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Best Cities for Homeownership in Ohio

Ohio ranks as one of the most affordable places in the United States to buy a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. Lately, however, home prices in the Buckeye State have been rising, according to Ohio REALTORS. That may not be what first-time buyers want to hear, but it could be good news for homeowners looking for signs of their neighborhood’s growing appeal or a potentially good return on their investment.

To help find the best city for you in Ohio, researchers at LendingTree compared U.S. Census Bureau data for 2013 and 2017 for large metropolitan areas and smaller micropolitan regions where there are between 10,000 and 50,000 residents. They ranked cities by some of the measures homeowners value most, such as home values, overall housing costs, local unemployment rates and average commute times. Read on to see how these 42 areas in Ohio stack up.

Key findings

  • The Celina micro area is the best place for homeownership in Ohio. It has very low unemployment (3.9%), a short average commute time (17.5 minutes), increasing median home values from 2013-2017 (10.02%) and decreasing housing costs (-2.06%) during the same time period.
  • The Point Pleasant, WV-Oh micro area is the worst place for homeownership. It has a low median home value ($100,100), the longest commute time (30.4 minutes) and increasing housing costs (2.21%) from 2013-2017.
  • The Columbus metro area ranked 14th on this list. It has the highest median home value ($172,500), low unemployment (5.3%), moderate median home value appreciation (5.38%) from 2013-2017 and stable housing costs (0.36%) during the same time period.

The best cities for homeownership in Ohio

1. Celina micro area

Like many of the top-ranked cities on this list, Celina is in western Ohio. This small city on the edge of Grand Lake Saint Marys had a reasonable median home price in 2017 of $140,500, but homes grew in value about 10% between 2013 and 2017. That increase wasn’t as high as in certain other parts of Ohio, but Celina scored especially well on three other fronts: a low, 3.9% unemployment rate, a quick, average commute time of just 17.5 minutes and housing costs that declined about 2% between 2013 and 2017. Total homeowner score: 82.9.

2. Findlay micro area

Also in western Ohio, Findlay is larger than Celina, and manufacturing accounts for about a quarter of all jobs here. Homes here appreciated slightly, 4.75%, from 2013-2017, but the cost of housing during the same time decreased about 3%. In 2017, Findlay had a median home value of $141,200, and its 4.5% unemployment rate was lower than for many other parts of Ohio. Like top-ranked Celina, the average commute time here was about 17 minutes, but Findlay is closer to Interstate 75, a major highway. It tied with Wapakoneta (below) with a total homeowner score of 78.6.

3. Wapakoneta micro area

Wapakoneta, on the Auglaize River, is a few miles east of Celina. Home values here were the highest of any top 10 city on our list, with a median value of $146,600 in 2017. Wapakoneta also had the lowest unemployment rate (3.4%) of any Ohio area we studied. Home value appreciation here was about 8.5% between 2013 and 2017, but housing costs dipped at the same time, if slightly (1%). Like Finday (above), Wapakoneta had an overall homeowner score of 78.6.

4. Sidney micro area

Sidney is south of Wapakoneta, and also near I-75. Manufacturing accounts for a large number of jobs here, too, and major employers include Airstream and Honda. In 2017, the unemployment rate was relatively low (5.3%). Between 2013 and 2017, homes appreciated faster in Sidney — by almost 12% — than in the first three cities on our list. Still, in 2017, the median home value here was slightly lower ($137,700), and overall housing costs were basically unchanged from 2013.

5. Van Wert micro area

Van Wert is north of Celina and about 35 miles from the Fort Wayne, Ind., metro area. Home values are relatively low in Van Wert — the median is just $104,000 — but homes are gaining value. Home prices ran up about 9% between 2013 and 2017, while, simultaneously, overall homeownership costs decreased an impressive 5.6%, the second-largest decline in our top 10 list.

