Mendez Homes and Investments: Real Estate in a Tough Economy

Maria Mendez of Mendez Homes and Investments

2480 Frankford Avenue

Mendez Homes and Investments has been renting and selling affordable homes to Philadelphia residents for the past four years—and doesn’t see things stopping anytime soon.

“We’re affected by the economy, but it’s still a great place to live,” says Maria Mendez of Kensington.  Mendez has been operating as a broker for Mendez Homes and Investments for the past four years.

Calling upon local artists from around the northeastern Philadelphia area, Mendez wanted to create an office in which the community felt welcome.  Coming from a Latino background herself, she first began her business by reaching out to the Latino community.  It was then that Mendez realized she wanted a property suitable for all nationalities.

“I wanted people to come in and feel at home,” she says.

Bright colored paintings, hardwood floors, open ended space and sky-lit ceilings comprise Mendez’s humble office on Frankford avenue, a site of prosperity quite unique to the Kensington district, an area that is often thought of as poor and crime ridden by outsiders.

Promoting a prosperous attitude for new beginnings, Mendez Homes and Investments has been working primarily with first-time home buyers.  Aiming to work past poor lines of credit, the agency has teamed up with programs like the New Kensington Community Development Corp. to find low priced mortgage opportunities for their clientele.

“Why not let them have the best?” Mendez asks.

And although the clientele has not decreased in the current state of the economy, investors have been dwindling slowly throughout the past year. Mendez says investors have lent their credit toward the agency, only to pull out suddenly because of hard financial times.  Mendez Homes and Investments have been looking towards organizations like the Sovereign Bank and Office of Housing and Community Development in hopes for some help, although it is difficult to determine if the financial efforts have truly helped.

However, with the addition of new housing building projects, times could be looking up for both the real estate agency and the area in which they are located.

“The best part is getting to work with more people,” says Mendez about the addition of new condos and rental housing developments in the area.  “It’s already changing Kensington."

Some longtime residents have not quite warmed up to the idea of new building developments in their area, but, with time this could change.

“I’ve been to community meetings where people don’t want the changes and don’t see the bigger picture,” says Mendez of the Kensington community.

In an effort to put the community at ease, Mendez and her office have begun planning a festive first Friday each month.

Relying on the same local artisans that decorated her office, Mendez hopes to create a lighter atmosphere of artwork and music for display within the community, to change misconceptions often attached to the area.  With the help of surrounding businesses and approximately 50 people volunteering their efforts, change is sure to spread rather quickly.

“It’s a unique way to market ourselves,” says Mendez of the real estate agency’s strategy.  It is also a way to get the old community involved with the up-and-coming, to accept new ideas, and to make the current residents feel at ease within their growing neighborhood.

This article was written and reported by Kylee Messner and Holland Baldridge for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a publication of Temple University's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab, and originally published on May 19, 2009.