Local real-estate agents prepare for GM Lordstown shutdown
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Following General Motors’ Nov. 26 announcement that it would shutter its Lordstown plant in March, Howard “Hoby” Hanna IV, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, sensed quite a bit of anxiety among the company’s agents.
At a “Holiday in the Valley” event at the Lake Club Tuesday, Hanna sought to reassure employees about what’s to come in the local real-estate market in 2019, calling the Lords- town situation an opportunity “to turn lemons into lemonade.”
“We know the market is going to change. We know there are things we can’t control,” Hanna told the crowd of several dozen, which included real-estate professionals as well as Mahoning County Commissioners David Ditzler and Carol Rimedio-Righetti. “But what we want to do is roll into 2019, because we believe housing values will increase.”
Hanna also noted comparisons that have been drawn between the Lordstown plant idling and the collapse of the local steel industry in the 1970s and 1980s. One crucial difference, he said, is that mortgage interest rates were near 20 percent in the early 1980s, compared to under about 5 percent now.
Still, Hanna acknowledged more homes will be hitting the market. The company – which was founded in 1957, came to the Valley in the 1990s and has offices across several states – is currently estimating that active inventory will increase 9.5 percent in the Valley next year.
One of the biggest factors in how the plant closure will affect the local housing market is how the shutdown impacts consumer confidence, Hanna said.
Howard Hanna will attempt to assuage consumer fears by promoting its Money Back Guarantee policy, which promises that home buyers who aren’t happy with their purchase can sell their home back to Howard Hanna within the first year of purchase.
One factor Hanna thinks is on its side is unmet consumer demand. The freeing up of inventory might help attract prospective home buyers who haven’t found the home they’re looking for up until now, he said.
“I think there’s a resiliency in this community,” he said. “Our hope is to stand behind the Valley and be strong.”
In other GM news, the Lordstown plant recently filed a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notice with the state Department of Job and Family services reporting that about 1,607 hourly and salaried employees at the Lords-town plant will be affected, beginning March 11, 2019. GM has said there will be about 2,700 positions available at other plants for employees affected by plant closures.