Jan Kanas, executive vice president of Street Sotheby’s International Realty, wants to know a homebuyer’s “appetite” for commuting to work each day. She also wants to know what school district her client prefers.
Those topics are the best way to start a conversation with those seeking the right residential neighborhood, said Kanas, who is based in Bexley.
Different preferences tend to exist between local clients and those moving to Central Ohio from out of town, she said.
“Buyers from out of town are more flexible when it comes to choosing a neighborhood,” she said. “They tend to look at one, two or even three different communities. They make decisions about a neighborhood based on the realtor’s recommendations.”
Local clients and urban buyers tend to know which school district or neighborhood they want, Kanas said.
“Clients might prefer an older neighborhood, newer construction or a walkable community. That is how the homebuyer begins narrowing down the possibilities,” she said.
However, Realtors are bound by the Fair Housing Act and the Realtors Code of Ethics to resist steering clients to a neighborhood, said Richard Barnett, broker for RE/MAX Main Street in Bexley and president of National Land Advisory Group.
He said he typically puts “buyers in front of a lender or two” to make sure credit ratings, ratios and price points are in order when choosing a home, and with it a neighborhood.
“The affordability, along with the buyers’ needs, will direct the availability of housing and neighborhoods,” he said.
Paige Golding, residential Realtor for Home Central Realty in Westerville, said clients often ask her about resale before settling on a community.
“It’s a big question. A lot of people are paying top dollar … well over asking price,” Golding said. “If you are paying $15,000 over list, you want to know that you are going to get that money back when you go to sell in five or six years.”
“I give my opinion to clients after looking at the scales of appreciation over a period of time,” Kanas said. “That is the greatest predictor.”
Real estate agents also try to determine if future developments in or around a neighborhood might improve or decrease property values, said Golding.
Picturing one’s family in a particular neighborhood is also key.
“Once we have narrowed down their choices and they are focused on some particular areas, I like them to visit the schools, the neighborhood shopping locales as well as some of the parks, libraries and public gathering spaces that make up the fabric of that neighborhood,” said Douglas Green, Cutler Real Estate’s regional vice president of Central Ohio based in Dublin, in an email. “Usually, an afternoon and one evening stroll around the area will give them the final feel if this is the place they can see themselves living.”
Golding and Kanas both said they do not opine on a community’s reputation or crime rate. Instead, they direct their clients to websites and other resources that disclose crime statistics.
Other factors, such as proximity to grocery stores, employment opportunities, medical facilities, religious institutions, family and friends are important, too, Barnett said.
Moreover, there are questions a buyer should ask involving any special consideration their family may need.
“For example, for religious Jewish families that require an eruv boundary, which symbolically extends to private domain of Jewish households into public areas – permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath – you can show them the boundaries,” Barnett said.
Homebuyers should consider trends as well. For example, renovated urban properties in Central Ohio are more affordable than ever. While the reward potential is excellent, such an investment is risky, Barnett said.
Up-and-coming Columbus neighborhoods like the Brewery District, Franklinton and Old Town East offer “terrific” investment opportunities, if one can find a property for sale, said Golding.
However, clients should also keep in mind inventory is not keeping pace with homebuyers’ demands in some areas.
“In areas such as Bexley, there is so little inventory, buyers don’t have broad choices,” Kanas said.
Green, however, said communities’ improvements in building or rebuilding central city services and core main street areas over the last decade is worth celebrating.
“It is very exciting to see communities like Westerville, Dublin and Bexley rebrand themselves, adding more amenities for their residents and refreshing their walkable districts,” Green said.
Jill McCullough writes for the Columbus Jewish News from Westerville.