As Housing Demand Surges, Homeowners Grapple With Selling or Staying

In a tight marketplace, some are upgrading properties rather than moving.

TC Brown
Should you stay in your home, or should you go?

Potential homebuyers in Central Ohio have continued last year’s mad scramble for housing into 2021, despite a sharp increase in new construction and the oppressive presence of COVID-19. 

Surprisingly, the pandemic failed to cool housing demand. Instead, the number of sales from last year increased by more than 10 percent and the price of homes rose by nearly 10 percent. 

While competition to buy remains fierce, some are choosing a different route—spending cash to improve what they already own. The isolation and social distancing imposed by the virus helped influence those decisions. 

“We decided to redirect travel money to create a nice outside space,” says Kim Bedzyk, who lives in Galena with her husband and six children. “We decided rather than look for something else, we’ll get the rest of the house the way we like it.” 

The family added a fireplace area with an outdoor firepit, a deck and more seating. They finished their basement and added a full bathroom on that level, too. 

“We felt so trapped but now feel less quarantined,” she says. “We decided to extend our time here and have everything we want in place. It was a no-brainer.” 

Sara Walsh, past president of the Columbus Board of Realtors and now with eXp Realty, says more homeowners are making similar choices. With a nod to the 1982 hit song by The Clash, she calls it the “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?” phenomenon. 

Contributing factors include costs. The median price of a new home is more than $377,000, while the average sale price for an existing home is more than $263,000. 

“That is driving some people to improve their current home and get amenities to make their house more enjoyable,” Walsh says. “Because of pent-up demand they know that when they do want to buy, they will have to pounce. And the improvements give them a better return when they want to sell.” 

Mandy Harless, managing partner of LifePoint Real Estate, says a hot market and COVID-19 are driving the home improvement dynamic. 

“The reality is in the past it was easy to say, ‘Let’s sell and move somewhere else,’ and that is still happening, with record sales,” Harless says. “But demand is so high people are going to Plan B. If I can’t afford what I want, how can I reimagine the space I currently own and repurpose it?” 

Real estate agents say homeowners are creating expansive outdoor living spaces, upgrading bathrooms, especially in owner suites, adding second kitchens, renovating basements, building Florida rooms, improving and adding office space and even installing elevators. 

Allison DeGraffenreid, who bought a home in Powell in February, was attracted to the property in part because of its additional kitchen on the second floor, two offices, wider hallways and an elevator. 

“This home will accommodate a lot of different life phases and with my mother’s health and as I age, I understand the value of this,” DeGraffenreid says. “I have a big family and we love the Buckeyes, so everybody is coming for games and we can do a lot of stuff in this house.”