Sheila McLaughlin reports:
New homebuilding in Greater Cincinnati is taking off again, with Liberty Township in Butler County the hot spot for growth in single family homes in the four-county region, an Enquirer analysis shows.
“Liberty Township is 50 percent built out. We still do have a lot of land, so there’s a lot of opportunities for developers,” Township Economic Development Director Caroline McKinney said.
As of Oct. 31, Liberty Township hadissued 212 building permits this year for single family homes. If the building continues at that pace, the township could end the year with permits issued to build a total of 248 new homes, according to Enquirer projections based on actual permits through earlier this fall.
That would represent a 53 percent jump in new housing starts in the township since 2008, when the Great Recession was gripping the economy. That’s the highest new home start number since 2009, when there were 167.
Liberty Township is following a national trend. The U.S. Commerce Department recently reported that residential construction permits in October reached their highest level since June 2008.
David Dietz and Sarah Paige had lived in West Chester since 2007. But Dietz said they rushed to move to West Chester when he was promoted to his employer’s home office in Fairfield. They didn’t quite get the house they wanted.
A house in Liberty Township will provide the couple with upgrades such as a gas stove for Paige, who does a lot of cooking, and a spacious, two-story great room, Dietz said. The couple now has a 4-year-old son.
“One of the reasons we went to Liberty is we couldn’t find anything in West Chester. There just wasn’t a lot of inventory available when we were looking so we decided to build to get what we wanted,” Dietz said. “This is supposed to be the forever home. It’s only about 15 miles away but it really seems like it’s out in the country. It is a lot quieter.”
Warren County’s Hamilton Township ranked second in housing starts with 145 single-family building permits issued, yet it hasn’t recovered from the economic slump. Permits, however, are on the rise from 2012 when the year ended with 125 new housing starts. Building in Hamilton Township peaked in 2001 with 667 new homes built.
Butler County is the only county in the region to outpace its 2008 housing starts. As October wound down, 27 more permits were issued in Butler County compared to all of 2008 when 346 permits were issued.
Warren County, which before the Great Recession was the second fastest growing county in the state, maintained the regional lead in home building with 483 permits.
A just-announced development called Alverta on a former golf course in Mason recently drew more than 300 people to an open house. Eighty of them set appointments to meet with the builder. That’s about twice the number of lots available in the subdivision’s first phase, which is priced in the $300,000 to $400,000 range for homes that will range from 2,200 square feet to 3,800 square feet.
“It’s picking up out there,” said Dan Tartabini, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes. “The market has really been giving us a lot of momentum really all year. There’s increasing traffic in our model homes.”
M/I has two developments underway in Liberty Township, including Carriage Hill, which was selected for Homerama this year and in 2014. The six showcased homes there were sold before the home show opened this year and buyers paid between $850,000 and $1.3 million.
M/I’s prices at Windsor Estates, where Dietz and Paige were scheduled to move in Nov. 27, illustrate the range of housing prices around the region. Windsor Estates homes range from $200,000 to $340,000 and 1,700 to 4,600 square feet.
Tartabini said the interest in new homes definitely on the rebound. An M/I development in Fairfield Township sold out last year. Besides Liberty Township, M/I also has subdivisions under construction in Clermont County’s Union Township.
Kathy Kramer, an agent with Star One Realtors who sells new construction and existing homes in Liberty and West Chester townships, said the uptick is a result of pent-up demand for new houses.
The bonus for developers is that they are getting premium prices for their lots, she said, and price points are “way up.”
“The market peaked in 2005, 2006 … and went for a flying dive,” Kramer said. “All those years builders weren’t building houses. You’ve got a six-year market. There’s pent-up demand.”
Even though there’s plenty of existing homes for sale on the market in the townships, Kramer said people who are looking for new homes are after something different than someone who would buy an existing property.
“They want everything that’s up to date – all the nuances, granite, updated cabinets,” she said. “These buyers are savvy and they are schooled. They are Internet savvy and they are on it.”
Rachel Richardson contributed.