Residential Construction on Upswing in the Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Zach Struharik has reason to be optimistic about this construction season. “We’re on pace to have our best year,” says the sales and distribution manager for Master Plan Builders, North Lima.

A limited inventory of houses for sale in the residential real estate market – particularly in the higher end – is spurring the construction of houses, he says, an observation that matches the numbers.

During the first four months of 2017, 28 permits were issued for new houses by Mahoning County, according to building department records. The county does not issue permits for Washingtonville, Beloit, Sebring or some areas outside Salem and Columbiana that have been annexed into those jurisdictions.

Of the permits Mahoning issued this year, 11 were for projects valued in excess of $200,000, including two for more than $300,000.

The trend for Mahoning County is construction in Poland, Springfield and Canfield, says Jeffrey Uroseva, chief building official in the county department. In five years, he predicts, there will need to be more construction to meet the growing demand.

The Trumbull County building inspection department issued 29 residential permits for single-family dwellings through the end of April in areas of the county that exclude Warren, Niles, Girard, Yankee Lake, Orangeville and McDonald. The permits issued so far this year include nine houses valued at more than $200,000.

High-end properties in Trumbull County are going up in Howland, Cortland and “one or two in Liberty,” but those properties – which range between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet – are “few and far between right now,” says Tom Gladd, Trumbull County building inspector.

Most houses being built in Trumbull are around 1,600 square feet, Gladd says. “People are going back to ranches,” he adds.

Checks with zoning and planning offices in Washingtonville, Niles and Girard showed no construction permits for new houses taken out so far this year.

Master Plan Builders has five high-end properties under development and is working on 15 single-family houses overall, “which is pretty significant” for early May, Struharik reports. The five upper-end projects include two in Columbiana, a detached villa at the Back Bay at Arrowhead Lake development and an Old Saybrook property with a “more New England feel,” he says.

“There’s a lot of pre-approved buyers right now and not a ton of homes for sale fitting the needs of what these buyers are looking for,” he continues. “It’s a good time to build as opposed to buying because prices are pretty high on resale. So we’re able to be competitive as of late with the new construction.”

Preston Walley, owner of Preston Builders, Howland, reports his company has projects underway in Howland, Champion, Cortland and Vienna, including about a dozen houses in the $250,000-and-up range. Most of the projects are 2,000 to 2,500 square feet, although he has two projects at 2,800 and 3,000 square feet.

Ranches make up the biggest market. “Two-stories aren’t selling,” Walley says.

“Everything’s been open floor plan for the last couple of years,” he adds. Other features in demand are white trim floating floors and rounded drywall corners, he says, “Plus I’m always dealing with granite.”

Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling, Canfield, builds about 10 new houses each year, reports Sam Pitzulo, president. Values for those properties range between $250,000 and $500,000. The company also builds 50 to 60 remodels annually, some valued as high as $400,000.

New builds typically are contracted with the eventual buyer rather than built on spec, Pitzulo says. He is working primarily in Canfield, Poland, Boardman, Austintown and the South Range school district. “We don’t go far from our office, about a half-hour in any direction,” he says.

One feature owners want is the great room. “Today you don’t see many formal dining rooms,” he says.

In addition, Pitzulo says he is seeing demand for more – and bigger – walk-in showers, but fewer tubs, unless they’re “for looks,” he notes. “Tubs are a thing of the past. We don’t do many tubs.”

Pitzullo also is working on many “aging-in-place houses where a person can live in their home for the rest of their lives” rather than go to a nursing home or assisted living center.

Features of such properties include no steps from the garage into the house or from the driveway to the front door, raised outlets and lowered switches, and grab bars. One such property he’s remodeled even has an elevator, he says.

Building new houses or renovating existing ones to accommodate the aging population is becoming “a good portion of our business,” Piztzullo remarks.

“I probably have four of those new homes going right now,” he says. “We are seeing more of that coming. The baby boomers are wanting to stay in their existing home or move into a new home they can stay in forever.”

In the city of Hermitage, Pa., Marcia Hirschmann, director of planning and development, says the residential construction market has yet to fully recover from the Great Recession and the drop in the housing market a decade ago. Before that, Hermitage saw 50 to 60 starts annually, both upscale and less expensive houses.

The residential construction market is coming back, but “pretty slowly,” Hirschmann says. “This year, maybe we’ll have 12 or 15, maybe 20, if we’re lucky.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.