Realtor Gwen Ritchie puts a lock box on the front door of a home on March 22 during a listing appointment on Sleepy Hollow Drive in Monroe.
Butler County’s overall housing recovery has broken even, with the average price of homes sold across the county returning to pre-recession 2007 levels.
However, average sale prices have most improved in a majority of the county’s townships. Sales prices — which affect appraised property values for tax purposes and homeowner equity — remain depressed in the county’s cities, according to a Journal-News analysis of single-family home and condominium sales provided by the Multiple Listing Service of Greater Cincinnati Inc.
“It does depend on where you are,” said John Holbrock, co-owner of Realty First, a Hamilton-based real estate firm. Holbrock is a former president of the recently re-named trade group Butler-Warren Association of Realtors.
Of Butler County’s largest cities, the one with the most depressed average sold price of homes is Fairfield. The average price of homes sold last year in Fairfield remains nearly 13 percent below 2007 levels; whereas in Hamilton, prices are still down almost 9 percent and in Middletown prices are still down almost 2 percent, according to the figures provided by the MLS, a division of Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.
Urban areas were often more affected by foreclosures and other distressed properties that dragged resale prices down, said Jeanette Schneider, senior vice president of RE/MAX of Southern Ohio, which includes the Cincinnati-Dayton region.
“When we’re not having so many foreclosures and short sales, we’ll start to see sales prices inch up,” she said. “It’s just probably behind the curve a little bit.”
Last year, 4,490 homes sold in Butler County and the Warren County portions of Middletown and Monroe for an average price of $161,266. By comparison, 4,700 homes sold in the same area for $160,135 in 2007. The average sold price rose less than 1 percent over that time span.
Homes sold last year in Fairfield for $119,720 on average, compared to $137,283 in 2007; Hamilton homes sold last year for $86,571 compared to $94,989 in 2007; and in Middletown, prices dropped to $77,620 last year from $79,115 in 2007 prior to the start of the Great Recession that December.
Lemon, Madison, Fairfield, Hanover and Liberty townships saw the biggest price jumps.
“What we’re seeing right now especially in Butler County I would say, you’ve got areas like West Chester, Liberty; that’s kind of the new area. Those and markets like them become the areas people want to move to and probably speak more to move-up buyers,” Schneider said.
Hamilton and Middletown are built up, said Gwen Ritchie, a real estate agent for Huff Realty, and also a former president of the local real estate agent association.
“They may not be experiencing some of the uptick in pricing because they don’t have the availability of land for new construction,” she said.
The housing market today, including the styles and home designs buyers want, isn’t the same as 2005, Ritchie said.
“When the area has an ample amount of jobs and the consumers feel that the economy is strong, I think that will impact the housing market also. There are still some people that are a little stressed financially,” she said.
“I think also our population’s shifting, and as it changes the types of housing people want may differ from some of the stock that we have.”
It’s important to note the sales price of a home and the property tax appraisal come from a different process. County auditor offices use a mass appraisal approach that does not consider appliances, or the inside condition of the house, for example.
County auditor appraisers look at quality of construction, square footage and what it would cost to build the house new, and how much the cost would depreciate for due to the age of the house. They also look at sales of the most similar houses in the same neighborhood, according to experts.
The county auditor considers comparable sales prices over a three-year period when updating appraised values, a longer time period than real estate agents or bank appraisers use. More weight is put on the most recent sales.
The auditor’s office only does appraisals of homes for tax purposes.
Every three years auditors conduct a triennial update, that uses a statistical approach to adjust appraised values based on market conditions and comparable sales prices. Every six years, auditors must do a reappraisal where they view each property individually from the outside.
Butler County’s most recent appraisal was completed for 2014. The county’s total property values — including commercial, residential, agricultural and other property — lost almost 2 percent between 2011 and 2014. Altogether, county property is now valued at approximately $7.4 billion, according to the auditor’s office.
Residential property values sank more than 2 percent from 2011 to 2014 in the most recent reappraisal process to about $5.2 billion, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office.
This article originally appeared in Journal-News.