Philly’s Next Hot ‘Hood?

DID SOME SERIOUS HOUSE-HUNTING today in north Philadelphia with my son, Max, who is 23 and a woodworker. He was looking, I was advising, and I think we found something.

The house is in Kensington, sometimes coyly called “Olde Kensington.” Since 2007, I1-ext-side-w-steel-factory-lofts1 have owned a two-unit house on a small alley in Kensington that would be more charming if the empty lot next door wasn’t always choked with trash and weeds.

Right: Wide open spaces are common in Kensington, where many old factories have been torn down.  But some remain, like the brick building in this photo, which was recently converted to luxury lofts.

It’s a little premature to call the neighborhood up-and-coming. Kensington doesn’t have the cachet of Northern Liberties or Fishtown, but it’s close to both of them. In the mid-19th century, the area was full of carpet mills and known as Little England. Working-class Kensington “became a …textile enclave, inhabited by English emigrant weavers who organized cricket teams and played with gentlemen from the Main Line” (from Philadelphia: A 300-Year History).

The house we saw today is in squalid condition, but you have to look past that to do this kind of work. The price (under 150K) is right, and the shape of the building suggests the soaring volumes the renovated space could have (months and dollars and sweat down the line).

My son won’t let me post a photo, describe the house in any detail, or give its exact location — at least not until he goes to contract (I don’t think his paranoia is justified, but I understand it).

The next step is for him to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Interestingly, the broker we met up with, Ken Krauter of Zip Realty, says lenders are lending, and he’s been doing loads of deals. Krauter told us about mortgages for first-time buyers that might allow Max to put as little as 3-1/2% down, and about the Federal Housing Administration’s 203k program which incorporates funds for rehab and repair into mortgage loans.

He spoke so confidently about all this that I began to think the housing crisis was a figment of my imagination. We shall see!

Cuteness in Kensington

Cuteness in Kensington

Bahdeebahdu lighting and design studio

Bahdeebahdu lighting and design studio

Cafe in the Crane Bldg, an old factory re-purposed as art studios and galleries

Cafe in the Crane Building, an old factory re-purposed as art studios and galleries

Kensington is studded with forgotten architectural gems

Kensington is studded with forgotten architectural gems

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in PHILADELPHIA, REAL ESTATE/INVESTING and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Philly’s Next Hot ‘Hood?

  1. I love Philadelphia. The buildings are magnificent. thanks for reminding me.

  2. cara says:

    I was amazed to discover (only a few years ago, I’m ashamed to admit) that there is such a beautiful city only 2 hours away!
    Thanks for your comment, Wilfred.

  3. coppermaven says:

    Yea for Max! This is exciting news that a first time buyer may be able to get decent financing.

  4. cara says:

    Ah, well, it gets more complicated. The good news is he HAS been pre-approved for a 150K mortgage by Sovereign. The bad news is, that 203k construction loan takes a long time to get, so it couldn’t be folded into the original mortgage – he would have to refinance later on to get it, if he had to move swiftly on this particular house. More to the point, it seems the house we saw is “one initial away” from going to contract with someone else. I am more upset than he is – he’s already turned his sights to an old brick carriage house on a nearby block. Anyway, it’s a learning experience, and an emotional roller coaster – wheeeeeeee!
    Thanks for your comment, coppermaven:-)

  5. Caroline says:

    I love your blog! I live in Philly and have just purchased a Federal-style home in Queen Village that needs a lot of work. This is, indeed, a great city with beautiful old homes–and such a range of architectural styles. It makes walking a pure pleasure.

  6. cara says:

    hi Caroline, glad you discovered it! I’ll be doing lots more on Philly in months to come. Keep us posted on your renovation!

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