Area Highlight: Media with John Knisely

In this local area highlight, MortgageCS CEO Ben Stucker visits Media, the Delaware County Seat! Along with Realtor John Knisely of Keller Williams Real Estate – Media, we’ll take a look at the local housing market, unique neighborhood features, and more.

John gives us a firsthand look into this walkable, diverse neighborhood known as “Everybody’s Hometown” that offers top-notch dining, green spaces, nightlife, and more. Hear what he has to share as a real estate agent, investor, and resident in the area! If you’re searching for a home in the Media or Delaware County areas, check out this video and see what this centrally-located hub has to offer!

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Ben Stucker, MortgageCS: (267) 391-7425
John Knisely, Keller Williams Real Estate – Media: (484) 441-3075

INSTAGRAM: @realjohnknisely @gomortgagecs
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/MediaHomePro1  
https://www.facebook.com/mortgagecs

All About Media (Video Transcript)

Ben Stucker (00:29)

Hey, guys. Ben Stucker here from MortgageCS in Media, Pennsylvania, in early May 2022 with John Knisely. John, thank you for spending some time with us today. John, tell us it’s about Media. You’re here, you live here, you have rental homes here, is that right?

John Knisely (00:43)

Absolutely.

John Knisely (00:44)

So I’ve lived in Media for six years now, previously have lived in a couple of other areas in Delaware County as a renter and saw the allure of Media, saw the draw and said, hey, we want to own here and we want to invest here, too. So I was previously before real estate, an aerospace engineer by trade.

Ben Stucker (01:05)

Wow.

John Knisely (01:07)

Got my degree at Penn State, came down here, worked for the Boeing Company for about five years and got the real estate bug pretty early in that time frame and got my license, started to invest and started to dabble as an agent before I said, hey, I like this, I’m good at it. And I want to hang my hat here in Media and really focus on selling in Delaware County and in Media.

Ben Stucker (01:34)

Yeah. And that’s a huge plus, I think for anyone looking for an agent, probably is I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve taken those same steps. I have the data, I have the tools, right? I have the knowledge, so that puts you probably at an advantage when a client wants to work with you versus somebody else because you’ve already walked that path. So you’re just helping them along all the steps that you’ve already taken.

John Knisely (01:54)

Absolutely. And local knowledge is invaluable and it’s hard to quantify. But when you know who’s working on a renovation that’s going to hit the market or, you know, your neighbor’s friend is going to sell in six months, you can start to play matchmaker and make the connections from your interested buyer to that person who’s ready to sell. And it’s very beneficial to the client.

Ben Stucker (02:19)

Yeah. And that’s huge. And we’ve heard that from other agents, as well is being connected in the community is really the key when you’re looking for an agent in a specific area, right? Now, if you don’t know where you’re going to find a place, it’s kind of like “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m going to go to a generalist.” But if you know you have a knee problem, you go to a knee doctor. If you know you have an elbow problem, you go to that doctor. So there are different types of specialties and clearly living here, working here, investing here and all your experiences and walking those paths is going to give you a great set of tools to help anyone looking to buy a house.

John Knisely (02:52)

Absolutely.

Ben Stucker (02:53)

That’s awesome. Alright, John, so tell us a little bit about Media. What makes this area special in your mind? What is so special about Media?

John Knisely (03:03)

So Media Borough, let’s back up. Media zip code as a whole is huge. Media Borough is about 1 sq. Mi. It’s the county seat of Delaware County. Very tight-knit community, very walkable, and very charming. So a lot of our housing inventory is late 1800s, early 1900s, and with that comes the charm, the character, the main street feel. We have the trolley that goes down State Street, which actually just passed by us.

Ben Stucker (03:34)

Yeah, I just saw it, haha.

John Knisely (03:37)

The bars, the restaurants, the nightlife. It’s really unparalleled.

Ben Stucker (03:41)

Yeah. And we just took a walk up and down the street and I’ve seen restaurants. There’s an Italian place right here. We got a lot of outdoor seating, a lot of sort of funky, cool, new funky metal signs. So, you know, the inside of the place is all chic and cool and everything. Seems like a really fun evening place for like a Thursday happy hour. This place would be awesome to walk up and down and sort of check out all these places.

