The Condo Fees Are Too Damn High

The value of the units they own may rise and fall with the market and the economy, but owners of condos like this one in New Hope will likely find that their HOA fees will only go up as the years pass. | TREND image via Addison Wolfe Real Estate

The value of the units they own may rise and fall with the market and the economy, but owners of condos like this one in New Hope will likely find that their HOA fees will only go up as the years pass. | TREND image via Addison Wolfe Real Estate

Death, taxes and homeowners association fees.

Two of those three are absolute certainties in life, but owners of condominiums or homes in developments with community amenities can also add that last one to the list. The monthly fees cover the costs associated with maintaining common facilities and spaces and sometimes cover the cost of utilities like cable TV or publicly provided services like trash pickup as well.

And a new study released today by the real estate search site Trulia finds that property owners in such developments can count on a fourth certainty: their HOA fees will climb with each passing year.

The Trulia report, “Attack of the Killer HOA Fees,” examined changes in HOA fees over time and what factors affect them. The study found that regardless whether house values rose or fell, HOA fees nationwide have risen steadily, climbing from a weighted average of $250 a month in 2005 to $331 in 2015. Read more »

Single and Looking for Love in Philly? You’re In Luck

If you fear your impending “singleness” this upcoming Valentine’s Day, stop it right now. You’re not alone – apparently a large portion of your fellow Philadelphians are single too.

According to a new report by Trulia (and yes, we’re referring to the online residential real estate site and not some sketchy online dating service), about 58.4 percent of men and 65 percent of women are single in Philadelphia. What’s more, these percentages are higher than any other city in the country.

The report, entitled Where to Live and Let Love Find You, examined U.S. Census data and the dating pool in 100 of the largest metro areas in America. “Single,” as Trulia uses it, refers to anyone age 21 or older who has never been married or was formerly married.

But the report doesn’t just stop at the total number of singles in each city – it gets even more specific and looks at the age range of these singles, how many hours they usually work, how much education they have, and if they have ever been married. Here’s what it found for Philadelphia: Read more »

Survey Finds Fewer Obstacles to Getting an Apartment Here – But It’ll Cost You, Another Study Says

With new rental properties coming on line at a steady clip in Philadelphia, you'd think finding an apartment would be easier, right? A Trulia study confirms that suspicion, but rent data from Adobo suggest it'll cost you more anyway.

With new rental properties coming on line at a steady clip in Philadelphia, you’d think finding an apartment would be easier, right? A Trulia study confirms that suspicion, but rent data from Adobo suggest it’ll cost you more anyway.

With builders seemingly falling over one another to bring new multi-unit residential properties on line in Philadelphia, it maybe should not come as much of a surprise that would-be renters face less competition in finding apartments than in all but two of the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas.

According to data in a report released last Wednesday by, this is because relatively few would-be tenants here fall into the category landlords desire the most: renters with excellent credit and high incomes, the group Trulia calls “Rich and Reliable.”

Trulia’s data, drawn from apartment-seekers who filled out the site’s online “Rental Resume” questionnaire, showed that only 15.7 percent of Philadelphia renters had excellent credit (FICO scores between 720 and 850) and only 7.8 percent had household incomes above $100,000 per year. (For comparison purposes, 16 percent of renters in 9th-ranked Los Angeles make more than that.) Philadelphia’s share of high-income renters was the third lowest among the 25 metros. Read more »

Schools Are a Big Home Selling Point in Montco and Other Tidbits

Is back to school season really just a few weeks away? Unbelievable. What might be more believable, however, are the numbers crunched in a new report by real estate website Trulia, which sought to find where schools are a major selling point in home sales, where they’re less so, and whether there’s something to mentioning schools in a listing for a higher listing price. Take a seat and jot some notes, Properteers!

Image via

Image via

Using data from the 100 largest U.S. metros, gathered between June 2014 and June 2015,  Trulia Chief Economist Selma Hepp writes Montgomery County mentions schools in 22.5 percent of its home listings, bringing the Greater Philadelphia suburb to no. 3 on its list of “Where Schools Are a Big Selling Point.”It should be noted, though, the Montco ranking includes data from neighboring Bucks County and Chester County.

Montgomery County was just behind Orange County and San Jose, Ca., which have 28 and 25 percent of their listings mention schools, respectively. Meanwhile, schools as a selling point was less common in places like Las Vegas, NV (.7 percent); Cincinnati, OH (2.8 percent); Nashville, TN (3.4 percent); and Pittsburgh, PA (4.4 percent).

