The Rivalry: Cleveland EAST VS WEST

24 Replies | Cleveland, Ohio

If you talk to a local you would know that Cleveland is very much a city divided. Us west siders don't go east and those east siders don't go west. It is just a fact of life, and for those of us who live and grew up here we couldn't imagine it any other way.

As the owner of The Holton-Wise Property Group I interact with both Clevelanders and investors from around the country on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I interact with out of state investors so much that a little over a year ago I created The Ultimate Guide to Grading Cleveland Neighborhoods.

With almost 14,000 views as of the writing of this post i'd say The Ultimate Guide to Grading Cleveland Neighborhoods is a pretty popular article.

Do you know what one of the most common questions I receive from out of state investors is?

What about the East Side? 

They ask me that because I left it out. Yup, thats right, the owner of the largest turnkey-esq providers on BiggerPockets just left off half of the greater Cleveland area. That is A LOT of investment properties to simply write off! 

Take a look at the map below there several popular Cleveland area suburbs you will not see.

  • Euclid? Nope.
  • South Euclid? Negative.
  • Cleveland Heights? Notta.
  • Shaker Heights? No way.
  • Mayfield? Absolutely not.
  • Willoughby? Are you kidding me?
  • Eastlake? JUST STOP!

Locals get it. We totally understand. If a guy from Shaker Heights created The Ultimate Guide to Grading Cleveland Neighborhoods you can bet that you wouldn't see Parma, Brooklyn or Lakewood.

This is just how it is. Almost like instinct I grew up on the west side and I absolutly hate the east side. Everything about it drives me nuts. I feel the same way about driving to the east side as a 4th grader feels about being driven to the dentist.

For those of you who are on the outside looking in and simply don't get it please check out this article written by Billy Hallal it will really open up your eyes into the psyche of us Cleveland natives and our strange divide. 

(After you read the article please check back and answer the 7 questions below)

WHAT'S REALLY BEHIND THE EAST & WEST SIDE RIVALRY

Question 1: Do you live in Cleveland? If yes, East or West?

Question 2: Did you grow up here or were you a transplant?

Question 3: Did Billy's article accurately describe the East & West divide?

Question 4: Do you invest on the East or West, or both and why?

Question 5: Are your properties on the East or West, or both and why?

Question 6: Do you use a property manager? Will your property manager take on the East and West?

Question 7: How many properties do you have? Do you want more and will you ever change sides?

@James Black the younger population in Cleveland is flocking to Ohio City, Tremont and Lakewood. These are all westside neighborhoods. Gordon Square is also seeing some revitalization, but it's still a rough area. Lakewood is the best bet for young professionals looking to have a lot to do in an affordable area. Many young people looking to rent vs. buy also like the Kamm's Corner area of town, which is just east of Lakewood. 

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@James Wise I was born and raised on the east side of Cleveland myself however, Started out in Cleveland Heights, Moved to Lyndhurst and now I'm out in Willoughby . Its hard to over look that your right young professionals and others are moving to the up and coming areas like crazy. While I've been looking at 2-4 units in Lakewood I still don't count out the areas like Willoughby or some parts of Cleveland Heights. But lets not forget that just a few years ago these same places on the west side that are experiencing growth right now were complete ghettos. And while Ohio City has made a come back who's to say how long all this will last? Right now Clevelands turning around or so they say but all of us Cleveland's have heard that countless times. So in my mind my long term money would be on Lakewood because its where downtown starts to meet the suburbs so when all of these 20 something start having kids or getting married its the most likely move from Gordan Square or Ohio City, that is if they don't move back out to the cities they are from. How long can these rental prices of 900-1000 last over there?Would love to get your thoughts...

I too have lived on both sides of the river. This is considered east versus west. Any indications that the above cities listed are wrong to be looked at, is just bad advise. I question the motivation behind this. All transactions have risk-reward relationships and values have means for justification beyond gut feelings. I would suggest those that have little knowledge of areas simply so say rather than mislead. I hope this is of value. Best of luck. 

