Archive for February, 2012

Philadelphia real estate market: First quarter trends

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Philadelphia Real EstateEven though the real estate market has been tumultuous for many recently, Philadelphia somehow seems to be doing much better compared to most other parts of the country. The local market has some activity, as in housing is being purchased and seeing increases. Additionally, construction of new single-family homes continues to go up, especially in the suburbs.

One point of prosperity in the Philly real estate market lies in the increase in existing home sales into December. December 2011 took in about five more percent of existing sales than December 2010 did. Sales from the end of last year thus far have been positive. This is something the housing market needs momentously. Thus far in 2012, there hasn’t been a significant increase in homes purchased but there is certainly a growing interest in property expected to take place. 

On the seller’s side, there is hope that rising apartment rental rates could drive some potential buyers back into the fold in 2012. The average rental rate for all Philadelphia apartments has gone up nearly eight percent in the last year alone. This equals an increase of nearly $80 in the past year alone. The thought is that those individuals or couples on the fence about renting and buying could take a more serious look at buying, especially with today’s mortgage rates.

Reports have shown that mortgage rates have been hitting record lows throughout the country, as well as here in Philadelphia, which is certainly inviting for potential buyers. Right now, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is coming with 4.007 APR. With mortgage rates being this low and rentals continuing to increase in price, there is hope that some buyers will begin to see the benefits of buying in early 2012.

Right now, Philadelphia’s top selling areas have remained the northwestern and western areas of Center City. However, other parts of Philadelphia have retained their value attracting buyers and keeping the market going.

Right now, the big issue the city faces is sale prices, specifically for sellers. It is important to note that even though sales prices have dropped in this area, they have not plummeted as much as other cities across the country.


Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square, in western Center City, continues to show strength

In the coming months, there is reason to be optimistic that these prices can get a small pickup. Median prices were down about six percent in December from the previous year, but this could have been expected. The months of November and December are generally regarded as slow months for real estate anyway, but the numbers shouldn’t have too heavy an impact on the rest of the first quarter of 2012.

A glance at the early trends in 2012 Philadelphia real estate is truly a mixed bag right now. Coming off the month of December is usually not pretty for any market; however, the Philly market has looked rather stable in the early part of the year. Regardless, it should remain to be seen if factors such as mortgage rates, rising rental rates and an increase in existing home sales can positively influence the market for both buyers and sellers throughout the first half of 2012. 

–By Emma Crawford, special to

Greenfield parents rally to save art programs

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

With the School District of Philadelphia looking to close yet another yawning budget deficit, parents have begun to take matters into their own hands in order to preserve the quality of educational programs at their neighborhood schools.

The School District has cut funding for programs considered non-essential such as studio arts, performing arts and foreign languages. One group of Center City parents has taken advantage of a state tax credit program to keep art alive at their school.

That school is Albert M. Greenfield Elementary, near Fitler Square. The school’s active Home and School Association has raised private funds to paint, landscape, and improve the school’s interior and exterior spaces, so it didn’t take much to get it involved in the business of saving cherished enrichment programs.

The HSA took advantage of a state tax credit known as the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) to do this. By establishing itself as an Educational Improvement Organization (EIO), the Greenfield HSA can receive direct donations from private companies to support programs cut by the School District outside the core curriculum. Companies can deduct the donations from their state tax bills.

The HSA did not clear the bureaucratic hurdles in time to save Greenfield’s art program this year but will be able to do so for the coming school year.

Read more about this development in the Weekly Press.

Sandy Smith

Five fun things to do this weekend

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Besides brunch, that is.

There’s never a lack of good things to do on a weekend in Philadelphia. This weekend, of course, one of them is First Friday, the monthly gallery-hop/street fair that takes place all over Old City. But we’ve written about that before as well. So assuming that as Item One, here are four other events you might want to check out:

2. and 3. Get your groove on. Make tonight an all-night dance party! Start with this month’s Art After 5 event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, featuring homeboy DJ Cosmo Baker. He may live in Brooklyn now, but he remains true to his Philly roots, spinning a mix of hip-hop, disco, funk, R&B and reggae. And when you need to take a break, there’s cocktails, light snacks and supper, and a stupendous collection of art all around you. Then head down to South Street for Sex Dwarf, Robert Drake’s long-running dance party featuring those choice New Wave hits that got you through the ’80s in one piece. (Missed that decade? All the more reason you should go.)
Art After 5: 5 to 8:45 p.m. at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Free with Museum admission.
Sex Dwarf:  9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Fluid, 613 South 4th Street. Free before 10 p.m., $5 after 10.

4. C’mon over to the dark side. Bikinis, bikers and blackness are all on the bill of this month’s Secret Cinema program, which celebrates the outlaw biker ethos of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Opening the night is “Trailer Trash,” a collection of carefully selected trailers for some of the classics of the genre: “Wild In the Streets,” “Devil’s Angels,” “Mondo Teeno,” “You Only Live Twice” – wait, isn’t that James Bond? – and more. These set the stage for the evening’s feature, “The Black Angels” – Laurence Merrick’s 1970 mashup of the biker flick and the blaxploitation picture in which rival biker gangs make turf war and race war one and the same.
Secret Cinema: Saturday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. at International House, 3701 Chestnut Street. Tickets $9, students/seniors $7, International House members free.

5. Go for Baroque with Maniaci. Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia’s baroque orchestra, goes cross-cultural this weekend with “Italians in Vienna,” a concert featuring works written by Italian composers imported to Vienna by the Hapsburg court. Joining the chamber players once again is tenor Michael Maniaci, hailed by the Toronto Globe and Mail as “one of the greatest singers of his generation,” who last performed with Tempesta di Mare in 2006. Pre-concert talks by Wendy Heller of Princeton University fill you in on the cultural ferment that made Vienna such a happening place in the Baroque era.
Tempesta di Mare: Saturday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. (talk at 7 p.m.) at Arch Street Friends Meeting, 320 Arch Street, and Sunday, Feb. 5, at 4 p.m. (talk at 3 p.m.) at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue. Tickets $25 and $35, seniors $20, students $10, school-age children (grades 3-12) free. 

–Sandy Smith

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