In this local area highlight, MortgageCS CEO Ben Stucker visits the vibrant Passyunk neighborhood of Philadelphia! Along with Realtor Alexis Ortega of Keller Williams Philly South, we’ll take a look at the local housing market, unique neighborhood features, and more.
Alexis provides us with a close-up look at this vibrant, community-oriented neighborhood that homebuyers in Philadelphia will want to listen to before taking the next steps in their search. Hear what he has to share as both a real estate agent and a local resident himself in the Passyunk neighborhood!
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Ben Stucker, MortgageCS: (267) 391-7425
Alexis Ortega, Keller Williams – Philly South: (215) 687-8135
All About Passyunk (Video Transcript)
Ben Stucker (00:35)
All right, guys, Ben Stucker here from MortgageCS with Alexis. Alexis, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Alexis Ortega (00:40)
My name is Alexis Ortega. I’m out of the Keller Williams Philly office, a resident here in South Philly and East Passyunk neighborhood currently.
Ben Stucker (00:48)
Now, you said Passyunk
Alexis Ortega (00:49)
Ben Stucker (00:50)
I might be inclined to say Passyunk because I don’t live here.
Alexis Ortega (00:54)
Yes, but the correct way to say it is if it was an “SH.” So it’s Passyunk. It’s actually a Lenape lengthy word. So the Indians that were residing here, it means in the Valley.
Ben Stucker (01:04)
Okay. So do I sound local here in Passyunk?
Alexis Ortega (01:07)
100%. South Philly.
Ben Stucker (01:09)
All right, great. So tell us a little bit about this community.
Alexis Ortega (01:11)
Well, this is a community that was historically very Italian influence. A lot of immigrants moved here, developed communities, organizations in the area. There’s about 160 independent businesses up and down Passyunk all throughout the neighborhood here. Yeah. Restaurants, shop, stores. So all the things you can find.
Ben Stucker (01:28)
And it looks like there’s this main drag.
Alexis Ortega (01:31)
Ben Stucker (01:31)
That’s Passyunk Ave.
Alexis Ortega (01:32)
Ben Stucker (01:32)
And you had mentioned earlier today when you’re talking that that’s where the restaurants are. That’s the vibe, right? You go up and down that street and that’s where your spots are, right?
Alexis Ortega (01:41)
Yeah. So historically, I guess this road used to be a trail for Native Americans going from the Schuylkill River to the Delaware River.
Ben Stucker (01:47)
Alexis Ortega (01:48)
So they put all these restaurants and stores here. So as you walk up and down from Southwest to Northeast, there’s just stores and shops, community, people outside enjoying the sun.
Ben Stucker (01:57)
That’s amazing. Yeah. And just this morning, we’re here in a beautiful morning in springtime just before spring probably and there is definitely dogs out, you know, community. I see buses, so transportation seems to be pretty accessible. Cool. Well, what are some of your favorite spots here? Looks like there’s a lot to choose from.
Alexis Ortega (02:15)
Some of my favorite spots. If you want something casual, best burger in the city, Fountain Port around the corner, $6 a burger, and you just go in and enjoy it. But in the square, just this area, we have River Twice. There’s Perla behind me, Ember and Ash. So a lot of restaurants, a lot of places to stop into and grab a drink and enjoy the time.
Ben Stucker (02:31)
That’s awesome. So, Alexis, tell us a little bit about the housing market here. If I’m a buyer thinking about buying in the Passyunk area, what are some of the things that I should know?
Alexis Ortega (02:42)
Okay, so at the moment, there’s about 28 active properties for sale in the area. There is some supply, they’re not as aggressive in supply and demand as the suburbs. At this moment, the list price average for this area is about $385,000 for the closing price, $358,000 for single family homes in the area.
Ben Stucker (03:02)
Okay. Relative to some of the suburbs, 350,000 is a pretty affordable price.
Alexis Ortega (03:07)
Ben Stucker (03:07)
For a first time buyer?
Alexis Ortega (03:08)
I totally agree. I would say over the last twelve months, according to RPR, the price of the home has went above about 10%. The difference is in the suburbs in here, simply size.
Ben Stucker (03:17)
Okay, got you. So what type of buyer are you seeing in this area? Is it young professionals? Are they families? Is it a mix?
Alexis Ortega (03:27)
Ben Stucker (03:27)
What do you see?