Originally posted by @Anthony Frato :

@James Wise I was born and raised on the east side of Cleveland myself however, Started out in Cleveland Heights, Moved to Lyndhurst and now I'm out in Willoughby . Its hard to over look that your right young professionals and others are moving to the up and coming areas like crazy. While I've been looking at 2-4 units in Lakewood I still don't count out the areas like Willoughby or some parts of Cleveland Heights. But lets not forget that just a few years ago these same places on the west side that are experiencing growth right now were complete ghettos. And while Ohio City has made a come back who's to say how long all this will last? Right now Clevelands turning around or so they say but all of us Cleveland's have heard that countless times. So in my mind my long term money would be on Lakewood because its where downtown starts to meet the suburbs so when all of these 20 something start having kids or getting married its the most likely move from Gordan Square or Ohio City, that is if they don't move back out to the cities they are from. How long can these rental prices of 900-1000 last over there?Would love to get your thoughts...

 Of all the areas mentioned in your comment I agree that Lakewood and other suburbs are the best and most stable rental neighborhoods. The suburbs have always maintained a higher quality of living then neighborhoods in Cleveland which as you mentioned have gone up and down.

Willoughby is a very nice area but as a life long westsider I have no interest in venturing out that way for no other reason than I just don't want to.

Originally posted by @T. John Chase :

I too have lived on both sides of the river. This is considered east versus west. Any indications that the above cities listed are wrong to be looked at, is just bad advise. I question the motivation behind this. All transactions have risk-reward relationships and values have means for justification beyond gut feelings. I would suggest those that have little knowledge of areas simply so say rather than mislead. I hope this is of value. Best of luck. 

 I think you missed the point of the post. The point of the post was there is nothing wrong with either side of the river. However those of us from one side or the other typically stay on our side. 

Great topic. I answered your questions below even though I do not have any properties yet. I have taken my RE courses at Lakeland and plan to find a broker and take my test soon to become an agent out here on the far east side. I am currently selling my personal SFR in Eastlake in order to allow me to house hack a 3/4 unit FHA, hopefully somewhere in Lake or Geauga county. I would love to find a deal in downtown Willoughby or near Lake Erie College.

Question 1: Do you live in Cleveland? If yes, East or West?

Yes, East of downtown by 20 minutes in Eastlake.

Question 2: Did you grow up here or were you a transplant?

Transplant from Toledo, spent 4 years in Columbus for college.

Question 3: Did Billy's article accurately describe the East & West divide?

From my limited experience here (5 years) I would say yes, though much of his article was lost on me.

Question 4: Do you invest on the East or West, or both and why?

Just starting out, but I plan to invest out here on the East side, mainly because this is where my 9-5 is located (Richmond Heights).

Question 5: Are your properties on the East or West, or both and why?

N/A but plan on purchasing in Lake county on the East side as this is the area that I am familiar with. The West side seems to have much more small multifamily properties which is what I would like to get into, but the commute and traffic to get over there would most likely be the prohibiting factor that would keep me on the East side.

Question 6: Do you use a property manager? Will your property manager take on the East and West?

N/A

Question 7: How many properties do you have? Do you want more and will you ever change sides?

1 personal SFR at this time, which I am selling in order to purchase a 3-4 unit. I may eventually venture into the FAR West side (In the far future I would eventually like to end up in the Catawba island area), but for the foreseeable future I will be purchasing East where I know the lay of the land.

Hi James,

I am not sure I did. I believe it is a disservice not to include any and all areas of such a defined region as " Northeastern Ohio". Please note if you think inventory is tight in Lakewood...you should see Willoughby. That said; we all are entitled to choose our own businesses. I wish you continued success. 

I am a property manager with properties under management in Euclid, South Euclid, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, Lakewood, Parma, and the west side of Cleveland; so I can speak with a good deal of experience.

I grew up on the west side in the West Park - Puritas area, so I know it like the back of my hand. I tend to agree with those that say east and west does not mix very well in Cleveland... except in sports. I frequently meet a Clevelander when travelling around the country. I can ask just one question and have a pretty good idea of who and what they are... "what high school did you go to?" 

