Lehigh Valley (Easton, PA) 1st Investment Property

19 Replies | Allentown, Pennsylvania

Hi All,

I am new to the forums and am looking to start getting more involved in them and this community. I have been doing my research trying to determine where I would like to invest and have landed on the Lehigh Valley, specifically the Easton, PA area (but starting to look more into Bethlehem and Allentown). I am located directly between the Lehigh valley and Philly and would love to have my first property be closer to where I am currently located.

Reading through Easton's economic development plan (even if it is a few years old) and getting a feel for the more specific areas that I would like to own a property. I have been interested in West Ward and South side, but am open to the other areas as well. I am looking for 3-4 bed SFH or multis that I could BRRRR as it seems the city has some areas that has good opportunities for that and is something they are looking to do to help revitalize the city. My main goal right now is for cash flow more than appreciation (although that's a plus too).

I have tried to search through old forum posts to see if there has been anything recent to help but wanted to create a new post as well. Any advice on specific areas to avoid or that you really like would be much appreciated. I plan on taking a trip up there in the near future to get a better feel of areas as well. Thanks!

@Zack Busch

Hi Zack,

I can’t tell you much about Allentown and Bethlehem because I don’t really have an interest there, but Easton is a good place to invest if you can find something. Obviously sim pickings right now and for the last year. West ward has its bad areas, lots of guys make good money there but it comes with its downfalls for sure. Lots of drugs and undesirable people. South side overall is good, just be picky with tenants. 
I would definitely do your homework about areas of Allentown and Bethlehem. 

Hi Zack, welcome to the area. It's an extremely competitive market, but one that I'm still very optimistic about. The economic growth has been fantastic, tenants are continuing to support higher rents, and we are starting to see more inventory on the MLS these days. I recently closed on another 7 units for my own personal purchase in Easton, and my team and I have had a great experience investing there.

As far as areas to avoid, or areas that I really like: that depends on your team, risk tolerance, and personal investing style. There are tons of books on how to run the numbers, but I find it is more important to find the right fit for your psychological profile. I personally pay a premium price for already renovated properties that are in a good area and easy for my property management company to rent out. This gets me a slightly lower return on paper, but has been a fantastic fit for me. I also have had clients purchase small, alleyway rentals that were in need of gut rehabs... and turn them around through diligent work for great returns. The big thing about Easton is that the township is very diligent in their Certificate of Occupancy inspections. I always plan on an increased renovation budget since they will typically make you repair some more cosmetic things that other townships would not. 

Welcome to the area!

Originally posted by @Matt M. :

@Zack Busch

Hi Zack,

I can’t tell you much about Allentown and Bethlehem because I don’t really have an interest there, but Easton is a good place to invest if you can find something. Obviously sim pickings right now and for the last year. West ward has its bad areas, lots of guys make good money there but it comes with its downfalls for sure. Lots of drugs and undesirable people. South side overall is good, just be picky with tenants. 
I would definitely do your homework about areas of Allentown and Bethlehem. 

 Thanks for the input Matt! I am working on taking a deeper dive into the specific areas to see what I could avoid. Outside of taking a trip and driving through the areas do you have any recommendations on tools to use on determining crime ridden areas? Some of the apps like zillow have their tools and I'll research some others as well

Originally posted by @David Ribardo :

Hi Zack, welcome to the area. It's an extremely competitive market, but one that I'm still very optimistic about. The economic growth has been fantastic, tenants are continuing to support higher rents, and we are starting to see more inventory on the MLS these days. I recently closed on another 7 units for my own personal purchase in Easton, and my team and I have had a great experience investing there.

As far as areas to avoid, or areas that I really like: that depends on your team, risk tolerance, and personal investing style. There are tons of books on how to run the numbers, but I find it is more important to find the right fit for your psychological profile. I personally pay a premium price for already renovated properties that are in a good area and easy for my property management company to rent out. This gets me a slightly lower return on paper, but has been a fantastic fit for me. I also have had clients purchase small, alleyway rentals that were in need of gut rehabs... and turn them around through diligent work for great returns. The big thing about Easton is that the township is very diligent in their Certificate of Occupancy inspections. I always plan on an increased renovation budget since they will typically make you repair some more cosmetic things that other townships would not. 

Welcome to the area!

