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June 22, 2015

Do You Really Know What You Are Buying When You Buy A New Philly Condo From Plans?

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers,General Real Estate,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 2:36 pm

I get the shivers when I think of people investing in new Philadelphia Condos that are still on the drawing board. Do these people have some kind of condominium ESP I lack?

After almost 3 decades selling condos at place like The Murano, I know one thing is for sure: there’s a big disparity between finished condo projects and the drawings that started them.

plans photo


Let’s take a couple of Philadelphia condo projects as an example. Any two projects… line them up side by side in terms of resale ability, quality of finishes, the overall fit, the light views, etc.

In both instances, buyers are asked to plunk down money, site unseen. It’s quite a gamble, isn’t it? Doesn’t it just make sense that there will be winners and losers? Some people will get the Philadelphia condos of their dreams; other people will get a nightmare.

You also have to ask yourself about the resale factor. Some Philadelphia condos simply do not resell well. Other Center City condos are at the opposite end of the spectrum- buyers are reselling for a good deal more than they originally paid a few years ago and have little trouble doing it.

So do we really know what we are getting into when we buy Philadelphia real estate that is not yet built? Unless you have condominium ESP, you can never know for sure. But, it does help to know a bit (or a lot) about condos and Philadelphia and buyers in general. That’s the best way I know of to determine whether un-built Philadelphia condos will ultimately be successful. Learn more about Center City planning for growth.

Ready to stop relying on condominium ESP? With my years of experience representing buyers and sellers of Philadelphia and Center City condos, I can guide you through today’s real estate maze and help you come out a winner! Give me a call today at 215-521-1523 or drop me and email at


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June 2, 2015

The 5 most frequently asked Questions by Center City Condo Buyers

Filed under: Center City Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 1:21 pm

1) Is transfer tax split between buyer and seller?
Yes….and that fact is embedded into the agreement of sale. You pay 2% of the sale price, and so does the seller.

2) Can I move my stuff in prior to settlement?
Uh, no. The day you give the seller your money, it is all yours. Until then, you may not occupy or make alterations to your new Philly condo!

3) Why do I have to pay 2 months condo fees to the association?
It is called a capital contribution. Helps pad the condo association against future assessments. Almost all condos has everyone pay this when buying.

4) Do I get my 2 months capital contribution back when I sell?
Uh, no, shut up.

5) Why do I need to buy title insurance?
Because certain debt transfers with title. You buy, you may inherit someone else’s debt. Title insurance gives you a clean, debt-free title. (Abridged answer!)

You will certainly have more questions when purchasing a new Rittenhouse Square condo, or say Old City loft. Trust me. :-) And that is why I am here.

Mark Wade
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox and Roach REALTORS®
530 Walnut St., Suite 260 Philadelphia, PA 19106

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September 15, 2014

So you have Three looney tunes, one nutbag on your condo board? Shocking….

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 10:27 am


Listen, I get it…everyone’s favorite punching bag is his or her condo board. Often maligned, and more often than not, the criticism is not just or warranted. It is a thankless job- just be happy someone is doing it, and doing it for free. Here is what I would make sure is happening in order to preserve my value as a Center City condo owner, and member of the association, just in case. These are huge. You might want to take notes:
1) Make Sure The Building Stays At Least say 66% Owner Occupied
by restricting an over abundance of rentals. 75% is even better.
2) Make Sure The Building is FHA Approved- this is easy and shouldn’t be overlooked. I am amazed when I see how many condos around town AREN’T FHA approved…(FHA approved condos really open up the building to first time buyers who may not have the usual 10% down or more needed to buy a condo).
3) Put 10% of monthly condo fees into a reserve for improvements beyond
just the day to day and month to month expenditures.
4) Make Sure the Building is being maintained. Do not hesitate to spend. Spending on cleanliness of the building will provide your best return. Think…exterior paint, hallways, foyer, etc., especially for smaller associations.
Visual presentation is HUGE for resale.
5) Larger associations should have a website that highlights the building, amenities, and give as much info as possible to the buying public. They have nothing to hide…so highlight the information for perspective buyers. Take a look at Society Hill Towers website…a great example.
Value retention is an elusive trait in the hands of amateurs. And I am not aware of any qualifications needed to sit on a condo board- beyond basic ownership in a given building.  Most associations around town do a fairly good job, but some fall prey to the pitfalls that can lead to a fairly rapid decline in condominium values in specific buildings. Best to keep your eye on the signs that may point to a downward spiral in condo values within your building. The above list is written as a guide, one that it may be advantageous to follow. I am not suggesting that your values are going to spiral if one of these points is ignored…rather a combo
of events can lead to downward values.
Here is what I have seen in simplified terms:
Condo board runs amok of rules that keeps the building easy to finance (FANNIE MAE WARRANT-ABLE). New buyers have to then put  30% down or more to buy. This cuts the resale market in MANY buildings. Units then don’t sell, sellers start to compete with each other, prices fall, and more owners begin to rent their condo out. This downward spiral is difficult to reverse.  By having a board aware of these pitfalls, your building should easily be able to remain warrantable and easy to finance. And IF your building has a fair share of condos that might sell under $420,000 then there is NO excuse for the building not being FHA approved.
So here is the moral of this story:
It is indeed your money- You paid for the condo, and that investment is just that- an investment.  You should be standing up and saying something if you see your board veering off the course of a clear path to value and value retention.
Invite me to your next condo board meeting-
 I’ll give them the “what for”
Or if you are a board member of your association,
give me a call and let’s chat about how you can
implement some of these guidelines if you like…
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August 11, 2014

