These Are the 10 Most Affordable Homes in Spruce Hill

Half of these are condos aimed largely at the student market. But even buying one of the homes on this list still won't guarantee your kid gets into Penn Alexander.

4200 Pine St. is one of the most attractive condo buildings in the city. A two-bedroom unit in it is among the ten most affordable homes currently on the market in Spruce Hill. | TREND image via TCS Management

University City has long had a reputation for being, as the onetime motto of the University City District put it, “left of center.”

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The high concentration of students and other academically inclined folks in the area’s core neighborhood of Spruce Hill cements that reputation.

The good news is that if you’re fiscally conservative, you can still find decent housing here.

But if your housing budget limits you to “First-Time Find” territory, you may want to get used to having students for your neighbors, for all of the homes NeighborhoodX found that were priced under $400,000 are condominiums, and all but one of those are in a building in the 4200 block of Chestnut Street that’s being marketed to students more than it is to long-term residents.

(How’s this work, you ask? Well, their parents buy the condo, or an investor buys it and rents it out to a student tenant. Or they’re purchased by graduate students, who are quieter. The one unit at 4200 Pine St. is in a building where the students living there are largely pursuing advanced degrees.)

In addition, the fourth-most-expensive of these ten least expensive homes is also a property being marketed to investors: the three-story rowhome is divided into three full-floor apartments — a one-bedroom on the first floor and two two-bedroom units on the second. You could occupy one of the units yourself, of course, and have your tenants pay your mortgage for you.

There’s a paradox in this price rundown, however: The pricier the housing unit in this neighborhood, the more bang you get for your housing buck.

“This analysis is a perfect example of how much metrics matter,” said Constantine Valhouli, director of research for NeighborhoodX. “The properties with the lowest asking prices here have the highest prices per square foot, while the ones with the largest price tags have considerably lower prices per square foot.”

For example, the priciest of the ten is 111 S. 43rd St. (asking $599,000 for 2,580 square feet, or $232 per square foot), while the most affordable in terms of asking price is 4215-17 Chestnut St. #206 ($274,000 for 675 square feet, or $405 per square foot).

The best housing value in Spruce Hill in price-per-square-foot terms is 4437 Sansom St., an 1870s Victorian row home that got a total makeover in 2005. It’s a 4-bedroom, two-full, one-half bath home with 2,122 square feet of interior space that’s listed for $435,000. That works out to a modest $204 per square foot.

Spruce Hill has lots to recommend it, including attractive neighborhood amenities, a vibrant dining scene, a world-class university for a next-door neighbor and one of the best public grade schools in the city and region in its center. Unfortunately, buying a home here will no longer guarantee your child goes to that school: Penn Alexander is so oversubscribed that even students living in its catchment area must go through a lottery to be assured a place in it.

Updated Jan. 7 to credit the correct brokerage that supplied the photo.