Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Business First: Insurance against falling home prices debuts in Ohio



Insurance against falling home prices debuts in Ohio

Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 9:58am EDT

A San Francisco insurer will roll out coverage against falling housing values in Ohio, the first state where it is selling policies for owners of single-family houses and condos.

Home Value Insurance Co. will use calculations by the Case-Shiller Home Price Index to decide payouts if homeowner policyholders sell their houses below the insured values. The company, founded in 2009 and headed by former investment banker Scott Ryles, will sell its Home Value Protection policies through independent agents.

As Columbus Business First reported last month, the company has set up an office in Columbus and has been meeting with area insurance agents.

Ryles, the privately held company’s CEO and chairman, said Ohio was picked for its high percentage of homeownership and general demographics. The company indicated it intends to introduce its policies in other states.

Details on how the policies work can be found here.

The Ohio Association of Realtors reported last week that sales of single-family homes in the state jumped in August for a second consecutive month, but prices continued to slip. More than 10,000 houses were sold in the state last month, up 22 percent from a year earlier, and the average price sank to $138,304, off 1.6 percent from August 2010. Prices for the first eight months of the year were down more than 3 percent to $134,310, the organization reported.

Columbus Dispatch: [A German] Village Landmark, Schmidt's

The story is here

Schmidt’s Restaurant, celebrated for its brats and cream puffs, has thrived as a family business for 44 years


By Denise Trowbridge

For The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday September 27, 2011 5:29 AM

Cream puffs. German beer. Bahama Mamas.

It has to be Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus, the German Village dining spot that is the heart of the Schmidt family business, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

The family business began as a meat-packing company in 1886 but has grown into a restaurant, now 44 years old. The restaurant serves 25,000 people each month, sells more than 14,000 cream puffs at more than 50 festivals every summer, caters hundreds of events each year and sells sausages in stores nationwide.

Schmidt’s has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food and the Food Network’s Best of Ohio.

But Schmidt’s is the restaurant that almost wasn’t.

Eric Albrecht | DISPATCH

The founder of Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus, George Schmidt, 90, is surrounded by his children, who operate the German Village business. From left are John Schmidt, Linda Sue “Susie” Schmidt, Sandy Karram, Geoff Schmidt, Georganne Hedrick and Andrew Schmidt


In 1966, the 81-year-old J. Fred Schmidt Meat Packing House went out of business.

George Schmidt, Fred’s grandson, planned to move to Florida to open a travel agency. “I had to feed my family,” he said.

The Ohio State Fair changed his mind. Schmidt’s had been a food vendor at the fair since 1914, a tradition he continued even in uncertain times.

Sales were brisk, so he decided to open a deli in 1967 in the packing house’s old livery stable at the corner of Kossuth Street and Pearl Alley — one of the few pieces of real estate that wasn’t liquidated when the business closed.

He was sure the deli would be profitable.

“At the time, Ohio Bell had their headquarters right around the corner, and even before the doors opened, (workers) were coming by and asking when we were going to open,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s was a little more modest then, serving mostly sandwiches. But the menu quickly expanded to include the German home-cooked specialties the restaurant is known for today.

Most of the recipes came from the German women who worked as cooks in the restaurant. Betty Tressult contributed the recipe for Schmidt’s now-famous cream puff.

The entire Schmidt family worked in the restaurant to turn it from a sandwich shop into a landmark. “At a very young age, all of my kids were introduced into the restaurant, whether dishwashing or cashiering,” Schmidt said. “We all worked together. Everyone participated.

“I’m very proud of what Schmidt’s has become, and I’m thankful for my family,” said Schmidt, now 90.

George’s six children — Geoff, John, Andrew, Sandy, Georganne and Linda Sue — are the fourth generation to run the family business.

Andrew, who now runs the catering division with sister Georganne, said he got his start in the family business as a middle-schooler, washing dishes.

“Most summers, we worked at the restaurant,” he said. “I always looked forward to working with my mom and dad on Saturday nights. After we closed, my parents always took us to the Perkins pancake house at midnight. It felt like the middle of the night.”

It was a labor of love with many hands participating.

“Work was really a family-and-friend thing,” said Geoff Schmidt, noting that his football buddies were often hired as cooks and dishwashers. Geoff was the very first busboy, but he worked his way up to sausage maker. Now, he’s the company president.

