Head west out of Philly and the first 'hood you'll hit is Bala Cynwyd, a Main Line spot with a mix of city convenience and suburban appeal.
"It's close enough to take advantage of the city, but has all the advantages of being in Lower Merion Township, which is award-winning. You just get a different service level in the suburbs," says David Oser, a realtor with RE/MAX Executive Realty who's been selling homes in Bala Cynwyd for over 20 years and lives in the area.
In addition to the central location -- just 15 minutes from Center City or King of Prussia and even closer to Manayunk -- access to the Lower Merion school district and the orthodox Lower Merion Synagogue both tend to draw homebuyers to the neighborhood, Oser says.
The area is primarily residential, with a few shopping strips and the classic Bala Theatre, built in 1926. Two train stops, in the Bala and the Cynwyd sections of the now-combined town, serve residents.
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Housing options range from small condos priced in the low $100,000s on City Ave., the city/suburbs dividing line, up to million-dollar single-family homes. The bulk of the housing inventory is in the $450,000 to $675,000 range, according to Oser. For that you can get three or four bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a "workable yard."
"Because Bala Cynwyd is an older community, the zoning is much closer, so you have quarter-acre parcels or less," Oser says. "So everybody tends to know their neighbors here."
Renting in Bala Cynwyd
Those in the rental market have options, too, says James Gleason of Harrison Richards, a property management company with two apartment buildings in Bala Cynwyd: Tremaine Place and Main Line Court. Both buildings have private entrances, hardwood floors and balconies, with one-bedroom units starting around $900 and three-bedrooms maxing out around $1,550.
“It’s easy access into and out of the city,” Gleason says. “You get to live within 100 yards of City Ave., without worrying about paying city taxes.”
Bala real estate
Average home listing price: $393,287
Average price per square foot: $159
Homes for sale: 81