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March 23, 2015

Let’s look closer at the Low Rise/ Brownstone condo segment of Center City…

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 1:39 pm
 

    Known for low condo fees and uniqueness brownstone / low rise styled condos are an option in Center City that I find are becoming more popular for many condo shoppers. Known for their really groovy features, low rise condos have shown to have good resale over time, and often show up in some of the strongest residential locations in Center City.

    The condo associations tend to almost always favor pets, rules can be a bit more lax than a high rise, and many units have either decks, parking, fireplaces, or say an abundance of original detailing. Here are some of my favorite low rise/ brownstone condo buildings in town- Due to either curb appeal, unit layout, value retention, or just an overwhelmingly serene locale:

1) Roberts Quay: 1035 Spruce – 18 units, a huge variety of layouts, and probably the most handsome building in 19107. Sits on the NE corner of 11th and Spruce. (see above and you can see what I mean).

2) 2100 Delancey: Again, huge curb appeal, an array of unit sizes and wrought with original detail. Many units have fireplaces, ornate windows, and of course a great location.

3) 251 S. 24th St: A very rare loft styled new condo building in Fitler Square that few have heard of/know of/have seen. Garage parking, huge windows, and sits in a quiet pocket of Fitler Square. High end contemporary finishes throughout each unit.

4) The Clinton: 1023 Clinton St. – Now here is a stunning building. Sits on the corner of 11th and Clinton St- serene as they come. Some units have parking, and many units have south facing windows- many completely shielded by huge trees. Modest condo fees and attractive pricing.

5) St. James Court: Hidden between 5th/6th Street, Locust and Walnut sits this enclave of “uppers and lowers”. Rental parking next door at Indep Place. Great space, quiet location, handsome exteriors, outside space for every unit, and two story living rooms. A great track record of resales / value retention over the past dozen years.
And of course I should mention:
Kahn Park Place at 1119-25 Pine
Wash Sq. West Condos on the 12xx block of South St.
Portico Row – 9xx Block of Spruce St.
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March 9, 2015

Condo ONLY Sales And Inventory Data

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 8:54 am
(When I have nothing better to do, I like to run through all MLS data…)
2401
19102 – Broad to 16th Streets
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 41
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 8
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 72
19103- Rittenhouse/Fitler/Logan Circle
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 89
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 31
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 244
19106- Old City/Society Hill
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 103
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 30
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 160
19107 Washington Square West
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 48
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 8
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 97
19130 Art Museum Area
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 82
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 30
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 187
19146 Graduate Hospital Area
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 40
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 10
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 88
19147 Queen Village/Bella Vista
Number Of Active Condos For Sale = 67
Number Of “Pending” Condos = 19
Number of Sold Condos in Past 12 Months = 85
So just what the heck does this all mean?
Pretty simple equation- shrinking inventory coupled with growing buyer demand means that condos are selling for much closer to asking price than a year ago, they are selling faster, and there are fewer options.
AND…the spring market will “officially” be here in a week or two- When we hit our first 60 degree day, the buyers will come out in full force.
This scenario is playing out all over town- be it in the condo or the single
family segment.
Prices are going up. 
Period.
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March 2, 2015

Smoking Policies Effect On Condo Values

Filed under: Center City Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 10:10 am
 I have had groups of buyers in my car almost everyday for the past 26 years and after talking with and listening to an overwhelming number of buyers- I do not believe that a restrictive smoking policy will negatively affect values. It may decrease demand nominally, but overall I do not see how a smoking ban would, could, or has negatively affected any values for condos in Center City like Center City One at 1326 Spruce St.   I also think that the world is gravitating towards smoking bans in many areas (not just residential condos) and think the trend will continue. So unless a buyer wanted to move to the moon- there really is no avoiding the non-smoking trend and therefore really will not hamper values in my opinion. The following are condo buildings that have a NO SMOKING policy in effect:
Symphony House at 400-440 S. Broad St.
Society Hill Towers at 200-220 Locust St.
Hopkinson House at 604 S. Washington Sq.
 The Rittenhouse Hotel & Condos at 210 W. Rittenhouse
The Dorchester at 224 W. Rittenhouse
    I think more damning to values of particular buildings in town would be restrictive pet policies. 
   It is difficult to argue that the largest buildings should allow dogs. Yet implementing restrictions based upon size and breed may ultimately increase demand and ultimately resale values. I have seen many buyers in my day pass on particular buildings due to restrictive pet policies.  Buyers will more readily give up on a particular building than to give up their pets…reasonably so.

