Jewish Geography Shows Where Jews Are Ver-Clumping Together

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If you’ve ever played the game of Jewish geography, chances are you’ve discovered that your acquaintance’s mother’s sister’s friend in her mahjong group lives across the street from you.
 

If you’ve ever played the game of Jewish geography, chances are you’ve discovered that your acquaintance’s mother’s sister’s friend in her mahjong group lives across the street from you.
 
And most likely, that’s in some of Philadelphia’s largest Jewish neighborhoods: Lower Merion, the rest of the Main Line, Cherry Hill, Elkins Park and the Northeast.
 
Mike McCann, or more professionally known as “The Real Estate Man,” is a Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway in Center City, focusing on Rittenhouse Square, Society Hill and Washington Square West.
 
He said a big segment of his marketplace caters to the Jewish population. It helps that half of the agents on his team are Jewish, too.
 
The market has been “white hot” in Center City, much more so than other areas like the Main Line, McCann said.
 
This is due to the type of people relocating to Center City: young professionals and empty nesters. 
 
People with children often find it difficult to live in the city while finding a good local school.
 
Empty nesters, however — who used to live in areas like Lower Merion, the Main Line or Elkins Park — have been spending millions to buy in Center City, whereas the young professionals fresh out of college and acclimating to their first job are renting and eventually buying their first townhouse or condo.
 
Once you get your kids out of the house, what’s better than moving into their neighborhood. High rises, houses and condominium buildings are popular buys among the empty nesters. The young professionals are sticking to buildings equipped with doormen, high security and proximity to work. 
 
“They’re moving in for the lifestyle,” McCann said, “the arts and the theater and the restaurants and the social engagement. Their kids are out of the house, and … a lot of their friends are moving into town.”
 
Across the city, the trend seems to be move closer into town, and the market is expanding tremendously. 
 
Places like Northern Liberties and Fishtown used to be considered those expanded areas on the outskirts of Center City. That has now extended to South Philadelphia, Passyunk Square and Point Breeze. 
 
Synagogues there — Society Hill Synagogue, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, Mekor Habracha, Congregation Mikveh Israel and Congregation Rodeph Shalom, to name a few — create a lasting Jewish community.
 
“Right now, the market is the best it’s been in decades,” McCann added. “The problem is there’s a limited inventory. So someone sells their Main Line house for $1 million or $2 million and want to come in town and want to spend $800,000 to $1 million, and I can’t find them anything.”
 
Even if their offers increase, there’s not that much available because everyone’s scooping up these properties. 
 
“The thing that’s holding our market back is the lack of inventory,” he said. “There are more people that want to move into town.”
 
Mike Goldstein, one of McCann’s agents, sells primarily in Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze.
 
In those areas, it’s all about new construction and buying newer homes that require little maintenance and are “monthly-payment conscious.”
 
As an example, someone renting a one-bedroom apartment in Center City for around $2,000 a month could swap that out for a $400,000 newly constructed house in Point Breeze.
 
“Put down 5 percent, and your monthly payment will be very similar for a 2,500- or 2,600-square-foot house with a roof deck, finished basement and everything brand new,” he added.
 
If they get in early enough, buyers can sometimes select finishes, such as tile, hardwood floors, appliances, countertops, backsplashes and paint colors.
 
But over in the suburbs, Beth Samberg’s clientele want proximity more than pigments.
 
Samberg, a Realtor for Keller Williams, sells houses in Lower Merion, Radnor, Haverford and Philadelphia.
 
She said many members of the Jewish community there, including herself, want to be within walking distance of a synagogue.
 
“The condensed area of Bala Cynwyd and Merion Station is within walking distance to Lower Merion Synagogue, which is the largest Orthodox synagogue between New York and D.C. and Baltimore,” she said. “So that is where people who are going to Lower Merion Synagogue are purchasing. People going to Beth Hamedrosh are purchasing in the Wynnewood area.”
 
Over in other areas, the median sales price is around $218,450 in Elkins Park, where 94 percent of residents are homeowners, according to Trulia. The median is $478,750 in Bryn Mawr, which neighbors large Jewish communities along the Main Line. That price is higher for Cherry Hill, about $246,000, showing an 11 percent year-over-year rise in median sales prices. 
 
The Jewish community also has grown over the years, Samberg noted, where congregants can choose from Lower Merion Synagogue, Adath Israel, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Har Zion Temple, Main Line Reform Temple and several others.
 
“People who are relocating to this area, starting in rentals and then purchasing homes, they’re buying homes at a higher percentage than they were 10 years ago when I went into real estate,” she said.
 
“As a participant of Lower Merion Synagogue, I’ve definitely seen the community grow,” she continued. “We have minyanim now that we did not have within Lower Merion Synagogue.”
 
Other minyanim are popping up all around, which is helping to grow the community, as well as more schools, kosher restaurants and a soon-to-be new community mikvah.
 
Unlike McCann, Samberg said many families are finding the Center City communities just as livable and close to the synagogues.
 
“The market is incredibly strong across the board. We have not seen a slow down,” she said, which is regardless of faith or neighborhoods. 
 
Samberg and her team market their properties as a whole, not just to the Jewish community who want to be in the sweet spot of a one-mile radius from the synagogue, so they are seeing a lot of competition for those properties. 
 
“The township as a whole is an incredible place to live, regardless of denomination,” Samberg said. “And we’re finding that the homes that we sell within those neighborhoods, we’re selling them to Jewish and non-Jewish.
 
“They’re not just competing with the frum; they’re competing with the non-frum.” 
 
Contact: rkurland@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0737

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