Its difficult to figure. The east side has the museums and the culture and the curved boulevard's and the Shaker transit... and the wealthy... and the gross poverty in the slums.  The west side has the traditional ethnic working class neighborhoods with no wealthy neighborhoods and fewer slums. The roads are laid out in a rigid grid. It makes east siders crazy. Of course many of these generalities have broken down over the last few decades.

From a property management perspective, you are definitely going to have more problems on the east side where most communities require rental permits, vacancy permits, and inspections. Collecting rents is more of a challenge on the east side, unless you get into the ultra high property value suburbs. Property damage and vandalism is more prevalent, crime is higher, and many people who live there want to move out. They have seen their property values plummet and feel they cannot afford to move. Maple Heights for example has as many as 70% rental properties. It also has many vacant properties... just drive through these neighborhoods in late spring and take note of all of the front lawns that have not been cut.

I have heard realtors say they will never again take a listing in Euclid no matter how much you pay them. The city can be that difficult.

Many of the communities on the east side seem like they are trying to rebuild their communities on the backs of real estate investors. Cash flows as a percentage of property acquisition costs can be much greater on the east side, but there tends to be a lot of deferred maintenance expense. The city halls run a cash grab demanding that investors maintain their properties to a higher standard. They often require contractors to be registered in that specific city in order to do any work... of course big fees to get registered. Some of these east side communities use 3rd party companies to do rental inspections. If they don't find any problems, they don't get to come back and charge for a re-inspection.

Good luck, and no matter where you invest, be sure to pay close attention to deferred maintenance costs, and also make sure you property calculate your monthly reserve fund requirements.  This is not as easy as it sounds... and very few investors take this into consideration. (example, what is the monthly reserve for a $4000 roof that is 10 years old and has an expected life of 10 more years?) A property reserve study would do this calculation for each and every capital improvement.

@Bob Collett

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! Your insights as a property manager are fantastic. I was all gung-ho on investing on the east side, but as I have communicated with investors who have properties there and read up on the areas, it seems there are a lot of headaches with the east side. I do love the east side to live in (Solon) but it looks like it makes more sense to invest on the west side (Lakewood in particular).

Patsy, like James, I don't want to say west is better than east.... just different.

Great info @Bob Collett.  I just moved to Cleveland from California and take my perspective as fresh eyes on West-East Cleveland situation.  As an out-of-stater, I chose to live on the West Side because 1.  It's closer to the airport (located on the southwest side of Cleveland).  2.  Cleveland is very block by block, it's as if they drew an invisible line from good neighborhood and the ghetto.  I feel this is even more prevalent in East Cleveland especially near Martin Luther King/St Claire area.  3.  And correct me if I'm wrong, I just feel you need more area expertise on the East Side to make a good investment.  I swear everyone says this neighborhood is changing and up and coming but it's all a historical take from their experience.  I just feel it's so much riskier for a new investor to invest in the East because there are so many niches and changes occurring in all the micro neighborhoods (i.e. Slovak village). 

For now I'm really enjoying living in West Cleveland although there are some rough areas here as well.  It's a learning process.  More than just location, location location, it's the actually people that live around you that google maps just can't show (most of the time lol).  I think it's important to remember that it's the people that turn a neighborhood, not the physical location itself which is why it is so important to bring in good people to your properties.  Me house hacking and living in the neighborhood that I invest in, puts more skin in the game to actually improve the neighborhood and lead by example.  

- 2 cents from out of state recently moved to Cleveland investor from California.

bonus: All the good ethnic eats are on the East Side though.   Thai, Vietnamese, Korean food fanatics will bring you to the east.  Oh...and the only Bank of America ATM is far east on Chagrin.  

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Absolutely not true about ethnic eats... especially if you have any interest in Eeastern European, or south of the border... and don't forget, West side market is on the west side.there are a dozen Ukrainian markets on State Road alone. All of the Poles in Slavic Village that could do so, have moved west. Those that remain have put up bars on their doors and windows.

A few Irish pubs, and plenty of Asian eateries on the west... as well as fun bakeries and meat stores for sausage.

Like I said, one is not better or worse, just a matter of familiarity and preference.

