Butler and Warren counties are seeing the same drop in new homes. Here’s why.

A drop in the amount of new home construction for the region and for Butler County in 2018 was more of a “minor hiccup” than a significant downturn, according to experts.

The Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati said that home permits had been on the rise in the region in 2014 (2,049 permits), 2015 (2,253 permits), 2016 (2,561 permits) and 2017 (2,935 permits), before dropping to 2,840 permits last year.

That 3.2 percent drop mirrors a trend being reported by home builders nationwide, said HBA Executive Director Dan Dressman, who attended last week’s National Association of Homebuilders International Builders’ Show.

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“We’re hearing, at least at this convention, everybody’s having a slight downturn at this point in time in all the markets,” Dressman said. “Ours is actually much less declined than most, is what we’re hearing from most of our peers in the industry.”

The market has “cooled slightly” because of a series of factors, including rising interest rates, labor, land prices and material costs, all of which push home prices up, he said.

“Whenever the prices go up, and we’ve seen this throughout the history of the housing market … there’s a segment of the market that no longer qualifies or drops off the radar,” Dressman said.

However, inflation is “in check,” and employment rates are healthy, both of which are good signs for this year, he said.

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“The slowdown will also allow builders to finish homes already under contract, which had been delayed due to the labor shortage,” Dressman said.

Dressman said he expects 2019 to “a good year” for single-family home construction.

“We’re not going to be blowing the doors down this year, but I think we’re still going to have a healthy market,” he said.

That market is likely to see some of the same hot spots in home construction as in 2018. Butler County’s Liberty Township continued to dominate the region, registering 260 single-family permits. Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said the community continues to garner new home construction because of more than an abundance of land on which to do so.

“Liberty Twp.’s reputation as a bedroom community is something people are looking for,” Farrell said. “They’re looking for that family-oriented residential area, but they don’t want to give up the amenities that come with some of the larger-lot open-space areas and I think Liberty gives them the best of both worlds.

“Eighty-three percent of the township is zoned residential and therefore, they’re able to get that family-style environment and living without having commercial in their backyard.”

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Another key reason is Liberty Twp.’s location “smack dab in the middle of Cincinnati and Dayton,” which give families that have two working parents the ability to work in both cities while living in the middle, Farrell said.

Liberty Twp. home construction growth in 2018 was followed by Hamilton Twp. (161 permits) and Deerfield Twp. (160), where activity has “really picked up,” Dressman said. Rounding out the rest of the Top 10 are Batavia Twp. (156) and Mason (155). Rounding out the top 10 were Clearcreek Twp. (120), South Lebanon (117), Turtlecreek Twp. (96), Cincinnati (94) and Blue Ash (77).

New home growth in both the cities of Blue Ash and Cincinnati resulted in a 16.3 percent increase for Hamilton County, while residential growth in Batavia Twp. helped boost Clermont County permits 7.4 percent.

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The amount of permits in Butler and Warren Counties dropped, with Butler County decreasing by 9.2 percent and Warren County dropping by 11.9 percent.

“They had the most to lose,” Dressman said. “What I mean by that is they’ve been on the uptick for several years, so they’re experiencing a little bit of a slowdown.”

One community that nearly made the Top 10 list after years of absence there was Hamilton, where new home construction has skyrocketed to 70 or more single family permits in 2018 after years of averaging 21 per year between 2009 and 2016.

“They’ve really made a concerted effort to be more open to new housing construction,” Dressman said.

Officials previously told the Journal-News that a better economy has allowed areas of Hamilton subdivisions to that were left empty to be filled, and real estate agents and builders who work in the city credit a strong economy, low interest rates and low unemployment as reasons for the growth.

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A noticeable absence on the list is West Chester Twp., a Butler County community that routinely found itself in the top 10 for numerous years.

“A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s not built out completely, but there’s just not as much developable land available right now,” Dressman said. “There’s still pockets, but there’s not the amount there had been. That’s just (because) it’s maturing.”

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