When Nicole started looking at her options for getting a side gig going, becoming a real estate investor here in Columbus rose to the top of her shortlist. With her retirement only a decade away, she likes the idea of contributing to the good of her community while continuing to build wealth after she packs up the corporate suit. She figured she should begin to grow a part-time real estate investing business now.
That’s why she called me. She was curious about her timing for entering the market but also wondered where she might find the best deals. Since I’ve been investing in Columbus, Ohio real estate for years now, she knew I’d have answers to both questions—and, probably, then some.
Where to Bet on Investing in Columbus, Ohio Real Estate
Nicole isn’t alone in her desire to give back to the community through her work. When I buy, renovate, and sell houses, I find the social impact of investing in real estate palpable—and it only makes me want to do more of it. And, I’m surrounded by colleagues who feel the same. Taking an older, smaller, rundown house that’s become a burden for its homeowner and turning it into a modernized move-in ready home for another family is often a moving experience. It can be a profitable one, too, for everyone. The distressed homeowner gets financial relief and, if I’ve calculated my numbers correctly, I realize decent returns. Neighboring property values tend to go up when a fixer finally gets spruced up, too.
Of course, you might think that, as hot as Columbus is right now, there are few opportunities left to invest in distressed real estate and, thus, help turn lives around. Inventory is starting to get squeezed, median list prices are trending up, and homes don’t stay on the market long. This all suggests that demand among homebuyers is strong and, according to Realtor.com, it is the strongest real estate market in the country.
To help buttress this claim, the inventory of homes in foreclosure, specifically, dropped to its lowest point since the housing crash, suggesting that fewer existing homeowners are falling into trouble. And, by the time 2018 drew to a close, the combined number of foreclosed and short sale homes that sold fell another 40.3% from the year before, according to Columbus Realtors®.
So, it would appear that our local market is indeed making a show of strength all around. But, does that mean your opportunities for finding good deals have gotten weak? Not necessarily.
Though the total is still low, the number of homes in pre-foreclosure in Franklin County are up from last year—by more than 100%, in fact, according to the latest data provided by RealtyTrac. In looking at the other market forces happening in and around Columbus that point to a flourishing housing market, this uptick in pre-foreclosure activity comes as somewhat of a surprise. But, when you consider that many homeowners still struggle to pay the bad loans they received as a result of pre-crash predatory lending practices, it makes sense.
Homeowners with these loans often struggle for years to make ends meet. And, all it takes is a family member losing their job or the death of a loved one to push making hefty mortgage payments out of reach. Ohio has high property taxes, too. And, both the state and the city of Columbus are making more of an effort these days to collect. Together, these and other, more personal factors can push an otherwise financially responsible homeowner right into financial distress.
Some of the best places to look for these homes, and their homeowners, are in neighborhoods that are often just on the cusp of transitioning. They may even be considered up-and-coming, though many of the residents are still struggling. There, it’s possible to find motivated sellers of rundown properties that, bought at the right price, can provide you with potentially great returns. Here are just a few examples:
In Reeb-Hosack, the more obvious signs of homeowner distress—like overgrown weeds and broken or boarded windows—have abated over the years as this family-friendly neighborhood gained distance from the housing crash. And, these changes have been expedited thanks to a combination of community revitalization efforts to reduce blight and the work of investors who help to put distressed properties back to good use. Now, what once looked like a neighborhood neglected and forgotten appears to be teeming with life and the renewed interest of homebuyers. In turn, that’s helped rejuvenate median home list prices, too.
But, the full comeback of Reeb-Hosack still has a ways to go. This neighborhood was one of the hardest hit by the crash and not every home or business owner recovered. Most of the old mom-and-pop shops won’t again open their doors and the manufacturing jobs that dried up won’t likely return either. And, though the rise in other opportunities has kept unemployment in Columbus generally low, a job change can be too little too late for the residents who lost it all.
It’s even worse for those the city has also targeted for code-enforcement violations—something Columbus has been promising to crack down on for years. Getting cited by the city can be the last straw that breaks the bank, forcing many homeowners to seek a fast way of getting out. If you can find them, you can potentially provide the exit they need as well as the return-on-investment you want.
A former casualty of poorly planned mid-20th century development that drove the building of a freeway right through the neighborhood, Southern Orchards is taking the wheel and going for a rebound. And, after decades of abandonment and decline brought on by a community fractured by drugs, gangs, and crime, its time is overdue.