Alexis Ortega (03:28)
So I definitely see a mix of a little bit of everything in the area. The average age group of people in the neighborhood is about 24 to 54 years old. So you get new families, young professionals, some older Gen Zers, but a lot of the millennial groups here.
Ben Stucker (03:42)
There’s nothing wrong with older people, right? Haha!
Alexis Ortega (03:44)
No, not at all.
Ben Stucker (03:47)
All right, great, Alexis. All right, so tell us a little bit about the typical home here. Right? What should someone expect if they’re coming down to look at properties for the day and they call you up and they say, hey, Alexis, I’m coming down. I want to check out homes in Passyunk. What should they expect for a typical home?
Alexis Ortega (04:02)
So it’s a row home. It’s Philadelphia, full of row homes. The style of row home changes depending on the neighborhood you’re in. In South Philly here, you get two types of row homes. So on the numbered street, they tend to be three floors. It’s called a streetcar townhome. So they can be anywhere between 1800, about 2300 sqft. Somewhere a little larger. And then you have what’s called a working man’s home, which is on the streets with the names, they tend to be two floors small, as you see, around 750 sqft. To about 1200 square feet.
Ben Stucker (04:27)
That’s actually really interesting. Is that true for all of Philadelphia?
Alexis Ortega (04:30)
Yeah. So the row home style changes depending on when they were built. Most of the homes in this area were built around 1920.
Ben Stucker (04:36)
That’s super interesting. That’s cool. I’m going to definitely check that out when I walk around. Cool. Awesome. So would you say this is a good environment for first time buyers? It looks like the social life is probably really strong with Passyunk having all the restaurants and the bars and everything and coffee shops. And I’ve seen dogs and young people everywhere this morning so far, right? So what do you think about this from a first time buyer perspective? Is this a great market?
Alexis Ortega (05:03)
So, as an experienced first time buyer, I bought my home last year here. It’s my first home purchase. I moved to the area. This neighborhood is very community oriented. The East Passyunk Business Improvement District does a really great job of putting on events together, getting the community involved. We have street fairs. We have the Miracle South 13th street, which is a holiday light special that people come from all over the area to see. So it’s very community oriented.
Ben Stucker (05:24)
So that’s great. That’s great. Well, congratulations on buying your first house.
Alexis Ortega (05:28)
Ben Stucker (05:29)
All right, so, Alexis, tell us. So we drove in this morning, right? And on this gorgeous day here in the spring, and we found a parking space pretty easily just a couple of blocks away from here, which was great. But talk to me about transportation.
Ben Stucker (05:44)
Talk to me about parking. Because that’s a consideration, right? If the house doesn’t have a garage, if it doesn’t have a parking space, what should I be thinking about, and how does this neighborhood, particularly as part of maybe Philadelphia? I’m thinking of other areas, too, talk to me about the transportation.
Alexis Ortega (05:59)
Yeah! So I personally, I’m a fan of public transportation. Whether it’s taking the bus, taking the subway, whatever it may be, it’s convenience to not have to move your car. This is South Philadelphia, so if anyone’s heard anything about South Philadelphia parking, it is very notorious down here. As you go a little bit north in this neighborhood, it’s a little easier to park; as you go a little further south, it can be a little more difficult. But public transportation, the bus is going by right now. It goes right up the Avenue, right up 11th street, so you can get right into Center City, nice and easy.
Ben Stucker (06:25)
That’s great. As I look down Passyunk Ave here, I see that some of the restaurants have what we’ve seen in Philadelphia, the typical expansion into the street. Right. Which actually is really nice. Like you can see many places have that set up. Do you have any sense of that being a permanent thing, or has there been any talk of that that you’ve heard of?
Alexis Ortega (06:42)
There are conversations, I believe, currently right now that expires at the end of the year. I know a lot of the restaurants are in conversation with Mayor Kenny, so hopefully they can extend that and further make it a permanent thing. A lot of businesses have benefited greatly from having the ability to have more seats outside during the pandemic.
Ben Stucker (06:59)
So, Alexis, we see a lot. Right. As a mortgage company, we see a lot of investors coming, I think, to Philadelphia. Well, I know to Philadelphia sometimes from New York and other areas around as well. Is this an area where in Philadelphia you have a lot of investor interactions?
