When Geoff Campbell and his wife moved to Pittsburgh from California, they looked at neighborhoods across the city and in several suburbs before buying their first home in 2005.
They chose Greenfield, mostly because of its location on “the city side” of the Squirrel Hill tunnels and its proximity to Schenley Park. They’ve since come to appreciate the neighborhood schools, the second- and third-generation families, and the community events on holidays.
“It’s got a nice sense of place and sense of community,” says Campbell, a principal at Rothschild Doyno Collaborative and president of the Greenfield Community Association. “As an architect, the housing stock in the neighborhood is really strong. Most of it is in average to good condition and a good size for a starter home. And, most Greenfield homes have a yard.”
Many first-time homebuyers fall in love with Pittsburgh, real estate agents say. In April, SmartAsset rated the city No. 1 for entry-level buyers, and Zillow’s recent First-Time Home Buyer Index ranked Pittsburgh No. 6 among the 10 best cities with friendly market conditions. (Others are Orlando, Tampa, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas and Cleveland.)
Zillow cited median home prices ranging from $132,000 to $220,000 in these cities, and a break-even point over renting of about two years or less, as reasons to buy in Pittsburgh. The index measured factors such as available listings, relative affordability and healthy forecasts for growth in home values.
Gina Giampietro, a RE/MAX Realtor in Moon, makes sure buyers are pre-approved with a lender. “Then, depending on what their price range is, if they choose an area they’re priced out of, we sit down and show them areas that they can afford in close proximity,” she says. “It depends on your situation—where you work, what your lifestyle is. Everybody has a different reason for wanting to live somewhere.”
Many of Pittsburgh’s 90 neighborhoods and most surrounding communities offer a variety of relatively affordable homes. When pricier places such as Lawrenceville, Downtown and the Strip District are out of reach, real estate agents say these five neighborhoods are among those that frequently attract first-time buyers looking for starter homes.
Teresa Visciarelli grew up in Beechview and likes that it’s an old neighborhood with new people of mixed ethnicities. “It’s very homey. It just seems like everybody in my neighborhood meshes well,” she says. “You have nice little brick homes, and then the big homes. And everybody opens their doors.”
A home for sale at 826 Shadycrest Rd. is listed at $159,900–higher than Zillow’s median price of $135,700 for Pittsburgh, but in the price range that RE/MAX agent Brian Teyssier calls “super affordable” for many buyers. Teyssier believes $140,000 to $160,000 is a price range many first-time buyers can afford.
Hilly Beechview has easy access to Downtown. About half of its residents are homeowners, says Nextdoor, whose members rate it as friendly, convenient, quiet and walkable. Nearby neighborhoods of Banksville, Brookline and Dormont also are attractive to first-time buyers, says Teyssier.
A home for sale at 1146 Greenfield Ave. for $189,900 seems to epitomize the attributes Campbell sees in his neighborhood’s housing stock—three bedrooms, hardwood floors and built-ins, stained glass windows, covered front porch and a backyard with a patio.
“I love living in the neighborhood,” Campbell says. “I’m 15 minutes from anywhere in the city, no matter what time of day it is.”
In the past two years, home prices have increased, he says, making it more difficult to find a house in Greenfield. Several of Campbell’s co-workers bought homes in Morningside—another of Pittsburgh’s best kept secrets, according to the Morningside Area Community Council, which cites its close-knit neighbors and solid brick homes with porches.
When buyers scout North Hills communities to avoid commuting through Pittsburgh’s tunnels, they often consider homes in Shaler, Teyssier says.
A Coldwell Banker listing at 2800 Clare St. for $189,900 in the Glenshaw neighborhood has three bedrooms, two baths and a two-car garage with storage space.
“We are primarily a bedroom community,” says Shaler Township manager Tim Rogers. “There’s very little commercial development here. We’re close to the Turnpike, to Downtown, to all the sports and entertainment venues. Everything is a few minutes’ drive.”
Shaler has nine parks, a swimming pool, a full-time police force and six volunteer fire companies, a water system jointly owned with Hampton, 24-hour EMS service with Etna, and an award-winning library known for its children’s programs.
“You can get any price range out here—into the 50s or up to half a million. It’s a pretty good mixture of housing stock,” says Rogers.
With its access to major highways, Downtown and the Strip District, Brighton Heights is convenient and has varied housing for entry-level buyers: A single-family home at 4001 Brighton Rd. is listed at $180,000. A condo at 125 Cobbler Circle is listed at $159,900. A brick duplex at 3615 Fleming Ave. for $165,000 presents an opportunity to have tenants help pay a mortgage.
The nonprofit Brighton Heights Citizens Federation calls the neighborhood “trend-setting.” The group has 400 dues-paying members and 700 email contacts for its news alerts about community events and opportunities.
This dog-friendly neighborhood has gardens and green spaces, house tours, a community flea market, Halloween parade, Christmas tree lighting in Legion Park and a Community Day at PNC Park. Nextdoor says 66 percent of those living here own their homes.
Howard Hanna agent Aimee O’Connor cites the open kitchen, French doors leading to a deck and fenced backyard with no neighbors behind as pluses in a home at 2072 Dartmore St. listed for $139,900. Like many homes in this affordable neighborhood, this listing drew a contingency sale.
Nextdoor says 68 percent of residents own homes in this family-oriented neighborhood between Downtown and the South Hills, with business districts along Brownsville Road.
Home to Volunteer Field, a small Carnegie Library branch and historic Phillips Park, this neighborhood has older, lower-priced homes and a diverse population, says NeighborhoodScout.