The Best Neighborhoods in Philadelphia | Home Buyer’s Guide

A house in a Philadelphia neighborhood

 

When I first moved to Philadelphia in 2004 I had a lot to learn about all of the neighborhoods in Philadelphia. At that time I don’t think Google Maps existed yet. If Zillow existed then I wasn’t aware of it. I didn’t have a smart phone. Finding information about neighborhoods in Philadelphia was pretty hard to do, especially from a distance and as someone who had only visited once. My company at the time, REI, had moved me here and I had to find a place to live and learn a new city pretty quickly. It was a challenge.

Things have changed now and there’s a ton of information for home buyers about Philadelphia neighborhoods. But, it’s still a big city and there’s a huge number of neighborhoods. Figuring out where to live is still a challenge, just in a different way. This Home Buyer’s Guide to Philadelphia Neighborhoods is designed as guide for those who will be moving here and need to learn about the area and for those who already live here but are narrowing down where they’d like to buy a home.

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Moving During Covid 19 | Philadelphia, PA

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

Moving during Covid 19 means there are plenty of new and unique challenges. One of the first questions you may have is whether or not it’s even possible to move. Moving companies are open and operating in Pennsylvania. In the video below I spoke with Ryan Hegarty of Olympia Moving & Storage about how they are helping clients move during this difficult time.

 

Can I Move During Covid 19?

Moving during Covid 19 means there will be some unique and new challenges, but you can move during Covid 19. Currently (as of April 10, 2020), Pennsylvania considers real estate a non-essential business. In essence, that means that buyers can’t see homes in-person, Realtors can’t show homes, and home inspections can’t be performed.

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The Real Estate Market & The Coronavirus | March 21, 2020

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

March 21, 2020

The impact of the Coronavirus is affecting every one of us. These are difficult, and very unusual, times. While many of us are home with our kids due to school closings and work from home situations we’re trying to stay entertained while keeping social distancing in mind.

Closure of Non-Life Sustaining Businesses

On Thursday, Governor Wolf ordered all non-life sustaining businesses to close physical operations. This includes everything from schools to construction services to real estate offices. It’s unprecedented and there are still a lot of questions about what it means and, of course, how long these closures can last.

The Spring Real Estate Market

Under normal circumstances, the real estate market would just be getting into full swing right now. More new listings go on the market in March through May then during any other time of the year. June and July are the two months of the year with the highest numbers of real estate closings. These closings are on homes that went under contract in the preceding 1-2 months, which is right now.

These aren’t normal circumstances. In a typical home sale, a buyer will tour a home in-person with their real estate agent. Once a buyer makes an offer on a home and have a signed purchase agreement with a seller the buyer would perform home inspections. They would also make an application for a loan through a mortgage lender. The mortgage lender will order an appraisal to get an independent assessment of the value of the home to verify that the loan is a good investment on their part. A Title Company would research the ownership of the property to verify that the seller has the legal authority to sell the property. The title search may require physically searching through the city or county public record file. In addition, moving companies and contractors are affected by the closures.

But, under the current statewide closures most of these things can’t happen. Simply seeing a home in-person is difficult and risky. It’s not the time for open houses and there are questions about whether in-person showings can even take place.

Home Values

Home sales typically take anywhere from 1-2 months between the time a buyer and seller have a contract in place and the closing. This means that if we see a sold price today, that price was actually agreed to some time ago. Because of this, we won’t know the real impact on home values for some time after the closure order is lifted. I’ll do my best to keep you informed as we see things unfold.

Current Homeowners & Refi’s

If you’re a current homeowner with no plans to move anytime soon, it may be a good time to refinance. By refinancing you may be able to save several hundred dollars per month. There’s a lot of news about the Fed reducing interest rates to zero. But, it’s important to know that Fed rates and mortgage rates aren’t tied to each other. Mortgage rates are low, but they are fluctuating day by day and hour by hour. If refinancing may help you should talk with an experienced lender who can guide you through the process and help you assess whether or not it makes sense.

Current Homeowners & Mortgage Forbearance

New information is developing every day. Homeowners who have lost income may be eligible for mortgage forbearance for up to 12 months. This is a new development and you can find more information here.

Buyers and Sellers Under Contract

Update: An announcement was made on March 21 that title companies can now operate. This will make things easier for those who may have a home currently under contract.

