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Woodward 5 Open House Event A Success

City officials say signs of a stabilizing housing market are starting to show.

City officials attending a five-community open house event Sunday said signs of a stabilizing housing market are starting to show within the Woodward 5 area.

“Economically, the Woodward 5 is the hottest part of the Metro Detroit area,” Huntington Woods City Manager Alex Allie said. “The housing market is starting to come back. It’s starting to stabilize.”

Allie was one of dozens of city officials and community members hosting events during the Woodward 5 Open House, which included community and residential showings in Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak. The one-day event gave interested home buyers the opportunity to see homes for sale in all five of the cities and meet with city representatives, school officials and community groups.

Woodward 5 members hosted government open houses in each of the cities, and attendees were able to speak with officials and gather information about specific communities. A list of more than 50 residential open house showings running from noon to 4 p.m. was provided at each location.

Maisha Stewart, who attended the community open house in Pleasant Ridge, said she attended the event to learn more about the community. She said she likes the friendly attitude and cleanliness of Pleasant Ridge.

“I don’t live here now,” Stewart said. “But I have friends in Pleasant Ridge and have been shopping in Ferndale for over 20 years. I go there weekly.”

Berkley City Councilman Dan Benton said the idea for the event stemmed from a city-wide open house he coordinated in Berkley nearly five years ago. He said that event was expanded this year in order to market the shared qualities of each of the Woodward 5 communities.

“If you draw a circle around the tri-county area on a map, the center of the compass points here,” Benton said. “If you don’t want to uproot your family every time you get a new job, you better pick a central location.”

In addition to location, Woodward 5 members note the area serves as a cultural hub that offers a mix of urban sophistication, architectural diversity, strong schools and distinctive, close-knit neighborhoods.

Realtor Josh Swift, who focuses on properties in Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, said Sunday’s event helped to attract additional people to residential showings. A nearly constant stream of people attended his open house showing Sunday in the 10700 block of Vernon in Huntington Woods.

“It’s a tight-knit community,” Swift said of the neighborhood. “People who live here don’t like to sell.”

Allie said while there are houses available in the community, the percentage of houses on the market doesn’t appear to be exceptionally high. Of the nearly 2,500 houses located in Huntington Woods, Allie said about 35 are listed for sale.

Pleasant Ridge City Manager Sherry Ball said approximately 15 of about 1,150 homes in her city are for sale.

“Pleasant Ridge has held its own,” Ball said. “It’s one of two cities in Oakland County that didn’t see any decrease in property values (this year).”

Berkley City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa said between 200 and 300 of the approximately 6,000 houses in Berkley are for sale. She said lower turnaround in the community and a drop in foreclosures this year are positive signs, despite a slight decrease in housing values due to the economy.

“There are not that many houses for sale in the community ... even in previous years it was hard to find a house,” Bais-DiSessa said. “What happens in other communities also has an effect on us. Other areas may have more houses for sale or more foreclosures – that effects us as well.”

Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison said housing values have remained fairly consistent in the city, but he said potential residents are also concerned with tax rates.

“The first question I was asked was, ‘what is your tax rate,’ ” Ellison said.

He said the open house provided an opportunity to talk about some aspects of the community that aren’t as well publicized.

“Everyone thinks we are only about entertainment,” Ellison said. “We are a family community, we have been and continue to be. We have so much to offer families, but we use the downtown to our advantage.”

The Woodward 5 area includes three downtowns, including Royal Oak, Berkley and Ferndale. Longtime Ferndale resident and Realtor Judy Palmer said the rejuvenation of Ferndale’s downtown area has brought many positive changes for her city.

“Ferndale, because of the rejuvenation and its young couples and people, it’s been on the forefront of improvement before it needed to be,” Palmer said.

Stephanie Hall, director of community relations for Ferndale Public Schools, said most of those attending the public open house at the Ferndale Public Library requested information about the district and community. The district spokeswoman also attended the open house event in Pleasant Ridge.

Marcie Dryden, a teacher with the School District of the City of Royal Oak, said most of the people she spoke with were interested in the district’s all-day kindergarten program. She said none of the people she spoke with had yet moved to Royal Oak.

Carol Schwanger, who coordinated the event for the City of Royal Oak, said feedback from the event was positive.

“People liked that they could come to one location and get things,” Schwanger said. “We have a nice taste of what the city has to offer.”

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