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October 2017
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March 20, 2017

Waterfront Living In Center City (Delaware River)

    Twenty years ago, you would have been either a pioneer or some kind of loon to have ventured to a waterfront area of Center City in terms of condo living. That certainly has changed. As I haul buyers around town year after year, I am finding that the possibility of living on the waterfront has gained in popularity and overall acceptance.
    The Waterfront Sq. condos at 901 N. Penn, as well as Pier 3, Pier 5, and Dockside Condominiums at 717 S. Columbus Blvd. have all grown in terms of demand, value escalation, and a shortened “days-on-market” quotient. Like any neighborhood, there are pros and cons and the following is what my buyers generally say:
Quiet Atmosphere
Easy Access to I-95 and Jersey
Remote Location
    Seems most buyers have this notion that when they move to town they will no longer need their car. That notion only goes so far and for so long. New Center City residents either get the Uber app or simply take the bus or a taxi when they want to go across town. Perhaps the “remote location” notion is becoming less important to a number of new buyers in town as the popularity of waterfront living is growing substantially.
I have lived in Center City for 27 years and have been at Waterfront Sq. since 2011. In all honesty, I couldn’t be happier. I drive my car everywhere anyway- To the gym, the office, the drugstore, Whole Foods, etc. The notion of a remote location is actually a plus in light of the benefits…

• • •

March 13, 2017

Popular Seller Mistakes

Most sellers are smart and if not, at least teachable.  Though, when they are not, I see them leave money on the table. Here are some common mistakes I see sellers make:
1) Allowing agents to put crappy photos into the MLS
    I see this ALL the time. The MLS allows 25 photos any many online sites will rank your position based on the number of photos. Since out of town/out of state buyers usually know what they want to see when they contact me, their list always corresponds to the quality of the photos submitted to the MLS.  Insist upon professional photos or find a new agent.
2) Moving out physically, and then mentally doing the same
So often I show condos where the seller has moved- both physically and mentally. Dirt, debris are left behind and the condo looks like someone left in the middle of the night. First impressions MATTER..and buyers will pay for that impression.
3) Not telling your insurance carrier that you sold your home
IF you seller your condo in the middle of any insurance pay cycle- you should call your insurance carrier and request the refund of the unused portion of that pay cycle. Your mortgage company will not do this for you.
4) Not adjusting your price as your condo sits on the market
Some of the best deals for buyers are those condos that sit on the market for a while- as long as the seller is adjusting his or her price accordingly. When a seller doesn’t move on the asking price, the listing gets stale and the demand for that unit will drop. So will its value.
5) Not staging or at least preparing your home for the market
Buyers don’t buy bricks and mortar. They buy feelings and emotions. Staging works. And every seller should be spending around $500-$1000 to prepare his or condo for sale such as:
* Minor Grout and Caulking around tubs, baseboards, etc.
* Rehanging Closet doors that are off their tracks
* Minimal touch up painting
* De-cluttering (this is huge)
* Minor cosmetic fixes throughout

• • •

March 8, 2017

Picking Apart Le Grenier 1034 Spruce St.

These Philadelphia condos at 11th and Spruce Streets offer sleek, contemporary, condominium units in a very desirable Washington Square West location – a five minute walk from Center City shopping, dining & nightlife and a short walk to Jefferson Medical University Hospital! 1034 Spruce Street is an elevator building, with a modern lobby and attractive common hallways throughout. Bicycle storage is offered in the basement. Most units offer wood floors and large bright windows. Boutique in nature, Le Grenier houses a limited number of flats on each floor and every condo unit in the building has a buffer between units- be it a staircase or elevator. A wonderful addition to the Philadelphia real estate set, the Washington Square West condos show very well, have great light and the upper level units have fantastic Philadelphia skyline views!

