Thursday, December 10, 2009

Benefits of Foreclosures

Downtown St Louis real estate
Right now, I've had just about enough of foreclosures! Hearing that the Arcade Building is being foreclosed on was somewhat of a relief though and I'm not sure why.

Maybe its because of what felt like a big "land grab" back in 2004-2006 as rival developers postured to see who could stake out the remaining gems downtown. Prices for abandoned buildings rose as high as $30/square foot. This surge in buying somehow seemed to force development downtown much too quickly and at to high a cost for the then market to support. By itself, completing the Arcade may not have posed a monumental challenge at that time, considering that the Syndicate Trust underwent a similar conversion. Going back to that time though, Pyramid was unable to sell out the remainder of the Banker's Lofts and had 50% of the Dorsa Lofts to sell also. Both of these projects were priced at less than $150/square foot(base price) while the the Arcade shows a price of just over $200/ square foot for a unit that included parking.

The Post Dispatch article announcing the foreclosure blames the "nationwide housing collapse" for the foreclosure. That's as close to the truth as if the Culinaria purchased 4 times the amount of bananas it normally sells in a week and bumps the prices up 46% then blames the economy for the not selling. Ridiculous! I won't even touch the "housing collapse" comment except to say that a 20% drop in prices is hardly a collapse.

Like so many people following this buildings history and future, my hope is that someone with a viable plan can step in once the building is priced right. This foreclosure just might be the first step in seeing that process move forward. Map of 800 Olive shows the location in the heart of downtown adjactent to the Old Post office and Metrolink Station. My take isn't more condominiums, but rather a custom build out for a corporate headquarters along with a slight mix of retail and possibly some apartments or corporate housing. With such a phenomenal building and perfect location, who could resist?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Downtown North?

Remember when Ballpark Village, the MX Exchange and the Bottle District were all being unveiled and in competition with each other for the new hot commercial zone in downtown St Louis? Having downtown built out in every direction with great new places to go seemed far fetched, but exciting. How could it all come together.....could it all come together?

Obviously that answer was, " uh..NO".

This new bit of information was released today about some plans for the Bottle District site.

While the work HRI did on the Merchandise Mart Loft Apartments has been allegedly some of the worst construction downtown, somehow this new project is exciting. The area to the north of the downtown area can really benefit from some affordable loft style housing and its obvious that the 'big picture' for the Bottle District won't come together as one giant plan as previously announced. Building the area block by block will do. While the Art Lofts, City Museum and the Syndicate have some great amenities geared for artists, downtown has still been limited in the area of affordable yet updated homes. We'll see if this plan takes off. In this day and age, building an effective plan to obtain financing is a long shot contingent on many factors.

Lets just hope this plan includes soundproofed walls & floors!

Friday, October 23, 2009

St Louis downtownBack in my younger days, I was an avid hiker. Hiking the Grand Canyon was the coolest thing for me, but one of the focal points was being able to dine at Phantom Ranch at the bottom.

Interestingly, most of the time, I didn't do it. Out of 4 hikes, I usually didn't have the time or money. One time it was in my plans, but I would have had to wait an hour for lunch, and I had another leg of hiking to do before nightfall. There just was a mystique about having a restaurant that was entirely supported by mule trains.

There have been talks about getting local controlSt Louis Arch Grounds of the archgrounds so that we can make more of the space. On one visit with my (at the time) two boys, I saw crumbling improvements and a space that didn't seem to favor the current National Park Service management of the place.

Today, the Post Dispatch reported that there may be some changes on the horizon. The local control idea was dropped in favor of beaurocracy of the NPS. Sounds good. I think of the initial Arch Grounds being cleared in the 30's, the competition for the design in '47 and the arch completion in '66. A real plug for beaurocracy, huh?

The good news is that they are open to making the changes and taking a national landmark and really making it an experience.

As a child, we took field trips to places like the Arch, the Zoo, etc. I remember as a child thinking that the Arch and its associated museum were sort of lame. Some would argue that speaks more to my sense of entitlement than to the Arch. I wouldn't argue, but watching the downtown renaissance unfold over the past decade, I'm more inclined to think that we can do better with the Arch Grounds too.

