Phone: (314) 677-1477

All dressed up… but don’t want to go?

Mardi Gras Float

Mardi Gras season has officially arrived! Taking advantage of the many festivals and celebrations in St. Louis is one of the reasons we love to live here. What if you wake up Saturday morning not quite in the mood for the chaotic and spirit filled streets of Historic Soulard, but want to wear your beads and celebrate this fat-tastic holiday with your community? We’ve put together a couple of ideas to get your party-itch satisfied without dealing with the crowds.


  1. Throw a Block Mardi Party. Consider posting fliers in your neighborhood park or cul-de-sac. Be sure to ask everyone who attends to bring snacks and games to share, and their own folding chairs and booze. To set the festive mood, bring along a wireless speaker and Mardi Gras beads. Voila! You’ve got yourself a Mardi-party in the street with your warm bed 100 feet away.

*Babysitters optional.

  1. Make it a Fat Date. If your favorite part of Mardi Gras is the cajun food, mix things up this year by staying at home! Make a date with your honey or your bestie and spend Saturday cooking New Orleans inspired meals! Check out these recipes from Southern Living, (we’re realtors, not chefs). We challenge you to a King Cake making contest.

* We suggest putting the plastic baby Jesus into the cake after cooking

  1. The Lazy Man’s Mardi Party. If all of this cooking and party planning sounds like way too much work, St. Louis has many restaurants offering delicious cajun cuisine. We would put a ‘Top Ten Cajun Restaurants’ list together for you, but STLRestaurant.News already did. Click here for mouth-watering, Fat Tuesday worthy restaurants.

*We recommend calling ahead and making reservations if restaurants will allow it. It is Mardi Gras in St. Louis after all.

  1. Get out of Here. If you want to get out of St. Louis County, Cedar Lake Cellars is hosting their first Mardi Gras Celebration. Head over to Wright City for a wide variety of southern fare and some of their delicious wine. You can find more information here.

*Did someone say wine slushie?

  1. Make your own parade. Although St. Louis throws one great Mardi Gras parade, we may have borrowed the idea from New Orleans. Our favorite New Orleans tradition is the Second Line. This is a mini-parade used to celebrate different events, such as weddings. Throw one together with your family or friends. A small jazz band, parasails for the leaders, and handkerchiefs for all, are preferred. We think all you really need are some pots and pans, tissues, and large decorated sticks. Learn more about the fun tradition here.

*Please invite us to the party, we’re dying to participate in our first Second Line.


For any Real Estate assistance or questions about the St. Louis market give us a call! You can reach Meg Hull at 314-374-2129 or Geoff Jones at 314-322-4363


Video Tour of New Listing in Ladue – 9747 Litzsinger Rd.

This video showcases the nearly 3 private acres of our listing in Ladue.  For more information and interior photos click here.



Video Tour of our New Listing in Ladue – 11 Stoney Brook Dr.

Check out this video of our newest listing in Ladue that features a 1.5 acre lot!!  You can find interior photos and all the other details here.



Record Setting Condo Sale in Royal Pines Subdivision

Record Condo SaleOn May 6, 2016 our seller closed on their Royal Pines Condo in Maryland Heights at a record price of $181,000.

This was $18,000 more than the next highest sale in the past year, or an 11% premium over the next highest sale.  Even more important, this was the highest sale in the complex since the market peak in 2007.  Similar units have sold in the complex at a much lower price over the past year.

Why did this sell for so much more than other comparable units?

Selling a home in today’s marketplace involves much more than just putting photos on the MLS and sitting back waiting for offer to roll in.  It actually takes effort and exceptional attention to detail.  We constantly evaluate every step of the listing and marketing process to stay ahead of the competition and give our sellers the advantage.

We didn’t use a professional photographer for the photos of this home, we used the BEST photographer that specializes in photographing homes and nothing else.

Any home listed in the MLS will show up on all the same sites.  The difference is HOW a home is showed on the sites.  Zillow, Realtor and Trulia are the top 3 sites responsible for about 99% of all home searches.  By having a Featured Listing on the Zillow/Trulia Network and a Showcase Listing on our client received the highest level of advertising within the search portals.  The benefits are that our client’s home showed up higher in search results, featured ALL of the listing photos vs. just a few, inquires were submitted directly to the listing agent instead of a randomly assigned agent that had not been in the home and open house information was prominently displayed.  Be careful who you work with because the listing agent, not the brokerage or listing company, are responsible for a home being “Featured” on these sites.

What did the condo offer?

This beautifully renovated West County condo in the Parkway School District features amenities galore! Custom maple cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and Indian slate tile in the updated kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen and dining area open into the large, inviting great room with custom lighting, stone-front wood burning fireplace, vaulted ceiling and walks out to the rear patio. Other features 6 panel doors, new exterior doors, new insulated windows, extensive crown moulding to complete the polished look throughout. The finished basement offers an additional sleeping area and a large recreation room or play area, and has newer carpet. This unit also features a 2 car garage. Other amenities include access to the condo clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, snow removal and lawn care! This is steps away from Creve Coeur Lake and is close 270 and the Page Avenue Extension for easy access to anywhere you need to go.

How can I sell my home for a record price?

The best and easiest process for you to sell your home at a record price is a 2 part process.  First, you need to have your home fully prepped and move in ready.

What does that involve?

In order to make your home inviting and appealing to potential buyers there are a number of things you can do.  Most of our buyers are looking for homes that they can move into with no work.  That means new kitchens, bathrooms, systems, etc.  While we typically don’t ask our clients to take on a costly bathroom or kitchen remodel, sometimes its necessary.  In some cases just replacing appliances and a counter top is all that is needed.  This is really judged on a case by case basis.

The next two big things are flooring and painting.  Your floors should be clean and in good shape.  If your floor tiles are cracked with dirty grout you need to repair it.  If your carpets are warn and have stains or animal odors you need to replace them.  Many sellers just want to offer a credit, but most buyers just want it done ahead of time.  Also, in our experience home buyers often drastically inflate the cost of home repairs so the credit they could ask for may be two to three times what the actual cost is.  Painting is just as crucial, especially if you have raised children in your home.  Make sure your walls are freshly painted in a neutral color and be sure to use a flat or matte finish.  Repair and nail holes, dents, scratches, etc.  Also, make sure that your ceilings are painted with a flat paint or a ceiling paint.  Be sure that all nail pops and loose drywall tape is repaired.  If you live in an older home with plaster, be sure to properly repair any cracks.