Additional Information:

  • Neighborhood: Washington Square West
  • 19 Total Condominiums
  • Parking available at 11th and Clinton
  • Condos are 973-1101 Sq. Ft.
  • Elevator
  • Pet-Friendly
  • Individual HVAC with Central Air
  • Washer/Dryer in Units
  • Cross Streets: 11th and Spruce
  • Walk Score: 97 out of 100
  • Compare to: The Clinton Condos, 251 S. 24th St. Condos 


Le Grenier Condos at 1034 Spruce Street- My Two Cents
Le Grenier condominiums (aka 301 S. 11th Street) is located on the southeast corner of 11th and Spruce Streets, this project arose from the ashes of a former kinda’ icky apartment building that caught on fire and burned back around 2002 or so. Le Grenier has a maximum of three units per floor…and no two units on any floor share a dividing wall- between units one and two is the elevator shaft and between the other two condos is a stairwell (so perhaps no noise from the neighbors).
We have sold four units in this 19 unit building and I think the lack of alternatives in terms of proximity to Jefferson Medical, as well as a great central location in town is really a strong “one-two” punch. Rental parking is across the street and you can ALWAYS catch a cab outside your front door at this address. I think this modern looking little mid-rise condo building is really kinda’ hip and modern and there are not many similar buildings around town like it. 1034 Spruce Street. condos max out at just over 1100 sq ft and are popular with the Jefferson Medical set due to proximity. Floor to ceiling windows provide superior light and views and the condos at LeGrenier are finished in a modern hip way with nice baths and open kitchens. And the higher floors have a killer view of the skyline. 1034 Spruce offers no amenities beyond an elevator and some bicycle storage in the basement. The lack of shared amenities equates to condo fees being reasonable. Each unit has its own HVAC system and hot water tank. The building has handicapped modifications in the lobby and a ramp. I think 1034 Spruce Street has a built-in resale market being so close to the neighboring hospitals. I would look for values to hold steady over the next decade or so and I think the units at Le Grenier are a smart buy and we have named the building one of the Ten Best in Center City 2009 .
Rarely ’em if you can find ’em!

• • •

March 2, 2017

The Phildelphian at 2401 Pennsylvania Ave.

As most of my long time readers know, I am a HUGE fan of the condos at 24th and The Parkway. I have sold many many units in the building over the years and have recently sold a number of the larger units in the association.
Here are some professional photos that I have had recently taken of some of the common areas for those who may not be familiar with the building:

And here is a little more info on what I know:
City life is easy at The Philadelphian. You’re covered with a full time staff of engineers, security, concierge, doormen, maintenance, housekeeping, and administrative support. It’s all at your fingertips at The Philadelphian from security access to elevators to your private living space. the underground garage has valet parking, there is an indoor AND outdoor pool for year-round enjoyment, and a fitness center with saunas for starters. The first floor consists of professional suites with a variety of businesses, health care professionals, attorneys, Little Pete’s restaurant as well as Klein’s Market, a pharmacy and more. Just a short walk to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boathouse Row, Eastern State Penitentiary, Rodin Museum, and The Franklin Institute. All utilities and Comcast basic service included in monthly maintenance fee. the common spaces include a marble lobby, a 2000 square foot social room with adjoining kitchen for meetings, films and events, and an in-house library, card room, art studio, and on-site management suite employed by the Philadelphian Owner’s Association. The Philadelphian offers diversity in floor plans from modest studios-most with magnificent balconies-to opulent 3 bedroom residences offering over 2000 square feet of luxury living. 

Additional Information:

Neighborhood: Art Museum Area

756 Total Condos

Most In-Unit Washer/Dryer

Unit Sizes: 448-2121 sq. ft.


