2019 Real Estate Predictions – Crystal Ball or Guess?

Categories: Real Estate Market

The question I’m asked most often this time of year is “What’s the market going to do this year?”  Will home prices rise, will it be a seller’s market, a buyer’s market, should I sell now or wait until Spring?

My answer is always prefaced with “there is no crystal ball.”  We do know that some trends will continue into 2019.  Mortgage rates most likely will rise, inventory is also on the rise and home price appreciation will continue to slow.  That’s the national rhetoric we read.  But, the forecasters leave out one overriding truth - REAL ESTATE IS INTENSELY LOCAL.  What happens in San Jose doesn’t translate to St. Louis.   For example, St. Louis County is fairly tight with 2.8 months of inventory.  If we look at luxury homes over $1 million, St. Louis County has a 9 month supply.   My best advice is to ask your Realtor for a market update that is specific to your location and your price category.

 

Janet Horlacher  

4 Reasons Homes Sell During the Holidays

Categories: Real Estate Market

It may surprise you to learn that the holidays are a good time to sell a home.  Holiday buyers are enthusiastic and emotional; they are serious buyers, less distracted by busy work schedules.  We find that buyers are motivated by the prospect of beginning a new year in a new home.  Consider these reasons:

 

#1. Year-end corporate transfers 

Corporate transferees schedule home buying trips over the holidays.  

 

#2   Buyers have time off work  

The reality is that when work commitments slow down around the holidays, buyers look online.  Holiday buyers have a sense of urgency to write an acceptable offer before the end of the year.    

 

#3   Homes look their best 

There is nothing like an abundance of lights, a fire in the hearth, the smell of fresh pine and a festive atmosphere to make a home look its best.  As long as it’s not overdone, holiday décor makes a house warm and inviting, which appeals to buyer emotions.

 

#4   Less Competition

Inventory is lower over the holidays; sellers face less competition; and serious buyers are quicker to make a strong offer.   

Spring has sprung … Hooray!

Categories: Real Estate Market Selling Your Home

Finally, Spring is here!  It’s sunny, in the 70’s and the residential real estate market is in full bloom!  In the St. Louis Central Corridor, 309 listings were put into MLS in the last 7 days.  235 listings went under contract (both new and existing) and 188 sales closed.  In the same period for the luxury market (over $1 million), there were 18 new MLS listings, 6 went under contract and 2 closed.

STL Central Corridor MLS Listings

All Prices

Over $1 M

New Listings

309

18

Option & Contingent

235

6

Sold - Closed

188

2

My advice to our sales agents is “don’t delay.”  Do everything you can to take advantage of this robust time of year.  Be aware that service professionals are busy-busy so we must be persistent and resourceful in scheduling painters, plumbers, roofers and contractors.  When working with buyers, prepare them to act quickly when they find the home of their dreams.   You know the Benjamin Franklin adage “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.”  

 

Happy Spring Selling and Buying!

Janet

Cyber fraud and Real Estate

Categories: General Real Estate Market Selling Your Home

Cyber fraud and Real Estate

 

I just read a scary fact in Realtor magazine: $969 million was diverted or attempted to be diverted from real estate purchase transactions and wired to “criminally controlled” accounts in fiscal 2017.  The fact is attributed to FBI data as reported by the Washington Post.

Scammers are targeting real estate professionals, title companies and mortgage lenders with phishing emails and fake text messages.  One way home buyers are scammed is they receive an email providing wire instructions for funding their new home purchase.   Please be aware - this is a fake email.  You should NEVER respond with your account information without speaking first hand to your agent or title representative.   I read a recent story of a Memphis home buyer who responded to a genuine-looking request to wire the full purchase amount of $203,000 to an account, which turned out to be fraudulent.  The money was gone, wired to a bank account controlled by an invisible thief.

 

Another risk is hacking.  Realtor magazine also reported about 80 percent of hacking-related breaches were through stolen passwords or passwords that were easy to guess.  If your password is “password,” stop reading, immediately close your browser and change your password. 

