Recently, I was interviewed by Philadelphia Magazine along with some other agents for a article they are doing on the hottest areas to live were. Below are some of my answers:
PM: What area do you primarily work in?
Even though I'm based out of the Conshy-Plymouth Meeting area, there is not just 1 area I have concentrated most of my business--although I would say I specialize in areas with notably-ranked school districts within a 45 minute commute of Philadelphia--first-time home buyers who currently rent in the city and are venturing out to the suburbs are my favorites!
PM: What are the benefits of living in that area?
So the obvious benefits of living in the suburbs are the great schools, and of course, the backyards and size of homes! Specifically in the Conshohocken/Plymouth Meeting corridor would be the efficient commute times to Philly, King of Prussia, NJ and Delaware. Now there is a whole new vibe in the 'suburbs' with great restaurants and brew pubs to explore!
PM: Where would you suggest are good places for the following groups to live and why:
The new, fun place to live outside Philly is in Conshohocken -- for the walkability, vibe, and new great restaurants and bars going in (soon rooftop bars!), as well as accessibility, and many different styles of homes such as condos, townhouses, twins, and single-family homes. Great parks and sports leagues as well! Phoenixville, Media and King of Prussia are slightly further out, but also hip places to live with revived or new "towns" being built with microbrews, lofts and wine bars.
2 places stand out on my list for families--Plymouth Meeting/Whitemarsh and West Chester. The Community Centers, swim clubs, camps, sports leagues, and activities for families in these areas are awesome! Not to mention access to state parks (Ft. Washington and Wissahickon for PW) make hiking, biking, and walking for families an awesome experience! School districts are top-rated and taxes are lower than cities nearby.
For empty nesters, I look for stand-out features such accessibility (Ranchers or Condos), walkability, and low-monthly costs (taxes/HOA fees). Norristown has some great 55&over communities popping up in the last few years that still keep people centrally-located to everything. It's really a hidden gem that is soon becoming very popular! Of course, moving AWAY from the suburbs and BACK into a Philly condo is a new and exciting way to explore a lifestyle of arts and entertainment...sans kids! (And you will can get a great price for your home in the suburbs right now!)
PM: What buying tips do you have for first time buyers?
Find a real estate agent that can trust, and be honest with--they should listen to you and take the time to educate you on all your choices--not make them for you. Realize that the first "wish list" you give your realtor is probably going to change several times--I don't like to call them "compromises" rather more like "prioritize" what is most important to you? Finally go out and SEE several houses on the market--a good real estate agent can see your reactions when you walk into a house, and be able to find more houses with that "wow" feature you really want, but maybe didn't know it yet! It's never too early to start looking!
PM: What tips do you have for buyers in general in this hot market?
Listen to your realtor--we know the market well, and will suggest the right price to go in at be competitive in a multiple bid situation. Be ready (and work with a realtor who is ready) to go out and see a house the first day it goes on the market--don't wait for an open house, because it might be gone by the time you get there! And I know it sounds a little cliche, but write a letter explaining to the seller why you want their home for your family. At the end of the day, as much as this is a financial decision, it is still one of the most emotional experiences people have--selling their home. They feel better when selling it to someone they know will love it like they first did!