My thought from here is to shout out to the public to PARTICIPATE!! Especially the creative types: architects, artists, visionaries, entrepeneurs. It seems that society often relies on the decisions of the "ruling class". One perk of the NPS is that they level the playing field and truly look for the best plans. That doesn't mean that St Louisan's should sit back and play the waiting game. Check for the news release once it's posted on the National Park Service news site and give some input. The community will benefit more from participation now rather than sitting back and criticizing later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where's Tonto?

Tonto moves to Downtown St Louis The 2009 Downtown St Louis Residential Survey is out!

More amazing that there are no Native Americans surveyed as living downtown is that there are actually 5 people that think downtown has taken a step back. Ok?!? The only way I can concieve of that answer is if someone really relies on Highway 64/40 to get to work. Westward travel has taken a step back, and particularly in the last year. Thankfully we're rounding the stretch there.

Downtown residents are still fascinated by Reverend Rice, check.

Downtown residents would like some large scale retail, check.

Overall, downtown residents are happy about living downtown, check.

As a rule, the results of this survey still seem one dimensional to me. I'm curious if any homeless people were given this survey, or residents residing in affordable housing...

Its still a good survey, and hopefully its use will continue to build upon the growth of businesses seeking a downtown location.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Anouncement about St. Louis Center

As far as I'm concerned, Downtown St. Louis doesn't need St. Louis Center.

There was a day when an anouncement regarding a major development downtown would generate a buzz downtown and people would be talking. Now, either anouncements have become white noise, or we just don't care. There have been so many big plans unveiled, so many ribbon cuttings, and so many projects that have given us what we want in regards to an urban environment.

Indeed, based upon combined effects, this bit of news about the former St. Louis Center site sort of rubbed me the wrong way. The good news though, is that this is not really an anouncement or a ribbon cutting or even about tax credits. This is about money (approximately 17% of the total costs) which has been the sticking point on
all projects lately.

The Business Journal had its post on the matter as well. Both describe the opposition to the plan being mainly initiated by bribes from the building prospectively vacated by the moving law firm.

Of particular interest is how would the former St. Louis Center be re-developed. Prior plans called for condos and retail. It seems that both retail and condos would not be as easily financed and developed as they were in the past. The location would be phenomenal though and having residences spread further into downtown would add a nice element to the area.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Time to Get Out this Weekend!

Juggling fun opportunities in St. LouisThis weekend is an awesome weekend to be in St. Louis! There are some great things to do and not enough time to do everything :( (unless you're the Funky Butt Brass Band)

My first pick is Taste of St. Louis downtown. It started today and runs through Sunday. Beyond the typical Foodie event, there's tons of Art and Music too. On my trips downtown I 've been watching them get ready for this for nearly a week now. I'll be disappointed if I can't make it over on Sunday!!

I'm mostly excited about another event, partially because its new and partly because its practically in my back yard. The Morganford Music & Street Festival is only one day, Saturday. On a side note, its exciting because I remember when this section of Morganford consisted of mostly board up run down ugly buildings with a 7-11 and a ratty car wash. Now the ratty car wash and 7-11 are surrounded by an up and coming walkable community. Grocer, cafe's, barbers, some great restaurants & bars and ending with the beautiful Marti's Garden ( a memorial garden for St. Louis activist and St. Louis City Realtor Marti Frumhoff).

I noticed that the Funky Butt Brass Band (a very cool local act) will be on Morganford in the Afternoon and then Downtown at 7:30pm. What a day! Since I'll be out of the area for the morning and most of the afternoon, I won't be able to make it until Javier Mendoza goes on at 7. Since they don't have a website, the fun is located at Juniata and Morganford in the Tower Grove South Neighborhood from 12pm to 9pm.

Lastly, the Historic Shaw Art Fair is not just another Art Fair. Growing up in the suburbs, I would attend art fairs on some vacant school parking lot and didn't get too excited. Going to the Historic Shaw Art Fair is nothing like that! Set in the street of Flora Place surrounded by gorgeous historic mansions, great entertainment and plenty of great HOMEGROWN ART, Its an event I attend annually. When the real estate market picks up, I look forward to an art buying spree there. Maybe next year :) This year I'll just have fun with my kids and start to scope out possibilities.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Difference of Downtown

old fashioned real estateThe Sunday Open House is a real estate tradition. All over the region and throughout the country one can see agents and their balloons dashing about on weekends to hold down the fort at an open house somewhere.

