The following was submitted by Rosemont resident and realtor Tracy Pulos.
Here are some counterpoints for the discussion over the pricing of the Ardrossan parcels that Radnor Twp. is considering purchasing – from the perspective of a residential real estate professional who has studied local land values for many years. I hope my comments help broaden the public’s knowledge about local sales of open space, so that readers better understand the property values being discussed.
Recent posts have stated that Radnor Township should not pay more per acre for land at Ardrossan than what the developers paid per acre for land at the Dupont estate in Newtown Square (formerly known as "Foxcatcher Farm" and now known as “Liseter”)
I have several concerns about this comparison:
- The acreage purchased by Toll Brothers was significantly larger. There
is a point of diminishing returns to pricing as acreage increases.
Since the quantity of land for sale at Liseter was SO large, it required
a buyer with significant financial resources to be able to purchase and
develop it. That ruled out some potential purchasers who might have
paid more per acre for smaller portions of the tract.
- Liseter is in Marple-Newtown school district, which historically has lower property values than Radnor Township
- Writers are definitively stating a cost per acre at Liseter of $68,675 but not stating where they obtained this figure. As far as I can tell, the total sale price has never been publicized and it seems that only portions of the sale are visible through public records. The transaction was conducted by sophisticated land developers who can effectively obscure purchase prices through a complex series of transactions including nominal transaction ownership changes, rearranged lot lines, creation of new parcel numbers, lot consolidations, separate purchases of adjacent tracts, etc.
- The Liseter sale was negotiated several years ago when the market was softer, and when lenders were reluctant to finance loans for speculative building projects.
If “cost per acre” comparisons are used as a metric for the parcels at Ardrossan, then residents should be aware of recent developable land sales within their own township, not just the price paid by developers for one large tract of land in a neighboring township. Here are some examples:
- 600 Maplewood Ave. (“Poplar House”) in Wayne on 35.96 acres, sold for $8,800,000 in 2010 ($244,000+/acre.
County Line Rd. (“Radnor Walk”) in Villanova - being developed into 10
lots on 4.6 acres which sold for $1,595,000 in 2011 ($346,000+/acre.)
- 615 Newtown Rd. (the former Atterbury Estate, now “The Cottages at Boudinot Farm”) in Villanova - being developed into 8 lots on 13.56 acres which sold for $2,750,000 in 2013 ($202,000+/acre.) This is the most recent sale of a large parcel of land in Radnor Township, and it is a compelling price comparison because it is located much closer to Ardrossan than Liseter and is also within the same township. Much of this property has been recently cleared of trees & vegetation, none of the acreage has been deed-restricted as open space, and no public access or trails will be available to Radnor residents.
- There are many examples of infill new construction (“tear down”) lots in Radnor which have sold from $575,000-$1,000,000 per acre in the past 5 years.
I agree that some portions of the Ardrossan land are not suitable for development due to flood plains, steep slopes, etc., however I believe that the professional appraisal of the property will take those factors into consideration and adjust the valuation of those portions accordingly. Readers should realize that the nominal values for the environmentally sensitive portions of Ardrossan are strongly outweighed by the documented high values for land in our township that is suitable for residential development. All three of the documented Radnor Twp. sales also included areas of land which had steep slopes &/or wetlands and still achieved significantly higher prices per acre than the amounts suggested by some writers.
Appraisers prefer to use comps which are as close as possible in regards to:
- Timing (recent sales are better) and
Location (geographically close - preferably within the same school district.)
In my opinion, the three comps listed above are more reliable indicators of potential lot values in Radnor Twp. than the hard-to-prove price paid for the 400+ ac. Liseter property. While we would all love to have the price be as low as possible for the land at Ardrossan, we do need to be aware of all comps in the area, not just those which meet our fiscal agenda.
Tracy Pulos, Rosemont, Radnor Twp.