Home Work

It's Coming, Slowly

Open up virtually any publication or get online, and you'll be bombarded with informational ads for housing. Tour the real estate classified section, and you'll be hit with the latest, greatest new homes on the market.

New roads are branching and sprouting everywhere, coursing, so it seems, in every direction from the once flourishing center of the city. (Remember that place? It once was home to a lot more than just the Bengals and Reds.)

New grand boulevards are built further and further out with a gusto reflective of people's desires to escape the Jerichoed remains of a once picturesque landscape that over time has become dotted with fields of browning urban decay.

These once-thriving mini-metropolises, neglected for decades, are beginning to show signs of life as concerns about urban sprawl increase. The evidence is there, but unless you're paying close attention and looking with an eagle's eye, it's difficult to spot these areas, since the tendency is for them to slowly emerge.

Fly over any major city or drive along any superhighway and the landscape appears to blanketed with new developments on the left and new developments on the right. The new beauty spots dotting the old face of the city, however, typically are smaller in scope and often blend well into the cityscape.

Observing the reincarnation of brownfields isn't easy, and measuring their progress is equally complex. It takes time to see that an urban renewal project here and a redevelopment project there add up, indicating that at least the problem is being addressed.

Who would have thought that in a recent land reuse study conducted by XL Environmental Inc. that Ohio would rank No. 2 in land use activity with 38 sites currently being developed? I certainly wouldn't have.

As I read through the study, which examined published information on existing land use activities, I was surprised to see that only California was ahead of us in recycling land formerly considered too contaminated for use. How effective and successful this remediation is wasn't addressed, nor will I attempt to bridge that scientific (and I suspect debatable) question in this space.

The point is that there was no progress in times past and there is now. Currently, there are 428 specific land reuse activities involving at least 160,000 acres (224 square miles) of property in 43 states being developed — a 43 percent increase in reuse activity over the previous year.

XL Environmental is the eagle's eye in this story, since their business mission is providing insurance in places where environmental or contamination issues might arise. It's in their interest (and, fortunately for us, our interest) to track these changes and the reasons why.

Comfort levels with brownfields redevelopment continue to grow with developers, governments and the general public becoming more aware of the benefits of redevelopment. Public sector involvement continues to be strong in brownfield redevelopment, and public-private partnerships are increasing, with mixed use comprising the majority of future and planned brownfields redevelopment sites.

As sprawl continues to be an important issue affecting the quality of life regardless of where we live, interest in these once-neglected corners of the city is being renewed. The combined forces of economics (the newfound insurance company willingness to provide coverage), science (new remediation technologies) and the public's desire to make old new is allowing us to re-examine how and where we live and how we want to grow.

THIS WEEK'S TIP: Finding Your Dream Home, Part 1
After weeks of searching home after home, you think you've found the one that meets your every need. Congratulations.

Remember, though, that if you think of homebuying in terms of a race, you're still at the starting line. In other words, to reach your ultimate goal you've got a long road ahead of you.

Agreeing on a purchase price with the seller is just one of the many steps in the home buying process, as any real estate professional will tell you.

There's a lot to consider before you sign a real estate purchase agreement. If the terms and conditions of the deal aren't acceptable, you might want to pause and think twice, even if the purchase price is more than satisfactory. After all, the price will be moot if the transaction never closes.

The typical residential real estate purchase contract is complicated, densely written and packed with legal jargon, but don't use that fact as an excuse for not reading the entire contract. Take your time and read slowly. Ask questions about anything you don't understand. Be flexible and willing to negotiate.

Home Work is a weekly column geared toward residential real estate