Pittsburgh: Park Place

Have you ever heard of Park Place? We live there now! Usually when people ask me where we live, I say Point Breeze and then they often ask, where in Point Breeze? I tell them and then they say something like, “is that part of Point Breeze?” with a mildly skeptical expression. Yes it is! However, it’s also considered its own neighborhood — Park Place. The city portion is considered part of Point Breeze and there are also a few streets into Wilkinsburg.

I found this map of Park Place here.

And according to Google, here is Point Breeze:

We have a Park Place Neighborhood Association and a Facebook page!


Some great things about Park Place:

Proximity to Frick Park: Frick Park is Pittsburgh’s largest historic regional park with 644 acres. We can walk to the Frick Park trails from Park Place. During the summer, my family walked/biked to the Frick for their Summer Fridays concerts.

Boys and I on a hiking snack break

Forbes & Braddock Playground: There’s a great playground, pavilion, tennis courts, baseball field and access to the Frick Park trails.

In a tree by the playground

We have schools! Shady Side Academy Junior School and the Environmental Charter School Primary School are both located in Park Place. The Environmental Charter School building was actually the Park Place School from 1903- 1979 and the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Proximity to Regent Square Businesses: We can walk or bike to D’s, Square Cafe, 61B and all the other great businesses in Regent Square.

Sidney being responsible for my leftovers….

Madeleine Bakery & Bistro: We have a great bakery and cafe (at the border of Regent Square).

Proximity to East End Food Co-op: We can walk or bike to get groceries.

It’s Flat! Another great thing about Park Place that I didn’t even really consider until we moved here is that it is so flat. We have been biking more than ever before because there are no hills. Taking walks or bike rides is much more enjoyable without all the hill climbing typical for Pittsburgh.

Interesting article about how the millennials are now choosing real estate based on walkability. Excerpt:

“Walkability is a really big thing,” he said in the report. “They want to be able to walk to neighborhood coffee shops and bakeries … Health and wellness is a priority for them, so they like to be close to fitness facilities and yoga studios.”

He continued: “Location has always been a factor in real estate, but what’s changed is the definition of what is a good location. It used to be that the prestigious neighborhoods were gated and secluded, often outside of town. Millennial buyers want to be close to the action.”

Up and Coming Business District: There is small street of commercial property and store fronts on the border of Park Place and Wilkinsburg on S. Trenton Avenue. We took a walk down this street recently to check it out. There are a few vacant store fronts and not a lot happening at the moment but there is a great, little bike store, Fern Hollow Bicycles. I took my bike there when I was trying to mount a child bike seat to the back and the owner was very helpful. I’m really hoping some other new businesses find this street and revive it.

Families are Moving In: We experienced this at our Mt. Lebanon house and our house in Forest Hills. When we first bought, there were a lot of folks on the streets who had owned the houses for 30+ years. Over the time that we lived there, we saw many of these people selling and young families moving in. Seeing kids playing outside and with neighbor kids is good for everyone and I see it happening here too.

Unique Architecture: I posted about our house before. Our house style is one of many, many different styles found in Park Place. Here’s a before and after (in progress) for you of our house.

You too could buy an old, broken house and restore it (very slowly)

Real Estate Value: A lot of the neighborhoods in the area have gotten really expensive. In comparison to Highland Park or the main part of Point Breeze, Park Place offers a good value while still being a great location. Speaking of which, our neighbor’s house is for sale. And just in case you are not aware of this, I am a real estate agent. Just saying. πŸ™‚ Get in before the prices go up!!

So that’s our new neighborhood, Park Place πŸ™‚

Our Big Blue House

I mentioned a while ago that we moved over the Summer. We bought this big, old blue house that’s over 100 years old.

When we first bought it, there were two giant birch trees about a foot from the house. We had them cut down and had all the old, plastic covered windows and rotting sills replaced before we moved in.

We also had some of the rooms painted including this yellow…Steelers themed one. The picture below is from the listing. We removed the carpeting in that room and put down hardwood flooring too.

The old fan is still in there and we don’t have any furniture for this room yet but it’s starting to look better. In the corner (below pic), we had to run pipes up to the second floor bathroom because we put the laundry upstairs. (The basement was a somewhat horrifying dungeon with extremely narrow stairs so moving the laundry upstairs was a priority.) That corner will eventually be dry walled in. We’re also going to possibly move the half bath partly into this room.

