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August 18, 2014

TRENDS in the Center City Condo Environment Over the Past 25 Years

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 8:38 am

  Like haircuts and waist size, many things have a tendency to change over time. Here are some notable changes I have seen to the Center City condo market over the past 25 years-

1) The Disbursement of Wealth – In the mid 1980’s, if you had a million dollars to buy a condo, you landed on Rittenhouse Sq. and probably in 1820 or 1830 Rittenhouse. Today- your imagination and money can take you to far away exotic places like- Old City, Bella Vista, and the Loft District. Large high-end condos have spread around town to almost all neighborhoods.

2) The introduction of “High End Low-Rise/Brownstone” styled condos- The defeat of many a high end brownstones over the years was the lack of an elevator. Anyone looking to buy high end in a brownstone probably isn’t going to be fond of stairs. From 1030-2 Spruce (Knightsbridge Condos) to the lovely 1904 Spruce and 2138 Lombard, the high-end market is finding its way into groovy Brownstone and soft loft conversions- with elevators.

3) No trend in Co-op growth- No new ones since before the mid-1980’s. They fly well in NYC, but never really caught on here in town in terms of their growth in numbers. 1901 Walnut is the premier co-op building in town…a lovely pre-war on the north side of the square. Very handsome building…and I fail to see how the fact that it is a co-op has diminished its value.

4) Lower Than Expected Conversion Projects- Yes…we saw the Grande, The Ellington, The Phoenix and a smattering of other re-used office buildings. But with the inventory and location advantages some of these older places have- I am surprised we haven’t seen more conversions. I would look for more conversion projects in the next wave of construction.

5) Zeroing in on condos near Jefferson and U of Penn- The growth of small and large size condominium buildings around Jefferson Medical for example has proven to be one of the easiest, sure-fire ways for many condos to find buyers. Like shootin’ fish in a barrel. Ditto for U of Penn area.  Builders are filling a market need, and there are some smart buys in both areas. Huge growth segment.

Mark Wade
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services 
Fox & Roach
530 Walnut St. Suite 260
Philadelphia, Pa. 19106
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July 21, 2014

Considering Developing a New Condo Building in Center City?

Filed under: For Sellers,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 8:20 am
Here are 10 things NOT to overlook…
1) Buyers today appreciate security, but is an alarm system necessary? Probably not. Try installing a “dropcam” styled camera inside the front door of each unit- And owners can get an instant email IF and WHEN someone enters their unit- day or night, even if owners are on the other side of the planet.
2) Recharging Stations- How about a little shelf by the front door of each unit that will recharge cell phones and devices by simply placing the devices on that shelf? Any buyer with a cell phone could get very excited about such a feature.
3) Pet Policies- I would suggest your building needs to be pet friendly- but not for tenants. Breed restrictions and size restrictions may also be in the overall best interest of the buying public.
4) Two Month Capital Contribution- New buyers need to add to the “kitty”…very common and a great way to jump start the reserves. This practice is now standard in Center City Condos around town.
5) Virtual Doorman- Looking to keep condo fees in check? Try a virtual doorman- Activity can be monitored offsite but still give the sense of security to the condo owners. Many newer buildings are going this route to save on condo fees.
6) Electric Automobiles Plug In Bays. One day soon, this will be a must for all new buildings. And don’t forget to save at least one parking spot for car sharing purposes. Bike sharing might not be a bad idea on your property as well.
7) Be as Transparent As Possible- Post the true sale prices of each unit- not just asking prices. Shove the info into the faces of potential buyers. They will without a doubt appreciate your candor and transparency. Shady is not going to work for you…trust me on that one.
8) Don’t Forget The WOW Factor- Let’s face it, unless you are buying at the Ritz Carlton, or some other “A” building, chances are the finishes and model units are not going to as appealing as they possibly can be. Change that. I am begging you….Nothing sells better than stunning visual finishes! Get a little crazy because no other developer will dare to do so…
9) Parking- Important for larger units, but if the location is fairly central, will probably not be important to studio, one bedroom, or even smaller two bedroom condos.
10) Make Sure Your Sales Office Is Realtor Friendly-
Offer free parking, allow Realtors easy access without the mandatory one hour tour. Scrap the stupid rules and long info forms buyers and agents must fill out that most . NOTHING CAN KILL SALES FASTER than pissing off the Real Estate Community.
Want to learn more about how to make your 
new condos fly off the shelf? 
Let’s chat…..
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July 7, 2014

What’s In Your Condo Docs?

