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Real Estate Ramblings

James Yoakum's Philadelphia Real Estate Blog

By James Yoakum, SFR | Agent in Philadelphia, PA
  • Great Article on Temple Student Housing

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia  |  October 15, 2010 7:54 AM  |  2,114 views  |  1 comment

    This article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer gives a nice overview of the world of student housing around Temple University - a must read for investors in this area:

    New Temple student housing stirs a renaissance west of Broad Street

  • Good News for Powelton Village and Mantua

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, In My Neighborhood in Philadelphia  |  October 6, 2010 10:44 AM  |  2,073 views  |  No comments

    Drexel University's new president, John Fry, announced a goal of improving the neighborhoods surrounding Drexel's campus. Given that he was part of Penn's initiatives to improve University City during the 1990's and 2000's I think it's safe to be optimistic that he will have a positive impact on the Powelton Village and Mantua neighborhoods just north of Drexel. Along with expanding Drexel's security presence, Mr. Fry announced plans to encourage Drexel employees to purchase and maintain homes in the neighborhood, and also spoke of cracking-down on sub-standard off-campus housing, a serious problem that too often flies under the radar throughout Philadelphia.

    To read the entire article click here.

  • Center City Auction Gives Pulse of Local Commercial Market

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Market Conditions in Philadelphia, In My Neighborhood in Philadelphia  |  October 6, 2010 5:42 AM  |  2,092 views  |  1 comment

    Yesterday's auction of 1441 Chestnut - a parking lot in Center City that has been awaiting redevelopment for years - gave some good indications of where the local commercial real estate market stands. The property traded hands for $12,000,000, with the winning bidder being one of the partners in the group that already owned the property and had been trying to develop it as a hotel and condo tower.

    The main conclusion to be drawn from auctions like this one is that there is still very little demand for speculative properties in Philadelphia, especially vacant land. Even in one of the best locations in the city this property sold for roughly the same price that it traded for in 2000 when its development prospects were much murkier and Center City in general was a less-proven market.

    Read a full report on the auction here.

  • Vacant Land A Major Problem and/or Opportunity in Philly

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, In My Neighborhood in Philadelphia  |  September 30, 2010 3:30 PM  |  2,087 views  |  1 comment

    Since I work with a lot of real estate investors in Philadelphia I'm frequently asked about the vacant land parcels you see scattered about the city. Even in some of the nicest neighborhoods of Philadelphia you can find large chunks or single plots of vacant land that have been sitting for years without any change. Anyone who's lived near a vacant lot in the city knows the trouble they attract, and any developer who's ever tried to acquire land in Philly knows what a pain that can be. I found two articles from PlanPhilly.com (see below) that are do a great job of explaining why there's so much vacant land in Philly, why it's so hard to get your hands on if you want to build on it, and what the future of the city looks like in terms of dealing with this issue. Take a look at the articles and let me know your thoughts.

    Vacancy Victories are Rare, but City Says Reform is Coming

    Vacant Land, Focused Plans

  • Are Buyers Starting to Re-Emerge?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  September 23, 2010 9:01 AM  |  2,032 views  |  No comments

    The summer of 2010 will be remembered by folks in the real estate business as a long vacation from serious, qualified buyers. Since the tax-credit deadline of April 30th, the number of active buyers in my market, Philadelphia, has been very slim, and I've heard similar stories from people in other parts of the country. This has been great for the few serious buyers who were looking this summer - they were able to negotiate great deals in a once-in-a-lifetime buyers' market. On the other hand, sellers have been having a very tough go of it the last few months with even the nicest properties sitting on the market for months without solid offers. It might be a little soon to say that things are turning around, but two pieces of anecdotal evidence give me some hope that serious buyers are coming back to the market as summer turns to fall:

    1. I've been getting more calls the last couple weeks from first-time buyers ready to start looking with hopes of finding a place and moving in before the end of the year. While I still haven't seen a bump in 'move-up' buyers, if more first-timers start to buy up currently listed properties, that will have a domino effect allowing the sellers of those properties to become move-up buyers of higher-end houses.

    2. The hits on my online listings have jumped up in the past week. This could be a random anomaly, but I'd rather see more people looking at online real estate listings than fewer, so it's something I'll be watching to see if it continues.

    If you've been thinking of selling in Philadelphia I'd say it's still the type of market where you should only sell if you absolutely have to, but maybe it's time to start tackling some of those little fix-up projects so that your home will be ready if the buyers keep coming back over the next few months.

    If you're thinking of buying it's time to really get moving. It looks like the longer you wait the more competition you're going to have from other buyers.

  • Employment Picture Better than Expected

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia  |  September 3, 2010 10:36 AM  |  2,055 views  |  No comments

    If you've been reading my blog you know I expect the real estate markets to start recovering once the job market starts consistently growing. Well the national news today was a bit better than expected with reports of 67,000 private sector jobs being added in August. The June and July employment numbers were also revised upwards, another reason for a bit of optimism. While a positive surprise is nice (analysts expected only 41,000 new jobs in August), the economy still needs to more than double this monthly job growth figure if we want to really reverse the damage of the 'Great Recession.'

    Another reason not to break out the champagne just yet: the employment scene locally here in Philadelphia is still shaky. The unemployment rate for Philadelphia county rose last month from 11.7% to 11.9%, more than two full percentage points above the national average. The five-county Philadelphia region has a little bit brighter outlook, with a 9.3% unemployment rate and unemployment as low a 7.2% out in Chester County. Another silver lining is that although employment has fluctuated month-to-month in Philly, the city has still added 3,000 jobs since February, so the slightly longer term view isn't awful.

  • Breakdown of July's Existing Home Sales Data

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  August 30, 2010 8:00 AM  |  2,056 views  |  No comments
    The release last week of July's existing home sales figures from the National Association of Realtors was all over the news, where it was spun mostly as a sign that we might be headed for a 'double dip' recession driven by a continuing weakness in the housing market. If you dig a little deeper into the numbers though you see that what we're seeing isn't so much a weakening housing market, as a tale of two housing markets: the market with the $8,000 tax credit and the market without it.

    Home sales in the first six months of 2010 were VERY strong because many buyers rushed to buy in order to qualify for the federal tax credit. I can't blame those buyers for locking in that free money at the time, but we shouldn't be surprised that the market tanked after the tax credit expired. It makes perfect sense that fewer people will rush to buy if the $8,000 incentive is off the table. The fact that sales only dropped by 27.2% from June to July nationwide is actually not too bad when you consider that tax-credit eligible buyers were the driving force behind a majority of sales in the first half of 2010. In fact, we're still on pace for 5 million home sales in 2010 which is 0.6 million more than the average over the past 30 years. Another good sign is that even though fewer homes sold in July than in previous months, prices actually inched up. In my neck of the woods (the Northeast), prices climbed 4.8% relative to a year ago. This is great news because rising prices are one of the keys to giving buyers the confidence to re-enter the housing market without the assistance of the tax credit.

    The other key to increased buyer confidence is an improving employment picture. Once prospective home-buyers see home prices rising and feel confident in keeping their jobs they'll be ready to pull the trigger on a home. Unfortunately the jobs picture is one piece of the economy that's still a little blurry - keep an eye on employment numbers to gage when, and how strongly, home sales will rebound to the levels we saw earlier this year.
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