John Knisely (04:03)

Absolutely. And actually, it’s funny you mentioned that we just started our Wednesday night Dining Under the Stars event where they shut down State Street from Monroe down to Orange. All the restaurants put their tables out onto the streets. And it’s alfresco, open-air dining. It’s beers, it’s wine. It’s a really good time. And it goes from five to whenever people get the heck out of there.

Ben Stucker (04:29)

Well, that sounds pretty good. So I’ll see you on Wednesday. That’s cool. So John, tell us about one or two of your favorite spots.

John Knisely (04:36)

Sure. Yeah. So here on State Street, we have, I want to say, at least three, if not four, coffee shops. Ocean City Coffee is probably my favorite. Great vibe, delicious coffee, great spot to meet a friend or a potential client for introductions and getting to know each other. We have Spasso’s beer garden, open air beer garden behind me. That’s a great spring and summer spot.

Ben Stucker (05:00)

Yes, that looks great.

John Knisely (05:02)

Brick and Brew is a fun little eatery/great for cocktails, gastropub feel about a block away from this year.

Ben Stucker (05:09)

Awesome.

John Knisely (05:10)

Let’s see, we have a Trader Joe’s just one block away in the old Armory building. It’s a big stone building. Very historic, very charming on the outside, but Trader Joe’s on the inside.

Ben Stucker (05:24)

Probably smells amazing, yeah, I can imagine. That’s awesome. Hey, John, so it’s so great that Media is such a walkable community with the restaurants and everything is close; the Trader Joe’s is close, like you mentioned. Talk to us about green space here.

John Knisely (05:38)

Sure thing. So we have four parks here that are essentially walkable from State Street from town. So on the west end, we have Glen Providence Park, which is a gorgeous nature park. It’s on a hillside leading down to a turtle pond. There are trails, there are paths around the woods. There’s the stream and creek. Awesome little place to take the family, take the dog, walk around. On the south side of town, we have Houtman Park, again, very natural, open green space, kind of tucked in the forest. We just opened a new park at Fifth and Broomall Streets, kind of on the north side of the borough here called Heritage Park. And the Heritage naming came from kind of the historic Black heritage of the neighborhood in that area. So the parks committee and the borough Council voted to name that area Heritage Park. It’s a great little pocket park. It has kind of a meandering path through the whole footprint. It has a little amphitheater seating for people to hang out and chat. So really nice space to visit.

John Knisely (07:06)

And then last but not least, walkable is called Barrall Field or Barrall Park. It’s basically a large grass field with baseball diamonds that the elementary school and the other sporting leagues can use for athletics. They do movies in the summer on a big projector. So that’s a great space to hang out.

Ben Stucker (07:12)

So we’ve got walkable, we’ve got great restaurants, social life. You’ve got green spaces. It sounds like it’s great for families, it’s great for young professionals. It’s great for virtually anybody because you’ve got everything right here walkable.

John Knisely (07:25)

Absolutely. And we have a diverse demographic here. It’s very popular with the young professionals because of the nightlife, because of the fresh feel of the new storefronts on State Street that continue to come in. We have downsizers and empty nesters that are coming for that second hurrah with the fun social life. It’s really a little bit of everything.

Ben Stucker (07:50)

Alright, guys, we are here in Plum Street Mall in Media now. So we’ve magically teleported to a different area of Media. And John, tell us about the market, the housing market in particular in this area compared to perhaps other areas of Delco or even Philadelphia.

John Knisely (08:05)

Absolutely. So just like any suburban Philadelphia town in 2022, 2021, even 2020, very competitive. Very much so a seller’s market. We’re at about two to three months of inventory here in Media, which is essentially a record low. It’s tough as a buyer. It’s great as a seller. But the good news that I’m seeing in the data as I do my research and transact is there’s still a good quantity of transactions happening, but they’re happening so quick and so often that the inventory is not creeping up.

Ben Stucker (08:45)

I got you. So they come on the market and they’re gone in a flash.

John Knisely (08:48)

They’re gone. Eight to ten days is the data-driven days on market for Media.