Those who are currently under contract to buy or sell a home will have a lot of questions. The standard sales contract in PA has a lot of dates and deadlines that need to be met in order for the transaction to proceed and to avoid risking loss of deposits. I’m recommending that clients under contract consult with an attorney since PA is a non-attorney state and lawyers aren’t involved in most residential real estate transactions. Unless a real estate agent is also an attorney, we’re not trained nor qualified to interpret the law or provide legal advice.

Potential Buyers and Sellers

If you’re considering putting your home on the market now is a good time to work on getting it ready to sell. Take the time now to get your home ready by cleaning and organizing so that when homes can be easily shown again you can have it on the market right away.

If you’re planning on buying a home soon now is a good time to get more information about the home buying process. Talk with an experienced real estate agent to learn what you need to know. Also, talk with an experienced local lender about loan options so you know how much it will cost and what your price range will be when the time comes.

Stay Safe

Above all else, stay safe and know that we’ll get through this. Follow the CDC guidelines and keep social distance. Contact your friends and family on the front lines who work in health care and local businesses like grocery stores. Let them know you’re thinking of them and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

Get Some Fresh Air & Practice Social Distancing in Roxborough & Manayunk

We’re living in a weird time right now—a time when “social distancing” is not only recommended, but strongly encouraged, when grocery stores’ shelves are the most empty we’ve ever seen, and when an idyllic hike in the Wissahickon is more necessary than ever before.

I’ve said it many times, but now it seems as relevant as ever: living in Roxborough and Manayunk, with its proximity to the Wissahickon, the Schuylkill River, and an overabundance of green space is, quite simply, the best. While it’s incredibly important to practice social distancing, it’s equally as important to maintain your mental and physical health, and get some fresh air in a healthy and safe way.

Combat your cabin fever by exploring these outdoor spaces (in small groups, and maintaining a 6-foot distance away from others) and getting some fresh air, plus physical activity, right here in Roxborough and Manayunk. Don’t forget to bring hand sanitizer!

 

Manayunk Bridge Trailonce a bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was reopened as a trail in 2015, offering incredible views of the Schuylkill River for runners, bikers, and walkers – no cars are allowed on the bridge, making the experience even better.

Cynwyd-Heritage Trailconnecting directly from the Manayunk Bridge Trail, this paved path is hilly, scenic, and perfect for a family bike ride, or just an escape from your neighborhood – it feels like you’re in another world surrounded by greenery when you’re here!

Schuylkill River Trail: starting in Center City and spanning all the way to Phoenixville, the best part of this trail starts in Manayunk, providing a wide path that’s very popular on the weekends. Stop at Riverbend Cycles or Conshohocken Brewery along the way, have a picnic in Valley Forge National Park, or just meander through the 70 miles of car-free trails.

Manayunk Towpath: running adjacent to the Manayunk Canal, this part-boardwalk, part-trail passageway along Main Street is great for a leisurely stroll after dinner, or as a connector from Fairmount Park to the Schuylkill River Trail.

Forbidden Drive: Pennsylvania named this iconic path the 2018 Trail of the Year, and for good reason. This dirt trail spans the entire length of the Wissahickon Valley Park, with multiple spots for parking, and passes numerous Wissahickon landmarks including the Valley Green Inn, Thomas Mill Covered Bridge, statues, and awesome views of the Wissahickon Creek.

Wissahickon Trails: the Wissahickon Valley Park is easily the best hub of activity in Philadelphia. At any hour of the day you’ll find couples walking their dog in the trails, mountain bikers pedaling through the woods, runners and running groups like Chasing Trail trekking along Forbidden Drive and up its hilly offshoots, and kids frolicking in the creek. The Wissahickon is often one of the top reasons people move out to the Roxborough Manayunk area.

Wissahickon Bike Path: accessible via the 100 Steps off Rochelle Ave. or right across the street from the Wissahickon Transportation Center, this paved trail is a great spot to bike, and connects to Forbidden Drive or Historic Rittenhousetown for longer explorations. If you’re into bouldering, there are a couple of great spots to set up a crash pad and climb, too!

Kelly Drive and MLK Drive: you may have heard the term “the Loop” from local runners, which refers to the 8-mile path along the Schuylkill River from the Falls Bridge down to the Art Museum and back. The paths along Kelly Drive and MLK Drive are easily accessible from Roxborough Manayunk and offer incredible views, and great training areas for covering long distances. Bonus: from April-October, the four lanes of traffic on MLK Drive are completely closed to cars, making it the perfect spot to explore every Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Leverington Cemetery: this spot is located in Central Roxborough along Ridge Avenue. The cemetery is open to the public during daytime hours. As you walk through you’ll notice a lot of names of neighborhood streets in the area. The cemetery dates back to 1645. It was almost sold to developers soon after WWII. A local family purchased the property and still operates the cemetery today.

