By Megan Henry
The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Apr 10, 2019 at 12:01 PMUpdated Apr 11, 2019 at 5:32 AM
The spring housing season launched with a bang in central Ohio as the region was named the nation’s hottest real-estate market by Realtor.com.
Strong job growth and low interest rates are fueling demand, while a shortage of homes for sale continues to push up Columbus-area prices and send buyers scrambling.
“Buyers should be buying now,” said Lee Ritchie, an agent with Re/Max Metro Plus who said about 80 percent of her clients are millennial first-time buyers.
“They understand that every month they are renting they are burning that money up,” Ritchie said. “They want to buy a home.”
Realtor.com’s rankings are based on the number of days homes are on the market and the frequency that listings are viewed in each market. While California dominated the list of the top 20 hottest markets in March, Columbus topped the overall list, which also included Akron at No. 16 and Canton at No. 19.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we’re No. 1,” said Ash Gale, an agent with Keller Williams Consultants in Columbus. “Our team didn’t have a slump at all through December or January. … We keep hearing about a shift in the market, but the shift hasn’t happened. The market is still hot.”
For sellers, that’s great news. Central Ohio homes sell after a median of 40 days on the market, and homes in desirable locations under $400,000 often sell within a day or two.
Barb Heicher Gale, also with Keller Williams Consultants, said she listed a home in the Grandshire neighborhood of Powell last week for $399,000. By the end of the first day of showing, she had 10 offers topping out at $426,000.
“We had at least 200 people through the open house,” she said. “That’s how desperate people are to get into a home.”
According to Columbus Realtors, the Columbus area had 1.4 months of supply of homes for sale in February, well below six months, which is considered balanced between buyers and sellers.
“It’s fortunate for sellers because it’s going to remain a sellers market,” Columbus Realtors President John Myers said.
Buyers are singing a different tune. The median price of a central Ohio home last year was $195,000, up from $181,500 the previous year and almost 23 percent higher than in 2015, according to Columbus Realtors.
Strategies that entered the market a few years ago are common now among buyers: waiving rights to remedy problems uncovered in a home inspection; agreeing to match — in cash — any difference between the sales price and the appraisal price; and omitting any contingencies (such as selling another home) in a contract.
“These are tactics we’ve been forced to use because of the way the market is,” said Barb Gale.
This is the first time Columbus has hit Realtor.com’s No. 1 spot, even though the city has cracked the top 10 list 29 times since May 2016, Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, said in an email.
“Like many other areas, Columbus has seen some slowing of the real-estate markets with homes taking a few days longer to sell this year than last year and not getting as many views per property as last year, but it hasn’t seen as much slowing as other areas, which is why it’s the hottest market in March,” Hale said in an email.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t see it slowing down,” Ritchie said.