Guide to House Hacking in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio is most famous as the home of The Ohio State University, but there are many good reasons for non-college students and alumni to be interested in this fine city. Are you interested in getting your foot in the door through Columbus house hacking?

In this post, I’m going to provide all the information you need to find the right deal. You will see the demographics, the data, and use these data driven strategies to decide if Columbus is right for you and to find the house hacking strategy that gets you the best deal.

Let’s dive in!

Columbus: Landlord or Tenant Friendly?

From the state level, Ohio definitely falls much more on the landlord-friendly side of things. In fact, according to Law District, Ohio is one of the ten friendliest states to landlords in the United States due to the fact there are no rent controls, no limits on security deposits, and only a 3 day eviction process for non-payment.

Columbus does not have major added tenant protections, meaning overall it is still a landlord friendly city and that makes it more attractive to be a landlord while offering the support for landlords that many house hackers appreciate.

Demographic Data Analysis

There are six major demographics for evaluating real estate markets that we use for evaluating a local real estate market and seeing if it’s a good potential house hacking market or not.

Let’s take a look at how Columbus measures up to those numbers.

Data PointBenchmark (since 2000)Columbus
Population Growth20%26.3%
Income Growth30%50.7%
Property Value Growth40%74.9%
Crime Level< 500362.4
Crime Change0% or declining-3%
Job Growth1%2.3%

Overall, a Columbus house hack looks quite good based on the six metrics we pay attention to. Every single metric of Columbus meets our benchmarks. While no particular single one leaps out as being extraordinary, all of them are solidly in the good range of what we’re looking for.

This makes Columbus a good potential place for a house hack, and we can use our free house hacking calculator to run the numbers on actual individual houses and deals.

5 Strategies for Columbus House Hacking

Columbus has many different types of properties throughout the city, especially multi-family houses and other multi-unit properties because of the high demand for student or short-term housing thanks to Ohio State University being such a major part of the city.

Columbus would be a decent sized city even without the largest University in the country, so there are plenty of properties out there that could offer an excellent opportunity for house hacking.

Take Advantage of the Land Bank Center Columbus Program

If you have some handyman skills the Land Bank Center Columbus Program is a unique program that can lead to some incredible house hacking opportunities. While this is known locally for vacant lots, it actually applies to vacant properties, as well.

People going through this program can find a vacant property currently held by the program, likely due to unpaid taxes or just abandonment, and can put in to purchase the property for 50% of cost in exchange for living there 5 years.

If you were planning to house hack anyway this is potentially a great way to get a property that needs some love and care for cheap, especially since the program refuses to allow property management companies and large investors from competing.

Find a good vacant property that only needs a little work, and this program means you could have a property that after repairs is worth double your mortgage on it even before the house hacking – which is also more likely to cover your entire mortgage and cash flow because of the lower payment.

Great program worth a look if you’re going to house hack Columbus, Ohio.

The Benefit of Multi-Unit Properties

The high, high demand for student housing means that the demand for single rooms in houses or multi-unit properties makes collecting multiple rents from one property easy. Younger renters are more likely to pay by the room because it’s what they’re used to, and if you have a multi-unit property so each has their own bathroom and private space, that’s even better.

Multi-Unit properties don’t have a lot of problems filling up in college towns and as long as you can deal with younger renters, or are really good and figuring out the “quiet away from campus” types from the louder, younger, partiers then this can be an easy way to turn around a profitable house hack.

There are also plenty of workers or former students out of university looking for a quiet inexpensive place to rent where they’re still close to friends and close to work – so there are plenty of opportunities to make a multi-family home house hack work in Columbus.

Focus on Student Housing

When you’re a very large college town with the largest University in the country, student housing makes sense when looking at any type of a real estate investment. While the idea of house hacking with college students won’t appeal to a large number of investors consider this: market research.

If you’re going to be investing in multiple Columbus properties over the long-term or love the cash flow allure of student housing, learning the importance of how to spot good renters versus bad ones, what problems consistently come up, and what type of issues can come up is better done with one property you own than a half dozen you find out are trashed at semester because you never did the ground work.

There are also plenty of students who just want the education and quiet place to go back to when they’re done partying, or they’re just not partiers. If this is your ideal demographic, then learning the signs to spot them while applying for housing can make a huge difference.