HVAC Supplied by building

On-Site Rental Parking

Cross Streets: 24th and Pennsylvania

Walk Score: 93 out of 100

Compare to: 2601 Pennsylvania Ave., The Tivoli Condos

• • •

February 24, 2017

Waving The White Flag Faster Than I Can Down A Martini

 Buyers can be a nervous lot and often crack due to cold feet, uncertainty, or perhaps being unfamiliar
with the process of buying a condo.
I am aware that it kinda’ su*ks when a buyer
waves the white flag and gives up on your condo
during the buying process.
If buyers crack they usually do so because:
1) The home inspection turns up hefty shortcomings
2) Condo docs paint a picture different from what buyers may have thought
        (think pet policies, or the associations lack of funds)
3) Undisclosed pending assessments
A good real estate agent can prepare buyers for the obstacles that will occur in any real estate transaction and can help meet buyers expectations by explaining the ins and outs of condominiums here in Center City. Though not always, but experience does sometimes count!
 If you are looking for a Realtor who can prepare buyers for the obstacles that are inherent in every deal and hopefully smooth out the bumps in the road then give me a call and let’s chat about selling your condo.
No pressure….
An educated buyer is a happy buyer. Happy buyers
are what EVERY seller should seek-
They can make your life miserable if they are unhappy.
25 years of selling here in town. I know of what I speak 🙂

• • •

February 23, 2017

Ask the Big Brain Realtor -Common Answers to Common Questions

I get asked a lot of questions. Tons actually.

    I have no problem with questions. In fact I love questions-gives me the opportunity to be a big brain know-it-all. When I was a kid, my father called me a ham. I don’t think he was too far off. Whatever….here are some commonly asked questions asked by buyers and sellers and the most direct answers I can come up with- My answers are BOLD
1) What will my future taxes be?
      I dunno’ – I can’t see into the future.
2) Should I get a Lawyer?
  Sure- IF you get a real estate lawyer 🙂
3) Should I have an inspection?
Yes- Please please do.
4) What will this condo be worth in 10 years?
      Crystal ball broken- check back later.
5) Do I have to attend settlement?
     Usually not. But a buyer who is getting a mortgage may have to attend.
6) Can I move in (either myself or my stuff) prior to settlement?
   Uh, no.
7) What are condo docs?
 See the answer to question # 2 above.
8) Do I have to pay condo fees?
     Yes. All condos have fees. All.

• • •

February 20, 2017

Common Blunders in Condo Buying and Selling aka- Nit-pickin’ yourself our of a deal

Scenario 1:  Having the Last Word

Seller is asking $499k for a condo

Buyer and seller go back and forth on an offer and after a few days the buyer says -$480,000 is my “Highest and Best” offer for this parcel. And then seller comes back and says $480,001. Really? You really want to be a goof and say that? You are pissing the buyer off, and it will probably  cost you much much more in terms of anxiety, anguish, and animosity within the transaction as you are locked into a legally binding contract with this buyer for say the next 60-90 days. Perhaps you should just zip your lip and take the freakin’ $480k instead of having to have the last word. Don’t forget, buyers still have to perform a home inspection.

Scenario 2: Can’t See the Forest For the Trees

Seller asks $499k for a condo

A condo that is a bank-owned unit that should be selling for $800k if it weren’t so dirty, missing all the appliances, and listed with Susy Bag O’ Donuts out of Erie, Pa. (it happens…bank foreclosures are often listed by those with no connection to the area). And as a buyer, you get the Big-Brain idea to come in at $400k…because after all, the market is slow, weak, and uncertain.  OK….you are an idiot. If you can’t recognize such an overtly strong bargain, and see that the huge upside is the fact that the condo is grossly underpriced at $499k….then maybe you need to do a little more homework on prices and values here in Center City.

Scenario 3: Why Isn’t My Realtor Using a Magic Wand?

Sellers asks $499k for a condo

As a buyer, you top out at $480,000 and the seller will still not accept your offer. And recent “comps” suggest the seller is correct as no other unit in the building has sold for under $500k. You then turn to your Realtor and complain that you can’t get the property for $480k. And you are relentless. Even in the face of the facts. But you persist. You dump your Realtor because he or she refuses to wave their magic wand and make this deal happen. You then drive down the road, and see your Realtor Singing and Dancing in the middle of the intersection of Broad and Walnut. It happens.

Opportunity exists in all market conditions, and the current state of affairs in Center City should indeed be taken into account when negotiating the purchase or sale of any parcel in Philadelphia. But knowing when you have crossed the line and driven right into Crazy Town might be helpful when finding the perfect condo and help you negotiate the best possible and realistic terms.