Alexis Ortega (07:17)
Yes, I would definitely say so. From an investor’s perspective, when you’re always looking at things, renters the people that are going to be in your property is very important. So in this area, you get a lot of good renters. It’s not the cheapest area to start an investment property in this area, but if you have the monetary funds that fit into it. This is a beautiful area, and people are continuing to invest in the area. There’s a lot of turnover let’s happen. There’s still some generations previously that can still turn over to new generations.
Ben Stucker (07:43)
That’s actually a really interesting statement there. So talk to me about the properties here. How many properties or it may be hard to know this, but talk to me about the aged properties where an investor might come in and say it needs work, it needs elbow grease, it needs investment. But when it’s done, it’s going to move up to here. Right. Because there are some instances that we’ve seen just walking around today of clearly brand new construction homes. Right. And I’m pretty sure there probably was not a lot sitting there for 100 years, probably was an old house that was taken down. What’s your sense of this community with respect to sort of the turnover that you just mentioned, how many homes are being rehabbed and new ones popping up and talk to me about new construction and things like that?
Alexis Ortega (08:25)
Yeah. So I would say with this neighborhood, because of the community that it has involved, you don’t see the townhome construction that you’re seeing in Fishtown and Brewerytown and Northern Liberties and things of that nature because people want to keep the aesthetic of South Philadelphia.
Ben Stucker (08:38)
Which, by the way, as someone who has lived next to someone that’s been going through construction, it’s not a bad thing to not have your neighborhood being rebuilt every week. Yeah, that’s not a bad thing.
Alexis Ortega (08:48)
Yeah. There’s definitely construction happening. So a lot of what you’re getting down here is people purchasing a home and then rehabbing. They’re gutting the home as an investor and then rehabbing the property. At the moment, I’m seeing a two bedroom, two bathroom property, could be about 1000 sqft with a finished basement, will sell about 420, 430 thousand dollars, depending on the proximity to the Avenue. The closer you get to the Avenue, a little higher price your property can demand.
Ben Stucker (09:11)
So this is like the Jersey Shore.
Alexis Ortega (09:13)
Ben Stucker (09:13)
And you go a block off or two blocks off, right. The price change is expensive.
Ben Stucker (09:17)
So, Alexis, tell me a little bit about your experience here as an agent.
Alexis Ortega (09:23)
Yeah, my experience has been positive. I’m in the middle of year two right now. So some people like he’s a new guy, but continuing to learn every day. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for about six years now and enjoy all parts of the city, wherever it may be.
Ben Stucker (09:34)
And I think being in the neighborhood that you work in all the time is so important.
Alexis Ortega (09:39)
Ben Stucker (09:40)
Because for six years you’ve been here experiencing and needing to change and understanding the market. And as someone who also recently bought a first time as a first time buyer, right? You also had that experience. So you were looking very intently at the properties from two lenses, right? As an agent and as a buyer, which is great because for someone who is a first time buyer having that fluency that you have, you’re really going to help them get through that process.
Alexis Ortega (10:07)
Going through the experience adds to it. So I can convey an experience from a perspective that I went through it as well. I understand how they feel and conveying the neighborhood. I love it here. That’s why I moved here. It’s easy to sell.
Ben Stucker (10:19)
Cool. Now were you your own agent? Would you give yourself a five star rating?
Alexis Ortega (10:24)
I was. I sure hope so. I think we have to ask my wife and then we get a better answer then. Okay. Okay, great.
Ben Stucker (10:29)
Let’s talk about the buyers right now. Right. So this is one of the strongest seller’s markets we’ve ever seen here in 2022 leftover from last year. We have a lot of pent up demand. Being a buyer is hard. Buyers can sometimes feel frustrated. How are you managing – helping your buyers manage expectations when it comes to what’s going on in the process and potentially not getting the house that you’re making an offer on, because there’s 20 other people doing the same thing. Talk to me about that a little bit.
Alexis Ortega (10:58)
Well, it’s a conversation. You understand that communication is really important to the buyer. Conveying the message. You have to understand you can’t fall in love with the property until it’s your property. So we do everything we can to prepare them. You make sure they’re ready to go. If you find a property you like, you do everything correctly. Something as simple as filling out the offer correctly, reading the listing agent’s directions, and when they ask you to do something to approach the situation correctly, to allow the buyer to have the best advantage they can. Everyone’s situation is different. So depending on the offer, that depends on the buyer. But we try to approach the situation with clear communication and clear honestly.
