Butler County house prices rising fast, but on lower side of nation’s costs

National mortgage rates are on course to surpass 5%, a level not seen since February 2011, when the typical home in the U.S. was less than half the price of today’s typical home. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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National mortgage rates are on course to surpass 5%, a level not seen since February 2011, when the typical home in the U.S. was less than half the price of today’s typical home. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Fairfield’s median housing cost rose 20.8 percent in past year, followed by Hamilton, Middletown

As with housing deals across the country, local median house sales have risen dramatically the past year, with those in Fairfield jumping most quickly among Butler County’s cities, at 20.8 percent from November of 2020 to the same month of 2021.

They climbed 14.8 percent in Hamilton during the year, and 12.7 percent in Middletown.

The prices for single homes across Butler County as a whole rose 11.7 percent to a median cost of $239,000, up from $213,900. Among the county’s cities, prices during the year rose most slowly in Oxford, at 2.3 percent, according to data from the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) of Greater Cincinnati.

Increases in home prices also were eye-catching over the past four years. Here were the percentage increases and costs for Butler County and its cities from November of 2017 to 2021, also according to MLS of Greater Cincinnati:

  • Hamilton’s median home prices rose fastest, at 59.8 percent, lifting from $97,000 to $155,000.
  • Middletown’s were up 55.1 percent percent, from $90,250 to $140,000;
  • Fairfield’s rose 46.2 percent, from $147,000 to $215,000;
  • Butler County overall prices were up 40.6 percent, from $170,000 to $239,000; and
  • Oxford’s climbed 23.4 percent, from $178,200 to $219,900.

“In four years, we’ve gone from $170,000 to $239,000 as the median price” countywide, said Daryl Dunn, president of the Butler-Warren Association of Realtors. “That’s a humongous jump.”

“Normally, 3 or 4 percent a year was what we calculated would be kind of a more normal number, but it’s not been normal the past couple of years. It’s been a whole new animal,” he said.

How affordable are area houses?

Given the quickly rising prices, how affordable are houses in Butler County now?

“I’m going to say they have to be pretty affordable because they’re flying off the shelves,” said Dunn, an owner/broker with Greentree Realty. “I’ve been in the business for 28 years, and I would have never thought that the market could just shoot like this. It’s like if you look at a business graph, it’s at a 45-degree angle, straight up.”

It has been going that way “a long time, and sooner or later, there’s got to be some kind of adjustment,” he said. “So we’re hoping for just maybe a flattening of the curve. You’ve heard that term before.”

For owners, a flattening of sale prices would be preferable to a drop following the bursting of a housing bubble, “because you remember what happened in 2008-2009,” Dunn said.

One reason for the faster percentage increases by Hamilton and Middletown — aside from them having significantly lower starting prices four years ago — likely is that both cities have worked to demolish abandoned and blighted houses that were lowering the values of surrounding neighborhoods. In 2016 alone, about 100 were town down between those two cities.

ExploreFrom 2016: Demolition of blighted properties continues in Butler County

Both Hamilton and Middletown also have placed emphasis on developing their downtowns and business areas to make themselves more attractive, with more jobs.

Area housing prices rank well nationally

Prices may be rocketing locally, as they are nationally, but they’re still reasonable compared to other parts of the country, especially on the East and West coasts, according to a study Porch.com released in November based on sales data from Zillow.

Hamilton County’s median home price of $215,550 ranked 11th lowest among the country’s 88 largest counties. The lowest large-county median price was $142,667 in Hidalgo County, Texas. The highest was $1,593,013 in San Mateo County, Calif.

That Porch.com study ranked all the country’s counties by median sales prices that had populations above 200,000.

Among the 117 mid-sized counties, Montgomery County had the 3rd lowest prices, at $152,867 and Butler County had 28th lowest at $237,547.

And among 131 the “small counties” with more than 200,000 people, Clermont ranked 54th lowest, at $248,831. In that same category, Warren County was 81st lowest, at $304,238.

For states as a whole, Porch said Ohio had the 9th lowest median sale price of $186,211, a jump of 15.3 during the year, with West Virginia and Mississippi having the first and second lowest prices, respectively, and Hawaii the highest, at $764,146.

Advice for new homeowners

Dunn had advice, particularly for first-time buyers who may find difficulty affording houses.

“Home-buying is tough, because a lot of people that are buying are maxing themselves out because of the rising prices, in order to get into their first home,” he said. “With the way the prices are going up, that number just gets too high for your first-time home buyer.”

“That’s what we really don’t want to have, because a first-time homebuyer is a large, large piece of the market,” Dunn said.

First-time buyers should consult with trusted real-estate agents so they can evaluate the many factors that go into home prices, he said.

All buyers need to know two things, he said: 1. How much the bank says you can afford; and 2. “How much you actually know you can afford. Because sometimes, they’re not the same thing.”

With buyers quickly bidding on homes lately, it’s also important to be pre-approved for loans, he said, “If you like it, you’d better make an offer now, and you’d better be ready, and have all your ducks in a row in order to put an offer in.”

Otherwise, people have been snapping up homes within days, he said.

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