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Costs and considerations for homebuyers in the Queen City

Those who have spent their lives in Cincinnati describe it as the best of both big and small. The “Queen City” is home to nationally acclaimed museums, schools, performing arts, and restaurants, as well as world-class corporations. Yet Cincinnati retains a “village” feel, thanks to its crown of tightly connected neighborhoods, each of which shines with its own cultural, recreational, and architectural gems.

Combine these factors, and Cincinnati is one of the fastest-growing economies in the country.1 It’s not surprising so many who are born here stay and may now be considering it for their next home.

However, where one chooses to live within Greater Cincinnati may impact day-to-day life. A few miles could mark the difference between a pulsing nightlife district and a quiet family community. One bridge from neighboring Northern Kentucky could add 15 minutes to a commute but take 20% off of housing prices.

And Cincinnati is a fast-evolving city, so there’s plenty more to consider about home-buying here today than just five years ago. If you’ve lived in, say, the northern suburb of Blue Ash your whole life and now want to be an empty nester downtown, it may not be the downtown you knew just a few years ago … and you might be pleasantly surprised at your options.

If you are moving within Cincinnati or relocating here from a far-north suburb or from out of town, we recommend taking these factors into account.

Home prices

Generally speaking, Cincinnati homes are affordable, considering the wealth of amenities and the local economy. The median home price is nearly $190,0007, but depending on the zip code, one could find homes for well below – or above – that price.

For example, West Side neighborhoods like Price Hill and Fairmount list homes with median prices from $38,000 to $120,000.6 While these low property values may look attractive to prospective homebuyers, many of the properties are distressed and may require rehabbing. The local neighborhood organization Price Hill Will is working to revitalize the area through grassroots efforts such as rehabbing homes and creating a 120-piece youth orchestra.

On the other side of town, Mount Adams fetches a median list price of $407,000.6 This picturesque hilltop neighborhood is home to some of the city’s best views, as well as enduring pubs, coffee houses, and specialty shops. It is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Krohn Conservatory, and it is steps from Cincinnati Playhouse and Eden Park.

A few miles east, the affluent neighborhood of Hyde Park offers a slightly lower median home price of $407,000.6 This is a quaint suburban neighborhood with a peaceful, pedestrian vibe. This community is built around the charming Hyde Park Square – a cluster of independent boutiques, cafés, and an always-busy Graeter’s Ice Cream parlor, whose founders were Cincinnati natives themselves.

Transportation and walkability

Although the home you love may be perfect, consider the daily commute because it can sharply impact your quality of life. Buyers should factor practical matters, such as ample street parking, bus stops, walkability, and highway access, into their neighborhood choice.

For instance, Over-the-Rhine(OTR), just north of downtown, ranks as Cincinnati’s most walkable neighborhood – and it’s just a streetcar ride away from The Banks riverfront district and downtown.2 OTR, as it is known by locals, is home not only to historic Findlay Market (which Food & Wine magazine likened to “Seattle's Pike Place, without the tourist crush”)  but some of the best coffee, baked goods, and fine dining anywhere in the country.7  It also is home to the city’s oldest beer breweries, which are expanding full-throttle from Northern Kentucky to the upper suburbs of Loveland. There are an estimated six breweries for every 50,000 people in Greater Cincinnati,3 a cottage industry that has introduced its own transportation option: Some companies, such as Cincy Brew Bus, offer brewery tours.

On the other end of the spectrum, in neighborhoods like Westwood, on the western edge of town, and Mount Lookout, on the eastern edge, residents are more likely to use their cars to run errands and find entertainment.

There are alternative methods of traditional transportation. While the city’s famous seven hills don’t make bicycle commuting practical for everyone, the Red Bike bicycle-sharing program operates stations from Covington, Kentucky, (just across the river from downtown Cincinnati) to the fast-expanding Northside. City-wide electric scooter rentals also are available, and popular.

