Winter Checklist for Landlords

For Philly landlords, winter is more than hot chocolate and mistletoe. It’s making sure your properties are protected against seasonal events that can damage property, harm tenants or cause expensive repairs if not addressed before freezing temperatures occur. We invite you to use the below guideline to prepare your rental properties for whatever winter brings.


Clear all sidewalks, stairs, and yards of fallen leaves. When wet, autumn leaves turn into slippery surfaces which may cause serious falls for tenants, as well as to pedestrians, for which you are legally responsible. Even if there is only one tree on your property, wind and ice can bring down dead limbs, damaging roofs, cars, power lines, and anyone who happens to be there at the time. If you aren’t sure of the stability of the tree, call in an arborist for a consultation. Trees located too close to buildings can also provide access to your attic for squirrels and raccoons. 


Nat King Cole’s version of “Autumn Leaves” is swoon-worthy. But there is nothing romantic about clogged gutters. They need to be cleaned twice a year and now, when they are stopped up with leaves, is an important time. While you are up on that ladder, repair damaged gutters, detached downspouts, as well as any roof issues you spot.

Exterior and Foundation Inspection

Check the foundation, patio, walkways, and entry points to ensure they are free from leaks, cracking, or damage. Winter’s colder temperatures attract rodents looking for shelter indoors. They can cause a great deal of damage destroying wiring, harboring diseases, and chewing through drywall. Seal up any exterior points of entry before rodents take up residence.

Winterize Outdoor Hookups

Outside garden hoses and spigots can freeze and break. Detach hose connections and drain all liquid before storing hoses for the winter. Then, turn off the outside water supply and bleed the lines to ensure no water remains that could freeze and rupture the fixture or pipe.

Chimney Cleaning

If the property has a fireplace, hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect and clean chimneys and vents. This helps prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Review fireplace safety with tenants to avoid smoke-filled units, false fire alarms, and related problems.

Prepare for Snow Removal

If your rental property lease doesn’t require tenants to be responsible for snow removal, hire a snow removal service to avoid financial liability for a tenant, pedestrian, or mailman falling on an icy patch of pavement.

Check for Cracks

Windows and doors can leak cold air into your rental property. Do not depend on tenants to seal off these air leaks. Visit the property when temperatures drop and check yourself. Attics, crawl spaces, and open areas can also cause warm air to be lost if there is insufficient insulation. 

Winterize Pipes

Frozen pipes are a costly repair. Signs that pipes are frozen include a lack of running water, odd smells, and the accumulation of frost on the exterior of the pipes. Installing adequate pipe insulation and help prevent frozen pipes.

Service HVAC Systems

Having working heat during the winter months is a basic right to tenants and the system needs to function properly to prevent an emergency. Consider a service contract with a reputable maintenance specialist to ensure your systems are running smoothly all year long. We recommend a bi-yearly HVAC inspection to look for any new tears or breaches, deterioration, insulation falling off, or ductwork falling. At Solo, we typically schedule our inspections in the spring and fall, right before winter hits.

The furnace filter should be changed at the start of winter and then again in spring. This is just a simple matter of following the furnace operating manual to find the appropriate filter type, size, and rating, then determining the filter’s location in the furnace, and swapping it out.

A dirty or clogged filter not only hinders your indoor air quality but makes your furnace work harder, costing you money. It also shortens the life of your furnace. Make sure you Clear the area around your furnace so it will run more efficiently. This allows for enough air to be used for the combustion of the heating element as well as safe and smooth operation. 

Change Thermostat Batteries

Fresh batteries in the thermostat ensure your tenants won’t wake up freezing some cold winter morning. And the furnace won’t need to work that much harder to restore a comfortable temperature. Tenants are typically responsible for replacing batteries on thermostats that are beeping during their tenancy but be sure to check them during move-out walkthroughs and replace them as needed.

Reverse Ceiling Fans

Warm air rises. So, if possible, reverse the property’s ceiling fans or reach out to your tenants and remind them to. This forces warm air back down into living spaces to help regulate the temperature more efficiently. Especially if the home has vaulted or high ceilings, tenants will appreciate the added heating savings.

Check Your Detectors

Checking and testing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is critical to the tenant’s safety and the protection of your property. If you do not have the correct amount or proper devices, now is the time to correct it. At a minimum, each floor needs to have an alarm but check with your local code guidelines to ensure compliance. Also, check with tenants to see if they have removed alarms that were going off too often due to everyday cooking.

Should You Consider Property Management Services?

The ongoing property maintenance of a rental can be a lot to manage however it’s key to protecting your investment. With over seventy years of experience, a strong network of resources, and a hands-on approach to property management, Solo can help you manage your rental property effectively. We know that no property or owner is the same so we custom tailor our services to your needs. Contact us to learn more.