Be safe,

 

Janet Horlacher

Principal, Janet McAfee

Sell Now or Wait Until Spring?

Categories: General Real Estate Market

Around mid-November, I am often asked whether it is a good time to bring a home on the market.  I consider the following:

1.       Inventory is Low = List Now.  Residential real estate is driven by supply and demand.  When supply is low, as it is now, Sellers have less competition for buyers.  When two or more buyers are competing for the same property, the price is going up.

2.    Inventory of Comparable Properties = Need More Data.  While inventory is low across the entire market, we must look at specifics.  What are inventory levels in your price range and in your neighborhood?  Your Realtor will drill down to only the areas and  price ranges, which are considered comparable.  We do have excess inventory in some categories, so you should be well informed before making the final call.

3.       Pool or outdoor amenity is an essential selling feature = Wait until Spring.   If your swimming pool or outdoor living feature is an essential reason for anyone to buy your home, you should wait until it is looking its best.   If waiting is not an option, I highly recommend providing photos which show just how lovely it looks.

4.       High lot value/possible tear down = List Now.   New home inventory is low and builders are anxiously scouring the market for good lots in good locations.  If your home could be a tear down, take advantage of current conditions and list now.

5.       Condo or Villa = List Now.  Currently, demand is strong for condos, villas and lifestyle communities.

6.       People buy homes every season of the year = List Now.  Remember, people will buy homes in every season.  Job transfers, promotions, marriages, changes in family situation happen all year.  A desirable, well priced home will sell any and every day of the year.

Janet Horlacher, Principal, Janet McAfee Inc.

2017 St Louis Real Estate Market Update

Categories: General Real Estate Market

With six months of 2017 residential sales data on the books, we examine pricing and segment trends in our St. Louis Real Estate Midyear Report.

In the first half of the year, residential unit sales have increased 2% and prices are up 4%.   Inventory is still hovering at critically low levels.  The lack of inventory is holding back unit sales in some of our strongest neighborhoods.  Low inventory also leads to a seller’s market with intense competition and multiple offers for well-priced homes, a phenomenon true in the middle and low price ranges.  Conversely, the luxury market (defined as homes over $1 million) has ample inventory.  In fact, we are seeing over 8 months of inventory in million+ dollar homes.  While luxury unit sales are modestly growing, prices for luxury homes are flat and in some cases compressed.  Older homes are especially subject to downward price pressure as luxury buyers demand newer floor plans, mint condition and the latest and greatest amenities. 

Click here to read our 2017 Midyear Market Report.

Top St. Louis Communities to Live In

Categories: General Real Estate Market St. Louis Luxury Homes Tips for Buying a Home

 

 

People move to different areas for a variety of reasons. St. Louis is unique in the fact it is home to many communities that appeal to different interests and walks of life. Each suburb and community has distinctive features that appeal to foodies, artists, outdoorsmen and women, and sports enthusiasts. Join us as we take a tour of the Top Communities in St. Louis!

 

 

 

CHESTERFIELD - If shopping is your bag, Chesterfield is the place for you. With new construction going up all the time and businesses moving in at a rapid pace, Chesterfield shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, there are over 4,000 total services with a number of shopping malls and outlets, including Taubman Prestige Outlets. You would think that they are all play and no work because of this… but you’d be wrong! The community has a 96% high school graduation rate! The houses range in price and style from colonial to craftsman to farmhouse. All of these features combined make this a big draw for growing families. Click to learn more and see houses in this area!

Link: http://www.janetmcafee.com/chesterfield-real-estate

 

 

 

CLAYTON - Everyone in St. Louis knows about Clayton, and for good reason. This historic community is known as being in the center of it all.  It’s less than 10 miles from downtown St. Louis, two miles from the St. Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Zoo, and sports easy access to many highways as well as the Metrolink. Not to mention, Clayton has so much to offer right within the community. You can sample more than 80 restaurants (Foodies, take note!) and walk to high-end boutiques and art galleries easily. If you like to live the luxurious life, this is the place for you. Click to learn more and see houses in this area!

