Redfin Names Philly’s Hottest Neighborhoods of 2014

Real estate website Redfin has named its hottest neighborhoods of Philadelphia for 2014, based on searches of its website and knowledge from its real estate agents:

Neighborhood                Median Sale Price

Wayne                                  $510,000

Elkins Park                          $219,450

East Passyunk Crossing    $222,450

Newbold                               $155,750

Haverford                             $285,800

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Philly Finally Reaches Land Bank Deal

In a closed-doors meeting late last night at City Hall, the two principal actors determining the fate of Council’s contentious land bank proposal reportedly reached a deal. Essentially the conflict came down to this. Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez has been pushing for a while now for a land bank that would consolidate all the city’s vacant property, so developers could acquire and manage land in a straightforward fashion. (The city has upwards of 40,000 vacant parcels–it seems pretty straightforward that this is a good idea.)

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Philly Realtors Are Placing Classified Ads Looking for Sellers

Well, we knew the Philly housing market was doing pretty well, but not this well. So well, in fact, that local realtors have been putting up classified ads to find prospective sellers. With that, the term “buyer’s market” has been taken to its logical conclusion.

The number of buyers outweighing sellers is a “universal issue in the Delaware Valley,” says CBS, due to the historically low interest rates buyers have been met with. As a result, there has been little to show prospective buyers, leading to the seller search we see now.

So what’s the word for real estate now? Sell, sell, sell—the demand is there. I’m sure we’ve gotten over that subprime lending thing by now, anyways. [CBS]

The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference Is in Town

You knew our city’s vacant real estate was a problem, but I bet you didn’t know it was a big enough problem to hold a whole multi-day conference about the issue here:

Put together by the Center for Community Progress, the conference is drawing upwards of 800 public and private sector experts in land banking, tax foreclosure, code enforcement and urban planning from around the country.

“Over the past two years, Philadelphia has taken several strategic and significant steps toward addressing its long-standing vacant property issues,” explained John Carpenter, Deputy Executive Director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and co-chair of the conference local planning committee in a press release. “The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference is our opportunity to share our successes with other cities while also learning from their achievements.”

Finally! Someone is going to save us from ourselves (right, Ori?), and they have a fancy organization name to go along with it. Of the meeting’s recommendations so far, the most promising is for Philly to set up a land bank, allowing the city to more economically institute development opportunities and complete daily paperwork.

That idea, the city likes:

“Mayor Nutter and Council are committed to adding a land bank to the tools for addressing our vacant property system,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, in a press release. “The many Philadelphia advocates who support a land bank are excited to exchange ideas and strategies with their colleagues from across the country to make that goal a reality.”

Good thing too, being that the conference wraps up tomorrow. Our vacant lot problem, though, will likely continue. [FlyingKite]

A New World Trade Center … In Camden?

The former site of the Riverfront State Prison in North Camden will get a makeover in the form of a 2.3 million square-foot world trade center if development firm Waterfront Renaissance Associates gets its way. And, of course, what better day to pitch it to city planning board than on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

WRA will be working with the World Trade Center of Philadelphia to broker the deal, reflecting the structure of the world’s existing trade centers via partnering with a trade services provider:

The proposed Camden complex would be called the Greater Philadelphia World Trade Center, said Schiffman, who noted land in Philadelphia originally planned for a trade center “is no longer appropriate.”

The preliminary project design in Camden includes 2.3 million square feet of space with four stand-alone phases. The plan will create subcampuses to create a feel of small commercial neighborhoods, while integrating each into the greater 16-plus-acre project.

The idea here is to create jobs for ailing Camden, or at least bring some employed people into town—a task for which WRA managing partner Martin Schiffman says there isn’t “anyone in the area who comes close” to his firm.

For Camden’s sake, let’s hope so. [Courier Post]

The Homestead Exemption Deadline Is Extremely Nigh

If you’re trying to save $400 off the city’s upcoming Actual Value Initiative property tax hikes, you’d better get your forms in order by Friday.

That’s the deadline for Philly’s first ever Homestead Exemption, a measure that promises to knock $30,000 off the value of a home, which translates to property tax savings totaling $400. A good deal, considering that the property tax tops out at 1.34 percent.

To apply, there are just two criteria:

  1. You must own your own home.
  2. You must live in that house as your primary residence.

Easy, right? Unfortunately, only about 2/3 of Philly homeowners have applied for the exemption, meaning around 113,000 properties won’t be exempt as of right now. Officials, like deputy administrator for the Office of Property Assessment Kate Dreher, meanwhile, hopes more residents will call in:

“We’re hoping that, in this last week, a lot of people will take the time to apply. It takes only a few minutes if you call. If people don’t apply, they’re just leaving free money on the table.”

Hear that, guys? Free money. On the table. You can reach the OPA at 215-686-9200 for yours. [CBS]

L&I Says Goldtex’s Lofts Are Not for Living In

Trouble continues for the Pestronk brothers today, though not from the usual union sources sabotaging their properties. This time, the ire is on the part of L&I, who recently paid a visit to the Post Brothers property to OK occupancy of the Goldtex building’s eight floor while the building is under construction.

Turns out some units have lofts included, which reps have been billing as living spaces despite approval from L&I to use them only as utility spaces. Liz Spikol breaks it down on our Property blog:

According to L&I, the lofts are approved as utility spaces, not living spaces, but a Goldtex sales rep tells the undercover reporter that the loft can be used as a bedroom with a twin or double bed. This, says Post Bros. co-owner Mike Pestronk, is an error on the rep’s part, as is a listings photo that portrays the loft as a living space.

The lofts’ pull-down stairways, in the opinion of one firefighter union rep, pose a substantial hazard in the event of a fire because they could block inhabitants from making their way out of the building. Matt Pestronk has not yet commented on the matter. [Property]

Housing Sales in Philly Up 20 Percent Over Last Year

Something title “The Residential and Foreclosure Sales Report” isn’t usually the go-to source for good news these days, but RealtyTrac’s extensive survey does have some great news from its July 2013 edition: turns out our real-estate market isn’t drowning!

From the report:

Among 20 of the nation’s largest metro areas with annual sales estimates tracked in the report, the biggest year-over-year increases in sales volume were in Chicago (up 27 percent), Minneapolis (up 23 percent), Baltimore (up 21 percent), Boston (up 20 percent), and Philadelphia (up 20 percent).

For the layman, this means that Philly-area homes sold 20 percent more homes than last year, meaning that people in our area are actually generating the money needed to buy homes. Not only that, but nationally, we’ve seen a jump in sales of residential properties to the tune of 11 percent. These are the best numbers RealtyTrac has seen in 2013.

Sure, the housing market isn’t safe just yet. But as Liz Spikol says, this news errs more on the “glass half-full” side of things. Like SEPTA, we’re getting there. [Property]

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