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Zillow + Trulia = Godzulia?

The cover that has people talking.

The cover that has people talking.

The cover alone has been making waves, but it’s the inside headline that really has people talking: “Zillow Shares Could Fall By Half.” When Barron’s speaks, investors listen, so this cover story is probably not what Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff wants to see just weeks after announcing a merger with former rival Until now, it’s been a good year for Zillow on Wall Street, with shares rising about 70 percent, according to Barron’s writer Bill Alpert. Trulia’s shares went up in the wake of the merger announcement too. And until now, market watchers have been optimistic. Perhaps too much so, Alpert says:

Bulls have dubbed the planned combination Godzulia, imagining that the two sites will grab a big piece of the $10 billion that realtors spend annually on advertising…Godzulia, however, may not be as awesome as feared. Neither company is expected to make a profit this year under generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, nor produce much free cash flow.

Not only that, but Barron’s says both sites have the same problem every other content-based website does: an inability to turn high traffic numbers into dollars:

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Clash of the Real Estate Titans: Zillow vs. Trulia

Clash-1 and are the two most popular real estate websites, where the majority of consumers go when they’re trying to find a home to buy. What you’ll find on both is syndicated information — listings copy written by the realtor; photos provided by the realtor; info about number of beds, baths, etc. But each portal, as they’re called, ups the ante by supplementing syndicated information with customized features: maps, lists of homes that have sold and how much they’ve sold for, property history, neighborhood amenities, etc.

As with the travel industry, consumers can now do much of their research online, which changes the role of real estate brokerages. For many consumers, an independent brokerage is no longer the first stop along the home-buying journey.

Companies like Zillow and Trulia don’t necessarily think of themselves as being in the business of real estate. Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s CEO, describes Zillow as a media company. In his first-quarter earnings call in May, he said: “We sell ads. We don’t sell houses.”

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Real Estate Ads: Hipsters, Dogs and Pregnant Bellies

video still from

A still from the video, “Doghouse Architects.”

Videos are fun, and we’ll get to those in a minute. But first, a primer for those who need one: Real estate portals are consumer-friendly websites that present real estate listings but aren’t tied to a specific brokerage or real estate firm.

The three that are most well-known are, and — the last of which has the most credibility because it works in tandem with the agents, as a sort of arm of the MLS. For that reason, it’s certainly the most accurate, and usually has the most up-to-date information about who to contact if a homebuyer wants more info about the home.

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Map: Neighborhoods With the Highest Rents

trulia rental map

Last months’s national rental rates rose by 3 percent year-over-year — but not in Philadelphia. According to Trulia, the city’s rents actually decreased by .1% percent (hey, it’s something) and the city is among the top 25 rental markets in the country.

The above map is the result of a year’s worth of collected data and shows median prices according to zip code. Those colored in red are the highest, while green displays the lowest. The highest rentals appear to have clustered around Center City ($1,850) and Rittenhouse Row ($1,750).

Last July, Kwelia (which did a rental-market heat map before it was cool) named Logan Square and Northern Liberties as the areas with highest rental medians. Back then Logan Square averaged to $1,765, while NoLibs came in at $1,700. Trulia’s map says the current median for those neighborhoods are $1,700 and $1,225, respectively.

How Much of Your Monthly Income Should Be Spent on Rent?

We’ve all heard the different calculations: You’ll need to spend a third of your salary on rent. Or don’t spend more than half. No, it’s actually half of your gross, but a third of your net.

Write out a monthly budget, and you’ll still be stymied by the question of utilities (included or no?) and the inevitable unexpected, which may be an oxymoron but is nonetheless accurate.

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On the Road to Recovery or Desperation? Either Way, It’s a Seller’s Market

trulia_housing_barometer_march_2013-300x209 Real estate website and research powerhouse Trulia keeps track of the housing recovery with its complex barometric tool (left) inspired by the mechanical engineering of great weather-trackers. And the news is good–sort of.

Last year around this time, existing home sales were 10 percent below where they are now. New home construction jumped almost 50 percent last month. A 1 percent dip in the ugly stuff–delinquency, foreclosure–is also a positive. Taking all that into account, Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko inched the barometer up to 56 from 54, saying the improvement was “even better than it looked.”

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