“The hours were long, but it was very fun.”

The restaurant’s popularity grew.

The Schmidts helped organize the city’s first Oktoberfest in 1967 and have been instrumental in keeping it alive. They opened the Fudge Haus next door in 1971. And on March 6, 1986, Columbus celebrated Bahama Mama Day, as declared by city officials, in honor of the sausage that Schmidt’s is credited with inventing.

But not everything has been rosy.

At one point, Schmidt’s had six locations in central Ohio, in German Village, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, the Ohio Center, Westerville and near Morse Road. The multiple restaurants turned out to be a costly mistake. All but the original closed.

“We just weren’t successful running restaurants outside of German Village,” Geoff Schmidt said.

Then in 1983, the German Village Schmidt’s was engulfed in flames.

The restaurant didn’t open its doors again for nearly five months.

“I remember driving into the village at 2 in the morning and seeing the glow (of the fire) and the smoke from the other side of town,” said John Schmidt, who leads the family business’s festivals division. “That was a scary time.”

There was a silver lining, he said.

The insurance settlement was enough to rebuild the restaurant, and the fire unwittingly led to the creation of the company’s catering division.

After the fire, they set up a tent in the parking lot and served patrons there. And “instead of turning away the banquet business from upstairs, we asked folks if we could bring Schmidt’s to them,” said Andrew Schmidt. “That went so well, we created an entire catering division.”

The hard times seem well behind them. The company has grown to a full catering division, a festival division and the restaurant. In addition, Schmidt’s sausage is sold at food retailers nationwide. They even have their own packing house again, churning out Schmidt’s sausages right here in central Ohio.

They’re also grooming a new generation to take over the business. George’s grandsons, Matt and Kyle Schmidt, are assistant managers at the restaurant.

Schmidt’s success, George Schmidt said, is based on a very simple principle: “Put out the best product you know how, and then keep it steady.”

His kids? They’re just trying to make sure they keep it that way.

“It’s my father’s concept, so we can’t take any credit for that,” Geoff Schmidt said with a laugh. “Our job as brothers and sisters is to not screw up what he started.”


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Business First: Columbus-area home sales were hot in August

Regional home sales increased 15.4 percent in August compared to August 2010 as the number of homes put in contract surged more than 50 percent.

The Columbus Board of Realtors real estate trade group reported the sale of 1,946 homes through its multiple listing service that covers members’ listings in nine greater Columbus counties and parts of 11 other counties. That compares to 1,686 single-family homes and condos sold in August 2010.

The association had 3,059 new listings hit the market last month among the 15,192 residential properties for sale.

In addition to the home sales, the real estate board reported another 2,478 homes went into contract last month, a 50.5 percent increase over the August 2010 level of 1,646 homes in contract.

The 2011 president of the Realtors group, Rick Benjamin, said August traditionally is a strong sales month.

“Families with children usually choose the summer months to make a move and strive to close before the start of school,” he said in a news release.

The Realtors group reported double-digit increases in average prices in the Bexley, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Grandview Heights schools districts as well as the German Village neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus.

The average sales price throughout the MLS territory rose just 1 percent to $171,027 in August 2011 vs. the $169,301 average price paid in August 2010. The median price – the price marking the distribution midpoint of all sales – was $135,000 for August 2011 vs. $139,950 in August 2010.

Year to date, the statistics show 13,324 residential properties sold in the Columbus MLS territory in 2011, which represents a 6.6 percent decline from the 14,266 sold during the first eight months of 2010.

CNN: Dodge the draft and cut home heating costs


The story is here

(MONEY Magazine) -- You don't have to invest thousands in high-tech insulation or a super-efficient furnace to cut home heating costs. Just sealing drafts could lower your bills 3% to 18%, according to Danny Parker, a research scientist who works with the Department of Energy.

In the high-heating-cost Northeast, that translates to annual savings of as much as $250 if you burn natural gas or $550 for oil. Pretty good for low-cost projects you can do yourself.

Go for durable weather stripping

If you can easily slide a sheet of paper between a door (exterior, basement, or attic) and its frame, it needs weather stripping, says Jen Schwab, director of sustainability for Sierra Club Green Home.

Skip cheap self-adhesive foam, which will work loose before the spring thaw. Instead buy bronze strips ($20 for a kit for one door, killianhardware.com) and cut them to size with metal snips ($14, Amazon.com). Fasten them into place with the provided nails, and you'll never have to replace them. (Drafty windows can be sealed, too, but it's very tricky; hire a handyman.)