That little stove in the room is a wood burning stove that will only fit very tiny logs.

At some point, someone took out the old glass above the front door, added glass slanted pieces and boarded off part of the opening. I’m talking to a stained glass maker to see how much it would cost to have a piece of stained glass made for this spot. If it’s too expensive, we’ll probably just put in a regular piece of glass.

Here is the upstairs bathroom pic from the listing. We removed that big, black cabinet on the right and put the stackable washer and dryer there. It’s a temporary fix until we can renovate this ridiculous bathroom. By the way, there’s no vent for heat in this bathroom. Just that light up fireplace.

We haven’t done much in the dining room yet but we did replace the light fixture (which had bungee cords holding it up) and the ceiling is no longer blue. Here’s the before:

And the in progress picture below. I’ve been shopping for curtains for this room for weeks. All of the windows in this house are extremely big and tall because the rooms have 12′ ceilings so curtains seem like a big commitment.

And that’s about where we are with this house. We had an architect come this past Friday and we are going to have plans drawn for the first floor. We want to move the half bath, open the kitchen up to the back den and open a doorway from the living room to the dining room. They’re also going to help us with adding a roof over the front door and hopefully a covered porch across the whole front of the house.

The exterior is scheduled to be repainted in October. No more varying shades of peeling blue!

This house is a huge project and we’re going to have to do the work slowly over time and live with the chaos for a while. But we get to walk/bike to school, Frick Park, our friend’s houses and to restaurants and bars so we think it’s worth it. πŸ™‚

New Listing in Swissvale!

We’ve had a crazy few weeks here! We moved. And we have 3 kids and the house that we bought needs a lot of work, so it’s been a bit crazy. But we have a new listing that just went up earlier this week.

Check it out here: 7311 Whipple Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

This house is a great price for the location. It’s in Swissvale but walkable to Regent Square and Frick Park. It has 3 bedrooms and 1 and a half bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms have walk in closets! It actually has more storage and closet space than the house that we just bought and our house is almost twice as big (as I sit here typing this surrounded by boxes and no place to put them…)

We’re doing an open house this Saturday (8/17/19), 11AM to 1PM if you’d like to check it out. It’s a really great, move in ready house!

New Listing in Regent Square

New listing in Regent Square! 1311 Lancaster Ave. The location is amazing! You’re practically living within Frick Park and also very close to the Regent Square business district. It’s a very functional house. There aren’t any scary elements. You can basically just buy it, move in and not worry about it.

Wonderful community with very active and friendly neighbors. I love it for the walkability. It has 3 bedrooms on the second floor plus a large 3rd floor bedroom or bonus room. Solid surface kitchen countertops, double vanity in the full bath and 2 car detached garage.

We’re holding an open house this coming Saturday, June 15 from 1-3 so come and check it out!!

Our house is for sale!

We’ve been busy over here. For the last few months, we’ve been looking for a house that is closer to Sam’s (and soon to be Tucker’s) school and to our friends. That area of Pittsburgh is pretty expensive and in demand right now so we’ve mostly been looking at fixer uppers.

A few weeks ago, we looked at a house that is a five minute walk from Sam’s school. It was tenant occupied and a complete disaster. It’s a little over 2100 square feet but only 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. The layout is terrible and there is a ton of wasted space. It needs SO MUCH work. But…we made a low offer, they countered, we countered, they countered, we said no, they said no. We thought it was over but then a couple of days later, they came back and accepted our offer! So we’re closing July 10th, hoping that the tenants are out of there by then and hoping to have our current house at least under contract by then.

We listed our house (<—link to the listing) on Tuesday but didn’t allow any showings until the open house on Sunday. We mainly did this because we have 3 kids and we could get the majority of the showings out of the way that day. The open house went great! We had about 20 groups come through in the 3 hours. We’ve also had 5 showings since then (it’s Wednesday). I’m hopeful we’ll get an offer soon.

