Banking & Finance

Columbiana County Housing Market Is Vibrant

COLUMBIANA, Ohio – When houses go on the market in Columbiana County, they generally aren’t there long, Maureen Cline-Skowron says.

Sales have been so good, says the broker associate and director of education and business development for Century 21 Lakeside Realty, that the agency is preparing to open its third office in the county in the Town Center at Firestone Farms development in Columbiana, joining locations in downtown Columbiana and Calcutta.

“Most of what is coming on the market is selling quickly,” she said.

In 2017, 937 houses were sold in Columbiana County, a 10.8% gain from the 846 sold in 2016. The average sale price last year was $110,025, up 1.7% from the $106,222 average in 2016.

Through August, 590 houses have been sold in the county so far this year, one more than the first eight months of 2017. The average sale price of a house for the first eight months of this year was $112,119 compared with $106,616 during the same period in 2017.

During the last 180 days, five sales of more than $250,000 have closed in the Columbiana area, and another is pending for $480,000, Cline-Skowron reports.

Among the factors driving home sales in the county is interest from people in the Pittsburgh area, she says. Columbiana County housing is “significantly less expensive” than what is available in the Pittsburgh market, she reports.

Also drawing in buyers from that area is the proximity to Pittsburgh International Airport, about 45 minutes away.

“Personally, I know three pilots who live in this area,” she says.

Upscale developments in the county include The Retreat in Fairfield Township and Homestead at Firestone Farms in Columbiana.

The Retreat is one of 14 housing properties, primarily in Columbiana County, that Chuck Beiling has developed over the past 45 years. Beiling is developer of Beiling Custom Homes in Columbiana.

He didn’t intend to go into real estate development. When he was running a Chrysler dealership in the early 1970s, his health took a turn for the worse and his doctor told him to get out of the business.

Returning to his hometown of Columbiana, Beiling – an industrial engineer by trade – took two years to build a house for himself, probably the biggest in Columbiana County at the time, by his estimates.

Others watched as he built. When he was done with his house, he had six people who wanted him to build houses for them. In 1993, he purchased 110 acres to divide into lots of at least 1.8 acres, the zoning minimum in the township, so he would have property to build them.

“I’ve been accused of doing this ahead of the demand,” he says.

The Retreat features three lakes and has room for a potential fourth. One house on the market is listed at $660,000 and a property owned by former Braking Point Recovery Center owner Ryan Sheridan is valued at $959,300 by the Columbiana County auditor’s office.

Beiling no longer builds houses himself, but sells lots in The Retreat for others to develop. Lot prices range between $35,000 and $120,000.

At Firestone Farms, lots run between $30,000 and $60,000, reports Tom Mackall, president. He has about 40 lots for sale for one- or two-story houses, including some golf course lots. Landowners have to use an approved builder and submit their plans for approval.

“That has not been an issue at all. The requirements we have are what the people want,” Mackall says.

Since his company purchased the development in 2012, about 10 residential sites have been developed and existing houses in the development range between $300,000 and $600,000.

“Columbiana is the place to be,” he says.

Like Lakeside Realty’s Cline-Skowron, he attributes the surge of interest in the market to buyers from Pennsylvania looking to avoid the high cost of living there, and he expects the ethane cracker near Monaca, Pa., to drive interest as well. Additionally, he sees interest growing as the Youngstown suburbs expand and people move toward smaller school districts and towns.

Beiling credits a sales surge this year to the economy under President Donald Trump. So far this year he sold eight lots in his four active developments, with projects in Minerva and Salem alongside The Retreat. He had only expected to sell four all year, a total he reached in January.

During the prior eight years, he only sold one lot.

“I’m definitely on the Trump train,” he says.

Mackall expects interest in the city of Columbiana to grow with approval of a community reinvestment area, which will provide a tax abatement on new construction and remodeling. City Council passed the legislation in early Septmber, which now awaits state approval.

Homebuyers often experience sticker shock when they see how much real estate taxes are going to be, he says. For commercial properties, about 30% of rent goes to real estate taxes.

“It’s really going to be fun to see what happens in the town,” he says.

Beyond affordability, homebuyers find Columbiana “quaint” and “homey,” Cline-Skowron says.

There also is a lot happening in the city of Columbiana, including attractions like the small shops, Generations Cafe and Birdfish Brewing Co.

“There’s just a lot happening. People want to be a part of it without being in a city,” she says.

Pictured: Chuck Beiling of Beiling Custom Homes has sold eight lots at The Retreat this year.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.