Ben Stucker (08:53)

Wow.

John Knisely (08:54)

And keep in mind that eight to ten days – usually you’re under contract by day five or six, and then the agent switches it under contract status in MLS by day eight. So it’s kind of really four to five days is more realistic.

Ben Stucker (09:08)

So that speaks to the importance of getting preapproved and before you even dip your toe in the water getting ready to act. Otherwise, you’re going to see a property; it’s going to vanish. You’re going to see a property; it’s going to vanish. You really need to be ready to go in and make that offer ASAP when you see something that you like.

John Knisely (09:24)

Absolutely. Yeah. I tell my clients you wouldn’t go out to the grocery store without bringing your wallet, so you better get preapproved with a good local lender like Ben and be ready to get that offer in as soon as possible.

Ben Stucker (09:38)

Absolutely. Alright, John. So question for anyone out there with young kids, anyone out there that works and commutes, talk to us about the schools. Talk to us about transportation here in Media to the various areas of Philadelphia or the local community.

John Knisely (09:54)

Absolutely. So we are centrally located, hence the name Media – Latin for “middle,” in the county, which means we’ve got exceptional access in all directions. You can get to Philadelphia Airport in 15 minutes. You can hop on the trolley or the regional rail and get into Philly in, I’d say, 40 to 60 minutes, depending on what line you’re on and what time of day.

Ben Stucker (10:19)

And we just learned that it’s an hour and 45 minutes to Newark Airport, where I have to travel later today. So it’s not even far from that, which is amazing!

John Knisely (10:27)

Yes. The benefit of where we are in Media is you’re on the highway very quickly without being on the highway from your living room, you’re on 476 and 95 within minutes. And you’re headed into Philly, north to King of Prussia, south towards Wilmington and the state of Delaware. So it’s very accessible.

Ben Stucker (10:50)

That’s awesome. So let’s talk about the schools. So if I’m a parent and I have young, young children or even middle school age, what are my options for schools around here?

John Knisely (11:00)

Great question. So we have currently four elementary schools. There is a fifth being developed right now.

Ben Stucker (11:06)

Wow.

John Knisely (11:07)

On the west side of Media, out in the outskirts of Media, I should say, in Edgemont Township. So they’re taking all the new development and new housing being built by larger developers. And they’re saying, okay, we need to make sure we don’t overpopulate our school system. Now is the time for us to work on that fifth elementary school. So here in the borough, most owners are going to be sending their kids, if it’s public school to Media Elementary just outside of town. We have Rosetree Elementary School. We have Indian Lane Elementary School. And then we have Glenwood Elementary School.

Ben Stucker (11:44)

Wow.

John Knisely (11:45)

We have one middle school, Springton Lake. And then they all feed into Penncrest High School, which if you look on the Greatschools.org rankings and Niche, highly-rated, very well-respected, very desirable to put kids through the school system. And I have an eight-year-old who goes to Media Elementary, and I absolutely love the schools and love the education he’s getting there.

Ben Stucker (12:08)

And that’s so important, not just for the family. Right. The impact it has on the child and the parents, but also the impact that it has on reselling a home one day. If you’re going to go and sell your house, you want to be in a good school district where the local community is investing in the new schools to ensure not overpopulating and sort of putting those other students at a disadvantage. So it’s a great thing to see. And it’s happening a bit, but it’s great to see it happening right here in Media.

John Knisely (12:33)

Absolutely. And I tell my clients when they ask, you may not be utilizing the school system if you’re a first-time buyer without kids, but a good, well-rated, and well-respected school district does help insulate your value and appreciate your value…

Ben Stucker (12:49)

That’s right.

John Knisely (12:49)

…much better than if it were not well-rated.

Ben Stucker (12:51)

Absolutely. That’s a great point. Alright. So we have magically transported to yet another location in Media. Tell us, John, about housing here. Square footage, price ranges. You’re the expert. What do you see from houses that are selling and the price points? And tell us something about that.

John Knisely (13:09)

Absolutely. So in the borough here, like I said previously, we have a lot of late 1800s, early 1900s-built homes. Statistically, the median home is a three-bedroom, one or one and a half, twin or rowhome.

