Friday, November 3, 2017

Choosing a Neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA

Jason Cohen has lived and worked as a real estate professional in Pittsburgh for over a decade. Over the course of his time in the city, Jason Cohen founded the informal real estate advising group, Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, which serves as a forum for investors seeking advice on their Pittsburgh-based ventures.  In this post, Jason uses his familiarity with the region to offer insights into a few prominent Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

A neighborhood is more than a collection of similar houses along a street. It's a community; a place with a culture and quirkiness of all its own. Those who hop from place to place in search of a house or apartment aren't just looking for four walls and roof, but for a place they feel resonates with their own personality and practical needs. As a vibrant and ever-shifting city, Pittsburgh has a little something to offer every person who sets down roots within its limits. Jason Cohen, founder of real estate advising group Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, has owned and operated properties in all of the neighborhoods listed below. All are wonderful in their own, unique ways - and all are worth considering as communities to call home!

South Side
Median home value: $109,000
While united under the “South Side” moniker, this region is technically two neighborhoods, the Southside Flats and the Southside Slopes. Both are excellent places for working professionals to settle, given the region’s excellent public transportation system and its proximity to the city’s Business District. With its many restaurants and nightlife offerings, the area also offers plenty of opportunities for post-work pursuits.

Median home value: $155,000
If Pittsburgh needed to point out its intellectual center, it would have to indicate Oakland. Home to prestigious hospitals, universities, museums, and international cultural offerings, Oakland is the perfect home space for students, medical professionals, and academics alike. The area also boasts the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.

Mount Lebanon
Median home value: $262,700
Technically a suburb of Pittsburgh, Mount Lebanon is a suburban township in Allegheny County, PA. Young families should seriously consider setting down roots in the area, given that the district is nationally-recognized for its school and has been awarded National Blue Ribbon School awards on multiple occasions. It’s a lively, vital area - perfect for families looking to grow!

Regent Square
Median home value: $264,000
For recent college grads kicking off their professional careers, Regent Square is the place to be. Ranked #1 by Niche as the Best Places for Millennials in Pittsburgh, the Square offers a multitude of subdivided homes and diverse entertainment options at a reasonable price.

Median Home Value: $334,900
Well-connected and close to the University of Pittsburgh, Shadyside is perfect for university students. The area boasts a wide selection of apartment listings and is home to a number of boutiques, shops, galleries, and nightlife offerings. An ever-changing and vibrant area, Shadyside is perfect for residents who enjoy living in upbeat, vital communities.

*Originally posted on

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Affordable Renovations for the Savvy Investor

House flipping requires strategy. Savvy investors know that slapping on a fresh coat of paint and changing a few doorknobs won't bring about a significant return on their investment. Jason Cohen, founder of the real estate advising group Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, realized this need for investment strategy when he bought his very first property. With the limited funds available to him at the time, Jason couldn't afford to sink money into unneeded updates; he needed to plan out his renovations and open the property to tenants without going over a set budget. Working on that initial project, Jason Cohen learned that a few carefully chosen renovations could net him a larger return than a few haphazard repairs ever could. Aspiring house-flippers should consider undertaking these worthwhile and inexpensive updates when they purchase a property!

Install new carpet
Stained wall-to-wall carpeting is an instant deterrent for buyers. Throw it out! The flooring below may surprise you; oftentimes, ugly carpets conceal beautiful floors that only need a little wax and polish to shine. If the floor underneath the old covering is unattractive, investors should consider purchasing and installing a new carpet. Either way, buyers will appreciate the clean, fresh appearance imparted by the touched-up flooring.

Replace Bathroom Odds and Ends
Investors don’t need to gut an older bathroom to make it shine. Grouting and caulking, while time-consuming, is an excellent way to return a grungy bathroom to its previously fresh aesthetic. Additionally, minor pieces such as sink faucets, towel bars, vanity surfaces, and medicine cabinets can be replaced at relatively low cost and up the attractiveness of the space.

Paint the walls
Never underestimate the value of a good paint job. A new coat can do wonders for an older space by imparting a sense of freshness to spaces that appear dated or run-down. When painting, investors should opt for a neutral color palette in order to avoid turning away picky buyers.