Renting Guide: How to Find The Perfect Rental in Philadelphia

Renting is a great way to get to know a new city and familiarize yourself with a neighborhood. It’s especially suited for people who prefer the convenience of city living and don’t want to deal with the maintenance of owning a home. In Philadelphia, renting has become increasingly popular, especially with higher mortgage rates and an uptick in home prices. However, like home buying, finding a rental has gotten very competitive in recent years. How do you navigate the increasingly complicated rental market? Here is a rental guide with some tips to make it easier.

Create a budget and stick to it

Looking for a rental is like looking for love. Sure, sparkling hardwood floors and new appliances may make your heart race, but it won’t last if monthly payments gobble up your savings. For most renters, spending 30% of their monthly income on a rental is the sweet spot. But if you have student loans, are saving to buy a home, expecting a baby, or paying down debt, consider looking for an apartment that only takes 20% of your income. Make sure to include one month’s rent for a security deposit, another $200 to cover utilities, and then throw in additional expenses such as pet fees, parking, and laundry. Not sure? Use an online rent calculator like this one.

Do your research

Come prepared with a list of must-haves. Know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you require as well as the amenities. For some, that will mean off-street parking, a roof deck, and an on-site fitness center. Are energy-efficient appliances a must? How flexible is your budget? The clearer you are about what
you need, the better able your rental agent will be able to help you find your dream apartment. Don’t forget your ID and checkbook. You’ll need to act quickly to avoid losing the chance at the ideal rental.

Come with a checklist

  • Look for signs of roaches or mice in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Check for smoke detectors.
  • Are the hallways and stairs clean and well-lit?
  • Is the front door secure or can anyone enter?
  • Is there a fire escape or fire safety plan in place?
  • Will noise from the street or adjoining apartments be an issue?
hands holding a map with some of the  best neighborhoods for rentals

The Best Philadelphia Neighborhoods for Renters

At one time, having a quick commute to work or easy access to public transportation was a priority. Now, with many people working from home, rental options have expanded, as well as the allure of many former “bedroom neighborhoods” that are now teaming with popular restaurants, nightlife, and shops. Here is a primer on a few of the most popular neighborhoods for renters.

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse is considered one of the most desirable parts of the City due to its historic park, elegant architecture, restaurants, shops, theaters, and concert halls with easy access to the airport and trains. Rentals are available in a range of older and new hi-rises, townhouses, and, on smaller streets, in rowhouses and trinities.

Fitler Square

Fitler Square is a quieter neighborhood situated near the Schuylkill River with charming small streets and its own lovely park. This area attracts professionals, families, and graduate students who frequent the neighborhood’s many restaurants. You can read more about the history of Fitler Square in our recent “neighborhood histories” post.

Graduate Hospital

Located east of Fitler Square, between Bainbridge Street and Washington Avenue, and between the Schuylkill River and Broad Street, this neighborhood offers a choice of apartments in new and older buildings as well as on smaller streets, within walking distance from Center City.

Point Breeze

South of Washington Avenue, west of Broad Street, this is a former working-class neighborhood experiencing a lot of growth. While there are some hi-rise luxury apartment buildings, most apartments are located in former row houses. The axis of Broad & Washington is a focal point of new buildings and shopping.

Old City

Bordered by Vine Street to the north, Walnut Street to the south, 7th Street to the west, and the Delaware River to the east, Old City is a former industrial/factory area that has been renovated into residential dwellings. Filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques, it is a popular hangout for the under-thirty set and contains the first factory conversions in the City.

East Passyunk

South of Washington Avenue, on the east side of Broad Street, East Passyunk is the “Hippest street in town.” Once a solid Italian neighborhood of Mom & Pop eateries and shops, it now boasts some of the most popular restaurants and bars in the City with Passyunk Square as its focal point.

Northern Liberties

Located between Callowhill Street and Girard Avenue, and between 6th Street and the Delaware River, this was one of the first areas of the City to experience rapid development. Filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, and parks like Liberty Lands, it is popular with young professionals and families wanting an urban feel with quick access to Center City’s attractions.


Just north of Northern Liberties is a former working-class neighborhood that has shifted into high gear, attracting young professionals and families, to its burgeoning array of restaurants, boutiques, and beer gardens. This area offers a mix of renovated row homes, as well as new construction homes and condos in a lively neighborhood.

East Kensington

Located north of Fishtown, East Kensington is the home of Philadelphia Brewing Company, a brewery, and community gathering space now located in the former Weisbrod and Hess brewery, a restored 19th-century brewery complex. Another former working-class neighborhood, East Kensington has become a popular area for artists, families, and young professionals. Nestled around rowhomes and converted factory buildings, restaurants, tattoo shops, cafes and community gardens abound. This neighborhood also boasts its very own cooperatively-owned grocery store, the Kensington Community Food Coop (KCFC.)

