Mount Airy Trends

Being located in Erdenheim, just outside the city limits, we are frequently asked to appraise properties in northwestern Philadelphia, especially Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, Roxborough and Manayunk. 

The other day we received our first question for the Ask PAB! section of the site.  It was submitted by a local agent who works primarily in the northwest section of Philly.  She typically deals with entry level and first time buyers.  For that segment of the market, Mount Airy offers a great selection of housing options for her clientele, in a wide range of price points and design styles.   It has very appealing housing stock, access to transportation, shopping, proximity to Center City and the suburbs and very unique community atmosphere.  Her question was simply:

 “How have Mt. Airy twins and rows been performing over the past couple of years?”

Below is a chart of the sales of 3-4 bedroom twins and rowhomes in Mt. Airy from January 2008 through December 2010.  Click on the chart to enlarge.

The blue dots indicate the sales of 3 bedroom homes; the red dots represent the 4 bedroom sales.  Our sample produced 341 sales of 3 bedrooms and 105 sales of 4 Bedroom homes, in Mt. Airy, during that time period.  The green and yellow lines depict the linear sale price trends for 3 and 4 bedroom houses, respectively.

The trend lines indicate that both 3 and 4 bedroom homes are moving downward.  However, it appears as though the 4 bedroom properties are experiencing a deeper shift that the 3 bedrooms, which are riding a flatter trend.  This is likely due to the fact that there are fewer 4 bedrooms homes and, as a result, fewer 4 bedroom sales.  With a smaller sample, it is easier for a few sales to influence the trend.  Conversely, with a greater number of samples it is less likely that a handful of sales to move the trend so dramatically.

If you have a question about real estate markets and trends in the Philadelphia region, please visit our Ask PAB! page to submit your inquiry.

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South Philly Door

Part of our coverage area is the City of Philadelphia.  Obviously, being located just outside the city limits of the 5th largest metropolitan market in the county, it would be a pretty poor business decision not to appraise properties in Philadelphia.

The other day I was in South Philly…one of my favorite parts of the City.  South Philly is a patchwork of small neighborhoods, each with their own character and flavor.  This stems from the immigrant population that used to live in these tight knit communities when they were built to house factory workers in the late 1800′s thru 1940′s.  Each group (Italians, Irish, Germans, Jewish, etc.) imprinted their own ethnicity and personality on the neighborhoods. 

Frankly, it’s what makes South Philly great!

The most common housing type in South Philly is the 2-story, flat front row house.  They are anywhere between 11′ to 16′ (the masons weren’t too exacting) wide and typically have 2 to 4 bedrooms.  It was easy to build them quickly and at a high density.  It’s not uncommon to have 60 homes or more in one city block.

Being that the houses were so bland and homogeneous, there wasn’t much a builder could do to make his product different from the next builder’s.  Some used shutters and ornate cornices, but others used the front door to make their statement.

This South Philly red door is a prime example of how Philadelphia builders at the turn of the last century added a little curb appeal to their homes.  This door is original with it’s “keyhole” shaped leaded glass window, brass mail slot and old “crank” style doorbell.  It really sets this house apart from the others on the block.

Funny how curb appeal is still so important when it comes to real estate.  

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Price vs Value

I was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of local Caldwell Banker Agents and Brokers. I was there to discuss the appraisal process, recent market trends and how the HVCC is affecting agents and their clients.

After speaking, I opened up the floor to questions. One of the first questions was a great one. The agent asked me to explain the difference between Price and Value. I’ve been thinking about it and have come up with the following explanation.

When viewed against the backdrop of recent marketplaces shifts both locally and nationally over the past few years, the difference between Price and Value has become more and more important to understand. In fact, I feel that most Agents and their clients are using the terms incorrectly.

When discussing a property most Agents and their clients are thinking in terms of price. “What is the price of the house”, “will they come down in price”, “that price is high/low” and my favorite “did the appraisal come in at the selling price?” The fundamental problem in these scenarios is that it is not about price, it’s about value. The focus should be on what the value of the home is, not the price. Value takes into consideration today’s market and underlying market conditions. Price often does not.

Price is a marketing tool. By setting a price, the Seller is actually choosing a segment buyers who will hopefully see the price as being the value of the property. The closer the Seller positions the price to the true value of the property, the larger the pool of potential Buyers the house will appeal to. Just the opposite is true, as well. The further the price is placed from the actual value of a property, the smaller the pool of buyers who will see that value.

An example of this was this property in Gladwyne. This property was listed in 2009 for $19,500,000. It was eventually withdrawn from the market. In 2010, it was re-listed for $17,900,000. All totaled, the house sat on the market for more that 660 days.

This is a situation where the Seller priced the house so far above the perceived value placed on it by the market, that they effectively diminished the pool of potential buyers to zero. This market did not support the price that was being asked

Remember value is guided by the market. Price is guided by the individual Selling the property. If the price is not supported by the market, no sale will occur.

Common perception is that price and value are interchangable. They are not. Value relates to what something is really worth.  That is, what could one expect to receive in terms of money in the free market?  It doesn’t matter what the value was last year, last month, or even last week. Value is determined by the conditions and influences of the current marketplace. Too often, sellers get hung up on that fact when the marketplace moves in the other direction. They don’t want to acknowledge the fact that their home was worth $800,000 a year ago and, based on supply and demand, is only worth $700,000 in today’s market. Value is determined by the scarcity of something and the ease of replacement with similar, equal, or better products or service (i.e. The Principle of Substitution).  In its most basic form, this is a simple function of supply and demand.

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