Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Using Columbus Board of Realtors' figures and districts, the newspaper found that prices overall in central Ohio fell about 11percent - from $173,571 to $154,133 - during the four years.
Inner-city neighborhoods and newly developed suburban areas, especially the New Albany area, suffered the biggest drops.
The healthiest regions tended to be well-established inner-ring neighborhoods such as Bexley, Clintonville, Upper Arlington and parts of the West and Northwest sides.
No area, though, skyrocketed during the housing recession. The best-performing municipality, Bexley, had a 5percent increase in sales price - about 1 percent a year.
It's possible to find homes in Bexley - unlike in many other communities - that sold for more during the past 12 months than during the boom.
For example, a three-bedroom home on Bexley Park Road that sold in September 2004 for $314,000 sold a year ago for $339,000.
Bexley and some other inside-the-Outerbelt areas also benefited by skipping the development boom, which ran up prices from 2002 through 2005 in fast-growing suburbs.
"It's been a tough market, but I'd say the No. 1 reason Bexley (has fared well) is that we don't have any new construction in our marketplace," said Mike Carruthers, a Coldwell Banker King Thompson agent who specializes in Bexley. "We've also got great schools, great neighborhoods, proximity to Downtown - all of that."
Bexley was one of just two areas examined that yielded price gains. The other, a stretch of northwestern Columbus just west of the Olentangy River, benefits from its proximity to one of the most stable employers in town, Ohio State University, and from the recent sales of expensive condominiums in its southern reaches.
Even older, stable communities such as Upper Arlington and Worthington saw declines in average sales prices - 3.1 percent and 4.4percent, respectively - which experts say is unprecedented.
"When you see prices declining even in historically sound areas, such as Upper Arlington - well, you've never seen that before," said William Uttley, owner of Columbus Appraisal and Consulting.
Uttley and others note that a change in average sales price from one year to another doesn't mean that all homes in that area changed that much in value; the comparison encompasses only the homes that actually sold during those years.
Still, some hard-hit areas provide many examples of individual homes that sold for less during the past 12 months than they did during the boom.
In the area around New Albany Country Club, for example, homes are selling for less - in some cases, far less - than they fetched four or five years ago.
A 5,100-square-foot home on Ratchford Court that sold in June 2005 for $1.07 million sold again in February for $505,900. Down the street, a home that commanded $1million in August 2006 sold in November for $415,000.
Those are extreme cases, but they illustrate that areas that boomed with big-ticket sales from 2003 to 2006 are now finding few buyers for those homes.
"Substantial oversupply is what hammered Delaware County the most," said Mark B. Neff, an agent with New Albany Realty. "There was so much speculative building.
"In New Albany, because of its popularity during the boom years, we saw some of that, too, but we don't have an oversupply problem so much as a lack of demand in the market. The million-dollar-plus homes are getting hit hardest."
On the other end of the price spectrum are parts of the central city - including the Hilltop, Franklinton and the Near East and East sides - where sales prices show little sign of stabilizing.
Some of those neighborhoods have been devastated by job losses and foreclosures, which sink housing values.
A few examples:
• An 1,100-square-foot home on Hawkes Avenue in Franklinton that sold for $31,000 in October 2005 sold in February 2009 for $3,000.
• A four-bedroom home on Coburg Road on the East Side that sold in November 2004 for $116,195 sold last April for $59,550.
• A Harvard Avenue duplex on the Near East Side that sold for $80,000 in July 2005 sold in November for $8,529.
"There's no bottom in some of those areas," said Neff, who helps investors find properties in the city.
After four years of price declines, central Ohio is showing signs of having bottomed out. Average sales prices have risen four straight months in the area, suggesting that a climb back might be beginning.
"Hopefully, we may have reached the bottom," said Jerry White, executive vice president of Coldwell Banker King Thompson. "There are several places that have started to turn around."
Click on the images to view:
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Eligible ENERGY STAR® Appliances Rebate Level ($)
Refrigerator 1 $100
Clothes Washer $150
High-Efficiency Gas Storage Water Heater $100
Electric Heat Pump Water Heater $250
1 Only ENERGY STAR® refrigerators with a volume of 7.75 cubic feet or greater are eligible for a rebate. Mini-refrigerators are not eligible for a rebate.
Important Information – Click on the boldface text for more details about Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program.