Initiated by the nearby Nationwide Children’s Hospital, whose expansion came to include the improvement of infrastructure and amenities throughout the neighborhood, other community revitalization groups soon jumped on board with money in hand. The result has been the creation of safer roads and sidewalks, better access to parks and community gardens, and even job training classes held by local outreach programs. It’s also resulted in an increase in homeownership demand and a steady rise in median home list prices, too.
Southern Orchard’s full transformation, however, is still in the making and there may yet be homeowners who feel left behind. The damage done when the city’s government used eminent domain to split apart Southern Orchards to make room for an interstate has not easily, or quickly, been remedied. Before the housing crash even hit, half the homeowners had already left. And, though community conditions have changed favorably since 2012 when the efforts at recovery kicked into high gear, for the individuals who suffered the worst setbacks there hasn’t always been relief.
But, for some, relief can come through the sale of the home they can no longer afford to maintain or pay taxes on. And, since more than half of the community’s residents are burdened with housing costs that amount to more than a third of their income, opportunities do exist for you to provide that relief—by buying their homes at a fair price, then renovating and selling them for potentially good returns.
Milo-Grogan is another former manufacturing-centered community that fell on hard times only to pick itself up and attempt to dust the damage off. And, thanks to the recent support of both local government and non-profit organizations, it may very well succeed. Decrepit homes have been renovated, affordable housing has been built, and community centers have been established to provide residents with access to a variety of programs.
Big developers are slated to come to town as well, bringing apartments, pools, and the promise of bustling streets that could turn Milo-Grogin into a hip place to be. Not bad for a neighborhood that was literally split in half by Interstate 71 a few decades back. And, with the anticipation of the changes has come an uptick in homebuyer demand. That means median home sales prices aren’t doing so bad, either.
Unfortunately, the elderly and other segments of the population living on a fixed income in Milo-Grogan may not be doing so well. When property values in Franklin County jumped an average of 14% after 2017’s reappraisal, the bill that came for most homeowners the year after was quite a bit higher. In the effort to make money stretch further so that all bills could get paid, many fixed-income homeowners had to let the maintenance on their property go. For others, even that wasn’t enough to pay the taxman in full. So, there are still quite a few fixers in need of a rehab and, likely, at least as many homeowners in need of some help. Buying, renovating, and selling one of these houses can take a load off the distressed homeowner and potentially help you generate positive returns.
Of course, as you embark on your search to find good deals on investment property in Columbus, keep in mind that you shouldn’t limit your search to location alone. Distressed homeowners who are struggling with job loss, the pain of divorce, or high medical bills are everywhere. And, often, the only financial relief in sight is the quick selling of their home. So, whether you plan to make real estate investing in Columbus, Ohio a part-time gig, like Nicole, or a full-time job, like me, make sure the strategy you use to find leads on distressed homeowners works—for you and for them.
A Better Bet for Getting the Best Columbus Deals
When I first started a professional real estate investing career in Columbus, Ohio, I made a couple of critical errors with regard to leads. I focused solely on a select few neighborhoods and used conventional tactics, like lead lists, to try to find deals in those areas. The end result was that, without enough of the kind of leads that actually convert to sales, my new career took longer than it should have to get rolling. I missed out on a fair number of opportunities to help homeowners in distress, too. And, like Nicole, having a positive impact on my career and in my community is important to me.
Once I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee, however, the quality of my leads and, therefore, the trajectory of my investment business changed. HomeVestors®’ marketing tools and resources, like the nationally known and trusted “We Buy Ugly Houses®” ad campaign helped facilitate these changes.
See, when distressed homeowners in Columbus see the ads on TV and billboards, or hear them on the radio, they reach out for help. And, when they do, those calls come to me. It’s then up to me to convert those qualified leads to sales, which isn’t hard to do when you care as much about what happens to them as you do about your own bottom line.
And, every Columbus-based HomeVestors® franchisee, even new ones like Nicole, have access to these tools. So, if you want to give back to your distressed neighbors while also giving yourself a leg up on leads, think about changing up your marketing toolbox, too.
Your best bet for finding good deals on investment property is to help distressed homeowners find you first. Contact HomeVestors about getting access to the “We Buy Ugly Houses®” ad campaign and qualified Columbus leads today!
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