Prices jumped by double-digit percentages in Whitehall, Driving Park and other lower-cost communities in 2019 as homebuyers, priced out of expensive neighborhoods, looked for homes they could afford.

Home shoppers looking for big returns last year should have bypassed Upper Arlington, skipped Powell and driven by Dublin.

Their better bets were Whitehall, Valleyview and Obetz. In those and other lower-cost communities, prices jumped in the double-digit percentages as buyers, priced out of expensive neighborhoods, looked for homes they could afford.


For the second year running, Whitehall outpaced all other central Ohio cities in home-price appreciation, according to Columbus Realtors figures released last week. The median sales price of a Whitehall home jumped 16.7% from 2018 to 2019, following a 14.9% bump in 2018.

The four central Ohio cities with median prices under $150,000 —Whitehall, Valleyview, Lancaster and Washington Court House — also experienced the largest appreciation, with all registering more than 12% gains last year.

Part of that is simple math — it’s easier to bump percentages when you start lower — but part of it is due to buyers being priced out of other neighborhoods.

“For years, Whitehall houses were priced below market,” said veteran Whitehall real estate agent Art Russo. “That turned. Now, they’ve appreciated tremendously. You put a house up for sale, it’s sold. People want to buy Whitehall because the area’s changed and it’s affordable.”

While families are helping push the housing market in cities such as Whitehall, young singles are driving demand in inner city neighborhoods, where prices have leaped in recent years.

According to Zillow, home values in the East Side neighborhood of Driving Park jumped 29% last year, the largest increase of any Columbus neighborhood Zillow tracks.

In Driving Park and other urban neighborhoods, flocks of home flippers are helping spike prices. A home listed now for $199,000 on Ellsworth Avenue in Driving Park last sold in April for $31,000, before being renovated and returned to the market.

Nearby, on Berkeley Road, a three-bedroom, two-bath home sold a few weeks ago for $200,000, more than three times what it sold for in August.

“You can get a really nice home in Driving Park for $200,000, fully remodeled,” said AJ Bennett, the Red 1 Realty agent who represented the Berkeley Road buyer. “West of here, in a place like German Village, that same house would sell for $400,000.”

On the Hilltop and in Linden, where a typical home is worth less than $100,000, home values shot up by more than 15% last year, according to Zillow.

The closer a buyer gets to Downtown, the hotter the market gets. Older neighborhoods such as Franklin Park, Old Oaks, Southern Orchards, Olde Towne East, King-Lincoln and Franklinton offer a real-estate carnival ride, the view changing with every head-spinning turn.

Tyler Powers, a 28-year-old Akron native, started looking for a house to buy after seeing so many nearby homes turn over.

“I was renting in Franklinton for a year, a year and a half, and after watching everything around me, with properties being built and remodeled and flipped, I decided to get in while the getting was good,” he said.

Powers looked around several urban neighborhoods for a home under $180,000, but after an offer on a duplex in King-Lincoln fell through, he concentrated his efforts on Franklinton.

With the help of Coldwell Banker agent Lauren Sweiterman, Powers found a house on Bellows Avenue that seemed perfect: a two-bedroom home that sold less than two years ago for $39,000 before being fully rehabbed and put back on the market for $139,000.

Powers negotiated a price of $130,000 before running into a common barrier in fast-changing neighborhoods. The home only appraised at $122,000, forcing him to come up with the extra cash at closing.

He has no regrets.

“I’ve got friends moving into the city, looking for apartments, they’re getting charged $1,500, $1,600 off the get go,” he said.

“I’m the first to own in Columbus out of my friends, but now that I’ve done it, my brother’s interested. If you’re willing to sacrifice not being right in the Short North or right in the Arena District, you can find someplace where your mortgage can be cheaper than your rent.”

Sweiterman, his agent, reassured Powers of his $130,000 purchase: “I told him if he didn’t like the house, I’d sell it for him in six months for $180,000.”