If you’re looking for a big city with a small-town vibe, then Philadelphia is the place for you. The City of Brotherly Love has something to offer everyone – from an amazing music scene to die-hard sports teams, great breweries, and of course, cheesesteaks. Home of the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution, history buffs have coined Philadelphia the Birthplace of the United States.
Philadelphia rates as one of America’s most walkable cities, but its public transportation is second to none. Buses, commuter rail, rapid transit, and a variety of trolleys will get you anywhere you need to go. Philadelphia is also loaded with green space, including, but not limited to, the 2,000-acre Fairmount Park system. Some believe that Rocky Balboa made the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art famous, but this top rate institution stands on its own and brings a plethora of arts and culture to the city.
Living in Philadelphia, PA: What to Know Before Moving to Philadelphia
Despite being home to over one and a half million people, Philadelphia still manages to have a small-town feel. Even though there’s a city-wide income tax, homes are far more affordable than in other major US cities. Along with its low cost of living, Philly has a higher quality of life. Arts, culture, sports, and food make living here irresistible.
Pros and Cons of Living in Philadelphia
- A low cost of living – With a median home price of $157,500 and an average rent of $1500 per month, Philadelphia is more affordable than most cities its size. The cost of food, entertainment, and amenities also tend to be cheaper.
- You don’t need a car – Philadelphia has a superb public transportation system and is very walkable. Without a vehicle, you’ll save money not only on the cost of a car but also on maintenance, insurance, gas, and parking.
- Sports – Philadelphia is well known for its sports fanatics who support both professional and collegiate teams. You won’t have a hard time finding a game to attend or a team to cheer on just about any day of the week.
- College town – With 115 colleges and universities in Philadelphia, it’s very much a college town. Academics, sports, and lectures are instrumental to Philly’s vibe.
- Crime – Unfortunately, Philadelphia has one of the highest violent crime rates in the US. Property crime, at 47%, is also higher compared to the national average of 35%.
- Parking and traffic – Despite not needing a car, many people who live and visit Philly insist on having one. Both parking and traffic within city limits pose a serious challenge.
- City wage tax – Philadelphia’s city wage tax is the highest in the country. The tax rate is currently 3.9% for Philadelphia residents and 3.5% for non-residents who work in the city.
- Pollution – The American Lung Association gave Philadelphia an F- rating in its annual State of the Air Report. Population, deregulation, and climate change add to the problem.
- Property Tax – The residential property tax rate in Philadelphia is 0.949%. If you purchase a home here at the median price of $157,500, expect to pay $1,495 in annual property tax.
- Sales Tax – The Philadelphia sales tax rate is 8%, a combined rate of Pennsylvania’s state tax of 6%, and the county sales tax of 2%. The average US sales tax rate is 7.3%.
- Income Tax – Pennsylvania’s state income tax is 3.07%. However, those who work in Philadelphia (both residents and non-residents) also pay a city income tax of between 3.5 and 3.9%.
Renters make up about 41% of the Philadelphia population, with the median rental price of $1,500 per month. However, if you’re hoping to buy a home, expect the median home value in Philadelphia, as of September 2019, of $157,500, according to Zillow. Although the median home value was up 4% from last year, there’s no prediction of a rise in the near future.
Marconi Plaza-Packer Park, Richmond, Wissanoning, Oak Lane, Haddington-Carroll Park, Alleghany West, Elmwood, Tioga-Nicetown, and Strawberry Mansion are among the cheapest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. However, the cheapest doesn’t necessarily mean best or safest, so be sure to do your research before choosing which neighborhood you’ll call home.
Cost of Living
Bestplaces.net uses an index to evaluate certain cost of living expenses. The national average index score is 100, so any score above 100 indicates that a particular expense is higher than average.
