Cameron Johnson is one of our property managers and one of the newest members of the Solo Real Estate family. The Temple University graduate joined the team after putting his customer service skills to work at the Philadelphia Phillies’ front office. We talked to him about how he got started in real estate, what Philly restaurants he recommends, and where his favorite place is to catch a game.
How did you get started at Solo Real Estate?
I was interested in pursuing a career in real estate and heard about Solo through a colleague who had nothing but great things to say about the company. He introduced me to Deborah and I was hired as a Property Manager in October after completing my real estate license online.
Do you work with just renters and buyers or sellers and investors too?
All of the above! I am still relatively new to the real estate game but have been learning a lot through my colleagues at Solo, and have been working with prospective buyers and sellers. I also am helping people find rentals throughout the city. Very excited to see what is to come!
What’s your favorite place in Philly?
Before the pandemic, I regularly went out with friends to places like Morgan’s Pier, Porta, and Cavanaugh’s River Deck. More recently, I’ve been frequenting restaurants near my home in Northern Liberties. Some of my favorites in the area are Yards Brewing Co., Silk City, and North Third (I recommend the Thai chili wings!). I also love going to Lincoln Financial Field. There’s nothing like a home Eagles game — the atmosphere and energy at a game are one of a kind!
What are your interests outside of real estate?
I enjoy playing basketball and have recently been playing at the Phield House on 8th and Spring Garden. I’m a big Sixers fan and try to watch almost every game when I’m able to. I also recently got a dog, Django. He’s great and very active so I take him to the dog park in Northern Liberties a lot!
Thinking of buying your first investment property? Philadelphia offers first time real estate investors excellent opportunities to create passive income streams while contributing to the improvement of its neighborhoods. We spoke with Alex Franqui, an agent at Solo Real Estate, to get the inside scoop on how to buy an investment/rental property, deal with contractors and circumvent management issues.
“Investors are coming from outside Philadelphia because you can still buy properties here in the $250,000 to $350,000 range in neighborhoods that have already seen a lot of reinvestment,” said Franqui who recommends setting aside another twenty-five thousand for improvements. “Those improvements can increase the value of your property by as much as $50,000, as well as command higher rents. You want to avoid a full gut rehab and find a property that needs updating, but is in livable condition.”
Another reason to take the plunge? Interest rates are still at an all time low!
Best Neighborhoods to Invest In Right Now
If you think that all the popular neighborhoods are out of your price range don’t worry, Philly still has plenty of exciting opportunities all across the city for discerning new investors.
“For the last decade, out-of-state investors were focused on Fishtown. Now the New Kensington Development Corporation is investing in the area north of Lehigh Avenue.” This includes the $17.8 million conversion of the former Orinoka Mills textile factory into a 51-unit residential property and the $7.5 million renovation of another textile mill into Coral Street Arts House, providing 27 living/work spaces for artists.
Another up and coming area is Strawberry Mansion, north of Brewerytown and east of Fairmount Park in North Philadelphia. The architecture reflects its former middle-class Jewish community, 1890-1950. Franqui views Strawberry Mansion as a good, long term return on investment. He also sees new investors looking into neighborhoods like Germantown in Northwest Philly and Mantua adjacent to Poweltown Village in University City. What do these neighborhoods have in common? Easy access to Center City and major highway arteries.
Meanwhile, there are still bargains to be had in West Philly and Point Breeze. “Point Breeze is still viable in the $175,000 to $250,000 range,” said Franqui who recently showed several properties there to first time investors. He attributes the rise in prices of Cedar Park properties in West Philly to the University of Pennsylvania’s ongoing contribution of $1,330 per child in Penn Alexander Elementary School at 4209 Spruce. But there are still attractive investment opportunities adjacent to Cedar Park in the Kingsessing neighborhood where Bartram’s Garden is located.
Franqui has a unique understanding of Philly’s diverse neighborhoods. His parents, Deborah Solo and Angel Franqui, the owners of Solo Real Estate, moved to Northern Liberties in 1987. “It was one of the first neighborhoods to experience rapid reinvestment, growth, and development, along with the Graduate Hospital area,” said Franqui.
