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On the Market: A rent-to-own starter home in Fishtown becomes a family launchpad

Where once lived a couple in a long-distance relationship wondering if it would last, there is now a family of four plus a dog. The family expanded even as burgeoning Fishtown grew.


Danielle Miller and her now-husband Ryan started out as renters in their two-bedroom Fishtown home in 2008.

"The idea of buying the house was not on our radar at all," Miller said.

They already knew a little about home because a friend had bought the property several years earlier. Miller said they were drawn to its history: The home was built in the early 20th century and may once have served as a tenement or dock worker's home.

"We were familiar with the home and always loved its quirky historic charm," she said.

Renting the property gave the couple the opportunity to build a life together.

"We were excited at the opportunity to rent it," she said. "To have a place of our own in our new relationship and to see what Fishtown was all about."

By 2010, they were married and ready to buy the home from their friend. By 2017, they've renovated the property and grown as a family as well.

"We became a family in that house," Miller said. "From a scrappy, long-distance couple to who didn't know if it would last to a bona fide nuclear family."

Where once there were two, there are now four plus a dog.

And where once there was a room described as a typical "Fishtown summer kitchen," there is now a totally remodeled, larger kitchen with heated tile flooring and an addition with a half bathroom.

"We intended to do a minor cosmetic kitchen remodel, and in the process of demolition discovered that the kitchen floor joists were barely resting on nine cinderblocks haphazardly thrown in the soil below," Miller said.

She said the family has flourished alongside their burgeoning community.

"We were lucky enough to move in at a time when a new community of young, working, middle-class families was eager to plant some roots here," she said.

The family was one of 11 in the neighborhood to found a cooperative preschool, which boasts a waiting list today.

Miller said they've also enjoyed getting to know residents who aren't so new to the thriving neighborhood.

"We valued the connection we have with some of our older neighbors," she said, "who have stories about being children and playing in this house."

After nine years in the home, Miller said a new job is pulling the family to the northwestern part of the city.

"We knew 841 was our starter home, but we can't believe how long we stayed."

The home is listed by Rachel Reilly at Elfant Wissahickon for $285,000.