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People looking to buy a house in Ohio should be slightly wary of the local economy. Although the Cleveland metropolitan area’s economy has been in recession since the latter part of 2000, there are signs that the recession may be nearing its end. As one of the major economic centers, Cleveland is a good indicator of the economic health of the state in general. Promisingly, employment has showed small but steady gains in the first 6 months of 2002. The total non-agricultural employment in the Cleveland metropolitan area totaled 1,161,000 jobs by June 2002.

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For the twelve-month period that ended in June 2002, non-agricultural employment was down only 0.5 percent compared with a 1.6-percent decline in the previous 12-month period. These figures suggest that the recent depression is likely coming to an end. The population of the Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria metropolitan area totaled 2.2 million in 2000, a 1.3-percent decline since 1990. Although the city of Cleveland has lost population, the area’s suburban counties and the neighboring Akron metropolitan area have grown because of the out-migration and an increase in job opportunities. All this translates to a slowly freezing housing market which favors the buyer.

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Multifamily building permit activity in the Cleveland metropolitan area has slowed a bit in the past 3 years. Between 1999 and 2001, multifamily activity averaged 1,000 units annually, down from approximately 1,200 units annually in the previous 3-year period. Downtown Cleveland’s rental market continues to expand. With more than 3,000 units in the central business district and another 300 under construction, the downtown area has become a distinct and active submarket. The city of Cleveland recently announced the $220 million Euclid Corridor Transportation Project for downtown in an effort to increase the area’s appeal and accessibility. The project is expected to improve public transportation between downtown’s Public Square and areas in East Cleveland, including University Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic.

Generally, the Cleveland area apartment market is staying soft, with typical occupancy rates in the range of 85 to 90 percent. Local sources attribute the relatively low occupancy to job losses, declining household growth and demand, and increased homeownership. As of the second quarter of 2002, the median rent for a two-bedroom unit was $620, virtually unchanged from the second quarter of 2001. This continues to suggest that currently the market is looking good for first time home buyers, or those looking to refinance their current homes.

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