Link: http://www.janetmcafee.com/clayton-real-estate

 

 

BALLWIN - Family fun is right outside your door in Ballwin. Many young families have been getting their start in Ballwin. They sport the massive North Pointe Family Aquatic Center, a number of parks for hiking and outdoor fun (Queeny Park, Lone Elk Park, and Castlewood State Park), and multiple golf clubs (Ballwin Golf Course and the Meadowbrook Country Club). To match the large number of recreational activities, the neighborhoods sport a variety of housing styles including craftsman, colonial, and ranch. Not to mention, you can typically get a lot of house for a good price. Click to learn more and see houses in this area!

Link: http://www.janetmcafee.com/ballwin-real-estate

 

 

WEBSTER GROVES - Historical architecture and rows upon rows of trees welcome you when you enter Webster Groves. Cottage, colonial, craftsman, and bungalow style homes are the most common in these quiet neighborhoods that surround Webster University. Webster Groves also boasts one of the best school districts in St. Louis and the 38-acre Blackburn Park (featuring a bird sanctuary, tennis courts, trails, and picnic areas), though you pay a little more for these amenities in taxes. In addition, various community events are held throughout the year such as the weekly Farmer’s Market and a Fourth of July firework display that may very be the second best next to the famous downtown firework show. Click to learn more and see houses in this area!

Link: http://www.janetmcafee.com/webster-groves-real-estate

 

 

KIRKWOOD - The high school rivalry between Webster Groves and Kirkwood is legendary, but it might be because these neighboring communities share many similarities. Kirkwood also sports a college (St. Louis Community College Meramec), lovely yards and trees, a Farmer’s Market, and a quiet neighborhood feel consisting of ranch, Victorian, and charming craftsman houses. What is unique is the still functional historic train station, and the famous Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park! Quiet, quaint, and classic. Click to learn more and see houses in this area!

Link: http://www.janetmcafee.com/kirkwood-real-estate

 

 

 

BRENTWOOD - Experience the feel of a small town, while still having Downtown St. Louis just 9 miles away. Brentwood and the neighboring Maplewood community make for a double dose of fun that appeals to families and young couples who enjoy shopping and nearby restaurants and breweries. Historic farmhouse, colonial, and craftsman style homes surround Memorial and Brentwood Park (which is home to a fabulous Summer Concert Series). Brentwood High School also has an astounding 96% high school graduation rate. Although it might not be the first community that comes to mind when you think of St. Louis, Brentwood acts as a little known secret that’s central to many parts of the city and county. Click to learn more and see houses in this area!

 

Link: http://www.janetmcafee.com/brentwood-real-estate

Summer Heat in the Real Estate Market

Categories: General Real Estate Market

How hot is the real estate market in St. Louis?  By most accounts, residential sales are balmy with no signs of cooling off.  In the three counties comprising most of the St. Louis metro, sales are up 2.6% year to date.  Median prices are up 8%.  Lack of inventory is the metric driving up prices, while at the same time, containing sales to single digit increases.  We are down to 2 months of inventory, an all-time low.  In the lower and mid-price range, this translates to multiple contracts.  We have personally experienced up to 7 competing offers on a single listing.

But, as we all know, real estate is intensely local.  Market dynamics vary by school district, by price range and by type of home.  Buyers are more methodical and have more choices when it comes to luxury homes, which we define as homes over $1 million.  In this segment, inventory is not as tight; sales are up about 9% and prices are up about 6% year to date.  I believe there is opportunity for both buyers and sellers in the higher price ranges.

Janet Horlacher

Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate

A Double Edged Sword: Property Assessments are Up

Categories: General Real Estate Market

The good news is the value of your property may have increased.   The bad news is the tax man is coming to collect more taxes.  Many of us received our notice of reassessed value in the mail this week.  More than a third of properties in St. Louis City saw an increase.   The Central West End, South Grand and Tower Grove showed the larger city increases.  In St. Louis County, the median change in property value was up 7.3% with Webster Groves, Lindbergh and Kirkwood school districts leading the gains, according to the County Assessor’s office.  And St. Charles County increased nearly 5%.

