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Home Sweet Home
City living offers more than ever
What image do you conjure up when you think of a home in the city? Close-knit neighborhoods with front porches and mom-and-pop shops? A quick and easy commute to the downtown office? How about the diversity of multicultural neighborhoods and the charm of historic architecture? Yes, yes, yes and yes — it’s all of that and more.
Karen Fuller
But prospective homebuyers have variety in housing as well. The recent boom in construction has not been confined to the suburbs, and city-dwellers are now able to choose newly constructed homes in addition to those in established neighborhoods. That selection includes scattered-site construction, rehabbed housing, subdivisions and townhomes.
Scattered-site Construction

Scattered-site construction is most attractive to people who are buying into a neighborhood they love but prefer a new home to the hassles of upkeep and repair an older home brings. These new homes are built as lots come available in the city, sometimes due to a house being torn down after it outlives its use or a house succumbing to fire or other deterioration.

“Lots that appear on high-demand streets in up-and-coming neighborhoods are pretty quickly turned around into new construction,” says David Sharkey from Progressive Urban Real Estate (PURE). “The people attracted to these homes don’t want to be part of a subdivision — they want to be part of a historic community — but they still want a new house. They want to be on a street where rehab is taking place, but they don’t want to do a rehab.”

One such person, Nicole Smith, purchased a new home on a charming old street in Ohio City. Her neighbors’ homes are historic and nicely cared for, and she is within walking distance to Ohio City’s main drag: West 25th Street. “I fell in love with it right away but was sure it would be too expensive for me,” she says. But, once the city’s tax-abatement program was factored in, the property settled nicely into Smith’s price range.

Her home in the city is a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath, 2,500-square-foot affair built by Denison Homes. It was built to look historic inside and out, matching existing homes on the street and in the neighborhood. It’s a two-story with tall windows, high ceilings, wainscoting and other details that add charm and history but with the fully modernized kitchen and bathroom many older homes just don’t have.
Rehabbed Housing

There are two types of rehabbed housing — historic and modern. Historic rehab is mostly taking place in neighborhoods like Ohio City, where historic character often hides behind walls of homes split into rooming houses or just covered over through the years in the effort to simplify. “Homebuyers searching for historic rehab must have the ability to see past a home’s flaws [read: bad décor] to discover the historic gem within,” Sharkey says.

Modern rehab is taking place actively in neighborhoods such as Tremont, where existing homes don’t have a lot of historic detail. Here, people can update and modernize to their heart’s content without having to worry about historic accuracy. Choosing between the two types of rehab is a matter of style, taste and location.

Thomas Coffey moved to Cleveland three years ago from Cincinnati with a penchant for charming older homes, the kind in the historic neighborhoods and the kind usually billed as “handyman’s specials.”

During his home search, Coffey happened by a Victorian beauty that looked incredibly authentic from the outside — colorful paint, wrought-iron fence, the whole works. He found more authenticity within.

“Part of what attracted me to the house was that it had been so lovingly restored,” says Coffey. The previous owners had put in new windows and central air and enlarged the bathroom by putting in a very large marble shower stall. “I essentially have a house that feels like it has modern conveniences along with older-home charm.” One of Coffey’s favorite features is the oddly shaped rooms. “My living room is shaped like an octagon, and my bedroom has a little dressing nook with a gorgeous view of the downtown skyline.”

And owning a rehabbed home brings Coffey’s love, historic homes with character, in line with his lifestyle — too busy to fix up an older home himself.

Townhome or condo buyers are similar to new-construction buyers — love the neighborhood but don’t want the work of an older home. In fact, they don’t even want minor outdoor upkeep of a newer home. “Townhome buyers don’t want to cut grass, paint the exterior of their houses, clean the gutter or shovel snow,” Sharkey says. “But they do want to live in the city.” And many townhomes have outdoor spaces such as courtyards and pretty little walkways.’

Brad Klink is no stranger to the perks of downtown living — he had rented a stylish Warehouse District apartment for years before deciding to purchase his own home. “I knew I wanted to stay close to downtown and close to work,” he says.

Klink ended up purchasing a fantastic townhouse in Tremont. He says he appreciates a  lifestyle just as carefree as the one he had with apartment living, but he has a nice investment to call his own. His home includes two outdoor spaces: a second-floor balcony and a fourth-floor rooftop deck. The indoor living space boasts two bedrooms and one and a half baths on four different levels, with a large living and kitchen area on the second floor, bedrooms on the third, and the office and rooftop deck up on the fourth. Add to that space for a workout room plus covered parking, and Klink was sold on the place.

“When I began looking to purchase, the tax-abatement program definitely sold me on the idea of living in Cleveland,” he says. “It made for significant savings.”

Many prospective homeowners — in the suburbs and city alike — are attracted to being in a development. There might be limits as to architectural updates and add-ons, but lots of people don’t mind this. “People feel it is a less risky investment,” Sharkey explains, “because others have made this same investment.” The City of Cleveland currently is experiencing development of many subdivisions, ranging from five to 300-plus units of housing.

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