1. A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
2. Eligibility criteria to participate in the rebate program
3. Instructions on the Rebate Process, and how to obtain a rebate
4. A list of Eligible ENERGY STAR® Appliances
5. Recycling Information including
1. Proof of Recycling Form
2. Description of the recycling process including List of Recycling Facilities
6. Participating Retailers including a List of Participating Retailers.
7. How much money you could save with the Energy Star® Cost Savings Calculator
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
“The rise in inventory doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Sue Lusk-Gleich, President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “The home buyer tax credits set to expire in April of this year are a substantial incentive for home owners who have been considered selling their home. Further, the credit for existing home owners to sell has attracted more homeowners interested in moving up into the market. And those owners are buying more mid range properties.”
First-time home buyers can recoup ten percent of the purchase price of the residence up to $8,000. Current homeowners who have been in the same principal residence for five consecutive years during the previous eight years can get up to $6,500 back.
These credits helped February home sales climb 7.9 percent over January sales. Year to date home sales exceed 2009 by 2.4 percent. The time homes spend on the market is also down 14 percent as buyers scramble to take advantage of the tax credits before the deadline of April 30, 2010.
“The housing market is extremely busy right now,” comments Lusk-Gleich. “We’ve seen over 6,800 homes listed in the last two months alone. There is an incredible selection of exceptional homes in all price ranges right now. Buyers are pretty excited about the choices they have.”
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
How We Found Our Toxic Asset
There's no store where you can buy toxic assets; you have to know a guy. We know Wit Solberg, a former Wall Street trader.
Solberg left Wall Street to set up his own shop, Mission Peak Capital, in Kansas City, Mo. He and a dozen guys sit at desks with their tools: monitors, potato chips, Snapple, chewing tobacco. Pretty much all day long, Solberg looks at those monitors and evaluates toxic assets.
"The big black Angus cow that everybody wants? We're not buying that cow because it's too expensive," he says. "We want the cow that's got a wounded leg, but she might produce a few more calves for us — and [she's] cheap."
Solberg starts searching for a bond we might want to buy. And that searching looks a lot like checking your e-mail. Brokers keep sending him announcements about which toxic assets are for sale today. One says: "Cheaper!" Another says: "Super senior steal!"
Around lunchtime, Solberg finds a bond he likes for us. It's called an Option One Mortgage Loan Trust, or OOMLT (pronounced om-let). Solberg thinks we should offer to buy the bond for "half a cent" on the dollar. That means that, for every $1,000 of the bond's original value, we'll offer $5.
But it turns out the guy who's selling the bond wants 17 or 18 cents on the dollar — more than 30 times what we bid. Solberg says these kind of huge spreads are pretty common in the toxic asset business. People just radically disagree about what things are worth.
We spend two days with Solberg looking for the right toxic asset. One, full of what appear to be California McMansions, seems promising. Solberg prints out a 604-page prospectus that reads like a historical record of the entire financial crisis. It's all in there — vaporized companies, people struggling to pay their mortgages, and some horribly complicated logic describing which bond holders get paid, in which order, under which conditions. But that bond falls through, too.
Finally, we find a beautiful, totally toxic asset at what Solberg thinks is a good price: $36,000. Back in the bubble, somebody paid $2.7 million for this thing. We buy a piece from Solberg for $1,000. It's going to be our encyclopedia of the financial crisis.
What Our Toxic Asset Looks Like
Our toxic asset has 2,000 mortgages, many of them in hard-hit states like California, Arizona and Florida. A lot of the people in our bond are really struggling. Almost half are behind on their mortgage payments, and 15 percent of the homes are already in foreclosure.
At some point those homes will be taken over and sold for a loss. Every time that happens, the bond shrinks. Eventually, our part of the bond will disappear entirely.
Until then, we get a little money every month from people paying off their mortgages. We just got a check for $141. If it goes to Thanksgiving, we could double our money.
By the way, we bought the asset with our own money. Any proceeds will go to charity. If we lose money, we take the loss.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Stretching along High Street, south of the Ohio State University campus, the Short North is Columbus’s designated arts district and home to a hugely popular arts event called Gallery Hop. On the first Saturday of each month, street performers, musicians and artists hit the sidewalks, shops set up temporary exhibits, and art galleries remain open late. Drawing crowds since it started in 1984, Gallery Hop helped transform the formerly neglected, crime-ridden urban district into the vibrant, independent arts enclave that it is today.
