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Home Values Rise For Central Ohio Homeowners Previously Underwater

Many homeowners in Central Ohio whose property value declined during the housing crisis are breathing a sigh of relief. It's estimated that there's been nearly a 50 percent drop in the number of Central Ohio homes underwater. And local experts say 2015 will be a great time to refinance or sell a home. "Usually every time I'm between renters I'll upgrade it. Last time I redid the kitchen here. This time I'm redoing the bathroom," says Central Ohio property owner Dax Clapsaddle. The thirty-one year old Clapsaddle realized his dream of owning property six years ago when he bought a four-unit condo building. He lived in one of the units. However, his joy turned to doubt when he read the new valuation on his property. His purchase price was $252,500, but the value had dropped to $199,000. "The first thing I thought was I'm in trouble, but the more and more I thought about it, I realized that I'm going to probably keep this four-unit for a long time, so it doesn't matter what happened with the price as long as I hold on to it, eventually down the road it'll appreciate to and I'll pay off the mortgage enough to where I can maybe make some money on the deal," says Clapsaddle. Clapsaddle's patience paid off and now the property's value is approaching the cost of what he paid. Zillow dot com reports that in the Columbus area, more than 17.5 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage still owe more than their house is worth. But that's a significant improvement since 2011. Columbus Realtors President Kathy Shiflet says the market responded quickly as home values rose. "People that I even sold to that I could not, I would go like three years ago and could not get them out. This past year I was able to go to them and say 'Okay now I can get you out of your home.' They may not have made money, they may have broke even. But they did not have to bring money to the table," says Shiflet. Other homeowners like Joyce Morckel want to stay put. The Dublin single mother borrowed money through a second mortgage. When the value of her home dropped by $20,000 she worried about paying back the loan. Now she's in the process of consolidating into one loan at a lower interest rate. A recent appraisal values her home at $40,000 more than she originally paid. "Today I think I'm in pretty good shape, I'm comfortable with my payment, I'm comfortable with my interest rate, and I don't have this thing 100 percent mortgaged. I've got some equity in the home," says Morckel. Some neighborhoods built in the early 2000's, before the Great Recession, are still in recovery. The Franklin County Auditor's Web site shows that in Dubli, a snapshot of one street in Ballantrae indicates that two-thirds of homes remain under water. One of those is $177,000 below its last sales price. Mortgage consultant Todd Helpbringer says it's a matter of time before more home prices improve. "It's inevitable that those values will come back. Interest rates are substantially lower than they were in 2011, and that's brought back a little bit more homeownership. And also with that drives the values up and we're seeing that across the board," says Helpbringer. Helpbringer says he has handled more re-financing of homes in the last three months than purchases. Homeowners, he finds, prefer a long-term, fixed interest rate because they're concerned that rates may climb this year. Meanwhile, property owner Dax Clapsaddle anticipates the higher rates. He now owns another four-unit condo building, and his own single-family home.