Additional items to consider inside your home are to declutter by removing excess furniture, counter top appliances, wall decor and personal items.  If you have older lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware you should consider replacing those.  Most are simple repairs that a homeowner can do over a weekend.

Another area to focus on is to catch up on any deferred maintenance.  If you have repairs you have been meaning to do or if you have an ever growing “honey-do” list, now is the time to knock it out.  Also, if you have an old furnace, air conditioner or water heater be aware that it will be flagged in the inspection report and most buyers will want that addressed.

Moving on, the outside of the home is equally as important.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had a buyer tell me they want to see a home, but then cancel after driving by because of the lack of curb appeal.  You should have your grass cleanly cut and edged.  If your grass is a little sparse consider adding some grass seed and fertilizer.  Pull weeds, mulch beds and maybe add some flowers or a couple of bushes or shrubs depending on the season.  Make sure that cracks in the driveway and sidewalk are repaired.  If you have blacktop, put a fresh coat of sealer on it.  Also, the roof can be a big ticket item that can kill a home sale.  Did you have your roof checked out after the last hail storm?  If not, have a reputable roofing company come out and assess it.  You might need to work with your insurance company to get a replacement.

What’s the 2nd part?

The second, and equally important part is selecting the right agent.  We pride ourselves on delivering every possible advantage to our clients.  After our clients get their home ready, we have to bring as many people through the door as we can.  We start with having the highest quality photography.  Why does that matter?  Because 99% of home buyers start their search online, either on a computer or on an app on their mobile device.  As they scroll through all of the listings ours will jump off the screen compared to the others with bad photos.  Even if your agent uses a “professional” photographer are you getting the best?  We interviewed and scoured the portfolios of all the real estate photographers in St. Louis and picked the best.

Back to the online searching.  Do you know that its up to your agent to have your home featured on the major search portals like Realtor, Zillow and Trulia?  Not all agents are willing to spend the money to have this value added benefit for their clients.  By doing this, your home will show up higher in the search results than the “non featured” listings, potential buyers are put in direct contact with us instead of a random agent that doesn’t know your home, we are able to advertise your open house on, and all of your photos will be shown instead of a few.

Do you have a large home, a home on a large lot or a home in a great location?  If so, we can utilize drone photography to give you the edge.  Also, if you have a larger home we can utilize a 3D tour that allows a potential buyer to have a virtual walkthrough of your entire home from the front door.

There’s a lot more that we offer, but the best service we provide is always being available to our clients and working as hard as we can to get them the most money in their pocket as quickly as possible.

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading.  If you have questions or want to know about all the other services that we offer give Brandon Radcliff a call at 314-608-6821.


How Appraisals Are Affecting Today’s Market

Renovated South County KitchenThis is by far the most exciting Real Estate Market we have been a part of in nearly 10 years.  For a long stretch of time agents were seeing seller after seller get beat up from overpaying during the bubble, but sellers have seen appreciation and the ability to “step up” and purchase a more expensive home.  We are even seeing buyers with marginal credit have the ability to afford homes with close to 0 down by taking advantage of Beyond Housing and MHDC Programs.  Healthy housing growth leads to a healthier economy and a healthier economy leads to lower unemployment.

It’s not all fine and dandy for both side of the transaction.  Buyers and sellers are facing hurdles even though home prices are on the rise.

Sellers: What Are The Challenges Faced When Selling/Buying?

Most of the time sellers are in the driver’s seat.  What do I mean by this?  Well let’s break down a Sellers Market:

  • Inventory is low: Many of the people that have purchased from the tail end of 2008 to the first quarter of 2013 were able to lock into interest rates below 4%. Sellers fear “will I be able to get the same or a similar rate for more house”?
  • More buyers: There is a large pool of buyers these days with Millenials joining the job force, more are becoming savvy about wanting to invest their money into owning a home.
  • Borrowing Money:  Money is cheap now.  The average buyer can get a rate of 3.75-5% on a 30 year note with FHA/VA/Conventional/Jumbo Programs.  FHA Programs can offer credit scores as low as 580 middle score.
  • Low Rates = More House For The Money: What a borrower could afford 10 years ago with 6-7% interest rates gave the buyer much less buying power (less home afforability) than what can be purchased now.

Now that all of this is brought to the forefront, how do these factors influence a sale?

With low rates, motivated buyers, and a healthier workforce has lead to higher competition for housing.  Simple economics tell us when a good is in short supply and the demand outweighs the good, the price will go up.

Applying these ecomonics to housing is no different.  The majority of buyers want the shiny new renovation and the majority of sellers want top dollar for his or her home regardless of how it compares to recently sold homes in the area.

Look, many agents like to create stories of how they overcame obstacles for his or her client and look like a Real Estate God but let’s face it, that agent is just trying to look better, get you to work with them, or get a (like an overpriced) listing.  You’re not going to get it here, this is an actual example of how hiring the right agent (on either side of the transaction) can get you what you want or need.

Please give us an example!

In this particular instance, I am working for the sellers.  He and his wife purchase one or two homes a year to renovate and do so the right way…they take their time and pay attention to detail. They do not cut corners and finish the job quickly to get paid, they take the extra time and it pays off in the end.

These folks purchased a home from me in December, one that really had not been touched in 30+ years and it certainly showed; they had their work cut out for them.  After about 4 1/2 months I get a call from the seller asking me to come by to price out the home for sale, so I did.

I gave my professional opinion, we agreed, and listing contract was signed.  I knew that this home was going to generate a ton of interest due to the price, structure (it’s an all brick bungalow), location, and school district (St. Louis Area Schools are very much influential for pricing).

Yada, Yada the house went on the market, what next?

The home went on the market in early April and we had about 15 showings that day. I had numerous perspective buyers contact me off of Zillow, Trulia, and my phone and email were blowing up.

