Tiny, Cheap, Awesome Philly Apartment?
January 10, 2011 11:25 AM   Subscribe

One bedroom apartment in Philly--University City or Center City? Price, location, ventilation...

I loathe hitting-the-pavement apartment hunting, and craigslist is failing me. Can you point me in the right direction?

Right now I'm paying about $700, including utilities. I'm living in a tiny efficiency with poor heating, mice, terribly clogged drains, and no garbage disposal. I'm not super picky about certain things. But I really want some other things, below.

In an ideal world, I'd be paying about $500. But I can't decide whether that's realistic in Philly, if I want to be safe walking home at 1am, etc.

0) One bedroom/efficiency (I did a weird thing once though where I shared a bathroom and kitchen. The price was awesome.)
1) Good ventilation/un-moldy. Is there a ventilation shaft in the bathroom?
2) Off the first floor, the higher in the air, the better. Would love a high-rise or even just a fourth floor.
3) Near a phillycarshare or zipcar car.
4) Near the Market-Frankford Line
5) Building is more or less safe, secure, and quiet.

Would be nice:
1) On-site management that will accept packages.

Don't care:
1) Square footage doesn't matter. I'll live in a shoebox if it has a stove, refrigerator, and a bathroom.
posted by zeek321 to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
While Philly is pretty damned good for renters, $500 is REALLY unrealistic for almost anything in Center City. You may be able to get an itty-bitty-teensy-weensy studio from a private landlord, but any of the big buildings (who'd offer on-site management/package acceptance) will be more than this.

If you'd be willing to enter a roommate situation, though, $1000 or $1500 for a 2 or 3 bedroom would be a BIT more realistic, and would broaden your available pool of buildings significantly.

While it's a little less convenient in some ways, you will almost definitely get more bang for your buck living in U. City. The sheer volume and variety of housing is pretty staggering. You'll need to exercise due diligence, of course, but if you don't like a place, there are likely to be 100 others just like it (not the case in Center City).

You might also want to check out Fishtown... I think there may be some Center City-caliber buildings there at (possibly) non-Center City prices.
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:39 AM on January 10, 2011

University City/West Philly, definitely. One-bedroom/efficiency at $500 would be pushing it though, you'd have to be very diligent about apartment-hunting and not last-minute. You could get a $1000-$1500 2-3 bedroom no prob.
posted by Anonymous at 11:51 AM on January 10, 2011

When I was looking for an apartment in Philly, the places I found pounding the pavement were lightyears beyond what I found online. (And I looked hard. Craigslist. Multiple realtors. Multiple school's classifieds.)

$500 is very low, and your best bet is nosing around for a bargain in a small building or a share of a large house. Anecdotally, I've heard that there are some bargains to be found around Chinatown and South Philly. Fishtown is further from transportation, but they may also have some deals, especially since they have so many little privately owned houses. Homeowners may be willing to cut you a deal if their house/apartment has been languishing, and you seem like a stable tenant. I'd also look at shares in the big old houses in University City/West Philadelphia. With student turnover, you might find something really swell.
posted by ladypants at 11:56 AM on January 10, 2011

West Philly is definitely cheaper. Where do you want to commute to? Center City? - You could also ride the bus (21 along Chestnut, 42 along Spruce and through the hospital), or the 34 trolley (Baltimore Ave) or the 13 trolley (Chester Ave). That's quite a big area.
posted by carter at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2011

Go west, definitely. My old West Philly landlord, last summer (2010), was advertising some studios in the 400s; I rented a small one-bedroom for right around 700, heat included, at 46th and Baltimore. The only big problem I can think of is that in the "better" parts of West Philly, much of the rental activity takes place according to the academic calendar. But on the bright side, that means that if there are vacancies now they're probably pretty desperate to fill them. (Maybe try looking for sublets from people who had leases for the academic year and then graduated?)

And if you're willing to live with roommates, then $500 in West Philly should be no problem.

On-site management that will accept packages.

this will be hard, I think, in West Philly. I saw lots of signs on doors asking delivery folks to deliver packages to the store next door. I never bothered to set up an arrangement like that because I just got things delivered to work.

Also, it would help to know where you're commuting to. Anecdotally, it seemed like lots of people I knew who were feeling priced out of West Philly moved to South Philly, which could work if you can commute via the Broad Street Line.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:28 PM on January 10, 2011

Response by poster: I'm a grad student on the UPenn campus. I have a fifteen minute walk from my apartment to my lab, which I'd hate to give up. But I'd love to be saving more money.
posted by zeek321 at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2011

I share (for a few more weeks at least a 2br downtown (near Jefferson) and pay less than you do - $650, not including utilities.

I think you can probably get an apartment in better condition and/or better size in your area for what you're paying, but if you really want to pay less you should look into living with roommates. You can hit the $500 number in University City or further west (let's say past 48th) for sure if you do that.

I'm not sure you're going to be able to find a "traditional" apartment building (more than 10 units) where there would be management or reception at that price, unless you're in a 2 or 3 bedroom. Most people I know in W Philly are in converted larger houses or rowhouses.
posted by polexa at 2:02 PM on January 10, 2011

Anecdotally, I can say that South Philly has some amazing bargains on houses and 2-bedroom apartments, but 1brs/studios are hard to find, because it's pretty much all smallish houses that aren't subdivided. For that price, I'll jump on the West Philly bandwagon. Get out into the neighborhoods you want to live in, walk/bike around, and call numbers you see advertising places. There's a ton of housing out there, most of it cheap, of a wide range of prices. If you're willing to room with folks, huge house shares can be a great way to go, and most very cost-conscious people I know in the city end up as one of 4-8 residents of a Victorian.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:41 PM on January 10, 2011

If you're on the main campus, you could walk there from a lot of places in West Philly.
posted by carter at 4:55 PM on January 10, 2011

check your memail
posted by lunachic at 5:51 PM on January 10, 2011

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