HANCOCK COUNTY — When Scott and Linda Crawford chose to sell their Southport home of over 20 years and move to Greenfield to be closer to their daughter and son-in-law, Scott admits he was skeptical.
That doubt, however, wore off fast.
Their 32-year-old Indianapolis-area home sold about two months after they listed it, in May. Just four months later, they closed on a newly built home in Greenfield, much to Crawford’s surprise. Their daughter, Marla Shockley, a Realtor with Century 21 Wilson and Associates in Greenfield, told them summer was the time to sell their home and build a new one as the housing market was “red-hot,” Crawford said.
“My daughter was right as usual, takes after her mom,” he said, with a laugh.
The Crawfords’ experience has been typical of the resurgent new-home market in Hancock County, a study of home construction in 2018 shows. Close to 600 single-family house permits have been issued throughout the county in 2018.
The number of people building new homes in Hancock County is at its highest since the market downturn a decade ago, local planners say. That pace is expected to remain steady in the coming years, as over 1,000 new lots will open for new construction in Fortville and McCordsville, the fastest-growing areas in the county.
A decade removed from the Great Recession, interest rates remain low, and more people, like the Crawfords, are deciding to move from their existing homes and build new ones quickly, said Joanie Fitzwater, planning director for the city of Greenfield.
“You could tell things were moving,” Fitzwater said.
Greenfield has issued 165 single-family housing permits so far in 2018. It issues 141 in 2017. When the recession hit, the number of permits dropped by more than half and averaged about 50 a year until a few years ago, Fitzwater said.
The Hancock County planning department has issued 212 permits in 2018, up from 154 in 2017. That number also included 68 permits in 2018 and 58 permits in 2017 for Fortville. McCordsville issued 105 in 2018 and 88 in 2017; New Palestine had 46 permits in 2018 and 39 in 2017; and Cumberland issued 60 permits in 2018 and 35 in 2017, according to area planning department records and the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis.
Adam Zaklikowski, planning administrator for Fortville, said most of the 68 permits issued this year are for the Wyndstone subdivision on the east side of the town. Sales and home construction there have increased as of late, he said. The subdivision has 374 lots for new homes.
Fortville also has at least three other subdivisions in the works for the new few years, which total more than 500 lots. Zaklikowski said he’s expecting more housing permits will come through because of those developments, but it depends on how long the strong housing market holds.
“It’s the fastest growth that we’ve seen in recent memory,” he said; town issued only 30 permits in 2016.
McCordsville, which is one of the fastest-growing communities in Indiana, has three subdivisions under construction and three more developments starting up next year, said Ryan Crum, director of planning and building for McCordsville. The three new subdivisions will have nearly 600 lots.
“I would suspect our permit counts are going to go up even more next year, without a doubt,” Crum said. “In terms of residential growth, it’s probably going to be a big year.”
The growth of Fortville and McCordsville has been a direct result of a shrinking inventory of homes and acreage in Fishers and southeastern Hamilton County compared to several years ago, Crum and Zaklikowski said. More families also want to move into the Mt. Vernon school district, they added.
For Fortville, the increase in development lately has irked some residents as well as people living outside of the town limits. They’re afraid of the small town becoming congested like Fishers and Geist. That’s why Zaklikowski said town officials have high expectations on the quality and design of homes.
“We certainly want to make sure that any new housing that’s making its way into Fortville is unique and something that is really fitting of the small town,” he said. “We’re trying to get away from a typical suburban atmosphere and try to embrace the small town feel while also being pro-growth.”
Affordability, more amenities
Steve Hatchel, vice president of sales at Arbor Homes, which is building houses in Keystone in Greenfield and Wyndstone in Fortville, said the growth of new homes in Hancock County comes down to affordability; easy access to Indianapolis; growth in local amenities; and the low inventory of existing homes. He said it’s difficult to find a home to buy for less than $200,000 in the county that isn’t older or that needs significant repairs.
“When you can get a new home at a comparable price, and have the warranty, you get to pick out your own carpet and counter tops and cabinets, that excitement has definitely driven a lot of people to new,” Hatchel said.
Arbor Homes will close about 65 to 74 homes in Keystone this year, he said. The builder also pulled 60 permits for new homes in Wyndstone. He said people moving into those new homes in Greenfield and Fortville are a mixture of current Hancock County residents and people from outside of the area.
Tom Joyner, of Joyner Homes, said the custom home builder has constructed 30 homes this year and grown as a business by 25 percent in revenue a year over the past few years. Joyner builds homes valued from the $200,000s to over a million dollars, Joyner said. It’s average prices is about $400,000.
Joyner said the price of homes has increased, though, as the market has improved because of a labor shortage for workers and higher construction costs. But that hasn’t yet slowed down demand, he added. According to the MIBOR Realtor Association, Hancock County had 426 closed sales on existing homes from May through July, an increase of about 5 percent from the time period in 2017. New listings also increased this summer compared to last year, by about 3 percent.
“Our county is becoming a more popular place to live,” Joyner said, saying the Stellar Community designation for Greenfield, Fortville and Hancock County is one more positive for the area.
Kevin and Jayme Harvey built a new home through Joyner Homes this summer in the Stone Ridge neighborhood just west of Greenfield. The Harveys used to live in New Palestine, but they wanted to move closer to Greenfield for Kevin’s work and build a custom home in the area.
Their New Palestine home sold in two weeks this past July. Harvey said his Realtor advised him to wait to put the house on the market until they were close to moving in to their new home.
“It was a little nerve-racking to wait that long, but his advice was spot on,” Harvey said.
As a new Greenfield resident, Crawford said he and his wife enjoy the small-knit community. They also live a mile away from their daughter and son-in-law and can hop on the highway to visit Indianapolis.
“People in Greenfield are pretty cool,” Crawford said. “There’s something going on. I’ll see new places and vehicles moving into the area all the time.”