Monday, September 18, 2017
This has been a year of multiple contracts on well-priced homes in desirable areas. The buyers who lose out don’t understand why their near full price offer wasn’t accepted. They wonder why the seller didn’t give them a second chance to improve their offer. I hear “I would have paid more.” In order to coach buyer’s agents on multiple offer situations, I encourage them to look at it from the seller’s perspective and consider the following:
Janet Horlacher, Principal
Janet McAfee Inc.
Category: Tips for Buying a Home
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
We have an expression in real estate “you need to sell your home twice; first to the home buyer and second to the appraiser.” These days, most sale contracts contain a finance contingency or an appraisal contingency or both. If the home doesn’t appraise for the contract price, the seller may be in a position of lowering the price or letting the deal die. Both are painful alternatives, especially after a willing, able and qualified buyer has been procured.
Here are steps your Realtor can take to make sure the appraisal process goes smoothly:
1. Treat the Appraiser’s Appointment like a Property Viewing – Turn on all the lights, play classical music on the home’s internal audio system, play a movie on mute in the home theatre and have the pool fountains flowing. Treat the appraiser’s visit like a showing; present the home in its best possible light with all amenities in full viewing.
2. Provide Access to All Rooms – The appraiser needs to view all floors and measure the home. A locked room prevents the appraiser from doing his/her job and will likely necessitate a return trip.
3. Provide a Special Features Sheet and Improvements List – The appraiser is comparing the home to “comparable sales,” but there may be additions, updates, improvements and other amenities which make the home more valuable than the others. Those upgrades may not be visible upon a cursory view, so it’s important to put them in writing and provide the list to the appraiser.
4. Give your CMA to the Appraiser – More information is helpful to the appraiser. Provide the comparable sales analysis which was used to price the home. Inform the appraiser if you received competitive offers and if they had escalation clauses. The appraiser will consider all relevant information.
5. Complete All Repairs Prior to Appraiser’s Visit – If the sale contract calls for repairs to be made, complete them prior to the appointment. They can impact the value of the home and necessitate a return visit by the appraiser.
6. Keep Pets Away – Man’s best friend is not a friend to the appraiser, even if he/she is a pet lover. The pet can be a distraction or an annoyance. You don’t want your appraiser to leave the premises early because they are afraid of your pets.
Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
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.
Monday, July 24, 2017
St. Louis reached an official high temperature on Saturday with a scorching 108 degrees. It’s difficult to do just about anything in that heat zone, much less tour homes with out of town buyers. Everything looks and feels “wilted” making it difficult to showcase our lush St. Louis neighborhoods to transferees (especially if they are coming from Northern Michigan!)
Cool down the House 30 Minutes Prior to Showing – If the home is vacant or if the programmable thermostat is set for energy conservation during the day, an uncomfortably hot house is an immediate turn off for prospective buyers. Make sure someone arrives early to cool the house, turn on all the lights and play quiet, calming music.
Run the Irrigation System before your showing – Remember, first impressions are everything in real estate. Nothing says “old, tired, long dated listing” like scraggly, drooping landscaping. Keep weeds in check; lawns should be cut appropriately for the heat and perennials should be kept trimmed and looking healthy. Watering prior to showings will give a healthy and well-kept appearance.
Keep your home Clean and Uncluttered. There’s something about hot weather that makes dirty, overstuffed homes feel even more stifling. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to purge tabletops of dust loving knick-knacks, wipe down counter tops and vacuum carpets. A glistening, streamlined home feels cooler and more inviting.
Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Friday, July 07, 2017
I believe every home has an aesthetic, whether it be a specific architectural period (like Tudor, Greek Revival or Mid Century Modern) or it could be a certain look (like bright and airy sunlight filled rooms) which strikes us as we tour the home. St. Louis homes are rich in diversity and architectural interest.
Our job as Realtors is to communicate the home’s aesthetic to potential buyers. Not every home appeals to every buyer, but there is a buyer for every home. Each of us carries our own sense of style and perceptions about how our home should look and feel. Often times, I hear buyers explain their criteria for buying a home with terms like “I will know it’s the right house when I see it.”
This month we are focusing on how to best present the home’s aesthetic. With technological advances in photography and digital media, there are so many opportunities to capture the home’s true essence. With regard to interior photography, it is about more than just high resolution; we look at lighting, depth of field, composition and color. For exterior, we love aerial, drone video and twilight photography.
Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Monday, June 26, 2017
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Friday, June 23, 2017
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.
Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Category: Real Estate Market
Friday, June 09, 2017
This month we focus on marketing strategies for luxury listings, which we define as properties over $1 million. As the recognized leader in this segment, the Janet McAfee reach is extensive, selling the finest homes in St. Louis County, St. Louis City, St. Charles and Franklin County (home of St. Albans Country Club). You may be surprised to learn there are 356 listings over $1 million, and out of these, 66 have accepted offers to purchase. So, who is searching for million dollar homes and what are they looking for?
Our Luxury Portfolio International website reaches 3 million high net worth visitors annually. Among those planning to purchase a luxury home:
· 95% are homeowners
· Average age is 36 years
· 97% are college educated
· Average household income is $372,000
· 57% own a second home
What is the affluent buyer looking for and how do we engage them? Again, we draw upon our past experiences through years of marketing to this segment.
1. Lead with Brand Names. Luxury buyers need to be convinced of quality in order to justify paying the high price. Marketing brochures and special feature sheets include the names of architects, designers, high end appliances, uniquely sourced fixtures, cabinetry designers and craftsmen. Luxury brands are important to luxury buyers.
2. Invest in the Best Photography. Technology has allowed us to present luxury homes with exquisite high definition images, twilight photograph, soaring aerial shots, drone videos and intricate floor plans. The first property viewing is virtual, so the online representation must be absolutely flawless in order to bring them across the threshold.
3. Advertising should present an Inspired Lifestyle. Buyers are looking to enhance their lifestyle, not be inundated with a tedious list of every factoid you can think up. Our job is to show prospective buyers the experience of living in the home and how the amenities will enhance their lives.
4. Tell the Home's Unique Story. Many historic and architecturally significant listings have remarkable histories about former residents who shaped St. Louis. For a newer home, it could be a story about choices made during the construction or why a specific architectural element was selected.
5. Place Advertising to Reach Affluent Buyers. Yes, it’s true that active buyers are all looking on line. But, people are ALSO reading the Wall Street Journal, coffee table magazines and society pages. It’s surprising how often someone, who is not actively looking to move will become a motivated buyer after seeing the right property in a beautiful ad.
6. Please, please DON’T “Test the Water” with your introductory price. Affluent buyers are not stupid. Yes, you may attract a wealthy Californian, but they are still going to do their homework and analyze comparable home sales. They are not going to waste their valuable time going to see a listing which is overpriced and out of their price point. Luxury buyers demand a good value and they’re not afraid to pay for it.
Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Exclusive member of Luxury Portfolio International
Category: St. Louis Luxury Homes
Friday, May 26, 2017
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.
Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Friday, May 12, 2017
Remodeling Magazine recently published their 2017 "Cost vs. Value" report for home remodeling projects. If you are thinking of improving your home with resale in mind or buying a home you plan to improve, this list may serve as a guide for prioritizing and budgeting your "list of things to do." As in most areas of the country, their research for the St. Louis area points to greater resale return on projects that enhance energy savings, improve the home's exterior, or update baths and kitchens. Some Upscale Improvements that top their list in St. Louis:
1. Vinyl Window Replacement - Cost Recouped 69,9%
2. Grand Entrance (Fiberglass) – Cost Recouped 66.9%
3. Garage Door Replacement – Cost Recouped 63.7%
4. Major Kitchen Remodel – Cost Recouped 60.1%
5. Deck Addition of Pressure Treated Wood - Cost Recouped - 73%
Read detailed project descriptions, costs, and resale value for midrange and upscale remodeling projects at