 

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February 24, 2015

Every Buyer and Seller wants to know one thing…

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate,Of Interest to Buyers,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 9:51 am
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 Philadelphia 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. 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. (The Philadelphian)  is a good example of an all-inclusive building where almost all amenities are covered in your condo fees.
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.
IF YOU OWNED A SINGLE FAMILY HOME- YOU WOULD HAVE TO PAY THESE EXPENSES OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET.  THERE ARE SUCH THINGS AS
“SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE” FEES IN THIS WORLD
and buyers should know that!
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February 9, 2015

Attention Developers…

Filed under: Center City Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 1:55 pm

ATTENTION DEVELOPERS….

Converting a Brownstone to Condos in Center City?

As the market begins to heat up, so does the demand for smaller associations like brownstone styled condos that tend to have lower condo fees, and a hint more character than say a high rise may possess. Here are a few hints a developer may want to keep in mind:

1) Make sure to carpet the common areas. No one wants to hear the owner of say unit 2R clomp his or her way through the halls with their high heels. Keep noise to a minimum in common areas- hardwood floor and or tile is not appropriate. Carpet these areas. Please.

2) Think about splitting your water bills up- meter each unit separately. Many buyers may be part timers or weekend city warriors, and may benefit from not having to pay for water that they don’t use on a daily basis.

3) If the city allows, and you have space in the basement, put up two by fours and chicken wire storage units. And buy a dehumidifier for the association. The minimal cost will pay for itself in terms of marketability like the Commodore Barry Condos.

4) Common Area paint should be done in a low gloss finish. And spend a few extra dollars on front door security and hallway lighting. Again, a small cost, but huge in the minds of many Center City brownstone styled condo buyers.

5) When you are done building the condos, take a step back, and put in another $2500 into each unit in terms of groovy paint, wallpaper, and lighting. You will no doubt be able to recoup every penny of that visual investment (and them some) and the condos will sell quicker. Much quicker.

Remember, your competition is going to be at least a decade or two old- so modern up to date cosmetics are exceedingly important for marketability. I find that what kills a developer in terms of profitability, is the time it takes to market a condo. A vacant condo is simply just p*ssing money down a drain.  I would suggest there is a fine line between over-improving, and hitting the market just right- in terms of pricing and your final product. Need some more advice?

Call me, Let’s chat.

Mark Wade
215.521.1523 / 215.627.6005
www.CenterCityCondos.com
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox and Roach Realtors

 

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February 2, 2015

Buying Pre-Construction From a Set of Plans…

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 12:50 pm

Remember that 1960’s board game “Mystery Date?”
Where you didn’t know if you are going to get the dreamboat or the dud? Well, that is not unlike buying a new construction Center City condominium from a set of plans….
Unless you have a crystal
ball or are perhaps from the future.
Some buyers win, some…not so much.
    Evidence of both scenarios have clearly played out in town over the past decade as buyers often purchased from developers’ plans.
108 Arch St. clearly handed the brave buyers a lovely place to hang their hat as finishes, layout, scale, light, ceiling height, nearly every factor turned out to be top notch- not to mention the finish quality.
   There is an upside to buying from plans- and that generally is a developer’s willingness to make alterations to his plans free of charge. Don’t need that 3rd bedroom, but want a larger closet and bath? Done. Want to pick your finishes in the kitchen, flooring and tile options, etc? No problem. Altering a floor plan or finishes prior to the developer buying or completing the interior work usually can be negotiated at no charge to the buyer…so some flexibility/benefit can be achieved by buying new construction.
   But the same can’t be said for many other condo buildings in town. Examples of poor workmanship, values that deflate rapidly, and buyers left holding the bag are not uncommon. Because truth be told, there are many instances where you really don’t know what the hell you are buying. And getting the developer to finish the unit, should a significant punch list survive settlement, might be like pulling teeth.
There are winners and losers when buying pre-construction.
My advice?
 Get a good real estate lawyer from the get-go, and DO NOT settle until the condo is finished. Don’t settle with a punch-list IF it can be avoided.  Some developers are true to their word…and honestly will service your condo post-sale. I think a few good examples of this would be my experiences with Pearl Properties,Toll Brothers and Rufo Properties. All were really great at post-settlement follow up.
Oh, and when the completion date is set for say June 1st…plan on moving in August 1st or so (in any given year). I’m just sayin’….the best laid plans can get held up in town and so many things are out of the control of a developer…so plan ahead.
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January 26, 2015