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,Of Interest to Buyers,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 12:21 pm

Here are a few things that you may not have known are pretty standard in condo docs in  Center City:

1) Almost all associations charge 2 months capital contribution- means you pay 2 months condo fees to the association- not the owner, but the association- Helps build the kitty.
2) You better check the pet policy- A few years back a young woman bought a Philadelphia condo at Locust Point, then had to sell because she ignored the pet policy- her dog was too big. And she of course wasn’t parting with the dog, so she parted with the condo.
3) Rental Restrictions- Becoming more and more common in condo docs and their rules and regs- which can be a huge value-preserving tool for the association.
4) Future Assessments- Will tell you if any assessments have been approved for the future. Not “discussing assessments” but real approved assessments. There is a difference.
5) The Budget- This is a biggie. You may want to see how much $$ is on hand for future improvements- should correspond to building size and age. New buildings have little reserve- and often, they don’t need them- there is no differed maintenance beyond cosmetic often.

In the state of PA., you have 5 days or 15 days to review your condo docs depending upon the type of Center City condo you are buying- used or new.

Mark Wade
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors    215.521.1523

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May 12, 2014

How is the “B” Grade Inventory selling?

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 1:08 pm
   When the market hits a rough patch, the outlying areas are the first to notice the change in terms of demand and therefore pricing. Those “B” areas are usually the last to rebound in terms of demand and prices when the market picks up speed. There are exceptions to that rule of course, but anyone would have a tough time arguing that Rittenhouse Square has the fluctuations in demand during the high and low parts of the Center City condo market when compared to our “B & C” inventory. There is indeed something to be said about the “location, location, location” saying.
   But when the market is in full swing as it is today and buyers outnumber sellers, we see the “B” inventory pull up the rear with a real sense of urgency and demand. There are no less than a half dozen condo buildings around town that have had some exceedingly impressive sales….sales where no prior sales have occurred for the past say two years.  As the core of our Center City condo market strengthens, so does our outlying areas and with that, our “B” inventory.
Once overlooked, now being looked over
   The resale prices in some of our “B” locations is striking as we see values “stair-stepping”,where one sale builds upon the one prior and prices stair-step up in clear and rapid fashion. We can see that trend throughout the Center City condo market and many buildings that had no traction even a year ago are seeing wonderful attention in today’s market.
I find the lack of talk in the general Real Estate community concerning the eastern portion of 19123 and the northern portion of 19107 to be surprising, to say the least. Proportionally, these are our newest growth areas in terms of value.
 Believe me. I’m not making this stuff up.
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April 21, 2014

Rittenhouse Condo Comparable Data

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 2:54 pm


Let’s Look Closely At The Current

 Rittenhouse Condo Market


# Condos For Sale in 19103 Under $300,000 = 13

# Condos For Sale in 19103 From $300k-$500k = 21

# Condos For Sale in 19103 From $600k + = 62

# Condos For Sale in 19103  That Include Parking (all price ranges) = 31

# Condos For Sale in 19103 Having 3 bedrooms = 13

# Condos For Sale in 19103 Currently Pending = 48

# Settled Condos in 19103 since 1/1/14 = 51

# Condos For Sale in 19103 That Are ON The Square = 25



*Information per TrendMLS as of 3/25/14

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March 3, 2014

Seriously- Does Your Building Give A Crap About Your Resale Value?

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 12:52 pm

Think your condo board and management companies don’t play a role in your value retention?

