What’s so great about living here?

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A great deal, actually, from culture, to nature to great schools, Chester County has a lot to offer

By Jill Goldman, Special to UnionvilleTimes.com

With natural beauty, great schools and one of the great cities of the world just a short car ride away — Philadelphia — Chester County has a lot to offer.

Last week we promised to write about why Chester County is such a great place to live.  We often write about this and, as realtors, have the opportunity to talk about it with folks from out of town. Our hypothesis is that we have a unique community and that is why our housing market is so attractive.

For instance, how about the plethora of arts organizations in and around Chester County? Perhaps it is the Wyeth influence, or perhaps it is the proximity to so many major cities (Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, D.C., New York) but I believe that many of us wildly underestimate how rare it is to live somewhere with so much opportunity.  We have for profit, non-profit, professional, regional and community theater, institutes of higher learning with arts degree programs, and galleries in great number.  If you think it’s like this everywhere, think again. It’s not.  And we are fortunate  to have it. So maybe that’s why our housing market has withstood the recession better than many communities. It’s just a thought, but I think it has some merit.

Not an arts fan? Well, it’s also not a common event to live in a city with all four professional sports teams, ranked Division I college sports and a myriad of minor league sports. Believe it or not, some cities do not have arena football. Really!

And geographically, we happen to be in an enviable location. It may not seem it when we are doing the serpentine through construction cones on I-95, but do you know many people in this country can only reach a beach by flying? In fact, many people in Pennsylvania can only reach a beach by flying (think Pittsburgh).  And many people in this country do not live anywhere near an International airport.  They don’t.  Some of them don’t even have the option to hop on an Amtrak train and we can pick one up in Paoli, Wilmington or Philadelphia…And then we can take it to any of the other major cities I just mentioned.  Try doing that in Santa Barbara or Fargo.

So, this may explain the following fascinating and optimistic housing statistics: The national average home sale price in March, 2012 was $228,300. By comparison, Chester County’s median home sale price in the first quarter of 2012 was $270,000. And for just the month of April, 2012, the average home sale price in Chester County was $344,356. This is a pretty impressive statistic.  Furthermore, Yahoo recently compiled a list of the best places to live. Eastern Pennsylvania fared very well! Specifically, among the top 20 best places to live in Pennsylvania, 10 were in Chester County (I am including Chadds Ford, which is technically in Delaware County) and 6 of the top 10 were in Chester County. You can see the full article at http://voices.yahoo.com/best-places-live-pennsylvania, but these are the highlights.

You’ve seen these statistics before – Philly Mag has a similar ranking.  Not impressed?  Heard it all before? Perhaps you’ve become blasé about living here and that’s why you haven’t been to Philadelphia in ages.  Or why you groan when your kids suggest going to Inner Harbor because the tunnel is so congested. We all do it.  We have become desensitized to how fortunate we are to live here.  Still not convinced it’s better here? Well, just think about how you can choose to drive to New York to see a show, or if you wish avoid a $60/day parking fee, you can just wait until the show travels to Philadelphia. I have even waited to see a show until it gets to the Kennedy Center in D.C.  The parking is not cheaper, but the museums are free (mostly).  See? If you live in some parts of the country, the only major city within driving distance is 6 hours away.  And it might have one museum. And no traveling Broadway show.

A few years ago I ran into a couple at a hotel I was staying at in New York and they told me they were from St Louis.  Every year they came to Manhattan and saw four Broadway shows.  They took a ferry ride, shopped on 5th Avenue and ate in the Village.  Every year!  For at least 10 years in a row when my kids were little I never went to New York. Not even once.  Eventually, I made my way back, but apparently forgot to take my kids to Philadelphia.  I realized at some point that my children had become familiar with the subway system in New York and D.C., and had even been on the “T” in Boston, but had only been to Philly on school trips. That’s because I started to take for granted that I could be in one of the country’s great cities in 30 minutes.

So, I say to all of you, our relatively stable housing market is not a fluke.  It’s because we live HERE.  Enjoy it, take the kids to The Kimmel Center or the Hagley Museum.  Train to New York this summer to see Shakespeare in the Park and don’t forget, when you’re complaining about traffic on your way to the beach (that’s “down the shore” for some of you), if you lived in the Midwest you would probably think that the strip of sand around the edge of the lake was a beach.  Sure, Chicago’s a great city, but if you can’t drive to the actual shore, it’s not quite as nice as here!

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