Rating the Suburbs 2011: The Bargain Buy

Michael Ocampo and Beth Campano-Ocampo, Fairview Park

Beth Campano-Ocampo came to the home-buying process with the eye of an artist. As a skilled conservator who works with private art collectors and museums nationwide, she had strict criteria for the aesthetics and quality of her new home.

She and her then-fiance, Michael Ocampo, were living in separate condos in North Olmsted and Tremont before their November wedding.

The couple, who are also expecting a baby in August, searched both sides of town. But Campano-Ocampo "liked the infrastructure of the West Side better," she says. "[It has] easy access to I-90 and I-480, a 15- to 20-minute commute downtown, and easy access to work and clients both east and west."

In Fairview Park, they stumbled upon a secluded neighborhood overlooking the Metroparks, where its developer created 1-acre lots that take advantage of views across the wooded valley.

"As soon as we drove into this neighborhood, we knew we wanted to find a way to live here," Campano-Ocampo says.

The home's architecture appealed to this couple — a 4,500-square-foot mid-century modern California ranch with a midlevel walkout and a second-floor balcony that wraps the entire back of the house overlooking the valley.

But with a listing price of $399,000, the custom-built home strained the upper end of their budget. Over five months, the price gradually declined into a more comfortable range, and they snapped it up at a final price of $315,000.

It was a great deal — a neighbor's home listed at $415,000 hints at its value — but Campano-Ocampo stops short of calling it a bargain.

"I had to have a structure that was beautifully built," she says. "A bargain wasn't a bargain unless we found that kind of house at a really enticing price."

Amenities included an automatic generator, an indoor grill with chimney, four-zone thermostats, and interior stone and brick walls. The neutral tones of its '60s-era decor prevented it from becoming dated. Structural wood beams connect indoor and outdoor spaces, and the original owner had added clever touches such as an exotic carved-wood railing reclaimed from a 1950s-era Cleveland restaurant.

"We looked at houses that were more expensive that weren't built as solid, even if they were beautiful," Campano-Ocampo says. "There was nothing [on the market] of this quality."

Home Inspection

Sold for: $315,000
Asking price: $399,000
Time on the market: 155 days

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