Across the river, the dynamic is flipped. Whereas a house in Princeton Borough is likely to be more expensive than a comparable one in Princeton Township, houses in Yardley Borough are less expensive than those in neighboring Lower Makefield Township.
Jim Byelich, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Hearthside, 70 West Afton Avenue in Yardley, says that average Lower Makefield properties run about $400,000 while those in the borough average about $300,000. The reason, he says, is because, being older, houses in Yardley Borough tend to be smaller than the large-lot, development tracts in Lower Makefield that tend to draw families.
“Old and charming comes with a lack of functional space,” Byelich says. People drawn to downtown Yardley — all 1 square mile of it — seek character over rooms built specifically to house pianos no one plays. Yardley home-shoppers, Byelich says, tend to be young people looking for a nice place in a nice downtown that won’t break their banks or older residents looking to scale down.
But they also tend to be local. People interested in Yardley tend to be from nearby, largely from Bucks County, Byelich says. Neighboring Newtown (where Byelich, a Bucks County native, lives), Solebury, and Upper and Lower Makefield residents consider Yardley Borough more often than New Jersey transplants.
However, New Jersey does supply Bucks County with its share of new residents. Byelich often helps out-of-state transplants – often those coming to work in the Princeton area – find places to settle. When these workers, who come from everywhere, look in New Jersey they are often turned off by how much it costs to live in Princeton itself. “We win a lot of people over on that,” Byelich says, citing the Pennsbury School District, the taxes, and the proximity to New York, Philadelphia, and Princeton as the draws. “Another 20 minutes and you’re right there,” he says.
Past the money, Byelich says buyers land in Yardley because of community. “It’s not a knock on New Jersey,” he says, “but people like the sense of community here; the feel of a little town.”
Yardley and its neighbors are indeed littered with structures and places steeped in Colonial history. Northern Bucks County, where Yardley sits, is known for low crime and clean streets. Add that to the lower taxes, Byelich says, and you have a natural selling point.
What you get for your money, of course, depends on what you want, but on average, you can live larger, dollar-for-dollar, in Yardley than you can in Princeton. Whereas Princeton’s high-end housing prices start over $2 million, Yardley’s high-end tops out at about half that. In the borough, most homes are old (some Colonial era or soon after), though some have had to be rebuilt or repaired after flooding. Being an old river town, Yardley does occasionally (though not frequently) have to contend with the Delaware’s moods.
Still, reasonable property values are a draw, even if you’re looking for larger, more luxurious digs. Some current properties for sale in Yardley and Lower Makefield are shown on the cover of this issue, and described below:
460 Roelofs Road: Built 1972. Modern. Seven bedrooms, 5.3 baths, gourmet kitchen offers marble counter tops, two stoves, dumb waiter servicing three levels, climate controlled wine cellar storing 1,200 bottles, 20-foot ceilings, 1,100-square-foot gym adjacent to family room, balcony, au pair living quarters with private entrance. $1,800,000, taxes: $22,701. Listed: Al Chiarello, Long & Foster Yardley Sales, 215-493-5600.
2210 Yardley Road: Built 1910. Colonial. Seven bedrooms, 4.5 baths, pond, heated pool, pool house complete with kitchenette, original oak floors, all season porch with floor to ceiling windows, kitchen with granite island and built-in shelving, walk-out basement with full Kitchen and living area, detached two-car garage, 7,000 square feet of living space.$1,495,000, taxes $13,790. Listed: Addison Wolfe Real Estate, 215-862-5500.
115 East Ferry Road, a.k.a. the Kirkbride Estate: Built 1800. Four bedrooms, 5.5 baths, stone outbuildings, mature trees, circular driveway and pond, brick and wide-plank wood floors, seven fireplaces, custom Gourmet Kitchen with soapstone countertops and French doors leading to a wrought iron balcony, finished third floor. $1,199,900, taxes $12,441. Listed: James Spaziano, Addison Wolfe Real Estate Office, 215-862-5500.
88 North Main Street: Built 1831 (original section likely c. 1740). Four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, three fireplaces, wide-plank pine flooring, floor to ceiling windows, kitchen with cherry cabinets, granite countertops, breakfast room with walk-in fireplace, three porches, brick walkways, heated four-door, eight-bay garage, small carriage house. $1,095,000, taxes $10,500. Listed: Jonathan Rapp, Addison Wolfe Real Estate, 215-862-5500.