    Center City condominium buildings are like a business and should be run as such. From maintenance to condo association policy, seems many folks have a hand in the determination of your resale value.  Value within any given building is a moving target, and if I were King of the World, I would suggest that any association would want to evaluate their policies considering:
1) Pets- A hot button item. Buildings are often overlooked by potential buyers based upon the buildings’ pet policies.  Buyers often request a pet- friendly building, but never have I had a buyer express to me that a pet-free building is on their wish list. Associations may want to limit pets based upon breed, size and allow such freedoms to only the owner occupants and not tenants.
2) Common Area Presentation – The death knell for many buildings in town in terms of value retention. Often, buyers refuse to walk into a Philadelphia condo unit after being walked through the common building foyer and through the halls. Some hallways smell- and haven’t been painted or had any new lighting in 20 years. I would have to suggest you rid your association of anyone who could be responsible for such lack of attention. The cost is SO MINIMAL to improve common area elements that it really makes no sense not to keep your common areas in tip top shape. This is where the “Investment Multiplier” comes into effect- for every dollar you put in, you get two back. Simple math here folks.
3) Transparent and Open Communications – There is a reason why Society Hill Tower, Hopkinson House, and The Washington Square West Condos at 12xx South St. are known to be very well run.  I would suggest it has to do with the accessibility and transparency of the condo associations and or management companies. From condo docs, to board minutes – THINGS BUYERS WANT TO KNOW- Are but a click away on but a handful of condo sites. The surreptitious and somewhat mysterious ways that associations fail to hold out the information to scrutiny can be a serious concern for many buyers. And making a buyer wait up to 4 weeks to get condo docs – REALLY?  That is a great way to piss off a new buyer and possibly a new member of the condo association.
4) Rentals- It is fairly standard for a building to allow a certain percentage of the condominiums in the association to be rented out. But having NO policy which addresses rentals can be a real disaster. Fannie Mae has rules about owner-occupancy ratios. A lack of adherence to those rules can lead to the need for buyers to put more money down AND pay a higher interest rate.
Which of course can reduce demand for your building, raise inventory levels, and ultimately lower your values. Ain’t no rocket science involved in that equation….
Below is a fantastic site with some great information. If you are a board member of an association here in town, you might want to bookmark this website:
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December 23, 2013

Guest Post: Philly is Swimming in Condos with Pools

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 10:25 am

Real estate trends are not unlike those in fashion, technology, and fad diets: there’s always an “it” characteristic that buyers and renters have to have, and those “it” descriptors go as quickly as they come. However, like the staple pieces in a wardrobe, there are some criteria that are always in demand. In Philadelphia real estate, everybody seems to want their condo to have a pool.

It’s easy to see why: pools are great for exercising, relaxing, and entertaining. If you’ve got a pool while living smack in the middle of, say, Rittenhouse Square, you’re living the life. Here of some of Philly’s favorite condos that offer pools.

Residences at the Ritz Carlton, Rittenhouse Square

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the Residences at the Ritz Carlton stand at the location of the old Meridian Tower — these condos are as modern as they come. The Ritz Carlton is one of Philadelphia’s most luxurious buildings, offering all the bells and whistles when it comes to amenities: valet parking, a gym, and, of course, a 60 feet pool, complemented by a hot tub. Just outside, residents can enjoy a gated garden in Girard Park as well as a public park area from which you can admire the 48-story-tall building’s distinct blue glass architecture.

The Murano, Logan Square

One of the most easily-identified buildings in Center City, The Murano Condominium building stands at 42 stories high and has condos to offer with up to three bedrooms. The swimming pool is located on the 6th floor and surrounded by both indoor and outdoor deck areas, making it ideal for relaxing. However, residents seem most impressed by the in-house gym, which is arguably one of the best in the city. Each unit offers a breathtaking view of the city, a unique floor plan, and a modern design.

Symphony House, Avenue of the Arts

Whether a buyer is looking for a one-bedroom condo or a huge penthouse, it’s an option at Symphony House. It’s been somewhat recently introduced to the Philadelphia skyline and makes a great addition for anyone who would enjoy living in the cultural hub of the city. Residents get to enjoy the on-site pool as well as other conveniences like a gym and a 24-hour concierge. Perhaps its most attractive feature, however, is the fact that many of the units are heavily customizable.

