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What is it Really Like To Buy a $70 K Fixer-Upper?

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For a three-bedroom fixer upper in Philly asking $70K, would you leave your New York City rent behind? A year ago, an architect named Emily decided to drop her $825/month rent in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn for homeownership in Philly.

Over the last decade, more than a few articles have been written about the influx of New Yorkers who decide to make Philly their home. Here's one woman's story, and it doesn't involve lattes or private schools. In 2012, Emily, facing a steep rent hike in her shared $1650/month Brooklyn 2 bedroom (Now renting for $2100/month), decided to quit her 11-year relationship with New York. She'd already been commuting once a week to her employer's Philadelphia office, so Philly seemed an obvious choice. "I asked a couple of friends that were moving apartments in Philly and they were like, 'I got this one bedroom – my rent is $600,'" explains Emily. Convinced, she requested a full-time transfer to Philly and began looking for apartments.

After scouring the renter's market, nothing seemed to fit her needs, so Emily considered buying a house. She consulted a mortgage broker and was elated to find over 100 properties within her $120K price range.

She settled on a two-story three-bedroom row home in East Kensington, a neighborhood where, at the time, developers were "starting to pay attention."

After securing an FHA loan, Emily made a 3.5% down payment on her $70K home. Her downpayment and closing costs totaled around $7K. Factor in boxes, movers, and other random things that popped up, the move cost around $10K.

Within the first month, she found herself out of another $10K as the building's plumbing, which had created an unsightly stream in her walkway, needed to be replaced. This is when she jokingly dubbed the home "Nightmare on Amber Street."


Emily has since uncovered the building's original hardwood floors, which had been concealed for nearly half a century in gnarly carpet trends. "I finished them on my hands and knees with a belt sander," she says. She has also knocked out the closet walls in the master bedroom, and is currently in the process of replacing the basement staircase, the casualty of a weeklong flooding from her neighbor's pipes.

A year in, Emily is satisfied with her new home despite the early setbacks. "The reason I moved to Philly is because I could do projects like this," she says. "I can do this and take pride in it. Tearing down walls is really f*****g fun." Staring at the wall separating the master bedroom and the guest room, she says, "I want to tear down that wall, right now."

NUMBERS!
· 2012 Brooklyn Rent: $825/mo
· 2012 East Kensington Home Valuation: $70K
· 2013 East Kensington Monthly Payments: $450/mo
—Tishon Woolcock

· Have You Seen the New Yorkers? They're Here Now. [Curbed Philly]
· Philadelphia Story: The Next Borough [New York Times]