Attention Developers…

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 10:56 am


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.

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           Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox and Roach Realtors


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July 14, 2014

3 Easy Ways to Spruce up your Philly Condo’s Showing Ability

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,For Sellers,Of Interest to Buyers,Of Interest To Sellers,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 9:42 am

I am often asked by condo owners to offer tips on getting their condo to “Show Well”. Here are the 3 quick easy tips for maximizing the showing ability of your Philadelphia condominium:

1) Go to Ikea, and buy a floor to ceiling curtain and hang it from ceiling height, in front of your bathtub. This is not going to take the place of your shower curtain, it is simply going to add some dramatic effect to the bathroom. It is quick, cheap, and has a powerful punch in terms of the emotional appeal of your Center City condo.



2) Paint an accent wall. Preferably, one that is opposite the entryway to any given room. I like to see fireplace walls accented in somewhat neutral, yet enticing colors too. Like a chalky blue, or green. Painting an accent wall will give a hint of flavor to a room, without overpowering the room with massive color.



3) Replace the knobs on the doors and drawers in your kitchen and bathroom. And don’t buy the 99 cents knobs either. Go to Pottery Barn, or Restoration Hardware, and spend a few dollars. Believe me when I tell you, they will help even a somewhat tired kitchen look a bit refreshed.



That’s it. Three quick easy steps for maximizing the interior “curb appeal” to your  Center City Condo!

Mark Wade
Berkshire Hathaway Fox and Roach REALTORS®
530 Walnut St., Suite 260 Philadelphia, PA 19106


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May 19, 2014

No Inventory? Wha-Wha-What??

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,General Real Estate,Of Interest to Buyers,Of Interest To Sellers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 8:57 am
We Will Remember 2014 As The
Year Of No Inventory
In my opinion, the cause is easy to pinpoint.
We are just now coming to a time in the market where prices have begun to rise. However, they have not risen to a point where many sellers have a ton of equity into their Center City condos.
As a result, they either choose not to sell or simply cannot sell because they do not have the equity to move into a new home. This creates a bottleneck of demand- buyers are buying but there is not enough product on the market to meet that demand.
We see this phenomenon once every 7 years or so when the market shifts from a buyers market to a sellers market.
Look for the situation to change next fall as more sellers gain the equity needed to move into a new home and list their current properties.
  Although I don’t mean to be the “big brain”….
We do have a fairly sizable amount of the
Center City Condo inventory for our buyers….
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April 8, 2014

What I And Most Other Agents Are Seeing And Saying Spring 2014

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Buyers,Of Interest to Buyers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 8:22 am
   I hear a lot of talk about the up’s and down’s of today’s Center City condo market. And what most Realtors are witnessing is multiple offers, properties selling at or above asking price and a decreased “days on market” statistic.
   For the majority of the Center City condo market, there are more buyers than available inventory and the shift in that relationship will give rise to actions that we see more of today than we would have even six months ago- such as multiple offer bidding. I just encountered three offers on the same condo in one day and that condo had sat idle for almost two months.
   Also becoming common are full asking price offers or even over asking price offers. I think it makes sense (many buyers see the time as being right to snag a condo out of the clutches of others and are therefore willing to put their best foot forward). I am now telling my buyers that IF they see a condo they want- do not hesitate to go in quick and strong.
Because nothing is more painful than a bidding war. Good for sellers, not so much for buyers.
   Lastly, Realtors I speak with also confirm that they are seeing a decrease in the “days on market” calculations. Many Center City condos are selling within days, even hours after being listed for sale. I know of one unit at the Philadelphian that was listed in the MLS in the AM, and under agreement about 4 hours later. Not common, but certainly not unheard of.
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December 30, 2013

