Buying my First House in Youngstown, Ohio

This article was contributed by Megan Reed, a late-20ies Youngstown resident and software salesperson.

As many young adults do, I recently took upon the endeavor of buying my very first home. I began my search after many years (almost ten) of renting apartment after apartment, and then renting an entire house. I always enjoyed the freedom that comes with renting. An apartment felt like an over extended stay in a hotel room, it really wasn’t my place to begin with, I just stayed there for a while-I can leave anytime I want, or that is, when my lease ends. After some time, I started to see and hear the value of ownership from friends who became proud home owners.

I began my search in Youngstown, focusing on both the North and south sides of the city. I first moved to the north side of Youngstown in 1999 for college, stayed mostly in the city for the majority of my time in college, and then found an amazing job in downtown Youngstown. Being familiar with living in the city, especially the north side, I had no apprehensions about moving back. I grew up in downtown East Liverpool, in a house from the 1890s my parents completely restored- and I knew I wanted something similar to the big, old house I loved so much as a child. The suburbs-Boardman, Poland and Canfield-had none of the architecture or price range I was looking for. Youngstown became my only answer.

One of the first sources of opposition I faced during this time was convincing my colleagues, family and some friends that buying a house in the city was not going to be such a “terrible mistake,” as one family member put it. I listened, nodded and then explained my theory- “If you want to make the city better, don’t sit back and wait for it to happen, do it.” I feel one of the greatest problems plaguing Youngstown has been the deterioration of our beautiful and historical homes run down by numerous slum lords, blight and abandonment. Yet regardless of how anyone felt about Youngstown, I received constant lectures about my safety, property values and of course- school districts.

After a year or so of searching, going on multiple home tours throughout the city, many times walking into homes whose next visitor is probably a wrecking ball, I found my house!
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It is a grand, all brick, 2600 square feet Craftsman style home from 1927. The area I live in is the South Side, a neighborhood as described by the appraisal as “stable.” The neighborhood has its own bright and dark spots- many of the houses surrounding me are well taken care of, and many are empty. (The house next to us is empty and has been for over a year)

Now that I determined which home to purchase my next step was to get the loan. I went through a brokerage agency- who took the best care of me. However that care came with a price- I worked non-stop for thirty days to provide every document ever created from my financial life. The experience is not one I want to relive anytime soon- constant time spent on the phone with the agency, working non-stop to save every penny to put for the down payment and working with my realtor to make sure every precaution necessary was in place to ensure this was a good house.
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After one month of signing the contract, working to produce everything but my first born to the brokerage agency, we moved into our house. Now that I’m here there have been a few additional surprises I was unprepared for.

Insurance: Finding home owner’s insurance involved trying to wrap my head around their system. The cost for my home’s insurance was through the roof- why? Because of the “rebuild” value. It would take X amount of dollars to rebuild this old house, and then factor in the city’s crime rate. This has also impacted my car insurance- why? Because the insurance companies feel living in the city of Youngstown increases my chances of theft, damage and bothering them for a claim.

Stigmas: First- i will state it is not my family who really has fears for me living in the city, they are very supportive and not from here- but our other family, colleagues and some friends expressed great concerns of us living in Youngstown. I’m not certain where their fears lie. Perhaps from the news, statistics or just the general stigma the suburbanites have against Youngstown, but it is prevalent. They have stated numerous times, “Are you sure you want to live there? Do you know how bad it is? You’ll never be able to get any money out of that house.”

So far yes, we have heard noises that I question to be either fireworks, cars back firing or gun shots. Yes- there is an abandoned home next door to me and many in the neighborhoods behind our home (about two on the block directly behind our house) and many across the street. There are occupied homes with great neighbors that I have met. They are proud people, taking care of amazing homes built to last for centuries. My neighbors were elated to meet us, relieved a young couple bought the home on their street- keeping out landlords, blight and protecting the integrity of the street. We have many homes around us who are kept up by proud homeowners such as myself. We have more than a purpose than home value- we are keeping the value of the city alive come hell or high water. My goal is not only to live in Youngstown, taking great care of my house but also my street, block, and city. There are many good people and homes left in our city, still many great neighborhoods with architecture unknown to the modern contractor, yet to be discovered.

11 Comments

Filed under architecture, Featured, Real Estate, The Housing Crisis

11 responses to “Buying my First House in Youngstown, Ohio

  1. FrankN

    This girl is awesome!

    way to set an example…

  2. Special K

    It looks like a beautiful place. Congrats on becoming a homeowner!

  3. BuffaloReedy

    This is beautiful!

  4. Stephen Gross

    A few quick thoughts for you…

    1. Great job! I’m really pleased for you! You moved into a city you loved and are taking responsibility for making it a better place. You are a shining example to your cynical “other” family.