This year’s reassessment is larger than recent years.  While this is good for our personal balance sheets, it likely means our taxes will go up.  Our property taxes are a function of two things, the assessment and the rate.  The assessment is sent to us in May, the rate is not published until Fall.  We will not know our 2017 property taxes until November.  If you are selling your home today, the amount you owe at closing will be based on 2016 taxes.

The Assessor’s job is to establish the fair market value of your property every odd dated year.  Market value is the price the property would bring in an “arm’s length transaction” on the open market (i.e. not foreclosure or a private/family sale).   The Assessor may use a Cost Approach, the value of land plus amount it would take to replace the structure, a Market (sales comparison) Approach, an estimate based on sales of comparable homes or an Income Approach, for commercial properties.

In my world of residential real estate, the Market Approach is used most frequently.  Your assessed value is estimated from sales of comparable homes in your neighborhood or close proximity.  The comparable sales need to be before January 1, 2017.   

When you receive the reassessed value, think to yourself “Is this the value for which I would sell my house?” If you believe your assessed value is too high, there is an appeal process; you can schedule an optional informal conference to review your information.  If not satisfied with the informal meeting or choose to bypass the informal meeting, you may appeal to the Board of Equalization.  For information, you may call:

St. Louis City: (314) 589-6581

St. Louis County: (314) 615-7195

St. Charles County: (636) 949-7560

 

If you do choose to appeal your assessment, here is a list of suggested items to bring, copied from St. Louis Assessor’s office (https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/assessor/frequently-asked-questions) 

1.       Appraisal – By one of the independent St. Louis appraisers, that reflects the market conditions as of January 1 of the most recent reassessment year.

2.       Sales Contract – That reflects an “arm’s length” transaction on the open market. (An “arm’s length” transaction is a sales agreement between two individuals who have previously never met. A non-arm’s length transaction would be the same as a parent selling their child a property at a discount.)

3.       Closing Statement – That reflects an “arm’s length” transaction on the open market.

4.       Photos – That show the existing structural issues or conditions that a buyer may require a seller to repair prior to closing, or that might affect the market value beyond what the Assessor has already taken into account.

5.       Repair Estimates – That shows structural issues or conditions that might affect the market value of the house.

6.       Statement of Construction Costs – That reflects recent bills or statements that demonstrate the value of new construction or additions.

7.       Comparable Sales – Sales of similar houses in the same or comparable neighborhood that occurred before January 1 of the most recent reassessment year; information is available on the County website.

You may not need all of these depending on your case.

Janet Horlacher

Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate

What Does the Interest Rate Hike Mean to Us?

Categories: General Real Estate Market Selling Your Home St. Louis Luxury Homes

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced raising the Federal Funds rate (the rate which banks lend money to other banks for overnight borrowing) by one quarter percentage point.   Historically, an interest rate hike sends Realtors into an emotional frenzy.  This time, however, I have heard very little push back and I think this is why: 

1.       We all anticipated the rate hike.  Generally, we don’t like surprises, so it just confirmed what we already thought.

2.       We are happy the economy is performing better; unemployment is under 5% (4.7% in February); 200,000 jobs are being added per month; and the stock market is at record levels (actually closing higher on Wednesday).

3.       Mortgage rates remain historically low.  After the announcement, the 30-year rate rose from 4.21% to 4.30%.  If you’re like me and purchased your first home with a 12% mortgage, this still seems like a pretty good deal. 

4.       Real estate sales are gaining steam.  In our market area, 65 homes went under contract from Wednesday to Friday.  71 homes are pending, which means they are scheduled to close. 

As Realtors, we can’t predict the future.  But for now, we are seeing positive economic signs, confidence and optimism.  I’ll take that any day!

 

Janet Horlacher

 

Principal, Janet McAfee