Places to Live in Columbia

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Places to Live in Columbia, MO

Columbia is flexing some serious real-estate muscle these days, as evidenced by strength, stability and little turnover. That’s because when new residents and companies settle down in this artsy, progressive college town, they’re usually here to stay.

For one, Columbia consistently garners accolades from national magazines and groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, MSNBC, and the Business Insider for being one of the top cities in the US to live, learn, work, and play. So it’s likely no coincidence the population here jumped from 108,500 in the 2010 census to an estimated 121,700 in 2017.

Its appeal is easy to understand, with desirable amenities like University of Missouri, top-rated public schools, a host of recreational opportunities, a regional airport, and a burgeoning, eclectic art scene. Higher education, research, healthcare, life-sciences and high-tech industries also contribute greatly to the vibrancy of the local economy, according to Columbia’s Regional Economic Development Inc. group.

Public safety continues to be a priority in Columbia. The police department has officers assigned to various neighborhoods in order to facilitate connections with neighbors, visit the local schools and attend events. While also doing their regular police work, the neighborhood policing efforts are about creating partnerships between the police and members of the community, according to the city’s website.

The allure of Columbia is that it manages a cozy, suburban atmosphere being within reach of many metropolitan amenities and resources. The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department event hosts Neighborhood Park Fun Days to encourage increased interaction between neighbors.

Combine these elements, and it’s easy to see why Columbia boasts a robust, competitive real estate market, both residentially and commercially.

“Overall the market remains healthy,” said Realtor Mike Grellner, vice president of Plaza Commercial Realty, which has a 30-year history in town. “Occupancy rates are still very high.”

These high occupancy rates are indicative of the city’s low unemployment rate, which had dropped to 1.8 percent in November 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Downtown draws

As for downtown, the most notable addition is an office tower next to the Boone County Courthouse.

“Columbia has not seen a lot of new office construction lately, so that project is a good sign of the health of that sector,” said local Realtor Jay Lindner, president of Lindner Properties.

Adding non-office uses is a great utilization of that property, Lindner said. Examples of that area Hawthorne Bank on the ground floor, and Pressed, a new, distinctive rooftop bar with high-end drinks and appetizers/desserts. The nighttime venue caps off the multi-story Class A office building, which is the first new office park in a while downtown.

“It’s a healthy indicator to see the skyline growing,” Grellner said. “Something that brings daytime occupants is another plus.”

The downtown area is a major feather in Columbia’s cap. The Community Improvement District is a mixed-use neighborhood with a penchant for blending harmoniously with high-tech and the latest trends in fashion, food and art. Its 50 square blocks include colleges, historic neighborhoods, 300 residences and 600 businesses, non-profit agencies and government entities.

The District is a live/work/play area with a true mix of activities. It consists of several different neighborhoods, each with a distinct character and feel. They include The Strollway, Flat Branch, the North Village Arts District, Government District, West End and Avenue of the Columns. All are walkable, and a coffee shop is never more than a block or two away, according to the CID website. The Flatbranch area, once an abandoned rail yard, in particular has been reenergized with the addition of offices, apartments, restaurants and a newer park at the head of the MKT Trail.

Historical perspective

Another major project underway is The State Historical Society of Missouri’s new multi-level museum. The Center for Missouri Studies will open adjacent to the University of Missouri.

The new facility will house the administrative headquarters, providing access to a large library and manuscript collections, as well as the nation’s best collection of Missouri regional and westward expansion art.

There’s sure to be an abundance of beauty within the walls and beyond.

“There are some great views overlooking campus,” Grellner said.

If culinary art is more your, ahem, taste, then behold several new eateries within the city limits. Recent new additions to the local restaurant and eatery market include MOD Pizza, Tropical Smoothie Café and Fuzzy’s Tacos.

“We’re also starting to see several brands expand with second and third locations, which is always a positive sign,” Lindner said. Those brands include Chipotle, Firehouse Subs and Jersey Mike’s.

This year, several big players, such as TJ Maxx and HomeGoods, are expected to put down stakes here, too.

Other plans include the following:

  • Splitting the Gerbes building – a 59,000-square-foot former grocery store at the corner of Providence Road and Nifong Boulevard – into four different spaces to be leased sometime in 2019.
  • Continued growth at Cartwright business park by the Columbia Regional Airport.
  • Renovations at the former Macy’s building in the Shoppes at Stadium shopping center.
  • Additions to the Odle family project at Discovery Parkway and Highway 63 that include more apartments, an office and a new restaurant

In terms of leasing, those trends and costs remain steady.

“We have not seen inflation of leasing rates to date, but we’ve seen rates remain stable,” Grellner said.

Recently, downtown has seen multiple apartment complex projects take shape. Suburban apartment construction continues to boom along the Highway 63 corridor. Recorded population growth of two to three percent has triggered demand for housing, Grellner said.

