New Real Estate Realities: The Teardown

Love the neighborhood, but hate the house? Poof! Build a new one.

Ask any real estate agent in the city what the top teardown market is and they’ll answer: “Montgomery.” In the early 2000s, developers figured out that there were people willing to pay big money for newer homes in this quaint city with excellent schools; teardowns dotted Zig-Zag and Cooper roads, plus a few isolated lots in Montgomery’s southern sector.

Photograph by Rick Lohre

Once the market recovered, though, teardowns went through the roof. Literally. In 2002, there had been 12, and in 2009, only 3. But in 2013, there were 23 teardowns in Montgomery—the most ever. Today, city officials estimate that on some streets, like Knollbrook, 75 to 80 percent of the original homes have been replaced. And the trend has infiltrated just about every segment of the city south of I-275.

In May alone, Perrin March, previews property specialist with Coldwell Banker West Shell, says his office saw approximately 25 new-construction listings in Montgomery. And when Susan Rissover, a real estate agent and modern architecture specialist with Keller Williams Advisors, listed a Mid-Century Modern ranch on Wild Orchard that same month—admittedly a house that needed work—“within 24 hours we had 20 showings and a handful of offers.”

Lee Robinson, owner of Robinson Sotheby’s International Realty, says teardowns can be an economic boon, boosting existing property values while increasing the community’s tax base. Even so, they have their drawbacks. Although some “fit in very well and look like they could have been there forever,” notes Montgomery resident Diana Jenkins, others “seem to dwarf their lots and dwarf their neighbors.”

Although “it’s good to see that people want to live in established neighborhoods,” says Margo Warminski, preservation director for the Cincinnati Preservation Association, “the wrong kind of infill can destroy the character that attracts people to these neighborhoods in the first place.”

Developers are turning their attention to both Kenwood and Madeira, nearby suburbs with equally prime locations and outstanding public schools. Original home prices can be lower (compared to Montgomery, average prices from May 2013 to May 2014 were $93,000 lower in Madeira and $143,000 lower in Kenwood). 

Fueled by tax abatements—“you’re only taxed on a small percentage of the entire value,” says Betsy Kiley, executive sales vice president with Sibcy Cline—empty-nesters and young professionals alike are fueling teardowns in this historic neighborhood.

Want more New Real Estate Realities? The First-Time Buyer, The New Constructionists, The Luxury Renters, The Comeback, The Can-Do Urban Condo

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