Then the agent phone calls started, is the home still available?” and “do you have any offers?”.  (As an aside, you need to know as a buyer a brand new renovation with all the bells and whistles including updated kitchen, stainless appliances, granite counter tops, hardwood floors, etc. is going to get competitive so you’d better be ready to put your best foot forward.)

That evening an offer lands into my inbox.  One that looked just about right, full list price, a LTV on the financing section on the contract, a solid dollar amount to put into escrow, and no seller concessions.  Great!

I call up the sellers tell them what I have; they’re excited.

Just as I am about to send it along another offer comes in, granted it wasn’t nearly as attractive, but it’s another offer.

This is where the I earn my stripes, where I get to sit at the Adult Table for Sunday Night Dinner and other agents get chicken fingers while sitting at a plastic Fischer Price Table.  I am nearly salivating at the chance to get this number up over the asking price.

When more than one contract comes in we are immediately in Multiple Offers.  What we are trying to do is get more money for the seller, having each buyer blindly bid against one another.

That’s exactly how it played out.  We got a pretty sizable chunk over asking price and went under contract.

Appraisal time

While under contract we went through all the same stuff, inspections, inspection notice, occupancy inspections, title, and then we waited to hear about the appraisal.

Typically agents order the appraisal right away to get the full underwriting going so that the buyer can obtain loan approval within his or her loan contingency period (usually 30 days after contract acceptance).

When you get loan commitment, the lender has done all of their diligence to lend to a buyer and allows for a clear to close.

So the appraisal was completed and the appraiser did his/her job by measuring rooms, taking extensive photographs, specifying finish levels, amenities, etc.

The appraiser then writes up the evaluation of the home by making adjustments based off of 3-5 sold homes that compare similarly to the subject home that is under contract to come up with a value.

Our value came in low, like five figures low which was disappointing but not the worst thing that could happen.  Again, this is where I am confident in myself and the product.

The agent working for the buyer sent an amendment to drop the sale price to the appraised value.  The Appraisal Rider states that the agent is required to inform the seller of the value within 2 days of receiving the appraisal.  Should they exercise this contingency the buyer is to provide a copy of the appraisal to the seller and the seller has 5 days to respond to the Buyers Agent in written format (an email is sufficient).

What did we do?  We stood pat on the price, holding our ground.

The agent working for the buyer was clearly frustrated as it certainly seemed he did not have control of his buyer and the emotions were flowing to the point where both the sellers and I could feel it.  I could also feel that they weren’t going anywhere knowing they’re never going to find a home in this price range with premium finishes.

My duty as an agent is to get the most money for the seller and that’s what I intended.  No one told the buyer to spend over asking price but we expected the buyer to honor the contract price.

This is exactly what happened.  The buyers forked over another $11,000 above the appraised value and my seller couldn’t have been happier.

So the Seller got more money, and…?

What makes this blog so powerful is that I worked for the seller at the highest level possible. Sure there are always going to be trials and headaches through any transaction, but this example shows the state of the market now and possibly in the near term.  With homes going into such competitive scenarios and the values lagging behind (somewhat), it is important as a seller to know that not every agent out there is willing to put his or her neck on the line for you.  We call this value and this seller values me and the service that The Agency provides.

-Brian Tash, Broker/Salesperson

(314) 651-9515


St. Louis Home Prices Continue to Increase

St. Louis Housing PricesAccording to the Federal Reserve Bank, St. Louis has some good news in the real estate market.  In the second quarter, growth of home sales, house prices and building permits in the St. Louis metropolitan area outpaced the nation and other areas of the St. Louis Fed district, which includes Arkansas and parts of six other states. Additionally, mortgage loan delinquency rates here fell to the lowest level since 2007.

“Likewise, the St. Louis commercial and industrial office market registered further improvements,” the report said, “though a fair amount of industrial activity was speculative.”

Loan demand improved, according to most bankers surveyed. “In general, Missouri banks registered better asset quality in the second quarter, but southern Illinois banks had higher net interest margins and were more profitable,” the report said.

And almost two-thirds of St. Louis businesses say this year’s economic conditions are better than last year’s. Employment in the area inched up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter to 1 percent in the second quarter. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.7 percent. “The outlook for transportation services employment appears especially bright,” the Fed report, known as the Burgandy Book, said.

Find the full report here.


Student Debt Has Minor Effect on Homeownership

In an article written by Melissa Allison on, Zillow research has found that student loan debt has had a minor effect on homeownership rates.  If you have a large amount of student loans, but want to buy a home, contact The Agency today.  We can get you in touch with the right lender for your specific situation and work to get you the best deal possible.

A few highlights from the article are below.

“Despite widespread concern that student debt hinders home buying, new research from Zillow shows that as long as people complete at least a four-year degree, the effect of student debt on their chances of owning a home is negligible.

Student Loan Debt Buy a Home St. LouisThere’s a 70-percent chance that people with medical, law and doctoral degrees will own a home. That likelihood is 66 percent with master’s degrees, 61 percent with bachelor’s degrees, and 56 percent with associate’s degrees.

A distant fifth are people with no degree at all; they own their homes just 30 percent of the time. If they have student debt – but never graduated – their chances of owning a home are even lower.

Sensitivity to student debt is considerably higher for people who have only an associate’s degree or no college degree at all, according to a Zillow analysis of the 2013 Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

“As total student debt continues rising, there is general apprehension that this trend may prevent millennials from buying homes,” said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell.

“But our research helps put these fears to rest to some degree, because as long as accumulating that debt actually does result in getting a degree, debt itself is not quite the obstacle to homeownership that conventional wisdom makes it out to be,” Gudell continues. “Certainly, it’s better to accumulate debt and finish your degree than it is to accumulate debt but have nothing to show for it in the end. In other words, if eventually owning a home is a priority for you and you’re currently pursuing higher education: Don’t be a fool, stay in school.”


Someone with a law or doctoral degree and $40,000 in student loans has an 84-percent chance of owning a home. Carrying that same degree but being $100,000 in debt decreases the probability to an 80-percent chance.”



Home sales are hot, price trends warm in St. Louis

This is the best year for St. Louis residential real estate since the housing bubble burst.

Home sales through July of this year are up by double digits across the region — and up 21 percent in St. Charles County. New home construction is up 15 percent across the region.

