Saturday, November 23, 2002

Home-sales slump

Move to Kentucky, y'all


As a shameless Kentucky booster, I'm scratching my head over home sales this year. They're down on the Kentucky side of the river but setting records in Southwest Ohio.

What's up? Surely it can't be the quality of our scandals. Kentucky has adulterous Gov. Paul Patton; Ohio has the Bengals. At least our guy scores occasionally.

Of course, this year Northern Kentucky also got hit with Bill Erpenbeck, the homebuilder whose company allegedly diverted millions of dollars meant to pay off loans.

This left hundreds of homebuyers unwittingly racking up debt, while fun-loving Bill poured beer on people's heads at parties.

But hey, at least beer is cheap in Kentucky. Cigarettes, too. Our so-called sin taxes are lower than Ohio's - just one of many perks.

`Shameless shilling'

For others, I consulted folks who bought homes here this summer, when sales dropped 18 percent compared to 2001.

"What we really liked about Kentucky is it kind of feels like you're in the countryside. The trees, the horses...." says Steve Vail, a Convergys product manager who moved from San Fransisco to Hebron, about 25 minutes from downtown.

He knew about the Bill Erpenbeck situation but had no trouble steering clear.

"Pretty much the Realtors said, `Avoid anything with (his) involvement,' " Mr. Vail recalls.

See? One of these days we'll forget all about Mr. Erpenbeck, despite that large, highly regarded elementary school that bears his family name.

Other items from my "shameless shilling for Kentucky" file:

More house for your money. This is especially true if you're looking for an upscale community with good schools and stately, older homes. For example: The average sale price of a three-bedroom in Fort Thomas, Ky., was $158,190 this year, compared to $252,412 in Mariemont.

Value also can be found in fast-growing suburbs like Union and Richwood, about 25 minutes from Cincinnati. Average three-bedroom price there: $172,775, compared to $182,070 in Mason.

Riverfront excitement. Newport on the Levee is the place to be, with aquatic animals, giant-screen movies, street performers, games, books, clothing stores, a cabaret show and restaurants galore.

You may need an hour to navigate the crazy parking garage, but what's a few extra gas fumes for all this fun?

Lower property taxes. The six counties of Northern Kentucky all have lower average rates than five Southwestern Ohio counties, according to statistics from Partnership for Greater Cincinnati. For example, the average rate in Campbell County, Ky., is $9.05 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to $15.52 per $1,000 in Butler County.

The best view of Cincinnati's skyline. You'll find it on Interstate 75 near the Kyles Lane exit. Pick up your guests at the airport (conveniently located in Kentucky) and drive north to wow them.

Then head for your Kentucky home. Pop open one of those beers. Breathe in the countryside. Enjoy.

E-mail or call (859) 578-5584.

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