Ben Stucker (13:25)

Okay.

John Knisely (13:26)

Because we’re in a tight-knit borough, there’s a lot of attached homes. We do have our fair share of detached single-family homes. But like I said, median home is about 11- to 1200 sq. ft. It was built in the 1900s to 1930s. The sale price for a home like that is usually anywhere between $350k and $400k as a starting price point, depending on condition.

Ben Stucker (13:51)

That’s great.

John Knisely (13:52)

And then our more large and lively Victorian homes – still sometimes attached. We do have a couple of sections of the borough that are detached stand-alone homes, but those are anywhere from, I’d say, 2000 to 3000 sqft. And those can sell even as twins in the $600-700k range, depending on condition.

Ben Stucker (14:20)

There’s definitely options for first-time buyers to come here, right? Just depending on what you’re looking for.

John Knisely (14:26)

Absolutely. We do have a couple of condo complexes where you could get a one to two-bedroom condo unit for anywhere from high $100ks to low to mid $200ks as well.

Ben Stucker (14:37)

And now how about the rental market with those condos and some of the three-bedroom, one-bathrooms? Are those oftentimes rented, like can you rent those if you wanted to move to the area to check it out first and then maybe buy a year later?

John Knisely (14:48)

You can. A lot of our inventory as rentals tends to be converted buildings. Maybe it’s a big Victorian that’s been cut into a triplex. That’s my first property that I purchased and lived in. So it’s a 2500 square foot building that sometime in the 70s or 80s was cut up into three one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments.

Ben Stucker (15:10)

Did you leave the Shag carpets?

John Knisely (15:11)

No. Fully renovated haha.

Ben Stucker (15:12)

Yeah, okay. Haha!

John Knisely (15:12)

It’s funny, the 70s-era homes of Media – I should say the 70s-era renovations of Media – weren’t as groovy as some other area around the Philly suburbs. So that’s a common rental option in the borough is those small units, which does tend to draw young professionals, the one or two-person rental unit versus the five-person just because of size constraints.

Ben Stucker (15:41)

Great.

John Knisely (15:41)

We see a lot of that. We also have some newer-built luxury apartment buildings in town, like West End Flats. Those are studio one and two-bedroom units that were built and designed for the higher-end luxury renter.

Ben Stucker (15:58)

Okay.

John Knisely (15:58)

So the starting price point for that is a bit higher. Naturally, in like the low $2,000s a month.

Ben Stucker (16:05)

So that might be like the transitioning professional or a corporate rental or something like that, perhaps?

John Knisely (16:12)

Honestly, there’s a little bit of that, but there’s plenty of demand I’ve seen for just your I’ll call it typical young professional renter or average person who makes the right amount of money to afford it. So their occupancy levels are, as far as I’ve discussed with them, over 95%. And they have a waitlist.

Ben Stucker (16:34)

Wow! Yeah, that’s great. Well, it’s nice to see the demand like that for the community as a whole, whether it’s rentals or being a seller’s market. If you’re looking in a community where rental demand isn’t high and it’s not a seller’s market, you might want to understand why…

John Knisely (16:51)

Right.

Ben Stucker (16:52)

…no one wants to live there, right? Yeah. So that speaks more than probably we could ever say about the attractiveness of this area. Great. Thanks. So, John, we know it’s a really attractive area by virtue of being a seller’s market. The rental demand. Let’s talk a little bit about an investor that might want to buy a house in Media, or a condo, or whatever the property type is, or even buy a fix-and-flip type property. What can you tell us about investors and purchasing in Media?

John Knisely (17:20)

For investors in Media it is, again, highly competitive. Anything that’s a small, multi-family, two to four-unit property or a dated and soon-to-be fixer-upper property, it’s swarmed with buyers that are scheduling showings for the first couple days. We do see a lot of cash, no contingencies offers for these properties. So you really have to be ready to compete and ready to go in strong. And I’d say the three-bedroom and larger homes do tend to be less of a buy-and-hold type asset class here in town because the home buyers, the retail I’ll call them home buyers are happy to buy them and fix them up or to hire a contractor and do so. That competitiveness from the retail sector does make it a lot harder for investors to get that cash-flowing three-bedroom rental.