Prices are rising, too, but at much slower pace.

Most counties are recording sales numbers last seen in the middle of the last decade, just before sales and prices went bust.

Strong sales in spring continued into the summer in most of the region.

The number of homes sold in the month of July alone was up 20 percent from July 2014 in the Missouri portion of the St. Louis area.

Although sales of existing homes are back to the pre-crash era, home values are not. Zillow, the real estate website, puts the median value of a St. Louis area home at $135,200 as of June, far from the $158,000 high of 2007, a 7 percent gap. The Federal Housing Finance Agency says that prices here last winter were still 14 percent below their peak.

Still, the trend is up. Zillow says home values in the St. Louis area rose 5.1 percent over the year ending in June. CoreLogic, a real estate data service, is bit more conservative. It says prices are up by 2.9 percent.

Trends in home values are hard to measure, because properties differ widely and prices can vary by the block. Groups such as Zillow and CoreLogic use statistical methods to adjust for that, and those methods differ.

Nick Palank and Kali Steiner saw the market from both sides, buying and selling, this summer.

Steiner sold her St. Charles condo in less than a month. “A single dad came through and really liked the place,” Palank said. He bid “a couple of thousand” under the asking price, and it was sold.

They looked for a month before finding “the perfect, move-in-ready house” in St. Charles, a three-bedroom home with a two-car garage and a yard for their two dogs.

The couple felt pressure to bid quickly. “My girlfriend said we’d better put an offer on this today. We’d better get it before someone else does. We offered pretty much the asking price.” They closed last month.

Realtors measure demand in part by the number of days it takes to sell a house. In St. Louis County, the average is down to 48, from 67 last year and 94 in 2011.

In St. Louis County, the longest wait is in the area of McCluer South High School on the Ferguson border, near the recent troubles, at 97 days. The lowest is a 28 near Rockwood Summit.

Houses in the city of St. Louis spent 55 days on the market. The number was 48 in St. Charles County and 65 days in Jefferson County.

At the current selling pace, there is a 2.5-month supply of homes on the market in the area, said Norm Polsky of Coldwell Banker Premier Realty. That makes it a strong seller’s market. A six-month supply is considered balanced, with no advantage to buyer or seller.

Laura and Roger Seiler discovered that when they went house shopping in the Lindbergh School District.

“It was not easy to find what we wanted. It was as if everybody was looking for houses at the same time.” They bid and lost on a couple of homes.

Then they heard through friends about a home that was just about to hit the market — a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house in Grantwood Village.  The Seilers offered the $250,000 asking price and bought the house.

As always, sales vary widely by location. St. Charles County has the strongest market, with sales for the year through July up 21 percent to 3,385, its fastest pace in that seven-month period for at least 11 years

St. Louis County saw an 11 percent increase, its best sales growth since 2007. St. Louis saw a 12 percent rise, while sales grew 14 percent in Jefferson County, 10 percent in Madison County and 16 percent in St. Clair County.

Differences can be hard to explain town by town. For instance, sales are up 25 percent this year in the Parkway North area, but only 3 percent in Parkway South.

They rose 22 percent in Hazelwood West, but only 2 percent in Hazelwood Central. Sales are down 10 percent in Ladue, the region’s wealthiest district, but down only 6 percent in McCluer South, near the protests. (The real estate industry divides the region by school district, and sometimes by high school.)

Meanwhile, homebuilders are busy shopping for land for new developments.

“The prime targets seem to be infill locations,” said Mark McNulty, vice president at CBRE commercial realty company in Clayton. That means open fields in areas near shopping and work. His firm last month sold 88 acres in the city of St. Charles to be used for 251 homes and 180 apartments.

School area or county Sales Pct change Average price Pct change
St. Louis city 1817 12% $152,292 9%
St. Louis County, total 7327 11% $239,755 4%
North St. Louis County
Hazelwood West 278 22% $85,143 5%
McCluer North 268 28% $78,587 1%
Pattonvile 299 20% $149,394 6%
Ritenour 262 1% $58,087 6%
West St. Louis County
University City 290 13% $257,045 2%
Ladue 225 -10% $671,367 -4%
Parkway North 249 29% $268,503 0%
Parkway Central 204 25% $414,991 14%
Parkway West 272 17% $467,516 9%
Parkway South 306 3% $268,263 4%
South St. Louis County
Kirkwood 392 22% $348,037 -3%
Webster Groves 412 13% $278,648 10%
Affton 248 25% $137,160 6%
Lindbergh 396 17% $251,865 10%
Mehlville 389 6% $175,758 5%
Oakville 236 7% $222,379 3%
Eureka 225 2% $333,916 11%
Lafayette 292 25% $442,031 6%
Marquette 336 0% $347,692 7%
St. Charles County, total 3385 21% $220,523 5%
Fort Zumwalt West 288 9% $225,567 6%
Fort Zumwalt North 277 13% $208,499 16%
Fort Zumwalt South 271 30% $200,617 9%
Francis Howell 352 13% $292,330 3%
Francis Howell North 296 2% $215,109 -2%
Francis Howell Central 290 17% $194,677 9%
Wentzville Holt 389 22% $220,380 8%
Wentzville Timberland 391 14% $246,962 8%
Jefferson County, total 1756 14% $163,663 10%
Fox C-6 356 6% $175,059 7%
Northwest 324 19% $156,409 6%
Metro East
Madison County 2108 10% $144,242 9%
St. Clair County 1799 16% $137,725 6%

From The St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Jim Gallagher


Apartments planned for west side of downtown St. Louis

Downtown St. Louis ApartmentsPlanned or underway are rehabs of old buildings — including a firehouse — that would add more than 200 apartments on the west side of downtown.

Work began early this year to redo a 126-year-old brick warehouse built for drying tobacco as 87 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Sherman Associates, a housing developer based in Minneapolis, hopes to complete the project at 1900 Pine Street in December.

Planned projects yet to get underway in the area are:

• Sovereign Partners’ renovation of the vacant, four-story commercial building at 1701 Locust Street as 57 market-rate apartments and nearly 2,100 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

• Millennial Realty’s proposal to construct 86 apartments in adjacent buildings at 2030 Delmar Boulevard and 2035 Lucas Avenue.