5 Reasons Why your Condo may not be selling….

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,For Sellers,Of Interest To Sellers — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 4:17 pm

There may be a dozen reasons why your condo may not sell in this real estate market. Many are beyond a sellers control-but SO MANY displeasing features (in the eyes of a buyer) are a direct reflection back onto any given seller. I am sorry. But it’s true….

Here we go:

 1) Your condo doesn’t show like a model home. Remember, the emotional wallop is HUGE in the resale value of a condo. You do need to paint, regrout, recaulk, etc etc. And fix that closet door that is off its track. You follow me? No one wants to buy your issues… Many buyers are out to buy emotion and fall in love with their new purchase. Best to pretend your condo is going on a date, and present it with some style and showmanship. And get rid of the clutter. IF the buyer thinks you are outgrowing the space, they too just might think your condo lacks space or storage. I see it time and time again. So very true-day after day, year after year.

2) Your condo is overpriced. If everyone else in your zip code is down in value (from say 2007), there is a reasonable chance your Philadelphia condo value is down as well. It’s not like you can easily escape that fact. You can almost always overcome any other shortcoming to your condo if you price it right. Easy math on that one….

3) Your Realtor is perhaps doesn’t fully have his head in the game.  Not really full-time, not from the area, does no marketing, has no real influence on your market segment, and all-in-all, just waits for the phone to ring hoping a buyer will magically appear.   For instance- If you owned a $4,000,000,000 single family house to sell in Villanova, I would be the WORST candidate for you. So why are you hiring a friend of a friend from Chadds Ford to sell your Center City condo?

4) Your condo association has neglected to keep the building FHA approved, or at a minimum, Fannie Mae Warrant-able. Meaning your condo can shine like a star, and still not be able to sell because financing options for buyers are exceedingly limited. This can seriously deter many buyers from considering your condo for purchase.

5) Your building looks like hell because no one is stepping up to the plate and keeping the common areas in good visual repair. Buyers don’t even need to see the inside of many Center City condos around town because they have already made up their minds by walking through your lobby and the hallways. I can’t tell you HOW MANY times a buyer (after walking through the building and then stands at the door to your unit) says “I am not going to live here”. They don’t need to see the inside of your condo if they don’t get a good feel for the building. Common. Very common.



Mark Wade
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services | Fox and Roach REALTORS®
530 Walnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19106

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October 14, 2013

5 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 @ 9:08 am

Like haircuts and our waist size, 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 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 locational 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 building.


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.

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October 7, 2013

Ask the Big Brain Realtor …questions I get most often

Filed under: Center City Real Estate,Of Interest to Buyers,Of Interest To Sellers,Real Estate: Condominiums — Center City Philadelphia Real Estate Agent @ 9:10 am

q and a


1) Have you ever walked into a condo and found someone naked?

Sleeping, drunk, passed out, in the shower, in the tub, having “relations” behind in a locked bedroom -Yes. But naked- no
2) What is the Value of a parking spot in town?
Up to $150,000 in the hottest, most densely packed parts of Center City Philly. Though rarely available
3) Should I Buy Or Should I Rent?

What do I look like? That’s your call. What I believe is that values have bottomed out, and demand is rising.

 4) What do you think of this or that area?
I think you need to look at your priorities, and your desired lifestyle. Rittenhouse and Society Hill have vastly different appeal- one more hustle and bustle, the other more quiet and a hint more suburban. Neither being a negative- you just have to decide what is right for you.
5) When will the Market Improve?
In many segments, it already has- multiple offer bidding, condos selling in a matter of a few days- being seen once again in the 2012 Center City Condo market. Scarcity is going to be the key word in 2012 for many segments.
6) You seem to badmouth a lot of condos… Do people often get pissed at you?
Yes. I was once asked to leave a Brokers Open House when I commented that the owner had a better chance of seeing god than he did of getting his asking price. Listing agent wasn’t happy. She’s been mad at my for like 19 years now. Whatever. I was right. It sat on the market for over 2 years. I will champion the cause of any well priced Philadelphia condo…but I will call ’em as I see ’em in terms of the junky overpriced listings around town.
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