For Philadelphia, bestplaces.net reports the overall cost of living score is 110.8, which is only slightly higher than the US national average. The categories with the highest expenses are utilities at 107.7, miscellaneous at 112.3, and transportation at 141.9. The one expense that’s lower than the national average is housing at 66.3. To apply this data to real life, the EPI Family Budget Calculator estimates that a family of four would need to make a salary of $84,901 per year to live comfortably in Philadelphia.
Weather & Natural Disasters
You may be familiar with the sitcom, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” but beware that this show’s title doesn’t accurately reflect the facts. The truth is that Philadelphia sees 207 days of annual sunshine and experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid, fall and spring are mild, and winters are cold. As reported by US Climate Data, the two warmest months are July and August, with average high temperatures of 87F and 85F. Summer lows average in the high 60s. The two coldest months, not surprisingly, are January and February, with average high temperatures of 40F and 44F and lows in the high 20s.
Philadelphia sees about 41 inches of annual rain, the majority (4.33 inches) of it falling in July. Bestplaces.net reports that the average annual snowfall is 23 inches, the majority of it falling in January and February.
Thankfully, Philadelphia isn’t known for natural disasters, but the city has seen recent flooding and tornado warnings due to climate change. Winters can be mild with little snow, or some years there’ll be heavy snow, icy streets and sidewalks, and dangerous wind chills. The official website for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management provides several resources and guides to prepare for weather emergencies. Be sure to sign up for their emergency alert system.
Economy & Job Market
According to Wikipedia, Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s center of economic activity, with an average gross metropolitan product (G.MP) of $467.5 billion. Five Fortune 1000 companies have headquarters within city limits, and several Fortune 500 companies, including Campbell Soup, Burlington Stores, and Aramark, call the metro area home. Even though the economy seems strong, the unemployment rate as of September 2019 is 5.6%, which is 1.7% higher than the US average.
Once known as a blue-collar town, Philadelphia’s top industries have shifted to information technology, higher education, healthcare, biotechnology, and financial services. Major employers include the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University, both universities’ healthcare systems, Comcast, and Drexel University.
Another major employer, ACCU Staffing Services, is also a great resource for job seekers in the Philadelphia area. However, if you’re looking for a more permanent position, scoping out individual company, hospital, and university’s websites as well as job platforms such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor will give you the heads up on available jobs in Philadelphia.
Traffic and Transportation
Philadelphia has a plethora of public transportation options. The Southeastern Transportation Authority provides buses, trolleys, rapid transit, and commuter rails. Major thoroughfares include the Delaware Expressway I-95 running southwest to northeast and the Schuylkill Expressway I-76 running southeast to northwest.
According to Inrix, Philadelphia is the 9th most congested city in the country. Daily commutes and sports events certainly add to the traffic chaos. If at all possible, avoid rush hours between 7:30-9 am and 4:30-6 pm.
Walkscore.com rates Philadelphia with a walk score of 79/100, which categorizes it as ‘very walkable’; a transit score of 67/100; and a bike score of 66/100. If you choose to go car-less in Philly, you’ll want to research which Philadelphia neighborhoods have the best public transit or walkability.
What to Do
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, Philadelphians can enjoy year-round fun. This very urban environment is full of exciting amenities amid lots of beautiful green space. There’s never a lack of arts, culture, sporting events, or outdoor activities to keep you occupied.
Are you looking to spend time in the great outdoors? Check out the gigantic Fairmount Park; Penn Treaty Park with waterfront views; or Franklin Square, which offers mini-golf, a classic carousel, and a burger joint. The Philadelphia Zoo is also an excellent place to spend family time.
Sporting events such as Flyers hockey, 76ers basketball, Phillies baseball, and Eagles football will satiate even the biggest sports fanatic. Speaking of filling up, the food scene is unending; awesome restaurants, food trucks, and festivals with specialty bites will never leave you hungry. If arts, culture, or history is more your thing, be sure to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Independence National Historical Park, or The Franklin Institute.
Schools and Universities
If you have children in school or if you’re a student yourself, you have plenty of school and university options in and near Philadelphia. The quality of public school education is average. The Philadelphia City School District scores a “C-” overall from Niche.com with “A” scores for diversity and sports and a “B” score for clubs & activities.
