Kansas City vs. Philly by the Numbers—Housing Market Numbers, That Is

10 min read

As the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for their clash in Super Bowl LVII, NFL fans have visions of Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes engaged in a classic duel in the desert. And while we certainly appreciate elite quarterbacking as much as the next person, there’s a different pitched, drag-down, thrill-a-minute competition we can’t peel our eyes away from: the current real estate market!

So let others prognosticate and pontificate about turnover differential and complicated defensive schemes. Right now, the Eagles are slight favorites in the point spread, but what we want to know most is whether Philly soars over Kansas City when it comes to real estate.

So instead of passing yards, fumbles, or sacks, our own Realtor.com® metrics tell the true tale of the tape when it comes to these two major housing markets. Philadelphia has nearly four times as many homes on the market at this moment, but where can home shoppers score a deal worthy of a Gatorade bath?

We broke down the game film on home affordability, housing supply, and market heat to determine which of these two cities should truly raise the roof and pop the corks.

Join us as we prepare a plate of nachos, tap the Kegerator, and dig deep into the housing stats. We’ve found results that might be just as surprising as Nick Foles running a Philly Special.

Pregame: Food and Drink

BBQ vs Philly Cheeseteak

(Realtor.com / Getty Images)

Kansas City: Barbeque
Philadelphia: Cheesesteak Sandwich

Before the game starts, everyone knows it’s all about the spread. So what does each city bring to the table? (As it happens, both markets have a preponderance of the phrases “outdoor kitchen” and “chef’s kitchen” in their real estate listings.)

Eagles fans, of course, have the world-famous Philly cheesesteak. Onions and peppers are optional, but to be done right, this Philadelphia staple will need thin-sliced rib-eye from a Pennsylvania cow and be smothered in Cheez Whiz, preferably to be paired with a chilled Yuengling.

Chiefs fans say to hell with the bread! Their offerings are more meat-centric, but it’s the dry rub, sweet sauce, and slow cooking time that’s key to Kansas City barbeque.

Kansas City offers a wider variety for the tailgate party, from burnt ends to brisket and ribs to wings, but according to Google search data, the cheesesteak is more sought after.

Edge: Tossup


First quarter: Prices and affordability

Kansas City January median list price: $347,425
Philadelphia January median list price: $319,000

As we kick off the head-to-head on core housing metrics, Philadelphia’s median listing prices are lower than Kansas City’s by about $28,000, or 8%.

But as with judging a team’s record without scrutinizing its strength of schedule, price alone isn’t everything.

The other main consideration is the size of the homes, which is revealed when we inspect the price per square foot.

Kansas City January median list price per square foot: $198
Philadelphia January median list price per square foot: $200

Too close to call. We’re going to need an official review.

Diving into the replay booth, we found that at 2,200 square feet, the median listing in Kansas City is 37% larger than the 1,900-square-foot median listing in Philadelphia.

Both cities’ real estate prices sit below the national average of around $213 per square foot, but in terms of how much house you get for every dollar spent, the better deals are to be found in Kansas City.

But to truly judge affordability, you can’t stop there.

Local incomes in both areas, when compared with the price per square foot in each, show Philadelphia has the lower housing cost-to-income ratio. Kansas City is about 6% to 13% more expensive, per square foot, given local wages.

Kansas City median household income: $76,169 (average household income: $102,382)
Philadelphia median household income: $81,746 (average household income: $116,783)

The median and average household incomes in Philadelphia are about 7% to 14% higher than in Kansas City, according to the Census Bureau. This means housing is slightly more affordable for Philadelphians, given the local wages, at least judging just by these two measures.

But the analytics alone might not paint a complete picture, says Ryan Debold, the managing director at the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation in Philadelphia.

“In this case, income and real estate metrics are part of it, but consumer price indices and the price of goods, those are significant components for whether a person can afford living in a city,” says Debold.

The matchup between these towns is especially hard for Debold. His roots are in Kansas City, where he grew up, but his career has brought him to Philadelphia, where he works on equitable development and land use policy, environmental conservation, and sustainable landscape design.

Debold says items like transportation and groceries are more expensive in Philadelphia when compared with Kansas City. He’s taken note of other differences since moving east.

“I was told to keep my Kansas license plates as long as I could, because it would cost three or four times as much to register a car in Philadelphia,” Debold says. “And when you walk around Philly, you see plates from everywhere else. Then you have the price of gas, the price of insurance—costs that a lot of people don’t think about. But it adds up.”

Those small but higher costs Debold has noticed over the years mean that Philadelphia might not be as affordable as just the home prices and incomes would indicate.

“Part of the equation is how much expendable income you have,” he says, “and Kansas City has a consistently lower cost of living.”