“My background is in City Planning, and my mother’s background is in architecture; we encompass all the expertise an investor needs. With 70 years of experience, managing 500 units for different owners, Solo Real Estate is a full-service management company. “We get multiple bids from contractors. If you have a small job, it’s difficult to find a plumber or roofer. But we do enough business with them that they will handle the job,” said Franqui. “Our team at Solo will help you manage your property so it doesn’t become your full-time job and help maximize your return on investment.”
“We can also tailor our services to each investor’s preferences and budget. In the long run, a patient investor can do well here,” said Franqui. “Our goal is to improve neighborhoods, to maintain the character of their built environment, to renovate and restore.”
It’s officially the first day of fall – the perfect time for pumpkin spice lattes, haunted hayrides and fall home maintenance. While it might take a little more time for the weather to start cooling down, winter is just around the corner, and being prepared can save you time and money. We know managing the care and upkeep of a property is no easy task. Homes require ongoing supervision and maintenance to ensure that everything is working properly but there are some simple things you can do to prevent unexpected and costly repairs during the winter months. Our fall home maintenance checklist includes simple tips to ensure you’re prepared and your home runs smoothly during the winter months ahead.
Schedule Furnace or Boiler Maintenance
Home heating systems involve many complex components. Just like you would change the oil or air filters in a car before a long trip across the country, homeowners should start the winter with a serviced heating system. We recommend contacting a certified heating contractor. An annual service visit usually runs around $100 in the Philadelphia area, while the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a trained professional has given one of your most expensive home mechanical systems a passing grade is priceless. However, for the intrepid DIY-er, we recommend at a minimum, changing the filters for a forced-air heating system, bleeding the radiators for a boiler system, and checking the batteries on your digital thermostat.
Apply Caulk and Weatherstripping to Prevent Drafts
Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside by checking to ensure that the weatherstripping around your doors is in good shape. Repair or replace damaged caulk or weatherstripping. Even small gaps can bring in a good amount of cold air. Installing door sweeps in your home this fall can also prevent chills from entering the home through the slim space beneath the door. If you have older windows in your home, you may want to consider picking up a window insulation kit and covering them with plastic insulation. The process takes about ten minutes, a pair of scissors, and a hairdryer and can keep you feeling cozy all winter long.
Drain the Hose and Shut off the Water Line
For homeowners with gardens, it’s important to prevent freezing your pipes which supply the hose line. Shut off the access to the hose (in Philadelphia, most water lines are accessed in the basement). Then drain the remaining water and disconnect the hose and bring it inside for the winter.
Empty Flower Pots and Prune Trees
While you’re outside, take some time to empty the soil from your ceramic pots. Rapidly cooling and rising temperatures, which are common during Philadelphia winters, can cause cracking in all sorts of things (roads especially). Protect your pots so you can use them for spring flowers by clearing out the soil and trim your trees one last time before the winter months.
Clear Gutters and Drains
For homeowners living in neighborhoods with even a moderate amount of tree cover, it’s important to make sure that gutters are cleared of leaves and debris. A buildup in your gutters can cause issues with the roof (flat roofs in particular) or cause water to spill over the gutter and freeze on the sidewalk, creating a tripping hazard. Also, for homeowners with drains in their front or back yard, it’s important to look and make sure they’re clear of debris. A blocked yard drain can turn your backyard into a skating rink and contribute to clogs in the drain line. You may also want to consider installing gutter guards. While it won’t completely eliminate the need to clean your gutters, they prevent larger items from falling in and can reduce the frequency in which you’ll need to clear them.
Inspect and Replace Winter Supplies
Don’t forget to replace old snow shovels, ice scrapers and purchase ice melt before the snowy weather arrives. We recommend seeking out a pet-safe ice melt as some can cause irritation and other issues for our furry friends. If you use a snowblower during the winter, now is the perfect time to inspect it and make sure it’s running smoothly.