A New Renter’s Guide To Philly

Philly is a city of neighborhoods. Each one with its unique housing, cultural offerings, and personality. Renting offers an opportunity to test-drive a particular neighborhood without a long-term commitment. And, just maybe, fall in love. If you’re looking to move to Philly, there are many things to consider so we’ve created this renter’s guide to introduce you to the city’s diverse neighborhoods and give you some tips on leasing in Philadelphia. 

A City of Neighborhoods

Society Hill 

This is the oldest part of the City located on its eastern most sector, between Market and South Streets. This charming district features cobblestone streets and brick houses in Federal and Georgian styles, as well as contemporary high rises, with no shortage of fine dining, movie theaters and culture.

Washington Square West 

Adjacent to Society Hill, from 6th Street to Broad, this historic neighborhood is centered around one of William Penn’s original parks. It offers a mix of townhouses subdivided into apartments, hi-rise options and adorable Trinities with access to trendy restaurants, theaters and shops. 

Rittenhouse Square – Image: VisitPhilly

Rittenhouse Square 

Considered the most desirable real estate in the City, the neighborhood extends well beyond the park for which it is named, extending from Broad Street to the Schuylkill and from Chestnut to Pine Street. It boasts the Kimmel Center and several great restaurants and designer shops in town. While an apartment on the Square is typically in a higher price range, there are also affordable options just a block away. 

Take a virtual tour of the large one-bedroom apartment with hardwood floors Solo is currently showing at 1919 Spruce unit 4F in Rittenhouse Square. 

1919 Spruce Street 4F– $1,600/month

Bella Vista

Wedged between South Street and Washington Ave, Broad and 6th Street, the focal point of this neighborhood is known as the Italian Market to tourists and 9th Street to locals. This is where you’ll find a population as diverse as the architecture with an abundance of bakeries, markets and ethnic restaurants. Choose from 19th century properties to new construction.

Italian Market – Image: VisitPhilly

Queen Village

East of Bella Vista, historic Queen Village runs from the Delaware River to 6th Street and from South Street to Washington Avenue. It includes a mix of colonial homes and new townhouses with charming side streets, lively shopping, restaurants and cafes. Plus access to Spruce St. Harbor Park and Penn’s Landing. 

Queen Village – Image: VisitPhilly

East Passyunk

This former Italian neighborhood is sandwiched between Washington Avenue and Tasker Street to the west of Broad. Here, young professionals and artists seeking affordable housing mix with old-timers. Over the years, East Passyunk has become filled with trendy boutiques and has become a hub of nightlife and world-class restaurants. Here, the row house is king and the local community is strong.

Looking for a spacious two-bedroom with central air for just $1,000? Tour the lovely apartment Solo is now showing at 529 Snyder Avenue #2.

529 Snyder Avenue #2 – $1,000/month

University City

Home to the University of PennsylvaniaDrexel University, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and Saint Joseph’s University, the housing choices here are varied. From stately Queen Anne homes of Clark Park to the Victorian charm of leafy Powelton Village and new construction in Mantua. Formerly inhabited by primarily students and professors, the area is now a thriving community for young professionals and families.

Identify Your Requirements

Property Manager and Solo agent Sean Rapp offers potential renters some advice on where to start your search. First, “tenants should start by identifying what they are looking for in terms of space, amenities, location, and price range to help narrow their search.”

When looking at potential neighborhoods, consider what’s important to you. Do you want to be within walking distance of restaurants? Or perhaps, having a small green space to entertain or a community garden nearby is something you prioritize. Make a list of wants but be flexible.

“Once you know what you are looking for and identify a property that interests you, the process really starts by booking a tour of the property,” said Rapp. “They can look through our website on the rentals page for options and reach out to set up a time to view the space in-person.”

Love Where You Live

“I’ve rented all across the Philadelphia area over the last 20 years, and experienced all kinds of landlords and management companies,” said Solo tenant Gillian Neff. “Without a doubt, Solo is the best I’ve had. They’re not just responsive, they’re actually proactive in maintaining the property. And the staff are all friendly and pleasant to deal with. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking for a new home in town.”

Solo Real Estate has been renting Philadelphia apartments in Center City and surrounding neighborhoods since 1951. We’re a family-owned company and we are committed to providing exceptional service with a personal touch to all our owners and tenants. Our property managers want you to love where you live, and that means finding the right fit.

Interested in renting one of the rentals we manage or want to learn more about our property management services? Reach out to us!

A Philadelphia Renters Guide to Houseplants

Nothing livens up an apartment more than plants. Whether you already know how to coax blooms out of a reluctant amaryllis or have a reputation as a serial plant killer, Philly has knowledgeable plant shops throughout the City, ready to help. 

Choosing the right houseplants for your apartment is like going on a first date. It’s not just about what looks good to you. It’s about matching your space and preferences to the plant’s needs. To make the process easier, we have provided a list of things to keep in mind. Jot down your answers and take them with you when you visit a plant shop. 

