Tuesday, December 27, 2011

State of the Market: 2011, Coming Soon!

My annual market review is a pretty deal at LoftsintheLou.com, so what can I do to prepare.   A day at the City Museum, of course!  Other than several stiff drinks, nothing helps me to forget the real world better than hanging out with kids at the City Museum.   

Suprisingly, the real estate market is busy now.  Usually things slow down quite a bit at some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year we were running all the way up to the later holiday.  Despite that, the idea of showing all the loft sales for the year makes me nervous.

Back in the glory days of downtown real estate, I remember telling other agents that my seller's were "motivated".  That's a generic way of saying they want to do a deal.  

I say that about all my listings.  

In reality, I didn't know what 'motivated' meant back then, when seller's were making money, selling lofts they owned for a few months or more.  2011 was the year of the motivated seller.  

Of course, being the year of the motivated seller wasn't all that bad.  From 2008-2010 these same sellers may have been waiting to sell, and just rented their place out, or maybe went into foreclosure as they just didn't see the market rebounding quickly enough.  In 2011 some St Louis loft owners just lost patience and decided to sell......whatever it took.    Prices will reflect that.  

We've also seen some banks go this year.  

At the end of 2010, the bank that owned the remaining Dorsa Lofts went under and the FDIC took over where they left off in selling the remainder of the building.  The FDIC is a motivated seller.  Prices were slashed.  They weren't messing around.  The building was such a great deal, that it sold out quickly, which was good for the building and for Downtown.  

Some of the other bank owned sales were priced low.  Too low.  One that comes to mind was a 2 bedroom 2 bath in the Terra Cotta Lofts that went on the market on July 3rd.  Despite being on a holiday, the unit had 3 offers on it within days.  It was priced a hideously low $124,900.  I understand foreclosures, but that space had no business being priced that low.  

The rental market was the real hot spot in Downtown this year, with the completion of the Laurel and the Park Pacific.   Adding several hundred new rental units to the Downtown St Louis market had very little impact on demand or rental rates.   It did, as it always does, seem to give a shot in the arm to many of the Downtown businesses with more popularity and more residents.     I anxiously await the opening of the National Blues Museum at 601 Washington sometime in 2013.   The first event of the future Washington Avenue venue was last August and was a fantastic time!  We had a staycation planned Downtown for that weekend, and had given up on the Cardinals for the year, so the Bluesweek was the high light of the weekend.  

Another hot spot for 2011, on a personal level, was being interviewed by the St Louis Business Journal,  Post Dispatch and also for an article on "How to Buy a Loft" in Time.  

Of course, didn't I feel like a jerk when the Cardinals I had left for dead came back and won the Fall Classic?  Talk about great events and a shot in the arm for Downtown.  

So as soon as we can close out the books for downtown real estate in 2011, look for my breakdown of sales for the year here at LoftsintheLou.com.   For a quick look at what's available in the St Louis real estate market, including great deals on foreclosures, visit our new and improved site at www.4SaleStLouis.com.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy 20th Schlafly's!

The accolades for the rebirth of Downtown St Louis are usually given to Downtown Now, or the bankers, or the tax credits. It's hard to argue against the impact those entities had.

 Schlafly's Tap Room opened 20 years Ago today, and provided they type of business that helped generate excitement about rebuilding downtown for the first wave of downtown residents, before tax credits or new loft condos were around. The Posts article  frames Schlafly's as a pioneer in the Craft Beer industry, but they were a pioneer for Downtown St Louis too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Cheer!

'Tis the Season to shop downtown!  

With the Republican debates going on and almost nothing else taking on so much of the news cycle, its tough to talk more about the economy.  One thing that will help the economy is for the people who support downtown the most, its residents, to consider the shops and restaurants downtown as possible holiday gifts for friends and family.

A gift card to Mango would make me happy!  Santa (above) may have bought those pants from Eve's Apple Vintage by the Meridian.  Some artwork from the new 10th Street Gallery would really make someone's Christmas bright.

