Although it seems that lately no economic news is good news, that may not be true when it comes to buying or selling a home in St. Louis. Anne Duffy-Dunajcik says now is a good time to get back into the housing market—as long as you have realistic expectations about the price. “It used to be price, condition and location,” says the Keller Williams Realty real estate agent and spokeswoman for The Leading Agents of St. Louis. “Now, it’s price, price, price. It’s not that those other factors don’t matter anymore, but it refines down to price.”
The Leading Agents of St. Louis is an association of about 35 real estate agents from a spectrum of companies that includes Coldwell Banker Gundaker, Dielmann Sothebys International Realty, Prudential Alliance, Keller Williams, Re/Max and others. The group meets to market listings to each other, share best practices and advocate for issues that members believe are important to the industry, Dunajcik says.
One such issue is Amendment 3, which is up for vote in the Nov. 2 election. The measure would prohibit the Missouri government from levying a ‘transfer tax,’ one to be paid whenever property is sold or passed down in a family. The tax, which is already instituted in 37 states and Washington, D.C., would be in addition to property taxes. All of Missouri’s border states have such a tax. “We’re trying to get the word out about it,” Dunajcik says. “Most people don’t know it’s coming up; that’s our biggest obstacle. The language on the ballot is tricky, but remember, vote ‘yes’ to save houses.” The proposal also is supported by the Missouri Association of Realtors, Dunajcik says.
“We realtors started looking at the other states that have done it and we want to prevent it here,” she says. “We’re also vested in our communities; we’re homeowners ourselves.” The movement against the tax, Dunajcik explains, is motivated by the fear that government officials might be tempted to add this additional tax at times like now, when budgets are tight. “This would not be good public policy,” she says. “This is the perfect time to put down our stake and say ‘no more.’ ”
The position held by The Leading Agents of St. Louis, she explains, is that a transfer tax would be ‘double taxation’ because annual property taxes are already paid by homeowners. And such a tax would unduly burden sellers, many of whom already have to accept a lower price than they expected, Dunajcik notes. “There used to be five buyers for every house; now there are five houses for every buyer.”
But despite a tough market, buyers are still out there, Dunajcik says. She recalls two properties she recently worked with, both of which sat on the market until their prices were adjusted. “It’s like there’s a magic number,” she says. “Once the market likes your number, the house will fly off the market.” It’s especially important to be realistic about price when there is a large inventory of homes on the market, she says. “You need to listen to your realtor and have them do a market analysis of your area and your school district,” she says. “Everything is local in real estate.”
The market in St. Louis has been relatively resilient throughout the recession, compared to other areas of the country, Dunajcik says. Since this area never had the huge run-up in prices seen in places like California and Florida, the market here never crashed. But Dunajcik admits that prices are lower than they used to be, which at least benefits buyers. “Buyers should be jumping back in with both feet because it’s a great time to be a buyer,” she says. “Interest rates are ridiculously low.”
On the Cover: The Leading Agents of St. Louis, an association of top St. Louis real estate agents, backs the Vote ‘Yes’ to Save Homes movement, which supports Amendment 3 in the Nov. 2 election. The measure opposes a real estate transfer tax, like the one many other states are using to generate revenue during tough economic times. For more information, visit stlleadingagents.com or yestosavehomes.com. Cover design by Dawn Stremlau — Photos courtesy of The Leading Agents of St. Louis