These are just some of the many neighborhoods we serve. Other popular neighborhoods for rentals include Washington Square, Society Hill, Bella Vista, Queen Village, Art Museum, Brewerytown, and Pennsport.

If you’re looking to make Philadelphia your home and are looking for a great rental, visit our rent page to view our current listings. Solo Real Estate manages 450+ units across the city and we are committed to finding the right tenants to settle in and become active members of their community. For property management inquiries, please reach out.

5 Energy-Efficient Home Improvements To Consider

Fall is the time to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and make changes to shrink your carbon footprint, reduce climate change and lower your costs in the long run. Use the below guide as a checklist for home improvements to see what you can do to help Philadelphia reach its zero-waste goal.

Air Sealing

Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home or apartment is a cost-effective way to cut heating and cooling costs, improve durability, increase comfort, and create a healthier indoor environment. 

Caulking and weatherstripping windows and doors are two ways to lower your heating bill and prevent moisture from entering your living space. If you don’t want to go the DIY route, hire an energy assessor to test your home for airtightness. They will caulk and seal air leaks, not just in doors and windows, but also wherever plumbing or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, and ceilings. They may also install foam gaskets behind the outlet and switch plates on the walls. While you’re at it, consider replacing single-pane windows with more energy-efficient double-pane windows.

For DIY tips on air-sealing, visit the Government’s Energy website.


Smart Thermostats

You probably already have a smartphone, smart speakers, and a smart security system. Now it’s time to use a smart thermostat that can be controlled from an app on your mobile phone. 

A smart thermostat allows you to change the temperature when you’re away from the home and schedule a warm welcome when you return. They also have sensors to send reports about your energy usage so you can know how much you are using. More importantly, they heat or cool your home more efficiently than regular thermostats and reduce your bills in the process.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Top-rated appliance brands – Sub-Zero, LG, Frigidaire – now offer the Energy Star label on all home appliances, including refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, ovens, etc. Energy Star products are more than 75% energy-efficient than other appliances, saving energy and money. 

Energy Star rated appliances saved homeowners over 14 billion dollars in 2006 alone, and reduced national fossil fuel emissions during that year by the equivalent of 25 million cars. As those numbers are bound to increase as technology advances, it’s clear that Energy Star appliances are a plus for the environment and your pocketbook at the same time. 

For example, an Energy Star refrigerator may cost from $500 to over $3,000. According to the National Resource Defense Council, energy efficiency standards have already saved American homeowners about $2,000 per household. Energy Star appliances reduce greenhouse gases, water consumption, and our reliance on fossil fuels.

No matter what brand of washing machine and dryer you own, you can use it more efficiently. Start by washing your clothes in cold water.  Always clean the lint out of the dryer filter after each use, and remember to dry heavy and light fabrics separately. Use the highest spin cycle on your washing machine which removes more moisture and reduces the time needed to dry clothing. If possible, invest in a front-loading washer that saves more water and energy than top-loading washers. Consider buying a high-efficiency washing machine designed to save water and require less detergent.

Improve your Insulation

If your home is not well-insulated, it will trap more heat in the summer, and lose heat in the winter. This will require you to spend more energy on heating and air conditioning. Today, there are sustainable alternatives to the pink fiberglass insulation that was common in the past.

Recycled denim insulation, also known as natural cotton fiber insulation, is high-performance insulation that’s made from scraps and clippings from the manufacture of denim clothing. Yes, from the same factories that made your favorite jeans. This insulation is suitable for residential use in the same places as fiberglass would be used—between open roof rafters, ceiling joists, and wall studs.

Recycled denim insulation offers many advantages over traditional fiberglass insulation. It is 100 percent recyclable, diverts waste from landfills, results in higher efficiency and lower energy bills, provides 30 percent more indoor acoustics insulation, contains no volatile compounds, and does not cause respiratory infections.

The only downside? Denim insulation may cost twice as much as fiberglass. However, the benefits of removing asthma- and allergy-triggering toxins from a home’s indoor air outweigh the increased expense.

Shop Zero Waste Products

Philadelphia now has a one-stop shop that stocks all the zero-waste products you need. Good Buy Supply, 1737 East Passyunk Avenue, is the first Philly retail shop dedicated to low-waste, plastic-free alternatives for your bathroom, kitchen, home, and garden. Visit their shop in person or peruse the online store.

If you’re typically an Amazon shopper, consider switching to The Rounds for your household staples. The Rounds is a local zero-waste refill and delivery service that provides sustainable supplies like dish soap, glass cleaner, and even toilet paper free of plastic waste.

Please join us in safeguarding the environment by conserving energy and taking small steps at home that contribute to reducing your carbon footprint to create a more sustainable city.

