Why Philly Has Become a Millennial Magnet

Affordability's a big sore point for Millennials in search of homes. The latest HomExpert sales data contains a clue as to why more of them are searching in Philadelphia.

Trinities like this one at 1635 Rodman Street may well be Philadelphia's secret weapon in the affordability arms race for Millennials. Image | Zillow.com

Trinities like this one at 1635 Rodman Street may well be Philadelphia’s secret weapon in the affordability arms race for Millennials in search of starter homes. Image | Zillow.com

If you’ve been paying attention to the articles that have been popping up here of late, you may note a common theme running through several of them: Philadelphia as an attractive choice for Millennials looking to climb aboard the homeownership bandwagon.

Millennials have been moving to Philadelphia at a rapid clip: a study by commercial real estate brokerage JLL found that the city’s Millennial population jumped by 41 percent since 2006, and the percentage of Millennials in the city’s population rose faster than in any other of the nation’s 10 largest cities during that same time period. And at 26.5 percent, they represent a larger share of the population than in all but two of those cities (San Diego and Chicago).

One reason why: the city is lively and filled with interesting things to do, see and experience, most of them within easy walking, biking or transit distance of the places Millennials have chosen to live. But maybe an even bigger reason why is because they can actually afford to do, see and experience those interesting things because they’re not spending that much on a house.

This morning, we noted a Realtor.com blog post that pegged the median home sale price in the Philadelphia metropolitan area at $222,000, a figure topped only by metros in the nation’s interior and smaller cities. But that figure covers wide disparities within the region, as the first quarter 2016 HomExpert Market Report from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors shows.

According to BHHS Fox & Roach data, both existing-home sales and median home prices rose the most in Philadelphia County in the first quarter of 2016 compared to year-ago figures. The former jumped 17.5 percent, to 3,395, while the latter rose 12.5 percent, from $139,900 to $158,000.

Now reread those last two numbers and let them soak in for a minute.

There’s only one large city on the East Coast where housing can be had for less: Baltimore. And pace Camden Yards, the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, we simply have a lot more going on here. (Not to mention that we have Ukee Washington and Baltimore doesn’t.)

To be fair, many of the homes that drive that median figure downward are located in the places where Millennials aren’t, like the Northeast, Southwest Philly and North Philly. But some North Philly neighborhoods are now experiencing the first stirrings of interest from developers and younger buyers (which is why Sharswood is such a flash point now), and other once-depressed communities (two words: Point Breeze) have actually reached critical mass without yet experiencing soaring sales prices.

Which means that, barring some sudden reversal of fortune, Philly can expect to see even more Millennials pouring in for the foreseeable future.

But what about the rest of us, and the rest of the region? You can explore the latest BHHS Fox & Roach data in the infographic below.