South Philadelphia: Housing Market Trends Differ From Community Opinion]

The housing market in South Philadelphia can change depending on the block. However, while the numbers suggest a downward trend in the price of homes, realtors and residents are optimistic about the community.

“Some of the trends I noticed in the area are more investors coming in. Twenty years ago, South Philly was much different in landscape. There has been a huge influx of investors,” said Steve D’Agostino, a resident of South Philadelphia and founder of South Philadelphia-based D’Agostino Real Estate Management.

“Right now you can get houses for pretty cheap, so investors are taking advantage of that,” he added.

There are currently 392 homes for sale, three open houses, 122 recently sold houses and 94 foreclosures in Point Breeze, according to

New houses line South 16th Street.

The median sales price for a home in Point Breeze is $42,000, down 56.2 percent from last year.  The average listing price for Point Breeze, $147,979, is $96,000 less than the average listing price in Philadelphia. The number of sales decreased by 92 percent from last year.

“We know around the Washington Avenue area, particularly going farther away from Broad Street, there has been some depression in housing prices,” said Dr. David Bartelt, a professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University.

The median price of an existing single-family home in 2010 across the country, according to the National Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index was $173,100, $25,121 more than the average listing price in Point Breeze.

In 2000, according to census data, the median values of a house in the two South Philadelphia census tracks were $52,700 and $36,000, the median costs of rent were $435 and $441 per month.

“Philadelphia has a tremendous amount of uneven development that’s taking place,” Bartelt said. “There are some neighborhoods that have largely emptied out and where the revitalization has been very slow to occur. Then there are neighborhoods that are immediately adjacent to economically important parts of the city. And you’re starting to see even neighborhoods that have been not invested in for a long period of time are seeing some significant improvement.”

“I moved here April 15, and I love it here,” said Marge Kramer, a resident of Scottish Rite House, a senior center at 1525 Fitzwater St. “It’s really nice and everybody’s nice and friendly, I feel at home.”

“People that used to live here who have moved out have said that it’s becoming a really nice neighborhood to live in, and I find it is. I go to the Rite Aid and people sitting out say ‘Hello, how are you?’ I feel safe out here too, so that’s a big plus,” Kramer said.

“There has been a lot of construction, things are picking up in the area,” D’Agostino said.

Workers construct new housing projects in South Philadelphia.

Census data for the two tracks that run through South Philadelphia, west of Broad Street suggests that young people were a minority in the area.

In 2000, there were 1,658 people between the ages of 15 and 24, 5,733 between the ages of 25 and 34, 6,611 between the ages of 35 and 44, 5,799 between the ages of 45 and 54, 4,398 between the ages of 55 and 64, and 8,762 people older than 65.

However, both residents and realtors have witnessed more young people moving into the neighborhood.

“I haven’t seen trends in people leaving, but there have been a lot of young professionals moving into the area,” D’Agostino said.

“Pretty much a lot has changed. The race, it used to be all Afro-American, now it seems like it’s all Caucasian. They built this area up so much, it looks beautiful,” said Pia Farrington, who grew up in South Philadelphia, but has since left.

“It’s a melting pot. You don’t know who your next door neighbor will be, who’s going to move in. The housing is much better, they take care of the streets better, they clean them,” said Frank Gregg, a resident of Point Breeze, who lived in South Philadelphia his entire life.

According to census data, in 2000 of the 32,961 residents in South Philadelphia, 21,184 identified as black or African American, and 14,605 identified as white.

“The change has happened, but not as dramatically as many residents feel that it is,” Bartelt said.

Bartelt said South Philadelphia, west of Broad Street is an interesting neighborhood because it contains several different neighborhoods with different communities. In the early to mid 20th century, the northern part of the neighborhood between Bainbridge Street and Christian Street was the center of professional African American life in Philadelphia.

“It went through some hard times and was designated a renewal area at one point, that was resisted terrifically by the community,” Bartelt said.

Pia Farrington visits her old neighborhood.

Bartelt said the housing market in many ways reflects the changing neighborhood.

“It looks like, this will take a long time, but this probably going to result in revitalized homes, higher priced housing and probably a mixed neighborhood,” he said.

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