Install automatic door sweeps

"Sweeps" (draft-blocking strips you attach to the bottom of exterior doors) prevent icy gusts from rushing underneath. But they tend to scratch wood floors and catch on welcome mats as the door swings open.

Try a spring-loaded automatic sweep ($11, energyfederation.org), which lifts up as the door opens and presses down to form a tight seal when it's closed.

Insulate the attic hatch

Pull-down attic ladders are notorious energy losers because they're built with little regard for air sealing or insulation, says Paul Zabriskie, director of EnergySmart of Vermont, a nonprofit home-weatherizing service.

You can fix both problems with an attic tent (about $200 from attictent.com), an insulated fabric hut you install over the hatch, staple to the attic floor, and zip open when you need to climb through.

Cover your AC

An in-wall air conditioner -- or a window unit that's too large to remove for the off-season -- will cool your home in the winter, too, thanks to drafts blowing right through.

Order an insulated wrap custom-made to fit snugly over the unit ($60, accovers.com) to keep the heat in.

Seal remaining cracks

Close doors and windows, and turn on bath, attic, and range-hood exhaust fans. They'll suck air out of the house, encouraging drafts to rush in to replace it.

Hold a stick of burning incense near gaps, such as where pipes penetrate the wall under sinks and where baseboards meet the floor. Where smoke dances near hidden cracks spray Great Stuff insulating foam ($3 a can, lowes.com); use caulk for visible ones. That's how pros do it. To top of page


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Reshuffle of Congressional Seats Likely To Benefit Central Ohio, Experts Say



Proposed Franklin County congressional districts

A stronger hand

Reshuffle of seats likely to benefit area, experts say


By Jessica Wehrman and Jack Torry

Sunday September 18, 2011 7:36 AM

WASHINGTON — Central Ohio might emerge as one of the few winners in a congressional redistricting process that has caused howls of protest elsewhere in the state.

While the rest of Ohio gained a scant 1.6 percent in population between 2000 and 2010, Columbus boomed: Franklin County saw an 8.8 percent population increase during the past decade.

That’s reflected in the map. While the state loses two seats overall because of slow population growth, central Ohio would gain one new lawmaker, most likely a Democrat, after the 2012 elections.

The county also will keep two Republican lawmakers — Reps. Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington and Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township — whose seats were strengthened by the new map.

The two are considered set for the next decade, drawn into districts with far more Republican voters than they currently have. Their only possible worry, observers say, would be a primary challenge.

While other metropolitan regions in the state feel slighted that their cities have been splintered among multiple members of Congress, observers say Columbus actually stands to benefit from the trend.

“I think having three members with their roots squarely in the Columbus delegation makes the community even stronger,’’ said Ted Hollingsworth, a Republican lobbyist in Washington and onetime chief of staff for former Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio.

He said Columbus gains by getting a likely Democratic congressional seat: It means that for the next decade, officials in Ohio’s largest city will have access to both political parties.

“If you indeed have the House in one party and the Senate in another … yes, it helps over the next decade to have representation in both parties,’’ Hollingsworth said.

But despite the benefits, Franklin County also experiences one of the worst examples of outright gerrymandering. Stivers would represent a broad, reverse C-shaped swath of Ohio that would include all or parts of Clark County, Franklin County and Highland County, and then veer east to the Appalachian counties of Vinton, Athens and Hocking. In all, he would represent all or parts of 13 counties under the new proposal.

The circumference of his district is about 934 miles, the most of the 16 new districts. Although the 15th District is geographically contiguous as required by law, Stivers won’t be able to drive from one end to another; it’s so skinny at the southern edge of Franklin County that no road passes through it. He would have to swim across the Scioto River near the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant to travel from one end of his district to the other.

David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington, D.C., said even by standard gerrymandering procedures, the Ohio map is a humdinger. He calls it one of the country’s most “adventurous” maps.

“I think we’ve finally figured out why it took so long for the map to get out,” he said. “When Republicans tried to take a picture of it, it broke the camera … this map is a reformer’s worst nightmare.”
But Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia said Democrats would’ve done the same thing had they been in charge.

“Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty,” he said. “They do this all over the country. Voters need to understand in politicians’ eyes, they are just pawns on the chess board.”