6. Wooster micro area

In northeastern Ohio, Wooster is just 34 miles from the Akron metro area, but in 2017 had a sharply lower unemployment rate: 4% versus 6.6%. Between 2013 and 2017, homes in Wooster appreciated far faster than they did in Akron: 4.6% versus 1.8%. In 2017, the median home value in this micro area was $142,500, compared to $146,300 in Akron.

7. Defiance micro area

Located in northwestern Ohio, where the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers meet, Defiance saw home values rise about 7% between 2013 and 2017, while homeownership costs dipped slightly, by about 1%. In 2017, a home here had a median value of $119,500.

8. Mount Vernon micro area

In Mount Vernon — some 50 miles from downtown Columbus — the median value of a home grew 5.42% between 2013 and 2017, but housing costs during the same time shrunk by 5%. In 2017, this small city had the longest average commute time of any top 10 city on our list: 24.9 minutes — about a minute longer than Columbus. Still, the median house price in Mount Vernon was $146,000, versus $172,500 in Columbus.

9. Bellefontaine micro area

Bellefontaine is about halfway between Columbus and Celina and close to popular Indian Lake and a winter recreation park. Home values in Bellefontaine rose a modest 5.76% from 2013 to 2017 for a final median value of $132,200 in 2017. But, like Mount Vernon, Bellefontaine had a relatively high 5.8% unemployment rate that year. Still, residents averaged just 22 minutes to get to work.

10. Ashland micro area

Ashland lies in central Ohio, near Mansfield. Between 2013 and 2017, home values here barely budged, rising less than 3%. Meanwhile, the costs associated with homeownership dropped 7.2%, more than for any city in our top 10 list. Still, in 2017, unemployment in the area was relatively low, just 4.2%. Major employers include Ashland University, Charles River Laboratories and Samaritan Regional Health System.

Homebuying tips for Ohio

If you’re looking to settle in Ohio, you’ll most likely have an easier time affording a home than you would elsewhere in the country. The National Association of Realtors estimates the average Ohio resident can afford to buy between 54% and 62% of the housing that’s currently on the market, versus 19% to 23% in what are now some of the country’s least affordable states, such as Hawaii, California and Oregon.

For homebuyers looking to invest in areas where homes prices are continuing to appreciate, Ohio has plenty to offer. According to Ohio REALTORS, the average price of a home in the state in February 2019 was $184,480, up 10.5% from $166,938 the year before.

If you’re looking for help buying a home, consider one of the homebuyer assistance programs available in Ohio. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), for example, works with lenders to offer affordable, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages, as well as assistance with down payments and closing costs to buyers who meet certain qualifications. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, read these tips from LendingTree, too, before starting your Ohio search.

Methodology:

The methodology for this study was simple and straightforward.

1: Collect metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and micropolitan statistical areas from the U.S. Census Bureau using 2017 population data.

2: Each MSA and micropolitan statistical area was ranked on a scale from 42 (Best) to 1 (Worst) for five different metrics. Those metrics are:

Median Home Value (42-Highest Value, 1-Lowest Value)

Unemployment Rate (42-Lowest Rate, 1-Highest Rate)

Average Commute Time (42-Shortest Time, 1-Longest Time)

Median Home Value Appreciation (2013-2017) (42-Greatest Appreciation, 1-Smallest Appreciation)

Median Change in Yearly Housing Costs (2013-2017) (42-Smallest Cost Change, 1-Greatest Positive Cost Change) — The formula for this metric is:

(((Monthly Housing Costs for 2017 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2017))/ ((Monthly Housing Costs for 2013 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2013))-1)

3: An average score was then calculated for each MSA based upon the scores received for each metric.

4: The MSAs and micropolitan statistical areas were then ranked on a scale of 1 (Best) to 42 (Worst) based on their average scores.

5: All metrics were ranked equally.

Data:

All data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. More information on where the data came from is provided below:

2017 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2017 Unemployment Rate and Median Commute Time

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Selected Economic Characteristics – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2013 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
 

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