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


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


St. Louis housing market’s on the road to recovery

From Jim Gallagher, St. Louis Post – Dispatch

The St. Louis-area real estate market is recovering from last year’s case of the blahs. That’s good news for home sellers, but a mixed bag for buyers.

Sales are up as the spring house-hunting season gets into gear. Prices are up, too.

St. Louis Housing Market RecoveryMortgage rates are down from last year, although they’ve been creeping up for the past three weeks. But buyers are finding fewer homes to choose from.

In St. Louis County, home sales are up 9 percent so far this year through April, after falling 7 percent through all of 2014. It’s the same story in St. Louis, with sales up 11 percent. They are up 7 percent in St. Charles and 13 percent in Jefferson County.

Sales were up 19 percent in St. Clair County and flat in Madison County, according to the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors in Metro East.

Rising sales usually mean rising prices, and that seems to be the case. As of March, St. Louis-area prices were up 4.8 percent from a year earlier, according to CoreLogic, the real estate data firm.

Zillow, the real estate website, thinks St. Louis-area home values in March were up 3.7 percent over the year, and predicts a 3.5 percent over the next year. The firms use different methods for measuring trends in a market where houses differ widely and prices change block by block.

The rise in sales may reflect the fact that more people have jobs — unemployment here is at a seven-year low of 5.5 percent — and that mortgage lenders are a little looser.

Mortgages are a little cheaper this year, with 30-year loans averaging interest rates of 3.85 percent last week, compared to 4.2 percent a year ago, according to Freddie Mac. Rates dipped as low as 3.65 percent in late April.

Freddie and Fannie Mae, which back most mortgages, have also cut required down payments to as low as 3 percent for some homebuyers. The FHA cut the mortgage insurance premiums it charges borrowers. All of that allows more people to afford houses.

Rising prices also reflect a mismatch between supply and demand in many neighborhoods. Real estate agents have been complaining for two years about a lack of homes for sale here, and supply is getting skimpier.

In St. Louis County, there were 2,900 homes for sale last month, compared with 3,700 in April of last year and 6,400 in the depths of the housing recession in April 2010.


Barb and Larry Schmidt, a retired couple, saw the market from both sides this spring.

They had tried to sell their Ballwin home two years ago, when the market was weaker. “We were hoping to get a certain amount to cover everything we put into the house. It didn’t go,” said Barb Schmidt, so they removed it from the market.

But the Schmidts found the pickings slim when they went shopping for a new home in the Ballwin area. They wanted a “villa,” an attached home designed for older people.

“What they were asking for was ridiculous in price for very little offered,” Barb Schmidt said.

They had to head west to St. Charles County.

“We went out to Dardenne Prairie and got what we wanted,” she said.

Realtors consider a six-month supply of homes to be a balanced market, with no advantage to buyer or seller. There’s only a four-month supply on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. That makes this a seller’s market.

But the St. Louis region isn’t one real estate market. It is dozens, and conditions can differ widely by neighborhood. It’s often difficult to discern trends in small areas over short periods, since a few unusual sales can distort the averages.

In St. Louis County, the greatest sales and price increases are concentrated in the western suburbs this year. North and South County present mixed pictures, with prices and sales up in some areas and down in others.

The market is hottest in the $150,000 to $250,000 price range, with high demand and low supply.


3% down payments lure first-time homebuyers

Joel Aschbrenner, USA TODAY

DES MOINES, Iowa — After years of moving around the country for his job with Marriott hotels, John Eddleman wanted to put down roots.

Last month, he bought a brick bungalow on Des Moines’ south side, taking advantage of a recent federal policy change that allows down payments of as low as 3%.

“It came at just the right time because otherwise I would have had to scrape a lot more money together,” Eddleman, 49, said. “At 3% down, you can’t pass that up.”

A collection of new policies — including lower down payment requirements, decreased mortgage insurance premiums and looser lending standards — are intended to make it easier for first-time buyers like Eddleman to get a loan.

Some say the changes won’t remove the underlying hurdles for first-time buyers, like slow wage growth and student loan debt. And some lawmakers have criticized the policies as a step toward the risky lending practices that led to the 2007 housing crash. But lenders and real estate officials say they expect the changes to bring a wave of new homebuyers in 2015.