Look for Local Landlords Retiring

Many of the traditional blue collar cities in the area of the country sometimes referred to as “The Rust Belt” have many local landlords. Blue collar workers who bought or built a half dozen to a dozen properties four decades ago, managed them, and honesty just want to be done with it and get to a warmer retirement climate.

If you aren’t sure how to find these landlords, look for “For Sale by Owner” signs and simple “For Rent” signs that don’t have a company name on it. Call up a lot of numbers, expect a lot of rejections, but getting a yes could mean finding someone with that “off-property” they can’t get rid of that would make for a great house hack – and you might even get a good deal on it for finding it before it went on market.

There are a lot of local landlords around Columbus and asking for referrals or for individual properties they might be looking to sell can create great leads for multi-unit properties, as well.

Do A Drive Around

Some parts of the country have habits when it comes to doing things, and Columbus has a reputation for being a bit behind when it comes to using online resources for listing properties. There are many “Property by sale for owner” signs around town or even abandoned buildings with no signage, but a contact number on the door.

In other words, the good old fashioned driving around looking for properties and opportunities, while always a good idea, can be especially effective with Columbus, Ohio.

These properties with simple by owner signs tend not to be listed online or might not be listed properly or with all the online listings. This provides opportunity to get a deal since you’re not competing with multiple other bidders in most cases.

Should You House Hack Airbnb Columbus, Ohio?

The only way this works is if you have a location that is relatively close to the University. Columbus is not a major tourist town and can even be considered a bit out of the way compared to most Ohio cities. Now Ohio State is a big enough school and there are enough relatively inexpensive properties that this could still work, but it’s not going to be as easy as with a tourist-heavy city.

The average Airbnb per night cost according to alltherooms.com is $136 a night, which means you would need to average 8 nights a month to make it worth more than the $984 average monthly mean rent.

Some months that would be more viable than others, and then it’s all about whether the hassle is worth it compared to just getting consistent rent coming in, which will depend on how close your property is to the University and what the difference in monthly income is.

The Airbnb strategy may be a little difficult, as Columbus isn’t a major vacation destination, but the city is big enough that it can still be done if you want to pursue it to see if it’s worth the extra cash.

Columbus Ohio Neighborhood Guide

Columbus is what I refer to as a “Checkered City.” Have you ever been to a touristy area where one block is upper class, the next is middle class, the next three are so dangerous everyone tells you to take a cab for safety, and that leads right into a super touristy block followed by another safe upper class block?

That’s a checkered city where even among neighborhoods, almost all of them have pockets that are “good,” “average,” or “dangerous/terrible.” That means even the worst neighborhoods may have small pockets of good properties and the best neighborhoods can have sections that are “iffy at best.”

While crime is spread out through the city, and one neighborhood can have an area that’s considered one of the best up and coming places in the city while the other part of the neighborhood is considered one of the most dangerous places, so keep in mind that direct property research is all the more important for Columbus.

Good Columbus Neighborhoods for House Hacking

  • Bexley
  • Clintonville
  • German Village
  • Grandview Heights
  • Italian Village
  • Sections of Downtown

While there are both good and bad sections of each of these neighborhoods, these are the ones that locals consistently mention as some of the better ones in the city of Columbus.

Bad Columbus Ohio Neighborhoods to Avoid

  • Franklinton
  • Fort Columbus Airport
  • Olentangy River Road
  • South Linden
  • Milo Grogan

No matter what source I looked up, the same top five neighborhoods came up for being the worst ones, and usually in the same order. Even Franklinton has small areas that are quite nice, but these are Columbus neighborhoods that at least have the reputation of being the roughest and having more bad patches of neighborhoods than good ones.

Because of the checkered nature of Columbus there still might be good deals here but do extra research before jumping on a deal in these neighborhoods.

Should You House Hack Columbus?

There’s a lot to like about house hacking Columbus. The city meets all five of our demographic benchmarks not to mention the fact that the city is to The Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in the entire country.

This adds a stability to the entire area regardless of overall economic health and really opens up the rent-by-room model of house hacking in a way that isn’t always as easy to fill in other cities. Columbus is an intriguing city for real estate investment and if your job or education takes you there, house hacking can be a great way to start a local real estate empire.

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Shane Dayton
Whether it was helping a friend build a cabin from scratch in central Alaska, scouting & analyzing Austin Texas neighborhoods, or exploring rural Iowa Airbnb potential, the variety of opportunities real estate offers have caught Shane's attention. After years of this, he brings his experience and passion for real estate to Everything House Hacking.