Moving to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh combines the job opportunities, and cultural benefits of a big city with the lower cost of living and neighborhood feel of a smaller town. With a population of 305,012, this city sits in west-central Pennsylvania at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. It’s known as “The Steel City” for its long history with the steel industry and steel-related businesses. And because of its 446 bridges, it’s also known as the “City of Bridges.”

Pittsburgh is frequently identified as one of the most livable cities in the nation. It was recently named among the Best Cities to Relocate to in America, Most Romantic Cities for Boomers, and Most Secure Places to Live. Housing costs are lower than the national average. As more technical companies relocate here, Pittsburgh is shedding its blue-collar reputation and reinventing itself.

Good schools and lots of kid-friendly activities along with economic opportunity attract families. And the plethora of colleges and universities create a diverse population with a constant supply of young people who remain in Pittsburgh after they graduate. Pittsburgh also offers a tremendous variety of cultural opportunities. The city is home to the Pittsburgh Ballet, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Pittsburgh Dance Council, the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and The Trust Presents Broadway series. It’s not an overstatement to say the city is sports-obsessed. The Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates keep fans enthralled.

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Living in Pittsburgh, PA: What to Know Before Moving to Pittsburgh

In the past, Pittsburgh was known for its blue-collar roots and a strong connection to the steel industry, earning the city its enduring “Steel City” nickname. But modern Pittsburgh is re-inventing itself for the new millennium.

Pros and Cons of Living in Pittsburgh

Pros

  • Arts and culture
  • Attractive downtown
  • Cost of living
  • Sports
  • Good time to buy a home
  • Technology innovation

Cons

  • Low job growth projections
  • Clouds and rain year round
  • Cold winters
  • Commute times
  • High taxes

Tax Rates

According to wallethub.com, Pennsylvania has the 3rd highest tax rate in the country. And the state ranked as having the highest gas tax in the nation. Here are the taxes you can expect:

  • Income tax: The Pennsylvania state individual income tax rate is 3.07 percent.
  • Property tax: Pittsburgh’s average property tax rate of 2.15% is higher than the Pennsylvania rate of 1.50% and the national rate of 1.21%. Property tax on a house worth $146,800 – the median home value – would be $3,159, compared to the state average of $2,211.
  • Sales tax: The combined state, county, and city sales tax rate for Pittsburgh is 7%. The Pennsylvania state sales tax rate is 6%, and the Allegheny County tax is 1%.

Housing Market

It’s a good time to buy in Pittsburgh. The median home price is $146,800, well below the US median of $219,700. Home appreciation over the last ten years is 78.8%, and home appreciation is up 13.1% since last year. Renters make up 43.7% of the Pittsburgh population with a median rental rate of $1,172. Just 2.3% of houses and apartments in Pittsburgh are available to rent.

The least expensive neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are Marshall-Shadeland, Beltzhoover, Lincoln Place, Mt Oliver, Fairywood, Esplen, East Hills, Homewood West, Arlington, and Homewood South.

Cost of Living

The cost of living for a family of four in the Pittsburgh metro area is $78,769. Pittsburgh’s cost of living is 5.80% lower than the U.S. average. The cost of housing, health care, and groceries are below the state and national average, while utilities and transportation are higher. Bestplaces.com ranks Pittsburgh’s cost of living at 94.2 – slightly less expensive than the national average of 100. Job growth has been slow – just  0.24% over the last year.

Weather & Natural Disasters

Pittsburgh sees a wide range of weather – sun, heat, rain, snow, and cold. Extreme weather is rare. With an average of 38 inches of rain and 28 inches of snow each year, Pittsburgh gets some kind of precipitation about 140 days per year. May is the wettest month. There is an average of 160 sunny days each year, less than the US average of 205. Average summer highs hover around 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter day highs average in the high 30’s low with night times in the low 20s unless a storm is raging.

Historically, Pennsylvania has dealt with some memorable natural disasters. Flooding, blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes have created isolated, but tremendous damage in the past. With climate change, weather conditions can pop up when least expected so always keep an ear to the ground during storm season.

