Real Estate Workshop Celebrates City Living
Up hills, along tight curves and down into the river valleys, a bus full of local real-estate agents navigated Pittsburgh last week on a tour the Urban Redevelopment Authority put together to boost city home sales.
“I just got a whole different perspective,” said Mary Lynne Deets, education manager for the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, who sold only about five homes in the city during a 30-year sales career.
That’s the kind of statistic the URA would like to change.
While open to all real estate professionals, the tour was designed to enlighten suburban agents unfamiliar with the city and all it has to offer. Officials hope their upbeat message will hit home, many times over.
“A lot of people want a walkable, pedestrian-friendly community to live in with a lot going on. That’s what urban living is all about,” said Kyra Straussman, URA real estate director.
Ms. Straussman said the URA ramped up home marketing efforts at Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s direction about three years ago.
In May, the URA launched a Web site — Pittsburghcityliving.com — that pairs prospective home buyers with neighborhoods meeting their requirements. “It’s like Match.com for your neighborhood,” Ms. Straussman said.
The workshop for real estate agents, “City Living: A Focus on the Pittsburgh Client,” was another phase of the initiative. It was developed by Ms. Straussman; Josette Fitzgibbons, coordinator of the Mainstreets and Elm Street programs; and Megan Stearman, Mainstreets development specialist.
About 20 agents, most with little knowledge of the city, signed up. Under a special arrangement with the state Real Estate Commission, all received continuing education credits needed to maintain their licenses.
The agents saw new construction on the Central North Side, in Fineview and at Summerset at Frick Park. They heard about the house-by-house revival of Friendship, the development spurt in East Liberty and Lawrenceville’s recent emergence as a hot housing market.
They visited Riverview Park on the North Side, Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 on the South Side and Pittsburgh Brashear High School in Beechview. Sometimes, “neighborhood ambassadors” climbed aboard to talk about their communities and how civic groups augment the development work of city agencies.
“You know, we had rave reviews from the ‘students,’ ” Ms. Deets said, noting most continuing education workshops for real estate agents are classroom sessions on such issues as tax assessment and foreclosures.
Because the workshop was unusual, the Realtors Association had to persuade the Real Estate Commission to give the continuing education credits, Ms. Deets said. The participants did spend some time in a classroom, learning about tax abatement, other home buyer incentives and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
To address concerns about the quality of city schools, the URA scheduled presentations about city magnet programs, the district’s academic improvement efforts and the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. To counter other concerns about urban living, the URA arranged for the group to meet a man who’s raising two teenage girls on the South Side Flats and a single woman who lives in Allegheny West.
The URA plans to offer the workshop again in the spring. In the meantime, to track the success of last week’s program, the URA will send a thank-you gift to any participant who provides verification of a city home sale.
Ellen Connelly, a Howard Hanna agent who works mostly in the city, said the tour will make her job easier.
“I have an out-of-town client coming in. She’s looking at Sewickley. She’s looking at Fox Chapel. But she’s really focused on the city,” Ms. Connelly said.