Interested in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia or our list on 5 Things Philly Renters can do for the Environment. If you’re a Solo tenant or owner and want to sign up for a special 2 month trial offer from Bennett Compost, please e-mail us!

Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

Mortgage rates have dropped to an all-time low. So, is this the time to refinance your home? Um, not so fast. We talked to home loan experts and there is no cookie-cutter formula that applies to everyone.


“Everybody’s situation is different,” said Joseph Aiken at First Trust Bank, the largest family-owned bank in Philadelphia. “If you are planning on moving in two years, you may just break even and not actually save any money by refinancing. However, if you aren’t moving and you have an adjustable rate at 3%, refinancing for a lower fixed rate is probably a good idea.”

“On the other hand, if someone has a $500,000 home with a $200,000 mortgage at 3%, they should not bother refinancing. But if they need cash to buy a summer place at the shore, it may be a good idea,” said Aiken.

What about online mortgage apps? Someone at a call center reading off a script is not going to spend the time to walk you through the possibilities. “First Trust Bank has been in business for 85 years,” said Aiken. “We are not Quicken Loans. We are a personal lending bank and I want people to fully understand my suggestions.”

Key Questions

Christine McAroy at Caliber Home Loans has questions she wants you to consider before refinancing.

  • When did you purchase your house?
  • How long do you plan to own the property?
  • Have you refinanced your mortgage after purchasing originally?
  • Are you paying PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance)?
  • What is the interest rate you are currently paying?
  • What is your goal in refinancing?

“If the borrower is agreeable, I will ask for the current mortgage statement, determine what the estimated value of the property is,” said McAroy.  “If the borrower can reduce their interest rate and the term of the mortgage or payment, it could be worth paying the cost of refinancing. I will create a closing cost worksheet for a borrower if they allow me to run a credit report. That way we can consider the advantages of the refinance,” she said. 

What is a good rate?

“This is a difficult question to answer,” said McAroy.  “Borrowers are usually only focused on the interest rate when they should be looking at the whole picture, by asking what am I paying for an interest rate.  A well-known company, which does lots of advertising on TV and Internet, automatically adds significant charges to the closing fees.  The best way to determine the cost of an interest rate is to request a Loan Estimate and or the APR.”

“Consider the customer service and responsiveness of the Loan Officer and accessibility the borrower has to their mortgage representative,” said McAroy.  “I am a little biased: the “Big Box” companies forget about their customer after the application is made.”


“Most times there will be an appraisal required to determine the current value of the property,” said McAroy.  “If the borrower’s goal is to eliminate PMI,  the equity position should be at least 20%.  Typically, we can lend 80% of the appraised value, but if a borrower has equity of more than 20%, there is no appraisal required.”

“At Caliber Home Loans, I use only local appraisers.  This is important,” said McAroy. “For example, I recently closed a refinance for a borrower who applied with the Rocket company. The house was under appraised by a very significant amount, so they were unable to complete their refinance.”

Refinance Calculators

Most online refinance calculators have one goal. To grab your personal data so they can follow up with annoying texts, emails, and phone calls. If you want to skip that, check out Bankrate’s Refinance Calculator which will run your numbers without requiring access to your data.

Bankrate calculator

Refinancing Fees

While refinancing can save you money in the long run, it comes with upfront fees that can be daunting if you’re not prepared These fees are much the same as you paid when you first bought your home. They include: 

  • Mortgage application fees
  • Loan origination charges and points
  • Appraisal fee
  • Document recording and credit check
  • Title search
  • Escrow costs for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance

Your closing costs will vary depending on the new loan amount, your credit score and debt-to-income ratio, loan program, and interest rate. Shopping around for a lender who not only offers a competitive interest rate but also the lowest closing fees is crucial. 

Remember, you aren’t just shopping for the lowest interest rate. You are shopping for a lender who understands your personal financial situation, long term goals and will be there for you when you need them. 

Outdoor Living – All Winter Long

Philadelphia homeowners with backyards, roof decks, and outdoor terraces are taking a tip from restaurants. They are installing fire pits and heat lamps to make dining al fresco a year-round possibility. The choices can be confusing, so we’ve narrowed the selection to coordinate with your property’s energy source and environmental concerns.

Energy Sources

Outdoor heaters come in four forms: natural gas, electric, propane, and wood-burning.

Natural gas heaters make use of an existing natural gas line. They should be professionally installed and are therefore generally more expensive upfront. They are also less portable than other models. 

When it comes to the best ecological choice, if your electricity is generated by fossil fuels, a propane heater is a better environmental solution. Propane fire pits and lamps heat quickly and can be easily moved from one spot on the patio to another. However, they are more expensive than natural gas and require replacement. 

Garden Treasures Propane Heater
Garden Treasures Propane Heater

If you get your electricity from renewable sources, an electric heater is probably your most environmentally-friendly choice. They are easy to use and somewhat portable. However, electric patio heaters may cost more in the long run and they have to be located close to an outlet.