Economy & Job Market

The median household income of a Pittsburgh family is $40,009 a year, below the US average of $53,482 a year. At 4.2%, the area’s unemployment rate is higher than the US average of 3.9%. Job growth has been slow. Pittsburgh has seen the job market increase by just 0.2% over the last year.  Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 24.4%, but that is lower than the US average of 33.5% for the same period.

Top industries in Pittsburgh include advanced manufacturing, healthcare, energy, financial and business services, and information technology. The city is also attracting an increasing number of emerging industries. Pittsburgh is home to the nation’s second largest inland port, 18 commercial railroad systems, and several interstate highways.

Some of the nation’s largest companies make Pittsburgh their home. These include Alcoa, HJ Heinz, PNC Bank, PPG Industries, Mellon Bank, US Steel, Allegheny Technologies, Wesco, Bayer North America, GlaxoSmithKline, American Eagle Outfitters, and General Nutrition Centers.

Traffic and Transportation

The Port Authority of Allegheny County, the largest transit agency in southwestern Pennsylvania, operates a total of 102 routes, including 98 bus, three light rail, and one incline. The “T,” or light rail and subway system, travels both above and below ground. Built in 1984, it is clean and safe. Covering 25 miles, the “T” provides service to downtown Pittsburgh and several communities to the south of the city.

Pittsburgh also offers a mode of transport few cities have — inclines. The Monongahela Incline — the Mon Incline for short —  is the oldest continuously operating funicular railway (a cable railroad, especially one on a mountainside, where ascending and descending cars counterbalance each other) in the US. It transports more than a half a million riders each year and runs every fifteen minutes. As a bonus, it offers great views of the city.  The 140-year-old Duquesne Incline will take you up to the observation deck where you’ll enjoy the breathtaking views.

While the average commute time in Pittsburgh is 23.8 minutes – slightly less than the national average — it’s not always an easy commute. Pittsburgh ranks seventh on the list of the ten most congested urban areas in the US. Pittsburgh’s Parkway, from I-79 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, is one of the most congested corridors in the nation.

Pittsburgh’s walk scores — 62  for transit, 56 for biking, and 61 for walking — are good. The city offers bike paths as well. Despite the congestion, 55.8% of Pittsburgh residents drive their car alone, 17.1% take mass transit, 8.5% carpool, and 4.6% work from home.

What to Do

City or State Parks

  • Phipps Conservatory. Beautiful seasonal flower shows and special exhibits, a nationally-recognized orchid collection, butterflies, botanical gardens, and fun family activities make this a must-see in Pittsburgh.
  • Mount Washington. Take the Duquesne Incline, a unique Pittsburgh experience, to Mount Washington for stunning views of the city.

Attractions/notable destination

  • Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Warty pigs. Philippine crocodiles. Clouded leopards. Giant anteaters.  The world’s largest rat. The pygmy hippo. A polar bear. Sea otters. All are residents of the 77-acre Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
  • National Aviary. Visit this fascinating collection of more than 600 exotic and endangered birds from around the world.
  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History. One of the top natural history museums in the country, the museum maintains and displays a variety of artifacts, objects, and scientific experiments.
  • Carnegie Museum of Art. The museum boasts a collection of more than 30,000 objects including painting and sculpture, prints and drawings, photographs, architectural casts, renderings and models, decorative arts and design, and film, video, and digital imagery.
  • Carnegie Science Museum. This destination is Pittsburgh’s most-visited museum, with four floors of interactive exhibits. Marvel at astronomy in Buhl Planetarium, discover the science behind robotics in Roboworld and learn about the human body in BodyWorks.
  • Frick Art and Historical Center. This beautiful campus includes the historic Clayton Mansion, Frick Art Museum, Car and Carriage Museum, Scenic Gardens, and Greenhouses.

Professional sports teams

Pittsburghers take their sports seriously. They’re proud of their six-time Super Bowl Champion Steelers, three-time Stanley Cup-winning  Penguins and the five-time World Series winning Major League Baseball Pirates.

