Rent battle: Society Hill vs. University City – Metro US

Rent battle: Society Hill vs. University City

Rent battle: Society Hill vs. University City
Rebekah Narli

Whether you prefer historic vibes or something more modern, Philadelphia has options. So what type of apartment will a $1,300 monthly rent budget get you in one of the oldest neighborhoods versus one catering to the next generation?

In Society Hill, with its Colonial homes and a leafy green park that was part of William Penn’s original layout of the city, you can find the occasional one-bedroom for less than $1,300, says realtor Janis Dubin of Settle Down Philadelphia, but expanding that budget by a few hundred dollars will open a lot more doors.

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“There is a mix of the high-rises around Washington Square and apartments that are a part of walk-ups or brownstones — $1,200 is the bare minimum,” Dubin says. “If we make [the rent] between $1,200 and $1,500, you can get a walk-up or a one-bedroom.”

She estimates that those one-bedrooms will range from about 475 to 640 square feet. But don’t expect many perks on that budget.

It’s the historic feel of the neighborhood that’s often the deciding factor, Dubin says: “Some of our clients can’t stand the new modern architecture,” says Dubin. “In Society Hill, even though a lot of it was cleared in the 1960s and built with contemporary style, people still go there because it’s historic and charming.”
Across the Schuylkill from Center City, University City is pushing to become more modern. It is, of course, home to a large student population.

“Closer to campus, students will spend $500 to $700 per bedroom,” says realtor Jonathan Barach of The Barach Group. “In the newer buildings, you’re looking at $1,500 to $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment, but that’s top of the line.”

Barach says that rental prices change depending on the time of year as well.

“Rental season is between March and Labor Day,” says Barach. “Prices are going to be higher because demand is higher. In the winter, you’ll get better deals. That’s throughout the whole city.”

But if someone wants to stick to a rent budget of around $1,300, they’re in luck — depending on where they’re willing to be. Barach
says that $1,250 will rent an updated one-bedroom apartment of approximately 550 square feet, but you need to be looking a little farther away from the college campuses.

“There is a lot of stuff being built on the commercial side of things,” Barach says of the neighborhood. “There are new restaurants opening. It’s its own little town now and there’s a lot more to do.” ​