Archives: May 2013

Real Estate Website Ranks Philadelphia Among Most Exciting Cities

Posted on: May 31, 2013

(By Chelsea Karnash, CBS Philadelphia)

We have some of the country’s best gardens and restaurants, our beer scene is pretty awesome and single men and trick-or-treaters can both get lucky in Philly.

Now, the real estate blog Movoto has ranked Philadelphia among the most exciting cities in the country.

So what makes a city exciting?

Movoto says they surveyed the 50 most populous cities across the nations and ranked them from one to 50 on ten different criterion. That includes park acreage per person, bars per square mile, population diversity and percent of residents between 20 and 34 years old, among other things.

Philadelphia earned the ninth place spot on the list, bookended by Atlanta, Georgia (eighth) and Portland, Oregon (tenth). Other cities with high levels of joie de vivre include San Francisco, Boston and Washington, DC. And no, New York didn’t come out on top, instead pulling a surprising sixth place. The city that’s most exciting? According to this list, it’s Oakland, California.

The 5 most wanted home upgrades

Posted on: May 30, 2013

(Compliments of Matthew Lynch, First Choice Loan Services, Inc.)

The 5 most wanted home upgrades – PLUS 3 things to consider before renting your home

A recent survey found that when people are buying or remodeling a home, these upgrades top the list:

1. Outdoor living area. A deck, screened porch, or attached patio makes a nice gathering place. It doesn’t have to be huge, with a big outdoor kitchen or fireplace, but it’s nice if it adds curb appeal.

2. Extra bedroom with its own bathroom. People want this for an aging parent, a teen retreat, or guests.

3. Home office / family computer room. This is where everyone can dock their electronics and be together, but not necessarily doing the same activity. You can often configure this kind of space in an existing kitchen or family room.

4. Everyday dining area in or near the kitchen.
 New homes sometimes offer extended kitchen/family rooms with three or four eating areas. A good builder or architect can often design this for an existing home.

5. Better bathrooms. Kitchen and bath upgrades are always popular. This year, bathrooms are the preferred remodeling choice, with people wanting better features and finishes.


If you’d like to sell your home but are thinking about renting, hoping to get a higher price in a year or two, here’s how to proceed:

1. Research the local rental market. Talk to realtors and property managers to find out how rentable your home is and how much you can realistically charge. Compare that number to your monthly obligations: mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, and costs for maintenance or a property manager. Finally, ask rental professionals or your local landlords association if there are any rent-control or eviction-control ordinances. In some areas it can be very expensive to evict even nonpaying tenants.

2. Check your home’s condition. If you’ve done pricey upgrades, you might want to think twice about renting, or factor them into the deposit and monthly rent. However, if your home is in livable condition but will need upgrades before you sell, renting it “as is” may be smart.

3. Carefully choose your tenant. Free ads save money, but it may be worth it to hire a realtor or property manager with a tough tenant screening process. Pull a credit report of course, but that won’t tell you how someone will treat your home. Decide whether to allow pets. Often the best tenant is a friend or friend of a friend, so get the word out through your own online and offline social networks.

Whenever you’re ready to buy, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have about financing that purchase. We can also help with refinancing your existing home or funding home improvements. Please call or email us any time. We’re always here to help…. Have a great day!

P.S.: The housing market is recovering, but home prices are still extremely affordable, and mortgage rates remain near historical lows. If you’re thinking about buying or refinancing, it’s smart to get the process started early. Please call or email us to talk about the attractive options available now.

Neighborhood Profile: UNIVERSITY CITY

Posted on: May 20, 2013

History:  University City is a name for the easternmost region of West Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania has long been the dominant institution in the area and was instrumental in coining the name University City as part of a 1950s urban-renewal effort. Today, Drexel University and The University of The Sciences in Philadelphia also call University City home. 

The eastern side of University City is home to the Penn and Drexel campuses, several medical institutions, independent centers of scientific research, 30th Street Station and the Cira Centre. The western side contains Victorian and early 20th-century housing stock and is primarily residential.

Tree-lined streets, public gardens, and open green spaces make University City a verdant, livable community. Neighbors shop together for fresh produce at farmer’s markets, dine in cozy restaurants, and listen to open-air concerts and plays, all within blocks of the distinctive wide porches of the leafy residential areas.

University City grows each year, adding occupants, restaurants, world-class institutions, and programming, making it one of the most livable, well-kept, and friendly neighborhoods in Philadelphia. (Wikipedia

Boundaries: Schuylkill River to the east; Spring Garden Street, Powelton Avenue, and Market Street to the north; 52nd Street to the west; and Woodland Avenue, University Avenue, and Civic Center Boulevard to the south.

Zip Codes:  19104, 19139, and 19143.

What To See / Do: Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologyArthur Ross GalleryFisher Fine Arts LibraryPenn Park The RotundaAnnenberg CenterFranklin FieldPhilaDanco!