It’s not surprising that Sporting News magazine named Pittsburgh Best Sports City and why the USA TODAY 10 Best Reader’s Choice poll named Pittsburgh as one of the winners of their Best City for Sports awards. But there’s more to sports in Pittsburgh than the best-known teams. You can also cheer the Riverhounds professional soccer team, Pittsburgh Passion women’s professional football, Washington Wild Things professional Frontier League baseball, Pittsburgh Power arena football, and the Steel City Yellow Jackets ABA Basketball team.

For more information on things to do in Pittsburgh, go to www.tripadvisor.com or www.visitpittsburgh.com.

Schools and Universities

Pittsburgh public schools spend $24,040 per student, well above the US average school expenditure of  $12,383. There are about 14 students per teacher in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has 226 schools: 154 public schools and 72 private schools. The Pittsburgh Public School District was recently named one of the Country’s Top Ten Large Urban Districts by GreatSchools.org. Visit the Pittsburgh Public Schools website for more information on all of Pittsburgh’s schools.

The city boasts several colleges and universities, including:

  • Carnegie Mellon University, a private institution founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie, sits on 152 acres.  Total undergraduate enrollment numbers 6,896. The university is world renowned for its Carnegie Institute of Technology that has educated some of the world’s cutting-edge computer scientists. The College of Fine Arts and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences are also well-respected. Graduate programs include the highly ranked Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Institute of Technology, and School of Computer Science.
  • Duquesne University is a private Roman Catholic institution founded in 1878. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 5,942 and has a  50-acre campus. It consistently ranks among America’s top Catholic universities.
  • The University of Pittsburgh, known as ‘Pitt,’ is a public institution founded in 1787. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 19,326. The campus is 145 acres. The university is nationally recognized for its highly ranked School of Medicine, School of Education, and Swanson School of Engineering. The School of Medicine is particularly well regarded for its research, working in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
  • Washington and Jefferson College is a small private institution founded in 1781. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,405. It’s best known for its exceptional liberal arts and sciences education. It also ranks first in the country per capita for producing attorneys and third in the country for producing physicians and medical researchers.

Other schools in Pittsburgh include Chatham University, Point Park University, LaRoche University, and Carlow University.

Crime

A recent realtor.com survey ranked Pittsburgh as the second safest affordable metro area in the US. But like many cities, the overall crime rate in Pittsburgh is 37% higher than the national average. Year-over-year data shows that violent crimes have decreased by 7% while property crimes have decreased by 3%. Your chance of being a victim of a violent crime is 1 in 153. Your chance of being a victim of a property crime is 1 in 33.

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Best Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, PA

Regent Square

Regent Square, located on the eastern edge of the city between the busy Parkway East and Forbes Avenue, was named by Niche.com as the best place to buy a house in Pittsburgh and the best neighborhood to raise a family. This compact neighborhood with an urban feel borders 600-acre Frick Park, the largest of Pittsburgh’s parks. You’ll find a popular dog park as well as hiking trails, soccer fields, and tennis courts.

For such a small neighborhood, there’s a varied selection of restaurants and bars. Try Madeleine Bakery & Bistro for hot bread and pastries. Visit the Thai Cottage for Thai food or El Burro Comedor for Mexican. Go to ease for modern comfort food. Or do Sunday brunch at Square Café featuring fresh local produce. Plan a casual night out at  D’s Six Pak and Dogs, for international bottled beer and the dog of the week.

Most residents own their own homes, but there are plenty of rental apartments.

  • Population: 4,081
  • Median Household Income: $77,763
  • Median Home Value: $220,326
  • Median Rent Prices: $1,038
  • Schools:  Pittsburgh Greenfield K-8, Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-8, Pittsburgh Linden International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy 6-8 Magnet, and Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12.
  • Something to try:  Catch a film at the Regent Square Theatre, one of the largest nonprofit art houses in the region, and one of America’s last great single-screen movie houses.

