“There are not a lot of choices in the city for homes that cost half a million dollars,” said Bill Conklin, president of the Toledo Board of Realtors.
“When you're taking clients around and they're looking for older estates, they usually find them in Perrysburg or Ottawa Hills, and they turn to the suburbs if they want something new because there are not a lot of areas getting large, custom-built homes in Toledo.”
Of the nearly 86,000 single-family homes within the city of Toledo limits, only eight are valued at more than $500,000 and seven more at more than $400,000 by the Lucas County auditor's office. Except for one, all are along West River Road near the Toledo Country Club in South Toledo. The lone exception is a block away.
The highest valued home in Toledo, according to the auditor's office, is $709,300. Only one of the homes valued at $400,000 or more sold last year; it sold for $550,000.
The low numbers make it difficult for buyers seeking a very upscale address in Toledo to find a suitable home, but some people will settle for nothing other than a Toledo ZIP code, said Lynn Fruth, an owner of The Danberry Co., Realtors, in Toledo.
“We've had successful people who thought about running for political office and knew that it would make political sense that they live in the Toledo city limits.”
The most logical place to direct such people is along the Maumee River between the Ohio Turnpike and the Toledo Zoo “because there are some outstanding homes that many people refer to as mansions that are located there,” he said.
“You've got to look for them, but there are some [grand] places,” said Jon Modene, owner of the Re/Max Masters real estate agency in Perrysburg. “They're going to be where there's a natural feature that demands that kind of price.”
It is along the city's two rivers, the Maumee and the Ottawa, where buyers are most likely to find large estates with picturesque scenery and homes priced at $400,000 and up. But such buyers are starting to consider two famous enclaves: Westmoreland off Bancroft Street near the University of Toledo and the Old West End near downtown. Those areas have had increases in value for their stately old homes.
“I think there is a market for grander urban homes,” said Michael Miller, president of Sulphur Springs Realty, Inc., in Toledo.
Another Toledo area showing an increase in housing values is along the river in Point Place, especially on Shoreland Avenue. A four-bedroom, 21/2-bathroom home there is valued by the auditor's office at $321,000, but is for sale with an asking price of $490,000.
The high price is attributable to the three-year-old home's situation on the Ottawa River with easy access to Lake Erie, said E.C. Turner, the listing agent from Re/Max Masters in Perrysburg. The home's backyard runs down to the water, where there is a private boat dock.
“I think this is a niche home,” he said. “The river is a huge plus, the location is very convenient to other parts of the city, and the house itself was done very well.”
Whether more such homes will be built within Toledo is uncertain, say city planners and local developers and real estate agents.
Tom Gibbons, an associate planner with the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission who specializes in city planning, said planners and developers would love to see more upscale housing in the city limits, but the drawback is finding attractive plots of land.
The large tracts on Reynolds Road and Hill Avenue and near Hill Avenue and Byrne Road may not have the amenities sought by developers of upscale homes, he said.
“Our most natural wonders are the lake or the river, but what's really available with that view anymore?” he said. “A lot of people who are going to spend that much money are going to go out into the country.”
A newer development in Toledo is Thousands Oaks off Alexis Road, in the Washington Local school district. The project has houses in the upper-end price range.
“The school issue is key,” said Jim McGowan, a local developer and an agent for Loss Realty Group in Toledo. “Many of these [upscale] buyers have children, and they tend to favor school districts that have better performance numbers.”
But he acknowledged there are obstacles to trying to duplicate the Wildewood development off Corey Road in Sylvania Township, which McGowan Development handled and which boasts homes in the $1 million range.
Besides being in the Toledo school district, where proficiency test scores and other factors are not as high as at most suburban school districts, upscale housing within the city might be a tough sell to prospective buyers because of municipal services, such as garbage pickup and police and fire protection, Mr. McGowan said.
“I'm a big believer in perception, and there is a perception that services tend to be better in the townships,” he said.
“That may not be true, but if that's what the market thinks is going on, people are not going to pay $70,000 to $110,000 for a lot within the city.”