In the early 1980s, when artists first started moving into the Short North, the area was full of “derelict people and derelict buildings,” said Maria Galloway, owner of pm gallery (726 North High Street; 614-299-0860; pmgallery.com) and a founder of Gallery Hop. “It was one of those neighborhoods that artists love to move into because the possibilities are there.”
The growing art scene was anchored by the nearby Wexner Center for the Arts (1871 North High Street; 614-292-0330; wexarts.org). A renowned interdisciplinary arts center, the Wex, as it’s called, has drawn national attention to the area with its interactive events and innovative exhibitions — a retrospective of the 2009 MacArthur Foundation fellowship recipient Mark Bradford opens May 8 — and has also helped inspire Columbus’s grassroots art community.
Today, spaces like the sleek Mahan (717 North High Street; 614-294-3278; mahangallery.com) are a reflection of the Short North’s increasingly sophisticated scene. “It’s become such a diverse, well-educated, energetic community,” said the owner, Jacquie Mahan. “And the arts really drive this place.” Indeed, an undercurrent of creativity flows throughout the entire neighborhood, where artwork hangs on barbershop walls and temporary exhibits pop up in residential basements.
Over the past few years, more independent shops and restaurants have joined the galleries, attracting a vibrant mix of young professionals, hipsters and neo-bohemians to the area. During the day, Columbus’s trendsetters shop for under-the-radar labels and screen-printed tees from local designers at Milk Bar (1203 North High Street; 614-754-8802; milkbarboutique.com). Despite the name, no refreshments are served. But at nearby Tasi Café (680 North Pearl Street; 614-222-0788; tasicafe.com), the chalkboard menus list plenty of brunch favorites, like challah French toast with sliced bananas and maple syrup ($7). And even the cafe serves as an art showcase in this neighborhood. In support of the next generation of local artists, Tasi lines its walls with works by students and recent graduates of the Columbus College of Art & Design.
Eventually, though, everyone winds up at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (714 North High Street; 614-294-5364; jenisicecreams.com), a creative farm-to-cone creamery that doles out scoops of inspired flavors like Salty Caramel and Mackenzie Creamery Goat Cheese with Cognac Figs. Considering the innovative confections on offer, it’s no surprise to hear the owner, Jeni Britton Bauer, explain, “I’ve always thought of ice cream as the expression of my art.” It’s a fitting sentiment in a neighborhood brimming with creativity.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
After four years under the helm of the Brothers Nowak, the always-popular Café Corner has changed hands once again. New owner Kathleen Day has already quietly finished the transfer of the business, and is planning on rolling out her own signature twist to the establishment without tampering with customer favorites.
Such a major project might sound overwhelming to most first-time restaurant owners, but Kathleen’s up to the task with a diverse background that encompasses marketing, decorating and design in addition to cooking.
“I’m sometimes skeptical when I read articles about someone who’s been in marketing for 15 years thinking they can run a restaurant,” joked Kathleen. “But it’s important for people to know that I have been catering for 20-plus years. I learned to cook in France, and that’s where my love of food really came about.”
The menu at Café Corner currently remains mostly unchanged outside of a few daily specials, and the upcoming menu additions are still being worked out. “Nothing on the menu is set in stone, but I like the idea of adding little Latin twists to everything,” said Kathleen. “My idea of good food comes from using really fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. We want to create food that feels special, but also feels comforting. The type of food that you’d find in the Spanish country-side… nothing pretentious, just really tasty and made with high-quality ingredients.”
The patio at Café Corner is well known as a neighborhood summertime staple, and there are updates also planned for it. “I don’t have a green thumb at all,” said Kathleen, “so I’m going to get a landscaper friend to make the patio more green and inviting. We’d eventually like to make it a three-season patio and use some of the newer tent-like structures and heat lamps that look a bit more elegant.”
Additionally, Kathleen’s husband Neil is lending a hand in the transformation process. “He has years and years of front-of-the-house experience,” said Kathleen. “He and I have probably washed more dishes than we ever wanted to… but we don’t mind getting our hands dirty. I think that at the end of the day we’ll be making sure that people are aware that Café Corner is still the same great place.”
