We've just closed the books on the first month of spring—and the beginning of the high season for home buying—and while the market slowed down in March compared with the same time last year, according to realtor.com® data, an unexpected hot spot has emerged.
Several markets in Ohio, which are some of the county's most affordable, are attracting lots of buyer interest, claiming three of the top 20 spots in our monthly ranking of the country’s hottest metros for real estate. Two more Ohio metros, while not in that top 20, chalked up the biggest improvement year over year.
The state capital, Columbus, came in at No. 1 on the list, which reflects a combination of how fast homes take to sell (days on market) and the number of listing views racked up in each market. Both of these are an indicator of buyer demand. Akron and Canton came in at No. 16 and No. 19 respectively. Meanwhile, Cleveland and Cincinnati were the large metros with the most year-over-year improvement. That's a big change from the days (last year, even!) when the list was regularly topped by pricey California markets such as San Francisco and San Jose. (Each metropolitan area may also include smaller satellite cities.)
While California continues to be the most-represented state in the top 20, its markets are also the most affected by the slowdown. Houses in Vallejo, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz saw a significant jump in days on market, with an increase of 11, nine, and nine days respectively. Overall, the data shows that current inventory is selling three days more slowly than last March. That drop-off remains unchanged from February, which was the first time since December 2014 that metros on the top 20 list experienced an increase in days spent on the market. The full analysis looked at the 300 largest metros in the U.S.
According to realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale, the slowdown in big cities has indirectly benefited housing markets in the Midwest.
"Historically there wasn’t much demand in those areas," she says. "Now that home prices are higher across the board, people are looking to those [more wallet-friendly] areas to buy. Columbus is super affordable, with a median $249,900 compared to the national listing price of $300,000, which attracts a lot of younger buyers."
Real estate agent Lee Ritchie of Re/Max Metro Plus in Columbus says that the revitalization of the city’s downtown drag is just one of many factors bringing more people to the area.
“Columbus has come a long way,” she says. “We have an amazing downtown area that has absolutely transformed over the last 10 years. You also have supercool housing from the brick cottages in German Village to the contemporary [high-rise] condos downtown to the old homes of Victorian Village. ... And then there’s the sheer number of good restaurants [and] coffee shops.
“A good 80% of my business is working with first-time buyers in the millennial age group. They’re out in full force,” she adds. “We [also] get calls from buyers from New York and California and Washington, DC. They know that it’s affordable ... but it’s also an easier way of life and, for many, a better quality of life. It’s the best small big town."
For Hale, how the market will fare for the rest of the year remains to be seen.
"Mortgage rates have declined pretty notably from the start of the year to now,” she says, noting that the opposite was true in 2018, when mortgage rates started off high before falling by the end of the year.
“We’re waiting to see if that translates into hotter markets going forward. What people need to remember is that we can talk about national trends—but if you are a buyer, a seller, or an agent, it’s important to understand what’s going on in your local market.”
The hot list
|Rank (March)||Metro||Rank (February)||Rank change|
|6||Colorado Springs, CO||3||-3|
|9||San Francisco, CA||5||-4|
|12||Santa Cruz, CA||19||+7|
|17||Ann Arbor, MI||54||+37|