Having worked downtown for a while now, I've always noticed how excited residents get when a new place opens up close by, and how disappointed if it doesn't make it.   Vote with your feet and help downtown businesses have Happy Holidays too!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Got Junk?

As I type, the City's Preservation Board is re-considering the question of Cupples 7

Normally, I side with the preservationists. Buildings that can be salvaged should be.

In real estate though, we sometimes see the result when buildings that should be bulldozed but are salvaged.

Whether its economically not viable, or the building remains in shambles after the renovation; there are limits to what can be done.

Take Cupples 7. This has been a hot topic for years.

There was a thread on UrbanSTL back in 2005 that talked about the damage done to the building during its possession by Bank of America. Having a gravity fed sprinkler systems water tank crash through the roof and 5 floors would lead some to believe that the buildings structural integrity was questionable.

The same issue came up when we listed Cupples 8 (Ballpark I) in the early part of 2009. Uncertainty about what would be necessary to fix the structure was plaguing the developer.

In the case of Cupples 7, timing is everything. If there was more life and viability in the real estate market, both residential and commercial, we may be in business. If 300 lofts per year were being scooped up, or the vacancy rate on commercial office space was extremely low right now, there would be developer's lining up to take a crack at it.

Unfortunately that is not the case.

One other new factor is the tightening up of historic tax credits and other
subsidies. While there are still some buildings downtown that aren't being utilized, its not what we were faced with a decade ago. Lawmakers have to balance the need for the subsidy with other, more pressing needs. Downtown is not the charity case it used to be. After 5 billion in investments and a growth surge in population, many believe that downtown projects should be able to hold their own.

So while I would normally take the side of the preservationist, its unrealistic to disregard the position of the owner.

All we can ask, is PLEASE....Don't give us another parking lot!!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Need Affordable Housing Downtown?

Ever since Downtown St Louis started its renaissance in residential housing, some phenomenal homes have been built. As is the case with most newly constructed homes, the prices weren't considered "affordable" by many. Times have changed, and there are some phenomenal deals downtown. Unless someone is really familiar with the market, its difficult to realize what's a great deal, and what's not. Someone working with an agent from another area might miss out on the best opportunities. This home at the Terra Cotta Lofts is a GREAT DEAL! When you open the front door to this home, you're greeted with a view of the Gateway Arch and Downtown St Louis skyline. The layout is spacious and roomy.
Many downtown St Louis lofts have a 'shot gun' layout with bedrooms in the rear and no windows. This unit has a master suite with great views adn plenty of light.
During the peak of the market, units like this would get scooped up in a matter of days. So if you're interested in seeing what downtown living is all about, check out this space for starters. Getting this kind of views of the downtown skyline is a great way to experience the urban renaissance in downtown.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Looking to "see the sights" of Downtown between the Rock & Roll Marathon and the Rams Game?

Stop by one or both of our downtown OPEN LOFTS!  

Featured in Time.com, the fantastic 3000 sq. ft Loft at Jack Thompson is what many people think of when they consider downtown living.  Tons of open space, Tons of natural light, and great modern finishes.  Located at SW corner of Tucker & Washington.

The Syndicate Condominiums at 915 Olive are located in the heart of the OLD POST OFFICE DISTRICT and are selling out quickly.  Stop by before your floorplan sells out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Post-Season Bonus Burning a Hole in Your Pocket?

Watching the Cardinals muscle through the National League Championship Series was awe inspiring.  Last nights game notwithstanding.  

I was doing some searches for a downtown buyer with one eye while the other was fixed to the tv. 

The thought crossed my mind that all of the Cardinals would receive a post season bonus, and a fairly healthy one, for reaching the Fall Classic.   So out of curiosity, I started to look into the numbers to see how much of a loft one could buy with that bonus.

It's pretty tricky, and the Cardinals organization and player contracts have a great deal of say in how much a player gets.  

My projection was that the organization would get about 21.6 Million to split up between the team if they lose the series  and 32.4 Million if they win.