107 West Afton Avenue: Built 1804. Farmhouse. Four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, den, professional office suite (formerly a doctor’s office) with separate entrance & parking, four fireplaces, random-width plank hardwood flooring, two-car Quaker shed, oversized country kitchen w/stainless accents, family and media room. Sale includes separate 4.3-acre parcel. $599,900, taxes $8,099. Listed: Kathy Osborn, Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors-West Chester, 610-431-1100.
14 Van Horn Avenue: Built 2004. Colonial. Four bedroom, 3.5 baths, two-story foyer, hardwood floors, eat-in kitchen, breakfast room, living room set up for use as an office behind French doors, sun room with cathedral ceilings and French doors to deck, finished Basement with full bath; overlooks the woods, small creek, and Yardley Country Club.$650,000, taxes $10,961. Listed RE/MAX Properties-Newtown, 215-968-7400.
525 River Road: Built 1860. Five bedrooms, 5.5 baths, front-to-back foyer, built-in cabinets and window seat, main bedroom suite with fireplace, screened porch and patio. $1,150,000, taxes $14,015. Listed: Lisa James Otto Country Properties, 215-862-2626.
178 North Main Street: Built 1940s. Colonial. Two bedrooms, 2 baths, detatched 1-car garage, 2-car driveway, stone exterior, original wood floors, stone fireplace, unfinished basement, large, shaded yard with patio. $335,000, taxes $4,082. Listed: Fran McNinch, Weidel Realtors, 215-862-9441.
According to Movoto.com, an online real estate trends and statistics repository, the total inventory of available homes in Yardley has dropped from 172 to 142 in the past year. So has the median price for a house, which a year ago was $439,900 and at the end of February was $359,000. Byelich says the economic downtown that hit some markets especially hard was comparatively kind to Yardley and Bucks County. Overall, housing prices dropped about 6 percent in Yardley and Lower Makefield over the course of the recession. Still, according to Movoto, Yardley sales figures are higher than the Pennsylvania state average by about $150,000 and slightly higher than Bucks County overall.
Facts and Figures
Schools. The Pennsbury School District generally earns favorable reviews. In a 2008 ranking by Philadelphia Magazine (the latest such look at schools in the western Pennsylvania counties) Pennsbury ranked No. 39 in a field of 72 school districts stretching from Philadelphia through southern New Jersey and up to Bucks County. The district’s elementary schools ranked 34th, its middle schools 39th and its high school (in Fairless Hills) ranked 28th.
The average per-pupil cost in Pennsbury was $14,046, while the average teacher salary was $78,047. The student-to-faculty ratio was 16 to 1.
Yardley students attend one of four K-5 elementary schools, one of three 6-8 middle schools, and one high school, Pennsbury High School. The high school, which boasts a formidable music program, has an enrollment of about 3,500 students. Average SAT scores are generally good, with writing, verbal, and math scores all averaging about 600 (from a possible 800 each).
Yardley students also attend St. Ignatius of Antioch Roman Catholic School, St. John The Evangelist Parish Catholic School in Lower Makefield, both K-8 schools, and Grey Nun Academy, a pre-K-8 Catholic school in Yardley. There are no Catholic or private high schools in Yardley, but many students attend Cornwell-Egan Catholic High School in nearby Fairless Hills.
Government and politics. Yardley Borough has an elected mayor and seven council members, all Democrats. The municipality is served by Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, currently represented by Pat Meehan (R-Drexel Hill), the 31st Pennsylvania House District, represented by Democrat Steven Santarsiero, and the 10th Senate District, represented by Republican Charles McIhnney.
Annual events and honorable mention. Every year, on the first Saturday of November, Charles H. Boehm Middle School hosts a craft show featuring handmade floral arrangements, quilts, wood crafts, and wearable art. Contact Maren Weaver at email@example.com for more information.
Late September also brings the Harvest Day festival to downtown Yardley, scheduled for September 24 this year. The festival includes the annual basket raffle to benefit community organizations.
One last annual attraction (usually annual, anyway) is skating on Yardley’s Lake Afton, more affectionately known to locals as “the pond.” When the pond freezes, residents make their way to it with skates and hockey sticks.
When it’s warm, lake afton remains a favorite spot for residents to hang out by the water.