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October 8, 2007

Low Rise Philadelphia Condominiums

Filed under: Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 4:37 pm

A low rise condominium here in Center City Philadelphia can best be described as a three to five story warehouse or townhouse conversion project.

Generally speaking, low rise Philadelphia condos are without an elevator.  And almost always without a doorman, characterized by a lack of service, and thus coupled with a lack of high condo fees.  Under the guise, you get what you pay for, well… you get what you pay for.

No one is going to walk your dog for you, return your videos, or help you unload packages from your car as you pull up in front of your Center City condominium building.  A hallway light bulb needs replacing?  Get your ladder.  Such an approach to a Philadelphia condominium association may provide a feeling of fewer “rules” to live under and, therefore, make the condo association more appealing.  However, they are certainly not appealing to every condo buyer in the market for a Philadelphia condo.

Converted Warehouses into Low rise Philadelphia Condominiums

Low Rise Philadelphia Condominiums 

I remember back in the late 1980’s when low rise Center City condos were making an appearance.  You see, we’re about 15 years behind NYC as far as housing trends are concerned.  Prior to the early 80’s, there really was no such thing as a low rise condo to speak of here in Philadelphia. Washington Mews, at 11th and Lombard, (the oldest condo association in the state of PA, I am told) was here, but that was about it.

During the Go-Go years of the mid-80’s, developers had the bright idea of taking a big row house/brownstone styled apartment or single family, and turning it into condo buildings.  Everyone was doing it.

The historic tax credit, I hear, made this concept desirable for a number of developers. But to buyers, the concept was not widely accepted in Philadelphia.  Buyers kinda’ kept away from this new idea of home ownership.

Then 1987 hit, and with that, real estate values tanked – especially here in Center City.

A very high number of these unsold units went to the RTC, and sold off for pennies on the dollar.  I must have sold 100 of these units.  Many for $25,000 each; many I had a tough time selling even at that price.  I sold one at 238 N. 3rd Street.  I think it sold for $32,000.  I believe it just resold this year for about $250,000 (somewhere in that ballpark).

Low rise Philadelphia condos have come a long way since then.  For example, in the mid-90’s, if you had $160,000 to spend, you could either buy a one bedroom on the 16xx block of Spruce or a two bedroom single family on, say, the 16xx block of Pemberton.  It was the first time in Center City history, in my opinion, where the low rise became popular, sought after, and generally acceptable as a substantial residential purchase.  Buyers were willing to trade in square footage, for a perceived better location.  That trade off was made possible by the purchase of a low rise Center City condo.

Anyway, low rise Philadelphia condos are as much in demand as many of the high rise buildings.  Generally speaking, in my experience, the buyer who is looking for a loft/ townhouse conversion (low rise) condominium is not the buyer looking for a condo in a high rise.

I don’t see a lot of substitutability as far as buyers who are willing to buy either a high or a low rise condo.  With a wide variety of styles, structural and architectural elements possible, low rise Center City condos are seen as the “Hip” alternative to high rise condo living here in downtown Philadelphia.

Whether you’re interested in a high rise or low rise Philadelphia condo, let me help you find the perfect condo to fit your lifestyle.  Give me a call today at 215-521-1523 or drop me an email at

Mark Wade
Prudential Fox and Roach REALTORS®
530 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106

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