As affordable as the Downtown St Louis area is, players could really get a phenomenal space with the change they get from the post season play.

There are some exceptional penthouses available in the downtown area that would suit a redbird perfectly.  Close to work, secured entry and top level amenities.   

Even if you're not a Cardinal, but just want to take advantage of everything downtown has to offer, call the Premier Team for a no obligation tour of the fantastic urban homes available at Developer Close-Out Pricing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Enjoy Downtown, Workers!

Next Friday will be the Downtown St Louis Employee Apreciation Day. I'm a fan of the concept. Everyone in life obviously has their own perspective, and in watching the Downtown St Louis rebirth over the past several years, the one perspective that doesn't always change quickly is that of the downtown worker.

Years ago, a long time downtown worker was at a party we were attending. I was pumped up about downtown. They seemed drab. "Oh yeah...I remember the last time they tried to change things (talking about when St Louis Centre was built)." While there was a very cool influx of new residences and lots of other new plans, the overall landscape still hadn't changed much. This was in 2005.

At the time, we didn't see many veteran downtown workers climbing onto the downtown bandwagon. The typical buyers were looking
for an edgy neighborhood. Of the folks that worked downtown, most were recent grads that had just began their careers.

As time marched on, so did downtown
progress and the addition of the many things that make it the fastest growing St Louis neighborhood: new restaurants and businesses, more updated homes (both owned and rented), new public spaces and commerce.

At the same party each year, I run into the same veteran downtown worker. While she still doesn't live in a St Louis loft, her attitude about the progress downtown has changed from complete skepticism to appreciation for her improved surroundings.

The Partnership for Downtown St Louis have a great message to all the downtown workers with this years Downtown Employee Appreciation Day and many of their other efforts: ENJOY DOWNTOWN!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Turning Point....

Something is happening today that signals a turning point for the downtown neighborhood. The last developer owned unit at the Dorsa Lofts is scheduled to close, which is great news for the Dorsa building and for downtown.

When the Dorsa project was first unveiled I was excited. This was in september 2005. We were in a housing shortage downtown. Buyer's were looking downtown, only to find that the space they were looking for hadn't been built. Buyers were flipping their newly built lofts for large profits, and pricing was creeping up towards the $200/square foot mark. The Dorsa, an attractive building with timber ceilings and exposed brick was promised to be finished similar to the newly completed Banker's Lofts. Pricing started at $122 / square foot. It seemed like a safe bet on a great block. The opening party held by Pyramid Construction casual. We showed up at the beginning and started pouring over the sales materials, pricing and such to get a grasp on what was going on. We had several clients showing up and more that were interested.

The first unconventional thing about the Dorsa was that, unlike other new construction sales downtown, Pyramid failed to convert its reservations into executed purchase agreements for over 6 months. It wasn't long until the market started to cool down and lots of reservations were cancelled. It still was a good value. The location was great. We kept our reservation.

Closings started happening in Summer 2007, Pyramid collapsed in April 2008. Premier Bank took over as the 'builder' and ran the building. For over a year, the vacant units, over 50% of the building, sat empty with no visible efforts to sell. The Bank thought that selling off the units as a large block would be in its best interest, despite the negative implications for the building. With virtually no commercial lending available for anyone to buy the remaining units, they allowed a prospective buyer to start renting out units and a few went on the market. Sales started trickling in. Eventually in the fall of 2010, Premier Bank was taken over by the FDIC. Assets were going to be sold quickly. Regardless of the market, prices were slashed drastically. Rentals were terminated and some ended up buying. Finally the building started to fill up.

While the road to completion for the Dorsa took significantly longer than the buildings sold during the boom, after today, we can say that its SOLD OUT!

How is that a turning point?

When the stock market crashed in 2008 and banks started failing was when the St Louis real estate market went from slow to scary. The additional burden that downtown struggled with was the public perception that there was a glut of unsold lofts downtown.

