Top Ten Things Out of Town Buyers Should Know Before Buying Pittsburgh Real Estate
1. Pittsburgher’s “Drive on the Parkway and Park in the Driveway”. Confusing as that may be, the major highways in Pittsburgh are referred to as Parkways. If you are not used to driving in western Pennsylvania, you find that the local geography creates a very complex road system that is very difficult for newcomers to navigate. Most Pittsburgh residents make reference to the amount of time it takes to get from place to place instead of the number or miles.
2. If you have to commute to downtown Pittsburgh by car from the suburbs, you can count on these approximate times on the average weekday to get there: 30 to 40 minutes from most immediate Eastern suburbs (such as Penn Hills), 15 to 20 minutes from neighboring Northern suburbs (such as Wexford), and 20 to 30 minutes from neighboring Western suburbs (such as Robinson Township). Public Transportation is available by bus and by rail (the “T”).
3. Downtown Pittsburgh offers a host of attractions for true city dwellers in terms of entertainment, nightlife, sports and shopping. There has been a resurgence of downtown living spaces in the form of revamped warehouse spaces being transformed into contemporary lofts. Areas close to downtown are offering metro living in the form of high end condos in areas like the Southside, North Shore and the Waterfront. All of these areas offer their own flavor of Pittsburgh city living at its best.
4. Home shoppers in the Pittsburgh area need to be aware of any impending highway projects that could have an effect on their property in the future. For example, the proposed Southern Beltway project through Pittsburgh’s southern communities could affect areas of North Strabane, Nottingham and UnionTownship. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission provides links to web pages on their site that give the most current information on the various projects.
5. There are local wage taxes in the area that are based on where you live. If you prefer to live right in the City of Pittsburgh, your wage tax will be 3%. Almost all of the neighboring areas outside of the actual city limits will charge a 1% wage tax.
6. Real estate transactions in the City of Pittsburgh will incur a transfer tax of 4% of the sales price (usually shared with the buyer and seller each paying 2%). While it does vary by municipality, the majority of areas surrounding the city limits will charge a total of 2% (again usually shared with the buyer and seller each paying 1% each).
7. Property tax in Allegheny County (including the City of Pittsburgh) is likely to cost you more than in the neighboring counties. Although initial property tax costs may not be all that different if you compare new construction homes of similar price points, you will see substantial differences when comparing older homes of similar value. This is because Allegheny County reassesses properties periodically as well as each time a property is transferred. The neighboring counties historically have not reassessed unless a building permit is issued for remodeling, additions, new structures etc.
8. The residential resale single family home market in Pittsburgh is extremely oriented toward the traditional two story colonial style 4 bedroom home. New comers to the Burgh can find it discouraging to find their dream home if that is of contemporary design (for example). While there certainly is a diversity of home styles available, it may take longer to find the perfect home for you if colonial style is not your favorite!
9. The Pittsburgh area (and Pennsylvania in general) is very fortunate compared with many other parts of the country to be normally spared from many forms of natural disaster. However, there certainly are flood zones for which flood insurance is available if you do so desire to live there. Also, new comers should be aware that western Pennsylvania is rich in coal and many areas have already been undermined. It is always wise to find out if your property is built above a mine by calling the Bureau of Mines. Mine subsidence insurance is available and some insurance companies will further insure if additional coverage is needed to cover the full replacement value.
10. The Pittsburgh area is one that is rich in ethnic tradition and heritage. A trip to the Heinz History Center in the Strip District will give you a good background for how Pittsburgh has evolved into the city that it is today. Areas of the city that are aptly named for their ethnic heritage include Polish Hill and Germantown. The neighborhoods and cultural diversities of Pittsburgh are reflected in area festivals, restaurants and cafés, shops etc. It’s a great place for new comers to explore and experience traditions from around the world.