A focus group of local Realtors says Upper Arlington's housing market has rebounded of late and appears relatively solid.
City officials surveyed and then met with local Realtors last month to solicit feedback regarding current home sales trends in Upper Arlington. The result was discussed at Upper Arlington City Council's Aug. 19 work session.
They found the city's housing market has improved in the past year and is one of the strongest in central Ohio, but the perception of high taxes and the lack of community facilities and sidewalks remain detractors.
"Overall, it was a great discussion," said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington community affairs director. "It's all good feedback, helping us to understand the community."
According to a staff report from Upper Arlington Community and Economic Development Manager Bob Lamb, the city reviewed housing transactions that occurred between March 2012 and March 2013 and compared that list to transactions for the same period in Bexley, Columbus, Dublin, Grandview Heights, Hilliard and New Albany.
"The housing market in Upper Arlington is substantially better than it was a year ago," Lamb said. "(Houses) in Upper Arlington are selling at the second-highest average sale price in the Columbus region."
Lamb said the average house in Upper Arlington now is selling at $349,400. Only New Albany, with an average sale price of $390,866, was higher among communities that were reviewed.
The report also said Upper Arlington has the second-lowest average of days on the market for homes to be sold, at 76.8 days. Grandview was the lowest, with homes there selling after an average of 60.9 days on the market.
Likewise, Upper Arlington had the second-highest percentage of homes sold per number of houses placed on the market, at 45 percent. Again, Grandview was the highest at 59 percent.
Additionally, Upper Arlington has seen a decrease in the number of days houses remain on the market.
"In March 2012, it was taking 109 days, on average, for a home to sell in Upper Arlington," Lamb said. "As of this past May, it was taking 23 days."
Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton said the data were supported by "anecdotal" information the city received from a July 30 meeting with 16 Upper Arlington-based Realtors, who said the quality of the Upper Arlington school district, the city's stable real estate market and the sense of community pride were among the community's best selling points.
"Some felt that being a landlocked community was a strength, as well," Speight said. "Families who are looking for maybe a two- or three-year stay ... they might not pick Upper Arlington because the price per square foot is a little bit higher and a lot of homes that are bought need repairs," she said. "For folks who want to put down roots, this is a very attractive place to be."
According to a summary of the meeting, Realtors said the community's "unprecedented amount of reinvestment into homes once purchased," the redevelopment of the Kingsdale Center and Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District and recreation opportunities for children are among the city's market strengths.
As for "challenges," Realtors noted the city lacks a "core community center/gathering place" and that "a lot of 'fitting-in' has to do with how actively involved new residents become."
Additionally, Speight said city taxes are perceived to be high, but not so bad when compared to many other communities. The fact that many parks and neighborhoods aren't connected also is an issue for Realtors and prospective buyers.
"They felt there was a lack of empty-nester housing here," she said. "Sidewalks came up, that we need more in certain parts of town. That was a sticking point for some."
City officials said they will use the information to help shape policy, including development and infrastructure projects.