Squirrel Hill North

Niche.com  named Squirrel Hill North the number one neighborhood in Pittsburgh.  While the area has an urban feel, there’s plenty of green space. Squirrel Hill North sits between the 600-acre Frick Park and Schenley Park, named one of “America’s Coolest City Parks” by Travel and Leisure magazine. With 456 acres, there’s plenty of room to hike, bike, and even play an 18-hole round of golf.

Squirrel Hill North is a very walkable neighborhood. One of the nicest strolls is through the Murray Hill Historic District, known for its Victorian houses. The neighborhood is also home to Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University.

This neighborhood has a history as a center for Jewish life in Pittsburgh. Twenty-six percent of Greater Pittsburgh’s Jewish population lives in the neighborhood. Squirrel Hill North boasts a JCC, kosher food stores, and over a dozen synagogues.

Hungry but not sure what you’re in the mood for?  Stroll the neighborhood and take your pick. Want Chinese? Try Everyday Noodles or Chengdu Gourmet. Middle Eastern? Go for  Naya and Aladdin’s.  Want pizza? Decide which of the famous rivals Aiello’s and Mineo’s you prefer. Looking for breakfast?  Look for Pamela’s. And NU Modern Jewish Bistro offers traditional Jewish dishes like potato latkes and matzo ball soup.

Over 60 percent of residents own their homes.

  • Population: 11,793
  • Median Household Income: $102,502
  • Median Home Value: $437,353
  • Median Rent Prices: $1,076
  • Schools: Pittsburgh Greenfield K-8, Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-8, Pittsburgh Linden International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy 6-8 Magnet, and Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12.
  • Something to try: Play a round of golf in Schenley Park.

Point Breeze

Point Breeze, located east of Downtown, is among the three top neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. But the best-known home in this neighborhood is the Henry Clay Frick mansion known as “Clayton.” It’s one of the best-preserved Gilded Age mansions in the nation.

Home values are high in this leafy neighborhood. Over 68% of residents own their homes.

The neighborhood’s quaint business district offers local shops and a variety of restaurants including Point Brugge Café, famous for its steaming bowls of mussels in garlic, and Pino for Italian food and an inviting bar.

  • Population: 7,376
  • Median Household Income: $109,215
  • Home Price: $280,027
  • Rent Prices: $1,121
  • Schools: Pittsburgh Greenfield K-8, Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-8, Pittsburgh Linden International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy 6-8 Magnet, and Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12.
  • Something to try: Take a step back to the gilded age and tour Clayton, the 22-room Frick mansion and its 5.5-acre campus. Admission is free.

Squirrel Hill South

This neighborhood on the border of Frick Park and north of Route 376 is popular with young professionals. 57% of residents rent in this area. The 43% of residents who own their homes navigated a competitive real estate market.

Squirrel Hill South is a very walkable neighborhood with a quaint downtown. Check out the interesting local shops. Or visit one of the many local restaurants like the Green Pepper, a very popular contemporary Korean lounge and restaurant.

Due to higher than average housing, food, and transportation costs, Squirrel Hill South is one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.

  • Population: 16,139
  • Median Household Income: $66,111
  • Median Home Price: $287,482
  • Median Rent Price: $1,031
  • Schools:  Pittsburgh Greenfield K-8, Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-8, Pittsburgh Linden International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy 6-8 Magnet, Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12.
  • Something to try: Explore one of the hiking trails in Frick Park.

Shadyside

Shadyside attracts young professionals and families. This walkable neighborhood revolves around the eclectic Walnut Street business district. Nearly three-quarters of the residents rent, and home buyers find a competitive, expensive real estate market.

Victorian-style mansions and boutique hotels line the streets and make it worth visiting. Green space and parking are hard to come by, but Mellon Park is just around the corner and offers a beautiful park with a walled garden and sports fields.

You’ll find a range of eateries from burgers at Stack’d, to more upscale food at Casbah or Soba. Visit one of the local bars and lounges like Le Mardi Gras for its drinks made with freshly squeezed juices. Or try a night out at Mad Mex and The Yard for beer, with dozens of taps and lots of specials.

