Surrounding areas grow as Columbia homes sit on the market

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COLUMBIA - House hunters are looking beyond Columbia due to a lack of middle-income housing in the city.

Realtor Jim Meyer, the former president of the Columbia Board of Realtors, said housing can be more scarce for people who have a smaller price range.

"There are homes available, the problem is there's not much selection," he said.

Meyer said there is a lot of competition among buyers for existing homes in the middle price range, which ranges from $120,00 to $200,000.

Houses in Columbia of $300,000 or more sat on the market for almost double the time of houses in lower price categories, according to the annual market report from Meyer's agency.

Meyer said buyers have more options in surrounding areas than in Columbia.

"You might show a buyer a handful of houses, and, if they wanna buy, they have to pick from six or eight possibilities, realistically, versus having 30 to 40 to choose from in a more balanced market," he said.

Adjusted statistics from the National Association of Realtors shows Columbia ranks third in the ratio of median household income to median home price.

The Columbia Board of Realtors believes the median home price in Columbia could be closer to 195,000 dollars, raising the ratio.

Meyer said it's hard to build houses in Columbia that are affordable for middle-income people, due to building codes put in place by the city.

Columbia City Council Member Ian Thomas said new development is a reason for the problem, with builders having little incentive to work in the middle price range.

"There's no point in trying to make brand new housing affordable," he said. 

Meyer said growth in surrounding areas such as Ashland suggest Columbia could become a commuter city if real estate prices in the city stay the same.

"That's certainly a pattern that's accelerating," Meyer said.

He said surrounding areas are building more new homes proportionate to their population.

"I think that trend will continue," Meyer said.

Thomas agrees Columbia could become a commuter city, but believes the growth in surrounding areas will not go on much longer.

"Some of the other smaller Boone County communities have even lower development impact fees than we do," he said. "They won't be able to keep those up either, just like we can't."