Philadelphia is a city rich in diversity in all categories. This goes for food, culture, and the ethnic mix of its residents. If you are thinking about living in Philadelphia, you have a lot of options when it comes to what kind of home you buy. Your choices will be shaped by how much you are willing to spend and what part of town you want to settle down in, but sometimes it comes down to a matter of choice. Will you live in a single-family home, a townhouse, a condo, or even one of Philadelphia’s quintessential rowhouses? Here, you can learn a bit about the features that distinguish each type of Philly dwelling, and figure out what’s the best decision for you!
Philadelphia transplants moving from other places, especially not big cities, may be surprised when they realize how few single-family homes there are for sale in the City of Brotherly Love. The reason for this is twofold: not only are there not that many single-family homes to start with, but the residents of said homes are less likely to pick up and move out. Last year, Curbed Philadelphia found that there were 32 percent fewer single-family homes on the market than in 2012, and that the prices of the homes that made it to sale were significantly higher. It’s common for potential buyers to end up engaged in a bidding war for highly-desirable homes, especially those in great school catchments or ones close to Center City. However, the benefits of a single-family home are compelling: having a yard to call your own, space to remodel or renovate your home’s layout, distance from neighbors, and less of a chance of HOA fees.
Philadelphia has been experiencing a condo boom for the last twenty years or so. If you want to live in Center City proper, a condo is likely to be your best bet. Condo towers are going up as quickly as crews can build them, and it seems like there is a new high-rise project on every block. Competition for condos is usually (not always) less fierce than for single-family homes, so you stand a better chance of actually having your offer accepted on the condo that you want. For definition purposes, condos are housing units that are owned up to the walls. You do not own the building that contains the condo, which may contain as few as one or as many as hundreds of other units. Condos in Philadelphia, especially in Center City, tend to come with amenities like a community pool, fitness center, meeting spaces, and/or on-site parking. All this comes with a cost, however, as you will pay condo association fees if you choose this type of home.
Townhouses, like condos, are individually owned, but are unique in their layout. They usually have more than one floor, which makes them a great choice for either young families looking to have room to grow, or families moving from a single-family home who need to downsize, but not quite to the level of a condo. They offer some of the same conveniences as a condo, in that lawn maintenance is still covered by the building’s owner, but townhouses are less likely to offer pools, gyms, and all of that. On the plus side, many condos have at least a shared yard space, and many have driveways so that you have a guaranteed parking spot, which is a golden ticket in Philadelphia. From the Philly Voice: “If storage is a must-have for you, townhome living is the way to go. In fact, many townhomes even offer full basements plus garages that are directly attached to your home! From a financial standpoint, townhomes often appreciate more quickly than condos, providing a larger resale value in a shorter amount of time.”
The rowhome is a Philadelphia tradition. Rowhomes are similar to townhomes, but they don’t necessarily have a second level. From Wikipedia: “The earliest group of row houses in Philadelphia, called Budd’s Long Row, date from 1691. Although no longer in existence, these houses were located on what is now Front Street between Walnut and Dock Streets. According to accounts at the time, these houses were modeled on the floor plans of seventeenth century London houses, being two rooms deep with a rear yard.” Some eighteenth-century rowhomes are still intact today: Elfreth’s Alley is one example of historic rowhouses in Philly. Rowhomes are so quintessentially Philadelphia that even in other cities, this style of home is known as the “Philadelphia rowhouse.”
What type of Philadelphia home is right for you? Hopefully this guide has given you a better idea of what the pros and cons are of each option you’ll encounter on your home search!