South of Center City is where it’s at. The Bella Vista/Hawthorne and Graduate Hospital areas are Philly’s fastest-growing neighborhoods, says Prudential Fox & Roach realtor Zach Skidmore.
“A lot of my homebuyers are asking about ‘walkability,’ and those areas are walkable to Center City, more so than, say, Northern Liberties,” Skidmore says (though he does put Northern Liberties third in the list of trendiest Philly ’hoods).
Bella Vista/Hawthorne is bounded by Sixth and Broad streets and by South and Washington. (Technically, Skidmore explains, Bella Vista goes up to the east side of 11th; Hawthorne starts on the west.) The neighborhood features big, old homes. Nearby Grad Hospital — also known as “South of South” or “Southwest Center City” — runs from Broad up to the Schuylkill River and from South to Washington, and has a mix of townhomes and condos.
Northern Liberties, located north of Old City, is known for its condos and lofts.
“In Grad Hospital and Northern Liberties, especially, there’s a lot of vacant land,” Skidmore says, “so developers can put something new up, put in granite and stainless steel, and still put a good price tag on it. It’s not dirt cheap, but it’s not $700,000, either.”
If you can’t afford Bella Vista/Hawthorne or Graduate Hospital these days, head further south to Passyunk Square or Pennsport, suggests Chris Somers, a realtor at RE/MAX Access. Northern Liberties too rich for your blood? “Hop to the other side of Girard Avenue and buy in Fishtown or, a little further north, in Kensington,” says Somers. “First-time homebuyers love the ‘fringe’ areas — and the Philadelphia market is primarily driven by first-time buyers.”