Fierce competition in a tight market

After being homeless and then jammed into a small apartment, Alexis Arnold was determined to stabilize her family of four children with a home of their own.

She dove headfirst into ferocious competition to snag a new home in Columbus, which in April was tagged the fourth-hottest real estate market in the country by Realtor.com.

“You would go to see a house at 9 a.m. and by 9:30 they were in contract and that happened several times,” Arnold recalls. “One time there were 16 different offers for a house within an hour.”

Arnold eventually found and successfully bid on a house in May, but the process was discouraging in a market where demand far outstrips supply.

The market is so hot that between January and April, four out of five homes sold in Franklin County captured more than their estimated value. Some sold for two or three times their appraised value, according to auditor's records.

Sara Walsh, president of Columbus Realtors, says the average time on the market for all property sales is 33 days, but many go faster.

“Buyers need to be prepared to move quickly,” Walsh says. “When you have multiple offers on a property, it drives up an emotional charge for everyone and unexpected complications can arise.”

Mark Kraus, of Coldwell Banker King Thompson, says homes priced above $400,000 move more slowly, but otherwise the market is volatile and potential buyers need to be ready to jump.

“It's exhausting. When something comes on the market, I tell clients they need to get off work early and look now; it can't be put off,” Kraus says. “A key for buyers is to keep their emotions in check and not overpay where they will regret it a year or two down the road.”

Fee appraiser Sam Koon, of Samuel D. Koon and Associates, agrees and says the market is out of balance.

“It's incredibly draining on people to buy a house today,” he says. “It's unprecedented. Realtors will run out to look at a house, find they had six showings that day and already have multiple offers.”

Last year, a home sold every 30 minutes in Franklin County, says Clarence Mingo, Franklin County's auditor. Mingo's reappraisal of homes last year boosted values on average by up to 15 percent.

“Right now we have a very low inventory for home sales and because values are rising so fast, some middle-class homeowners might be priced out of the market,” Mingo says. “There's a tier of home buyers who struggle to find reasonably priced homes.”