Wood-burning heatersfire pits, and chimineas are one of the most affordable and attractive options. Plus, the aroma of burning wood is pleasant. But keep in mind, they require frequent maintenance and should be cleaned regularly. They are also harder to light and produce sparks and embers, which can be unsafe if left unattended.  Here’s another consideration: fire pits emit aerosols and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon as the wood burns. You can reduce these emissions by making sure the wood is seasoned, which means it’s had at least six months to dry after being cut, and by chopping it into smaller pieces, which helps it burn more efficiently. 

Outdoor Heater Styles

Outdoor heaters can be floor-standing, hanging, wall-mounted, or sit nicely on a tabletop. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including the classic domed heaters that feature an umbrella-like reflector at the top, to pyramid-shaped heaters that contain the flame inside a glass tube and compact tabletop patio heaters which are ideal for smaller outdoor spaces. 

Depending on size and materials, fire pits range in price from under $100 to over $3,500. Homes & Gardens ranked the Outland Living 401 Series, 44-inch Propane Gas Fire Table as a top contender at $850. The push button spark ignition system provides simple and convenient control when lighting. Available on Amazon.

Outland Living Propane Gas Fire Table
Outland Living Propane Gas Fire Table

Lowe’s has a nice selection. We like their floor-standing, Garden Treasures Liquid Propane Heater, 87.4” High that heats up to 200 square feet for $149. Or an electric wall-mounted Dimplex Stainless Steel Electric Heater with three temperature settings. 35.5” wide, 6.75” high, $564.52. For a lightweight, portable, compact outdoor heater, consider Lowe’s EnerG Electric Patio Heater, 27” High, $109.

You will also find a wide array of outdoor heaters at Home Depot. For the wow factor, we like the pyramid style, open flame Gold Gas Patio Heater by Hampton Bay. An October 2020 review in the New York Times, found this type of heater to “…be the most enjoyable to sit near” and a better safety option than the mushroom-top models.” 89.5” high, it delivers 115 sq ft of warmth, features electronic ignition and has a rust-resistant gold finish. $209.

Gold Gas Patio Heater by Hampton Bay
Gold Gas Patio Heater by Hampton Bay


Before purchasing an outdoor heater make sure it has the following safety devices:

  1. Tempered glass tubing to protect flames. 
  2. Anti-tilt design features to minimize the risk of toppling over. 
  3. Automatic turn-off if the heater falls over.
  4. A flame failure device that shuts off the gas valve if the flame goes out. 

Keep patio heaters away from combustible materials. This includes planters and potted plants, outdoor textiles, and grass, but it also includes flammable items such as propane tanks used for grills or lighter fluid. 

Remember, being outdoors, in itself, does not protect you and your guests from Covid. To stay safe, maintain social distance, wear a face mask, and limit your guests to household members.

Looking to upgrade your living space and buy or rent a home with outdoor space in Philadelphia? Our listing at 2405 Amber Street is a 3,495 sq. ft home on a prized 18-foot wide parcel that features plenty of options for outdoor dining with its three balconies, roof deck, and backyard. If you’re looking for something smaller, there’s a one-bedroom rental in Rittenhouse Square with a cozy outdoor space located at 1816 Pine Street.

2405 Amber Street balcony. This home features 3 balconies, a roof deck and an outdoor space.
2405 Amber Street is a 4 bedroom home that features 3 balconies, a roof deck, and backyard space.

5 Things To Consider When You Decide To Reappraise

When it’s time to sell your house or refinance your mortgage, reappraisal should be on your radar. Just because your bank appraised the house when you bought it doesn’t mean its value is the same — over the course of your ownership, many things could have happened to increase (or decrease) what it’s worth to lenders and potential buyers. The purpose of a reappraisal is to determine a fair market value. If you’re looking to sell or switch to a different interest rate, you’ll probably need to reappraise. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Sentimental Value Isn’t Value to Your Bank

Potential buyers might have a little patience for your insistence that your home has sentimental value — as a buyer, it can be nice to see that a home’s current owner has formed a strong bond with it. But an appraiser will not be impressed by your starry-eyed remembrances of beautiful Thanksgiving dinners or that time Uncle Ralph got stuck in the chimney. So keep the nostalgia to a minimum when the appraiser is in your house.

2. Appraisal Prices are Based on Recent Sales

Think of it from a bank’s perspective. If you were lending money for a home sale, wouldn’t you be more comfortable knowing how much you could sell it for now? Appraisals are based heavily on recent sale prices for homes in your area. Every neighborhood is a market, and though every home within that neighborhood has value, what’s important is the value of the homes that have sold recently.