Political experts say the new Ohio map creates an all-but-guaranteed level of job security for lawmakers such as Stivers for the next decade at the expense of establishing congressional representatives for a specific region of the state.

“You can’t say, ‘There’s an Akron district.’ You can’t say, ‘There’s a Cleveland district,’” said John Green of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. “ Historically, congressional districts were built around metropolitan areas or rural areas because of the idea that districts should represent communities … this is a very different kind of map.”

Geographic areas of interest are “not the point,” Sabato said. “Politicians don’t care about the local city and the county lines and communities of interest. They care about the partisan impact of the lines that they draw.”

Take the Dayton area. Montgomery County saw a 4.3 percent decrease in population between 2000 and 2010. That loss was reflected in the proposed map, which would pit Republicans Mike Turner of Centerville and Steve Austria of Beavercreek against each other in a primary.

The map has irritated people in the region who say it dilutes Dayton and Montgomery County, splitting the county between the new district and House Speaker John Boehner’s turf, and essentially minimizing the impact of Dayton as a metropolitan region by putting it with counties more likely to be considered Columbus suburbs than Dayton ones. Under this map, there’s really no true Miami Valley congressional district, they say.

“It’s a stupid map,” said former Rep. Tony Hall, a Democrat who represented Dayton from 1979 to 2002.

But perhaps nowhere is the trend more evident than Akron and Summit County: Under the new map, the county will be part of four different congressional districts. Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Eckart of Cleveland said they made “mincemeat” out of that county.

“They did the opposite to Akron which they did in Columbus,” the Democrat said.

It’s not just the metropolitan areas that are affected by this trend. In northwestern Ohio, rural Mercer County, population 40,814, would be represented by three lawmakers: Boehner, R-West Chester, and Reps. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, and Jim Jordan, R-Urbana.

Matt Gilmore, chairman of the Mercer County Republican Party, describes himself as “bemused” by that development. The county is currently represented by Latta and Boehner.
“I guess the line has got to get drawn somewhere,” he said, shrugging it off. “I don’t see it as earth-shattering, but I was surprised.”

What this means for voters in 2012: Even more political ads on TV, from a dizzying array of congressmen all trying to get known in the multiple media markets that they will represent.

What it means for lawmakers in 2012: Potential primary challenges, easy general elections and pricier campaigns as they scoop up TV time in those multiple media markets, said Stu Rothenberg of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington, D.C.

What’s still unseen is how the state’s overall influence will ebb or flow in the coming decade.

Just five years ago, Ohio had two powerful Appropriations Subcommittee chairmen and a House minority leader. Now, it can claim the House speaker, but the delegation is younger and less experienced — and soon to be two fewer.

The impact of that decrease may be seen in particular in the state’s federal installations.

Locally, Columbus is less dependent on military spending than other areas of the state, such as Dayton with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Still, central Ohio has scores of jobs linked to national defense. There are 8,400 jobs at the three defense agencies in the suburb of Whitehall: the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Supply Center Columbus and the Defense Logistics Agency.

All — including Wright-Patterson — are represented by Austria, but under the new plan, the installations would be split between lawmakers — and it’s yet to be seen if the delegation will unite on behalf of those jobs or work to protect them on a district-by-district basis.

“There’s no question that when you lose two seats in the House, you lose impact and lose your ability to do things on behalf of your state,” said David Leland, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “The fact Boehner is speaker mutes part of that, but that isn’t going to last forever.”

jwehrman@dispatch.com

jtorry@dispatch.com

Friday, September 16, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Weinland Park camera on lookout for crime


The story is here

By Doug Caruso

The Columbus Dispatch Thursday September 15, 2011 4:34 AM

The first of a planned 10 surveillance cameras has been installed in the Weinland Park neighborhood near Ohio State University.

Police turned it on yesterday at the intersection of N. 4th Street and 11th Avenue.

Cameras already have been installed in high-crime areas on the Hilltop on the West Side and the Mount Vernon area of the Near East Side. They also will be installed near Livingston and Parsons avenues on the South Side and in the Linden neighborhood on the North Side.

In all, city officials plan to install 114 cameras at a cost of about $2 million to observe public areas in high-crime neighborhoods. Though some have raised questions about whether the cameras violate civil liberties, neighborhood leaders seeking a solution to chronic crime problems have clamored for the cameras.

dcaruso@dispatch.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

Plain Dealer: Columbus and franklin county to get a new congressional seat?