Courtesy Stables: if you love animals, visit this spot in Andorra and the pasture at W.B. Saul High School. I bring my daughter by to see the horses regularly and they’re both great spots to visit and to take pictures.

The Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve: The Preserve on Port Royal Avenue was revitalized into a nature area and walking path by volunteers with the Friends of Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve. When you walk around the Preserve you’ll find great views of the reservoir and local wildlife. There are a couple of spots where you’ll also find views of Roxborough and Center City.

The Coronavirus and the Real Estate Market | March 16, 2020

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

Over the past few days the World Health Organization declared the spread of Coronavirus a pandemic. Schools and businesses have closed, companies are encouraging or requiring staff to work from home, and the stock market has been in flux (to say the least). The most recent recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is that all gatherings of more than 50 people should be cancelled.

What does all of this mean for home values? What does it mean for those who are buying or selling homes as we approach the typical height of the Spring real estate market? The short answer is that it’s really too early to tell exactly what’s going to happen but I think that we can all agree that with major disruption to our day-to-day lives we can expect some changes going forward.

On the one hand, real estate is generally considered a safe investment. Except for rare cases, home values goes up. Prices dropped in the crash of 2008 but have been on the rise since the bottom of the market, generally around 2012. After the crash the general message from the real estate industry was “It’s a great time to buy!” While true for some, it certainly wasn’t true for everyone. While people need homes they’re also concerned about income security and it wasn’t a great time to buy for those who’s livelihood was threatened, or worse.

Home Values & Coronavirus

At this point, I believe that it’s too early to see any real and measurable impact on the local real estate market here in the Philadelphia area. We only started hearing major news of the effects in Montgomery County in the middle of last week. Anyone who was getting ready to put their home on the market was already under way by that point. Buyers are still facing a shortage of inventory and seeing multiple offers on homes.

Interest Rates

There’s a lot of news about the Fed having cut interest rates to zero but it’s important to know that this doesn’t mean that mortgage interest rates are at zero. In fact, at this point, mortgage rates aren’t affected. Despite that, mortgage interest rates are at historic lows. It’s a safe bet that the low interest rates will continue to spur demand for homes in the near term.

Social Distancing & Real Estate

Social Distancing should be taken into consideration when buying or selling a home. For many sellers that probably means skipping the open house. The vast majority of open house attendees are ‘lookers’ who are considering buying a house sometime in the future rather than those who want to buy a home now. If your home goes on the market, it’s open anyway. Serious buyers will contact their agent for showings. By avoiding the open house you can limit the number of unnecessary visitors walking through your home.

Face-t0-Face Interactions/Showings

Real estate sales involve a lot of face-to-face interaction. But, contact can be limited in a lot of ways. Instead of meeting face-to-face to discuss the home buying process, I’m arranging phone calls with clients. If you’re selling your home a video walk through can be helpful. Those with serious interest will still need to see your home in-person before making an offer but a video can help limit the number of showings by weeding out those with little real interest.

As a Realtor, I’m showing homes to clients and meeting clients to help them as they sell their home. As a precaution, we’re not shaking hands and trying to keep an appropriate distance. I’m glad to know that everyone is now washing their hands, but there’s just no need to get that close right now.

It’s a good ideal to sanitize your home before and after showings. Wipe down door knobs, switch plates, and other surfaces. Likewise, home buyers should sanitize their hands before an after showings as a precaution to keep themselves and others safe.

Support Neighborhood Businesses

Our neighborhood businesses are vital to the local economy and many of these businesses are taking it on the chin. In many areas businesses are being forced to close for an extended period. For those that remain open you can contact them to see how you can help. Many restaurants are now offering curb-side pickup as an option. You can also order gift certificates from local businesses which gives them cash in hand now that can help them through these difficult times.

Questions?

If you have questions about the real estate market during these very unusual times please don’t hesitate to ask. I don’t have all of the answers but will do my best to keep you informed. You can email me at jon@jonmillerhomes.com.