Consider your landscape
A buyer makes their first conclusions about a property before they ever step foot through the front door. All the time and money an investor spends on a property’s interior may amount to nothing if the shingles on its exterior are shedding or the grass in unkempt. Mind the landscaping! A quick mow of the yard and a bit of garden work doesn’t require much time or money and makes a tremendous difference to buyers.

Mind the budget
In the end, budget takes precedence. While a house flipper may want to completely renovate the kitchen or replace the plumbing in the bathroom, such pricey changes might not always be feasible. Investors should consider repairing rather than replacing, and ditch non-essential renovations if they find themselves spending more money than they anticipated.

Originally posted on

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Value of Research: A Pittsburgh Case Study

Jason Cohen was only two years out of college when he bought his first property in Pittsburgh. It wasn't a luxurious place by any means, but it was what he could afford with the means left to him after student loans. He sunk what resources he had into performing the most necessary repairs and managed to breathe new life into the struggling building. Its value soared; newly determined after his success, Cohen set his eyes on the next project and invested his profits. After ten years of hard work, Jason owns commercial and residential properties throughout Pittsburgh. He began with limited means, but Jason now has the resources and experience to run multi-million dollar community projects.

His secret?  Research.

According to Cohen, who facilitates the real estate investment forum Jason Cohen Pittsburgh in his free time, research is the factor that makes or breaks a real estate venture. An enormous amount of pre-planning goes into rehabilitating a property for sale, and the success of the venture hinges on having reasonable profit and cost projections.

More and more investors are flocking to house flipping to make a profit; according to statistics provided by Trulia, a full 6% of homes bought in 2016 had been renovated for sale. However, the field does pose significant risks if investors have little experience. If you intend to break into the real estate industry as Jason Cohen did, please consider the following basic tips for real estate research.

Look into the expense of the house.
Houses cost money. Repairs cost money. As Mindy Jenson, community manager for Bigger Pockets commented for a U.S. News article: "Nobody is going to hand you a house for free, and you can’t go to Home Depot and [get] your supplies for free [...] If you are using credit cards and have no money, you can get into trouble quickly.” Assess whether the house will require expensive repairs, and compare your expense projections to your budget. Sometimes, it’s best to be patient and move on from a house with too many liabilities in search for one that poses less of a risk.

Research the neighborhood.
Find out how much you’ll need to pay to renovate the house for sale, then assess how much you’ll likely get for it based on neighborhood averages. Remember, you can’t tack on an extra $10,000 to the price simply because you owe that much to your lenders. Figure out if you can afford to buy and renovate the home, then act accordingly.

Research lenders.
Financing a house is notoriously expensive. Spend time going over your borrowing options, and choose one that suits your needs. Don’t move forward with the first place you visit; take the time to check out all of your lending options and proceed as seems best.

*Originally posted on

Friday, September 8, 2017

Do You Know How to Spot a Shady Contractor?

The first building Jason Cohen bought in Pittsburgh wasn't particularly luxurious - but to Jason, it had potential. He knew that he could refurbish and turn a profit on it if he sank funds into a remodel, but he had neither the time nor skills to complete the repairs it required by himself. Cohen needed a contractor he could trust to do the job well on-schedule, and within the tight budget that he could afford.
However, the hiring process wasn't as simple as finding and signing the cheapest contractor to come along; Jason knew that many homeowners in his position fall into contracting traps when they entrust the remodel of their property to underqualified or shady contractors. Luckily, Cohen found a competent and fair contractor to work with, and that initial project went well. With over a decade of experience under his belt, Cohen continues to hire contractors in
Pittsburgh and elsewhere to improve his properties - and watches for the same red flags that he steered clear of in his early years. Those warning signs are listed below.

Can’t provide proof of permits and insurance
Never work with a contractor who can’t show you their permits, licenses, and insurance papers. Each state has different regulations regarding the licenses contractors should have before beginning work on a project; make sure your applicants meet all of the proper requirements before you hire!

