New Residents Tout Region’s Advantages

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Seattle native Eric Davis found a listing on eBay for a house in Youngstown, bought it with money from his tax return and moved.

“It was $5,000 and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Davis, owner of Alexander’s Diagnostics in Austintown and other businesses, says. “It was a wreck and everything. But I’m from Seattle, and houses were $500,000. I’ve got four little kids. There was no way.”

That was in 2008.

“It afforded me something that I couldn’t afford anywhere else in the country, and that’s a home,” Davis says.

After living in several states, Martin Tursky, market chief operating officer for Mercy Health Youngstown and Lorain, moved to Poland in 2020 from Sandusky, Ohio, when the opportunity at Mercy opened. His wife is a Canfield native, and he was familiar with the community from visits with her family members.

Martin Tursky

The cost of living is low in Ohio in general, especially compared to either coast, he says.

“I use that when I’m recruiting physicians,” Tursky says. He tells them, “‘You get an automatic raise if you’re moving from the East or the West Coast to Ohio because the cost of living is significantly lower.’ And people say that, but until you experience it, I don’t think you realize how significantly lower it is.”

Laura Perdicaro and her husband moved to Boardman from Long Island, N.Y., in early 2023, after visiting friends they met online who live in Twinsburg. They talked with that couple about the cost of their home and their property taxes. They couldn’t believe how low they were compared to New York.

“We were talking the whole way home and we thought, this is where we need to be,” Perdicaro says.

Her husband, Tony DeStefano, works for a company that helps people negotiate lower property taxes. He can do a lot of his work online but needs to be in the office a few times per month. Perdicaro was a retail manager before the pandemic. She’s working part time at The Bread Chef in Poland and says she loves it, especially meeting people.

The couple liked Twinsburg but wanted some place with a shorter commute for DeStefano. They found a home online in Boardman that they liked and bought it, without seeing it first.

Davis, Tursky and Perdicaro exemplify the “receive” prong of the three R’s repopulation approach developed by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. The other prongs are “return” people who have left the area and “retain” young people.

The Community

Perdicaro had never been to the area before the couple bought their house. She hadn’t visited Ohio until the trip to Twinsburg. But she and DeStefano love their new community.

“We look out our window every morning and say to ourselves, ‘We live here,’” she says. She likes to watch wildlife scurry through her yard.

A comparable house in Long Island would have been much more expensive and taxes would have cost at least five times more, she says.

They befriended neighbors quickly and spend weekends visiting area breweries and restaurants and making day trips to nearby communities. They’ll go to Paladin Brewing, Noble Creature Cask House, Carmella’s restaurant, Stonebridge, The Korner, House of Bennys and many other places, as long as it’s not a chain. They marvel at how inexpensive an evening out is compared to one in Long Island.

Tursky is a Michigan native who worked at hospital systems in his home state, as well as in Canton and Sandusky and Pawtucket, R.I., before moving to the Mahoning Valley. He loves the Midwest and its people.

“There’s a difference,” Tursky, who also lived in Germany while serving in the military, says. “People in the Midwest are, you know, friendlier, more approachable.”

The Mahoning Valley is no exception. People in Poland, as well as people at Mercy Health, accepted him immediately, he says. He and his wife bought a historic house in the village.

“This is a very accepting place,” Tursky says. “And that’s very attractive because I’ve seen the other side of that where if you’re not from that area, you’re always from somewhere else.”

And he and his wife never struggle for interesting things to do in their free time, he says. They recently took in the Abba tribute concert at the Robins Theatre in Warren and enjoy visits to area parks and the Canfield Fair.

Davis describes Valley residents as “salt of the earth.”

The first house he and his family moved into when they came to the Valley was on the north side of Youngstown. “The people were incredible,” he says.

What Real Estate Agents See

Marlin Palich, regional manager and a real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, says the trend of people relocating to the Valley because they get more bang for their buck started about two years ago.

