Home Sales Hot in South Philly

New statistics in Philadelphia show an 18.5% increase in monthly home sales compared to June 2012

Home sales in Philadelphia are up and experts say this is a good sign of economic strength in the city.

This week, Philadelphia's Office of the Controller released a report showing there was an 18.5% increase in monthly home sales last month, compared to June 2012.

"Not only are we receiving the revenue from the real estate transfer tax, but it's also a good sign that people are able to get credit and buy a house, so there's money being put into the economy in Philadelphia," said the controller's first deputy Harvey Rice.

The Controller's report shows that of the 1,200 homes sold in June, the most popular neighborhood was South Philadelphia, followed by Fishtown, Fairmount and parts of Roxborough.

"All the young kids want to live in South Philadelphia," said Joe Bianco, co-owner of ALPHA Realty Group, who has been selling homes in South Philadelphia for 30 years.

"It's mostly first time buyers is what we're seeing," said Bianco. "A lot of 20 and 30-somethings, who maybe were raised in the suburbs, raised in the county somewhere and they are moving into South Philadelphia."

According to the Urban Land Institute's "2013 Emerging Trends in Real Estate," Philadelphia ranks #27 out of 51 cities on its U.S. Markets to Watch list.

"Generally the view is that it's not one of the strongest cities in the country," said John McIlwain, senior resident fellow with the Urban Land Institute, who mentions New York, San Francisco and Washington DC as some of the hottest cities for real estate right now.

But McIllwain adds there are some attractive qualities to Philadelphia, like great museums, restaurants, hotels and the city's rich history.

"I know people who've been leaving New York to go to Philadelphia because you're still on the East Coast, you're still in that East Coast mentality, but you can buy a lot more house in Philadelphia than New York," said McIlwain.

While Spring and early Summer are a peak time for home buying, Rice says this is part of an upward trend they've been seeing for at least a year, as they track sales on a monthly basis.

The Controller's office says as regular sales are going up, the number of short sales and foreclosures are going down.

Bianco, whose most popular neighborhood listing this year was the house from 1979's "Rocky II," says there is definitely a trend in what types of homes buyers are looking for.

"What we're seeing a lot of demand for is renovated properties, so investors are buying properties, fixing them and selling them to an end user," said Bianco. " Those are the homes that are selling the fastest."

Besides renovated homes, something else that's attracting buyers-- interest rates.

"The interest rates are still low, so it's an optimal time to purchase a home because there has been some talk or writings that the interest rates are going to start creeping up within a year," said Rice.

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