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2020 Broke All Records in Central Ohio

The 2020 housing market was unexpectedly turbulent towards the end of the first quarter due to the pandemic that spread across the country. As the first wave of COVID-19 hit in the spring, housing market activity slowed substantially before staging a dramatic comeback just a couple of months later.

Buyer activity was the leader again in 2020. With mortgage interest rates setting record lows multiple times throughout the year and a strong drive by many buyers to secure a better housing situation–in part due to the new realities brought on by COVID-19–many segments of the market experienced a multiple-offer frenzy not seen in the last 15 years or more. While markedly improved from their COVID-19 spring lows, seller activity continued to lag buyer demand, which had strengthened the ongoing seller’s market for most housing segments as inventories remain at record lows.

The housing market in 2020 proved to be incredibly resilient, ending the year on a high note. Home sales and prices were higher than in 2019 across most market segments and across most of the country. Seller activity recovered significantly from the COVID-19 spring decline, but overall activity was still insufficient to build up the supply of homes for sale.

Sales: Home sales increased 4.1 percent in 2020 to 33,431, usurping the previous record of 32,218 in 2017 by 3.8 percent. Single-family home sales increased 4.2 percent last year while condominium sales were up 3.4 percent. Condos held on to its market share of just under 15 percent of sales and single-family homes made up the lion’s share of 2020 sales at just over 85 percent, also unchanged from 2019.

Prices: Strong demand and lack of supply worked to push home prices up in 2020. The overall median sales price increased 10.5 percent to $232,000 for the year. Single-family home prices were up 10.5 percent compared to last year, and condo home prices were up 8.3 percent.

In the central Ohio area, Columbus REALTORS® has established the affordable housing benchmark as $180,000 based on median income, typical family size, interest rates and qualifying ratios. This would, of course, include most first-time home buyers. Homes under $180,000 made up 33 percent of the market share in 2020, a decrease of 17.5 percent, while homes over $180,000 gained 11.7 percent market share.

“Although we had very strong demand for entry-level homes, sales were down as we simply didn’t have sufficient inventory in the under $180,000 price point,” said Michael Jones, 2021 Columbus REALTORS® President. “Fewer home sales in this sector and more home sales in the higher price ranges also served to push the overall market sales price. In many cases, the $180,000 home has now become the over $200,000 home.”

List Price Received: Sellers received, on average, 99.8 percent of their list price at sale, up 1.1 percent from 2019. Due to the declining inventory in the last half of the year, the average sale price exceeded the list price in five of the last six months.

Inventory: New listings decreased by 4.3 percent to finish the year at 36,023. Other than seven months in late 2018 and early 2019, central Ohio has experienced year over year declines in inventory for nearly ten years.

There were 2,049 active listings at the end of 2020, which was 47.3 percent less than the previous year. Five years ago, there were just over 6,000 listings at the end of the year, and ten years ago, that number was up to 16,000.

Months Supply: Reduced inventory and strong demand resulted in a 0.7 months supply at the close of 2020. This means that, if no more inventory were added to the market, it would take about three weeks to sell all listed homes based on the current sales pace – yet another record low for central Ohio.

Lender-Mediated Properties: The foreclosure market continued to remain a small player in the overall market amid numerous forbearance efforts undertaken by the government and lenders. In 2020, the percentage of closed sales that were either foreclosure or short sale decreased by 27.0 percent to end the year at 1.8 percent of the market. Foreclosure and short sale activity may tick higher in 2021 as forbearances expire with some homeowners unable to meet their obligations.

As we look to 2021, signals suggest buyer demand will remain elevated and tight inventory will continue to invite multiple offers and higher prices across much of the housing inventory.

Mortgage rates are expected to remain low, helping buyers manage some of the increases in home prices and keep them motivated to lock in their housing costs for the long term. These factors will provide substantial tailwinds for the housing market into the new year. “As more people are working from home, the need for more space or a different type of space has noticeably increased,” added Jones. “If you're uncertain about listing your home, consider this: record low-interest rates will enable you to afford more home. And if limited options are discouraging, new construction is an excellent option as there are so many new developments which can offer space that meets your needs.”


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