Asks to work without a contract.
If they don’t sign a contract, they don’t get the job. Never trust a contractor who offers to take on the remodel with only an informal verbal agreement; without the proper documentation, they can exit the job at any time and leave you with no money and a half-finished project. For advice on what to put in a contract, check out HomeLogic’s post on Contract Basics.

Offers to work at an unreasonably low rate.
Don’t trust a lowball offer, especially if the contractor asks to be paid upfront or in cash. Some shady operators will lead with a low initial cost, then demand more money from the homeowner later, citing a budgetary miscalculation. Don’t be fooled by contractor scams - go with someone who offers quality work at a reasonable price.

Lacks the proper equipment.
Avoid hacks! Make sure that your applicants have the proper equipment to complete the job at hand. A lack of necessary equipment indicates a lack of experience and skill, and hiring an under-qualified contractor will cost you in time and money. If you’re unsure of a contractor’s competency, reach out to their references! They might provide you with insight into the types of jobs that your applicant has worked before, and whether the contractor is right for your project.   

Acts standoffish or disrespectful
Your remodel is important to you, and any contractor should be aware of its value. Find someone that you can work well with; someone you trust to listen to what you need from the project. Odds are, you’ll be working with this person for weeks or months - so don’t go with someone who brushes away your concerns, skips meetings, or acts rudely!

*Originally posted on

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Habitat for Humanity teams up with Jason Cohen Pittsburgh

A real estate professional based in Pittsburgh, Jason Cohen offers customized real estate consulting services to clients throughout the Pittsburgh area. In the philanthropic sector, Jason Cohen of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh supports the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh.

Dedicated to advancing the Habitat for Humanity mission of giving everyone a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh offers a broad range of home repair services for homeowners in the region. Through its Critical Home Repair program, the organization helps restore safe and sound living conditions for individuals without the financial means or physical ability to complete the repairs. In some cases, the program may enlist the help of outside contractors for extensive repairs.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh also works closely with veterans and their families, offering home repairs and renovations via the Veteran Build Program. The program consists of many veterans in volunteer roles, creating a sense of community among veterans in the area. The organization also offers comprehensive weatherization services in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, designed to save homeowners money by making homes more energy efficient. 

To learn more about home repair services at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh, visit the official website at

Friday, May 12, 2017

NMHC Wins Energy Star Award

An experienced real estate professional, Jason Cohen of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh works with clients, advising them regarding multifamily and other housing investment opportunities. In addition to working with his Pittsburgh clients, Jason Cohen belongs to a number of trade associations, including the National Multifamily Housing Council.

The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) recently announced that it has received the Partner of the Year - Energy Efficiency Program Delivery Award from Energy Star. The organization was chosen for this award due to its work supporting initiatives that have made America’s apartments more energy efficient, including an effort that provided potential investors with comprehensive data about utility costs. 

This initiative also saw the launch of a new online platform touting various Energy Star tools. Additionally, those who live in apartments participated in a survey that highlighted how they would use energy efficient technologies. In his comments, NMHC CEO and president Doug Bibby expressed gratitude for receiving the award and said the organization will move forward with similar initiatives in the future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh Sponsors Kids Triathlon

Jason Cohen works as a real estate investor leading Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, a forum for like-minded real estate professionals seeking multifamily investing opportunities. Jason Cohen and his company remain charitable and volunteer their time with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh (HFHGP).

As one of the 2,300 affiliates of Habitat for Humanity, HFHGP seeks to eliminate substandard housing in Allegheny County. Since 1986, the chapter has helped nearly 80 families acquire new housing. HFHGP works in conjunction with volunteers and low-income families to build houses, which the families purchase through no-interest, no-profit mortgages.

One of HFHGP’s fundraising events is its Kids Triathlon. The competition is HFHGP's main moneymaking event, raising more than $750,000 since it began more than 15 years ago. 

In addition to raising money, the triathlon provides children with a productive way to spend their time during the summer. The South Park Race for children ages 7 through 12 took place July 23, 2016, with the North Park Race occurring August 6, 2016. Jane Maurer and Tabari Morgan were the top fundraisers, bringing in a combined total of more than $1,200.