Buying, selling and renting property are not always easy tasks, and for residents of North Philadelphia, including Hunting Park, potential home buyers and sellers may have a few more things to worry about.
When it comes to real estate in North Philadelphia, few have as much experience and knowledge of the area as Thomas Vaughan, owner and broker at DiPentino and Associates, located at 1222 E. Hunting Park Ave.
Vaughan’s journey to realty began in his early 30s as a bartender. Intimidated, yet inspired by the many men with careers to whom he would serve beverages, Vaughan decided to take classes at Temple in pursuit of a certification to sell real estate. More than 30 years later, he owns and runs his own business out of Hunting Park where he has built his clientele over the past 25 years.
“Referrals are the biggest way I get business,” Vaughan said. “I sell one person’s house, they’re happy with me so they refer me to someone else who might be looking to buy or sell a home, and that’s how my business grew.”
Neighborhoods are typically dominated by income brackets, meaning people traditionally live in areas that best fit their lifestyle. Vaughan considered the neighborhood and housing market in Hunting Park stable and ideal for working-class people.
“Hunting Park is very affordable for working-class people, not minimum wage but regular people earning a living, maybe with two kids but with limited money for a mortgage,” Vaughan said.
Students and recent graduates with more disposable income more often find residence in Center City, Northern Liberties and Fishtown. Whereas in Hunting Park, the average family can make anywhere between $20,000-25,000 a year. The average home in Hunting Park can range anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, a figure that has changed very little in the past 10 years.
One of the biggest issues for homeowners in Hunting Park is trying to get what they paid for when selling their home, which isn’t just a problem in Hunting Park, but in the rest of Philadelphia as well. Dan Arby has lived in Hunting Park for 20 years and has been trying to sell his home for the past two.
“I’ve really been trying to move further North into Roxborough, they have some really nice houses out there, but I can’t sell my house,” Arby said. “I got my house for around $75,000 back in the 90’s but now appraisers are trying to get my house for half that amount. I can’t do that!”
The drop in the housing market is an issue that many people face trying to sell their homes. Due to a slight decline in the market, it isn’t rare for residents to overprice their home on the market, therefore getting very few responses.
“Just because I put my sign on there it’s still available to every realtor in the city. If no one’s looking at your house, which means the price is too high,” Vaughan said. “When they tell their friends, I’m the bad guy so I don’t want that reputation. I want the reputation – ‘Tom sold my house in a month.’”
Similarly, Janice Roe decided to bite the bullet and sell her home for a cheaper price. Although her realtor was not with DiPentino and Associates, she was very happy that she was able leave Hunting Park to move outside of the city.
“I forget the realtor I used, but it was a small business which I think worked best in the long run,” Roe said. “I felt a little bad for the value lost on my home but I’m very glad to have been able to move on with my life, although I do come back often to visit my sister and her children.”
Along with the market, abandoned homes and lots that plague the blocks also push down the overall price of homes in Hunting Park. The lack of care in parts of North Philadelphia may disturb some, but have others in an outrage. Cornelius L. Braxton, Sr. blamed the neglect as well as the recent fire that occurred in Kensington on Mayor Michael Nutter and corrupt politics.
“This has been going on for over 50 years. What can the mayor do about it? He knows what the problem is, just like the fire that happened a week ago, how would you let somebody come into the city and buy property for little to nothing for 30 properties in the city and don’t pay property tax,” Braxton said. “The mayor knows what’s going on, city council knows what’s going on, but long as it’s not in their face where they live, why should they care?”
Despite the many improvements Hunting Park has undergone, some residents still see major issues in the community. Greg Lewis has lived in Hunting Park for 10 years. He blamed the amount of abandoned property in his community on the lack of city planning.
“That comes under city planning. When a city decides that they don’t want to reinvest in a community, they knock down homes and put up wooden fences,” Lewis said. “They tell people, don’t invest heavily because developers are going to come in and get the value of what you put in your home.”
Vaughan said he often warns against residents of Hunting Park investing too much into their homes. Due to the nature of the area, home improvements won’t do much to build the cost of a home.
Despite the issues homeowners may face in selling their homes, Vaughan said he still enjoys the work he does.
“The best part of my job is helping someone buy a house and feel that pride of purchasing their home and ownership,” Vaughan said. “Owning is ultimately cheaper than renting.”