Philly’s (Almost) Tops for Young First-Time Buyers, Says NAR

Lots of affordable homes, low unemployment, a safer climate and the Citywide Special are some of the reasons the Realtors picked Philly as a great place to start out as a homeowner.

Bob and Barbara's may not be the birthplace of the Citywide Special, but it is a shrine to its beer. The $3 shot-and-beer special is one of those "livability" factors that contributed to Philly's high ranking as a city for first-time homebuyers.

Bob and Barbara’s, a perennial on the Foobooz 50 Best Bars list, is the birthplace of the Citywide Special, one of those “livability” factors that contributed to Philly’s high ranking as a city for first-time homebuyers. Photo | Trevor Dixon

The real estate rebound has left Millennial would-be homeowners in the dust in many cities, but not this one.

Nationally, the number of first-time homebuyers continues to fall, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. In 2015, the industry trade group says, 32 percent of all home buyers were making their first home purchase, down from 33 percent the year before and the lowest share in nearly 30 years.

But according to number-cruncher Yuqing Pan writing on the blog, there are still cities where first-time homebuyers stand a fighting chance of getting a good deal in a place where they will enjoy living. Of the “Top 10 Cities For First-Time Homebuyers—And Not Just Because They’re Affordable,” there’s only one city in the country that’s better for Millennial house-hunters than Philadelphia, and that’s Portland.

No, not the place where young people go to retire. The one in Maine, from which the Oregon city took its name.

Pan produced his list by looking at five factors: Affordability (the house price-to-income ratio for 25- to 34-year-olds), Inventory (number of homes for sale per 1000 households), Mortgage availability (the share of mortgages taken out by 25- to 34-year-olds), Job growth (unemployment rate below the national average), and Livability (the number of restaurants, schools, retail stores, health care facilities and arts and entertainment venues per 100,000 residents).

By the numbers, or at least those reported in the article, Philly shouldn’t rank so high: both its median house sale price of $222,000 and its unemployment rate of 4.8 percent put it in the middle of the pack of 10. But those figures are low enough, the article notes, that New Yorkers are flocking here: about 27,000 make the move each year (outpacing the flow in the opposite direction, by the way), lured by the prospect of actually being able to afford enjoying those big-city amenities after paying the mortgage.

But what really makes the city the second-best choice for Millennials not living in New York? Ukee Washington, for one. Besides being Denzel’s second cousin, the CBS3 anchor, according to Pan, is “quite possibly the coolest news anchor in America.” Then there’s our oh-so-affordable stress reliever of choice: the Citywide Special—a shot of Jim Beam and a can of PBR, available for only $3 at bars all over town. The city’s dramatically lower violent crime rate also got a nod.

But violent crime is usually a big-city problem. And Philadelphia, in fact, is the largest city on a Top 10 list that’s dominated by small to mid-sized metropolitan centers like Portland. Only one other of the nation’s 25 biggest metro areas made this list: Minneapolis, which placed ninth.

Pennsylvania cities are also overrepresented on this list, with three of them making it, more than any other state. Besides Philadelphia, Allentown (#4) and Harrisburg (#6) also ranked high, based largely on their resurgent economies, though Harrisburg also rates for a lively live music scene and the Allentown area produces more beer by volume than anywhere else in Pennsylvania.

The article also list the five worst cities for first-time homebuyers. All of them are in California. ‘Nuff said.