Ben Stucker (18:16)

So in other words, if I have a family and I’m buying a house, my price point to purchase that house and fix it up is going to be higher than the investor that requires profit upon sale relatively immediately, right? They’re looking at it through a different lens, through a different economic story, right? Whereas I’m okay, if it’s my family home, I’m going to be there for 15 years, then I’m definitely okay to make a higher price on that and let it ride 100%.

John Knisely (18:44)

Yeah. It’s tough. And I have a lot of clients looking for properties to add to their portfolio. And I’m always looking to add to my portfolio as well. And it’s gotten harder as the past couple of years have gone by to purchase at the right price. Given today’s market assumptions, not five years from now, if we appreciate to say, okay, I’ll buy it for X, I’ll invest $30,000 in the renovation and it’s worth Y and I can rent it for Z and make a cash-flowing monthly profit.

Ben Stucker (19:12)

Right. So it’s definitely important to note that we’re talking about the real estate market in May 2022, just in case how this video ages, right? Yes, we won’t age, but the video will age. We’ll be the same for the next 20 years. No problem. Alright, John, tell us a little bit about you professionally, how you work with buyers, and what are some of the things that you do to really give your clients, whether they be the buy side or even selling, the edge in this unique market?

John Knisely (19:39)

Great question, Ben. So I’ve been here in Media, licensed and selling and living for the past six years. It’s been a long six years. I will tell you that so I’m gaining a lot of experience every year as our market experiences new and exciting conditions. And one of the things that I am very particular about with helping my clients is being professional, being organized, putting together a well-presented offer that has all the complete documentation. It’s already been thoroughly vetted by the lender. It’s clean, it’s well-presented. And I’ve already talked to the listing agent and said, hey, here’s my clients, they’re fantastic. Here’s our offer. We love it. We’re going to be on our best behavior during our escrow period. And it’s a table stake for working in this 2022 market. But I do see a lot of agents that are kind of struggling on that front. So I’m very particular. I always organize my documents in a nice clean packet with a cover sheet. Every box is checked, every I is dotted and T is crossed.

Ben Stucker (20:49)

Yeah. And I can speak to that, too, because when we are working with buyers that win houses, oftentimes at the closing table is when the listing agent that’s on the other side says, I have to tell you, this offer was put together so well, and if you believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything, then this listing agent is getting that correct first impression, right? So professionalism is so important in this market when they think about how are the negotiations going to go? Excuse me, over the home inspection. And how are these people going to be good citizens during the transaction? Because although the price is really important, we always want to make sure that the parties involved in the transaction are maintaining that professional stance, right? This is an opportunity when you buy a house where everyone can win.

John Knisely (21:37)

Right.

Ben Stucker (21:38)

So we need people to be reasonable.

John Knisely (21:40)

So true. Yes. It’s not always about beating the guy across the table up. So you have to seek the mutual win.

Ben Stucker (21:49)

That’s right. Great point.

John Knisely (21:51)

One of the other things that really I’ve noticed sets myself apart when representing my clients, both buyers and sellers is my background as an investor, as somebody who does a lot of renovations on properties, is the construction knowledge; the cost knowledge.

John Knisely (22:09)

Okay, hey, I’m looking at this house here in the borough that needs a new kitchen that’s probably going to be 50 grand. And buyers just don’t know what it’s going to cost. And I can say, hey, listen, sure, you can spend 50 grand, but you could also spend 10 grand. And here’s how and here’s who to call. And here’s where to get your materials

Ben Stucker (22:28)

Disclaimer – May 2022 prices. Again, if it’s May 2023 or 2025, we might be doubling, tripling, I don’t even know, haha.

John Knisely (22:36)

Different costs, yeah. So that really helps give my buyers, especially the peace of mind, knowing that we’re not, like, flying blind on when they have the final product and they’re happy and they’re living in it, where are they all in on their budget?