Now that the inventory of Dorsa Lofts have sold out, we're a step closer to a balanced market (between a buyer's and seller's market) and most likely a more favorable climate for appreciation and more new construction.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pruitt-Igoe Design Contest Winner

st louis downtown developmentBack when the competition was announced for the former Pruitt-Igoe site, many thoughts came to mind.

First off, the current forest that exists could use some nature trails and an obervatory. Your typical state park.

After my visit yesterday to Schaumburg Illinois in the Chicago area, my feelings changed.

With its proximity to the loft district, and several other areas that could use a good design & accessory store, St Louis should work as hard at luring Ikea as they are working on Aerotropolis.

Since the organizers of the design competition have already stated that they are in no position to make any decisions about the use of the land, and are just trying to stimulate discussion, the practicality and logistics of this award winning design aren't relevant.

My decision is made up, they just want the best Ikea.

st louis real estate

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Unique and Stunning: Jack Thompson 6A

st louis real loftWorking extensively in the downtown loft district makes "high end, stylish and modern" seem run of the mill. It's everywhere; especially once the loft boom began. High end modern spaces were being churned out all over the place. We are really lucky here in St Louis.

Every once in a while though, a loft shows up that is truly extraordinary. This space is one of those. A 2 story 3000 square foot gem. Just listed today for $524,900. We've listed it before, and also unit 6d that is similar, but not quite the same. This building has the exposed brick and timber look as do many others, but unlike some of the other spaces, this one is exquisite throughout.

Along with the Grace Lofts and the Syndicate Condominiums, this unique space will be open on July 23rd from 1-3pm.

Contact us today for a showing or any other real estate questions.

lofts downtown

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Sales Up, Prices Stabilizing

Last week was a busy week at the title companies as the 1st half of 2011 came to an end and Festivities for Independence Day started up. The million dollar question remains in every real estate market, when will the market "come back?"

In the past few months, the inventory of available downtown lofts has been less than what we've seen in past years. A search for 2 bedroom, 1 bath spaces for less than $240,000 produced only 39 possibilities. Not what we're used to seeing. I double checked to make sure there wasn't a mistake.

This year it seems that several great things are happening downtown that indicate a turnaround is on the horizon. A sweep of the Reds over at Busch Stadium would have been icing on the cake.

Looking at the numbers, there were 53 condos sold in downtown St Louis during the first half of 2011. That is based on Realtor sales on the MLS. Last year there were 41 sales in the first 6 months. While the median sale price dropped by about $20,000.

From the Realtor perspective, it seemed like seller's in this years market seem to realize what they're up against more than in years past. One big factor in the increased sales this year also was the failure of Premier Bank of Jefferson City, the owner of the remaining lofts at the Dorsa. That change of the guard made the prices of these attractive units drop substantially overnight. As of today, the building is 90% Sold. The FDIC doesn't mess around when it comes to unloading property. Other foreclosures still pop up, and some are ridiculously priced. One would think that in this market, getting multiple offers on a property in less than a week wouldn't occur, but it does when a foreclosure agent prices a condo $50,000 to $100,000 below market, that happens.

Despite the number of distressed sales taking place in all areas right now, it seems that compared to 2009 and 2010, there are more loft buyers that are interested in buying a place on more factors than just price alone. I had a conversation with one agent earlier this year about how her listing was substantially overpriced. It was! It didn't matter though, someone scooped it up for nearly $180 per square foot. Most seller's aren't that lucky, but just seeing it start to happen is reasurring that prices are beginning to stabilize. Considering the inventory is lower and only the 24 Grace Lofts have been added to the number of available condos in the past 4 years, we may start to see a housing shortage again downtown; the condition we were in back in 2005 when pricing began to spike.

Lastly, one thing has continued to drag pricing down, which is the number of non-warrantable condos in the downtown area. Some of these were non-warrantable from the beginning, and others became non-warrantable when developers chose to rent out unsold inventory or some other factor. Lofts in buildings like Ely Walker, Ventana, Packard Lofts, King Bee, or Ballpark Lofts have been unable to entertain anything except cash offers; they've been sold for the lowest prices of all.