 

 

How to Sell Your Home ‘As-Is’ | Philadelphia PA

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

If you plan to sell your home you may be wondering how to sell your home ‘as-is’ and if that’s even possible to do. The answer is that it really depends on the situation. The most common situation is a home that’s in need of major repairs or a complete remodel. This type of home is commonly sold ‘as-is’ because the buyers for these homes plan to gut the home down to studs and rebuild. The more common scenario is the typical homeowner who wants to sell ‘as-is’ because they don’t want to negotiate repairs or make any repairs to the home. Oftentimes, these sellers simply want to avoid getting a list of unreasonable demands from a buyer after inspections or from having their sale fall through during inspections. It’s a totally valid concern. It’s less common to be able to sell a typical owner-occupied home ‘as-is’ but there are some strategies that can make it easier which we’ll take a look at below.

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17 Fun Things to Do in Roxborough | Philadelphia, PA

The sign and plants at Gorgas Park in Roxborough

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

If you want to explore Roxborough and find some great things to do, check out my list of 17 fun things to do in Roxborough, Philadelphia. The neighborhood has a great variety of things to do including great restaurants, places to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and some unique attractions that are worth checking out. Have fun exploring the neighborhood and be sure to sign up to get the weekly list of the best things to do in Roxborough & Manayunk.

  1. Take a Hike in the Wissahickon

    One of the great things about living in Roxborough is the easy access to the Wissahickon Valley Park from just about anywhere in the neighborhood. Be sure to visit the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge, the fingerspan bridge, Devil’s Pool, and Valley Green Inn while you’re there.

  2. Take the Kids to the Playground

    There are plenty of neighborhood playgrounds in Roxborough so it’s easy to get the kids out to play. There are playgrounds at Montgomery Field, La Noce Park, Wissahickon Neighbors Park, Kendrick Rec Center, Hillside Rec Center, Gorgas Park, Kelly Park, and Houston Playground. You can find spraygrounds at Houston Playground and Wissahickon Neighbors Park.

  3. Visit Leverington Cemetery

    Leverington Cemetery is located in Central Roxborough along Ridge Avenue. The cemetery is open to the public during daytime hours. As you walk through you’ll notice a lot of names of neighborhood streets in the area. The cemetery dates back to 1645. It was almost sold to developers soon after WWII. A local family purchased the property and still operates the cemetery today.

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What Happens Once You’ve Found the Home You Want to Buy?

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

Once you’ve found the home that you want to buy then it’s time to put in an offer. Hopefully, you’ve done your homework already and you’re ready to make that happen but some home buyers may not have done that yet. If you haven’t yet started on getting everything that you’ll need in order there’s some information below that you can use to help. Also, you should sign up for my weekly emails with home buyer tips and info at the bottom of this article so you’ll have all of the information you’ll need when the time comes.

I’ll talk about a couple of common scenarios that home buyers may find themselves in when they’ve found the home that they want to buy. The first is the home buyer who hasn’t seen the home in person and the second is for the home buyer who’s toured the home and is ready to make an offer.

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Do You Really Need an Open House?

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

Do you really need an Open House when selling your home? If we lived in a world without the internet then home buyers may have trouble finding homes for sale. They’d ask their friends and neighbors if they knew anyone who was selling a house, they’d go to a local real estate office and ask which homes are for sale, or they’d drive around on Sunday afternoons looking for “Open House” signs in hopes of finding a home that matched their needs and budget.

We don’t live in that world. Every potential home buyer is looking online for their next home. Most get automatic listing alerts from 2-3 sites like Zillow and Realtor.com. The most serious buyers are also getting updates of new listings from their real estate agent. It’s pretty much impossible to keep a home a secret.

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A Dog Owner’s Paradise: Why Roxborough and Manayunk are the Best Neighborhoods for Dogs

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

Living in Northwest Philly, specifically in the Roxborough/Manayunk/Wissahickon area, offers a ton of space, whether you live in a home with a spacious backyard (there are quite a few in this neighborhood!), or you’re adventuring among the trails in Wissahickon Park.

Roxborough and Manayunk are great spots to live for a ton of reasons. Maybe you moved out here so that your kids would be able to have room to explore Philly’s outdoor spaces… or maybe it was so your dog could sniff out every tree and trail, and live out its best life that it didn’t have the space for in the city.

There’s no better place in Philly to be a dog owner, or a dog, for that matter, than Roxborough and Manayunk. It’s a dog owner’s paradise out near the Wissahickon, and here’s why: Continue reading “A Dog Owner’s Paradise: Why Roxborough and Manayunk are the Best Neighborhoods for Dogs”

Jon Miller, RealtorJon Miller is a Philadelphia Realtor with Compass Real Estate. Jon has been working with home buyers and sellers in Philadelphia and Montgomery County since 2010.