Ben Stucker (11:32)
It’s funny. In our experience as a mortgage company, it’s easy to do things operationally correct. It might be harder to not fall in love with the property when you walk inside because the people that are out there and preapproved or thinking about buying a house, they walk in the door and they say, oh, my gosh, this is it. And then you have to calm them down a little bit and say, hold on, guys.
Alexis Ortega (11:55)
We’re going to do everything we can.
Ben Stucker (11:56)
Do everything we can.
Alexis Ortega (11:56)
Ben Stucker (11:57)
So talk to me about some of those things. Now, do you ever reach out to the listing agent? Is there follow up there? So give me some of that insight.
Alexis Ortega (12:04)
Definitely. So the idea will be to connect with the agent. So if you like the property, trying to conduct as much information as possible and try to find what’s driving the seller first in selling the property, what’s conveying them, what drives them to get rid of the property. And then we can play to their emotions in some way, whatever we can to do the best we can, present the best offer we can.
Ben Stucker (12:21)
That’s great. That’s great. What else would be something that you would want to share with someone considering buying in this area, reaching out to you and communicating. What would be something good for them to understand about you and how you work?
Alexis Ortega (12:36)
How I work? I’m free to talk. I like to be casual. I want you to be comfortable talking to me and feel okay. I appreciate any opportunities someone has. They want to have a conversation with me. It can be about anything from real estate to talking about where to get something to eat. So whatever is, I want them to be comfortable and have a feeling of OK to communicate with me.
Ben Stucker (12:53)
That’s great. Well, I get the sense I might be calling you next to where I should go to dinner because I’m going to come down and check this place out more. I love the vibe down here. This is a very relaxed area, right. We’ve been waving at people, smiling at people. Great transportation. I’ve seen probably 30 dogs.
Alexis Ortega (13:10)
Yeah. Very dog friendly in the neighborhood.
Ben Stucker (13:12)
This is definitely a really great area. Alexis, got a question that’s really important, right. There are a lot of first time buyers out there, and there’s probably a huge amount of first time buyers that are waiting to buy a house that maybe have been a little bit or felt a little bit shut out of the market with cash buyers and big down payments over the last few years. What’s the best advice that you would give to a first time buyer right now entering the market? What would it be?
Alexis Ortega (13:39)
Yes. What I would say is if you don’t have a lender, find an agent that can connect with the lender. Finding a relationship that you can establish with the lender is beautiful and it can help you a lot. They can plan with you and find out what you can afford, what you can purchase and what you’re comfortable with paying. Most people shop solely on their interest rates, but it’s more than that about the relationship communication, the planning and the time and the attention that the lender gives you.
Ben Stucker (14:03)
We’ve been fortunate enough to work on a handful of transactions together. And one of the things I think that stands out with the way you communicate with your clients and then we follow suit, of course, is really working with them to help them understand what can they afford? What are they comfortable with? Because there is an amount that a bank will finance you for right? Now, we all know that that amount may be way too much or it might be, hey, that doesn’t work for me, why? So you have to understand that and have that conversation. How do you help your buyers understand sort of the payment and things like that? Talk to me a little bit about real estate taxes down here and give me insights there.
Alexis Ortega (14:41)
Well, down in the city itself, the biggest thing that people understand is that transfer tax, that’s a 2% fee, and not everyone is always aware it can be one of the highest expenses you can make in the transaction. And one of the things that I’ve learned more than anything in getting into this business is there’s a lot more than one way to buy a house. So everyone’s situation is different so in communication with your lender you can understand and develop a plan with your agent as well to make the best plan and the best approach you can to get the home that you desire.
Ben Stucker (15:08)
That’s a really good insight. It is not a one size fits all here, right?
Alexis Ortega (15:12)
Not at all.
Ben Stucker (15:13)
So I appreciate your expertise. I appreciate you coming out. Thank you so much, guys. Explore Passyunk here in Philadelphia. It’s a great community. Alexis, thank you so much for your time.
Alexis Ortega (15:23)
My pleasure. Thank you for coming down into the neighborhood and having a conversation with me. I appreciate your time.
Ben Stucker (15:27)
All right, guys. Have a good day.
Alexis Ortega (15:28)
It was a pleasure. Have a good one. Follow Ben at @gomortgagecs on Instagram, myself I’m @lexiortegaa.