Columbus Real Estate Remains Hot Despite Pandemic

TC Brown

COVID-19 has failed to cool off an overheated Central Ohio real estate market, but it has reshaped the way homes are shown and sold.

With some homeowners skittish about listing in the midst of a pandemic, a limited housing stock was reduced further, with more than 2,000 fewer homes available than last year. And, for the first time ever, the average sales price of homes surpassed the asking price.

The season brought along a few other surprises, too. noted that Reynoldsburg was the second hottest real estate market in the nation. That news came just before Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano announced that home values had grown by 20 percent from 2017 through 2019, which will affect property tax assessments.

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Little of the news surprises local real estate agents, though, who are dealing with the overheated market. Some have witnessed up to 30 showings per house over a weekend, followed by five to 15, or more, offers to buy.

Joseph “Butch” Wahlsmith, an agent for 20 years and team manager for Redfin, says demand has skyrocketed.

“There is absolutely more of a frenzy. People are jumping on opportunities,” Wahlsmith says. “The last couple of listings I did were gone in a couple of days.”

Showings now require everyone to don a mask and agents must wear gloves. But owners are also selling without letting anyone through the door. Virtual tours, including 3D and drone views, have become common.

“In the last six months, I’ve had three transactions where the buyer never entered the home until they closed,” Wahlsmith says. “We’ve had to go through training and learn new techniques. You don’t want to present something that looks like the ‘Blair Witch Project.’”

Carma Godby, a NextHome Experience real estate agent, says the virus kept some sellers off the market. New listings have been down by about 20 percent, driving up demand.

“Some are deciding to hold off because they don’t want people coming through who may or may not be sick and they can’t tell if they are touching things,” Godby says. “Now when we do show homes, we don’t allow overlapped showings. It’s one group at a time for no more than 30 minutes.”

Some potential buyers are asked to sign virus disclosures, too, says Godby, who has been selling real estate for 29 years.

“Some brokers have health questionnaires asking if people have a headache or temperature,” Godby says. “I’m not comfortable interpreting medical forms but it’s to reduce our liability.”

Many homeowners who are working remotely are looking to expand their living quarters, says Shannon Grimm, a team leader with HER Realtors who has been in the business since 1995.

“People are locked down and they want a bigger home,” she says. Even larger homes priced over $350,000 are now getting multiple offers.

“That’s usually unheard of,” she says. “One home going for $1.15 million had five offers and the last was for $100,000 more than asking price.”

The hot market is likely to remain because of the region’s low cost of living, but more affordable housing is needed, Grimm says. “Many first-time buyers just can’t afford to bid higher than asking price,” she adds.

Columbus Monthly