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Multimillion-dollar housing market in Philly is going strong

Multimillion-dollar homes are far from the norm in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, but the city continues to attract high-end buyers looking for condos and townhouses.

The living room and dining area of the 1,730-square-foot, two-bedroom and two-bath unit on the 18th floor of the new model homes at the Arthaus condominiums along South Broad Street.
The living room and dining area of the 1,730-square-foot, two-bedroom and two-bath unit on the 18th floor of the new model homes at the Arthaus condominiums along South Broad Street.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

Home buyers in the multimillion-dollar market have been looking for some of the same features as buyers in the middle market during the pandemic: more space, home offices, outdoor living areas.

And luxury developers are delivering in new buildings across central Philadelphia.

Multimillion-dollar homes are far from the norm in the city and its surrounding counties. According to an analysis by LendingTree last month, less than 2% of owner-occupied housing units in the Philadelphia metropolitan area — or about 25,600 — were valued at or above $1 million.

That share is on par with the metro areas of Providence, R.I.; Salt Lake City; and Orlando. The Philadelphia metro area ranks 27th out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in its share of million-dollar homes.

» READ MORE: The Philly region’s luxury housing market is chasing the middle market’s success (from October 2020)

The pandemic’s impact on families has been uneven, with some struggling and others saving or making more money. The median value of owner-occupied units in the Philadelphia region is $250,700, according to LendingTree.

But the number of multimillion-dollar homes in Philadelphia has been on the rise for more than a decade, said Philip Cavalcanto, a real estate professional who specializes in luxury homes as team leader of Coldwell Banker Realty’s Old City office.

“It has been wonderful to watch the landscape of Philadelphia housing change the way it has,” said Cavalcanto, who has helped clients buy and sell in the region for 16 years.

The largest increase in inventory over the last year in the million-dollar-plus market has been the $1 million to $1.5 million range, he said. In some cases, homes that sellers would have priced just under $1 million in previous years have surpassed that mark because of rising prices across the market. Cavalcanto also has seen steady growth in inventory in the higher price ranges.

“The luxury market is about lifestyle,” he said. “It’s about the conveniences and the elements they want on a daily basis that are going to make their lives better.”

Luxury developers say the city is in a great position to continue attracting high-end buyers. Especially during the pandemic, New Yorkers looking for new homes have chosen Philadelphia for its central location, relative affordability, and lower density. Other buyers are downsizing from sprawling suburban homes.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia ranks 31st among the 50 U.S. cities with the most million-dollar real estate listings (from July 2018)

High-end buyers are looking for unique home features and dedicated parking. They want access to theaters, arts venues, shops, and world-class restaurants, as well as building amenities such as concierges and chauffeured car services.

“Now that the world’s gotten back to normal, they want to make sure they’re seizing the opportunity to live the lifestyle that they want to,” said Brian Emmons, vice president at Southern Land Co., developer of the Laurel Rittenhouse Square condominiums.

Developers of multimillion-dollar housing communities tout their convenient locations and city views. And they highlight their residents’ access to outdoor gardens, balconies, terraces, and roof decks. Buildings feature smart-home technology, state-of-the-art appliances, and customizable spaces.

“We have the same luxury inventory as a lot of the bigger, more expensive cities,” said Jim Onesti, listing agent for Moderna at Rittenhouse and Logan 23, two townhouse developments in the Rittenhouse area. “But the beauty here is it gets offered at a fraction of the price.”

» READ MORE: These luxury homes in Hong Kong are fully furnished; all you need is $77 million

Cecil Baker, architect with the Philadelphia-based architecture firm Cecil Baker + Partners, said penthouses he’s worked on, including at the 2100 Hamilton condo building, are “equal to anything you’ll see in Miami or New York.”

“One of the big, big changes I see is that clients are far more demanding of sophistication in the places where they live,” said Baker, who also designed the townhouses at Logan 23. “We get a little bit of a bum rap in Philadelphia that we’re not too sophisticated, but we are and it’s there and you’ll see more and more of it.”

Here are some of the new multimillion-dollar communities offering condos and townhouses in Philadelphia:

Starting price: $2.1 million

Address: 2100 Hamilton St.

