Monthly Archives: December 2013

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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Audience Pictures of SBT’s “The Nutcracker”

Ms. Lori Ardis kindly allowed me to post her lovely production stills on the original blog post, which can be found here. This post contains my original shots taken during a performance.

Do you have any audience photos to add?  Please email me and I will be glad to post them!

2013 Nutcracker 1

2013 Nutcracker 2


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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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Signs of the Season in Swarthmore

So much holiday spirit - so little Swarthmore inventory! (The list on the left is single family homes, on the right are condos.)

So much holiday spirit – so little Swarthmore inventory! (The “welcome” list on the left is single family homes, on the right are condos.)

The garlands and twinkling lights are appearing on the street lamps!

The garlands and twinkling lights are appearing on the street lamps!

Here is the rundown of events for Swarthmore Town Center's "Home for the Holidays" event. Grab a copy of The Swarthmorean for details!

Here is the rundown of events for Swarthmore Town Center’s “Home for the Holidays” event. Grab a copy of The Swarthmorean for details!

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