New Home, New Neighbors

In August 2020, Cory Barnes and his fiancée Paige bought a new construction home on the east side of downtown Cleveland just north of Case Western University, in the area known as Circle North. When speaking with Cory Barnes, I found out that their journey to a new build in this up-and-coming area began on the west side of town in the Ohio City, Tremont, and Detroit Shore way areas.

As many know, the home buying market is red hot in Cleveland right now, and they optimistically looked on the west side because it is established and had places, shops, and more where they could venture. So, Cory and Paige set out to find a three-bed two bath home with a garage and a yard for their dogs. However, they quickly realized the problem with the West side of town was that it was just too expensive-about, about $400,000 or more. Accordingly, the couple worked with their real estate agent to consider other areas of town, which led them to University Circle. Checking out this area, Cory recalls quickly realizing that there were a lot of properties with the space to fit their needs at a much more competitive price than the inflated value of the west side.

Cory and Paige explained that shifting attention away from the Ohio City and Tremont areas was a combination of list prices, a greater supply of properties on the market, and larger outdoor space for them and their dogs. Cory said that all the properties they looked at on the west side would have caused them to sacrifice something on their wish list. But that was not the case for the brand-new home they ultimately found in Circle North that was also far less expensive than the others they had considered.

He also shared the process of buying their home: At the time, the developer (Orleans Company) had a model unit to show, as well as a “spec” home that was about 90% completed with the ability to be finalized with the finishing touches and customizations that they selected (e.g., wood flocking, a finished basement, a fence, and upgrading the outdoor deck).

Cory and Paige began their home buying journey with real estate agent Howard Hanna; then used a more regional bank for the mortgage rate and percentages. The time was ripe for purchasing their home because Cleveland was/is providing free down payment assistance that’s not income based-it’s open to anyone. Working with a lender, they acquired a $20,000 forgivable down payment/grant from Cleveland. What was even more alluring to this couple was the 15-year property tax abatement on the home. The tax abatement is “Newly constructed single-family homes receive a tax abatement of 100% of the increase in real estate property tax for 15 years”. In other words, the abatement ensures that owners only pay property tax on the value of the underlying land and not improvements on the land, such as the home. With this incentive, these new homeowners expect to only pay a couple of hundred dollars a year in property taxes-which they state further makes this area of town much more affordable than the more established and pricey west side of town. Cory believes that most of the new homes offered in this area also include these down payment grants and tax abatements from the city. He encourages other prospective buyers to consider and factor into their analysis.

Another great thing about where Cory and Paige chose to stake their claim is the potential for more customizable expansion and the proximity of world-renown organizations like Case Western the Cleveland Museum of Art. The botanical and cultural gardens and the Cleveland Clinic-all within a 5-10 minute walk.

I asked Paige how she felt about the location of their new home. She said that she has come to love the amount of green space they’ve found and enjoyed with their dogs around the university and hospitals. That’s in addition to their sizable yard, which is a plus, especially for pets to care for. In addition, she likes being close to the university campus and taking advantage of all of Cleveland’s cultural amenities in this area. The couple has also enjoyed how welcoming and pleasant their neighbors and others in the community have been.