Kensington: Real Estate in a Tough Economy

Maria Mendez talks about her business in Kensington.

Mendez Homes and Investments has been renting and selling affordable homes to Philadelphia residents for the past four years—and doesn’t see things stopping anytime soon.

“We’re affected by the economy, but it’s still a great place to live,” says Maria Mendez of Kensington.  Mendez has been operating as a broker for Mendez Homes and Investments for the past four years.

Calling upon local artists from around the northeastern Philadelphia area, Mendez wanted to create an office in which the community felt welcome.  Coming from a Latino background herself, she first began her business by reaching out to the Latino community.  It was then that Mendez realized she wanted a property suitable for all nationalities.

“I wanted people to come in and feel at home,” she says.

Maria Mendez talks about her business in Kensington.
Maria Mendez talks about her business in Kensington.

Bright colored paintings, hardwood floors, open ended space and sky-lit ceilings comprise Mendez’s humble office on Frankford avenue, a site of prosperity quite unique to the Kensington district, an area that is often thought of as poor and crime ridden by outsiders.

Promoting a prosperous attitude for new beginnings, Mendez Homes and Investments has been working primarily with first-time home buyers.  Aiming to work past poor lines of credit, the agency has teamed up with programs like the New Kensington Community Development Corp. to find low priced mortgage opportunities for their clientele.

“Why not let them have the best?” Mendez asks.

And although the clientele has not decreased in the current state of the economy, investors have been dwindling slowly throughout the past year. Mendez says investors have lent their credit toward the agency, only to pull out suddenly because of hard financial times.  Mendez Homes and Investments have been looking towards organizations like the Sovereign Bank and Office of Housing and Community Development in hopes for some help, although it is difficult to determine if the financial efforts have truly helped.

However, with the addition of new housing building projects, times could be looking up for both the real estate agency and the area in which they are located.

“The best part is getting to work with more people,” says Mendez about the addition of new condos and rental housing developments in the area.  “It’s already changing Kensington.”

Video by Holland Baldridge. While Kensington’s residential and commercial properties continue to grow, there is mixed emotion as the importance of economic growth and the desire to preserve the neighborhood is up for debate by its longtime residents.

Some longtime residents have not quite warmed up to the idea of new building developments in their area, but, with time this could change.

“I’ve been to community meetings where people don’t want the changes and don’t see the bigger picture,” says Mendez of the Kensington community.

In an effort to put the community at ease, Mendez and her office have begun planning a festive first Friday each month, with their first event set to take place May 1.

Relying on the same local artisans that decorated her office, Mendez hopes to create a lighter atmosphere of artwork and music for display within the community, to change misconceptions often attached to the area.  With the help of surrounding businesses and approximately 50 people volunteering their efforts, change is sure to spread rather quickly.

Video by Holland Baldridge. Keith Oberholtzer and family are building their dream home in Kensington,
only five blocks down the road from where they have lived their entire lives.

“It’s a unique way to market ourselves,” says Mendez of the real estate agency’s strategy.  It is also a way to get the old community involved with the up-and-coming, to accept new ideas, and to make the current residents feel at ease within their growing neighborhood.


  1. I think the cost of living in an area and the affordability of a suburb are important factors to consider when we talk about a particular housing business going up or down in today’s U.S realty market.

  2. That is great that Menedez is able to promote growth and change in her community and make money doing what she loves at the same time. Glad I stumbled across your post. It is always great to hear stories like yours.

  3. Maria is a great person; my wife once had the opportunity to work with her and only have good things to say about her. Thanks for the post.

    Just FYI, most browsers don’t have Quicktime installed, so people will need to download plugins to view the video. It could be a good idea to use some of those more universal format.

  4. I’m curious as to what kind of investors ran out of money or “pulled out” due to hard financial times. I’m a real estate wholesale investor based in southern,NJ. I have worked hand in hand with cash buyers for some years now and have yet to hear of a investor running out of funds if they are worth their weight in salt, Then they have more than one source of financing. Hard money is a resource all real state investor know of and use regularly. My thinking is they did not really want to participate in the 1st place. Which is sad because its obvious you are trying to do some great things in the community. My email, is attached to the post and if you need further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me ok.
    p.s Kensigton is bouncing back nicely, But have you thought about the suburbs in NJ? They need help bad. There are so many issues they must overcome and if no one helps them, I fear the worse

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