We'll see about the future, but here are the sales for the past 6 months:

2207 Washington Ave #307 47,250
1709 Washington Ave #904 58,000
210 N 17th St #205 65,000
210 N 17th St #1011 75,900
2020 Washington Ave #214 90,000
2020 Washington Ave #707 92,250
1511 Locust St #303 95,000
2020 Washington Ave #404 95,040
1501 Locust St #601 97,000
2020 Washington Ave #406 97,000
1627 Locust St #504 100,500
1511 Locust St #205 102,500
1312 Washington Ave #4a 104,000
901 Washington Ave #308 106,000
2020 Washington Ave #402 St 118,000
1720 Chouteau Ave #402 120,000
1511 Locust St #606 St 125,000
1611 Locust St #504 129,000
314 N Broadway #1301 St 134,900
2323 Locust #403 140,750
1123 Washington Ave #507 152,000
314 N Broadway #1307 St 154,000
2323 Locust #308 161,000
1123 Washington Ave #605 162,500
1123 Washington Ave #213 165,000
507 N 13th St #509 168,000
1123 Washington Ave #316 168,000
400 S 14th St #1106 184,000
1601 Washington Ave #205 200,000
2020 Washington Ave #101 St 207,000
1611 Locust St #301 211,000
1015 Washington Ave #301 213,500
901 Washington Ave #509 225,500
2020 Washington Ave #813 233,500
703 N 13th St #404 255,000
315 N 11th St #703 265,000
400 S 14th St #1214 275,000
915 Olive St #1209 285,000
915 Olive St #1401 287,900
901 Washington Ave #706PH 399,000
901 Washington #204 345,600

Dorsa Lofts
1015 Washington Ave #503 158,000
1015 Washington Ave #607 159,000
1015 Washington Ave #608 159,500
1015 Washington Ave #407 169,000
1015 Washington Ave #601 171,000
1015 Washington Ave #505 179,250
1015 Washington Ave #405 180,440
1015 Washington Ave #404 185,200
1015 Washington Ave #605 193,000

1015 Washington Ave #706PH 306,000
1015 Washington Ave #708PH 325,000
1015 Washington Ave #707PH 389,000

Saturday, June 11, 2011

At It Again.....DSLRA

Yesterday when I was waiting to show some Syndicate Condos, I was really impressed with the latest publication produced downtown by the Downtown St Louis Residents Association sitting in the lobby.

DSLRA is best if you participate, but between their new hard copy publication and their facebook page they do a fantastic job of PR to help people get an idea about some of the benefits of downtown living.

Different neighborhoods need associations for different reasons. In the 'burbs, maintaining common ground or lobbying a municiple government, but in downtown, there's a special reason: not everyone knows how or why to live downtown. As much as I hate to admit it, living downtown is still a novelty to some. Having a strong residents group gives new residents an oppotunity to plug in to the area and find out whats going on. It puts the veteran urbanist together with someone living here for the first time, and having two good PR sources, shares that message with the person "on the fence" about living downtown.

When we have open houses, we run into lots of folks "thinking" about living in Downtown St Louis. DSLRA is a great place to send them.

One problem with DSLRA that seems to be difficult for many small organizations is the rotating voluntary leadership. Sometimes the group is visible, active and thriving. After a while, leaders step down and new folks step in that aren't as motivated or savvy. Momentum is lost, members drift away.

Its exciting to see things picking back up, especially since downtown population contintues to grow.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Props to CityGarden

On Mother's Day, I went to the art festival at Laumeier Sculpture Park in Southwest St Louis County. Since I'd just hung out for a while in CityGarden the day before, it was hard not to draw comparisons and think about the possibility of an even better event being held adjacent to CityGarden in Downtown St Louis.
Downtown St Louis CityGarden
As you can see from my drawing, I've never been an artist, but for whatever reason, the sculptures at Laumeier have never really registered with me. Being the only sculpture park I'd ever been to growing up, it just made sense that I wasn't capable of appreciating art.