• Rehab of a former city firehouse at 2000 Washington Avenue by Leela LLC as five second-floor apartments and commercial space in the area firetrucks once used.

All of the pending projects — with a total cost of more than $24 million — rely on tax abatement from the city and historic preservation tax credits.

Sherman Associates’ $10.5 million project, called Station Plaza, also uses state and federal low-income housing tax credits, which will allow the developer to offer below-market rents, according to the company. Monthly rents will be as low as $525 for a studio apartment.

Renovation of the six-story building near Union Station is obliterating offices put into the now-vacant building in the 1980s.

Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Co. completed the building in 1889 as a warehouse to dry chewing tobacco. According to documentation for the building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the building had a key role in what was then the city’s thriving tobacco industry.

The apartment parking would be in the basement of 1701 Locust and in another building the New York-based real estate investor owns across the street. Also planned are a club room, a fitness room and streetscapes with new sidewalks and trees. The projected cost is $9.3 million.

Valerie Doleman, Sherman Associates’ spokeswoman, said rents approaching $2.50 per square foot are needed to support construction costs. She said the vicinity of 1900 Pine supports less than half that rate, hence the need for public incentives, including housing tax credits.

Regardless, Sovereign Partners, of New York, is proposing market-rate apartments with monthly rents as high as $1,071 at 1701 Locust, also known as the Dragon Trading building, according to documents submitted to St. Louis development officials.

The $14.2 million project would have 57 one-bedroom apartments and 29 two-bedroom units. A Sovereign Partners principal did not respond to requests for information about the project.

Across Locust, the company also owns the nearly vacant, eight-story Butler Brothers building, which covers the entire block. A plan to outfit the century-old warehouse with about 350 apartments and nearly 400 garage parking spaces has yet to proceed.

The side of downtown west past 14th Street has many empty old commercial structures, but some residential redevelopment is creeping out from the downtown core. Doleman said restaurants and stores will tag along. “As Station Plaza and other proposed developments stabilize, convenience retail and restaurants will soon follow,” she said.

Combined, the projects on Pine, Locust, Delmar and Washington would add 235 apartments to the area.

The Delmar proposal includes 95 parking spaces. An official of Millennial Realty Group, which is behind the project, did not respond to requests for additional information.

A representative of Leela LLC, owner of the old firehouse at 2000 Washington, was unavailable for comment. The construction cost is estimated at $650,000, according documents filed with the city.

Completed in 1892 as Engine House 32, the two-story building is constructed of Missouri granite, red brick and sandstone.

Getting the building on the National Register of Historic Places would qualify it for historic preservation tax credits. Whether to recommend the firehouse for the register is on the agenda of Friday’s meeting of the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Brad Beggs, a principal at consulting firm Development Strategies, said the four apartment projects would not produce an oversupply in the area if they open at different times. He said the area could likely absorb about 100 new apartments per year. But rising construction costs without a corresponding rise in rents necessitate continued use of incentives, he said.

“The good thing about what is being proposed is that these are projects at different (rent) levels,” Beggs said.

If developers can hold rents to about $1,000 or less, the downtown west area could become “about as cool as you can get” in the central corridor, he added. More people in various types of housing would enliven the area, he said. “It’s the way a downtown should be, with all the people living down there,” Beggs said.

Andrew Weil, executive director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, said downtown’s core is running out of old, midsized buildings available for residential conversion. Most not torn down for parking are already converted, he said.

“It’s nice to see things moving west,” Weil said. “Regardless of what a building is being used for, it’s being prepared for a new life. That’s the essence of adaptive reuse.”

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Tim Bryant



Koman Group proposes $31 million Central West End project

Koman Group Central West EndA developer is proposing projects in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood that would renovate a pair of mid-century modern structures and construct a six-story building of stores, offices and apartments.

Behind both projects is the Koman Group. The largest of the two proposals is the construction of a nearly $31 million mixed-use building at 32 North Euclid Avenue. The site is across West Pine Boulevard from CityWalk, a project of 177 apartments and a Whole Foods Market under construction by Mills Properties.

Two blocks away, at 4490 Lindell Boulevard, Koman is proposing a $9 million renovation of the two-building Optimist International headquarters as offices.

Koman officials said Tuesday the company has the Optimist buildings under contract. The company bought the North Euclid property in July.

Josh Udelhofen, Koman’s chief investment officer, said the Euclid project would have space for street-level stores, second-floor offices, 60 to 70 apartments on the four upper floors and two levels of underground parking. The building’s contemporary design of brick and synthetic stucco is by Trivers Associates.

“We feel there’s good logic in differentiating our project rather than putting up something that blends in with everything else,” Udelhohen said.

He said Koman would move its headquarters to the Euclid development from downtown St. Louis. The headquarters had been at CityPlace in Creve Coeur until Koman sold that office complex last year. About 15 people work at the company’s temporary headquarters at the Cupples Station 9 building downtown.

Included in the Euclid proposal is $4.5 million in tax-increment financing. Koman said the incentive is needed to offset the high cost of building underground parking and upgrading utility infrastructure.

The developer also plans to seek a $1.5 million TIF for the Optimist project because of what the company said is the expense of renovating the buildings’ facades to modern standards while respecting their architectural heritage.

Both Koman projects are scheduled for review Aug. 27 by the Central West End Development Committee of Park Central Development, the area’s development organization. The developer hopes to begin construction on both projects in February, completing the Optimist project by January 2017 and the Euclid project by June 2017.

Sacrificed for the Euclid project would be the one-story building on the site. Occupying the structure are a dry cleaners and Club 34, a bar that opened the same year as the building: 1941. Koman said in documents submitted to Park Central the building has major structural, roofing and mechanicaldeficiencies.

The Optimist complex comprises two structures — a two-story building opened in 1961 and a three-story addition completed in 1979. Koman said both buildings need extensive renovations to meet current building codes and to be competitive in the office market.

Last year, the CWE development committee denied Covington Realty Partners’ request for tax abatement as part of its plan to construct a 14-story apartment building on the Optimist site. As a result, Covington dropped its $50 million plan.

