High home demand, low supply in the suburbs

These days, it’s easier to buy a home in Philadelphia than in the surrounding Pennsylvania counties. The main reason? A suburban housing crunch.

So far this year, the city has permitted almost the same number of new housing units as Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties combined. Meanwhile, the suburbs are seeing soaring demand.

Keep scrolling for that story and to find out why Philly’s real estate boom is on hold, learn how to elevate your ceiling design, and peek into an oasis in Norristown.

📮 At the bottom of the newsletter, I talk about neighbor complaints on the online portal Nextdoor. What’s the most ridiculous or memorable post you’ve seen on Nextdoor or another neighborhood complaint hub? For a chance to be featured in my newsletter, email me.

— Michaelle Bond

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MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Tajah Patel and her husband, who live in South Philly, started trying to buy a home in the suburbs early this year.

Even with a budget of up to $800,000, the couple kept getting outbid. And other buyers were willing to pay cash or skip home inspections to win properties.

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The couple experienced firsthand the competitiveness of the suburbs.

Because of the shortage of available homes, more people are living in the city longer, even if they’d rather be in the suburbs.

The lack of housing there comes down to a shortage of land, green space preservation initiatives, and current homeowners who are against development.

Three decades ago, most new houses were built in the suburbs. But take this example:

  • Delaware County approved fewer than 4,000 new housing units in the last decade.

  • Philly’s Northern Liberties neighborhood has seen almost 6,000 new housing units permitted in the last five years.

For more details and eye-popping stats and to see how Patel’s home search ended, read the story.

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JKRP Architects

None of the development projects we wrote about last summer have broken ground yet.

That includes a plan in West Philly for a new building with retail space and 352 apartments. Its Philadelphia-based developer has abandoned the project, which he had planned to have built off-site in pieces and then put together at the property.

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I’ve written about how Philly developers are using modular construction to cut rising costs.

But the building method was no match for the Fed.

Last month, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to their highest level in 22 years in its crusade against inflation. So it’s more expensive to borrow funds to build. Meanwhile, construction costs are still higher than they used to be.

It all adds up to some of Philly’s development being put on hold.

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Read on for more details and to see why some projects are moving forward, while others are not.

The latest news to pay attention to

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Waterbury Kitchen and Bath / Waterbury Kitchen and Bath

In recent years, homeowners have knocked down walls to create open floor plans. But an increasing trend in home design has owners looking toward a room’s “fifth wall.”

That’s the ceiling, says Mitchell Parker, a senior editor at the home remodeling and design platform Houzz.

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“The ceiling is an incredible design opportunity that can help to open up a small space, create an intimate atmosphere despite tall ceilings, or add the final touch to make a room look truly complete,” Parker said.

Homeowners are using paint, texture, and architectural design.

They’re covering ceilings in wallpaper. They’re using bold colors to add drama. They’re creating wooden plank ceilings.

Searches for ceilings with the key words high-gloss, painted black, and wallpaper all increased compared with the same period in 2022, according to the 2023 Houzz U.S. Emerging Summer Trends Report.

See what some local homeowners chose to do with their ceilings and learn tips for getting creative with ceiling design.

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Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer

Roberto Palmon, a native of the Philippines, and Jeffrey Catlett, his partner, have spent decades creating an Asian-inspired paradise out of their yard in Norristown.

Their garden has lush ferns, trailing vines, and seating areas for meditation. There are three fountains and a pond. Bamboo shelters a Buddha statue.

When Catlett takes breaks from working at his computer, he likes to chop back the bamboo that would take over if it wasn’t held in check. Palmon has used bamboo branches to make garden benches.

A screened-in gazebo in the middle of the garden includes a TV screen where the couple likes to watch movies.

The renovation of their Colonial revival home included adding both a solarium and a front porch with peach-colored coneflowers on either side.

Peek inside their colorful garden and see why “everyone wants to visit.”

🧠 Trivia time 🧠

Last week, Project HOME celebrated the milestone of creating more than 1,000 affordable housing units across Philadelphia. The anti-homelessness nonprofit was joined by a celebrity and longtime Project HOME advocate.

Question: Who helped celebrate Project HOME’s milestone?

A) Patti LaBelle

B) Jill Scott

C) Bruce Springsteen

D) Jon Bon Jovi

This story has the answer.

📷 Photo quiz 📷

This seventh-floor, corner condo in Washington Square West is under contract. What’s the price of the two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit?

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Drew Callaghan Photography

📮 If you have a guess, email me back.

Shout out to Lawanna H. and Maya B., who knew that the photo from last week was taken in Rittenhouse Square Park.

I hardly ever look at my Nextdoor messages since they’re usually alarmist, annoying, or both.

But a Delaware-based foundation repair company analyzed nearly 60,000 posts and hundreds of thousands of comments on Nextdoor in 50 big U.S. cities to see what residents are complaining about most. (I hope they paid the person who did that well.)

The most popular topic Philly neighbors discuss? Dogs. Followed by parking.

In this analysis of Nextdoor posts, Philly ranks:

  • 4th for parking complaints

  • 9th for construction complaints

  • 10th for traffic complaints

So if this is what you’re seeing in your own Nextdoor groups, know that you’re not alone. Enjoy the rest of your week.

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