Before you go

Be prepared to answer questions: 

  • What kind of sun exposure do you have – east, west, north or south? 
  • Is the light blocked by any tall buildings or trees? 
  • Do you want a high, medium or low maintenance plant?  
  • Will plants be on window sills, in window boxes, hanging, or on the floor?  
  • Do you have pets?
  • Do you prefer succulents, tropical plants or exotics?
  • What is your plant budget?

South Philly

“Most people are beginners,” said Tara Alexander, owner of Urban Jungle in East Passyunk.  “They do best with hardy plants like pothos, philodendrons and snake plants which do not need a lot of care and require less light. These plants tell you when they need water. They droop!”

If you travel a lot or simply can’t be bothered with weekly upkeep, start with a snake plant. “They thrive on neglect,” quipped Alexander. A once-a-month watering will do. Plus, snake plants will rise to new heights, up to three feet tall. Alexander recommends placing your snake plant on a stand for a more dramatic effect.

Before you pick out an artisanal ceramic container, Alexander advises taking your plant home in its original pot and living with it for a while. “Some plants do better in smaller containers, others need to be transferred to a larger pot. Give it some time before making a change,” she said.

These days, everyone wants a kitchen herb garden even if they live on take-out. Urban Jungle will be getting herbs closer to Spring, but cautions that they are not easy to grow. “Herbs are outdoor plants that like heat during the day and cool nights. They need a windowsill with a lot of sun,” said Alexander. “A grow light and a humidifier will help, especially in winter.”  

Undecided? Pick up an Urban Jungle Houseplant Grab Bag – four “mystery” plants for $40.


Located in the heart of Fairmount, Plants Etc. is an adorable little shop with a big heart. Established in 1982, owner Dana Kalens designs and delivers some of the classiest window boxes in town, as far as Fishtown. (Speaking of classy, she also does the window foliage at Rittenhouse Square fashionista destination Sophy Curson.)

Known for its specials on Foliage Fridays and Succulent Saturdays, Kalens also offers DIY kits for making your own succulent garden in a glass bowl. Pair that with a bottle of cabernet and a few friends and it’s a party! Not into DIY? No problem. Kalen’s will have a succulent garden ready for pickup or delivery.

This is also the place to get colorful geraniums for your terrace or a tall statement plant indoors. Big things happen in this little shop!

Northern Liberties

City Planter owners Mary Costello and Peter Smith channel their 25 years of horticultural experience into making novices feel confident. “We will give you advice on how to keep your plants alive, even if you don’t have a green thumb,” said Costello.

During the pandemic, the store has been closed to the public for indoor shopping but their online shop continues to offer a wide variety of houseplants of all shapes and sizes, including African violets, Bonsai plants and herbs.

Check out their Garage. There you will find a selection of plants and containers that don’t come up to the standards for sale in the shop but are still worthy of love. Grab a bargain for bubkas. 100% of proceeds from the Garage go towards organizations in need.

East Falls

Vault & Vine combines a café and small scale event venue with a lush selection of houseplants. It feels like something you’d expect to find in SoHo or Paris, not on Midvale Avenue in East Falls. Originally launched as Falls Flowers in 2009 at another location, the owner Peicha Chang made the leap to her current concept and location in 2017.

“We promise houseplants that are almost impossible to kill,” said Chang. “And we’ll help find plants tailored to your unique space.”

Want to be surprised? Become a member of Vault & Vine’s Plant of the Month Club, a three-month subscription. Each plant comes potted in Organic Mechanics soil and includes an instructional video to help you succeed. You can pick low maintenance, pet safe and air purifying.  Members receive their plants the second week of every month by pickup or delivery. Subscriptions – which make a great gift – fill up fast.

Ultimately, the plants you bring into your apartment are a reflection of your personality and style. Delicate or audacious. Whimsical or seductive. Graceful or prickly. They will grow with you, change with the seasons and reciprocate your nurturing care.

From Renting to Buying

Renting is an excellent option until it is not. Your one or two-bedroom apartment suddenly no longer fits your lifestyle due to marriage, the birth of a child, or the realization that working from home opens the possibility of living just about anywhere. Perhaps in a neighborhood where parking does not require divine intervention, or simply because you want more amenities and a strong community like Rebecca, a longtime renter of 14 years, who made the switch to homeowner when she found a perfect fit in Kensington Yards, Solo’s condo project. Whatever your reason for making the transition from renting to buying, an experienced real estate agent can help guide you through the process and ensure everything runs smoothly.

How much house can you afford?

“First-time buyers in Philadelphia have many options in the $250,000-350,00 range,” said Solo Real Estate agent Alejandro Franqui. “In your late twenties, a two-bedroom, two-story house in Fishtown or Point Breeze will work for you. When you outgrow it, you can sell it and buy a larger house or it can become an investment property that is very rentable.” Unlike rent payments, monthly payments towards a mortgage can become a good long-term investment, generating passive income when you decide to find another home. 

An example is a two-bedroom house listed for sale at 1491 East Wilt Street in Fishtown/East Kensington listed by Solo agent Jeff Carpineta. The living room has great natural light and the kitchen features new appliances including a granite wrap-around counter and stainless fridge. But the real selling point is the great neighborhood within walking distance of trendy restaurants, yoga studios, and parks.

