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Finding the Right Neighborhood for You

Pittsburgh may be one of the country’s best kept secrets.

Although our beloved Steeltown has earned multiple designations such as “America’s Most Livable City,” occasionally Pittsburgh still gets a bad rap, particularly from those who have never visited. Earlier this year, Travel + Leisure placed Pittsburgh among the top ten cities for “Most Beautiful and Affordable Places to Live in the U.S,” and natives know this to be true.

Pittsburgh has 90 unique neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character, plus many beautiful suburbs fanning out from all directions, and that makes it challenging for newcomers to figure out where to settle in western Pennsylvania.

Many corporations seeking to recruit potential employees to Pittsburgh hire Presenting Pittsburgh, a relocation company that helps market the city by providing information about neighborhoods and other selling points.

Megan Misgalla
Megan Misgalla

“Our company was created to give corporations a tool to help candidates learn more about the area, to get to the finish line about making a decision to relocate to Pittsburgh,” said company co-owner, Megan Misgalla, who added that her company serves a five-county region: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland. However, she is very passionate about the city itself, even if some people are not interested in living in Pittsburgh proper. “You can’t have successful suburban areas without a vibrant core,” she said.

Though it can vary by demographic, people choose where to settle based on a variety of factors. Some of the most important can include:

• School district ranking

• Walkability/bikeability

• Nearby amenities, such as restaurants, shopping, gyms, libraries, etc.

• Ease of commute

• Accessibility to the city

• Parks and green spaces

• Safety

• Community feel

Melanie Marsh
Melanie Marsh

Melanie Marsh, a real estate agent with Compass Realty in Wexford, sells homes throughout the city, but North Pittsburgh is her primary market. Marsh has developed a buyer’s guide called “Questions to Ask When Choosing Where to Live,” so that clients have the best information to choose the right neighborhood for them. These questions include: What does your money buy? What do you want to be close to? What is the housing stock like? What does the community offer? How do you define convenience? How are the schools?

Demographics often do play a role in neighborhood selection. “What we’re seeing is that younger people want more walkability: to walk to a park, to a coffee shop,” said Marsh.

Alison Butler
Alison Butler

“When I sit down with a client, I want them to make a list of the important things to them, which will be different for every person. Someone may want walkability, but someone else may want privacy, so you will show them houses in two different areas,” said Alison Butler, a real estate agent with Re/Max Select Realty, located in the Cranberry office. She said that there is also a lot of online data that people can check, such as to gauge school performance as well as to look at crime rate statistics.

Butler primarily works in the northern corridor and said that because of the stellar school districts in many of those areas—such as Mars, Seneca, Hampton, Pine, and North Allegheny—the neighborhoods that serve these school districts have been and continue to be in demand. “Ross Township has actually become very hot, too, within North Hills because it has better accessibility, as it is closer to the city, and North Hills is also a strong school district,” she said.

Further out, in Butler County, Marsh said that Jackson Township is a region seeing a lot of real estate activity because of new construction. And Butler said that Cranberry is quite popular for people who want a strong parks and recreation program.

Butler added that Bellevue and West View are also having a popularity wave because in these neighborhoods, “…homes are more affordable, and you can get homes with character. That often lends itself to the younger crowd that wants to be closer to the city.”

Marsh agreed about Bellevue and added that Avalon is popular, too, due to walkability, and the price point attracts younger buyers. “It does have parks and has charming, older house stock,” she said, adding, “We’re also seeing a lot of new development in Jackson Township, and Evans City may be the next up-and-coming neighborhood because of some commercial development in the area,” she said.

In the city itself, Misgalla said that the Strip is having a renaissance, with growth being ‘off the charts,’ mostly with rental housing but there are new condos and townhomes in the works, along with new businesses that have cropped up.

Some people may also choose a neighborhood based on the type of house that they want. For example, those who want new construction may have a more difficult time finding that in the city limits, though new construction is in abundance in the northern suburbs.

Where people are working has changed during the pandemic, so some people are looking for houses with home offices, but for others who still go into their employer’s workplace, they may be looking at neighborhoods where walking or biking to work is possible; where public transportation is readily available and where traffic during a commute is at a minimum.

Misgalla said that more and more people are looking for outdoor green spaces. “We are blessed in this region to have access to beautiful public parks on the state, city and county levels—biking trails, water sports—you name it, we have it,” she said.

That the Pittsburgh region is underrated is something that all three women have witnessed.

“I think that people are pleasantly surprised at what Pittsburgh has to offer,” said Marsh.

Butler added, “I feel that the people in Pittsburgh are the best asset of the city—they are warm and friendly and welcoming. People are surprised by that, especially coming from bigger cities where people tend to be more guarded and private.”

“What we have found in 24 years is that people have a more favorable impression of Pittsburgh certainly once they get here,” said Misgalla. “Providing the tools for someone, giving them as much information so they can make an informed decision, is really what our goal is at the end of the day. We know that Pittsburgh and this region has so much to offer, and we’re happy to share that.”

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