Via Review Times
By BRIAN BOHNERT
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
A recent online study identifying the most affordable housing markets in the country placed Fostoria among the top three in the state.
SmartAsset.com, an online financial technology company, ranked Fostoria as the second-most affordable place to purchase a home in Ohio.
To complete the study, SmartAsset determined the total cost over five years of four key expenses — closing costs, real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance and mortgage rates — for the average home in more than 4,000 U.S. cities, and then compared the data to each city’s median household income.
The end result was a system of grading each city on a 0-100 scale known as the “affordability index.”
“What we did was we took a more holistic look at what it costs to own a home over five years,” said A.J. Smith, SmartAsset managing editor. “Sometimes people just see that sticker price or monthly mortgage payment, but there are some other important expenses that happen only once.”
Fostoria was ranked no. 2 in the state with an affordability index score of 43.80 — a close second to Wapakoneta’s 44.64. On a national scale, Fostoria came in at no. 112.
Texas was home to the top three most-affordable housing markets in the country. Mesquite, Texas took the top spot with an affordability index score of 100, followed by Kermit, Texas with 87.35 and Pecos, Texas with 76.04.
At the time the data was compiled, the average closing cost for a home in Fostoria was $1,832. According to the study, the annual property tax was $834, annual homeowner’s insurance was $247 and the average annual mortgage payment was $3,399.
Additionally, Fostoria’s median household income was $35,691.
In Wapakoneta, the average closing cost was also $1,832. However, the annual property tax was $1,064, annual homeowner’s insurance was $338 and the average annual mortgage payment was $4,649.
The median household income in Wapakoneta was $48,071.
Renee Smith, president of Fostoria Economic Development Corporation, said Fostoria’s stellar ranking comes at a perfect time, given the housing crisis plaguing surrounding areas like Findlay and Tiffin.
“They don’t have enough houses available. And here, we do have enough houses available,” the FEDC president said. “You have affordable living in Fostoria. Whether you work in Findlay or in Tiffin, you’re 20 minutes away and you would be paying half the costs, at least.”
In a move aimed at drawing more attention to Fostoria’s real estate market, Mayor Eric Keckler said his administration is compiling a list of blighted homes within the city.
Any property deemed vacant or abandoned will be torn down.
For those properties not abandoned, owners will be required to perform regular upkeep, such as keeping the lawn mowed and shrubbery trimmed; ensuring the structure has adequate weather protection; ensuring the structure is secured against trespassers and rodents; and removing all trash and debris from the yard.
“We’re going to be very proactive in either getting those (properties) cleaned up or getting them out of those neighborhoods,” Keckler said. “We’re going to make every neighborhood a nice neighborhood.”
With Fostoria’s population at 13,441, the mayor said an influx of homeowners could open up more opportunities for his office to apply for state-funded programs instead of having to rely on assistance from the county.
“I know there are some people who could take this (study) as a negative, but I’m embracing it,” Keckler said. “This gives us the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, come live here. We have affordable housing.’”
For the study, SmartAsset obtained live mortgages from financial institutions like Bank of America, Capital One, Wells Fargo and others, to provide potential homeowners with actual rates people are getting right now.
“What other products like us do is they ask you how much you’d like to pay for a home. That’s not really useful information if that price is not what you’re going to qualify for,” A.J. Smith said. “We’re able to give you more accuracy. You tell us a little more information and we’ll tell you what someone like you is able to qualify for right now.”
SmartAsset launched in 2012 as a way to provide people with helpful and statistically accurate advice on big financial decisions like buying a house or car, obtaining life insurance and applying for student loans.
“Most of us only (purchase a home) once or twice in a lifetime; so, we don’t get a lot of practice at it,” A.J. Smith said. “We kind of enter the world not totally understanding all of the jargon. Our goal is to arm people with a little more information so they can go into big financial decisions a little more confidently.”
The top 10 most affordable places to buy a home in Ohio as ranked by SmartAsset:
4. New Lexington
5. East Liverpool
To view the full study and the interactive map, visit www.smartasset.com/mortgage/how-much-house-can-i-afford#ohio.