3. You Get What You Give

That being said, your home’s value isn’t totally dependent on recent sales in your area, particularly if you’ve made improvements over the course of owning it. Major improvements to your home — a newly-remodeled kitchen, a finished basement, a new roof — can often increase its value, especially if those improvements are unusual for the neighborhood. Don’t embark on an ambitious project the day before the appraisal arrives, but if you’ve completed major work, make sure to let your appraiser know.

4. You’re a Great Resource

Before your appraiser arrives, do your research. Compile a list of other homes’ recent sale prices in your area. Note any similarities or differences your home has that could raise its value. Make a list of all improvements you’ve made since moving in, and include the cost to you. Do some research about your school district: Good schools can make an enormous difference in an appraisal.

And when the appraiser visits, don’t hesitate to share what you know. If you installed a new roof, tell the appraiser. If you installed solar energy panels on the roof, make sure he sees them. Let the appraiser know that you’ve done your research — and have put a lot of sweat equity into your house.

5. First Impressions Matter

All the home improvements in the world won’t matter if your home looks like a wreck. Prepare for an appraiser’s arrival the same way you would for a potential buyer: mop the floors and make sure everything is neat and tidy. Remember, too, that part of an appraiser’s job is to verify the fundamentals of your home: how many rooms there are, how many closets, etc. That means he or she will be going places you might not usually show a guest. So be sure that you can walk into your walk-in closet without tripping over a pile of clothes. And take a look around your basement to ensure that your appraiser doesn’t get a mouth full of cobwebs when he or she examines it. The last thing you want is for your appraiser to leave with a bad taste in his or her mouth.

Curious to know what your home is currently worth? Drop us a line and we’ll be in touch right away!

Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin and now has apartment search engines for cities across the country including ABODO Philadelphia apartments

How You Can Get Your Hands On A Philly Tree


Did you know that there are not one, not two, but three programs through which you can get a free street and/or yard tree for your property in Philadelphia? Make use of all of these amazing benefits of trees in your neighborhood that we’ve outlined above in our infographic by signing up for one of the amazing tree planting programs in Philadelphia – Tree Philly, Philadelphia Horticultural Society TreeVitalize, or the Arbor Day Foundation & PECO Energy-Saving Trees.

Programs Offering Free Trees

TreePhilly is a partnership that includes the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and TD Bank. A whole host of options are available for street trees through this program, and your choices can be adjusted depending on the size of your street. Don’t be deterred if you live on one of Philadelphia’s many teeny tiny streets! There are many small tree alternatives for those living on narrow streets, or to accommodate power lines. A variety of options are also available for yard trees suitable for all different property sizes. There are large shade trees, smaller varieties, and even fruit trees.

The Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s program is a collaboration between PHS’ Plant One Million endeavor and TreeVitalize. This is a neighborhood volunteer tree planting program that typically happens twice a year, in April and November. PHS provides the trees and any necessary pavement cuts, so there is no need to worry about that.

Also offered through the organization is Tree Tenders. To become a Tree Tender you can take a class that teaches about tree planting, tree care, and community organizing around the importance of trees. Graduates of this class can form Tree Tenders groups which can then organize tree plantings of 10+ trees in a neighborhood.

In collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation, PECO also offers energy-saving trees. Not only can you get a tree for your property through this avenue, but they also specialize in strategic tree planting specifically geared towards saving energy. According to the foundation, some clients have cut up to 20% off of their summer energy bill.

All three website have a wealth of information about tree planting, how to sign up, and other educational resources. Start making a positive difference in your community by growing Philadelphia’s urban canopy today. If your interest is piqued we definitely recommend heading over to one (or all) of these websites to get started on your own tree adventure!

Figures in the infographic found at CityLab.

Help Affording Home Repair

Home repairs can be expensive, as we illustrated in our last post. Did you know that many loan and rebate programs exist to assist with covering these costs? There are even grant programs for low-income homeowners. Solo is here to show you that you are not alone when it comes to repairing your home!

Our realtors are known for making themselves available to their clients after their purchase is complete. If the client has to make an unexpected repair, they can always reach out to their Solo agent for guidance.

As showcased below, Solo has a comprehensive knowledge of home repair assistance programs!

Of course, the easiest and best way to afford home repairs is to save for them.

The solutions below involve applying and being approved for loans, being placed on waitlists for grants, and fronting funds and being reimbursed for rebates—all of which take time.

Having the cash upfront will allow you to address emergency repairs immediately.

But even if you have been diligently setting aside funds, sometimes you may have to use that nest egg for an unexpected expense, or the repair ends up being much more involved than your anticipated, which is where the below programs can help!


Worried you won’t qualify for a loan because of your credit score?

The City offers free credit repair with professional financial counselors. Set-up an appointment with a counselor near you by calling 1-855-FIN-PHIL (1-855-346-7445) or going tohttp://www.phila.gov/fe.



