Few Philadelphians are as unequivocal in their praise for the city as Frank Steele.

What is surprising, however, is that Steele is a native New Yorker, and still lives with his wife, Mary Jo, and three daughters on the "Queens side of the Whitestone Bridge."

"We are in love with Philly," said Steele, a consultant for the New York City school system, citing "the tradition and landmarks, and especially the Reading Terminal Market."

The Steeles' connection to Philadelphia is a condo in the Peninsula building at Waterfront Square that they bought in June 2014.

The family's "pied a terre" for the foreseeable future, the condo fulfills the retired South Bronx high school principal's "ambition is to relocate to Philadelphia someday."

While most natives bristle when Philadelphia is called "the sixth borough," New York buyers continue to find their way here.

Lately, "it feels like every third one," said Elfant-Wissahickon Realtors agent Christopher Plant, a Brooklyn transplant whose website, MovetoPhilly.com, caters to New York buyers.

Noah Ostroff of Keller Williams Real Estate said he was seeing a "bunch, but no more than normal."

"It is usually the over-$500,000 buyer," Ostroff said, who is always "astonished how cheap the homes are in Philly compared with New York."

Quantifying the influx has its problems.

Larry Eichel, director of the Philadelphia Program at Pew Charitable Trusts, extrapolates IRS migration data, even though "it misses a quarter of the population."

In 2011, the latest data available, at least 4,172 people and maybe as many as 5,000, moved to Philadelphia from the five boroughs, and 2,959 moved to New York City from Philadelphia, he said.

While upper Bucks County offers an easy commute to New York, Eichel's numbers show 400 coming from and 400 going to.

In 2014, Toll Bros., which has a huge presence in the county's new-home market, sold just three homes to New Yorkers, divisional president Chuck Breder said.

"Two very different buyer perspectives," said agent Martin Millner in Coldwell Banker Hearthside's Yardley office: Those looking for more house for less money than they would need in New York and those who want weekend or second homes.

Housing prices are mentioned most often as the chief engine of relocation.

While always vastly higher than Philadelphia's, New York's prices are being driven to unprecedented heights by the influx of foreign investors.

For example, Steele bought a high-rise condo for appreciation potential at a better entry-price point than he could find in anywhere in New York - a mere $269,000.

Buyers of Philadelphia's most expensive homes - high-rise condos - are local, either from the suburbs or city residents, developer Carl Dranoff said.

The current New York City median price, according to Zillow, is $480,000. Philadelphia's January median, reported by BHHS Fox & Roach HomExpert Report, was $137,500.

In November, Robert Wallak and Aaron Testa bought a townhouse in Northern Liberties after they failed to find anything they could afford in their Chelsea neighborhood larger than the apartment they bought in 2007.

"Aaron's father had died, and he wanted to be closer to his mother," in the Philadelphia area, Wallak said, and both were able to telecommute to their New York jobs.

The house they bought for $534,900 would have cost from $6 million to $8 million in New York, he said.

"The pricing difference also drives many potential owner-occupants to Philadelphia who have portable and flex job positions or folks who are relocating," said Chris Somers, owner of Re/Max Access in Northern Liberties.

On the other hand, Jack Broesamle, a Manhattan-based consultant looking to buy here, said he and his wife, Lori, wanted to step down from the intensity of life in New York but not live too far from the city.

"It's gotten too crazy living" in New York, he said.

Keller Williams agent Mickey Pascarella said: "The hyper-mobile, well-compensated New York City professional" looks at Philadelphia as a way of letting them "escape the madness of Manhattan, while giving up none of the big-city offerings."

Jeff Davis found two advantages to Philadelphia when he and his wife, Maggie, were priced out of "Brownstone Brooklyn" in 2007. That's when they sold their two-bedroom co-op apartment, hoping to find a big backyard for Tyler, now 11, and Una, 7, who was then on the way.

They found that yard attached to a $440,000 Chestnut Hill house, and Davis was able to move his business, Vinylux, which recycles vinyl records into household items, to a 4,000-square-foot building he was able to buy in nearby East Germantown - "space I could never imagine in New York City," he said.

"We have a nice life here," Davis said. "While Philadelphia is not for every New Yorker, I was in New York long enough."

"It has allowed us to breathe," he said.

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