Betty Sutton and Dennis Kucinich to be squeezed out in new congressional remap

Published: Monday, September 12, 2011, 12:23 PM Updated: Monday, September 12, 2011, 1:48 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Democrats will lose two congressional seats in Northeast Ohio under a remapping plan that will be introduced in Ohio's legislature later this week. But they will gain a new seat in Columbus that's being designed to shift Republicans who now represent the city into safer suburban seats.

Republican and Democratic sources say that in Northeast Ohio, the plan will shift Copley Democrat Betty Sutton into a largely Republican district that's being constructed to favor the re-election of freshman GOP Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.

The western Cuyahoga County power base of Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich will go into a district that snakes along Lake Erie from Toledo and is designed to favor the re-election of longtime Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Ohio must eliminate two of its 18 congressional seats because its population is growing more slowly than other states. Republicans who took over Ohio's state legislature during the last election have control over the process.

Republicans -- who now hold 13 of Ohio's seats -- will give up one of those seats by consolidating Dayton-area turf currently represented by Mike Turner and Steve Austria into a district that includes parts of Montgomery and Fairfield counties, and all of Greene, Fayette and Pickaway counties. House Speaker John Boehner will pick up parts of Montgomery County that he does not currently represent.

To enhance the re-election prospects of Columbus-area GOP incumbents Patrick Tiberi and Steve Stivers, both their districts will be redrawn to allow creation of a new Democratic seat in Franklin County.

Sources say that Tiberi's district will stretch into Richland and Marion counties, and include all of Licking, Delaware and Morrow counties. Stivers will have a peculiarly shaped district that includes Union, Madison and some of Clark counties.

Closer to home, Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge's district in eastern Cuyahoga County will be stretched down the I-77 corridor to include parts of Akron that are predominantly African-American, preserving the state's only majority minority district.

The district represented by Bainbridge Township Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette will pick up parts of Cuyahoga County he does not currently represent, including Brecksville, Independence, Lyndhurst and Mayfield Heights.

The district Renacci represents will stretch farther north. He will lose parts of Stark County to Holmes County GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs, a freshman whose district is also shifting north as its southern portions get divided between Tiberi and Stivers. Alliance, the home of Renacci's Democratic predecessor, John Boccieri, will be shifted into the district currently represented by Niles Democrat Tim Ryan. Stark County will be split between Gibbs, Renacci and Ryan.

Republicans are also trying to strengthen the GOP leanings of the district represented by freshman Bill Johnson of Marietta, which now stretches like a string bean along the Ohio River. Johnson's new district will include Carroll, Harrison and Guernsey counties, and parts of Tuscarawas and Muskingum counties.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Inman News: Columbus real estate market grinds through downturn



Columbus real estate market grinds through downturn

Real Estate Market Report

Inman News™

The Columbus, Ohio, metro area saw pent-up consumer demand fuel summertime housing sales in July. Home sales climbed 23.3 percent year-over-year to 1,865 properties sold, outpacing the statewide gain of 17.8 percent. Pending sales surged nearly 50 percent from July 2010.

With fewer available homes on the market, Ohio's state capital and largest region remains a buyer's market. The number of homes on the market declined 18.6 percent to 15,702 units. That represents a 9.6-month supply, a drop from 10.3 months the previous year.

This report highlights real estate market statistics and trends in the Columbus metro area and includes a chart with detailed market data and commentary from local real estate professionals.

Overview

The median sales price of a home in the Columbus metro area in July rose 5.9 percent compared to the same month last year, to $141,359, according to Columbus Board of Realtors. Sales jumped 23.3 percent year-over-year in July.

Real estate experts attribute the midyear boost to buyers shrugging off the economic uncertainly across the region and nation and taking advantage of low interest rates and the lowest home prices in two years. With fewer homes on the market than in the past, Columbus is experiencing a buyer's market.

Foreclosure activity remains a factor in the market, with distressed property sales representing more than a third of all sales.

CBR reported home sales totaled 1,865 in July, compared to 1,513 during the same period in 2010. Pending sales, or those under contract, climbed 49.7 percent year-over-year to 2,553. The average sales price inched up 1.3 percent to $170,238.

