A Heurich Home in the Mallard Pond development in Marshall Township.

In its most literal sense, all roads led to ancient Rome, then an expanding city and empire, with many modern-day contributions.  Today, while all roads in southwestern Pennsylvania lead to a range of places, choices and actions, a few of these routes are leading north of Pittsburgh with its continuing expansion of commerce, culture, cultivation and new construction.  Additionally, those same roads have been branching further north over time based on socioeconomic, geographic and lifestyle factors.  Among those factors, promising news from varied sources reporting that Pittsburgh, in general, is enjoying growth in the areas of research, health care, technology and manufacturing “with a diverse economy that is poised for continued success in 2023” as noted by capitalanalyticsassociates.com, December 21, 2022. 

The site states further that “while other markets endured contractions (economic output declines), the Pittsburgh region is expected to see 4.2 percent growth in 2023 compared to last year” giving it a #12 ranking among 100 of the largest metro areas in the United States.  Realtor.com also predicted strong real estate conditions throughout 2023, with the city “ranked as the 15th top housing market for 2023 in terms of expected growth in home sales and listing prices.”  A Tribune Review article dated June 12, 2023, titled “Pittsburgh population stable, outlying suburbs growing, per new census estimate” reported that there are areas of growth in southwestern Pennsylvania, among them southern Butler County with northwest Allegheny and southern Butler Counties boasting a continued lead in population growth. 

The article continued that “Cranberry Township in Butler County saw 868 new residents and Pine Township increased by 601 people” with “growth in the North Hills also expanding farther and farther away from the city center, with communities like Jackson and Middlesex Townships seeing significant growth” according to Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research.  Lastly, Niche.com, in its top 2023 Best Suburbs to Live in the Pittsburgh Area, revealed that 10 of those top 25 were north of Pittsburgh including Franklin Park #3, O’Hara Township #5, Bradford Woods #8, Bell Acres #10, Allison Park #11, Indiana Township #12, Ben Avon #13, Seven Fields #17, Pine Township #19 and Cranberry Township #22.  Closer to home, Alex Giannetti, author, Wexford resident and realtor, RE/MAX, also observed northern communities continuing to flourish. “The demand for housing and businesses in the north remains strong,” he said.  “Dozens of new home communities can be seen all throughout the region.  The Harmony area has been a hotbed for new development in the past 12 months, drawing many families to go a bit further north.”  He also noted that, for years, Cranberry, Mars and surrounding communities have also been growing, with new home developments offering single-family homes and town homes.  “Retirement and senior living communities are also growing and popping up in the area, keeping loved ones nearby,” he added.  He has also seen a push for those wishing to take advantage of what Butler County has to offer with lower taxes.  “As the area grows, the infrastructure has kept pace.  Additionally, necessary services to accommodate the influx of more people are available.  As families have found more rural communities to move to, the basic necessities are not compromised,” he affirmed. 

He believes that shopping, entertainment and health care are still very much accessible and, with the increase in remote jobs, there has been a change of thought processes for many buyers in the area.  “Rather than needing to be close to Downtown for work access, a more remote location and a strong internet connection becomes increasingly more important.  The north offers plenty of both!”  Darlene Hunter, Vice President, Regional New Homes Manager, Howard Hanna Real Estate, finds that a confluence of factors add to the appeal of the northern suburbs.  “The range of homes, good schools, amenities and much more add to the appeal of the north.  As a result, it continues to expand, with growth moving further north to areas like Jackson and Lancaster Townships,” she explained.  She has found that buyers in the north are diverse and personal experience at Howard Hanna Real Estate this year in particular has bourne that out.  “We are seeing more relocating luxury home buyers in the north market,” she explained.  “We have had several retiring individuals who are moving here with some Pittsburgh connection, either family, friends or returning to their original roots.  Also, young families with both professional working spouses, some entrepreneurs and some in the medical, corporate or sports-related fields are attracted to the north for the great infrastructure, amenities, high ranking schools and overall appealing feel of the area.  The housing stock and other commercial construction in general is younger than in other markets.” 

Hunter cited some particular areas for buyer appeal north of Pittsburgh such as town homes in the Seven Fields market built by Infinity Homes for those desiring a more urban feel in the suburbs that meet their expectations.  For signature designed homes, builders such as Benjamin Marcus Home demonstrate their custom crafted expertise in communities like Eagle Ridge, Cranberry, and the newly developed The Bliss in Franklin Park.  Also, higher end custom homes can be found at Mallard Pond in Marshall Township developed and built by Ron Heurich, Heurich Homes, along with other participating builders including Benjamin Marcus Homes, Barrington Homes, Koch Construction and Bachman Builders.  “These communities are all lovely with expansive home sites to accommodate the large custom homes,” she said.  “There are pockets of patio homes with low maintenance features in the Butler market with Brennan Builders and Weaver Homes leading the charge.  Foxlane Homes has a new 55+ community in Baden featuring detached adult housing.  We can’t get enough of this right-sizing product.”