  • Population: 13,574
  • Median household income: $48,293
  • Median Home Price: $278,803
  • Median Rent Price: $1,201
  • Schools: Pittsburgh Liberty International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Fort Pitt PreK-5, Pittsburgh Montessori PreK-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Fulton International Studies PreK-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Dilworth Traditional Academy PreK-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5, Pittsburgh Obama International Baccalaureate 6-12 Magnet, Pittsburgh Peabody 9-12.
  • Something to try: Find Roslyn Place, a short street off of Ellsworth Avenue. One of the country’s only remaining wooden streets, it is “paved” with 26,000 oak blocks.

Swisshelm Park

If you’re looking for a bit of suburbia in Pittsburgh, Swisshelm Park may be the place for you. The area is full of suburban-style ranch and two-story brick homes. 86% of residents own their own homes.  Anyone who wants to become a homeowner may have a challenging time – real estate inventory is low.

Residents enjoy recreational programs at the Sarah Jackson Black Community Center. The popular Nine Mile Run Trail follows a small stream of the same name from Frick Park to the Monongahela River. The Swisshelm Park entrance to this trail begins at Old Browns Hill.

  • Population: 1,309
  • Median household income: $65,795
  • Median Home Value: $140,200
  • Median Rent Prices: $781
  • Schools: Pittsburgh Greenfield K-8, Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-8, Pittsburgh Linden International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy 6-8 Magnet, Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12.
  • Something to try: Explore the popular Nine-Mile Run Trail.

Downtown

If you want to be in the very center of a vibrant urban community, the Downtown district may be for you. Walkers and bikers love it. Residents kayak, boat, hike, bike, rollerblade, run, and fish with the glittering skyline behind them.

The city is surrounded by the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers and steep hills, forming a dramatic backdrop for a livable urban environment. It’s convenient to all major highways and the hub for the Allegheny County public transit bus and light rail systems. Point State Park is the largest green space in Downtown, connecting the three rivers.

Skyscrapers mixed in with gorgeous 19th-century buildings make this neighborhood both historic and modern. 82% of residents own their own homes, and residential choices range from luxury or loft style condominiums to high-end or market rate rental units.

When you live Downtown, you’re close to a wide range of cultural opportunities thanks to venues like Heinz Hall, Byham Theater, O’Reilly Theater, the Benedum Center, and the Wood Street and SPACE Galleries.Point Park University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh make Downtown their home, as does the public magnet arts high school CAPA.

  • Population: 4,823
  • Median Household Income: $99,882
  • Median Home Value: $290,559
  • Median Rent Price: $1,530
  • Schools:  Pittsburgh Vann PreK-8, Pittsburgh Weil PreK-8, Pittsburgh Miller PreK-8, Pittsburgh CAPA Creative and Performing Arts 6-12 Magnet, Pittsburgh Science and Technology 6-12 Magnet, Pittsburgh Milliones University Prep 6-12 Magnet.
  • Something to try: Go kayaking or boating from Point State Park in the shadow of the Pittsburgh skyline.

Greenfield

This family-friendly neighborhood southeast of the downtown area offers spectacular views of the skyline and adjacent Schenley Park. The area is popular with first time home buyers since the housing market is affordable. Just over half of the residents own their homes.

Greenfield is also home to the Magee Recreation Center which offers community and youth programs.

You’ll appreciate the convenient business center peppered with popular local cafes and bars. Copper Kettle Brewing Co. is the only brew-on-premises shop in Pennsylvania. You can create your own single batch one-of-a-kind beers.

Or try Hough’s Taproom and Brewpub, sometimes called the “social center” of Greenfield. And you can grab pizzas as small as six inches and as large as 28 inches at Rialto Pizza. Or if you’re craving farm-to-table, visit Staghorn Garden Café.

  • Population: 8,082
  • Median household income: $60,763
  • Median Home Price: $141,365
  • Median Rent Price: $1,014
  • Schools: Pittsburgh Greenfield K-8, Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-8, Pittsburgh Linden International Studies K-5 Magnet, Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy 6-8 Magnet, Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12.
  • Something to try: Take a stroll to St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church on Saline Street, a beautiful spot that was Andy Warhol’s boyhood church.

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