However, many individual schools within the Philadelphia City School District have higher scores, according to greatschools.org. For example, GAMP, Girard Academic Music Program, is a public magnet school serving students in 5th-12th grades who are interested in music. Penn Alexander School has been named a Blue Ribbon School and serves students in Kindergarten-8th grades. If public school isn’t right for your family, Philly is home to a great number of private and parochial schools, as well.
There are 115 colleges and universities in and around the City of Brotherly Love, the largest being UPenn, Temple, Drexel, and The Community College of Philadelphia County. If you’re looking for affordability, the Community Colleges of Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties are higher education schools with the lowest net tuition prices.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia has some of the highest crime rates in the country. Based on the crime Indices on bestplace.net, which range from 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime), Philadelphia’s property crime rating is 46.6%, versus the 35.4% national average. Violent crimes are even significantly higher, at 50.8% versus 22.7%. Philadelphia proper holds some of the highest crime rates, while outlying pockets like Richboro and Landsdale tend to be safer.
Make sure you have your utilities turned on and ready for move-in day! Here are the utility options in Philadelphia:
- Gas service: Philadelphia Gas Works – PGW is the largest provider of natural gas in Philadelphia. However, residents do have a choice to shop around.
- Electrical service: PECO an Exelon Company – PECO is Philadelphia’s Electrical Service.
- Water: The City of Philadelphia provides its residents with public water. Click here to become a water customer.
- Trash and recycling services: The City of Philadelphia Streets Department provides residents with garbage pick-up and recycling services.
- Cable and internet: There are several Internet/Cable service providers for the greater Philadelphia area, including Xfinity, Dish, DirectTV, Spectrum, and RCN.
Best Neighborhoods in Philadelphia, PA
Here are some of the top communities in the City of Brotherly Love:
Filter Square is a primarily residential, family-friendly community that surrounds a public park of the same name. It’s in the southwestern part of downtown, also known as Center City. Most of the homes are single-family dwellings, arranged as traditional row housing or brownstones. Filter Square’s boundaries include 21st Street on the eastside, the Schuylkill River on the westside, Locust Street to the north, and Bainbridge Street to the south.
Filter Square has come a long way since the mid-century and is now one of the most sought after neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Families, college students, and young professionals love that they can walk to many restaurants, bars, shops, and University City.
- Population – Over 5,500
- Home Price – Median home value $550,000
- Rent Prices – $750 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Apostrophe Systems, Rose Valley Software Studio Inc, North Star Change Consulting
- Schools – The Philadelphia School, a progressive, private institute for K-8 grades. Many of the public schools in this neighborhood have below-average scores, but the Academy at Palumbo is top-notch.
Something to try: Take a stroll through the Schuylkill River Park, which overlooks its namesake and offers visitors access to walking trails, a dog park, and a playground for kiddos.
Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful Sight,” is Philadelphia’s version of “Little Italy.” It’s famous for its 9th Street Market, an open-air Italian street market. They even hold an annual Italian Market Festival. Bella Vista’s boundaries include 6th Street on the eastside, 11th Street on the westside, South Street to the north, and Washington Avenue to the south.
Bella Vista has had its ups and downs throughout economic downturns but is now in high demand. There are a lot of new buildings in this area as well as restored sites. Families and young professionals, most of whom rent, love this neighborhood’s past energy, present lifestyle options, and exciting new future opportunities.
- Population – Over 8,500
- Home Price – Median home value $380,000
- Rent Prices – $1,200 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Mario Lanza Institute, Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
- Schools – Christopher Columbus Charter School serves students K-8 in an academically rich environment. The Academy at Palumbo also serves this neighborhood.
Something to try: Browse the stalls at the historic Italian Market, where culinary enthusiasts can find everything from an oil and vinegar taproom to fresh-from-the-farm produce.
