By Eric Schwartzberg
Construction of new homes and sales of existing homes both saw sizeable increases for the first quarter of the year in both Butler County and the region.
That indicates growing optimism in the housing market, according to Dan Dressman, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.
“We are pleased with what we have seen so far in the regional housing market and expect that these increases will continue through the spring and summer buying market,” Dressman said. “I think it has a lot to do with the fact that values of existing homes have improved dramatically, the number of foreclosures is almost non-existent at this time and … just overall the employment rate has improved.”
Single-family home permits were up 27.9 percent in the four-county area of Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties in the first quarter, going from 573 single-family permits issued through March in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties, compared to 448 in 2015 during that same time.
All of the counties in the HBA’s jurisdiction experienced double digit increases, with Butler County rising 24.6 percent, Warren County 24.9 percent, Hamilton County 40.2 percent and Clermont County 22 percent.
Butler County’s boost was mainly the result of Liberty Twp., which produced 63 of the county’s 142 total permits for the three-month period.
“A lot of people who were on the fence are jumping into the market and I think the builders are seeing the activity level increase and … some of the plans they may have had previously that were on the shelf, they’ve dusted them off and they’ve gone ahead and applied for permits,” he said. “It’s all driven by demand.”
It’s also easier now for both builders and home buyers to get financing, he said.
Dressman said a challenge ahead is the shortage of available lots, due to the lack of construction lending over the last several years and the fact that lots that were available have been absorbed, he said.
“It’s not at this point a crisis situation but it’s causing prices of lots to go up, which is going to translate into higher home prices at some point in time,” he said.
That also will likely affect the price of existing homes, Dressman said.
“It’s supply and demand,” he said. “The same thing that you’re seeing in new construction will be the same issue (in sales of existing homes) because less quality lots are going to be available, they’re going to be at a higher price, which is going to cause home prices to go up.”
Home prices already are on the rise, as are home sales in Greater Cincinnati and Butler and Warren counties for the first quarter of the year.
Greater Cincinnati home sales for the first four months of 2016, home sales are up 9.3 percent over the first four months of 2015, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. In Butler County, home sales rose 2.07 percent in the first quarter of 2016, while Warren County saw a 5.63 rise in such sales.
“Inventory is very low right now,” said Patti Stehlin, chief operating officer and partner of Star One Realtors and president of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. “If you’re looking (for a home) in the price range of $150,000 to $250,000, because inventory is low, homes that are listed in that price range are flying off the market.”
“If they’re listed properly and they’re in good condition, they’re selling the same day, sometimes within hours, sometimes before they’ve hit the MLS system,” Stehlin said.
Sellers are also getting a good deal when it comes to selling price, she said.
“You don’t want to overprice but you are getting your fair market value, for sure,” Stehlin said.
The positive trend has continued beyond the first quarter, with home sales for the region in April coming to 2,337, up 15 percent compared to the 2,032 sold in April 2015.
Butler County home sales increased 20.75 percent in April with 483 sales compared to 400 sales in April 2015 and Warren County home sales increased 27.07 percent in April with 291 compared to 229 sales in April 2015.