When you think Ohio, you probably think Cleveland, and you might think Cincinnati. Almost certainly, you don’t think Columbus, but here’s a secret: Ohio’s capital city is larger than its more famous neighbors to the north and south. In fact, it’s the largest U.S. city to make Credit.com’s top 10 most affordable cities list. By some measures, it’s larger than Denver, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. And yet, it doesn’t feel crowded, said native Stu Stull.
“Best thing about Columbus is the ease of getting around and not having to waste time waiting for everything like Chicago, Washington, LA and other cities,” said Stull, 58. “There are no hour-and-a-half waits for dinner, no looking for 10 to 15 minutes for a parking space or waiting in traffic for way too long.” Except for college football Saturdays, of course.
Stull was born and raised in the central Ohio city. He left briefly for Texas, but returned years ago and never looked back. A city employee, his mortgage on a small 3-bedroom house with a garden and screened-in patio eats up only 20% of his income.
“I can get downtown in half an hour and I am 10-plus miles away. Pro football, basketball, and baseball are within a two- or three-hour drive,” he said. The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets are right in town. “Concerts, like the Rolling Stones last year, and other entertainment comes here often.”
The Columbus economy weathered the recession better than many Midwest towns, thanks to its status as home of The Ohio State University and state government. But Columbus has a thriving private sector, too. Plenty of financial firms are located there — inexpensive housing helps keep labor costs down — like JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial and Nationwide Mutual Insurance. It’s also a haven for fashion, and home to firms that operate Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, and other well-known brands.
The Columbus economy was recently projected to possibly overtake Cleveland by 2018, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Stull, who is a graphic designer and a part-time musician, said Columbus is still a place with a strong middle class.
“My experience when traveling to other cities is that life is easier here,” he said. “Most people are not living like a Kardashian no matter where they are.”
Columbus also has both old-world charm and hip hangouts. The historic district, German Village, makes drivers slow down with cobblestone streets. They should slow down anyway to see the gingerbread-like homes built by German immigrants who settled the area. The neighborhood is also home to one of America’s best independent book stores, Book Loft. Meanwhile, the Short North, near the city center, is a busy strip full of high-end restaurants and local pubs; it has the feel of an outdoor festival during every football weekend.
Columbus has its critics, of course. The winters are gray, and some residents lament that it’s a bit boring compared to coastal cities like New York. But with a median home sales price of around $117,000, perhaps there’s enough money left over for frequent trips to the Big Apple.
Stull might be a bit biased, but he said the music scene is surprisingly robust.
“It is a place without the extremes of other places,” Stull says. “To quote native James Thurber, ‘Columbus is a town in which almost anything is likely to happen, and in which almost everything has.'”
Life in Columbus, Ohio, by the Numbers
- Affordable Cities Ranking: 9th
- Housing Poor Residents: 30.4%
- Median Home Sales Price: $117,475
- Median Household Income: $46,481
Remember, a good credit score can help make housing more affordable in any area since it generally entitles you to better rates on a mortgage. Landlords also often look at a version of your credit report when considering tenants. As such, it can be a good idea to check your credit before you apply for a new place of residence. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each month at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.
More on Mortgages & Homebuying:
- Why You Should Check Your Credit Before Buying a Home
- How to Find & Choose a Mortgage Lender
- How to Refinance Your Home Loan With Bad Credit
Main Image: aceshot; Inset Image Courtesy of Stu Stull