Alderman Joe Roddy, whose 17th Ward includes the sites of both Koman projects, said he had opposed the previous plan for the Optimist site because it would have provided a city incentive to demolish buildings.

“This is working out for the best,” he said. “I am glad to see a proposal that calls for their renovation and that promises to bring daytime jobs to the neighborhood, which is exactly what the neighborhood needs.”

The plan by Christner architects calls for replacement of the buildings’ narrow vertical windows with large glass panels to allow sunlight to penetrate what Koman officials said is now the structures’ “tomb-like” interiors.

Park Central’s executive director, Brooks Goedeker, said the Koman plan “saves these architecturally desirable buildings and revitalizes them with a new skin.”

Benny Ellerbe, Optimist International’s executive director, said the organization would relocate its 35-member staff to another St. Louis location but had yet to pick a site.

Previous Koman projects include renovations of its Cupples Station warehouse as offices and the former GenAm building as the Laclede Group headquarters downtown.


From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Tim Bryant


Want to Sell Your House? Don’t Do These 4 Things

Want to Sell Your House - St. Louis

For Sale Sign in Front of a House

When potential buyers drive up to your home, they’re full of hope.

They imagine themselves baking in the kitchen and their kids playing in the yard. Most of all they think: “Could this be my home?”

Then they look closer. They see a mess by the driveway and the peeling paint near the roofline. Very quickly, they decide to keep driving—and keep looking. They don’t want your home. The exterior tells them the interior might have the same negative impact.

They’ve already done research on your neighborhood and know your asking price. Now they’re just driving by to see if your home has that “it” factor—not an “ick” factor.

Where do most sellers go wrong? Here are the main mistakes they make:

1. Ignore curb appeal

How your home appears from the curb is extremely important. It’s the proverbial first impression. If your home looks inviting from the outside—the yard maintained, the garden manicured and the paint fresh—potential buyers will take an interest in it. If not, they might think the interior is likely unkempt, too—and they’ll move on.

2. Crowd the buyer

When you sell your home, take yourself out of the picture. If you happen to be home, greet any potential buyers and then allow them to walk through your home undisturbed. Give them a chance to picture their couches in the living room or their dining set in the dining room. Let them have space to discuss what they’re seeing.

Some sellers crowd a buyer, thinking that any newcomer will want all the details of every renovation and every nook. Don’t do this. Let the buyer be. You can always provide an info sheet to describe anything you feel should be mentioned.

3. Offer that ‘lived-in’ look

Prospective buyers don’t want to see your clutter. It’s distracting and makes it hard for them to picture themselves in your home. A mess can often hide aspects of the home that would entice someone else to buy.

When you’re selling, keep a tidy home and tuck away all your family photos and knickknacks. Try to create as many open, clear spaces as you can. Clean off counters and other surfaces. Even the toaster and blender should be stored away when you show your home.

Ideally you will have time to give all the rooms a fresh coat of paint. You don’t need to hire an interior designer, but do look over your home with an unbiased eye. Is it warm and inviting? Pleasing to the eye?

4. Let odors linger

If you smoke or have pets, your home will likely have an odor. Although you might be used to it, others may not appreciate it.

Removing pet urine smells out of carpets takes care; you’ll likely need to use special solutions or a steam cleaner. With rugs, you may just have to buy new ones. Vinegar will work on most flooring. If you have a litter box, change it daily while showing your home.

If you smoke, try to smoke outside as much as possible. Most nonsmokers are sensitive to the smell of smoke. Not only will they want to leave, they may also find the prospect of cleansing a home of smoke odor a turnoff. You may be so used to it that you hardly notice the odor, but others will walk out the door quickly.

If there is a heavy smell in the home from years of smoking indoors, try washing the walls with vinegar. And don’t forget the curtains, shades and anything else that might collect the tar and resin from the smoke.

For any unwanted smells, try baking soda. Sprinkle it around the house, on the furniture and on the carpets. Let it sit for a day so the granules can absorb the odors and then vacuum it all up. You may have to do this a few times.

Think of it as vacuuming your way to a good deal on your home.

Based on an original article by Laura Sherman


5 Mistakes People Make When Selling a Home

5 Mistakes People Make Selling a Home St. LouisEighty-three percent of people view their home as a good financial investment, a 2014 survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found. Not only is their home the biggest single asset most people own, but it’s also filled with memories — the average seller has lived in his house for a decade, according to the NAR. So it’s no wonder that when it comes time to sell property, people can get a little emotional.

Yet if people actually want to get a return on their investment in their home, they need to be smart about how they approach selling it. Letting emotions, not logic, drive decisions means you’re more likely to make mistakes that can make it difficult to find a buyer or force you into accepting a lower offer than you would like.

The good news for sellers is that the market is tight. That’s pushing home prices higher across the country, and the number of homes being sold is also up. The typical seller receives 97% of his final asking price, and his home was on the market for about a month, says the NAR.

But those numbers don’t mean that every homeowner sells his property quickly or gets the price he wants. You can increase your chances of a successful real estate transaction if you avoid these five mistakes when listing your home.

1. Not being realistic about your home’s value

Source: iStock

What you think your home is worth and the price you can actually sell it for are often two very different numbers. “Nobody cares what you paid for it,” one frustrated home seller told the Wall Street Journal. He’d bought a home for $325,000 and spent another $150,000 on renovations, but the property eventually sold for $83,000 less than he originally paid for it.

Even in markets where inventory is tight, sellers need to be careful not to get too greedy when picking a listing price. Properties that are overpriced at the outset tend to eventually sell at a lower price than they would have if they’d been appropriately priced in the first place. Choose a reasonable price based on factors like how much comparable properties are selling for and the home’s appraised value. If you’re not getting any interest, adjust your strategy. “No offers within a 30-day period means the price is too high,” real estate agent Djana Morris wrote in The Washington Post.

2. Not making your home look its best


By now, we’ve all watched enough HGTV shows to know that good staging and curb appeal help to sell homes. “At a minimum, homeowners should conduct a thorough cleaning, haul out clutter, make sure the home is well-lit and fix any major aesthetic issues,” said Chris Polychron, president of the NAR, in a statement about the value of home staging. More elaborate staging, such as repainting with neutral colors, sprucing up landscaping, or purchasing new furniture can also help. Overall, professionally staged homes can sell five to seven times faster than non-staged homes, according to the Real Estate Staging Association.