More Information: University City District


Primary/Public: Alexander Wilson School (K-5)Charles R. Drew School (PreK-8)Henry C. Lea School (K-8), Middle Years Alternative & Parkway School (6-12), Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School (K-8)Samuel Powel School (K-4) .

Private: Christ Memorial Day School (K-6), HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy (ages 2–21), Jubilee School (pre-K-6), Spruce Hill Christian School (K-8) ParochialSt. Francis de Sales School (1-8)

Secondary: Middle Years Alternative & Parkway School (6-12), University City High School (9-12), West Philadelphia High School (9-12)

Higher: University of PennsylvaniaDrexel UniversityUniversity of the Sciences in PhiladelphiaCommunity College of PhiladelphiaLincoln University , The Restaurant School .

Public Transportation: SEPTA University City Station, LUCY Gold Loop, LUCY Green Loop


Jobless Claims Decline

Posted on: May 15, 2013

(Compliments of Craig Smith, Mortgage Master, Inc.)

While last week was packed with central bank meetings and major economic data, there was very little significant economic news this week. The small amount of data that was released this week reinforced the view that the labor market is improving. This is great for the economy, but bad for mortgage rates, and rates ended the week higher.

This week’s reading for Weekly Jobless Claims showed a decline to 323K, the lowest level since January 2008. This marked the third straight week that Jobless Claims were below the 350K level. Weekly Jobless Claims measure the number of new claims for unemployment benefits. There will always be some number of job changes each week, so there will always be new claims. In the years prior to 2008, Jobless Claims mostly held steady between 300K and 350K. The financial crisis then caused Jobless Claims to spike to levels above 600K during the first half of 2009. The labor market has been slowly improving since then, and it appears that Jobless Claims have finally returned to the levels seen before the financial crisis.

Jobless Claims are only one half of the employment story. The other big factor in the strength of the labor market is the number of people being hired. During a recession, companies often reduce the size of their workforce. As the economy recovers, companies first slow the pace of layoffs and then begin to retain their existing employees as business picks up. Eventually, companies reach the point where they need to add employees to meet growing demand. The stronger than expected Employment report last week and the recent Jobless Claims data provide positive indications that the economy may be at this point. Increased job gains will be great news for the economy and for the housing market.


Average 30 yr fixed rate:
Last week: +0.08%  
This week: +0.10%  


Stocks (weekly):
Dow: 15,050 +50
NASDAQ: 3,415 +25

Week Ahead

The most significant economic data next week will be the monthly inflation reports. The Producer Price Index (PPI) focuses on the increase in prices of “intermediate” goods used by companies to produce finished products and will come out on Wednesday. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, will come out on Thursday. CPI looks at the price change for those finished goods which are sold to consumers. In addition, Retail Sales will be released on Monday. Retail Sales account for about 70% of economic activity. Industrial Production will come out on Wednesday. Housing Starts will be released on Thursday. Empire State, Philly Fed, Consumer Sentiment, Leading Indicators and Import Prices will round out the schedule.

Neighborhood Profile: PLYMOUTH MEETING

Posted on: May 13, 2013

History:   The township was originally settled by members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, who worshipped in the Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse. They sailed from Devonshire, England, on the ship Desire, arriving in Philadelphia on June 23, 1686. The township takes its name from the settlers’ hometown of Plymouth in Devon.

What is now Germantown Pike was ordered laid out by the Provincial Government in 1687 as a “cart road” from Philadelphia to Plymouth Meeting. The actual road was not finished until 1804, when it was built at a cost of $11,287. A road from Plymouth Meeting to Gwynedd appears to have been built in 1751. What is now Chemical Road, following Plymouth Creek, was opened in 1759 to provide access to a new gristmill.

In the early 19th century the Hickorytown Hotel, on Germantown Pike opposite Hickory Road, was a prominent road house. Robert Kennedy, an officer in the Revolution, operated the inn in 1801. In 1806 it was kept by Frederick Dull and in 1825, Jacob Hart. In the beginning of the 19th century it was a training place for the 36th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia and the Second Battalion of Montgomery County. The Friendship Company for the Protection against Horse Stealing was organized there in 1807. Township elections were held there as well, and a post office was established there in May 1857. The Plymouth Meeting Post Office appears to have been established sometime prior to 1827.

Among early industries in Plymouth Township was the Hickorytown Forge operated by the Wood family, and a forerunner of the present Alan Wood Steel Company. The name Plymouth Furnace appears in the records about 1847 and was engaged in the manufacture of nails.

The Plymouth Railroad was built in 1836 to serve some 20 lime kilns operating along the route between Conshohocken and Cold Point. In 1870, the line was acquired by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and was rebuilt and extended to Oreland at a junction with the North Penn Railroad.

Prior to the building of the Plymouth Railroad, the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railroad was built along the Schuylkill River through Plymouth and commenced operation on 1835. The Schuylkill Valley Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the tracks of which parallel those of the Reading Railroad, was opened in 1884, and the Trenton Cut-off branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad was built in 1891.

