Whitehall, the least expensive suburb in central Ohio, saw a 15 percent price hike last year, far more than higher-priced suburbs.
Whitehall and New Albany are less than 10 miles apart, but the two Columbus suburbs illustrate the two worlds of central Ohio real estate.
Whitehall had the lowest median price for homes of all central Ohio suburbs last year, at $97,650. But it also posted the highest percentage price hike — 14.9 percent over 2017, according to year-end figures from Columbus Realtors.
On the other end is the city of New Albany, central Ohio’s most expensive suburb, with a median price of $531,500 — and the lowest rate of appreciation, with the median sales price actually declining 6.8 percent last year. (The median price throughout the New Albany-Plain school district rose 1.7 percent.)
The continued rise in central Ohio home prices — up 7.4 percent last year, the seventh year in a row that prices have risen at least 4 percent — has dampened sales throughout the region. But lower-priced areas such as Whitehall have benefited, while some higher-end communities have not.
Last year, central Ohio homes priced between $50,000 and $200,000 fetched 97.8 percent of their original asking price. More astonishingly, they sold after being listed a median of eight days, according to Columbus Realtors.
By contrast, homes that cost more than $500,000 received 95.3 percent of their asking price and spent a median of 31 days on the market.
None of the five most-expensive communities in central Ohio — New Albany, Dublin, Upper Arlington, Powell and German Village — saw home prices rise last year above the area median of 7.4 percent.
But several lower-priced communities, including Obetz, London, Blacklick, Pataskala and Delaware, all saw median home prices rise at least 9 percent in 2018, well above the area norm.
No community appreciated more than Whitehall. The median sales price of a Whitehall home rose from $85,000 in 2017 to $97,650 last year.
Unlike most lower-priced suburbs, Whitehall is inside the I-270 beltway, close to John Glenn Columbus International Airport, and a short drive to Downtown.
“It’s appreciated so much because of the location,” said Art Russo, who runs Art Russo Realtors on the East Side.
The suburb, like many older areas, is also enjoying a development resurgence.
“It does not surprise me that they are rebounding at a very quick pace,” said Ric Smith, a Century 21 agent who works in the Whitehall area, among others. “The new generation of buyers really has an appreciation for the more urban areas.”
All those factors make Whitehall attractive to those looking for an affordable home.
Driven by price and proximity to family, Jake and Lindsay McCoy are buying a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,616-square-foot ranch for $159,900 on Erickson Avenue in Whitehall.
“Whitehall is affordable, and I think the city is taking steps to improve itself,” said Jake McCoy, 23.
“I think that if you buy a house in Worthington or Westerville — one of the nicer areas of town — I think that you have pretty good ability to hold its value as long as you take care of it. But I think if you buy in an area like Whitehall, you have the opportunity for your home to not only hold but gain value over time as the city continues to improve.”
The couple found their new home the first day it went on the market and are in the process of closing.
“I think that it was very, very extremely well-priced,” McCoy, who works at Vantage Point Logistics in Worthington, said. “It has enough bedrooms for us to start a family and grow into.”
Despite the big jump in Whitehall prices last year, homes in the suburb are still half the price of central Ohio homes overall.
“It’s important for Columbus to realize that we do need good, affordable housing,” said Lisa Ohmer, a real-estate agent with Coldwell Banker King Thompson. “It’s the backbone of a community.”
This story was written by Megan Henry and originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch.