Monday, November 24, 2008

To Live or To Sell!

Downtown st louis lofts for lease
Last month at the Downtown Neighborhood Nights, we ran into one of our clients. With so much for them to do and see, we didn't spend too much time talking except for a few brief minutes. How's your life? Do you enjoy your space? etc.

We found out they had become the Association President too.

That brought up the subject of how they had chosen to implement leadership in the building.

One topic that seems to be coming up lately as a problem for people trying to sell is the creative RENTAL RESTRICTIONS have been implemented in some of the loft buildings downtown.

It seems that buyers, when faced with a decision between two or three lofts will choose one with less restrictive by-laws. Their "short list". That often times one of the determining factors is conveyed like this, "well if I ever needed to rent this one, I could." Of course some loft buyers have every intention of renting out their space at some point of their ownership.

We discussed that with our client. He cited some research that was provided regarding appreciation levels in comparable buildings. One building chose to "manage" its residents affairs with edicts and fines. Another similar building had higher fees with less restrictions. According to the study, in this situation price appreciation was higher in the building with less restrictions. Instead of being heavy handed, the condo association held parties and mixers in the building so that residents could get together and talk about issues in an informal setting.

Of course, I have no idea what study this is or the validity. There could be other factors not made clear in our discussion.

It seems interesting though, that the lofts we are trying to sell with the most difficulty have strict rental restrictions while the units that seem to sell faster have less absolute restrictions regarding rentals or other matters. Since the summer, we've actually sold more units in the Syndicate than any other building. While prices are drastically lower in resale units,

Also interesting to me is that often times condo board members we talk to only cite the negative problems that rentals can cause and seemingly have little or no interest in how restrictions can stiffle resale. Seemingly there are two sides to the matter, and those that believe having strict limits on rentals do so because they are entirely focused on the buildings livability and fear of renters. Selling and resale value tends to not be as high of a consideration. The minority of people selling seem to take up the issue of association restrictions at times, but as people leaving the group, they have little influence. As a realtor, of course, we'd like to think we focus on the "big picture" but my primary interest with buyer's is usually resale.

Condo assocations to have to consider the number of leases allowed in a building to keep the building "warrantable". Usually that number is a maximum of 40-49% leased units. The former giant Pyramid had a brilliant scheme: to only allow rentals for "original owners" creating a noble class within their buildings. This really was a scheme that allowed them to sell with less trouble, and to reduce competition for them down downt the road. Members of the noble class always seem to embrace this right. Sometimes those affected by strict rules talk lawsuit: forcing the will of one onto the many. That doesn't seem like the way things should be handled either.

No matter how this issue is viewed, or any other, one thing clear is that setting policy in condo associations can be a delicate matter. No training or education is required to be elected to the board or to lease, but having some collective wisdom or case studies available to those who serve would be nice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Help Design Lucas Park TONIGHT!

Downtown St. Louis Lucas Park
In just 30 minutes from now, a "design charette" will be held at Crepes in the City, 500 N 14th St. It should last until about 9. Plenty of discussion has led up to this event in hopes to transform the current space into a more useful and welcoming park for all the city residents.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Holiday Thought.........SHOP DOWNTOWN!

downtown st louis santa

A Big topic of discussion this year is holiday retail shopping. Turn on the news. There's talk of the economy and its effects on how much a person will spend on gifts this season. Our thoughts aren't how much, but where our money is spent.

Growing up in suburbia, no one really had to worry where they shopped. Most shops were owned by big business paying minimum wage to its employees. My wife, on the other hand, grew up not far from me but had an entirely different outlook. There were the malls and all the big box retailers, but there were a few strip malls nearby her home with mostly independent businesses. It was important to her to support them because without LOCAL SUPPORT, the storefronts that made up that community would be empty.

Looking at the downtown streetscape, what's different? Particularly around the residential areas, take out the Sprint store and what's left? Small, locally owned and operated independent businesses; many of which are owned by downtown residents!

There was a big increase in store openings in the past year which really helps everyone. Turning around empty or unsightly street level retail does more to change public perception of an area than having 100 occupied lofts sitting above them.

Earlier in the year, we posted about shopping downtown. That was more about the city not being supportive of the downtown retail district.

This is the call to all city and downtown residents and workers. With the economy suffering and retail sales lagging, it's more important than EVER to take care of your own neighborhood by SHOPPING THERE! From my experience as a realtor, downtown residents always get excited by stores and restaurants opening up in and around their building. The thought of these same residents leaving the downtown area to shop would be a disappointment.

Last week, Mrs. G was out with a friend from Springfield MO, enjoying THE LONDON TEA ROOM and Sushi at Wasabi when they did a little window shopping at the new ladies accessory shop D'Elegance, someone pulled them inside and they began holiday shopping. Do your part by adding your "wish list" items from stores downtown and supporting them! Not only will it benefit the owners, the local residents but also will keep tax revenue in the city. SHOP DOWNTOWN!