Marlin Palich

He recalls two houses in Salem bought by people moving from California. A retired couple bought one and a pair who work from home bought the other. They wanted to leave their home state because it’s so expensive.

The retired couple, who have no family in the area, wanted to be in Ohio because of the lower cost of living. They paid cash.

“They paid $400,000 for a beautiful home that would have been about $4 million where they came from,” Palich says.

They also liked the proximity to airports and to high quality medical facilities, he says.

The work-from-home couple also wanted more home for their money and liked the airport proximity and the low crime rate.

“The price of housing is so reasonable here compared to other places,” Palich says.

Samantha Aldish, president of the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors and an agent at Keller Williams Chervenic Realty in Salem, says she’s had clients recently who are relocating too.

Clients from Florida, in particular, are looking for homes in the Mahoning Valley because insurance costs in that state are so high. Those clients include people who had moved to Florida from the Valley, she says.

Samantha Aldish

The Valley offers proximity to larger cities, like Pittsburgh, but taxes in Ohio are lower than in Pennsylvania or West Virginia. “Some are buying bigger homes because they’re combining families,” Aldish says.

Palich believes the low housing costs of the area need to be promoted. He’s a supporter of affordable housing too, believing home ownership builds wealth and community.

“I’d love to see everyone be able to have that,” Palich says. “I think we need to be promoting our cost of living, our housing and how much bang you get for your buck.”

How They Got Here

Davis was working in Seattle as a mobile automotive technician and living in a rental when he found the house on eBay. He was looking for a tool to use for his side job in air conditioner repair when he discovered the platform included real estate listings.

It was during the 2008 real estate crisis and his landlord was facing foreclosure. Davis couldn’t afford to buy a house in his home city. The Seattle where he grew up reminds him of the Valley with its blue-collar history. Boeing moved out in 2001, the technology industry moved in and the cost of living spiked.

Eric Davis

Davis packed up his family in his 1994 Dodge Caravan and drove to the Valley. He bought a book on home repairs and started to fix up the North Side house while staying at a hotel. He fixed the plumbing, rewired the electricity and painted the house so they could move in.

He interviewed for a job at a vehicle repair shop in Warren and was offered the job. On his way back home, he spotted a shop in Girard that was available for rent.

Davis had only $600, given to him by his in-laws to buy a new refrigerator. He paid it to the shop owner as first month’s rent and fixed an old car there to cover the security deposit. The business grew and he’s moved it a few times since.

Davis says he nearly fell over when he saw the property taxes on his first house. The bill was about $100. His parents and siblings eventually moved to the Valley too and Perdicaro’s sister is considering relocating here.

Perdicaro and her husband’s move to Boardman started through a band, Gaelic Storm, they discovered while trying to find music for their wedding. The couple are part of Blackstrap Yarnspinners, a band that performs rock’n’roll versions of sea shanties. Their wedding seven years ago was pirate-themed and they were looking for a band that would fit when they found Gaelic Storm. They became devoted fans.

Friendships developed among the fans and Perdicaro and DeStefano began visiting their new friends around the country. When they planned to attend an Irish festival in central Ohio, the friends in Twinsburg insisted they visit.

Tursky and his wife married in St. Charles Church in Boardman in 1996. He’s seen the Valley transform in the years since he began visiting.

“The Mahoning Valley, I think, has worked really hard to set a path for the future, to come up with a strategy of where they’re going in the future,” he says. “And I think you’re starting to really see that it’s taken hold and I think it’s gaining some momentum.”

He attends Regional Chamber and other meetings for his job and sees the change happening.

“There’s good cooperation, partnerships, relationships that have developed through time that are really looking at what the Valley was, where it’s going and what people believe they want it to be,” Tursky says. “And you see that progress. It’s not just words. It’s not just people talking about it. You can see it.”

Pictured at top: Laura Perdicaro and her husband moved to Boardman from Long Island, N.Y., in early 2023.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.