2100 Hamilton is off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway directly behind the Rodin Museum and diagonally across from the Barnes Foundation. It’s about a half-mile from the Art Museum and not far from Fairmount Park.

“It’s a whole different feeling than any other high-end condo out there, because we’re offering the park-like setting on one side and the convenience of the city on the other,” said developer Tom Bock of Bock Development Group.

2100 Hamilton’s offerings include a $1 million garden, private elevators that use facial recognition to open directly into homes, and a suite for homeowners’ guests.

The building is offering 27 units instead of the original 29, after some buyers said they wanted more space, and the developer made a few units larger.

“It’s a smaller, more intimate building” than other luxury condos on the market, Bock said.

About 55% of the condos have been sold, and some of the biggest units sold first, he said. The first homeowners are scheduled to move in at the end of November.

A penthouse is on the market for $16 million.

Starting price: $2.5 million

Address: 1911 Walnut St.

“We’re oceanfront property in Philadelphia,” Emmons said. “It just doesn’t get any better than Rittenhouse Square.”

The Laurel’s offerings include a luxury car service, an indoor pool and hot tub, a fitness center with a sauna, and a dog spa. Residents can access the services of a private jet charter company.

Most buyers have multiple homes in places such as the Jersey Shore and Florida and are looking for a place in the city, Emmons said.

“They don’t want the maintenance anymore that’s coming from a suburban lifestyle,” he said.

He expects more than half of the 64 condo units will be sold by late summer. About half of the buyers so far live within blocks of Rittenhouse Square but want to upgrade, he said. The first residents are expected by September of next year, and the building is scheduled to be completed that fall.

A penthouse is on the market for $25 million. The building also will include more than 180 apartments renting from $2,000 to $10,000 a month.

Arthaus condos

Starting price: $1.6 million

Address: 301 Avenue of the Arts

The 108-unit Arthaus condo building faces the Kimmel Center on the Avenue of the Arts, a place developer Carl Dranoff, chief executive officer of Dranoff Properties, described as “a walk-to-everything location.”

Luxury buyers want more state-of-the-art finishes, technology, designs, and amenities, Dranoff said, “and that’s really what we’re offering at Arthaus.”

Building features include a greenhouse, gardening beds, a 75-foot indoor pool, a block-long sundeck, and a private hair and nail salon.

“This is a time of great opportunity” for buyers, he said.

Because of the slowdown in getting building supplies, he estimates that Arthaus would cost 20% more if construction started now. And he predicted that the supply of available luxury homes will dip after next year. So, he said, the prices luxury buyers are getting today are “going to look very opportunistic a year or two from now.”

Dranoff declined to say what percentage of units have sold. The first residents will arrive in early 2022, and the building is scheduled to be finished by June.

The developer expects to offer three penthouses for $7.5 million, $8 million, and $15 million.

Starting price: $2.8 million

Address: 2031-2051 Lombard St.

Eight townhouses feature facades with handmade tiles imported from Spain, a balcony, decks, a two-car garage, and two home office spaces, in addition to four bedrooms. Finished basements include media rooms and wet bars, and roof decks can include plunge pools and kitchens.

“We’re seeing a lot of people come to us and say, ‘I love my house, but I wish it had an extra floor or extra rooms,’” said listing agent Jim Onesti, who is with the Mike McCann Team. “We’ve seen a lot of people move up from a big house ... to something bigger and nicer.”

Two of eight homes remain for sale.

Logan 23 townhouses

Starting price: $1.8 million

Address: 113-127 N. 23rd St. and 112-126 N. Croskey St.

The 16 homes in this gated townhouse development in the Logan Square area offer three-car garages, private elevators, and several decks, including one on the roof with the option to add a plunge pool and a kitchen.

“A lot of people just in the last few months have sold their suburban house and have come into the city,” said Onesti, the listing agent.

The 10-year tax abatement that comes with the Logan 23 and Moderna at Rittenhouse developments represents “big savings” for suburban buyers, he said.

Owners began moving in at the end of winter. Three of eight homes are available in the development’s first phase, and the next batch of eight additional homes will be available soon.

Onesti said both townhouse communities have attracted people who have looked at condos and other properties under construction but want to move in now.