Five Starter Homes in Terrific–and Tony–Neighborhoods

A recent report suggests that the number of first-time buyers is dwindling due to the number of people with student loan debt. But there are plenty of starter homes to be found in almost every part of town, including the ritzy ones.

There are very nice condos and co-ops that would be ideal for a single person or childless couple making their first investment. (They’re also good for suburbanites in search of an in-town pied-a-terre.) Sometimes such starters are found in the “downscale” part of a neighborhood, but when the neighborhood is Chestnut Hill, it’s not much of a hardship.

Neighborhood: Rittenhouse Square
Building: William Penn House
Address: 1919 Chestnut St., #1011
Specs: 462-square-foot studio
Asking price: $115,000
This is one of two identically priced units located next to each other on the 10th floor of the William Penn House; the listing notes that you could combine this with Unit 1012 next door to create a one-bedroom, 924-square-foot apartment with two baths–and at $230,000 for the pair, you’d still get in on Rittenhouse Square living for a relative pittance. The William Penn House dates to 1970 and is a very well maintained building with lots of amenities, including a 24-hour doorman, fitness center and 25-meter rooftop swimming pool and deck with great city views. The monthly co-op fee includes all utilities to boot, and valet parking is available for an additional $80 a month. Since it’s a co-op, not a condo, however, your bid has to pass muster with your future neighbors first, which may be one reason the city’s few co-ops are such bargains: the barriers to entry are different. We wonder, though, what condition these units are in: both were listed in July 2011 for $150,000 each and remain on the market after price reductions of 14, 4 and 8 percent over the course of 2012. Four other similar studios in this building have just gone on the market at list prices of $139,000 to $140,000.

Neighborhood: Old City

Building: Bridgeview Place
Address: 315 New St. #313
Specs: 468-square-foot studio
Asking price: $150,000
This condo has all the usual Old City style cues: high ceilings, exposed brick, big windows, recessed lighting. It also has a carpeted floor, a departure from the standard. It comes with a flexible room divider, an ‘80s-style kitchen with dishwasher and microwave, a tile floor bath–and a brand-new shared roof deck, nearly complete according to the listing. There’s also a 24-hour doorman and a private storage bin. The listing pitches this condo as a pied-a-terre or starter home, and it’s certainly priced right for those purposes. This unit went on the market in mid-June and remains at original list price.

Neighborhood: Society Hill
society hill starter home
Building: 19th-century Federal-style townhouse
Address: 413 Spruce St., #5
Specs: 487-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath
Asking price: $163,000
This condo is in very good shape; it’s modern through and through on the inside, with a 1980s kitchen with breakfast bar, dishwasher, oven and fridge and a wood-burning fireplace. The bedroom has a color accent wall, and according to the listing, there’s plenty of closet space plus extra storage in the basement. Originally listed for $179,000, it had a 6 percent price reduction in March and another 3 percent reduction this month.

Neighborhood: Queen Village

Building: Two-story townhouse
Address: 1016 S. Reese St.
Specs: 800-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath
Asking price: $165,000
This is the sort of property that usually gets the word “charming” slapped onto its description, but that term is absent from the listing for this recently rehabbed traditional Philly rowhouse dating to around the First World War. Earth tones dominate the downstairs decor: beige walls, hardwood floors, light wood cabinets in the granite-countertopped kitchen. The larger-than-usual rear yard also has a natural wood fence. Things lighten up a bit on the second floor, whose bedrooms and bathroom are all white (save for the floors: hardwood in one bedroom, carpet in the second, beige tile in the bath). This may be the one real bargain of the bunch: it’s at the southern end of Queen Village, halfway between the Delaware riverfront and the Italian Market, and it comes with six to 12 months of off-street parking included. It has, however, been on the market a while: first listed for $180,000 in mid-October, it had a 3 percent price cut in late April and a 6 percent cut in mid-June.

Neighborhood: Chestnut Hill

Building: 1970 rancher
Address: 8008 Stenton Ave.
Specs: 2200-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath
Asking price: $200,000
This home is on the Philadelphia side of the county line near Wyndmoor train station, so we may want to call its “Chestnut Hill” classification into question, but it’s in the right ZIP code, so it gets a pass. The house had been owned by a dentist whose office was in its basement, so a large family looking for a Chestnut Hill address or a buyer who could use either a home office or an in-law apartment might find this an attractive option. The house is in excellent condition with well maintained carpeting and hardwood floors. The basement has a two-car garage, its own entrance on the side and full-sized windows at its rear, so it can be adapted to just about any use. It looks like its owner is in a hurry to sell it; it went on the market in late April for $225,000 and its price has been reduced twice – a 1 percent reduction two days after it was listed and a 12 percent reduction in mid-June.