“It’s being predicted in Iowa and across the country: This is going to be a year when we see a lot of Millennials and first-time homebuyers get into the market,” said Brennan Buckley, general manager of Iowa Realty.


Recent policy changes aim to improve access to home loans in several ways:

• In December, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced they would reduce the minimum down payment on certain mortgages from 5% to 3%. For someone buying a $150,000 home, the change means the difference between a down payment of $7,500 and $4,500.

• In January, the Federal Housing Administration announced it was reducing mortgage insurance premiums by 50 basis points. The White House said the reduction would save the average homebuyer about $900 a year and would enable about 250,000 people to buy a home.

• Lenders have been lowering some of the requirements on borrowers in response to federal regulators clarifying mortgage lending rules created in the wake of the 2007 housing crash.

Brad Blackwell, executive vice president with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said he expects first-time home sales to grow less than 10% in 2015, but he said it would still be a “meaningful” increase.

Wells Fargo, the largest mortgage lender in the country, is offering two types of 3%-down mortgages. It’s still a bit early to gauge demand, “but we’ve seen a lot of excitement about them,” Blackwell said.

In the past year, Wells Fargo has rolled back several borrower requirements. The company increased the amount of “gift money,” like cash from a homebuyer’s parents, that a borrower can use toward a down payment on some loans. It also reduced the minimum credit scores for certain loans.

To qualify for a 3%-down mortgage from Wells Fargo, borrowers need a credit score of at least 620. But without a good job and a solid explanation for credit blemishes, buyers will probably need a score of 660 to 680, Blackwell said. The minimum score for FHA mortgages is 600.


Easier access to credit will be one factor in getting first-time homebuyers into the market. A bigger factor may be that Millennials are finally starting to settle down, Blackwell said.

“We’re starting to see them become homebuyers,” he said. “Forget the financial end. The pure demographics are going increase the number of first-time homebuyers in the market.”

Frank Nothaft, chief economist at the real estate research firm Corelogic and the former chief economist for Freddie Mac, said lower down payments and mortgage insurance premiums come at the right time. Interest rates remain low, and the spring buying season is around the corner. But they’re not a cure-all.

“It doesn’t mean everyone who is renting right now will suddenly qualify for a mortgage,” he said. “There are still plenty of challenges in the marketplace. Many younger households are still struggling to find good paying jobs and may not have the income or savings to qualify for a mortgage.”

Millennials have been slow to jump into homeownership. The generation of 18- to 34-year-olds came of age in the recession and they’re starting to buy homes in their early 30s, not their mid- to late-20s like previous generations, Blackwell said.

This year, Millennials are poised to overtake Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest generation, so getting them to trade rent checks for mortgages is seen as critical to strengthening the housing market.

First-time homebuyers accounted for only 33% of home sales in 2014, the smallest share since 1987, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors.

Historically, first-time buyers have accounted for more than 40% of sales and have played a key role in the market, allowing established homeowners to trade up for pricier houses.

“There is an upward domino effect,” said Buckley, the Iowa Realty executive. “When they enter the market, it can kick off two or three home sales right up the line.”


Iowa real estate agents are entering the spring buying season with sense of optimism. Des Moines area home sales in January were up 13%.

“I think by the middle of March, we’re going to be so busy we’re not going to be able to breathe,” said Monica Janelle, an Ankeny-based agent who is currently working with three 20-something clients looking for their first homes.

Laura Quint, 25, of Huxley, is looking for a two-bedroom townhouse in Ankeny with a garage and an open kitchen. She has been pre-approved for a 3%-down conventional mortgage and a 3.% down FHA mortgage.

“It definitely makes me want to buy now rather than keep renting,” she said. “It’s some incentive to start putting equity into a place.”

Eddleman ended up putting down about $2,400 on his house. He plans to refinish the floors, renovate the kitchen and turn a bedroom into his art studio. The smell of paint still hung in the living room last week after he finished covering the pea-soup-green walls with a more muted color.

“It was a great deal for me,” he said of the 3%-down loan. “The money I would have spent on the down payment I’m going to be able to spend on the house.”


St. Louis renters paid more in 2014

St. Louis RentalsBy Diana Barr, St. Louis Business Journal

St. Louisans paid out $2.8 billion dollars in rent this year, up 3.3 percent from 2013, according to a report by real estate information provider Zillow Inc.