3. Refusing to negotiate

Source: Thinkstock

You should start by setting a fair and reasonable price for your home, but you also need to build in some wiggle room, especially if you need to sell quickly. Many buyers will start with an offer well below your asking price, particularly if they think it’s a buyer’s market. Naturally, their goal is to pay as little as possible for the home they want. Plus, many people want to feel like they’ve snagged a deal on what may be the biggest purchase of their lives.

You can make your buyers happy while also getting the price you need by being willing to accept slightly less than asking price for your home. Alternatively, you might agree to concessions like paying the closing costs, throwing in appliances, or making certain repairs to the property in order to sweeten the deal. Working with an experienced agent can help you negotiate the tricky dance of getting the price you want without scaring off a buyer.

4. Hiding the truth about your home


Sellers who want to be rid of their property quickly may be tempted to try to hide problems with the home from prospective buyers. But trying to cover up serious flaws, like foundation problems, leaky roofs, or mold, could come back to haunt you later. If you aren’t up front about your home’s issues, the buyer may well discover them during the home inspection. At that point, they’ll probably either back out of the deal or ask you to cover the costs of fixing the problem. If the issues are serious and are discovered after the sale goes through, you could end up caught in a messy, protracted legal battle.

Real estate site Zillow recommends being upfront with both your listing agent and your buyer about potential issues with the home. Price your home appropriately given its condition and document the problems you’re aware of and have your buyer sign off on them. Full disclosure is the best way to avoid a lawsuit.

5. Not having a backup plan

Source: Thinkstock

In a perfect world, you’re able to smoothly navigate the transition between selling your current home and buying a new one. In reality, things rarely go as planned. Savvy sellers have contingency plans in place to avoid either getting stuck with two mortgages at once or not having a place to live, or to protect them if a deal falls through.

Some people insert clauses into their contracts that make it clear that they won’t move forward with the sale unless they are able to purchase a new home. You may also want to be prepared to find temporary housing, like a rental or staying with family, in case your home sells quickly. If you must move before your home sells, make sure you’ve budgeted to afford the carrying costs of the old home. Finally, if there are multiple people interested in your home, you may be able to accept backup offers, which involve agreeing to sell to a second buyer if the first one backs out.



Turnkey properties: The new millennial investment

Turnkey Investment

The American dream

Millennials and younger members of Gen X appear to be delaying the financial responsibility of homeownership. But it’s hard to blame a group who watched the housing market skyrocket and plummet just as they were entering college or becoming young professionals gearing up to buy a starter home.

As the economy improved, and financial arrested development started to end, some 20- to 30-somethings have started to invest in St. Louis real estate, but not in the traditional sense.

Many have turned to turnkey properties, which offer the opportunity to become a homeowner while adding another revenue stream to an investment portfolio.

Jay Dao, a 30-year-old engineer who lives in Santa Clara, California, felt priced out of the market in the Bay Area, so he turned to investing in more affordable regions and now owns properties in Chicago and Indianapolis.

“Turnkey investing is a much more passive form of real estate investing for busy professionals or investors who simply don’t want to put in that much work themselves, but still would like to own rental property,” says Dao, who chronicles his adventures in real estate on the blog

Buying for Short-Term Housing, Long-Term Investment

Unlike house-flipping that might require significant repairs to make a home livable, a turnkey investment is typically ready to rent the day it’s purchased.

Mario Bonifacio, 34, used a turnkey investment initially as a place to live when he arrived in Fort Hood, Texas, as a young soldier, but he bought with the forethought of renting it out in the future.

“I figured out that the best way to take advantage of high rent and low real estate prices wasn’t just to own a home to live in; it was to own a building with enough units to rent out to others,” Bonifacio says.

Today, Bonifacio owns turnkey properties in Foot Hood and Killeen, Texas, as well as Des Moines, Iowa, while he lives in New York City.

How to Buy a Turnkey Property

Buyers can go through a St. Louis real estate agent or a turnkey company. Just note that the process is research heavy and requires a lot of time upfront.

Investors identify where they plan to purchase property and then contact a company to get a properties packet listing the available homes in an area. An investor should do due diligence and actually visit the area, properties and the turnkey company itself.

Once an investor finds and vets a property, he or she can either enter into negotiations with the turnkey company or move straight into the closing process.

“With turnkeys, a standard condition to closing is to have the property leased up with a paying tenant in place before the buyer closing escrow,” Dao says. “In other words, the property should be ready to generate cash flow for the owner as soon as day one.”

Making a Property Turnkey On Your Own

Going directly through a turnkey company may be the simplest way to invest in real estate, but it isn’t the only option for owning a turnkey property.

“I actually purchased each home on my own and then went about the process of making them as turnkey as possible,” says Sandy Smith, 37, who lives in Queens, New York.

Smith purchased two properties in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and then went through a number of management companies in order to find one that suited her needs. Her current management company handles almost every aspect from cutting the grass to ensuring mortgage payments are made.

“I am only ever involved if a repair will cost more than $500,” says Smith, whose rentals make up about 30 percent of her total investment portfolio.

Any Investment Comes with an Element of Risk

Turnkeys sound like a dream investment with a guaranteed return, but no investment is foolproof.

Smith is experiencing taxes rising at a rate faster than she can increase rental rates to offset the cost.

Dao has experienced the typical loss of money that’s part of owning any rental property: vacancies, maintenance and tenant turnovers.

Bonifacio dealt with being underwater on one property for a few years after 2008, but he held on to the place and it continued to bring in rent while the property lost value.

Any turnkey investor should have an emergency fund buffer to handle the potential financial strain of owning multiple properties.

And keep in mind there are no magical investments. Buying a turnkey property requires a lot of research, a significant chunk of money and a most valuable commodity — time. Anyone interested in investing in a turnkey property needs to be on the lookout for scam artists and perform their due diligence before taking the keys.

“Rental property is highly illiquid, and it can be much easier to buy than it is to sell,” Dao says. “The only way to really minimize risks is to invest in quality.”


