By Ed Runyan
The foreclosure and housing crisis that began around 2008 has dissipated in recent years, but the most recent Trumbull County property valuation still shows dropping property values.
In late 2011, the county released data from its most recent three-year revaluation completed that year. The data showed an average decrease in property values of 7.53 percent countywide.
This year’s figures are less detailed and considered only a computer- generated “update” of the data from 2011, but the numbers show a continued decline in property values — this time about 5 percent, said Trumbull County Auditor Adrian Biviano.
Primarily the data used to arrive at the values come from home sales and other facts that the county’s appraisal company, Integrity Appraisal Services of Austintown, can acquire without visiting the properties in person, Biviano said. That includes information such as foreclosures and abandonments. “Sales is the driving factor,” Biviano said.
The new property values indicate no change for homes in most of the townships in the county, but they show drops of as much as 20 percent in one neighborhood in Warren, as much as 10 percent in some areas of Niles, as much as 7 percent in parts of Girard and Newton Falls and 5 percent in parts of the townships of Hubbard, Brookfield, Liberty, Fowler, Warren, Howland and Champion. The values indicate a 3 percent drop in Lordstown.
Bill Nicholas, chief appraiser for Trumbull County, said the reductions in property values will have only a small effect on property taxes because they affect only taxes on the “inside millage” (not voted millage) on such property, which is just a fraction of the overall millage.
And most of the properties that lost value are low in value to begin with, so the change in taxes also would be low, Nicholas said. The new values will go into effect in early 2015.
Warren Councilman Eddie Colbert lives in the northwest neighborhood that experienced the largest drop — 20 percent — but said he it’s not one of the neighborhoods with huge numbers of abandoned properties.
In fact, the neighorhood, which is off Parkman Road Northwest and includes streets such as Randolph, Williamsburg, Linda, Northwest and Stewart, was once “a very strong middle-class neighborhood,” he said.
“You either worked at Copperweld Steel, or Delphi Packard Electric or GM,” he said of periods of high employment in Warren several decades ago. “The parents did well, and the kids did relatively well and went to college.”
Colbert bought his home on Autumn Drive from his in-laws; it is the house his wife grew up in.
One of the big differences in the neighborhood compared to years ago is that many of the homes there have become rentals. There are some abandoned homes, but not as many as in some other neighborhoods, he said.
More than anything, Colbert said he believes the neighborhood has lost value because of the loss of jobs and a “low-performing school district.”
Colbert and others say Colbert’s neighborhood has less obvious blight than areas to the east — streets such as Penn, York, Dickey, Haymaker and Hillsdale.
Those streets are in neighborhoods that dropped in value by 15 percent, according to the most recent values.
Nicholas and Matt Martin, executive director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, said they believe the most recent values suggest that some of the most blighted neighborhoods lost a greater percentage of their value during the earlier valuation rather than in the past three years.
“I think it’s starting to bottom out, stabilize,” Martin said of some of the most blighted neighborhoods.
TNP, a nonprofit, has devised strategies to improve neighborhoods and is engaging the community in those strategies. It also operates the Trumbull County Land Bank’s side-lot program, helping property owners acquire vacant lots available after demolition.
Martin said the housing demolitions in the city in recent years probably have not helped much with property values, but they have definitely improved “quality-of-life issues,” such as eliminating fire hazards, illegal dumping, prostitution and drug dealing.
Richard McGinty, an appraiser from Bazetta Township, said he thinks the reason property values continue to drop, especially in the urban areas, is that there are still a lot of foreclosures and people walking away from their homes because they are “under water” on their mortgages, meaning they owe more on the home than it is worth.
Many people are in that position because mortgage companies in the 2002-to-2008 time period encouraged people to take out loans who couldn’t afford them. Those practices led many of the largest banks paying settlements to the federal government to resolve claims that the companies sold faulty securities that led to the 2008 recession.
McGinty said when he appraises a home that received a loan in the 2002-2008 time frame, it might be worth a lot less than the amount owed.
“The house is worth $30,000 and they owe $60,000, so they’re walking away,” he said, adding that the banks are typically “stubborn” and won’t negotiate with such customers to reduce the customer’s cost.
Martin agrees that the foreclosure crisis of 2008 is still playing out today.
“I think the lending practices of the early 2000s made a mockery of the very notion of homeownership, and our neighborhoods continue to experience the fallout from those practices combined with other factors.” He said TNP’s short-term work “is about stabilizing neighborhoods”
Statewide, foreclosures dropped 24.6 percent between 2012 and 2013, but they dropped only 13.8 percent in Trumbull County and 4 percent in Mahoning County during that same time period.
Trumbull County’s foreclosures peaked at 1,605 in 2009. There were 1,077 in 2013, according to data from the Ohio Supreme Court. Mahoning County foreclosures peaked at 1,819 in 2010. There were 1,306 in 2013.