Columbus boasts the fastest growth, strongest economy and lowest unemployment rate of Ohio's three major cities. The Columbus metropolitan statistical area (MSA) passed two million in population in 2015, putting it right on the heels of Cleveland (2.06 million) and Cincinnati (2.15 million), which for decades were much larger than Columbus. As a state capital and the home of the third-largest college by undergraduate enrollment in the United States, Ohio State University, Columbus maintains a diversified economy and offers a broad selection of high-paying jobs. This has kept new residents flooding into the city, even as its peer cities in Ohio have shed population.

Its healthy housing market reflects the city's economic viability and the high demand to live there. During 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, more homes were sold in Columbus than during the same period in the blazing market of 2005-2006 and for a higher average price. The market is not so overheated, however, that middle-class and working-class homebuyers face difficulty finding suitable homes that they can afford. As of April 2016, the median sales price in Columbus of $124,050 is still less than three times the city's median household income of $44,426.

Market Insights

In June 2011, following several years of moderate declines amid the financial crisis, the median home sales price in Columbus stood at exactly $100,000. Prices continued to recede until early 2012, at which point the median sales price bottomed out at $90,000. Prices then began to recover rapidly. The median price reached nearly $120,000 by the summer of the same year. From 2012 to 2016, the overall trend has been moderate appreciation with major seasonal fluctuations. Prices rise substantially during the summer months and pull back during the fall and winter. Rising and falling demand with the seasons appears to dictate this phenomenon, as sales volume also increases substantially during the summer.

The median sales price peaked at $135,000 during the summer of 2015. It fell again to $115,000 by January 2016. As of April 2016, it recovered to $124,050. If the trend beginning in 2012 continues, prices should surpass their 2015 highs by late summer 2016.

Property and Transfer Taxes

Exact property tax rates in Franklin County, which includes Columbus, vary based on several factors, most notably the school district in which the home is located. A city tax, county tax, library tax and school district tax comprise a Columbus homeowner's total property tax bill, which is calculated in mills. One mill equals $1 per $1,000 in tax-assessed value. A home's tax-assessed value equals 35% of its market value. A Columbus homeowner can expect an effective tax rate of 70 to 100 mills.

Therefore, a home with a market value of $200,000 has a tax-assessed value of $70,000. Assuming a rate of 70 to 100 mills, the homeowner's annual property tax bill could range from $4,900 to $7,000. The owner might qualify for any of several tax reduction initiatives, such as the homestead exemption, tax rollback and statewide reduction factor, all of which reduce his total tax liability.

Most Expensive Neighborhoods

The Columbus metro offers an array of exclusive neighborhoods. Some are historic neighborhoods situated near the downtown core, while others are in newer, shinier suburbs. Upper Arlington, located west of downtown, and Bexley, situated on the east side of town, are popular with affluent residents who wish to remain connected to the pulse of the city. Those who prefer suburban living and bountiful shopping and dining options gravitate to the suburb of Westerville, located north of Columbus and just outside the I-270 loop.

An interesting piece of Columbus trivia is that the governor's mansion is located in Bexley, though the current governor as of 2016, John Kasich, chose not to live there but to reside in Westerville instead.

Top Real Estate Websites

Numerous online resources are available for those researching Columbus real estate. ColumbusRealtors.com, the website for the Columbus Board of Realtors, helps visitors find qualified agents, search for affordable housing and secure home financing. CliffordRealtors.com specializes in short sales and foreclosed properties. Going this route may result in securing a bargain on a home.

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