Answering Condo Reserve Questions

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 9:28 am
No two condo associations are the same…much like snowflakes.
1) How much money does my condo association have in the kitty? 
  You really are not going to know the answer to that question until you purchase the condo and review the condo docs. The state of Pennsylvania allows for a five day review of condo docs for you to make an informed decision. Some buildings stockpile a boatload of $$ – and others simply just assess when needed. I usually find that the very small buildings and the very expensive / exclusive buildings in town don’t keep that much $$ on hand- their way of making improvements is to simply assess owners when needed.
2) How much does Fannie Mae Require to go into reserves every month for the building to be “warrantable?”
Although there is no set amount (for the ability of buyers who want to buy in your building) probably a good idea to be setting 10-15% aside every month for capital improvements.
3) What are capital expenditures?
   Reserves for deferred maintenance (performed less frequently than yearly in order to maintain the asset’s useful life) and capital expenditures (purchasing or replacing assets that have a useful life over one year) are required for certain building components unless the board votes annually to waive and/or reduce reserve funding.
4) WTF is a capital contribution??? 
   Buyer pays two months worth of condo fees to the ASSOCIATION- this does not go to the seller and this helps to build the kitty for future improvements. This contribution is now applicable for almost ALL condo sales in town like the Barclay Condominium.
5) How much should my association have in reserves?
     This really is a function of the board’s goals and the current condition of the entire parcel including the roof, windows, elevators, etc. Most folks I speak with suggest 10% -15% of the TOTAL annual intake of condo fees to help build the kitty. A professional reserve study may be in order to best guide an association- call for details and I may be able to help with this. Maybe not 🙂

 

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January 19, 2015

Tossing Up Red Flags Faster Than I Can Down A Martini

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 10:37 am
Being on the inside track of the Center City condo market, I am at the epicenter of buyer feedback and I am privy to their thoughts and I see what buyers consider to be red flags. Here is what they are telling me. This list could also be called                        ” Things My Condo Buyers Quickly Reject:”
1) A condo with a  two-story spiral staircase
2) Poorly kept common areas of low rise condo buildings
3) Low owner occupancy ratios in any size condo association
4) Lawsuits against the association
5) An unusually high “days on market” for units within the building
6) A clear lack of upkeep and maintenance for any size building. Buyers are usually acutely aware of the lack of upkeep and have little trouble identifying such buildings.
Certainly there are a plethora of reasons why a buyer will buy or reject any given condo here in town. The above list of six examples are the most common that I see.

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January 5, 2015

Real Estate Agent Cliques

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate,Of Interest to Buyers,Of Interest To Sellers,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 11:37 am

The Real Estate community here in Center City is not unlike High School. You have your Prom Queens, your Stoners, and your Jocks….not to mention the Wallflowers and the Loudmouths. All kinds of agents make our world go around…and that is great. Most agents are nice and cooperative but there are of course the real A-Holes that some agents try to avoid like the plague.

And if you think the Center City Real Estate community doesn’t have its own clique- then you would be incorrect. Some Center City Condo listings get more traffic than others just due to their basic popularity, like the Academy House at 1420 Locust St. Being cooperative, flexible, playing by the rules, etc., all have their benefits. I have heard repeatedly that agents will avoid certain listings because they don’t want to work with this or that agent for the next two to three months of their lives. I get it. I am not saying I condone such behavior, but I do understand it. I too do not want to deal with someone who is not going to return my phone calls, has a reputation of being a pain to deal with, or maybe even known to be a hint evasive or is just someone who is known for not being able to help carry a deal to closing because they haven’t (say) been honest with their clients. Or just plain aloof.

    And being “In with the In crowd” gives me access to properties that less popular agents can’t arrange.  I am in the clique, you see :-)   And I sell a lot of Philadelphia condos….so I may get a hint more wiggle room for weekend appointments, or last minute appointments. Or just get waltzed right past the doorman when I walk into a building.

 

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December 29, 2014

More Super Duper Condo Comp Data

Click the LINKS above for Full details
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530 Walnut Street, Suite 480
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Direct: 215.521.1523 ~ Office: 215.627.6005
Fax: 215.627.3142
Email: Mark@CenterCity.com
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