More information can be found online at www.CafeCornerColumbus.com.
Monday, March 8, 2010
It’s official: the space formerly home to Dr. Mojoe has a new retail tenant. National Jean Company is scheduled to open at 761 N. High St. in early April. The store −a partnership between local investors and National Jean Company President and Founder Jimmy Gurrieri− will be the chain’s 12th location and its first in the Midwest.
“Columbus, specifically the downtown area, has always been an interest to the company because of the demographic mix, the surrounding towns the area pulls from. It’s a great customer blend,” says Helen Kim, director of operations for National Jean Company.
“We set our stores up to be a well-edited closet of sorts; it’s everything you’ll need for each season, for a night out, comfy clothes to lounge in, something fantastic that you’re dying for when you’re in need of a little retail therapy, plus fun, easy accessories,” she explains. “It’s everything from wardrobe staples to fashion-forward pieces.”
At any given time, the store will carry 10 to 15 denim labels, including J Brand, Joe’s Jeans, AG Jeans, 7 For All Mankind, and Paige Premium Denim.
“Our denim [prices] will range anywhere from $110 to $250 in general. Our basic tees, tanks and leggings, for the most part, are $20 and up. And our clothing components are anywhere from $48 to $250,” Kim says.
Denim sizes will range from 24 to 32; the rest of the store’s clothing will be available in extra small, small, medium, and large sizes. Shoes will be available in sizes five through 10.
What separates National Jean Company from other clothing stores is its business approach, Kim says.
“It’s all the details of how we run our business and everything we’ve learned for the past 18 years,” she adds. “We are careful and smart about the way we buy. We spend a lot of time analyzing our past and current business, and focus a lot on forecasting important upcoming trends.
“Also, just as important as the effort we put into selecting our product is the effort we put into customer service. Shopping should be fun and easy. Our staff is there to build relationships with their customers, to help dress them, fit them.
“The relationship doesn’t stop when the customer leaves the store; the relationship is a continuing process, as any friendship is. It’s about being knowledgeable, nice, welcoming, and having a comfortable atmosphere. We only invite people to join our staff that will genuinely care about our customers and our stores.”
As far as National Jean Company’s neighborhood competitor − Voodoo Denim Lounge, which is expected to open in mid-March at 780 N. High St. − is concerned, Kim had this to say:
“It’s difficult to comment on a business that doesn’t exist yet. People know what we’re about. We’ve been around for 18 years, going on our 19th. We focus on our business and what we can do better. We pay attention to our customers and what we can do to make their shopping experience better. I wish the owner, or owners, of Voodoo Denim Lounge the best of luck. I hope everything works out for them.”
Perhaps more importantly, National Jean Company is excited to be setting up shop in the Short North.
“We really love the vibe of the location and the mix of stores, and I can’t wait to experience my first Gallery Hop!” Kim says.
To shop National Jean Company’s online store, visit NationalJeanCompany.com.
Melanie McIntyre is a featured writer for Columbus Underground. She can be reached at threadstyle.blogspot.com.
The story of one of the city's most vibrant and exciting neighborhoods includes the tale of the arches, the rise—and abrupt fall—of Union Station, an incredible reunion of Civil War soldiers, the transformation of a tough, gritty neighborhood to an arts district, and the emergence of local festivals and traditions that have become part of the Short North's character.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
If you're looking for an excuse to eat out, this might be it.
Dine Originals Columbus, a group of 40 locally owned independent restaurants, is hosting its third Dine Originals Week starting Monday and running through March14. During this event, the restaurants will roll out two- to four-course meals - $10.10, $20.10 or $30.10 - to showcase the city's diverse culinary scene.
Such "restaurant weeks" have been a staple in major cities nationwide for several years, said Kamal Boulos, owner of The Refectory and a charter member of Dine Originals Columbus. "It really gives people an incentive to go out and try a new place. It's a good value."
"It's an opportunity for businesses to really showcase themselves, and it really raises awareness of how important it is to support independent businesses, especially in this economy," he said.
Restaurants that participated in the first Dine Originals Week, held last March, reported an average 30 percent increase in sales. Some had packed houses every night and others said patrons came from as far away as Akron and Zanesville to eat in Columbus.
Another Dine Originals Week will be held in November. Detailed menus and reservation information is posted on the Dine Originals Web site.
