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!
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.
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.