St. Louis renters saw their monthly payment increase by $10 this year, taking into account renter households added during the year, according to the report.

Renters in the U.S. paid $20.6 billion more in rent this year than last, or a cumulative $441 billion in 2014 compared with $420 billion in 2013 — a nearly 5 percent increase, according to the report, issued Tuesday.

Nationally, there was an increase in both the number of renting households and the average rent, according to Seattle-based Zillow (NASDAQ: Z).

The total number of renters nationwide grew an estimated 1.9 percent in 2014, according to the Zillow report, and median rent paid grew 2.9 percent over the same time period.

“Over the past 14 years, rents have grown at twice the pace of income due to weak income growth, burgeoning rental demand, and insufficient growth in the supply of rental housing,” said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries in a statement. “This has created real opportunities for rental housing owners and investors, but has also been a bitter pill to swallow for tenants, particularly those on an entry-level salary and those would-be buyers struggling to save for a down payment on a home of their own.”

In 2015, Humphries said he expects rents to rise even faster than home values, with another increase in total rent paid similar to this year’s being probable.

The largest jump in cumulative rent paid in 2014 was seen in the Bay Area, consisting of the San Jose and San Francisco metro markets, up 14.4 percent and 13.5 percent, respectively. Rent per household rose by $197 per month in the San Jose metro area and $163 per month in the San Francisco area.

Among the nation’s 50 largest metro areas, the New York-Northern New Jersey market paid the most cumulative rent at $50 billion, followed by the Los Angeles metro area at $34 billion. Renters in Birmingham, Alabama, ($1 billion); Louisville, Kentucky ($1.2 billion); and Buffalo, New York ($1.2 billion) paid the smallest amount of cumulative rent in 2014.


St. Louis foreclosure rate drops again

By: Brian Feldt, St. Louis Business JournalSt. Louis Foreclosures

Foreclosure rates in St. Louis during October decreased when compared to the same time period last year, according to data from California-based real estate tracker CoreLogic.

The St. Louis area foreclosure rate was 0.72 percent in October, a decrease of 0.28 percentage points compared to October 2013, when the rate was 1.00 percent. Foreclosure activity in St. Louis was lower than the national foreclosure rate, which was 1.52 percent for October 2014, CoreLogic data showed.

Foreclosure delinquency rates also fell in St. Louis. According to CoreLogic data for October 2014, 3.29 percent of mortgage loans were 90 days or more delinquent compared to 3.76 percent for the same period last year, representing a decrease of 0.47 percentage points.

In Missouri, the foreclosure rate in October was 0.62 percent, down slightly from the 0.83 percent rate the state had in October 2013.


Additional Condos Coming to the Marquette Building

314 N. Broadway Condo for Sale - Marquette BuildingFrom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A rebound in the downtown St. Louis condo market is prompting the Lawrence Group to convert the remaining rentals in its Marquette Building, at 314 North Broadway.

Steve Smith, Lawrence Group’s president, said Wednesday that 36 Marquette apartments are going on the market as condos.


Sales begin Saturday. One unit has a $99,000 price as a way to get potential buyers in the door. Most of the condos — which are on floors five through nine — are priced from $150,000 to $225,000.

Smith says all of the Marquette’s 79 existing condos are occupied.

And 10 more units are coming to the building. They will be built on the two floors the Marquette YMCA vacated two years ago. Some of that space will be redone as workout space for building residents.

Contact The Agency today to set up a private showing of the Marquette Building or and other buildings in Downtown St. Louis.


St. Louis Home Prices Rise 7.5%

St. Louis Home Prices Increase

New data from real estate analysis firm Core Logic shows that home prices in St. Louis have increased by 7.5% in the last year including a 0.8% increase from July 2013 to August 2013.  Excluding distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) prices here rose 8.3% year over year.  The recent increase in mortgage interest rates and the seasonal slow down in the real estate market are blamed for the slow down in home price appreciation over the last 2 months.  As interest rates come down again, home prices are expected to increase at an increasing rate over the coming months as buyers can get more for their money.  