• • •

February 15, 2017

Every Buyer and Seller wants to know one thing…

What do I get for those super high  %&%#)@$
 condo fees?

I get it…everyone thinks condo fees are always higher than they should be and many folks are unclear about where their condo dollars go:
1) Master Insurance Policy – Depending on the size of your building, this cost alone can account for up to 50% of your condo fees. More spread out over larger buildings but still a huge proportion of your monthly fees.
2) Building Amenities- Pool, parking, elevators, doormen and any utilities that may be included in your condo fees like water & sewer, or maybe heat and central air. Unless of course elevators run on magic pixie dust- you are going to have to pay to keep them running smoothly and safely.
3) Upkeep and Maintenance- Of course this is the one factor that varies greatly and plays an integral part of your resale ability and resale price. You gotta’ pay to play folks- and value retention and upkeep of your common areas go hand in hand. There is no avoiding that equation.
and buyers should know that!

• • •

February 14, 2017

An Explosion Of Bad Ideas

Looking to just put your condo on the market and NOT actually sell it?
Here are some great tips:
1) Put a tenant in your condo who actually doesn’t want to move and therefore never cleans, never confirms an appointment, or locks the deadbolt to prevent Realtors from showing your condo. His pile of dirty socks strewn about the living room floor is a real plus as well.
2) Don’t bother to clean. The new owner can do that- right?
3) Be home and give the tour yourself. That always goes over well with a buyer and his or her agent.
4) Don’t declutter and for heaven sake- don’t stage! Because you think buyers can look past that superficial stuff.
5) Make sure you get the “last word” in on every part of the negotiating process. Forego the old rule of “bird in the hand.”
    However there is one tool that you can use to overcome these obstacles- Price  your condo so low that a buyer just can’t resist.  All joking aside, there is a fine line between serving up bad ideas and giving your condo away. Listing your condo for sale is like negotiating any contract- there has to be some give and take on both sides. Much like any good marriage where you give 60% and take 40% and you call it a day. That is pretty much how the Real Estate world turns.

• • •

February 2, 2017

Do Expiring Tax Abatements  Equate To Lower Resale Values  In the Center City Condo Arena?

    There are a number of buildings in town whose tax abatements have run their course and an even bigger pile whose abatements expire over the next few years. The net effect on resale values and demand comes into question for many buyers. Here is my opinion:
     Buildings such as The Phoenix at 1600 Arch St. and Dockside at 717 S. Columbus Blvd. have expired abatements. Buildings like York Square, WaterFront Sq (in the Peninsula and Regatta towers),many Naval Square units-as well as many other buildings erected here in town in the mid-2000’s are soon to expire. I have heard (though I certainly am usually not one to speak on behalf of city hall) that the tax rate for condos will be 1.34% of assessed value when abatements expire.
   If we look at the sales data from buildings whose abatement has expired over time, the net effect of an expired tax abatement is almost nil when looking at resale prices, demand and values. I have not seen any instance of value dropped solely based upon the expiration of a tax abatement.   Why, you ask? Here is what I gather from my many condo buyers in town:
   Lee Iococca adopted a theory he called “The Equality Of Sacrifice” – which I interpret to mean that as long as everyone is in the same boat (of an unabated tax bill) – then any fears of inequity are diminished.  And I believe that to be true. FULL ten-year tax abatement offers are few and far between in town these days
…. Except for maybe the last three units at WaterFront Square in the Reef building and a smattering of smaller new construction projects here and there.
   I think that buyers generally do not expect to see a “game changing”  benefit from the balance of any tax abatement. The entire market is rapidly aging in the expiration of the abatements and therefore I believe that any partial abatement period is kinda’ icing on the cake. It certainly can sweeten a deal for many, but I don’t think this is the end all, be all determining factor if a buyer buys “this unit or that”. But again, it certainly does not hurt to inherit the balance of an abatement 🙂
   Center City is more attractive than any abatement. We’re growing in size and popularity and the expiration of abatements and almost certainly isn’t going to keep anyone out of  town or out of any specific building in town.

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