Philadelphia vs. Boston: The Super Bowl of Real Estate
This weekend, our nation will come together in the name of friendship, country and Buffalo dip and observe that most honored of national holidays: Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s matchup – New England Patriots versus Philadelphia Eagles – has particularly American overtones, as the two birthplaces of American independence with overtly patriotic mascots go head to head in the most important game of the American sports year. Played in Minnesota, naturally.
Sure, you’re asking: What does this mean for me as an agent (besides the inevitable slow Monday)? Our answer: Not a lot! But it did give us an occasion to pit the Boston metro and Philadelphia metro areas against one another to see which market would win the zBuyer Super Bowl of Real Estate, which isn’t a real title, but totally should be. (Also this was way cheaper than buying a commercial.)
Boston: A recent article highlights one, and maybe two, under-construction condos in Boston’s Back Bay that carry a $40 million price tag. That’s quite a tea party.
Philadelphia: Obviously there could be unlisted sales that surpass this, but it looks like the most expensive urban real estate in Philly, as of late last year, was a two-bedroom (!) but wonderfully appointed spot just a few blocks from the Delaware River. But at a cool $16.7 million, it’s not even half as expensive as Boston’s condo.
Median Home Value (per neighborhoodscout.com)
Advantage: Boston (for sellers), Philly (for buyers)
Home appreciation since the year 2000 (per neighborhoodscout.com)
Boston: 102 percent
Philadelphia: 118 percent
Mirroring a national trend, both cities are experiencing record-low inventory levels, meaning it can be a frustrating time for would-be buyers and fueling a relatively hot rental market. It’s yet to be determined if either city can shake the trend.
Though they may seem far apart, Philadelphia and Boston are both part of the northeastern corridor, separated by five or so hours in a car, less by train, though there’s a fairly large hurdle in the middle there called New York (which is the home to civic and gridiron rivals for both Philadelphia and Boston). Both cities have top-flight, arts and entertainment options, in addition to American history sites the likes of which you won’t find anywhere outside of Washington D.C. Dining is top-flight in both places, and we truly can’t decide between the local culinary specialties of New England clam chowder and a Philly cheesesteak (let’s just put the chowder ON the cheesesteak and call it a wash, okay)?
Both are “four-sport” cities, meaning they have NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL teams, in addition to Major League Soccer. By that metric, Boston is your better bet right now, as the basketball Celtics, hockey Bruins and baseball Red Sox are all perennial winners with championships in the last decade. Though Philadelphia’s baseball Phillies and hockey Flyers have fallen on tough times, the NBA’s 76ers are one of the league’s most fun, watchable teams. We’ll give Boston a decent advantage here.
As home to Harvard and the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck faction of Hollywood elite, Boston has a reputation as being a liberal hotbed, while Philadelphia’s “Rocky” persona has carried the city’s tough-guy image for four decades now. In reality, both cities have their share of civic and economic issues. But, if you’re looking for a chance to be stereotyped, they offer vastly different opportunities.
Weather wise, it’s a push. Both cities can feature sizzling summers and frigid, snowy winters. Philly can get hit by the odd hurricane remnant while Boston is known for its nor’easters. When it comes to nearby getaways, we’ll take Boston and its proximity to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and the Maine coast over Philly’s short drive to the Jersey Shore, but not by a ton.
Final verdict: If we were an agent looking to make it big, we suppose we’d be more attracted to Boston’s higher average income and home price, as well as its geographical position in gorgeous New England, though Philly is well poised to fill that gap in coming years. And with a larger population and younger stock of housing, it’s possibly the better long-term decision now.
This exercise – if nothing else – helps prove that it’s very difficult to objectively compare two major metropolitan areas and decide which is better. Stats and trends may differ, but in the end an agent’s success depends on his or her connection to the people, understanding of the market, and skills in the industry. And that’s why zBuyer is here.
Enjoy the game, everyone!