    2. Too bad about the homeowner’s insurance. The only advice I have is to shop around again EVERY year; if the neighborhood does stabilize, you should be able to get a new policy at a lower rate.

    3. Yeah, the car insurance thing is too bad, too. But it is generally based on real-world statistics. I recommend you employ every possible device to get it lowered: security system, GPS tracker (available w/ Progressive, anyway), higher deductible if you can stomach it. I’ve gotten my insurance way down.

    4. When your “other” family gives you a hard time, ask them what their gasoline cost is every month. (Assuming that living in Youngstown places you closer to work, that is) !

    5. Consider looking for (or starting) a community garden. It’s a low-cost, fun way to stimulate neighborhood togetherness and makes the neighborhood very pretty at the same time.

    Good luck!
    –Steve

  5. schmange

    I was actually surprised by homeowners insurance wasn’t more expensive. And my auto insurance is the same as it was with Geico, but it overs theft. So I actually think I’m pulling one over on the insurance company.

    The rebuild value of my home is high: $200,000 for a $60,000 house.

    There is lots of savings that comes with living in the city. Like Steve points out, gas. Secondly, my taxes are pretty low compared with a lot of the suburbs. Of course, I’ve gotta have a security system, so that’s a tax on city living.

  6. Liz

    Way to go! I am new in town too and renting until I get my arms around the different areas. But some of the houses I see are so beautiful and inexpensive. People who pay far more for houses aren’t getting their money out either, in case your “other family” has not noticed. At least your percentages are lower to start with. Best of luck in your beautiful new place, be a good neighbor and you’ll have good neighbors.

  7. ReedyfromtheYo

    Yes- I agree with all of the points stated and do thank everyone for the congrats! Those who have shown the most skepticism are actually from this area- Youngstown. That is where I become a bit disturbed. I know I did not grow up in the Mahoning Valley, but to be honest the suburbs have taken on a whole different life form- i.e. they are their own entities, with the mentality of such (although the water most of the suburbs use is supplied by Youngstown City, but I’d rather not get on my soap box on that matter).

    I did shop around as much as I could for the insurance as of all things- Liberty Mutual helped me out. They seemed to be the only ones not punishing me over the fact the house wasn’t new construction and was in a city. But for car insurance, I spoke to numerous companies- all of them actually (that i could find in Ytown) and they all said the same thing, due to the crime rate of Youngstown my insurance “score” was high and therefor my policy was as well.

    I also agree with the market value statement as well- the entire premise built around “resale” value in the real estate world is so insane. I basically have told everyone and this is the truth- i really just don’t give a damn about the resale value, I’m buying a home, not a house to flip, but an actual place to call home.

    I will look into the garden- that would be great! I know of a few places that will be ideal if we can get our hands on brush hog 😉 Thank you again for reading this!!! And thank you to Angie for asking me to write it!

  8. Angie

    Congratulations on the purchase a beautiful, character filled home.I love those old brick houses in Youngstown. Though I live out of town, I plan to move back when I retire and want to buy a home similar to yours.
    I like to think of the old families and people that inhabited those houses. I wish I could have seen Youngstown back then.

    Thank you for believing in our town. I hope more people follow your courageous lead.
    It is nice to see appreciation for what we have rather than another shallow, Mcmansion chaser.

  9. Skeptic

    Pardon me for saying this, but u sound a little desperate to canvas others to buy homes in and around youngstown especially around your home.

    Having second thought about the purchase ?

    anyways appreciate your courage.

    • ReedyfromtheYo

      Hmmm… Desperate? Well, when i wrote it, desperation was by no means an emotion of mine. I will admit yes- my goal is to have others move back to the area, especially around my home. Why not? My goal is not to just get a great deal on a huge old house (which I did, and am very happy about) but to also rebuild a neighborhood by taking one step and being a good neighbor and homeowner. This is a purpose, to lead by example and have others follow. I want to see Youngstown thrive- not see the houses fall to disrepair, corrupt landlords and be owned by good homeowners.
      I have this goal not out of desperation but experience. The house I grew up in and adored with all of my heart was also on a street in downtown East Liverpool that now sits partially vacant. We stayed as long as we could, until finally my parents couldn’t take it anymore. Youngstown still has a chance. So in that regard, perhaps desperation is part of my campaign.

  10. Bruce

    I plan on moving back to the Youngstown area when I retire. I grew up in Y-town and I can buy a home for about 1/3 of the price that I can where I live now… that will go a long way when you are retired and on a fixed income. I know many of my friends that are also planning to move back to Youngstown when they retire. As long as the cost of living stays low the Y-town area will see many retiring baby boomers returning back home.

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