Another major factor in how the local real estate market fluctuates is enrollment at the University of Missouri – perhaps better known as Mizzou. MU seemed to have started to shrug off an enrollment slump in 2018 when it had a significant surge in freshmen. The 13-percent jump was the largest freshmen increase in a decade. That’s great news not just for the school but also for the city and the real estate market.

“It makes everyone a lot more optimistic, and optimism fuels activity,” Grellner said.

With the city hosting a number of large companies/employers – such as MU Healthcare, Boone Hospital Center, Veterans United Home Loans, Shelter Insurance, MBS Textbook Exchange, Carfax and IBM – that means many home buyers are first-timers, young professionals, newlyweds or young families.

Residential trends riding high

Despite a national downturn in the last six months of 2018 due in part to multiple federal interest rate hikes, the local residential scene hit the ground running in early 2019, according to longtime Realtor Cindy Sheltmire of Re/Max Boone Realty.

“Our market typically starts in January and is strong through the end of summer,” Sheltmire said.

Such impressive market stamina is thanks in part to the university’s presence.

Education is a major source of pride and a real draw here. It’s common for clients to ask for certain schools – even elementary, by name when narrowing down their list of neighborhoods, Sheltmire said.

“The schools are extremely important,” Sheltmire said. “People are singling certain ones out.”

And while folks are seeking out Columbia, the feeling is mutual. The city embraces new residents with “Columbia Welcome” – a greeter program that delivers a basket of goodies and coupons and a warm hello to newcomers. It also includes a handy “Citizen’s Handbook” from the city. This handbook covers everything from the town’s long-term strategic plan to affordable housing initiatives to regional job expansions and park improvement plans.

Columbia wants to continue to be a sound investment for families and companies alike.

Home values climb

In 2018, an average of 189 single-family homes were sold monthly in Boone County, where Columbia is the county seat, according to the Columbia Board of Realtors. Local homes continue to prove to be worthwhile purchases. The price of a single-family residence jumped from $186,000 in late 2013 to $219,000 in late 2018. That’s an increase of nearly 18 percent over five years, according to CBOR.

Interestingly, there’s a noticeable difference when comparing existing homes and new construction. For one, 53 brand new homes were sold in the last quarter of 2018, compared to 385 existing homes during the same time period.

Obviously, stock is much more limited. But price plays a factor, too.

From 2013 to 2018, the average cost of an existing home sold increased from $177,000 to $220,000 – an increase of $43,000, or 24 percent. During that same time frame, the cost of new construction rose from $250,000 to $272,000 – an increase of $22,000, or eight percent.

When it comes to housing styles, Columbia is a mixed bag in all the best ways. The local market features a healthy mix of established homes and new construction; condos for clients who seek a convenient lifestyle; and homes tucked back on land that offers privacy and serenity.

For example, part of the Old Southwest neighborhood’s charm is its proximity to schools, the downtown, the University of Missouri, restaurants, parks and trails. For those seeking newer developments, they can turn to Old Hawthorne, Copperstone, Thornbrook or Steeplechase Estates, to name a few, Sheltmire said.

“People do tend to like new or a house that’s been renovated to look like new,” Sheltmire said.

Another style with strong appeal in Columbia is the classic ranch, especially for people planning to stay put for the long haul or just looking to simplify a bit. A stairless existence all on one level can be extremely appealing, Sheltmire said.

Whatever you choose, Sheltmire offers this advice: be careful when settling on décor. Or, at the very least, be prepared to do some updates before selling.

“Housing trends change faster than fashion trends,” Sheltmire laughed.

One thing that remains the same? Columbia is an enviable community in terms of planning, amenities and much more. Groups and publications across the country continue to take notice.

Niche.com, a city review website, recently named Columbia among the 25 best cities in America in two categories: to reside in, and to raise a family in. It also listed them number 31 of 228 cities with the best public schools in the country. The rankings were based on categories like public schools, job opportunities, cost of living, crime statistics and things to do. Data was compiled from the U.S. Census, U.S. Department of Education, FBI, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Center for Disease Control, and other sources.

Other prestigious accolades in recent years include the following:

  • Named to The Center for Digital Government’s top ten list for four consecutive years (in its population category). The award recognizes cities that use technology to improve citizen services, enhance transparency, increase security and encourage citizen engagement.
  • Earned an All Star rating and a perfect score of 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index – 2017.
  • Among the 20 Best College Towns in American from Business Insider in 2017.
  • Ranked one of America’s Most Artistic Towns from Expedia Viewfinder in 2017.
  • Named 9th best U.S. city for career opportunities by SmartAsset in 2017.
  • Among the top 10 cities in the Silicon Prairie (known as the region in and around Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas) for tech startups in 2017.
  • Second best place for working women from CNBC and SmartAsset in 2016.
  • Made it into Obrella’s list of Best Commuter Cities in Missouri for having one of the highest rates of carpoolers and mass transit users among the state’s best commuter cities in 2015.