Washington Square West
Washington Square West is a neighborhood located in downtown or Center City Philadelphia. Not only is it rich in history, but it also happens to be one of Philadelphia’s trendiest neighborhoods. Also known as Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, Washington Square West is home to many LGBT establishments and Philadelphia’s annual OutFest, National Coming Out Day celebration.
The neighborhood’s boundaries include Independence Mall in the northeast corner, Market East in the northwest corner, Old City and Society Hill to the east, Bella Vista to the south, Hawthorn in the southwest corner, and Midtown Philadelphia and Rittenhouse Square on the westside.
The real estate in Washington Square West consists of mixed commercial and residential buildings defined by two, three, and four-story row houses. You’ll also find condominiums, mid-rise apartments, hospitals, offices, and ground-level retail spaces. The neighborhood follows William Penn’s original grid layout for the city, with many one-lane and pedestrian side streets added later as the population grew.
- Population – over 8,000
- Home Price – Median home value $425,000
- Rent Prices – $1550 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Independence Hall, American Philosophical Society, Theatre of the Living Arts, Thomas Jefferson University & Medical
- Schools – CAPA, the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, and the esteemed Thomas Jefferson University call Washington Square West home.
Something to try: Browse the shops along Antique Row, where you can find furniture and housewares for your new home – regardless of whether your taste is vintage or modern.
Queen Village is a historic neighborhood with a modern vibe, located southwest of Philadelphia’s Center City. This community is very walkable, but bicycles are the favorite mode of transportation for many of Queen Village’s residents.
There’re a variety of housing options in Queen Village, including low-rise affordable housing, renovated 18th– and 19th-century houses, and new construction. Queen Village’s boundaries include Lombard Street to the north, South Front Street on the eastside, Washington Avenue to the south, and South 6th Street on the westside.
Known for its textile district, Fabric Row, Queen Village is also home to many shops, bars, and restaurants.
- Population – Over 10,000
- Home Price – Median home value $400,000
- Rent Prices – $1,200 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Theatre of the Living Arts, Eye’s Gallery,
- Schools – The William M. Meredith Elementary School is a highly rated K-8 grade public school. The Settlement Music School is a community school for all ages and has been named one of the top ten music programs in the nation.
Something to try: Visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, where mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar has transformed tile, glass bottles, and other everyday objects into eclectic and colorful art displays.
Chestnut Hill, also known as Philadelphia’s Garden District, is a densely populated area northwest of downtown. It’s well known for its affluent residents, private schools, and real estate values. The average detached home is over $800,000, and the average townhouse is $330,000.
Chestnut Hill’s boundaries include Northwestern Avenue in the northwest corner, Wissahickon Gorge to the west, Stenton Avenue in the northeast corner, and Cresheim Valley in the southeast corner. Home of the Morris Arboretum, bordered by the massive Fairmount Park, and splashed with pockets of smaller parks interwoven into its shopping district, it’s no wonder Chestnut Hill is known for its lush green spaces.
Culture, recreation, education, and entertainment are features that Chestnut Hill residents treasure. Gardens, family-friendly activities, Woodmere Art Museum, Stagecrafters Theatre, boutiques, outdoor dining, and special events and festivals are just a few things that keep residents busy year-round.
- Population – Over 35,000
- Home Price – Median home value $800,000
- Rent Prices – $1400 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Chestnut Hill Hospital, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
- Schools – Chestnut Hill is home to many prestigious private schools, including Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Norwood Fontbonne Private Academy, and The Crefeld School. Chestnut Hill College, a small Catholic college, is also located in this neighborhood.
Something to try: Get in the holiday spirit with the Holiday Garden Railway Lights at the Morris Arboretum.
University City is in the eastern-most portion of West Philadelphia. Although the University of Pennsylvania is responsible for the naming of University City, it’s also home to five other colleges, including Drexel University and the University of the Sciences. Most homes in this area are in low to mid-rise apartment buildings, rowhouses, or townhouses.