Holding open houses downtown during the weekend is a hit or miss affair. Like any event, there are many contributing factors to the level of activity. The largest segment of the people who use downtown, those that work downtown are almost entirely out of the picture. In general, people who commute downtown during the week aren't likely to want to visit downtown on their days off.

Looking at some other more established urban communities, we've found that some urban real estate companies have abandoned all together the notion of the weekend open house for a week night open house. What a concept!

Last year the Downtown Partnership held an evening tour. While the attendance wasn't through the roof, it was refreshing to be able to see people have the opportunity to get off work and check some lofts out before the trek into suburbia.

We'd love some feedback. Our first slate of week night open houses are being held next Thursday, September 17th. We'll have lofts open at the Railway Lofts, the Printer's Lofts, and 2020 Lofts.
Downtown St Louis open Lofts

Monday, September 07, 2009

Centenary Tower on the Block

St Louis real estate
Residents of the Terra Cotta lofts and Printer's Lofts should have a keen interest in the fate of the Centenary Tower building located across the street. A classified ad in the St. Louis Business Journal this week is advertising its foreclosure sale on September 23rd at the Civil Courts building.

The apartments located there were closed in 2007 because of mismanagement. Closing it was a good thing for the neighborhood at the time. Hopefully a new owner will be willing to re-establish the building as a positive part of the Downtown West neighborhood.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Look Forward to Fall

St Louis Condos
The field of real estate, like any other, is fraught with pre-concieved notions. I love watching HGTV, but one thing that television has a tendency to do is distort reality, even in (especially in) reality TV.

One notion I had early on in my career was that real estate sales are seasonal. That season, in my mind, would last from about April through August. Surviving from September through March would depend upon how busy we were during the so called "selling season". This myth, one that is widely shared, was the first to go.

The last few weeks seems to have picked up downtown. Some attribute it to the Culinaria opening, any number of positive factors can be added. Lots of pieces to the big puzzle are coming together in Downtown St Louis.

Reality though, is that real estate sales don't just happen in the summer. While sales are still lagging, they seem to have picked up from July and August, which are nearly as slow as January-February. In the past two weeks, clients have called with a greater concern about whether we should just "close up shop" and take their listing off the market for now. While that may be the right move for some, it isn't a rule. The interesting thing about the market is that activity in the range of $250,000 to $500,000 has nearly always been relatively slow during the summer months and picks up during the fall and winter months.

The bottom line, its still a great time to buy rather than sell. It's impossible to predict the future, but as the plans in motion to revitalize downtown continue to move forward, so will the presently fragile real estate market.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A "CAN DO!" Town

downtown st louis developmentSomething evident in St. Louis is our "Geographical Inferiority Complex" when it comes to development. Some say it's well earned. Others say its overstated.

Last week while traveling down Market Street towards the Gateway Arch and passed CityGarden. I was telling my sister, visiting from Albequerque, about how cool our newest downtown destination was. Her experience living in New York City, Phoenix and Albequerque prompted a comment about how controversial that type of project can be. That got me thinking. Here was a project that was being planned and completed over several years and not only was it not controversial, it didn't really seem to have much fanfare, positive or negative, until it was done (LoftsintheLou post from 10/2007).

What's better is that the talk of the town now is sprucing up the rest of downtown to keep up with those fantastic two blocks. The contrast between CityGarden and the surrounding blocks is blatant. Just today the St Louis Beacon published a good story about the movement underway to continue what was started or re-started with CityGarden. While any time development is proposed or discussed, one can't get their hopes up too much; not just St. Louis, but anywhere.

The good news is that the forward momentum of our little rennaisance continues to move forward in Downtown St. Louis. The enjoyment of our city will continue to grow and prosper. To all the doubters, "It Can Be Done!"

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Culinaria Opens Tuesday

Looking at the week, the long awaited opening of the "new Schnucks" is a welcome milestone for downtown. Having a full sized grocer downtown will be great for the area and a long awaited convenience.

Growing up in suburban St. Louis, there was no grocer in my neighborhood. In fact, we drove over 2 miles to buy food. No one seemed worried about our inability to buy food.

For some reason not having a grocery store downtown was a lightning rod for controversy; even after City Grocers and several small markets opened, the controversy continued. It seems that the subject is appealing to the suburbanite base in our community. They like it. Aparently so does the Post Dispatch.

Today's article is titled such that a Tuesday's opening of Culinaria would test whether Downtown St Louis is "truly back".

This line of thinking is pervasive in "outsider's" downtown. Once while walking th e streets with a loft buyer downtown, they asked me if downtown was struggling because one restaurant had closed. Around that time, I posted on the subject and how business closings elsewhere didn't seem to cause the same negative bias. Today I was working in Suburban West County, and was not at all suprised to see many stores closing. My buyer's didn't ask why West County was faltering.

As a lifelong St. Louisan, I continue to be impressed with the growth and direction of the downtown neighborhoods. The popular negativity surrounding this positive phenomenon is a disappointing reflection on the negativity that our community has for positive change and our primary print news publications never ending inability to grasp the fantastic energy still helping downtown move forward.

Of course, when praising the progress downtown becomes the fashion, the Post, if its still in business, will be there to take some credit.

In the mean time, I hope to make it to the Grand Opening Tuesday. While I do applaud Schnucks for opening downtown, I would have been more impressed had they been willing to open up in the Century Building. It would have made a better grocery store than the lower levels of a garage. Of course, they are in the business of "We Make It Easy" and selling food--not renovating historic structures.

When its all said and done, I'm really curious to see what percentage of downtown residents stop driving to the grocery store.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

See you at the Plaza

Downtown St LouisWhen we started working downtown in 2004, selling it wasn't much of an option. You either had an appreciation for the urban landscape, or you didn't. Despite the ongoing progress, the area was still desolate. The closest thing to a useful public plaza was the gathering of homeless folks in Lucas Park. The downtown population stood at about 9600. Half of which was below market rate housing and 92% was rental. Despite all that, there was hope and plans for the future.

As downtown continued to develop, it seemed as if each time a large project was completed, that a piece of the puzzle was set in place.

Today and through the weekend the Post Office Plaza will be having its grand opening. The ribbon cutting, scheduled for 4pm will undoubtedly be a crowd pleaser. There is entertainment and children's shows tomorrow.

For some reason, the work that's going on to enhance our public space downtown is exciting. In my travels, places that have nice urban plazas adjacent to a good mix of retail, entertainment, commercial and residential spaces seem to add a positive energy to the city. What appears to seperate this space from the many other spots around downtown is that its location fits the density profile of a good urban plaza. Time will tell.

In the mean time I'll be enjoying the festivities this weekend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Clean & Green

st louis real estateLast week I was picking up a future loft buyer at the Hampton Inn downtown and noticed that activity was picking up at the adjacent Urban Garden 2200 Pine. Spring season is upon us and some of the coolest events to participate in are upon us. Operation Brightside and Gateway Greening team up for the Urban Roots project on May 9th and 10th. Getting out and beautifying the urban landscape does a lot for the neighborhood and the region in general.

Also on May 9th, Operation Brightsides clean up St. Louis Project Blitz will take place in Downtown.

Traditionally there has been a good turn out in Downtown for both of these events. There is also the opportunity to buy plants and donate to help make this year's event a success. Visit Operation Brightside or Gateway Greening for more information.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Loft Deals Scooped Up

St Louis loft pricing
I bought my first home in February. It was strategic. My thought was, who in their right mind would be running around in the snow looking at homes. With a prospectively lower demand, supply constant, prices would drop.

This February, prices were favorable too. Still not as good as the media seems to think. A sports reporter talking to Cardinals 3rd baseman made the comment that his house bought last year had dropped 50% in value. He should stick to sports. Real estate values look great compared to stocks. Bucking the trend elsewhere, only one sale was a foreclosure. Several banks seemed to stop accepting offers last month due to the larger forces of government stimulus and equity transfers.

Two Units sold were new construction. Favorably priced, but still above the resale market, pushing up the average pricing.

Click Here to see the February 2009 St. Louis Loft Sales

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Love To Hate

st louis real estateChecking out the site tonight, I happened to notice the bottom right corner of my screen had the most commented upon stories. Whaddya know. LOFT DISTRICT was #1!

The story isn't new, but the article was from today. The Washington Avenue Apartments are housing veterans that were formerly homeless through some St. Patricks Center program[Project HERO].

The whole deal sounds good except for two small things. 1. When a group of any potentially risky people move into ANY neighborhood, there will be concerns and complaints. Inadequate notice and information seems to have been provided. 2. There is plenty of space in the City of St. Louis, Downtown has an inordinately large percentage of the special services for homeless.

All & all, the program sounds well thought out and managed. Not being an expert on programs to assist former homeless people, I was impressed with the operation as it was portrayed in the Post Dispatch article. There were several restrictions (no sex offenders, no dishonorable discharged veterans) and other checks and balances (weekly sobriety checks, on site supervision).

Unfortunately not all parties were portrayed in such a positive light.

The news stories that have been on the wire for the past Washington Avenue St Louis
few days have the central theme that Downtown residents are outraged about this wonderful program for the formerly homeless veterans. Ironically, aside from the news stations & paper, the subject hasn't come up in any of my conversations with downtown residents this week.

What really inspired this post isn't my opinion of social programs for veterans but the negative perceptions that seem to exist for downtown residents. Read the comments after the story, its hideous! After a couple minutes, I was thinking that downtown residents need to hire downtown PR Firm Fleishman Hilliard or Weber Shandwick to improve thier image. Sincerely! Now, reading the comments after PD stories often makes about as much sense as what my 3 year old tells me. But I really started to question whether such a negative perception is common and if so, what affect it has on the growth and prosperity of downtown. Based on many of the comments, I would say the perception of Downtown St. Louis residents is an unpatriotic affluent yuppie with a sense of entitlement and a hatred for their fellow man.

Interestingly, I never thought of St. Louis as a 'military town,' but in my experience assisting people buying and selling downtown real estate, I've worked with 8 active military clients in the past, with two active military clients currently working with me and a few veteran contractors that work for the military as civilians. Statistically, the military is the largest employer of my clients, so the assault on downtown residents having "never served their country" is bogus.

Another total false-hood is that downtown residents as a whole can't live near the homeless. Obviously this topic isn't new. My very first client downtown lived in the Knickerbocker with a view into Lucas Park. Then and now; I've heard it all. Summing up everything though, most downtown residents are more concerned that 1. a small percentage of the homeless feel that rules don't apply to them, don't appear to be trying to improve their situation and are simply BAD NEIGHBORS, and 2. that as a society in general, and in several cases specifically, services to the homeless can be illegally handled and poorly appropriated. As an observer, things seem to have improved drastically since 2004, especially the overall appearance of Lucas Park. [Thanks, by the way, to all the Selfish entitled unpatriotic commie yuppie jerk downtown residents that spent thier weekends picking up trash and cleaning up after the homeless in Lucas Park back in the Fall.] (Had my bride and I not been in the middle of having our 3rd child, we would have helped.)

The bottom line, thanks again, in no small part to the Post Disgrace, people seem to "love to hate" downtown residents. Unlike T.O., in this case there's no basis in fact. (They were even ripping on Downtown residents for not having a grocer nearby. What's wrong with City Grocers?!?) Interestingly, the article cited two downtown residents that had opposition to the project. Both had business interests in downtown as well. Then two people that were in the Project HERO. So apparently that's all it takes to really get people ticked off and hating downtown is 2 people out of 11,000. I can't imagine that 0.018% of the population anywhere else has controversial opinion the Post can write about. Good luck to the men in HERO. Enjoy downtown!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Syndicate Motel

This weekend I left my home as some guy was hammering a sign at the corner, "RENT YOUR HOME FOR $5000 DURING THE ALL-STAR GAME". (My illustrious block captain has since removed the sign). The thought did cross my mind. Who couldn't use an extra Five Grand these days.

Then I got an email this morning from a client who had purchased a loft last year who had read the Post Dispatch story on how downtown residents are looking to cash in. "Can I rent my place out for the weekend?"

Having read through many condo by-laws, this subject is usually addressed early on. Having my own personal CONDOMINIUM DOCUMENT library, I thumbed through a few different associations. My question is where do they find people to write these things? Its almost like the same person writes it. "No Residential Unit may be leased or subleased for transient or hotel purposes or for an initial term of less than one (1) year for residential units;"
Each building had some form of that sentence.

The thought actually is scary what downtown buidings could be like if this activity were allowed. Hotels have 24 hour security, maintenance, and all kinds of administration to make sure that people can do what they came for. A loft building would be a whole different operation. It would be psycho!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Business is Business

Lately business hasn't been great. Not necessarily real estate, but any business. Consumer's are tightening their belts, businesses are doing the same, and a whole chain reaction follows. News of the present economic challenges are everywhere, why loftsinthelou?

Last week I was in two places I would consider prime business locations. At Meramec & Carondelet, adjacent to the St. Louis County Government Center and Courthouse in the heart of Clayton and at West County Mall in Des Peres. Noticing that J Bucks closed its West County Mall location and another restraunt closed at the corner of Meramec and Carondelet, it was a sign that the economic woes are everywhere. Even at arguably some of the best locations in the region, businesses are struggling.

Even some well managed businesses are failing. My rants are always about poorly managed companies or bad business plans. Some companies that are run successfully for many years just don't have the reserves to withstand the adverse climate.

What's the point? The businesses in Downtown need our support. Also, there still seems like there's a negative bias about the ability of stores to survive downtown and that when a shop closes downtown or moves out of downtown that its because of the area and not all the other factors.

One news source that seems to always represent downtown well is the St. Louis Business Journal. This weeks issue's special section "Doing Business Downtown" talked a great deal about some of the factors facing downtown.

One thing that was sort of annoying was an article talking about condo projects going rental. It does happen, but a quote from one developer talked about the tax credit advantages of going rental like they were really benefiting from the whole thing. Nutty really, considering the same developer had 5 or 6 mechanics liens published a few pages later for unpaid bills to a contractor. Condo buildings that have gone rental have done so ONLY to avoid eminent foreclosure. What would have been an improvement would be if they also addressed the implications that these developers actions had on their owner occupied units and thier ability to re-sell. I guess that every angle can't be covered. That may come up in next years issue.

Things keep moving forward though and downtown St. Louis will be one area that continues to grow during these tough times.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

FHA Approval and Buying a Loft

Ballpark Lofts are FHA APPROVED
We had our open house at the Ballpark Lofts yesterday and for a while it seemed as if the housing market was back in full swing! Getting so much interest there was almost enough excitement to make up for having to postpone our trip to Cancun scheduled for today.

Someone asked me a question that I take for granted as a realtor and someone who specializes in St. Louis lofts: "So how does this being 'FHA approved' benefit me?"

Back in May 2008, when all of the sudden FHA loans were a big deal in lending again, we did 2 posts to Lofts in the Lou (My Day at the FHA part 1, My Day at the FHA part 2 )that addressed some aspects of FHA financing and some of the flaws in the approval process.

The basics of getting any loan that seems to be more relevant today is that the money lender has to approve of 3 things before loaning money: the borrower, the buy, and the reason. To get any home mortgage, the bank begins the process by approving the borrower (checking credit, income, assets & liabilities). Once the buyer selects a home, regardless of it being a house or condo, the lender must approve the property too. This usually comes with an appraisal.

Condominiums can be complicated. Appraisers don't have the time or access to obtain enough information about the condominium association, its funding, etc. so the bank usually takes care of that. It can be difficult at times. There are several different types of bank reviews that occur when dealing with a condo, but the two basic options are "limited review" and "full review". Buying a condo or loft in a previously FHA APPROVED building helps the process because then your lender would be able to obtain a speedy approval through a limited review.

Most home sales take roughly 30 days to complete. Often times home buyer's think that the process of getting a loan mostly involves shopping for the best rate and everything else falls into place. NOT TRUE! The process of getting financing is only begining during the initial consultations. Usually a good lender can make the process seem like everything falls into place. Getting lenders not fully competent in financing condos can make the process seem like an arduous nightmare.

So my answer to the buyer's question: "How does FHA approval benefit me?" would be that having one fairly big piece of the puzzle already in place will give a borrower more options in financing, a smoother transaction, significantly less down-payment required, and an assumable loan (another story, but a great benefit when selling).

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Get Down to the Ballpark!

St. Louis Ballpark Lofts
Last month we were able to list the Ballpark Lofts! A Blue Urban project, these lofts were long thought to be sold out within 1 day. An NFL style draft was a great concept, but did, combined with the recession, didn't work out past the theory. As downtown specialists, never heard until recently that there were some units that didn't close that had come back on the market.

So today, the buildings completed. The units are spectacular, many having views of the stadium, Stan Musials statue and the Gateway Arch. Spring training starts next week, and in a short time the area surrounding Busch Stadium will take on a new life as it does every year.

We're holding the lofts open today for the first time and we have a special buyer's incentive! Any unit reserved today will receive a custom paint package at closing!

The open house will be from 12pm to 3! We hope to see you there!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Urban Oasis

Construction means different things to different people. In general, it pushes people away. Sidewalks are closed. Construction vehicles, dump trucks, cranes and fences take up the sidewalks and block off the area. Prior uses of a space come to a halt and the project takes over.

Right now, there are two projects nearing completion that are currently in the state described above. Thier eminent completion this spring/summer will revamp downtown in a much needed direction.

This weeks St. Louis Business Journal had an article about the Post Office Plaza and how its problems are being addressed. The unanticipated costs of construction is nerve-wracking. In this case, assuming a parking lot hadn't been the construction dump from a prior building at that location was the problem. Kudos to the Danforth Foundation and the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis in keeping the project moving forward. In order to repay a loan from the Danforth Foundation, organizations or idividuals can purchase "naming rights" to park benches for $7500, so businesses like mine who are just shy of buying naming rights to a sports arena can participate.

Just a few blocks away from the Old Post Office
is the nearly complete CITY GARDEN. Expected to be completed by mid summer, this park between 8th and 10th along Market will be another opportunity to showcase downtown and give residents and visitors an enjoyable hiatus. Unlike the plaza style of Post Office Plaza, the combination of art and nature is a welcome addition.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

St. Louis City Sales Data 2007 & 2008

Last week, I put down a fair amount of information on the downtown real estate market and provided the sales information about the area. I also talked a bit about how the year of 2008 felt for a real estate professional (2008 Real Estate Sales Downtown ).

The post is something I've tried to do for a few years. Putting the year in perspective.

Of course, that was just downtown.

Hearing a news broadcast yesterday, I heard some remark about housing values and felt that the report was misinformation; exagerating the markets downturn.

Today I pulled up the city wide sales statistics. Looking at single family residential, condominiums and multi-family homes, the report is included below, but the most notable data follows:

Year----Total Sales Number/$ Value----Average Price---Days on Market

2007--------5000 / $701,227,559---------$140,246---------------88

2008--------4532 / $515,009,046---------$113,638---------------99


Thursday, January 22, 2009

2008 Real Estate Sales Downtown

St. Louis Lofts
This post is something I've been thinking about all year. After 2007, as a realtor, I felt kicked around. As we found out a few months ago, a recession started in December of 2007 and we could feel it. My annual Downtown St. Louis real estate sales post,was appropriately titled "To Forget or Not to Forget 2007." We were starting to notice problems on the horizon. Regardless of the hard work or the below market pricing, some listings just wouldn't sell. That was a new problem. Buyer's were surfacing into the market with a cut-throat mentality. Low-ball offers and walking away after the first counter.....another strange new anomoly. Despite the changes that were just appearing on the horizon, as things continued to get progressively more difficult and bizzare in 2008, that post came to mind.

Despite getting harder, the market makes sense today. A year ago, we were still waiting for over 2000 units to flood the market. Nearly all of those had to become rentals as demanded by the bank. Developer's had to start taking responsibility for the loans. Some couldn't.

Pyramids collapse in April was a dismal blow. Despite the numbers not making sense, John Steffen had a vision for our city that was adopted by many. "Paris on the Mississippi" was his line. His ability to do so much at one time was questionable, and ultimately a big part of the company's demise, but the end result was something worth believing in.

The financial crisis which played a big part in Pyramid's collapse has taken its toll on just about all projects downtown and elsewhere, from Ballpark Village to our listing at Westgate Lofts not being completed. Easy street is no more.

When the media covers the financial crisis, the stress always seems to be on foreclosures and personal finance, when the bigger news seems to be the effect on large scale commercial projects. Being out with a buyer a few days ago, they insinuated that the shift in scale of Ballpark Village was proportional to the ability of downtown to sustain that project. My thought and comment was that projects all over the world have been scrapped, delayed,reduced, or changed like Brown Shoe and more recently the Shriner's Hospital.

Foreclosures and relocation sales have taken thier toll on the sales prices this past year. Appraisals are supposed to take similar properties in similar sales conditions. Not using a distressed property to compare with a property being sold "at market" is the standard, but unfortunately, in some places, there aren't any sales taking place other than foreclosures or relocation sales. In this regard, downtown is fortunate. Foreclosures are prevalent, but not the majority of sales. Looking at the sales data though, seeing a loft sell for around $100 per square foot is just wild. The condition of these units are often times horrible.

To sum it all up personally, feeling "bashed in the face with a baseball bat" didn't feel good last year. Now the real estate market is all about getting "bashed." Interestingly though, it's not as bad as the media makes it out to be. We're having the best January as a company we've ever had. Interest rates are favorable and supply is good for buyer's. For seller's it can be horrible unless able to price extraordinarily low and STILL get low-balled.

Happy New Year! Here are the MLS sales from 2008.

Year--#Sold-------$/Sq Ft----Ave.Days on Market-------Ave.Price

See The Whole Report Here

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Down to the Ballpark

Ballpark Village St LouisAs a realtor, I've been asked lots of times about the Ballpark Lofts. There really wasn't much to say for a long time. Things started up with an interest list, followed by an event "the NFL Style Draft" where each and every one of the units on floors 3-5 were reserved. Up until a month ago, I'd never heard anything different.

When we got a call from Kevin McGowan to help out with the building, it really excited me for three reasons: its the only "for sale" development within 2 blocks of Busch Stadium, they're move in ready, and lastly that they weren't really made available to realtors to share with buyer's due to the draft style reservations.

Once we got to the building and inside each and every unit left, I was impressed with the views and the modern finishes. With Spring Training starting today, I'm thinking of how the landscape will transform with Cardinal red coming so soon. Also with Ballpark Village's recent approval and removed residential components, these spaces will be the only ones available in Ballpark Village.

Contact us to check out the Ballpark Lofts and get one of the best spaces for Redbird season today!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do You Have to Sell Now?

St. Louis loft deals
I'm going out with a buyer this morning and am just blown away by the deals out there. Foreclosures, short sales, and just plain motivated sellers are pretty much all that's out there.

It begs the question that we ask all our prospective listings now; do you HAVE to sell NOW? In a bad real estate market, in the middle of winter, during a recession? Usually we get some derivitive of "yes" to that question. The bottom line, if you try to sell now, you're leaving money on the table--and having to compete for buyer's with those (especially relocation companies) that slash prices incredibly.

Unfortuantely for the buyers though, dealing with banks can be a nightmare. We work with them all the time in either foreclosures or short sales and they can really give the impression that they don't care about anyone.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year Ward 6

In the past, the downtown area has been exempt from having to perform occupancy inspections at the sale or change of residency of a loft or condo. As a side effect from the rift going on at the King Bee Building, it was ordained that buildings downtown would begin to be incorporated into the city's HOUSING CONSERVATION PROGRAM

In November, I checked with the office in room 406 of City Hall. As a city landlord and resident, these inspections are familiar. Asking when they would be adding downtown buildings, they told me to check back.

So it was strange, last week, when I did look up the Terra Cotta address to find that they, along with all the other downtown buildings in the 6th Ward, were now assigned to Conservation district 54. (This presently includes 2020 Lofts, Terra Cotta Lofts, The Annex Lofts, Printer's Lofts, Railway Lofts, Windows Lofts, King Bee Lofts, Paris Style Lofts, Knickerbocker Lofts, Garment Row Lofts, Denim Lofts and Westgate Lofts) All the buildings are scheduled to require occupancy inspections by July 1.

Looking at downtown, it should be interesting. Just like any other situation, being able to get the occupancy inspectors into a building requires more leg-work than necessary in a house. Its also one more step in the process of selling or renting your loft.