Tips for Buyers
Homes are unique expressions of their owners, and the buying process is often just as individualized. Whether you’re building from the ground up or giving an older home a little TLC, St. Louis is full of fantastic real estate opportunities that meet the needs of any buyer. We asked three agents for their top tips for tackling three common buying scenarios.
Follow the old adage: location, location, location! It’s more than just knowing what area you want to live in, according to Christy Thompson, an agent with Janet McAfee Real Estate. “You’ll want to find a good school district if you have kids, and have good proximity to restaurants and retail,” she says. “Picking an area that appeals to a wide variety of buyers will add value and increase the buyer pool, which is important for resale—whether you are flipping or staying put for a while.”
Pay attention to your neighbors, or at least their houses. “You don’t want to over-improve because you won’t see a return on your investment if you do end up selling,,” Thompson says. She suggests avoiding raising the value of a property more than 15 percent over the median sale price. “Make sure renovated houses are selling well in the area, too,” she adds.
Inspect for the things that will cost you. Before the property is yours, make sure you know as much as you can. “Check the electric, structure, plumbing and sewage,” Thompson advises. “You may not be factoring those into the renovation budget, and they can end up costing you a lot of money.”
Set your budget and stick to it. “Don’t underestimate the true cost of renovation,” Thompson says. “Assess the condition of the house, add up the costs and subtract the total from the likely market value to decide if it’s the right place for you.”
Look for both charm and history. St. Louis is full of beautiful, older homes, and some neighborhoods even have historic significance. “This adds a level of excitement,” says Sabrina Robb of Robb Partners, a Keller Williams Realty St. Louis affiliate. “You get amazing architectural and craftsman detail with a sense of history. Homeowners feel like caregivers who are preserving something important.” She suggests looking in the Central West End, University City and Clayton neighborhoods like Brentmoor Park and Ellenwood.
Experience matters. The inspection of an older house is going to be key. Robb says to find an inspector who has experience in both the area and older homes. “Working with both an experienced agent and inspector will help you navigate the process,” she says. “They can help put things in perspective and determine what needs to be addressed immediately and what is long-term maintenance.”
Plan for the unexpected. It’s important to have room in your budget for extra or unexpected expenditures. Robb points out that the house may have a slate or tile roof that requires yearly maintenance, or it may have outdated or even original systems like boilers. “Home warranties are available for buyers and homeowners to assist with unexpected expenses,” she says.
Prepare for competition. “It’s a super-competitive market,” say Stephanie Connell, an agent with Gladys Manion Real Estate. She explains that the real estate market in St. Louis is strong, and that means more people feel confident enough to tackle building their own homes. That increased interest is coupled with competition from builders.
Know your neighborhood and city building restrictions. It’s important to be as prepared as possible if you’re thinking about buying a teardown property or new lot. Different towns and neighborhoods have specific building restrictions. Connell suggests working with an architect early in the process, so you know exactly what house you want and can ensure it will follow all guidelines where you want to build.
Build a relationship with a … well, builder! “They have an edge on the whole market,” Connell says. “They know the setbacks and restrictions and can help guide you through the process.”
Think your home might be a teardown? Odds are someone else does, too!Connell says it’s not uncommon for builders to knock on doors or write letters to express interest in buying properties they think are good options. “To guarantee you get what your land is worth, it’s best to work with a realtor,” she says. “It ensures the property is advertised to the public and not just builders.”