University City’s boundaries include the Schuylkill River on the eastside; Spring Garden Street, Powellton Avenue, and Market Street to the north; 52nd Street to the west; and Woodland Avenue, University Avenue, and Civic Center Boulevard to the south.
The tree-lined streets, public gardens, and open green spaces make University City one of the most attractive neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Unique and diverse neighbors shop together, dine together, and enjoy the open-air concerts, plays, and farmers’ markets. University City residents take pride in their neighborhood and are constantly working to improve all of their community spaces for generations to come.
- Population – Over 23,000
- Home Price – Median home value $250,000
- Rent Prices – $850 to rent an apartment
- Employers – University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Schools – Unfortunately, the public schools in this neighborhood don’t have very high ratings, but there are plenty of private school options, including The Philadelphia School and The City School at Walnut Street, a pre-K through 12th-grade Christian school.
Something to try: Adjacent to the 30th Street Station, the Porch offers an inviting place to dine or imbibe. Meet friends for drinks and a PECO performance or grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks on your way to or from the train station.
East Falls, also known as The Falls, is a neighborhood in the northwest section of Philadelphia. Although the historic waterfalls no longer exist, East Falls has so much to offer those who call it home. Most housing in this neighborhood consists of larger apartment complexes, townhomes, and condos. Many young professionals are first attracted to the neighborhood because of its urban feel, restaurants, bars, and accessibility to downtown, but they stay because of its vibrancy, community, and diversity.
East Falls boundaries include Germantown in the northeast corner, Wissahickon in the northwest corner, Allegheny West in the southeast corner, and the Schuylkill River in the southwest.
Kelly Drive is the perfect place for a run along the Schuylkill River, but if you prefer a hike, Fairmount Park and its 9,200 acres of woodland and trails are adjacent to East Falls. Stopping in at one of the restaurants, coffee shops, or breweries is a perfect way to unwind after a busy day.
- Population – Over 14,500
- Home Price – Median home value $400,000
- Rent Prices – $1,000 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Wissahickon Brewing Company, VOID Music, Falls Holding Company
- Schools – Moorestown Friends School is a small, coeducational Quaker Day School for pre-K-12 grades. This neighborhood is home to several charter schools, including William Penn and Eastern Academy. Drexel University College of Medicine also calls East Falls home.
Something to try: Explore the grounds of the 78-acre Laurel Hill Cemetery, where dozens of Philadelphia’s most notable citizens lie in rest. You can even download the free mobile app that provides commentary while you tour.
Fishtown, aptly named because it was once home to Philly’s fisher colony, is located northeast of Center City. Historically a blue-collar Irish Catholic neighborhood, Fishtown is now home to many young professionals and a vivid culinary, arts, and music scene. Rowhomes, townhouses, and waterfront living appeal to residents in this neighborhood.
Over the years, the boundaries of Fishtown have been a topic of controversy, but they are roughly the area that’s created by the Delaware River, Frankford Avenue, and York Street. Families and small businesses now make up the fabric of Fishtown. Restaurants, bars, pizza joints, and the Fishtown RiverCity Festival are just a few things that make this neighborhood a diamond in the rough.
- Population – Over 38,000
- Home Price – Median home value $210,000
- Rent Prices – $900 to rent an apartment
- Employers – Data Tech POS Inc, Evil Genius Beer Company, Core Asset Management
- Schools – Fishtown is another community whose public schools have low ratings but offers a plethora of private and charter schools such as Laboratory Charter School, St. Laurentius School, and Pan American Academy.
Something to try: Head to the burgeoning arts district along Frankford Avenue to explore First Fridays. Enjoy happy hour specials from local vendors and duck into the many studios and galleries to scope out work from local artists.
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Now that you’re ready to move to Philly, be sure to request free moving quotes from Great Guys Moving. We’ll provide you with top-notch licensed, insured moving companies to make your transition to the City of Brotherly Love as smooth as possible.