Schools and school choice

Schools can lock a family into a home for decades and in Cincinnati, asking, “Where did you go to school?” is not uncommon in this area. Fortunately, many of Cincinnati’s top-tier schools are affordable, thanks to Ohio’s EdChoice scholarship program, local magnet programs, and charter schools.

For example, some of Greater Cincinnati’s public schools, school districts, and charter schools rank among the top in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report4 and Niche.com.5 Would-be enrollees may need to hit the books, though – some of these schools require students to test in and it gets competitive.

Fairview-Clifton German School in nearby Clifton, meanwhile, is a magnet school with a German-based curriculum that is also a regular top performer. Several miles northeast of the city, Indian Hill Exempted Village School District was ranked the top school district in the Cincinnati area in 2020 by Niche.com.5

We recommend requesting a school tour, as well as asking for the latest developments in city and state school choice programs.

Green space

When it comes to Cincinnati’s green spaces, the previously mentioned Eden Park may be the city’s crown jewel. But it is among nearly 50 public parks, woods, and riverfront areas that are frequently alive with vast cross-sections of people running, biking, dog-walking, or simply escaping the bustle of city life.

Residents of Mount Lookout (near Hyde Park) can easily enjoy Ault Park’s 224 acres and miles of nature trails. It hosts annual summer outdoor dances and one of the city's most popular Fourth of July fireworks displays.

On the west side of the city, the nearly 1,500-acre Mount Airy Forest includes bridle trails for horseback riding, a mountain biking trail, and Ohio’s only wheelchair-accessible public treehouse. It offers three wedding locations and event shelters, as well.

And the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, less than five miles from downtown, deserves mention. Opened in 1875, it’s the nation’s second-oldest zoo and one of the largest, with more than 500 animals and 3,000 plant species. The grounds include butterfly and edible gardens, a community garden, and space for endangered plants.

If you want to take advantage of the city’s riverfront, consider the character homes and lively business districts of East Walnut Hills and Pendleton – or across the Ohio River in the rolling cities of Newport, Covington, Bellevue, and Ludlow, Kentucky. On both sides of the river, condominiums and townhouses are popping up, so it’s worth seeing what’s new.

Lastly, factor in what you don’t see

Choosing a home is a romantic endeavor, but don’t get too swept up in dreams of café cocktails and riverfront picnics alone. Closely assess the property taxes, commute time, school choices, and amenities. These realities influence how much “home” you get for your money, not to mention mortgage and escrow rates.

By looking at the bigger picture first, you should find the house you love in a neighborhood that matches your lifestyle, through many of your life stages.


1 https://www.cincinnati.com/story/money/2015/09/23/cincinnati-economy-fastest-growing-midwest/72689970/

2 https://wandercincinnati.com/2019/09/01/ranking-the-most-walkable-neighborhoods-in-cincinnati/

3 https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2019/07/09/cincinnati-ranks-among-25-u-s-cities-with-most.html#:~:text=With%20a%20population%20of%20around,Kentucky%20to%20make%20the%20list

4 https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/ohio/districts/cincinnati-public-schools/walnut-hills-high-school-15134; https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/search?state-urlname=ohio&charter=true

5 2020 Best School Districts in the Cincinnati Area. (https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-school-districts/m/cincinnati-metro-area/)

6 https://www.realtor.com/

7 https://www.foodandwine.com/travel/cincinnati-over-rhine

The information on this page is accurate as of January 2021 and is subject to change. First Financial Bank is not affiliated with any third-parties or third-party websites mentioned above. Any reference to any person, organization, activity, product, and/or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement. By clicking on a third-party link, you acknowledge you are leaving bankatfirst.com. First Financial Bank is not responsible for the content or security of any linked web page. Member FDIC / Equal Housing Lender.

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First Financial Bank is not affiliated with any third-party websites. Any reference to any person, organization, activity, product, and/or services does not constitute or imply an endorsement. First Financial Bank is not responsible for the content or security of any linked web page.