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Three Michigan Suburbs Make Top 10

Robert Antonini

Sara and RJ Reilly and their kids, Harper, 5, and Macklin, 3, at their new home in Georgetown Township on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. (Allison Farrand | MLive.com)

(Allison Farrand)

JENISON, MI - When RJ and Sara Reilly went house-hunting one warm spring evening last year, their search ended when they drove through the Lowing Woods subdivision in eastern Ottawa County.

"There were so many families with small children" says Sara Reilly, whose family includes two small children. "Every driveway had kids playing outside and all the parents were standing around talking with each other.

The young family's love affair with their new home is no surprise to the researchers at SmartAsset.com.

The financial services firm listed the West Michigan communities of Jenison and Forest Hills among the healthiest housing markets in the nation in their third annual Healthiest Housing Markets Study.
Jenison was ranked 5th while Forest Hills was ranked 7th. The Oakland County suburb of Clawson was ranked 10th in the study, which measures market health by the average number of years residents spend in homes, home values, ease of sale, and costs associated with ownership.

"It reminded me of my childhood neighborhood," said Sara Reilly, who grew up in the Saginaw suburb of Shields. "It's pretty much exactly what we were looking for."

In Jenison, the average homeowner has been in their home for 17.6 years while only 6.1 percent of the homeowners were "under water," or owing more on their on their mortgage than the market value. When selling, the average home in Jenison was on the market just 45.4 days while costs were just 18.3 percent of the homeowner's income.

In Forest Hills, the average homeowner had been around for 15.5 years while housing costs were 17.7 percent of income. The average home was on the market just 37.4 days while only 3.4 percent of the homeowners were "under water."

In Clawson, the average homeowner had been there 16.7 years while costs were 19.7 percent of income. The average house in Clawson was on the market just 20.9 days while only 7 percent were "under water."

Nationally, the average homeowner has been in place 16.1 years while 14.2 percent were "under water." The cost of owning a home consumed 20.4 percent of household income while 16.7 percent of the homes had decreased in value. Selling a house took an average of 169.6 days, according to SmartAsset's study.

The Reillys moved to West Michigan from Iowa last summer after RJ Reilly was named manager of a new CarMax store in Kentwood.

Sara Reilly said they went house-hunting in the Georgetown Township community of Jenison upon the advice of family members who have children in the Jenison and Hudsonville school districts.

They bought a two-story four-bedroom house because they don't want to move again and want to have room for out-of-town visitors, she said.

Kurt Suidinski, an associate broker with Eastbrook Homes who sold the Reillys their new home, said quality school districts and affordable neighborhoods are key factors for young families looking to buy a house.

Unlike nearby cities, suburbs have lower taxes and lower house payments thanks to their volunteer fire departments and police protection from the county sheriff's department, said Suidinski, who said Eastbrook built 29 new homes in Georgetown Township last year and 15 in Jamestown Township.

Eastbrook built 120 homes in Kent County and 107 homes along the Lakeshore in 2016, according to BuilderTrack Reports, which tracks home construction in West Michigan.

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