Although St. Louis homeowners might not want to start turning cartwheels just yet, a number of noted metro area real estate professionals have started to notice signs that maybe, just maybe, the residential housing market is on an uptick.
“We have had more showings. More people are out looking,” says Andy Dielmann of Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty. He notes that his firm has fielded more calls recently, which to him indicates a return of enthusiasm and an eagerness, albeit one tempered by restraint, about buying and selling homes. Dielmann reports that sales have picked up recently, especially among first-time home buyers, who in some cases qualify for a federally sponsored tax credit. “It’s a good incentive for them,” he says, adding that this particular segment of the market often doesn’t have a home to sell and therefore can be free to search out a bargain.
Stafford Manion, owner of Gladys Manion Realtors, agrees. “There has never been a better time for first-time buyers.” The tax credits, coupled with low interest rates, are helping to jump-start the market. Manion believes the market will “heal from the bottom up,” meaning the first wave of resurgence will start with lower-priced properties, whose sellers move on to buy higher-priced properties.
“A lot of our agents are noticing more activity,” reports Cory Spielberg, operating partner of Upper End Properties, adding that his firm has seen an increased number of showings and a generally increased amount of interest and enthusiasm. “People are getting out and looking at properties…They’re thinking about taking the next step [toward purchasing a home]. As Manion sees it, “the best indicator is consumer confidence.”
Traditional signs of a rehabilitated market have been higher prices or fewer days on the market, but not now. Spielberg admits that “prices aren’t up. But they’re not sliding any more either.” The market still is retaining a lot of inventory. Buyers used to be wary of properties that sat unsold for a long time, Manion remarks. Now, “they all have a lot of days on the market.”
A DIFFERENT MARKET
“It’s a different market now,” Dielmann reminds potential buyers. All Americans, not just those looking to sell a home, are starting to become accustomed to the economy functioning at an entirely different level than it did several years ago. Prices of residential properties increased at quite a steep rate, and many sellers thought the run-up would last forever. Spielberg notes that buyers and sellers in the Gateway City are luckier than many. “We don’t see huge fluctuations like on the coasts.”
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Of course, some things never change. Spielberg says agents in his firm still hold true to the old mantra, “location, location, location.” But now they’re adding, “price, price, price” into the mix. Or, as Dielmann sees it, “pricing is everything.” It seems that there is one segment of the market that is never going to decline: homes in excellent shape that are priced right. These won’t stay on the market for very long, regardless of the macro-economic condition, he says.
Overall, St. Louis-area realtors are seeing an increased attitude of patience, rather than one of desperation, among buyers and sellers. All note that the market took a long time to build and that the recovery is likely to take just as long. “It’s going to be a slow, gradual process,” Dielmann cautions. As Spielberg puts it, “We’re not halfway up the ladder, yet, but we’re going in the right direction.”