BATAVIA, Ohio — The pandemic-fueled desire for larger living space with a home office and big yard is transforming once sleepy Clermont County into a homebuilding hotspot.
“We’ve had 35 ribbon cuttings and openings during a pandemic. It’s unthinkable of the growth in people who want to come out here,” said Clermont County Commissioner Claire Corcoran. “Why? Because it’s rural.”
Homebuilders have targeted New Richmond, Amelia, Batavia, Milford and surrounding townships with hundreds of new subdivision homes and build sites that real estate agents say are selling out quickly.
“All told we’re... approaching 200 homes built in the past two years. So we’ve got an influx of new residents,” said New Richmond Village Administrator Greg Roberts.
Over the past 20 years, the Clermont County’s population grew from 177,977 to 208,601. It grew by 5.7 percent in the last 10 years, surpassing a major population milestone at more than 200,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Comparatively in the past decade, Butler County grew by 6 percent; Warren County's population increased by 13.9 percent; and Hamilton County’s population was up 3.5 percent from 2010.
But Clermont County still has vast expanses of farmland especially in its eastern townships, so its housing growth is highly concentrated to areas that adjoin Hamilton County and are near the Interstate 275 loop and state Route 32, such as Union Township, Eastgate and neighborhoods near Batavia. Some of the most popular areas have grown by as much as 45 percent in the past decade.
“Subdivisions and new construction are a huge hot spot,” said Liz Juszczyk, vice president and sales manager at Sibcy Cline Realtor’s Anderson Township office. “The subdivisions are selling out.”
Many large homebuilding companies are currently developing subdivisions at several different locations within Clermont County, most with popular amenities such as clubhouses, walking trails and playgrounds.
“A lot of builders are choosing (Clermont) … because of land availability,” Juszczyk said. “As with any metropolitan area, if you run out of land you have to move out to find more.”
Not only does Juszczyk sell Clermont County; she also lives there.
She moved her family from the Mount Washington neighborhood in Cincinnati into a bigger house in Batavia Township in Clermont County 2014.
“To get the size home that we wanted at the price point we could afford, we just could not swing it,” she said. “So, we started looking out in Clermont County and were able to find a beautiful, much larger home at a more reasonable price point.”
Juszczyk recently noticed more people moving to Clermont County from surrounding counties.
Data collected by the Clermont County Community and Economic Development Department tracks the migration of people from other surrounding counties between 2015 to 2019:
- 3,457 from Hamilton County
- 1,084 from Brown County
- 744 from Warren County
- 622 from Butler County
First-time home buyers are drawn to Clermont for the low housing prices while move-up buyers want bigger homes for their expanding families with home offices, dens and open space for outdoor recreation, Juszczyk said.
“We’re also seeing empty nesters that are downsizing and coming in from Brown and Adams counties to be closer to their adult children or grandchildren,” she said.
Homebuyers are also coming from out of town, most noticeably from Chicago and New Jersey, according to county data.
When Juszczyk moved to Clermont County eight years ago, her friends chided her for moving, “way out there.” But she said that perception has changed, noting that she’s only a 20-minute drive to Downtown Cincinnati.
“It’s almost a modern rural,” Juszcyk said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the growth and development of that area. A lot of industry is and has continued to move into the area.”
In early 2016, the Clermont County Community Improvement Corporation bought 242 acres of land in Williamsburg Township to create a business ready site for manufacturers known as South Afton Industrial Park.
The first tenant, Design Within Reach, a furniture and home accessories company, opened a distribution center there in 2019 and now employs more than 100.
Currently Nestle Purina Pet Care is building a $550 million plant at South Afton Industrial Park, which will bring 300 new jobs. It will be Purina’s first newly built factory since 1975.
Total Quality Logistics has its headquarters in Clermont County and expanded into a second location. Milacron, a leader in the plastics processing industry, has also expanded its operations in the county.
“I think you’re going to see some growth in our businesses that we already have here in the very near future,” said Mike McNamara, director of the county’s Community and Economic Development Department. “We focus on the businesses that are here first … and making sure that they have the ability to grow.”
He believes industry is drawn to the county due to its open space for development, business-friendly stance and low sales tax rate, which at 6.75 percent is lower than 95 percent of counties in Ohio.
County officials are also working to promote Clermont as a local tourism destination, from New Richmond’s cardboard boat regatta to President Ulysses Grant’s birthplace near Moscow, and numerous Underground Railroad sites along the Ohio River.
The county already gets a tourism boost from youth soccer games associated with FC Cincinnati’s $35 million Mercy Health Training Center in Milford and junior rowing regattas at East Fork Lake State Park.
But new population also brings the need for additional services such as police and fire, street crews and water and sewer capability, which officials say they are preparing for.
“We took a lot of our CARES Act money to help each one of the townships and to help the different departments including the schools to try and help take that impact away,” Corcoran said. “We’re staying very focused not only on infrastructure and roads. We’re also looking at our five-year plan for water and sewer.”
Roberts, of New Richmond, is anticipating the housing boom will bring in more tax revenue and higher property valuations.
“The new residents will put a demand for police, fire, EMS services, the street department. So, we have more to take care of but also on the other side of the coin, we also have a 1 percent earnings tax in the village, so that’s the immediate benefit to start paying for those services,” Roberts said.
While the growth is exciting, Corcoran promises that the county’s rural charm and working farmland will stay intact. She said the county works with farmers to ensure they have enough space for crops and livestock.
“We keep it what it used to be. We’re not just overdeveloping everything,” Corcoran said.
“You find a sense of peace when you’re out here. The hustle, bustle kind of goes away,” Corcoran said. “But yet you know that neighbor next door is still willing to help you. And that’s my sense of home here.”