Housing growth remains steady around Butler County

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 3:52 p.m.

When Justin Dorus and his wife, Kimberly, were looking to move out of Baldwin, they wanted a space large enough to accommodate their growing family but still close to their families in the Bethel Park and Slippery Rock areas.

“Location for us was pretty critical,” Dorus said.

With a target budget of $250,000 to $300,000, they chose to construct a new home in the Marshall Heights development in Cranberry. Now Dorus, his wife and their 19-month-old son Jayden have a back yard, a patio and easy access to nearby parks. They also live closer to Kimberly's job teaching in Sewickley while just 20 minutes from where Dorus works in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Dorus and his family are one of many newcomers to Butler County, where housing growth remains steady despite a drop in average purchase price from this time last year.

According to RealSTATs, a South Side firm that tracks real-estate transactions, the average home price dropped in October 2013 to a little over $238,000 from $248,000 last year. Overall home sales went from 219 in October 2012 to 208 last month.

“We're looking for increased sales in the coming year,” said Daryl Mikolay, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker and president of the Butler County Association of Realtors. “We have people moving into the area, and some of the building has started again.”

In the five-county region that also includes Allegheny, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland counties, Butler County has had the highest median home prices of the last three years. That means that half of all homes in Butler County sold for less, and the other half went for more. October's median was $193,015.

Prices of newly constructed homes reached a three-year high, too, selling for an average of $393,958.

Dorus said when he and his wife looked at existing properties, some were on the market for just about a week when someone else put in an offer.

“It was a market that was particularly hard to compete in and see the houses fast enough,” he said.

Mikolay said Butler County didn't experience as much of a downturn from “the bubble” in the housing market compared to other regions.

Part of the appeal to regional residents, Mikolay said, is lower property taxes than in Allegheny or Beaver counties. New jobs at Westinghouse Electric Co.'s Cranberry world headquarters also are enticing residents to settle close by.

“Interest rates are still at a good rate,” she said. “This is really a good time to buy.”

Ron Henshaw, director of community development in Cranberry, said the area is on pace to see about 100 new single-family home sales this year. If that happens, it'll be the highest since 2005.

The township is also seeing an influx of multiple-story, multi-family residents, meaning a boost in apartments, Henshaw said.

But the township's overall goal is to get a “balance of growth,” or a mix of residential and non-residential properties.

“We're having a good, strong year,” he said.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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