Writer: Yolanda Rivas
2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Philadelphia’s real estate market has been growing steadily over the last few years. Many international and national investors are targeting the sector, where rents are affordable, when compared to surrounding markets, and there are numerous low-risk investment opportunities. This week’s “Spotlight On,” with Gary Jonas, president and principal of the The HOW Group, illustrates the landscape for the city’s real estate industry, including the most in-demand services, top neighborhoods and the trends in the sector.
What HOW Group business lines are seeing the most growth in Philadelphia today?
The two divisions that are seeing the most growth are construction and real estate. We attribute that to the hole in the market between companies working for themselves and building a small number of units and companies building hundreds of units. There is a spot in the middle where people need contractors to build 50 to 100 units. It is hard to find companies to fill that space because of the labor shortage. It is also hard to find companies that are capitalized enough to work in that space. Because we are able to fill that gap, we have seen significant growth in our construction division over the last year. There is a huge need for that type of work.
Our real estate company does a lot of new construction sales, which speaks to the Philadelphia market. We expect this division to double its business this year. We made a big investment three to five years ago to launch this division, and now we are seeing significant growth. Between those two companies, we are going to do north of $100 million this year.
What areas of Philadelphia are most in demand in residential real estate?
There is a huge growth opportunity in neighborhoods where you can provide housing that is in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. That is an underserved market and there is a lot of development starting to happen in that price range. For example, Mantua is a neighborhood right on the edge of Schuylkill Yards, education centers and the development going on in the area, and it is a great place for these types of projects. University City has a 17% to 20% homeownership rate, but it’s the second-biggest job hub and there is a need for affordable housing in the area. The edges of University City are primed for significant growth. There is a neighborhood next to Grays Ferry, known as the forgotten bottom, which is another great area for development because of its location and access to major highways. We also expect to see growth in south Philly.
What are some trends in Philly’s real estate sector?
We are seeing people who want to do co-living spaces. We are seeing a lot more buildings that provide a product similar to Airbnb. We are also starting to see more micro units because affordability is starting to become an issue. As construction and land costs continue to rise, we are seeing unit size starting to decrease and become a popular option. Because of the inadequate labor pool, we are also starting to see more manufacturing stock like modular and prefab units being placed.
We are always looking to create advancements within the construction division. We are working with manufactured housing developers to figure out ways to use technology to build in a more efficient and cost-effective way. We are working with foundation companies that use proprietary systems and build foundation walls that are more energy efficient and cost-effective than concrete. We are doing these things to differentiate our products.
How does The How Group impact the community?
Our charity division, HOW Charities, supports underserved families with homeownership and financial literacy. We want to get people to financial freedom and this year, we are donating two houses. We are working with the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia (BIA) to figure out ways to duplicate this effort on a broader scale. Along with the BIA, we are looking at solutions with the private sector toward affordable housing and job placement within the industry. There is a lot of momentum because of how great the sector and the city are performing.
To learn more about our interviewee, visit:
The HOW Group: https://howgroup.com/