Statewide, the average sales price increased 3.1 percent to $140,903 in July, according to the Ohio Association of Realtors. Through the first seven months of the year Columbus boasted the state's highest average sales price at $157,889.

There were 15,702 homes on the active market in Columbus, down 18.6 percent from July 2010. The average number of days on the market rose 11 percent to 93 days from a year ago.

"We've seen a marked increase in activity this summer," said Rick Benjamin, president of the Columbus Board of Realtors. "There are pockets where the market is very solid. Our core city has done well in some areas."

While July recorded a year-over-year increase in housing price, home values to date continue to be weighed down by distressed properties. The board reported the year-to-date median sales price stood at $129,900, off 3.8 percent from the same time last year.

Other indicators reinforce this trend. The Federal Housing Finance Agency's Housing Price Index reported first-quarter prices in the Columbus region fell 3.14 percent, compared to a 2.94 percent drop statewide and 2.49 percent decline nationally. In the past year, Columbus home prices have dipped 2.24 percent from the same three-month period in 2010.

By year-end, the region's home values are predicted to decline 2.8 percent, according to the Fiserv Case-Shiller Indexes released in May. Home prices nationally are expected to fall 3 percent.

"The short sales and real estate owned (REO) sales from the banks do have an impact. Lender sales have had a dampening effect (on prices)," Benjamin said.

During the second quarter, the median sales price of a distressed property fell 15.6 percent year over year to $70,000, according to the Realtors board. In comparison, the median sales price for a traditional or nondistressed property rose 3.6 percent to $166,395 from the year-ago quarter.

Distressed property sales accounted for 39 percent of closings during the first half of 2011, compared with 27.4 percent for the same period a year ago. In the second quarter, distressed properties made up 16.2 percent of the inventory but 35.8 percent of sales.

On average, traditional homes sell in about 110 days while distressed properties go in 78 days.

"What this means is that we are selling a lot of ... inventory that's been on the market for quite some time," Benjamin said.

In July, Columbus foreclosure filings fell 52.4 percent year over year, with 1 in 575 housing units receiving notices, according to RealtyTrac. That compares to a 34.6 percent drop in foreclosure filings nationally and a 38.1 decrease in Ohio, where 1 in 608 units received notices statewide.

Ohio ranked ninth among states in foreclosure activity in July and Columbus ranked 68th among major U.S. metro areas.

"We have had zero success in selling bank-owned properties. There is not real great value in bank-owed properties," said Joe Armeni, broker-owner of Re/Max City Center in Columbus.

Since peaking in 2005, Columbus has seen home sales decline each year, tumbling a total of 28.4 percent to 19,676 in 2010, according to CBR statistics. That was the lowest number of transactions in nearly a decade.

During that same period, the average sales price fell 10.7 percent to $158,893. On the plus side, the decline was less severe during the recession because "the lack of any significant bubble growth earlier in the decade," according to a May regional economic report by PNC Financial Services Group.

PNC economists said the region's housing market "has fallen into a second round of mild declines, alongside the national trend. The labor market damage that could be wrought by state and local government budget cuts will also keep demand from restoring strong price growth trends anytime soon."

PNC forecasts a 1.2 percent decline in home prices this year and a 1.9 percent increase in 2012.

"The market is soft. The only thing holding people back is they are afraid of the economy," Armeni said. "It's a buyer's market."

Columbus weathered the recession better than other Midwest areas because of its diverse economy and less reliance on manufacturing. The region features major financial companies such as JP Morgan Chase and Nationwide Insurance, as well as a major research institution, Ohio State University, which is one of the largest university campuses in the nation.

RelocateAmerica recently named Columbus, Ohio's fastest-growing city, as one of the best 100 cities to move to in America.

"We have a diverse economy. We're the only major city in Ohio experiencing population growth. We typically don't experience the wide (economic) fluctuations," Benjamin said.

"Columbus' economy stands out, particularly in the Midwest, as having a broad array of strengths and very few weaknesses," PNC reported.

Armeni agrees. "It has been the only gem in Ohio in terms of growth. Columbus will probably be one of the first to turn in Ohio because of the stability in the economy."

