Letters From the (Real Estate) Trenches

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Illustration by Tim Durning

This past fall, after five years of renting in Fairmount, my husband and I finally decided to buy a home of our own in the neighborhood. Now, call me naive — maybe too many hours logged on HGTV? — but I honestly thought that our prequalified mortgage and 20 percent in our pockets meant we’d follow the classic script: We’d find a place, put in an offer, have our agent negotiate with the seller’s agent, and then — voilà! — be happy homeowners.

That isn’t how it went.

In fact, says realtor Karrie Gavin, that’s rarely how it goes these days in Philly. Gavin, a four-year agent with Elfant Wissahickon, prides herself on almost never losing a bidding war — and she’s been in a lot of bidding wars lately. A lot. “The inventory is very low right now, and there’s a high buyer demand,” she says. “I’m seeing a lot of things selling for above the asking price.” Penn’s Fels Institute of Government reports that home prices in fall of 2014 shot up all over the city; average days on market fell from 88 last winter to 67. The takeaway? Gird your loins, buyers: Competition is fierce, especially in hot spots like Fairmount, Grad Ho, Bella Vista, Queen Village, Passyunk Square, even Chestnut Hill and Narberth.

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Kite & Key Celebrates Ben Franklin’s Birthday with Victory

kite-and-key-400Where better to celebrate Ben Franklin’s 309th birthday than at Kite & Key? The beer bar, just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is going to be pouring many of their favorite Victory Brewing Company beers, including Earth & Flame, a collaboration with Earth, Bread + Brewery. The Victory celebration goes all day, with big Ben himself arriving at 7 p.m.

Victory beers that are pouring »

Art Museum Area Home on Cherry Blossomed Block of North 21st Now Pending Sale

TREND photos via BHHS Fox & Roach  - Bryn Mawr.

TREND photos via BHHS Fox & Roach – Bryn Mawr.

Shortly after being listed a few weeks ago, this wholly modern townhouse was plucked off the market. Can’t say we’re surprised given the gorgeous scene that envelopes the block once spring rolls around!

But cherry trees aside, the home itself is a splendid construction in its own right: carefully renovated interior, skylights, pocket doors, wood-burning stove, and even a roof deck with a view of the skyline. There’s also a living room with built-in bookshelves crafted from repurposed parts of the original building and an eat-in kitchen with hand-poured concrete countertops and French doors leading to a patio.

The master suite, meanwhile…

Pending Sale: The Elegant Fairmount Victorian on Green Street

2114 Green St, Philadelphia, PA, 19130

2114 Green St, Philadelphia, PA, 19130

According to Redfin, the first City House of the Week we featured in Philadelphia Sunday is about to leave the market. Oh, how they grow up so fast! *tear* (No, seriously. It was only just listed in November.)

For whoever is in the process of buying the home: Excellent choice. You’ll be moving into a lovely piece of history (wood staircases, leaded stain glass, ceiling medallions, etc.) that has no trouble keeping up with more contemporary homes thanks to careful renovation work.

Gallery below.

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That Art Museum Area Victorian We Loved Might Soon Be Under Contract

833 N Woodstock St, Philadelphia, PA, 19130

833 N Woodstock St, Philadelphia, PA, 19130

Ooof, don’t kick yourself too hard! This three-story period beauty has just been listed as “contingent” on Redfin, which may soon mean that it’s no longer on the market.

Lest you forgot, exposed wood beams, stained glass windows, and original moldings and built-in armoire are just a few of the things the home offered potential buyers. More info here.

Gallery below. Read more »

REDUCED: Gorgeous Fairmount Home on Green Street Just Got A Price Cut

We crowned this home “House of the Week” a few months ago, and now the pretty unit (one of four in the building) has had its price reduced by $51,000. That combined with mouthwatering features is sure to pique buyer interest, right?

The home, after all, boasts skylights, Mexican tile floors, wood-burning fireplace, and a basement that was used as a craft studio by former occupants. Outside are flower beds and  deck accessed via the living room’s glass doors.

Oh, but just see for yourself in the gallery  (or stop by the open house on the 23rd). Details below. Read more »

Unappealing Rowhouse Backyard?

TREND photo via Redfin

TREND photo via Redfin

This beautiful house has a lot to recommend it, but it really jumped out at me once I got to the backyard space. I saw the above photo and thought, “That is completely brilliant. I’m ready to go over there and lie down with a book and some hot cider right now.” Because it’s hard to do much with these small spaces.

Here’s option 1 for your exceedingly tiny concrete backyard: You buy that teensy French cafe table and four playfully colored folding chairs to match, string paper lanterns around the periphery, and grow sage in a big pot. Then you tell everyone you can have a backyard in a row home, and when they come over to eat, everyone crowds around the table and laughs at the wobbling of the table, even though their drink has spilled into the sage four times already.

Or option 2:
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Preview: Fairmount Park’s Gingerbread House Display

All the pastry chefs pose for a photo.

All the pastry chefs pose for a photo.

While it might be a little early to start talking about Christmas stuff, it’s never the wrong time to talk about cookies. And today’s 4th annual Fairmount Park Holiday Display preview will have a lot of ‘em.

With local chefs creating twelve historic Fairmount properties out of gingerbread, Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony will officially open the free display to the public, which will run, under normal circumstances, from Mondays – Saturdays, 9:30 am – 7 p.m. and Sundays, 12 – 6 p.m. Today’s  ceremony begins at 2 p.m. at The Rotunda of The Shops at Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut Street.

Oh, and from December 3rd until December 30th, six of the mansions being recreated in the gingerbread house display will be decorated and themed for the holidays. Tours in which guests will hear the stories of each house and receive collectible recipe cards will be available by trolley. Tickets for the tour of the Park houses can be found here.

Fairmount Tour [Official]


House of the Week: Pennsylvania’s First LEED Platinum Rehab

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Owners of this Fairmount home spent three years working with Canno Architecture and Design, Think Green Landscape Architecture, Walnut Tree Construction and the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia to renovate their property with sustainability in mind. The result: In 2011 it became the first rehabbed home in Pennsylvania to earn LEED Platinum certification. Owners recently put the home on the market for $1.295 million.

From the street the property looks like any other Fairmount rowhouse. Inside the 2,000-square foot home? A litany of environmentally sound and technologically savvy upgrades. New owners will be able to automate lighting, heating, cooling, sound and security via a Smarthome system that can be accessed remotely by phone or computer. The system allows for personalized settings and programmed operations to conserve heat and energy. A grey water reclamation system conserves more than 5,000 gallons of water a year by using rainwater and water from showers and sinks (several in the home’s two full bathrooms and one powder room) to flush toilets and water the green roofs. The home is also equipped with solar panels which provide almost half of the home’s electricity.

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