We only bought this house a year ago and did a lot of work to it so I thought it would be fun to post the before and after pics. Here we go:

The living and dining area became the living room and kitchen. The hardwood was refinished and we laid porcelain tile in the kitchen/dining area.
The old kitchen area became the dining area so we could add a back door and build a deck.
Another picture of the kitchen.
The old bathroom lost its pink wallpaper and got new drywall, vanity, toilet, mirror and light fixtures.
The back of the house lost its window awnings and we built a deck with slide.
We tore out the old carpeting in the basement, put in carpet tiles, painted and put in recessed lighting.
We also added a new full bathroom off of the basement.

We really liked this house and will miss certain things about it. But we’re really looking forward to being able to walk to school and to Frick Park!

All About Conventional Mortgages

Unless you have a huge pile of cash, a big part of buying home is getting a mortgage.

There are many, many different types of mortgage loans. The most common type is a Fixed Rate Conventional Mortgage. I really like working with first time home buyers because I really like to explain this stuff. πŸ™‚ So here we go:

Conventional Mortgage: A loan that is not insured or guaranteed by a government body. It conforms with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines so these loans are generally sold off by banks to Fannie and Freddie. This doesn’t really affect the mortgage holder. Conventional mortgages require a minimum down payment of 5%. Conventional mortgages are generally Fixed-Rate, meaning that the interest rate does not change throughout the life of the loan. If it starts at 4% with a term of 30 years, it will still be 4% 30 years later, no matter what happens in the market.

Conventional mortgages are generally 15 or 30 year but different terms are available. Generally, the shorter the term, the better the interest rate.

You can you use a conventional loan to buy a primary residence, second home or investment property up to 4 units.

Down Payment: the amount of cash you bring to closing not including the closing costs (minimum of 5% for conventional mortgage loans).

Loan-to-Value (LTV): The mortgage amount divided by the appraised value of the house. For conventional loans, your LTV must be 95% or less.
For example, if you buy a house for $100,000, you would be required to put 5% down payment.
5% of $100,000 = $5,000 down payment

So the mortgage amount would be $95,000 and the sale price is $100,000 95,000/100,000 = .95 or 95% loan-to-value

Note: when you buy a home, the lender will do an appraisal to make sure that the home is worth at least as much as the mortgage amount. Even if your home appraises higher than the sale price, you still need to put down at least 5% of the sale price. The bank requires this so that you have some vested interest in the home and you won’t just walk away from the mortgage.

Mortgage Payment Parts (PITI):
Principal
: The portion of your payment that goes toward paying down your loan.
Interest: Payment to the bank for lending you money. Does not reduce loan amount.
Taxes: Money that will go into escrow (see below) to pay real estate taxes.
Escrow is a holding account into which you will pay, as part of your mortgage payment, that the lender will use for tax payments. Most mortgages escrow for taxes and insurance so you don’t have to make those payments yourself. You will pay into the escrow account with every mortgage payment. Tax and insurance payments will be paid from this by the lender.
Insurance: Money that you will pay with each mortgage payment that will be used to pay your home owner’s insurance policy premium. (goes into escrow account each month)

You might also pay PMI (explained below) as part of your mortgage payment.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): If you put less than 20% as a down payment, you are required to pay PMI. This is protection for the lender in case the loan holder defaults. The amount of PMI depends upon how much you put down. You’ll pay the highest PMI premium if you put the least down (5%). Once you pay down your loan to 80% loan-to-value (LTV), you can request that the bank eliminate your PMI. PMI is including in your mortgage payment.

Another note about PMI: If you buy a house and put less than 20% down, but then you do some renovations or upgrades and feel that your house is worth more, you can ask the bank to do another appraisal with the goal of getting rid of PMI. You will have to pay for the appraisal out of pocket and it’s usually about $400-500. If the appraisal value gives you an LTV less than 80%, it will eliminate the PMI.

An alternative to conventional mortgages are FHA Mortgages. I’ll talk about that in the next post. πŸ™‚

Just Listed in East Liberty!

I just listed this house today in East Liberty. It’s only a couple of blocks from Whole Foods, Bakery Square and Highland Park! It’s currently set up as a single family home but it’s zoned 2 family so it could easily be made into a two unit.

I really love the farmhouse style of this house and it would have great curb appeal after being painted.

Here’s the link to the listing: 522 N. Euclid. Check it out!

Farmhouse design ideas below. I love the very first one. Navy + wood.


