Central Ohio home values were surging until the coronavirus arrived in March. But even a pandemic may not be enough to cool down some red-hot neighborhoods.

Anyone who has bought or sold a Central Ohio home in recent years knows the score: Sellers call the shots as buyers try to outbid each other for the latest listings.

The demand for Columbus-area homes has risen so dramatically that the number of houses on the market has sunk to nearly a one-month supply, well below the six months’ supply considered balanced. Homes last an average of 40 days on the market before selling, and many go within a day or two. While the coronavirus changes the equation a bit—and more on that later—the fact remains that buyers have been at a disadvantage in Central Ohio for more than six years.

But such a sweeping description misses a key point: The Columbus housing market isn’t one market but many. Enormous variations can be found at different price points and in different areas of town.

The lower the price, the greater the feeding frenzy. Homes listed below $350,000 sold, on average, in 27 days and for 99 percent of their original listing price in 2019, according to Columbus Realtors. But those listed for more than $700,000 took three months to sell and fetched 96 percent of their list price. “Real estate has always been hyperlocal,” explains Dublin real estate agent Neil Mathias of Cutler Real Estate. “Even within the Central Ohio region, we see shifts from area to area and within price ranges.”

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While every part of the Columbus area has enjoyed price appreciation for several years running, less expensive urban neighborhoods have set the pace, driven by the two buyers of the day: millennials and empty nesters. Home values throughout Central Ohio have risen about 40 percent over the past five years, while values in Dublin, New Albany and Powell—communities dominated by large family homes—have risen less than 25 percent, according to the real estate service Zillow.

On the other extreme, look just east of Downtown. In a roughly 3-mile stretch, from the Mount Vernon area on the north past Nationwide Children’s Hospital on the south, street after street of once-lovely homes built a century ago are being renovated or replaced at a lightning pace. Homes that sold for $30,000 a few years ago are now going for $250,000 or more after being flipped. Lots that stood empty now host new $400,000 homes.

The result is a revolution in neighborhoods and home values. According to Zillow, the median value of a home in Franklin Park is up 163 percent from five years ago. On the north side of Broad Street, in Woodland Park, the median home value has risen 130 percent. And next door, in the King-Lincoln Bronzeville neighborhood, the median home value stands at $219,000—up from $79,000 five years ago.

“So many houses have been flipped and turned and renovated,” says Alex Macke, an agent with Carriage Trade Realty in Olde Towne East. He says the neighborhood meets a price demand that more expensive places like German Village and the Short North no longer can.

“The whole East Side, from Southern Orchards through Woodland Park, the housing stock is incredible,” he continues. “The architecture is terrific, the homes are beautiful, the area is walkable, and it’s close to Downtown.”

Sonny Whitehead has seen the transformation firsthand. Eight years ago, the South-Western City School District counselor, now 62, paid $40,000 for what was left of a 1910 Craftsman-style home on Woodland Avenue. It had no electricity and plumbing, all the windows were boarded up, and there were even holes in the roof.

Whitehead spent years renovating the home, doing much of the work himself. He finished the third floor, giving the home six bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths and about 6,000 square feet of living space. He gutted and rebuilt the kitchen and baths and replaced all the mechanicals.

In the meantime, he’s seen home after home around him come back to life, including many of the grand estates on Woodland Avenue and Long Street. Whitehead’s renovated home is now worth an estimated $521,000, according to Zillow.

Around the corner from Whitehead, Suzanne and Jay Beighley took a very different route to the neighborhood. Five years ago the Granville couple, in their late 50s, bought a condominium in Park Towers on East Broad Street for their son to live in while he was attending the Columbus College of Art & Design.

After he graduated, and their youngest left the nest, the Beighleys decided to sell their 4,000-square-foot home and move into the 1,100-square-foot condo themselves. Capitalizing on the space’s exposed concrete floors and columns, the couple created an ultracontemporary home. “We love being able to hop in the car and being at the airport in no time flat, or the theater and Broadway shows,” Suzanne says. “Jay likes to run, and we like to walk, and the park is right across the street. We haven’t missed a beat.”

While many Near East Side buyers like the Beighleys are empty nesters, others come from a wide pool, says Re/Max real estate agent Al Waddell, who has sold homes on the Near East Side for nearly 30 years. “It’s all over the map,” Waddell says. “The one thing the Near East Side has always prized is its diversity—economic diversity too. I’ve sold homes in the last year in the area from the low [$200,000s] to the [$700,000s].”

The coronavirus hasn’t stopped the Central Ohio housing market but has certainly slowed it down. In response, Zillow and the national mortgage service CoreLogic dramatically reduced their forecasts for home appreciation throughout the nation, including in Ohio.

Zillow now predicts home values in most Central Ohio communities will actually decline in the next year as buyers and sellers wait it out. The few exceptions are the least expensive parts of town, where demand for affordable homes still seems unquenched. “I’ve had a few clients press pause right now until we see how the economy bounces back and when,” Mathias says.

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