Saturday, April 22, 2000

Homes in Mason subdivision to be in $400K neighborhood

High-end demand grows in suburb

BY Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — As Heritage Club, Trailside Acres, Sunset Ridge, and other ritzy developments fill up, a new trophy-home community is blooming in this fast-growing suburb.

        Avalon Farms, a 55-acre tract east of Ohio 741, may begin construction this year. Developers say the subdivision will be just a step down from Heritage Club and Four Bridges, two high-dollar communities in Mason and Union Township.

        The subdivision is expected to have spacious two-story homes approaching $400,000 and feature 49 landscaped lots, one to two acres each. It would be the second-most expensive housing option in the city.

        The demand for pricier homes in Mason began around 1990 and has grown steadily since. Homes in Mason today sell at an average of $220,000, according to the Cincinnati Board of Realtors. That's more than twice the cost of a home there 10 years ago.

        “People find our homes and the lifestyles they offer very desirable and that lifts the pricing over time,” said Alex Tarasenko, senior vice president of Robert C. Rhein Interests, which is developing Avalon Farms. “The demand for these homes has enabled us to establish a price point that several years ago would have been unheard of in this area.”

        In a city which once prided itself on small-town charm, homes that topped $1 million were few and far between. Now, they dot the countryside and attract many of Greater Cincinnati's business owners, CEOs and senior executives.

        “Mason is a city that has definitely come to be associated with images of prestige, affluence and comfort,” said City Manager Scot Lahrmer. “For a while now, our focus has been on setting our standards for residential communities higher than average.”

        Houses in Ohio's second-fastest growing city can begin as low as $80,000 and balloon to $1.2 million. The Heritage Club, another Rhein Interests development which twice played host to Homearama during the 1990s, boasts an average selling price of $887,000, up $158,000 from 1999.

        “The average (selling) price of homes in the Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont county market area has gone up close to 5 percent each of the last three years,” said Bill Patterson, a spokesman for the Cincinnati Board of Realtors. “But I'd bet Mason is way above what anybody else in the area is doing.”

        And there isn't any sign of a slowdown. Marianne Culbertson, an agent with Sibcy Cline Real tors, says “it is definitely a seller's market in Mason right now.”

        Mrs. Culbertson said new and existing homes are selling very close to asking prices. She added current homeowners are getting good returns on their investments, because of a shortage of older homes on the market.

        But when does the demand for high-priced homes dry up?

        “It's hard to predict,” said Mr. Tarasenko. “The actual sales success we've seen at communities like Heritage Club and Four Bridges have exceeded all of our expectations.”

        Faith in the economy, a high level of consumer confidence and people feeling good about their jobs has helped the Tristate post banner home sales in recent years. But while some Tristaters are enjoying a prosperous economy, many low-income workers worry that affordable housing in Mason is disappearing.

        “There is always a situation where part of the community feels as if they have been passed by,” Mr. Lahrmer said. “But when you look at Mason, I think we have a balanced community with a wide range of housing options and prices.”


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