1. Economics
May 15, 2015updated 19 Jul 2021 2:38pm

Beautiful old houses are selling really, really cheaply in Cleveland

By Jonn Elledge

Here at CityMetric, we have a bad habit of banging on about London property prices, well past the point of tedium. The explanation for this is exactly the one you think it is: we live in London, were born too late to be among the winners in the great British housing crisis, didn’t inherit mansions from any long lost great aunts, and are consequently a bit grumpy about quite how much it costs us each month for the simple privilege of not spending every night outside.

London, though, is an extreme case – and there is another extreme. An acquaintance who’s just moved to Cleveland, Ohio, reports that property prices there are a bit, well, let’s take a look:

Please live here! Please, please live here!

For a start, there’s this:

Nearly 200 properties you could buy for the price of two terms at the average British university. I mean, you could put that on a credit card, couldn’t you? It’d be a terrible idea. But you could do it, and paying off that credit card would almost certainly work out cheaper than paying rent in London for any length of time. 

We’re obviously not being entirely fair here. Some of these listings are just empty land, being, effectively, given away for $1…

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…but there are some actual properties here too. Check this out:

Here’s an extract from the listing:

“Priced to sell!”

No kidding.

This one‘s a particular favourite:

It’s actually two apartments, one up, one down. “Live in one unit and rent the other unit for extra income,” suggests the listing – because yeah, you’ll need that income to cover the mortgage:

Of course, the cost of one of these homes isn’t really quite that low: you don’t just have to pay to buy the place, you have to pay quite a lot to renovate it until it’s habitable, too. And the people who can afford to do that are often not the sort of people who currently want to live in these bits of Cleveland.

But let’s move up the ladder a bit. What does a normal family home in Cleveland set you back?

Well, this one looks nice:

Only three bedroom, but nicely maintained and decorated, plus a rather cute terrace out the back. It’s not enormous, but it’d do, wouldn’t it?

So, you can get a decent family home in Cleveland for around $83,000. That’s about £52,000. Let’s see what that would buy you in London:

If you’re very lucky, you might get a garage in Ladbroke Grove. Except that it’s an auction, so you almost certainly won’t get it for that price at all.

Live like a Londoner

The average house price in London these days is around the half a million mark. Ouch. Here are some examples of the sort of thing that that buys you.

So, a small family home. For a small family. Not very interesting, not very sexy, yer basic roof over yer head.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland:

…which is basically a mansion. Imagine how much that’d cost you in London. Even in the rubbish bits of London.

Talking of mansions, if you’re moderately rich and want to live in Cleveland, then you can basically buy Wayne Manor. Check this one out:

This, best we can tell, is the second most expensive property currently available in the Cleveland area. It’s a lakefront chateau dating from the 1920s, about eight miles north east of the city centre. It comes with nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and four other toilets. The listing doesn’t say you get a secret lair in the basement, but I think we can take that as read, right?

This house isn’t cheap – it’s $5m, which is about £3.2m. That should be a lot of money. Here’s what it buys you in London.

A flat that’s central, but tiny, and which comes with a suspicious lack of external photos.

A decent sized family house in Wimbledon.

A roomy, but mildly depressing looking mansion, conveniently located just a few miles from much sought-after Watford.

£3.2m just isn’t worth what it used to be – or what it still is, in Cleveland.

We’re not arguing that low property prices are automatically a good thing, of course. They’re great if you’re buying, but bad if you’re selling, and are actually a disaster if you’re sitting on an enormous mortgage. More than a fifth of homeowners in the Cleveland area are currently in negative equity.

All we’re saying here, really, is that there’s more than one type of housing crisis out there. And also that maybe we should all move to Cleveland.

All Cleveland listings found on Realtor.com; all London ones found on Zoopla.com.

Batman joke stolen, shamelessly, from Lance Parkin.

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