Edge: Tossup


Second quarter: Housing supply

Homes on the market in Kansas City, MO and Philadelphia, PA

(Realtor.com)

Kansas City January median days on the market: 88
Philadelphia January median days on the market: 73

Realtor.com gauges a market’s supply by looking at how long the median listing spends on the market—whether at the ZIP code, county, or metro level—then comparing that with all the others in the same geography type.

When it comes to the time it takes the median listing to sell, Philadelphia has a tighter market, with the median listing spending fewer days on the market—though not by much. Kansas City listings spend about 15% to 20% longer on the market. But they were spending about 10% fewer days on the market a couple of years ago.

Another metric to consider is the number of listings on the market in each metro area. At first glance, it’s Philadelphia, with more than twice as many average monthly listings over the past year, that looks like it has the bigger inventory.

Kansas City average monthly listings over the past year: 9,136
Philadelphia average monthly listings over the past year: 21,025

But like our other metrics, that alone won’t tell you everything. The Philadelphia metro area is about three times the size of Kansas City, so pound for pound, it’s Philadelphia again with the fewer listings per capita.

For about $400,000, a home shopper in Philadelphia can find a 100-year-old home in the historic Chestnut Hill neighborhood, north of downtown, or a new four-bedroom townhome in the Breeze Point neighborhood.

So the two are somewhat evenly matched when it comes to the supply of homes for sale. But for now, like a quarterback deciding whether to hand off in an option play, the Kansas City market is looking a little more favorable for shoppers who might want more time to consider their purchase.

The Philadelphia market, more like a running back looking for a few short yards to get a first down, has a little more advantage for sellers hoping for a quick sale.

Edge: Philadelphia for sellers, Kansas City for buyers


Third quarter: Housing demand

Kansas City, MO; Philadelphia, PA

(Getty Images)

Kansas City January demand score: 26.1
Philadelphia January demand score: 51.5

While Kansas City’s rising prices suggest increased demand, a market’s demand is judged by Realtor.com using internal traffic patterns that show where home shoppers are looking. Specifically, we use the page views per property.

And Philadelphia listings grab way more attention from home shoppers.

Over the past three years, Philadelphia has had about 30% more page views per property than Kansas City, after a brief moment in late 2020, when the two metro areas were getting about the same attention from potential homebuyers.

Of course, supply and demand have a push-and-pull relationship, so the tighter supply in Philadelphia could have the effect of keeping demand also elevated, as there are fewer properties for the size of the market.

Rosemary Rieke Male, a Realtor® at Better Homes and Gardens Kansas City Real Estate, says she’s seen significantly elevated demand in some parts of the metro, as certain Kansas City neighborhoods have become centers for development and new commercial activity.

“It depends on which part you’re talking about,” Rieke Male says about the demand she’s observed, which has led to prices rising more in some areas. “But places like Leawood and Prairie Village, they saw house prices going up fast.”

For a little under the median national home price, and a little below the Kansas City metro’s average, a home shopper can find a four-bedroom home with hardwood floors on a half-acre lot in Leawood, in the southern part of the metro area on the Kansas side of the border.

During the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rieke Male says, she sold two homes to California buyers who made their purchase completely remotely. The metro’s space and relative affordability, she says, drew people from more expensive coastal population hubs, keeping demand high.

But despite the tales of Californians coming to the middle of the country, the numbers say Philadelphia’s demand looks better for sellers, whereas buyers in Kansas City probably face less pressure to make a play than they would in the tighter Philly market.

Edge: Philadelphia for sellers, Kansas City for buyers


Fourth quarter: Market ‘hotness’

Kansas City January demand score: 26.1
Philadelphia January demand score: 51.5

The Realtor.com market “hotness” score is a combination of the supply score and demand score for any given area, so it’s significant that Philly has been scoring higher on the hotness metric for the past couple of years.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kansas City and Philadelphia were neck and neck on the hotness rating. But since late 2020, Philadelphia has bested Kansas City, and the gap between the two has grown slowly but steadily.

“Philadelphia has the edge on this one, it seems,” says Susan Wachter, the Albert Sussman Professor of Real Estate and Professor of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

“Employment is growing in both places,” Wachter says, “but there seem to be more job opportunities in Philly, and incomes are higher, which is probably because of how big Philly has gotten for the medical and pharmaceutical industries.”

In Wachter’s estimation, the two metros have a “small difference” when it comes to the core metrics.

“I see nothing that indicates a supply or demand imbalance for either of the two cities,” she says.

Edge: Philadelphia


Final score

With all the points tallied, it looks like Philadelphia is the better place for sellers in 2023, whereas Kansas City will be a more hospitable market for buyers.

The affordability of the two metros might be muddled a bit by other cost-of-living considerations, so the two housing markets might be more evenly matched than “hotness,” or even listing prices, would indicate. But looking to market “hotness,” the scales are tipped toward Philadelphia’s housing market. Fly, Eagles, fly!

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