A sampling of the participants and the stars of their menus:
• Black Creek Bistro , 51 Parsons Ave.: a lunch menu of huevos rancheros or meatloaf remoulade.
• Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails , 73 E. Gay St.: a two-course dinner of vegetarian or lamb shepherd's pie with a fudge brownie for dessert.
• Katzinger's Delicatessen , 475 S. 3rd St.: a two-course menu featuring a choice of sandwiches - Cajun meatloaf, open-faced turkey sandwich or the mushroom mayhem - with a fudge brownie as dessert.
• La Scala Italian Bistro , 4199 W. Dublin-Granville Rd. in Dublin: a two-course menu of house salad and a choice of pasta vesuvio, lasagna napoletana, tortellini alfredo, cajun chicken pasta, margherita pizza or white pizza.
• Press Grill , 741 N. High St.: a three-course menu featuring a double-press burger, pesto chicken sandwich or open-face vegetable sandwich, a salad and a side dish.
• Basi Italia , 811 Highland Ave.: hearts of palm and artichoke salad, wild boar ragout with potato gnocchi and berry cobbler
• The Burgundy Room , 641 N. High St.: hubbard squash lasagna, seafood stew or bacon-wrapped sirloin with a soup or salad starter and chocolate-hazelnut torte.
• Mezzo Italian Kitchen and Wine , 130 Creekside Plaza in Gahanna: sauteed salmon, chicken marsala or lasagna and cheesecake or chocolate cake for dessert.
• Tutto Vino , 7178 Muirfield Dr. in Dublin: pork tenderloin, eggplant rollatini or blackened scallops with mango salsa, with a cheese plate and a choice of salads.
• Vino Vino Restaurant and Wine Bar , 1371 Grandview Ave.: sea scallops on linguine, grilled beef tenderloin or wild mushroom risotto, served with a salad and key lime brulee tart or jamocha almond fudge cheesecake for dessert.
• Alana's Food & Wine , 2333 N. High St.: the three-course meal offers a choice of braised lamb shank, Amish chicken coq au vin and a vegan risotto with a choice of starter and dessert.
• Barcelona , 263 E. Whittier St.: seafood paella, a vegetarian mushroom and goat-cheese paella, or pan-roasted halibut with spinach risotto plus a starter and dessert.
• The Refectory , 1092 Bethel Rd., has three separate three-course menus: Monday and Tuesday's menus offer a pairing of scallops and a petite filet mignon with foie gras. On Wednesday and Thursday, entree choices are veal tenderloin or roasted salmon. On Friday and Saturday, lamb and beef are paired. Meals include a starter and dessert.
• The Top Steakhouse , 2891 E. Main, has a four-course menu: main-dish choices are lobster tails, pecan-crusted salmon or a 10 oz. cut of prime rib. They're served with a soup, salad and dessert.
• The Worthington Inn , 649 High St. in Worthington: the three-course menu features entree choices of grilled petit filet of beef with cognac-peppercorn reduction or tamari-glazed Canadian salmon with tomatillo-avocado salsa. Starter and dessert are included.
Off the Menu
• Kent Rigsby, chef and owner of Rigsby's Kitchen at 698 N. High St., is a semifinalist for best chef, Great Lakes Region, in the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards. The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit group based in New York City that offers food-related conferences and classes, and it provides scholarships to culinary students.
• Alfonso Contrisciana is the new executive chef at the New Albany Country Club. He is a certified master chef and was named Restaurateur of the Year in 2003 by the International Food and Beverage Forum. He has been a chef for seven presidential dinners for four U.S. presidents.
• Sunny Street Cafe has opened at 7042 Hospital Dr. in Dublin, the latest entry in the former Rise & Dine chain. All 14 existing Rise & Dine restaurants, including the Arena District location at 277 W. Nationwide Blvd., will convert to the new Sunny Street Cafe name and get a new menu before May.
• Spiro's Plaza Cafe, 2958 McKinley Ave., will have longer hours and a full liquor license beginning Friday. The restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
• Carsonie's Stromboli & Pizza Kitchen, which has stores in Upper Arlington and Westerville, won third place in the traditional-pizza competition at the National Pizza and Ice Cream show on Feb. 23. It was the only Columbus-area pizzeria to take a prize.