The real estate market in Columbus, Georgia is currently in the middle of a transitional period. Hampered by a lot of foreclosures and an increased unemployment rate, home values have declined in recent years. Regression is due, in large part, to a struggling local economy and a declining population. Despite several negative indicators, however, there are signs that the market may be ready to rebound. Zillow has predicted home values will increase by as much as 4.3 percent over the next twelve months. If this is the case, it will be the highest jump in the last several years. Once the market gets rid of the foreclosure inventory and straightens out the economy, the Columbus real estate market will regain its place as one of the most desirable places to live in the South.
According to Realtor.com, the average sales price in the Columbus real estate market is $137,871. However, sales prices in the Columbus housing market are well below the statewide and national averages, $227,811 and $309,924 respectively. The average home price in Columbus is $177,380; or 28.7 percent higher than the average sold price.
The experts at Zillow have identified a lot of price fluctuation in the Columbus real estate market over the last 10 years. The market peaked in 2007, and again in 2010. However, it declined immediately after the 2010 peak and into 2011. Average home prices may have hit a bottom in February of this year, as numbers were at their lowest point in 10 years. Since then, sales prices are up over 15 percent, and appear to be moving in the right direction.
The Columbus real estate market has appreciated by a modest 0.8 percent in the last year, according to Zillow. What may be more important, however, is the fact that they predict a 4.3 percent rise over the next twelve months. After a market with high home values at the beginning of 2011, this number has dropped nearly 9 percent over the last four years. Most periods of growth have been followed by long stretches of decline. This can be attributed to poor unemployment numbers and concern regarding foreclosures. Over the last 90 days, values have risen longer than at any point since 2011. With Zillow predicting this growth to be sustainable, the market should continue to grow.
The Columbus housing market has been unable to maintain momentum largely because of the local unemployment rate. The current unemployment rate for the area is 7.7 percent. To put this number into perspective, the average for Georgia is 5.8 percent. The national average (5.4%) is even lower. As high as the local number is, it is actually heading in the right direction. Unemployment has declined .08 percent over the last twelve months, and the number of unemployed is down an encouraging 10 percent. The largest employer in the area is Fort Benning, who is still actively employing over 40,000 people. The local economy took a major hit when they announced to cut close to 11,000 jobs over the next five years. If this goes through as planned, it could result in a population hit of over 25,000. As a result, the economy has been uneasy and declined in recent years. The recent job growth number of .35 percent is well below the national average(1.18%). Future job growth is also well below national figure. Despite all of this, the economy is slowly gaining traction, and the job market appears ready to gain some momentum.
According to RealtyTrac, there are about 441 homes in the Columbus real estate market in some stage of foreclosure (default, auction or bank-owned). Some experts believe the job sector may be to blame for the area’s foreclosure rate. Surprisingly, foreclosures are actually down 4 percent from last month and a modest 2 percent from the previous year; so things look to be moving in the right direction. Still, with the amount of foreclosures available, the prospect of Columbus real estate investing should remain attractive. The spreads these properties offer are too hard to ignore. RealtyTrac suggests that distressed properties sell for an average of 33 percent less than non-distressed homes. That is a savings of more than $30,000 per home.
With foreclosures on the decline, yet still readily available for any interested in Columbus real estate investing, this market should see a lot of activity somewhere in the near future.
High levels of unemployment and foreclosures have caused the Columbus population to decline by 3.9 percent over the course of a year. The current average cost of living is about $57,100; which is 7.4 percent higher than the rest of the state. This is another sign that, while the market is improving, it still has a long way to go. The number of new housing permits fell to a fifteen year low last year, with just 133 new permits. The market has long been a great place to live and raise a family, as is evidenced by Best Life Magazine’s ranking: fourth best place to live in 2007. There are solid fundamentals in place, but the Columbus real estate market needs to do something with the foreclosure inventory. Only then will it see the progress it needs. In fact, it is the perfect opportunity for the Columbus real estate investing community to make a difference.
The Columbus real estate market is still reeling from the job loss announcement from Fort Benning. This is in addition to having to deal with an increased number of foreclosures. While these blows sting, they shouldn’t be enough to keep the Columbus housing market down. If Zillow’s predictions are correct, by the middle of next year the market will be back at pre-2012 levels. With another year of foreclosures off the books and twelve months removed from significant job losses, this market can look a whole lot different than it did just a few months ago.
Columbus Housing Market Summary:
- Current Median Home Price: $177,389
- Current Median Sales Price: $137,871
- 1-Year Appreciation Rate: 0.8%
- Unemployment Rate: 7.7%
- Population: 202,824
- Median Household Income: $40,388