Mini-PHIL and PHIL Plus loans

The Mini-PHIL Home Improvement Loan program helps Philadelphia homeowners with less-than-perfect credit obtain the money needed to make energy conservation improvements, emergency repairs or to do small projects. Leftover funds can be used to pay off existing consumer debt.

For general information call: 215-851-1854.

Must apply through one of the City’s free housing counseling agencies:




Home Energy Efficiency Loan Program (HEELP) Loan

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)

Applies to specific energy related home improvements (roof repair/replacement; caulking, sealing& insulation; heating/cooling systems repair/replacement; window and door replacements). Up to $10,000 for a term of 10 years at a 1% interest rate. Income limitations apply.




Renovate & Repair Loan

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)

Homeowners or homebuyers can borrow up to $35,000 to make home repairs and improvements, as well as accessibility modifications to their home.




ACCESS Home Modification Program

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)

This program provides mortgage loans to assist people with disabilities, or who have a family member(s) with disabilities living in the household, who are purchasing a home that needs accessibility modifications. It provides a deferred payment loan, with no interest and no monthly payment. The loan becomes due and payable upon the sale, transfer, or non-owner occupancy of the property. This program is used in conjunction with a PHFA first mortgage program.

Eligible modification items may include, but are not limited to, bathroom modifications; installation of grab bars and handrails; kitchen modifications; lifting devices; main level bathroom or bedroom addition; ramp addition or repair; sidewalk addition or repair; and widening doorways or hallways.

800-822-1174 or 717-780-3800

TDD for deaf and hard of hearing: 717-780-1869




Keystone HELP Loan

Keystone HELP® offers low-rate loans to help make affordable energy efficiency home improvements. Homeowners in Pennsylvania who own and are making qualifying improvements to their 1 to 2 unit primary residence located in Pennsylvania are eligible. There is a maximum household income limit of $250,000. Homeowners who live Philadelphia County are eligible for even lower rates through the special EnergyWorks program.





Homeowner’s Emergency Loan Program (HELP)

Philadelphia Water

HELP is an emergency plumbing repair program that can be used only when the Philadelphia Water issues a Notice of Defect to the property for a broken water or sewer service line. Loans are zero-interest and payable over a five-year period. Applicant must own and live in the property. Water bill or payment agreement must be current. If a leak has occurred in the water or service line, Philadelphia Water can be called for a home visit to assess the leak and issue a Notice of Defect.






PGW EnergySense

PGW Home Rebates help you lower energy bills and save money. When you invest in a PGW home energy assessment for $150 (a $500 value) and complete eligible work, PGW will pay you a cash rebate up to $3,500 for qualifying improvements.





PECO Smart Home Rebates

PECO Smart Home Rebates offers rebates for replacing older, inefficient appliances, and heating and cooling equipment, with new high efficiency models. PECO rebate applications can be completed online, or mailed along with proof of purchase for the appliance or equipment purchased and installed.


1-888-5-PECO-SAVE (1-888-573-2672)



tool library

West Philadelphia Tool Library

Loans tools to Philadelphia residents so they can perform simple home maintenance, tend their yards and gardens, build furniture, and start projects. Sliding scale annual memberships ($20-50) based on income. Open every Monday through Thursday from 5:30pm to 8:30pm and Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

1314 South 47th Street

215-833-3190 or info@westphillytools.org





Habitat for Humanity

The ReStore is a second-hand retail outlet open to the public to shop for quality donated home furnishings, furniture, and building supplies at a fraction of the original cost, with all revenue going directly back into Home Repair Programs for low-income households.

2930 Jasper Street

(215) 739-9300




Building Materials Exchange

Impact Services

Provides new and salvaged materials at low cost to low-, moderate- and middle-income homeowners. Free membership allows homeowners to purchase materials up to 85% off store prices. Available materials include: kitchen cabinets, lumber, mirrors, paint, toilets and sinks, used appliances and other home goods, and windows. Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

124 E Indiana Avenue






Rain Check

Philadelphia Water Department

Provides the following for a highly subsidized price: pavement removal, installation of porous paving stones, rain garden installation, and downspout planter boxes.

(215) 971-6151




Basic Systems Repair Program

Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation

Free repairs to the electrical, plumbing and heating systems of low-income owner-occupied homes in Philadelphia. BSRP may also provide free replacement of a house’s roof if major interior damage such as a collapsing ceiling is evident. Resources are limited and there is a lengthy waiting period (3-5 years). Income limitations apply.


Weatherization Assistance Program

Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation

**NOT CURRENTLY ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS**Provides free weatherization and energy-efficiency improvements to low-income owner-occupied and rental units. Services include air-sealing measures; window and door repair; wrapping of hot water heaters, heating pipes and ducts; sealing of basement openings, crawlspaces and chaseways; insulating and air sealing of roof area; repair and efficiency modifications to central heating. Resources are limited and income limitations apply.