New Listing & Sold Listing

We just closed on 4724 Wallingford yesterday! It was under contract in about a week.

We listed a new house about a week ago and I just added it to the Current Listings page. It’s an end unit townhouse in East Liberty. It’s really an amazing location. Walkable to everything in East Liberty. It’s been completely gutted so it’s ready for a renovation to begin immediately.

Here’s a map to show you the location. Just a few blocks from Highland Park.

I haven’t had a lot of time to write on here but I’m hoping to write more soon. I’m interested to learn more about renovation loans and post on here. I didn’t realize it was really a viable option until recently. Also, I told Aaron that I’d like to become a real estate attorney. lol. That’s a long term goal.

505-507 California Ave, Oakmont, PA

First off, this is not my listing, I just love this house. It’s AMAZING! I would like to buy it but Aaron said, “you don’t want to live in Oakmont.” Whatever AARON. I’m willing to run an Air BNB to make this happen.

It’s walkable to a trail, library, restaurants and more.

Plus, I really want a house that has a separate apartment included. This one has a full separate mother-in-law suite with its own address. The apartment is two stories and 3 bedrooms, 1 bath. I really want to go see it.

I’m just posting it here because I think it’s a really unique house in Pittsburgh. It’s 6,000+ square feet on half an acre in Oakmont. It would be a great Bed and Breakfast. Here’s a link to the listing.

Here’s the real estate tax calculation. It’s assessed for $399,600. The millage in Oakmont is 31.4673.

$399,600 x .0314673 = $12,574 eeeek

Alright, I’ll just be over here calculating mortgage payments and possible rental income on the in-law suite. πŸ™‚

Pittsburgh: Regent Square

I’ve started two blog posts about different types of mortgages but there is just so much information to include, it’s been hard for me to complete. Still working on it!

In the meantime, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the area of Pittsburgh known as Regent Square. This little area East of Frick Park is a very hot real estate market. It has a business district, its walkable, it has Frick Park. I love it (and would love to move there πŸ™‚ ) But Regent square is also a unique area of Pittsburgh because it is not its own municipality.

The area outlined in orange on the map below is Regent Square according to Google.

Regent Square is made up of parts of Swissvale, Wilkinsburg and the City of Pittsburgh. This means that depending on where you live in Regent Square, your real estate taxes (and income tax) could vary wildly. The school district also varies depending on the part of Regent Square.

In terms of real estate taxes, the total millage for the 3 municipalities that make up Regent Square are:

  • City of Pittsburgh: 22.63
  • Wilkinsburg: 48.23
  • Swissvale: 38.08

As an example, if you were buying a house for $250,000, here is what your total annual real estate taxes would be in each of these areas:

  • City of Pittsburgh: $5,657
  • Wilkinsburg: $12,057
  • Swissvale: $9,520

These are big differences! This difference in real estate tax greatly affects the value of real estate here. In my experience, a house in the city of Pittsburgh portion of Regent Square will be worth more than a similar house in the Wilkinsburg or Swissvale portion. The real estate taxes make a big difference in what people can afford. Your mortgage payment would be significantly different depending on the area.

In the city of Pittsburgh, you would be paying $471 per month toward the real estate tax portion of your mortgage payment. If you were in Wilkinsburg, the real estate tax portion of your mortgage payment would be $1,004.

Just to be a little more clear, if you took out a mortgage for $250,000, here is an estimate of what your mortgage payment would be. (Principal+Interest+Taxes) (Using an estimated interest rate of 4.25% and not including home owner’s insurance)

  • City of Pittsburgh: $1,701/month
  • Wilkinsburg: $2,234/month
  • Swissvale: $2,023/month

And just a quick note about schools: Wilkinsburg is Wilkinsburg School Disctrict, Swissvale is Woodland Hills School District and the City of Pittsburgh portion is Pittsburgh Public Schools.

You can check the municipality of a particular house on the Allegheny County Assessment Site. (I bring up that website on pretty much every post…but it’s really full of useful information). Search for the address and then on the General Information tab, it will list the municipality. The one below is 14th Ward – Pittsburgh.

Hope that is helpful to you! I think it’s pretty interesting information. I also recently found out about an area of Pittsburgh near Regent Square that is called Park Place?! Who knew??