Thank you  for the detailed response, definitely some good things to consider further. I have gotten satisfaction on doing renovation projects on my own house, but am currently looking to just land my first deal and get the momentum going so I would be okay with having the lower returns, but possibly the safer investment going with something that has been recently renovated or needs minor work. I have seen the CO mentioned in some of the descriptions so I have done a little research on that but it is good to consider keeping extra budgeted for unforeseen items I may have to fix. I guess it is a good thing that the city cares enough to do a really good inspection on the house.

I like the area and the next step for me is to start building a team of people that can help me in this area and appreciate the information you have given so far. As you mentioned, the competition appears to be high just like everywhere else but I'm determined to get something started.

@Zack Busch

Ok so.. 95% of the investors I work for have no interest in west ward. Personally I don’t either. But, it all depends on your comfort level. I won’t buy what I wouldn’t live in. Call me crazy, but it’s not all about the money for me. 
Ive done more complete rehabs in south side than I can count, and I’ve never had an issue. I leave my van unlocked, never had materials stolen from a house, etc. my clients have made lots of money there. But like anywhere, you get good and bad tenants. 
southside is good, Wilson Boro if you can find something (I walked into an amazing off market deal in 2019). 
I’d be careful with west ward unless you are using a PM. 

@Matt M.

Thank you that is really good information! I am with you on only wanting to buy something that I would want to live in myself. I plan on using a PM but based on what you are saying would still be hesitant for West Ward. As I mentioned before, I don't need a home run, just something to get the ball rolling. I appreciate all the feedback.

I have noticed in a lot of the houses there looks to be drop ceiling in the main rooms. Is there any reason for that?

@Zack Busch

Drop ceilings are used for many reasons. The plaster is cracking and it’s easier than removing and hanging new drywall, electrical was run on top of the plaster to rooms on 2nd floor, plumbing, etc. 

a lot of these houses are really old, and bathrooms weren’t always there when built. 

I hate drop ceilings! 

@Zack Busch

See if this link works for an article I just came across-

https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/2021/07/see-how-home-prices-changed-in-every-lehigh-valley-town-in-the-past-10-years-on-this-map.html

Or just copy and paste to browser

@Matt M.

That's a great article that shows the power of appreciation and what areas have excelled and seem to be primed for further accelleration thanks for sharing!

I don't like the drop ceilings either, they should only ever be in offices and commercial buildings.

Hey @Zack Busch ,

I’m new in my real estate journey, but I reside in the Lehigh valley and Easton is an area of interest for me, so I wanted to respond.

Like others have mentioned, Wilson is a pretty nice area if you can find anything. West ward has its pockets of good and bad… can be a bit sketchy, but I’m looking at it for deals. South side has come a long way and continues to improve, I’d definitely keep an eye out there.

If a property of interest ever becomes available in the college hill area and is priced right, you should go take a look. Great little area next to Lafayette college.

Best of luck!

I guess to each their own, West Ward has been fine for me. Coming from NYC, I can tell you West Ward is far from what is considered dangerous here. Just pick the right tenants and you'll be fine.

@Zack Busch Lots of good info here. Overall, there are investors that are having successes in every neighborhood across Easton. The roughest neighborhoods can often be the most cash flowing, but require a skillful touch. A great property in a great neighborhood can also turn into a financial drain, if it is not managed well. A good team will ensure you are successful in your journey. If any link is weak - replace it as soon as possible. One of the biggest pitfalls an investor can make is using an agent without personal investing experience, or trying to "make things work" with a contractor or property management experience once the downhill slide starts. Follow your gut feeling, and good luck!


@Randy Gutierrez fancy seeing you here! I've got a property I have to give you a call about...

I've had mixed results with most of them. I had clients work with KPMM, SlateHouse, Cassidon, and Empire. I've had clients that have fallen in love with each of them, I've had clients that have fired each of them. Your results may vary. If it isn't going well, fire them and move on to the next, until you find the right one. They are a dime a dozen and you will find the right fit very quickly that way. It it becomes a stressful relationship, just move on!

For my own personal style, I wanted a property manager who would bring my properties to the highest and best, managing renovations, raising rents, and passing on the utilities. Since none of them offered this service or did an acceptable job at this, I finally ended up starting my own property management company to work with my clients and I.

@David Ribardo

Thank you for all of the information. I’m looking to get into multi unit properties and would love to get good cash flow. I’m not adverse to rehabbing a property but would prefer it to be minimal. More of a turnkey would be fine as im just trying to get started and a feel for everything. I’d love to connect further if you’re available