Ben Stucker (22:50)

Yeah. And that’s actually such a valid point to understand the true cost of the rehab and the time needed, because I can’t tell you how many times we talk to clients as a mortgage company. I’m buying this house, I’m going to fix it up, and then this is going to happen. You know, in three months, I’m going to move and do this. And I’m like, listen, there’s a timeline there, and there’s a budget assumption there. Both can be really dangerous, so to have somebody that says, I’ve done this multiple times. I see people do it all the time. I advise people to do it all the time. Your estimates will just by nature, be more within the range of what’s actually happening versus the Joe Schmo who says, like, yeah, I saw Lowes cabinets were five grand or whatever the case is. You actually know the cost of putting those in.

John Knisely (23:33)

Right. The cost and the quality that you’re getting and the installer that you’re hiring and what difference that’s going to make in the final product.

Ben Stucker (23:41)

I presume you have local connections, too. If you need a handyman, you need a contractor, you might be a great guy to talk to.

John Knisely (23:47)

Absolutely, yup. I have currently three projects going on in town.

Ben Stucker (23:51)

Wow.

John Knisely (23:53)

Yep! Two of them are full gut rehabs, and one of them is kind of a mid-grade kitchen and bathroom renovation. So I have the contractors. I’m also swinging a hammer on a lot of my projects in a certain degree.

Ben Stucker (24:05)

Okay. So if you need a real estate agent or a GC, you could talk to John! Alright, John, so tell us what gets you up every day, right? You’re obviously been successful as an investor, as a real estate agent. Your social reviews are fantastic. What gets you up? What’s your drive every day to help your clients?

John Knisely (24:23)

Great question. So as a quick joke, my dogs get me up every day at 06:00 A.M. haha. Beyond that, the internal motivation is I started my professional career in engineering, going to an office every day, going to a cubical; a cube farm. And I just learned quickly that it wasn’t for me. So I found the real estate industry and I found that I could be in a new environment every day, helping new people, making new connections, guiding people through the most stressful and largest financial transaction that they’re going to do, and I was good at it. So I wake up every day knowing that I’m making that impact to my clients. And I’m also enjoying it because houses are fun! Adding value to properties and seeing what people can do with their new space is fun. And yeah, that’s where the drive comes.

Ben Stucker (25:18)

That’s awesome. Alright John, very important question, because there are first-time home buyers out there. And again, from a time perspective, it’s May 2022. There are first-time buyers out there that have been struggling to find that house competing against cash offers, large down payments, waiving contingencies. And some people just can’t do that, right, just to keep their family safe financially. What would your single piece of advice be if you could only give one to a first-time buyer in this market?

John Knisely (25:47)

One piece of advice. Alright. So plan ahead and start your preparations for buying a house earlier than you think you need to, because that will give you the time to save, to work on the credit, to prep what areas you want to focus on and what houses you want to look at rather than just getting the idea on a Friday night. Hey, I think we’re ready to buy a house, now let’s start seeing houses on Sunday.

Ben Stucker (26:11)

That’s right, yeah. And that’s a valid point because credit can be lower than you think it is, right, and when you get your credit pulled by an actual mortgage company, it could be lower and then you have time to fix it. Closing costs, you may not be factoring correctly depending on the transfer taxes here in Pennsylvania and things like that. So there I can speak 100%. That is a solid piece of advice because we talk to buyers all the time and they come to us and they say, I have $15,000, I’m ready to buy a house. And we say, well, let’s talk about that. And they learn. But they then do get prepared.

John Knisely (26:44)

Right, absolutely.

Ben Stucker (26:45)

Alright, guys, Ben Stucker here from MortgageCS, signing off from another neighborhood focus review. John, thank you so much. If you guys want to reach out to John I would highly recommend it. Not only does he know the area but he lives here. He’s got the inside connections and if nothing else you can get a great restaurant recommendation. So John, tell us, how can we get in touch with you?

John Knisely (27:05)

Sure thing. So you can find me on my website at MediaHomePro.com. You can also reach out to me on Instagram. My handle is @realJohnKnisley; that’s real as in real estate, and I’m also on Facebook so you can reach me there easily.

Ben Stucker (27:19)

That’s great. Thank you so much, John.

John Knisely (27:21)

Thanks man.

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