CINCINNATI -- Pete Ventura grew up in Norwood. He knows how convenient the city-within-the-Queen-City is to Downtown, to Interstates 71 and 75, and just about every place. He knows how solidly the old houses are built.
So when Ventura started renovating homes, he bought several there.
"These houses are comparable to ones in Oakley, Hyde Park," Ventura said. "They really just need a facelift."
His most recent project, which is located on Melrose Avenue within walking distance of Rookwood, was built in 1890. Sometime in the last 127 years, the building was split into a duplex. Ventura restored it to a single-family home.
He saved the stained-glass window and the three-dimensional tile around the fireplace. The original thick wood trim already had been painted, so he gave everything a fresh coat of white paint. He matched the new hardwood floors to the color of the original staircase steps and found a woodworker to match the original spindles and newel post.
"I try to keep everything as long as it's not rotted or broken," Ventura said.
Ventura isn't the only person to realize Norwood's ideally located housing stock. Building officials said the city, which is an enclave of Cincinnati, is going through a renovation boom and saw the first new single-family home construction in decades last year.
The average three-bedroom home in Norwood sold for $168,098 in the first three months of 2018, an increase of more than $37,000 from the average sale price during the same time last year, according to an analysis by realtor Jennifer McGillis. Five years ago, the average sale price was $114,850.
Just a few blocks away from Ventura's Melrose house sits the most expensive home sold this spring in Norwood -- $359,000 on Ashland Avenue.
In addition to rising prices, McGillis said more homes are selling, and they're going faster. In the first three months of 2013, 36 homes sold in Norwood after an average 75 days on the market. Sixty-one homes sold this year between Jan. 1 and March 31 after an average 25 days on the market.
"People who can't afford Oakley, they might find they end up in a larger house here," Ventura said.
If they're buying a renovated home like the one on Melrose Avenue, they could also benefit from a 10-year home improvement tax abatement.
Ventura and his wife, Miranda, brought the old home into the 21st century. They totally replaced the electrical and plumbing systems, added powder and laundry rooms on the first floor, and wired a wall for an entertainment system. The master suite includes a walk-in closet and a spacious bathroom. The open third-floor bonus room has a closet, so could make a fourth bedroom -- the perfect secluded spot for a teenager, Ventura said.
The property also includes a two-car garage and, out the back door, a freshly poured concrete patio that provides outdoor entertainment space. From the front sidewalk, looking down Melrose Avenue, you can see the Mercy Health building on Edwards Road.
The original high ceilings complement the revised open-concept floor plan, making the whole house feel airy. White subway tile and a deep farmhouse-style sink make the brand-new kitchen fit naturally into the 19th-century house.
"Those details, that's what people are looking for," Ventura said. "They want charm, but they want new amenities. You're getting the best of both worlds with these renovated homes."