2.2 Million ‘Boomerang’ Homebuyers Will Re-Enter the Market in the Next 5 Years

Boomerang Home BuyersMillions of homeowners who had difficulties paying their mortgages after the housing bubble burst are nearing a point at which they could once again qualify for a home loan, according to new analysis from TransUnion. In 2015, 700,000 U.S. consumers will be capable of re-entering the housing market, and within the next five years, that population (called “Boomerang Buyers”) is expected to grow to 2.2 million.

TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, studied the population of credit-active U.S. adults over the course of several years — the end of 2006 (the end of the bubble, when prices began to decline), the end of 2009 (when the bubble burst) and the end of 2014 — to determine the figures. Between 2006 and 2014, TransUnion was able to track 180 million consumers, and in 2006, 48% (78 million) of that population had a mortgage, and 8% (7 million) of that group had trouble repaying that loan between 2006 and 2009. By December 2014, 18% (about 1.3 million) had rebuilt their credit to meet Fannie Mae underwriting guidelines, and TransUnion estimates 2.2 million of the remaining 5.7 million former homeowners will rebuild their credit to that point within the next five years.

To be considered eligible to re-enter the mortgage market, consumers have to have no unpaid judgments, garnishments or outstanding liens; no accounts past due; a FICO credit score of at least 620; and enough time elapsed between the negative event occurred and when they wish to re-enter the mortgage market (i.e. four years after a short sale and seven years after a foreclosure), according to TransUnion. Even among the 18% of consumers who have rebounded from the credit damage they sustained during the financial crisis, the majority (58%) have yet to re-enter the mortgage market.

“As boomerang buyers who experienced foreclosures or other negative impacts become eligible to re-enter the mortgage market, they may not immediately do so if they are not aware they are eligible again, or feel daunted by their prior experience,” said Joe Mellman, vice president and head of TransUnion’s mortgage group, in a news release about the data.

Rehabilitating your credit after missing payments on your mortgage or losing your home to foreclosure can certainly be intimidating, and it requires a lot of patience. That doesn’t mean you should stay away from the mortgage market if you desire to own a home. When working toward your goal of becoming a homeowner again, regularly monitor your credit (you can do that for free on to track your progress and understand how your financial behaviors affect your credit scores. The foundation of a good credit score is making loan and credit card payments on time, paying other bills so they aren’t sent to collections and keeping your balances of revolving lines of credit (such as credit cards) as low as possible.



How to Refinance a Jumbo Mortgage for Less

Jumbo Mortgage RefinancingIf rising mortgage rates have spooked you into refinancing but your loan size is more than $417,000, pay particularly close attention. Traditionally, these loans cost homeowners more, but there are new investors in the marketplace offering better rates and deals on larger mortgage.

The Big Question to Ask

It doesn’t matter where you apply to refinance a mortgage — whether it’s a bank, credit union, mortgage broker or even a direct lender — the investor determines whether your loan will cost more or not.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase loans up to the maximum conforming loan limit, designated by county – it’s often $417,000, but can be as high as $625,000 in high-cost markets. For example, in Sonoma County, Calif., it’s $520,950.

In terms of pricing, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans are ideal if your loan is $417,000 or lower. However, any loan of $417,001 or more that goes to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will likely cost more than if it were going through a different investor. So make sure to ask your lender: “Where’s my loan going?”

Up until recently, Fannie and Freddie have been the main players for loans above the maximum loan limit. Just this year additional jumbo investors have entered the market — including Wells Fargo, Chase and many others, and they’re buying loans made by banks, credit unions, brokers and direct lenders.

Jumbo Investors Offering an Alternative

Ask your mortgage company about its “jumbo” mortgage offering. This would be especially beneficial if you’re trying to refinance a loan size bigger than $417,000 because jumbo investors specifically cater to this market.

This means that jumbos may even be lower-priced than loans $417,000 or under — which are the ones that are normally considered the best-priced mortgages in the marketplace. Working with a jumbo investor may help you avoid being subject to the pricing adjustments (a big driver of cost on mortgages) that Fannie and Freddie impose, which could help you refinance for a lower interest rate and payment.

Let’s compare Fannie/Freddie to a Jumbo Investor:


Other Times the Jumbo Option May Make Sense

There are some other potential advantages to working with a jumbo investor. Let’s say you have a first mortgage on your home at $400,000 and an $80,000 home equity line of creditthat you would like to consolidate into one. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would consider this scenario to be a “cash out refinance” because the added HELOC debt wasn’t used to acquire the home, and your mortgage company will charge you more for the loan being over $417,000 and for “cash out.” You could expect as high as .5% of the loan amount being absorbed either in the interest rate or paid for by you (based on whatever interest rate you choose) at close of escrow or paying in cold hard cash at closing.

A jumbo investor, however, will likely consider the loan in this scenario to be “rate and term,” which offers better pricing.

It’s important to remember that some jumbo investors recognize a jumbo mortgage loan to be anything bigger than $417,000. Other jumbo investors characterize a jumbo mortgage to be anything bigger than the maximum county conforming loan limit. So be sure to talk to your mortgage company when discussing jumbo loans.

Jumbo Credit Still Tight

While pursuing a jumbo mortgage refinance, credit requirements for these loan types are still relatively tight. These programs want strong borrowers with good credit, a low debt-to-income ratio and equity in the home. For example, if you’re trying to roll HELOC debt into the refinance, there can be no draws on the home equity line of credit in the past 12 months. (Before you begin your refinancing process, it helps to have an idea of your credit standing — you can get a free credit report summary on to see where you stand.)

If you’re completing a refinance on a home that you owned for less than 12 months, some jumbo financing investors may also require you to refinance using a different loan, such as a loan issued by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Furthermore, some jumbo investors have a requirement that specifically states if you’re refinancing a home that you’ve owned for less than 12 months, the original purchase price needs to be used as consideration for the value no matter what the current market supports.

Still if you plan to refinance this year, you would be well served to ask your mortgage company to qualify you on their jumbo programs, if they offer any, as well as the traditional Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac loan so you can determine which mortgage loan program will align with your payment, cash flow and equity objectives.

More on Mortgages & Homebuying:

From; Scott Sheldon