Academy House, Rittenhouse Square

Another Rittenhouse high-riser, Academy House condos are a smart buy. Conveniently, nearly all the unit’s utility costs are built-in to the condo fees. Many of the units are newly made over or in the process of being renovated, which adds to their value — though former residents will tell you that the resell record of these units is fantastic. With balconies, an on-site pool, an on-site gym, and rental parking, Academy House units are economical while meeting many buyers’ criteria.

If you’re perusing the retail market for a building with a pool, you won’t be hard-pressed to find one in Philadelphia. In fact, you’ll have to narrow down your search by deciding upon neighborhood, customizations, and other amenities.

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November 11, 2013

Real Estate Agent Cliques

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 2:41 pm

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. 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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September 23, 2013

Renegotiating After A Home Inspection?

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 9:03 am
Think you are going to get a $10,000 price reduction after your home inspection?
Everyone should get a home inspection. There is no such thing as perfection and every Philadelphia condo- be it new construction, or a clearly used up old condo- almost every condo that I have come across needs some kind of maintenance or attention.
  But how do you go about protecting yourself without pissing off a seller to a point where he or she no longer wants to deal with you? Well, that can be a thin line….but here is what I suggest:
1) Focus on the big ticket items. Try not to be too nit picky about the small stuff. Sellers can become easily fatigued…so instead of asking for a plethora of small items to be corrected, ask for (say) one or two big issues- If warranted. One that can be backed up by the home inspection. Sellers are sometime less worried about the money and more worried that they may not have the time to fix every little issue- sometimes sellers will negotiate on convenience- as opposed to being consumed by trivial matters.
2) If you have the option of taking a credit, or having the seller repair items- GO FOR THE CREDIT. Because more often than not, you or your contractor may not like the way the seller does the repair. Then we all have a problem….
3) I don’t think it is logical for a buyer to ask for a credit or a repair on items they clearly knew were previously broken. For instance,  if you make an offer on a condo that has a cracked window pane or clearly unused/broken dishwasher – the seller may be less apt to fix it- because you clearly knew of this shortcoming prior to making an offer….and of course you made your offer accordingly, one would assume.
4) Electrical issues are huge….and you can almost always hit a seller up for making such a repair. Electrical issues are scary for most buyers and something most buyers cannot and probably should not fix themselves.
     I usually coach my buyers to think this way: If the amount of the needed repairs impacts your perception of the value of the Center City condo, then you should probably back out of the deal or go at the seller at full force. However, if you are just looking to rake the seller over the coals for the hell of it- that should be done during the time you make your offer. Not at a later date where you are just looking to perhaps get something for (almost) nothing. Just my two cents…
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September 16, 2013

Skewing Philly Condo values?

Filed under: Center City Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 10:35 am

Trulia, Zillow, etc… Really?


 Perhaps you could just

 Rub A Magic Lamp

 to determine Center City Condo Values….


I think the methods used by many Online sites to show specific area condo values is just horse crap. You would have to be kinda’ simple to believe that the emotional punch of a condo is not going to seriously affect it’s value. Selling factors such as price, days-on-market and demand can be heavily influenced by a condos Showing Ability, Floor Height, and View. I know of no on-line real estate site that can take these factors into account …therefore possibly throwing off estimates of value for a Center City condo.  And you can’t logically argue  that value is “generalized within a given zip code”. That would be folly.Because if that were the case, then “1830”  and The DORCHESTER  values would be more in line with one another.   Throw the emotional punch or lack thereof into the mix and you have an exceedingly wide chasm of values and trying to generalize those values might prove daunting.

  And another example of how miscalcuations can also be achieved……

Over the past 3-5 years,many local publications have declared that the Center City zip code of 19102 has blossomed in terms of value growth.     Really?  I would suggest that the additions of The Ritz Carlton, the Aria, The Ellington, and The Grande have artificially bloated their calculations of area  values, average sale price, number of sales, etc moreso than true appreciation could ever have mustered.

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