I am a life long East sider in Willoughby and much prefer our side :)

Many of my friends who work in Cleveland went to the west side, mostly Lakewood. I can see its appeal but I much prefer my neck of the woods. Willoughby, Mentor, Mayfield Heights, Solon, Highland Heights all excellent east side suburbs. 

Traffic in and around Lakewood is a nightmare. You have alot of not so nice areas sprinkled around nicer areas which you dont see as much in the nicer east side suburbs.

But hey, people like what they are used to so I am biased.

@James Wise  

East Side? What the hell is an "East Side"? Haha...

Born in Old Brooklyn...   Moved to 7 Hills as a kid and then moved to Hinckley. 

I've lived in Brecksville, Sagamore Hills, Hudson and Lakewood. Point is that I've hopped all over the Cleveland area. The West Side just makes sense from a logistics perspective. To even get to the good parts on the East Side you have to travel through miles of pretty rough areas. Not to mention that to get to Solon, Chagrin or Beachwood is a huge pain! The East Side is missing a highway that connects to downtown and that is a huge problem in my opinion. 

West Side for life...   Even if the East Side has some incredible towns.

-Cary

@Cary Ferguson Jr I was an East sider, who moved West and then settled South. I agree, the only reason people pick sides and stick to them is logistical. There is no rivalry. 

If you live in Rocky and a friend lives in Solon they may as well be in Medina. That is why when people on BP ask about our city as a place to invest a general answer is disingenuous. 

Most vendors that have enough business stick to work on either the East South or West side. There is too much windshield time traveling from one to the other. 

Originally posted by @T. John Chase :

Hi James,

I am not sure I did. I believe it is a disservice not to include any and all areas of such a defined region as " Northeastern Ohio". Please note if you think inventory is tight in Lakewood...you should see Willoughby. That said; we all are entitled to choose our own businesses. I wish you continued success. 

Wow...  A bit of an overreaction if I may say so. I agree with @James Wise

I thought this was more a fun/interesting post. But to even mention Willoughby vs Lakewood inventory, you have to be in a state of denial. Here are some fun stats for you:

  • Willoughby Population: 22,458
  • Willoughby Size: 10.34 sq mi
  • Lakewood Population: 51,143
  • Lakewood Size: 6.69 sq mi

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on all day with Lakewood stats and vacancy rates. 

Lakewood is great, I happen to live there but what I just found out is they combine water and sewerage in the one bill....mind blowing right? Unlike Cleveland I get water and sewerage as two different bills.

Originally posted by @Federico Gutierrez :

Lakewood is great, I happen to live there but what I just found out is they combine water and sewerage in the one bill....mind blowing right? Unlike Cleveland I get water and sewerage as two different bills.

 Actually cleveland is going to be same with Lakewood because the public water sent a notice the change will happen next year I believe

Originally posted by @Adam Craig :

I am a life long East sider in Willoughby and much prefer our side :)

Many of my friends who work in Cleveland went to the west side, mostly Lakewood. I can see its appeal but I much prefer my neck of the woods. Willoughby, Mentor, Mayfield Heights, Solon, Highland Heights all excellent east side suburbs. 

Traffic in and around Lakewood is a nightmare. You have alot of not so nice areas sprinkled around nicer areas which you dont see as much in the nicer east side suburbs.

But hey, people like what they are used to so I am biased.

What Lakewood traffic are you referring to? You mean the rush hour traffic that hardly exists? Yes... Driving down Detroit pretty much sucks due to stop lights. But if you hop over to Clifton, then your supposed traffic woes are reduced to almost nothing. 

Now East Side traffic is actually a nightmare. I find it funny that 480 East is stop and go traffic whether it's morning or evening rush hour. 480 West isn't hardly as bad. 

Back to my logistics point from earlier...  While Willoughby is an absolutely lovely place, it's more than 4 times farther from downtown than Lakewood is. Lakewood is about 4 miles from downtown. Willoughby is a whopping 19 miles. Well guess who that sucks for...  Yuppies who want to be close to downtown. If the hike doesn't bother you, than Willoughby is an incredible spot. I would probably go out there more if it wasn't as far away as NYC...   haha