Plymouth became a township of the first class in January 1922. Mr. Isaac J. Sheppard became township secretary at that time and served as secretary until his voluntary retirement in 1952. Under the new form of government the board changed from one of three “road supervisors” to one of five “Township Commissioners”. Many gradual changes commenced at that time. Street lights were installed in the built-up sections, fire hydrants were installed at critical locations. By 1924, two fire companies were in operation, the Plymouth Fire Company and the Harmonville Fire Company.

In 1925, the Board of Health was organized. Plumbing inspection began in 1934. In 1939, Plymouth adopted a “modern” zoning ordinance. A building code ordinance was also adopted. In 1947, the first subdivision ordinance was adopted. In 1952, the Township Planning Commission was created, and a Recreation Committee was established to study the recreation needs of the township. Growth continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s, which saw the advent of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Plymouth Meeting Mall, high rise and garden apartment complexes, and many modern industries and offices.

Plymouth Township adopted a Home Rule Charter in 1972. Government under a Home Rule Charter allows a municipality to take any governmental or administrative actions it requires, unless such actions are prohibited by general laws of the Commonwealth. With this charter in place, citizens and their elected officials are given more governing power, and there is more of an opportunity for public involvement in governing procedures and decisions. (Wikipedia)

Boundaries: It lies primarily within Plymouth Township, with a smaller portion lying within Whitemarsh Township. It is the northern terminus of the “Blue Route” and the southern terminus of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension.

Zip Code:  19462

What To See / Do: Plymouth Friends MeetinghousePlymouth Meeting Mall,  Alan West Corson HomesteadHovenden House, Barn and Abolition HallLivezey House, Hinterleiter House.

More Information: Plymouth Township

Schools: Colonial Elementary SchoolColonial Middle SchoolPlymouth Whitemarsh High School, Plymouth Meeting Friends School.

Public Transportation:  SEPTA Route L


Neighborhood Profile: FISHTOWN

Posted on: May 6, 2013

History:   Fishtown is a neighborhood in Philadelphia located immediately northeast of Center City. The name “Fishtown” is derived from the area’s former role as the center of the shad fishing industry on the Delaware River. The name comes from the fact that a number of 18th and early 19th centuries German and German-American families bought up the fishing rights on both sides of the Delaware River from Trenton Falls down to Cape May, New Jersey.

The area was originally inhabited by members of the Turtle Clan of the Lenni Lenape Indian tribe (who the Europeans named the Delaware Indian Tribe). The first European settlers were a group of six Swedish farming families, later replaced by British landed gentry, then British shipbuilders and German fishermen.

The neighborhood has been working class for centuries. While poverty grew after jobs left in the deindustrialization which afflicted many “rust belt” cities, Fishtown’s workers continued to maintain a stable working-class community. Most long-time residents trace their ancestry to Irish, German, and Polish Catholic immigrants.

In recent years Fishtown has experienced gentrification characterized by significant rises in housing prices and the opening of upscale art, entertainment, and dining establishments. An influx of artists and professionals has joined the ranks of police officers, fire fighters, nurses, carpenters, electricians, stonemasons, plumbers, sheet-metal workers, and teamsters. (From Wikipedia)

Fishtown is home to many well known bars and restaurants. The more well known bars and restaurants include Fette Sau, Frankford Hall, Pickled Heron, Pizza Brain, Pizzeria Beddia, Loco Pez, Barcade, The Barbary, M Room, East Girard Gastropub, Memphis Taproom, Sketch, Interstate Draft House, Lloyd, Cedar Point Bar and Kitchen, The Rocket Cat Cafe,  Kraftwork, Johnny Brenda’s and Ida Maes Bruncherie.

Boundaries: The neighborhood is a triangle, bordered by the Delaware River, Frankford Avenue and York Street.

Zip Code:  19125

What To See / Do: Penn Treaty Park, The Trenton Avenue Arts Festival and Kinetic Sculpture Derby, Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor, Greensgrow Farms, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Walking Fish Theatre.

More Information: Uwishunu

Schools: Adaire Alexander School, Penn Treaty Middle School, St. Laurentius School, Kensington High School For The Creative and Performing Arts.

Public Transportation:  SEPTA Market / Frankford Line, The Route 15 Trolley Line, Septa Bus Lines 15 and 25


10 Home-Maintenance Tips for Spring

Posted on: May 2, 2013

Courtesy of

After a long, dark winter, spring’s bright sun and warm winds are, well, a breath of fresh air. The only downside? All that sunshine spotlights your leaf-filled gutters, cracked sidewalks and the dead plants in last year’s flower beds. Dwight Barnett, a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors, shared this checklist to help you target the areas that need maintenance so you can get your chores done quickly, leaving you time to go outside and play in the sunshine. MORE