Demolition of Cupples 7 Warehouse in Downtown St. Louis

Cupples 7 DemolitionWhile many last minute attempts were made to save the historic Cupples 7 warehouse in Downtown St. Louis from demolition, the building met its fate yesterday as crews started to demolish the building.  Over the years several plans had emerged to rehab the building and convert it to offices, lofts or a mixed-use development.  The real estate and economic collapse of 2008 along with the poor condition of the building made any attempt financially impossible.  The city had issued a demolition permit due to the instability of the structure and the threat that it could eventually collapse on its own.  The building should be completely demolished by Thursday evening.



Northside TIF Hearings to Restart

Clemens Home Northside Regeneration

Hearings for the long delayed Northside Regeneration project start today.  The size and purpose of the Northside TIF has not changed, but meetings are needed for some changes due to the long delay since they were previously approved in 2009.  The project will remake nearly 2 square miles of North St. Louis over the next 20 years.  The $390 million TIF (Tax Increment Financing) will fund improvements to the streets, sewers and other infrastructure in the project area.  The developer, Paul Mc Kee, hopes to start work in the beginning of 2014 by focusing on infrastructure improvements, building several dozen new homes and by attracting new industrial and retail tenants to the project.




Proposed Midtown Station Project Could Transform Blighted Area

Midtown Station

The Midtown Station development proposed by Pace Properties would redevelop the former Federal-Mogul brake pad plant that sits on Interstate 64/40.  The site would have over 80,000 square feet of retail space and would help connect a chain of redevelopment efforts from The Grove (Forest Park Southeast), CORTEX, the Central West End, Washington University Medical Center and Saint Louis University.  Additionally, the developers hope to partner with Great Rivers Greenway to convert an abandoned rail spur as part of the Chouteau Greenway, the proposed trail that would connect Forest Park with Downtown Saint Louis.


Chesterfield Blue Valley – New Mixed Use Development Coming to Chesterfield


Plans are in the works for a new development in Chesterfield Valley.  The project, Chesterfield Blue Valley, is adjacent to the St. Louis Premium Outlets that are set to open in two months.  The $300 million Chesterfield Blue Valley project will cover 73 acres with offices, restaurants, non-outlet stores and a hotel.



Elevated Park Could Help Transform North St. Louis

the trestle

An open house was held yesterday to unveil plans for an elevated park that will be built on an abandoned train trestle just north of Downtown St. Louis.  This would be only the third elevated park in the world; the others are in New York and Paris.  The Great Rivers Greenway District is leading the development of the park that will link North St. Louis to the rest of the Great Rivers Greenway system of bike and hiking trails.  Organizers plan to implement several features into the design of the project including:  a space for special events, areas for bird-watching, native plantings and a solar-powered drip irrigation system.  Along with the continued redevelopment in Downtown and the Northside Regeneration project starting this fall; “The Trestle” will help to revitalize a once vibrant neighborhood and further connect the Mississippi Riverfront with the surrounding community.  You can read more about The Trestle here.


Dominium Development agrees to purchase Arcade Wright Building


Dominium Development of Minneapolis has agreed to purchase the Arcade Wright Building at Eighth and Olive for $9 million and plans to spend $103 million to renovate the building into 254 apartments (with two-thirds being partially subsidized for low-income residents) and 61,000 square feet of commercial space.  Construction is expected to begin in December with environmental cleanup of the building starting next week.


Lawrence Group to Invest $11 million in Sun Theater Renovation

1The Lawrence Group is starting an $11 million project to renovate the Sun Theater on Grandel Square in Midtown for the Grand Center Arts Academy.  The project is receiving $4 million in Federal and State Historic Tax Credits.  

From the Post-Dispatch:

“The theater opened in 1913 as the Gernlan Theatre — a home for German-speaking stock companies, according to the National Register nomination. It describes the facade as “a treasure at human scale.”

Other accounts say the hall opened as the German-language Victor Theater.

Closed during World War I, the theater reopened afterward as The Liberty. Over the years, vaudeville, burlesque, night club and evangelical church acts played on the stage.

In 1950, according to Post-Dispatch files, the building became the Sun, “a motion picture theater for Negroes.” The theater also was known for a time as the Lyn.

It once seated 1,500 people. Capacity will be reduced to about 700 after the Lawrence Group converts much of the balcony to three classrooms with tiered seating.

Kuntze and Smith said the Sun’s auditorium will be available for rent to outside groups for events and performances. Smith said the Sun will be a smaller venue that Grand Center needs.

“It’s a mini-Fox and a mini-Powell,” he said.”