Market Data

Columbus, Ohio, Metro Area
Population (2010 estimate) 1,836,536
Population growth (2000-10) +13.9%
Total closed sales (2010) 19,676
% change closed sales (2009-10) -2.8%
% change closed sales (July 2011 vs. July 2010) +23.3%
Sales per person 1 sale per 93 people
Median sales price (July 2011) $141,359
% change median sales price (July 2011 vs. July 2010) +5.9%
Foreclosure activity rate (July 2011) 1 in 575 units
% of sales distressed (January 2010-June 2010) +27.4%
% homes affordable to median-income households 86.2%
% unemployment (June 2011, not seasonally adjusted) 8.2 percent%
Walk Score 55
Rent-vs.-buy ratio 13

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metrolist Inc., Columbus Board of Realtors, Trulia, RealtyTrac, Walk Score, National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo, U.S. Census Bureau.

This Saturday in the Short North: Art al Fresco, Noon-10pm

art al fresco

Art al Fresco, September 10, 2011 Noon-10pmField Ninjas

The Short North Arts District will host this daylong event celebrating the artistic spirit of Columbus. Visual and performing artists from all across the region will come to share talents and create art live throughout the district!

Visual artists will install whimsical, thought-provoking exhibits in un
Flower Mandalaexpected venues throughout the Short North. Performance artists will entertain passersby. The entire Short North will serve as their stage and their gallery for a day. The event will inspire, engage and amuse visitors while spotlighting the power of public art. Come join us for this interactive day of experiential art!

A full listing of the art installations, locations and performers are:

· "Field Ninjas," Adam Brouillette, (Ibiza Lot 830 N High St, Hubbard Ave & N High St)

· "Fresh Flower Mandala," Tracy Elzy, Lisa Mclymont, Cat Sheridan, (Bolinger Tower 750 N High St)

· "Alleys Can Be Scary," Stephanie Oliver, (Near 17 Brickel Alley)

· Birds of Prey, Linda Diec (Corner of Poplar and N High St, near 601 N High St)

· "The Life Cycle Tree,"Jennifer Deafenbaugh, (Poplar Park 604 N High St) Life Cycle Tree

· Recycled container mixed media, Joan Zeller, (790 N High St)

· "You Take Yourself Too Seriously," Joe David Mitchell, (UDF Lot 900 N High St)

· Mural, Urban Scrawl, (Ibiza Lot 830 N High St, Hubbard Ave & N High St)

· Paper Pulp Installation, Daniel Colvin (944 N High St)

· "Noise II," Lexie Stoia Pierce (641 N High St)

· Paintings and Drawings, Malcolm J (958 N High St)

· Sweeping on High Street, (video projection) Chanika Svetvilas (Late Night Slice,1030 N High St)

· Bus Stop Modification, Kimberly Webb, (Buttles Ave & N High St)

· Performance Art, Heroic Urges Moving Arts (1160 N High St)

· The Liddlers, children's fiddle group, 12p-5p (Victorian Gate 663 N High St)

· The Idiot Boys, 12p-5p (Millay Park, 617 N High St)

· Madlab, sketch comedy (1:00p, Poplar Park 604 N High, 5:00p Greystone Apartments 815 N High St, 8:00p Fireproof Records 1024 N High St)

· One World Entertainment, 5p-10p (Victorian Gate 663 N High St)

· Aaron Quinn, Jazz Band, 6p-9p (Millay Park, 617 N High St)

· KaTanya Ingram, 5p-10p (Bolinger Tower 750 N High St)

SPECIAL ADDITION!

QR Code for SNBA WebsiteThere will be a QR Code Exhibit sponsored by Wonderland Columbus:

Scan QR codes via smart phone to discover works of art that will later be sold at the 4th Annual Independents' Day being held on Saturday, September 17th.

Full details of art installations and performances are posted on www.ShortNorth.org and the facebook event page.

Adm: Free for all

Come join us for this day long celebration of art!






Friday, September 2, 2011

Win tickets to the Short North Tour of Homes & Gardens, Deadline is Sunday

Short North Tour of Homes & Gardens

The Short North Civic Association is giving away 3 pairs of tickets to the Short North Tour Of Homes & Gardens, taking place Sunday, September 18, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Click enter and leave your contact info for a chance to win. To up your odds, share the contest with your friends - shares will be tracked as entries.

Check out the Tour's website - www.tour.shortnorthcivic.org - for more info about the dozen homes and gardens on view this year.

Good luck! Winners will be chosen at random and announced on their Facebook Fan Page on September 5th.