OWOSSO — It’s official: The city of Owosso is out of the business of real estate development.
The last seven available lots in Osburn Lakes — a single-family subdivision for which the city was the developer— have been sold by Century 21 Looking Glass, Mayor Chris Eveleth said during Tuesday’s Owosso City Council meeting.
“It’s a project that’s been going on since about 2005,” City Manager Nathan Henne said, “and we’re finally finished.”
The project began about 15 years ago, when the city decided to develop the subdivision — located near Gould and North streets — in an effort to increase the availability of housing lots in the city and boost its tax base.
Eventually the city turned Osburn Lakes over to a private company, but when the builder walked away from the project 10 years ago, by default the city took over development duties again.
Then came a long period of slow lot sales. Meanwhile, the city was spending about $13,000 per year to maintain the vacant lots.
Shortly after Henne was hired as the city manager in the spring of 2018, the Owosso City Council switched real estate agents, approving a two-year brokerage agreement with Century 21 Looking Glass to sell the remaining 25 lots.
“Century 21 did a fantastic job of finding some home builders who did a great job in terms of quantity and quality,” he said, adding Realtor Shannon Howansky-Dunlap “made us all look good.”
Howansky-Dunlap, whose background includes new-construction home sales, offered a new strategy: selling the lots to builders — who would construct homes on the lots to sell — instead of trying to find individuals to purchase the lots.
“My partnership with the city of Owosso was not just with Nathan Henne but with Mayor Chris Eveleth and the Owosso City Council, which did a great job of catching the vision,” Howansky-Dunlap said Friday. “They were open with me and willing to work with me on a new strategy that was a little unconventional but had huge benefits.”
Howansky-Dunlap used her contacts with builders, including from out of state, to bring on board Georgia-based Wade Jurney Homes, which purchased many of the lots, CVE Homes in Bath Township, Delaware-based Black Diamond Home Solutions and Mayberry Homes in East Lansing. A handful of individuals bought lots as well.
Justin Horvath, president/CEO of Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, helped Howansky-Dunlap promote Osburn Lakes with several public events such as groundbreaking ceremonies, an approach that assisted greatly, she said.
Now, two years later, every lot has been sold — at full-price offers. Properties ranged from $7,500 to $17,500 each. Completed houses in Osburn Lakes cost $170,000 to $225,000, with some custom homes running as much as $320,000.
Back when home sales in the subdivision were stagnant, the value of existing homes also stagnated. With all lots sold and new houses getting constructed, the value of all homes in Osburn Lakes has increased, Howansky-Dunlap said.
The city may be out of real estate development, at least for now, but Henne said officials are still interested in working with developers to increase Owosso’s housing stock.
“There is a documented need now, not just in Owosso but in the entire region, for housing at all price points,” Henne said. “We’re now looking for our next opportunity. I would prefer to work with developers rather than the city serve as such.”