Top Philadelphia Apartment Hunting Tips

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Every city has its nuances when looking for an apartment. For example, in New York City, StreetEasy.com is a major listing platform but not in Philadelphia. In New York city, co-ops are common for rent, but not in Philadelphia. If you are looking for an apartment in Philadelphia, you need to understand the local market. Among the most important tips include understanding the residential parking permit program, the cost of living and parking in various neighborhoods, where the three largest parks in the city area, and the best websites to search for an apartment on.

1.  Understand the Neighborhoods

There are about 6 to 7 general broad regions in Philadelphia, including Center City, Northeast Philadelphia, Northwest Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia and West Philadelphia. Within each of these regions, there are dozens of neighborhoods that cater to different lifestyle needs. For example –

  • Center City is a great choice for professionals working in the city because it reduces their commute to work and offers an eclectic lifestyle opportunity.
  • Northwest and Northeast Philly are the greenest spaces with lots of outdoor areas, and offer a lot of affordable neighborhoods.

Check out our comprehensive Philadelphia neighborhood guide to help determine which Philadelphia neighborhood to live in.

2.  Work with Your Budget

While every neighborhood has its advantages and disadvantages, they also come with cost differences. In general, the most expensive Philadelphia neighborhoods include Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West, and Society Hill to name a few. Some of the most affordable Philadelphia neighborhoods include Mt. Airy, Bustleton, Somerton, and Roxborough. You can compare costs of Philadelphia neighborhoods with the chart that appears on our guide (or click here for a direct link to the cost comparison image).

3.  Understand Traffic Patterns and SEPTA

Philadelphia is a transit-friendly city. If you need to commute to work via public transport or car, you will likely need to be near a SEPTA station or major highway. Have a look at the general map for SEPTA and find out what makes sense in terms of either walking to a station, driving your car, or making other arrangements to get to work or school. SEPTA can be a great way to get around so familiarize yourself with the map. There are regional rail lines (think trains), buses, a subway system (mostly in center city), and trolleys (mostly in West Philadelphia and University City).

4.  Understand Parking Situation in Philly

The cost to park a car in Philadelphia varies dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood. Only about 20% of apartments in Philly come with on-site parking, whereas those that do, of course it comes with a price. Make sure you think about this if you will have a car.

Center City neighborhoods such as Society Hill, Washington Square West, Rittenhouse tend to be the most expensive places to park a car (about $300+ per month), whereas neighborhoods like Fairmount, Brewerytown, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, tend to be mid-range price (think more like $100 to $250 per month), with the most affordable parking being in neighborhoods like Bustleton, Somerton, Fox Chase, Roxborough, Mount Airy (generally free or $25 per month)

Pro Tip: Philadelphia has a special program called ‘Residential Parking Permits’ where as a resident in an eligible area, you can park for about $35 for the entire year for your 1st vehicle. Keep in mind, this is not available in all neighborhoods and there are other requirements, you can learn more about Resident Parking Permits here.

best local parks

5.  Find Out About Local Parks

Philly is ranked top 10 in the world for its park system, which is why you may want to live near some of them. This is especially important if being outside and enjoying nature is a key part of your life. In that case, it may be worth being near one Philly’s largest three parks, including Pennypack Park, Fairmount Park or Wissahickon Valley Park. Pennypack is in Northeast Philadelphia, and Fairmount and Wissahickon are near Northwest Philadelphia. There are of course lots of other smaller parks.

6.  Identify the Type of Rental for You

One of the best things about Philadelphia is you have a variety of housing options to choose from in almost every neighborhood. Even in Center City, there are single-family row homes to rent, or perhaps you prefer an apartment building (mid rise or high rise). If you go a little further out to Northeast or Northwest Philly, you can even find garden-style apartments. So, try to identify what works best for your lifestyle and go from there.

7.  Know the Sites to Search on

In Philly, the best websites for finding apartments at the moment are Apartments.com and ApartmentGuide.com. Also Zillow.com/Trulia for smaller apartment building listings and some individual rentals. If you look on these sites, you should be able to find most of the apartment inventory available for rent in Philly or specific neighborhoods. Supplement this with your own internet search with “neighborhood + apartments” search term (Eg. Rittenhouse Square apartments or Chestnut Hill apartments) and you should start finding what you need. With your own search, you can find the apartment website directly which can offer additional information and occasionally special promotions.

Use these tips to help expedite your search for an apartment in Philadelphia.


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