Fast forward a few decades, and here comes CityGarden.

The drawing shows the general idea I was having at the art festival for Downtown's version of the event. Close of Market Street and line the vendors up along the sidewalks. Depending up on the size, they could run all the way down the Gateway Mall, Kiener Plaza and CityGarden. Music could be right in the middle of CityGarden. Just a thought.

Its no suprise to me that CityGarden won the Urban Land Institute Competition as announced today. Not only are the sculptures interesting and inspiring, but the entire landscape is inviting captivating. I'd have been more suprised had it not won.

Congratulations to the City of St Louis and the Gateway Foundation on this shared achievement!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Amazing Grace!

St Louis LoftsLofts in St Louis
Downtown St Louis
The Grace Lofts were built in what was known as the Lesan-Gould Building, a historic building significant due to its patented use of reinforced concrete. Located in the anchor blocks of Downtown West, its surrounded by shops, restaurants cafe's and galleries.

It was originally planned as condominiums, but upon completion, plans were changed and the building was held and rented instead. Now, conversion is underway.

Compared to many of the other buildings, the lofts tend to be more open and spacious. With only four units per floor, its a boutique building.

The building is Priced to Sell! Special financing is available and there is a SPRING SPECIAL for contracts approved by June 30th of $10,000 off the loft or $10,000 in developer upgrades.

The Grace Lofts are being held open this coming Sunday, May 22nd from 1-3pm!

New FALL PRICING as of 9/1/11!  Other specials apply!  Check out the fall frenzy special at 4SaleStLouis.com/grace_lofts.html

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Market, Old Rules Apply

Buyer's season has really begun here in Dowtown St Louis. Lofts are getting scooped up, buyer's are enamored, and new residents are heading in. The only drag is that prices are still more "affordable" than sellers would like.

One observation I've made in the past few years is that many sellers, due to financial or other reasons, are cutting corners in the sales process. Because of expected losses or other scenarios, some lofts aren't left in showing condition. They aren't staged, touched up or re-painted, have anchors left in drywall, and have belongings left out. Some of the units are rented, and the tenants leave the unit in horrible shape too.

The bottom line, is that just because the market isn't as lucrative for sellers, all the same rules apply.

In order to attract and capture the buyer, a seller MUST consider what they are competing against and try to put their best foot forward. Homes that aren't prepared for showings often times leave the buyer in a position where they are examining walls and looking for defects, as opposed to an inviting, well staged home where prospective buyers are able to feel comfortable and make that buying decision.

A very good article on preparing your home is here. Also, a Realtor should be a good reference as well.

As we get ready for a brisk spring season in Downtown, those truly wanting to sell have to remember that the buyer is still in charge.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


DSLRA has been putting out cards in lofts, but just in case you didn't see, the Downtown St Louis Residents Association is hosting an open forum with Mayor Slay regarding the St Louis City earnings tax. This is an important meeting to attend.

Lots of misinformation is out there. There's a movement to take it away, but before we address removing a source of revenue for the city, we probably should talk about it. Are we going to cut services? Would a merger with St Louis County Help? Do we add more to our sales taxes or just bump up property tax?

Obviously lots of people have their opinions. I have mine, but its probably worthwhile for residents of the city to start this discussion before the statewide movement makes the decision for us.

The meeting is at the Old Post Office, Tomorrow (Thursday February 17th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

Time for every city resident to get more informed about this and make the RIGHT decision!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Needing a Downtown Home?

Congratulations to Kit Bond, downtown St Louis' newest worker!

For someone like Kit, looking to work downtown and have quick and easy access to comfortable and stylish living, there are some fantastic deals available within blocks of the office.

Here's a great option below at the Syndicate Condominiums
Unit 1401. This building just took a huge price reduction and units are starting to sell FAST!
What really is captivating about this Syndicate Condo is that it is a double corner with most of the windows facing east, right into the offices at Thompson Coburn, plus northern and southern views and a balcony on the east. There are some other great floor plans too, if he wouldn't want a view of the office.