sugar Plum Fairy is held aloft by Cavalier, Donn Guthrie

Alia Federico’s breathtakingly elegant Sugar Plum Fairy is held aloft by her Cavalier, Donn Guthrie (Photo courtesy of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre)


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