One such builder experiencing the housing boom northward is Ron Heurich, Heurich Homes, a luxury custom builder based in Wexford, Pa.  He, too, has witnessed the popularity of housing in Pittsburgh’s northern communities and growing through an influx of singles, young families and baby boomers.  “The buyers are both local and from afar,” Heurich explained.  “Our outstanding school district and additional options for private schooling are among our greatest draw in attracting new residents, as well as keeping our existing residents when looking for new housing.”  He finds that prospective buyers check their apps regularly regarding the driving distance to and from their work place or other places of interest in relation to the neighborhood they are visiting and are often pleased with the search result.  “Easy access to and from the city is tunnel free and commute times are relatively brief,” he added.  “It is here that the crossing of Interstate Routes 279 and 79, Routes 19 and 228, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other major roadways occur along with short routes to Pittsburgh International Airport.  Casual and formal dining options, entertainment and shopping establishments, and service businesses find this a growing and profitable area, one that offers a distinctive location.”  And just as distinctive is Heurich Homes latest construction project currently in its third and final phase – Mallard Pond in Marshall Township.  Here, one-of-a kind, custom designed homes feature upscale, private building lots on a cul-de-sac street with large, flat backyards that flow mainly into heavily wooded open space.  “This offers a place for swimming pools and other types of outdoor living spaces that are so very popular today,” he continued.  “A paved, six-foot wide walking trail is just now being constructed that continues from our sidewalk system into 37+ acres of our wooded open space.”  With Phase 3 home prices starting at $1.6 million, specialty features such as sunken areas that house golf simulators, are not uncommon.  The homes often feature a second study, flex room or guest suite on the first floor.  “Exterior lighting is very popular along with extensive landscaping, hardscaping and lawn watering systems,” he said.  “As a truly custom builder, our homes are unique and have endless possibilities.”  In business since 1972, Heurich Homes incorporates the latest proven technologies, eco-friendly construction and construction management, ensuring cost and energy efficiencies along with technologies that benefit various home systems over the life of the building.

Jacquelyn Lantz, Sales Manager for D.R. Horton in Western Pennsylvania, a national builder dating back to 1978, posed a more historic view of the north’s appeal.  “Going back twenty years or so, I believe the northern suburbs became a highly desired area for a few reasons,” she offered.  “As growth continued outside of the city, the north was an area with available land and fairly designed highway systems.  This, combined with the good school districts made the commute to town easy while offering families great education options.”  She also suggested that people searching for tax alternatives to those in Allegheny County found Butler County to be attractive with its lower property taxes and the ability to purchase in communities with larger home site sizes.  “The infrastructure has followed the growth,” she continued.  “We have seen the emergence of businesses, shopping and dining that are making the farther north areas even more attractive.  As this growth continues, we as a home builder are able to offer housing for every stage of life.”  D.R. Horton evaluates market data to gauge the needs of local homebuyers and then works to offer suitable floor plans and amenities.  “We are different from other homebuilders in the area in that we only build spec homes,” Lantz explained.  “We spend a lot of time on market research before entering a submarket and opt to offer the home types and features that suit the market best.  We vary our offerings by selecting different color packages, finishes and elevations in our homes.”  One of D.R. Horton communities include Hidden Springs in Connoquenessing Borough, now open for sale.  Here, large, spacious homesites are available and within walking distance from the Connoquenessing Borough Park.  Hidden Springs’ floor plans feature two-story single-family homes, two-story attached duplexes, single-family and duplex-style ranch homes.  Also open for sale is Winterwood in Butler Township, a unique seven lot plan in the heart of Meridian.  With only two sites remaining, features include larger, two story homes with finished basements and oversized yards boasting mature trees.  Before the end of the year, two more locations are planned to be in the works – Highfield Trails in Butler, and McCandless Square in McCandless Township.  “In Highfield, we plan to build ranch style homes with covered outdoor living as standard,” she noted.  “With low maintenance living, the community HOA plans to cover snow removal and grass cutting for our homebuyers.”  At McCandless Square, traditional town homes will abound right in the heart of the highly sought-after McCandless Township. Within walking distance from a new retail strip just off Ingomar Road, the site is just minutes from all the conveniences of Route 19.  Lantz advised that by early 2024, Seneca Hills is expected to open with its 70-unit town home community in Jackson Township, Butler County, with still other offerings coming within the next two years.

Heartland Homes, too, sees growth in the northern communities according to Katie Brinkley, Sales Manager for Northern Communities, Heartland Homes.  “The North Hills really encapsulates what many people are looking for in real estate,” she stated.  “It has an undisputed advantage in commuting to Downtown to enjoy all the things Pittsburgh has to offer while still feeling the peace and slower pace that makes people seek out our suburban areas.  We have tremendous growth in terms of sought-after restaurants and shopping areas as well as some of the most competitive schools in the area.  The North Hills has all of that in addition to a feeling of being newer, with more room to grow. The proximity to town, the amenities and space draws in any and all of those in the market looking for a great investment and/or their dream home.”  Those “dream homes” may be in one of Heartland’s three northern communities with a fourth planned in the coming months.  Hawkins Crest and Fieldstone Ridge, located in the growing Middlesex Township, offer estate style homes, first floor living, and their signature floor plans for sprawling home sites.  With homes ranging from 2,700+ to 4,500+ square feet, prices range from the low $600,000s to the upper $800,000 and include up to six bedrooms, five and a half baths, and up to four car garages.  Most recently opened was the highly successful multi-phase Markman Place in Marshall Township, which offers a private, tranquil location.  Here, single family homes and first floor living homes start from the $700,000 with sidewalks, walking trails and a wooded conservation space.  All homes offer an open concept floor plan, granite or quartz options, gourmet kitchens with stainless steel appliances, engineered hardwood in the foyer, dining room, kitchen and family entries while ceramic tile graces the bathrooms.  “We offer a multitude of ways to customize a buyer’s home from front elevations to flooring to cabinets and much more, but we do it in a way that makes it simple and fully transparent to our client,” Brinkley shared. “As a luxury home builder focused on today’s buyer, we know our clients are busy, wanting a multitude of benefits that come with new construction but they want it to be fully transparent, less stressful, and more reliable.  That is what we deliver.”  Within the next 12 to 18 months, Heartland Homes’ goal is to be back in the Seneca Valley School District with one community offering town home living while the other will feature single family homes.  NH