Will West Clermont School Tax Levy Fight Lead To Repeat Of Little Miami Home Value Decline?
We think most people grasp that schools are the heartbeat of our communities. Neglect our schools and the community will follow suit. As Cincinnati area REALTORS(R), we get the message time and again, buyers with kids make their #1 choice in home criteria the school district. Schools with great reputations are in demand, and we see no reason for that to change. And great schools come at a price. Now that doesn't mean more dollars actually equate to the best schools, because school administration has a responsibility to use our dollars wisely. We suspect you're like us, you don't like paying one dollar more in taxes than you abolutely have to! And that becomes even more important if you're on a fixed income. Any dollar going to taxes is one less dollar to spend elsewhere.
And lest you think we've got a bias in tax levy fights, we don't. We don't have any kids in schools, so our interest is in the overall health of our local communities and the housing market. As schools go, so go the communities.
And frankly if you ever need to understand how detrimental a school tax levy fight can be to local home values, there's probably no better case study than the Little Miami School District. Levy attempt after levy attempt was rejected before finally being passed on the 9th attempt in November 2011. Take a quick look at the Median Price Chart below and find the Little Miami line. A steady line down, year after year, and steeper than other area school districts. We saw firsthand the impact on the real estate market. Sellers couldn't sell because they had no equity. Buyers weren't interested because they don't want the uncertainty, and the risk of state control was high (and DID happen!). And of course with a 50/50 split, there was (and still is) some level of bitterness between neighbors (new residents vs. old, subdivision people vs. rural, fixed income vs. still working). And of course there was major impact on the schools. Schools shuttered, buses stopped, programs canceled.
But once the levy was passed (FINALLY!) in November 2011, the expected happened. Even though the schools fell into fiscal emergency and state control (since removed), there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A path had been established and steadily over the last two years a return to normalcy. Home values are bouncing back nicely. New construction has started again. Buyers are interested in buying homes in Little Miami School District again. We sell houses in Maineville and Morrow again, and without months and months on the market.
Stars signify school tax levy passage. All data for pricing derived from Cincinnati MLS sales reports.
So how does this impact West Clermont School District residents? If you're a homeowner, the same thing that happened in Little Miami COULD happen to your area. Now you may look at the Median Price chart and data and say...."PFFT!!! We're already bouncing back in home values, so who needs the levy passed?" And we won't argue with you that your values have come back some, as they have to a certain extent in each neighboring school district. We'd liken what is happening with West Clermont School District home values to the saying "A rising tide lifts all ships". The overall residential real market HAS risen lately, but never forget the saying REAL ESTATE IS LOCAL!
Obviously some areas will do better than others, and West Clermont home owners can influence the direction of their home values. As we've clearly stated, Little Miami home values suffered BADLY, hit with the double whammy of a dropping real estate market AND a school tax levy fight. While other neighboring school districts lost about 10% of their home values, Little Miami home owners were losing double that. They became prisoners to their home, with very limited opportunity to sell. And some of those opportunities included short sales and foreclosures. Those options hurt home values even further, and the downward spiral continued. And Little Miami also attracted negative media attention for the protracted fight, adding to the potential home buyers' reasons to stay away. However recovery came quickly once the levy was passed.
So what's the nutshell of this home value review? West Clermont voters can risk reversing their recent gains, or they can help ensure the continued recovery of their home's values. You're still a long ways from getting back to peak values of 2005/6. Ongoing tax levy fights DO discourage buyers, or as home prices drop, you get the attraction of investors buying homes and making them rental units. The November levy request is reduced from the previous levy amounts, so your tax increase will be less than prior proposals. And with a passage of the tax levy, restoration of some program cuts will occur and a path to ensuring continued home value increases.
We're not telling you how to vote, but voting needs to be about more than just raw emotions. Logic has led us to support our local tax levy ballots, even without kids to directly gain. What's good for our schools is good for our community, and what's good for our community is good for us.
So get out and vote this November!
Liz and Bill aka BLiz