ECA’s Weatherization Assistance Program

Energy Coordinating Agency

Heating, water heating and electricity conservation treatments and helps families save 20%-40% on energy costs. Can include insulation, heater help, new windows, and more! Income limitations apply.




The Other Carpenter Program

Habitat for Humanity

Home repairs for low-income residents of East and West Parkside, Belmont, Mantua and Cathedral Park, Mill Creek north of Haverford. Only for households willing to organize their entire block to apply, applications for individual households will not be accepted. Income limitations apply.





Homeowner’s Program

Rebuilding Together Philadelphia

Repairs for low-income homeowners. Critical repairs, energy efficiency modifications, adaptive modifications for older or disabled individuals, removal of environmental hazards (e.g. lead paint). Serves zip codes 19104, 19133, 19122, 19123. Only for households willing to organize their entire block to apply, applications for individual households will not be accepted. Income limitations apply.





Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP)


Can help customers lower the amount of gas and electricity used. Installs free weatherization measures and provides conservation education.

PECO Customer Service Center





Low-Income Conservation Assistance Program (LICAP)

Philadelphia Water Department

Provides water conservation to its low-income customers. This program serves over 1,700 households every year and results in average water savings of 28%. To apply, contact your Neighborhood Energy Center:




Adaptive Modification Program

Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation

Designed to help individuals with permanent physical disabilities live more independently in their homes. It provides free adaptations to a house or an apartment, allowing easier access to and mobility within the home. Modifications include stairway elevators, exterior wheelchair lifts and ramps, railings, first floor full- and half-baths, widened doorways, and lowered cabinets, sinks, and countertops. Available to homeowners and renters. Income limitations apply.





Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program (SHARP)

Philadelphia Corporation for Aging

Home repairs include replacing exterior doors and locks, rebuilding basement steps, making minor plumbing repairs and replacing electrical switches, outlets and fixtures. Service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis to low-income senior citizens.





Emergency Heater Hotline

Energy Coordinating Agency

Repairs heating systems for low-income homeowners. Both emergency service and preventative maintenance are provided.





Veteran Weatherization and Home Repair Program

Habitat for Humanity

Low-cost home repair and weatherization services, you or a household member must be a U.S. military veteran and provide proof of honorable or general discharge. Surviving spouses of veterans are not eligible, but veterans awaiting discharge due to injuries sustained in the line of duty may be eligible. Veteran need not own the home, but the home must be owned by an occupant (not rented), and must be the primary residence of the veteran. Limited resources are available.

(215) 765-6000




Lead & Healthy Homes Program

National Nursing Centers Consortium

Helps make homes safe for households with children under the age of 7. Includes free testing for and assistance getting rid of pests (bedbugs, roaches), sources of lead, factors causing asthma in the child, and general unsafe conditions.

267-765-2320 or email shawana@nncc.us

No matter what your situation, there is a way to keep your home in tip-top shape!

Opening image: “Installing a Hardwood Floor – Construction” by Scott Lewis – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-2.0 via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/99781513@N04/17316606304.

Home Renovation Costs: What to Expect

When perusing real estate listings, many buyers are enticed by the low monthly mortgage payments projected by websites like Zillow. Aside from excluding property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, those numbers also do not include the cost of home repair. Solo is here to elucidate those costs!

Our real estate agents have an extensive knowledge of home repair and remodeling, with backgrounds in real estate investment, property rehab, and architecture.

When visiting properties, Solo agents work with clients to understand what necessary repairs or desired upgrades will cost. This knowledge is essential for making an informed choice as a buyer!

A general rule of thumb is that the homeowner should expect to pay annually an average of 1-4% of the price they paid for the home for home repair.

Of course there are many variables affecting this number, including the age of the house and the condition when it was purchased.

Based on that rule, a home purchased for $150,000 will have an average of $1,500-$6,000 in home repair expenses per year.

This means the home will cost $125-$500 per month in addition to the cost of the mortgage payment, property tax, and homeowner’s insurance.

A few rowhome-specific costs include:

  • Flat roof replacement: $3,000 – 8,000
  • Wooden cornice, window frame, and doorframe repainting $1,000 – 2,500
  • Removing pavement from backyard: $10/square foot

Choice Home Warranty has created another helpful infographic to help illustrate other home repair costs:

infographic edited

Please include attribution to Choice Home Warranty with this graphic
Please include attribution to Choice Home Warranty with this graphic


Combined with the earlier Choice Home Warranty infographic we featured on the lifespan of different home appliances and upgrades, these repairs can be anticipated and saved for, making them manageable.

When you’re prepared for repairs, you can enjoy the opportunity to make upgrades to your abode!

Opening image: “Custom Kitchen Island with Range” by Sitka Projects – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-2.0 via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sitkaprojects/5052101012