1491 E Wilt Street

Get pre-approved

To find out your price range, including your down payment, start by reviewing your credit report on Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.  Next, talk to lenders to determine the mortgage rate for which you qualify. Be prepared. Banks will ask for your W2s, your last couple of years of tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs. The goal? To be pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking at houses. Pre-approval doesn’t mean you’re applying for a mortgage — just getting an idea of what you’re approved for. 

Now ask yourself, how much of your monthly income are you planning to spend on your home? Make sure your answer isn’t dependent on factors over which you have no control, such as fluctuations in the stock market, the economy, job loss, or inheritance that could go into litigation or simply evaporate. 

To get an idea of what you can afford, try Nerd Wallet’s Online Calculator. It uses basic questions – household income, credit score, expenses, desired Zip Code – to compute how much you can spend on a house and what your monthly mortgage payments will be. Transunion recommends keeping your total housing payment under 28% of your gross monthly income. (i.e. Say your family’s monthly gross income is $7,000, you want to keep your total housing payment including taxes under $1,960). Down payments are another factor. 20% is standard but buyers often put down 10% or less. FHA borrowers might put down as little as 3.5%. 

Select an Agent

Ideally, you want an agent with a solid track record in the neighborhoods you are considering, as well as one who is familiar with your current location. With 70 years experience in Philadelphia, the agents at family-owned Solo Real Estate have the inside track on the City’s best values and neighborhoods. 

As a result, Solo agents know a lot more than you see online. They know which areas have already peaked in home value and which are on their way up. They have also built relationships in neighborhoods across the city and can sometimes find homes before they hit the market, giving you a leg up in a competitive sellers’ market. More importantly, they have access to MLS (a Multiple Listing Service that provides information about properties for sale) and to “comps,” the history of sale prices in the area in which you want to buy. When it comes to negotiating with the seller, your agent will get you the best possible price. 


Think of inspection as bringing the person you love home to meet your parents for the first time. You are head over heels with the house of your dreams. It has everything on your wishlist. Hardwood floors, good lighting, a modern kitchen, roof deck and parking space. Then comes the inspection to point out all its hidden flaws. Trust your agent to analyze the information. It may be a dealbreaker. Or an opportunity to ask the owner to make improvements and/or lower the price.


The closing process begins when you have signed a purchase and agreement of sale. From the signing date to the closing date can take four to six weeks. During this time, purchasing funds are held in escrow, where your money is safe until the deal is officially done. Within 24 hours prior to settlement, you and your agent will do a final walk-through to make sure the seller has completed all of the repairs required and there are no additional repairs needed. This is your cue to flush toilets, run garbage disposals, and exhaust fans, open garage doors, etc.  On settlement day, you’ll either sign your paperwork electronically or safely meet with your agent and a representative from the title company to sign and get the keys. 

Once your paperwork is done, and you have the keys, pop open that bottle of Champagne and celebrate. Your new home awaits! 

Looking to make the transition from renter to homeowner? We can help! Learn more about our buying services here, and contact us for more information.

Three Things I wish I’d known Before Renting My First Apartment

1. Have all Your Ducks In a Row

Apartment Hunting can be daunting. Once you’ve determined your price point and ideal neighborhood, you and numerous others may compete for that same perfect spot. The summer is an especially busy season for finding a rental, and the market can get competitive. I missed out on a few great opportunities for affordably priced places because I didn’t have all of my documentation at my fingertips. Rental applications can require names and phone numbers of previous landlords, roommates, employers, and references. You’ll likely also need to include the address and phone number for all of the places you’ve lived and worked in the past three years. Some applications require your two most recent paystubs. Before visiting that perfect apartment, make sure you can easily access this information. You may find yourself quickly filling out the application on the spot and submitting it before anyone else gets the chance.


2. Read the Lease

A lease may seem like a necessary but unimportant piece of paper. And indeed, the concept is fairly straightforward: the tenant pays the rent, the landlord agrees to fix things if they break, if either party doesn’t comply, problems ensue. “Where do I sign?”  was my biggest question when first encountering a lease.  The complex language and phrasing can be difficult to parse. However, it’s still really important to read it! It’s a legally binding contract involving you and your money. Occasionally, landlords will offer things verbally which are not in the lease, or vice versa. The lease may auto renew, or the lease may include terms for when the rent is raised. Read it thoroughly and if something doesn’t make sense, ask questions. It’s far better to clarify things earlier rather than later.


3. Get Renter’s Insurance

In my early 20s, I doubt I even vaguely understood renters insurance. Even if I did, why would I shell out an extra $12-$20 per month insuring my ikea silverware and thrift store furniture? I thought I had nothing of  real value, and that extra couple of hundred dollars a year could have been better spent on beer and concert tickets. That is, until a friend’s house caught fire and she and her five roommates lost everything inside. Even if your things don’t seem valuable, replacing an entire wardrobe, electronics and  furniture all at once would be pretty expensive. Also, renter’s insurance covers your personal belongings, whether they are in your home, car, or with you when you travel. Spending a few cents a day on renters insurance makes perfect sense.