Fewer people are following through on the promise to “Meet me in St. Louis.”
Despite the city’s eclectic restaurant scene, avid baseball fans (Go Cards!), growing technology sector, and iconic attractions like the 630-foot tall Gateway arch, 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a population drop of more than 4,500 people in St. Louis proper. The latest numbers even bumped St. Louis out of the nation’s top 20 largest metro areas in 2018.
How does that translate to local real estate?
“The St. Louis market is changing,” says Chad Wilson, a St. Louis real estate veteran who sells homes 50% faster than his peers.
“A few years ago, it was a seller’s market. You could just stick a sign in the yard and for sale by owner… I think the average day on market was about 9 days.”
But now, St. Louis buyers recognize the lack of competition and want what Wilson calls “Pottery Barn” ready in their home of choice. That’s move-in ready… with an upscale twist. If you want to sell a house fast in St. Louis, we’ll show you how to achieve the furniture catalog look local buyers demand.
The current landscape of the St. Louis real estate market
Some real estate markets within the Greater St. Louis metro area, which spans 8,458 square miles and 14 counties across Missouri and Illinois, are hotter than others.
For example, St. Charles County, a northwest suburb of St. Louis, is growing at a rate unparalleled to the rest of the metro.
In the past half century, the population has climbed from 90,000 to 400,000, which is particularly notable when considering the diminishing population of the city proper. Affordable land, spacious lots, and job growth have brought lots of new, high-end construction to the area. For many prospective home buyers in the St. Louis area, St. Charles County is the up and coming place to be.
However, new construction in St. Charles County area has focused primarily on higher-end, higher value homes that sell in the pricier $300,000 to $400,000 range.
While many are attracted to the new builds outside St. Louis proper, the price tag isn’t attainable for many first-time home buyers.
Meanwhile, the entry-level homes of older construction in both St. Charles County and St. Louis proper have enjoyed a stable value over the years, explains Wilson. The average price point of an older construction home lies in the $100,000 to $200,000 range. Young professionals, newlyweds, and new families are continually on the hunt for the older construction style of homes in the area that they can afford.
However, sellers of old construction homes can’t just put their home on the market and call it a day. Buyers want the feel of the high-end finishes and design choices of new builds in the older, budget-friendly homes.
As such, sellers need to focus on strategic improvement and design decisions to make their homes more appealing. Potential buyers in St. Louis aren’t afraid to ask for changes or updates, so sellers should be prepared to make some improvements to a home before bringing it to the market.
1. Paint over dark or bright walls with calming neutrals
You might love the bright yellow accent wall in your kitchen, or the dark deep red of your living room, but that’s not what St. Louis buyers want to see in a home. According to Wilson, neutral and soothing grays and taupes are hot with St. Louis buyers, mirroring national tastes and trends.
Gray and taupe bring a minimalistic, but high-end spa-like feel to most spaces. Neutrals and grays were forecasted as the top paint colors for 2018 by “Better Homes Gardens,” and sellers can’t go wrong with these shades:
2. Invest in hardwood floors for an upscale feel
You can knock on wood if your home already features hardwood flooring—simply refinishing your home’s hardwood floors will increase interest in the property. Picky St. Louis buyers are focused on finishes and details, so in this case, the flooring of your home matters.
Across the board, homebuyers prefer hardwood flooring—in fact, in the $100,000 to $149,000 price range, 87% of buyers expressed a desire for hardwood flooring in their home. There’s a clear return on investment when it comes to good ole hardwood.
If you’re looking to remodel your flooring before selling your home, consider classic hardwood, with a modern twist. While hardwood is always popular in St. Louis, Wilson recommends hand scraped hardwood flooring. Hand scraped hardwood can be done by hand or machine, but it gives a classic, handworked finish that adds character to any home.
If hand scraped hardwood is out of your budget, consider other classic hardwood finishes, but avoid distressed aesthetics, which some homeowners mistake for hand scraped. According to St. Louis-based “Hardwood Floors” magazine, walnut is and will continue to be a popular hardwood flooring choice for homes.
If you’re looking for a trendier finish to entice buyers, sellers can also consider sustainable materials when making updates to their homes. It doesn’t all have to be recycled material or found objects, but “smarter windows” or sustainable modified wood flooring will speak to new buyers in the area.
3. Update kitchen countertops for extra appeal
And in the kitchen? Solid surface countertops, like granite and quartz, are still what people are looking for. “It’ll be that way for a while,” Wilson says. While the whole kitchen doesn’t need a remodel, updating the countertops and adding a fresh coat of paint to the kitchen cabinets will go a long way in attracting buyers.
According to St. Louis-based Arch City Granite Marble, granite is still the most popular countertop for homebuyers. Granite’s timelessness appeals to homebuyers, and darker slabs with character and veins are popular among buyers.
Consider any of the following darker granite countertop varieties to contrast against lighter grey or white kitchen cabinets:
While granite is still a top seller in countertops, quartz is not far behind. Quartz is manmade, and therefore can be more customizable in terms of color choice. However, keep your selection on the classic side, opting for darker styles that provide contrast to cabinetry. Any of the varieties below from Home Depot would be a great addition to the kitchen of your St. Louis Home:
No matter the countertop material or color, stay away from traditional edge profiles when selecting your countertops. Instead, opt for a slim cut with a sleek profile, creating a modern update on the classic countertop.
4. Use smart home technology to differentiate your listing
Old construction sellers might want to consider retrofitting some smart features into their home. In a 2018 Coldwell Banker smart home survey, 77% of Americans indicated they’d want a smart thermostat pre-installed in a future home, 75% wanted a smart smoke detector, and 66% were interested in a smart camera.
Smart home technology purchases are relatively inexpensive, and can often be installed by the homeowner in a single afternoon.
Smart home upgrades might not lead to a direct impact on the sale price, but this tech can help your home stand out in a competitive market.
When dealing with selective St. Louis buyers, these small but smart features can go a long way. According to Wilson, connected home functionality is popular in St. Louis’s new construction homes in the St. Charles area in particular.
Any of the following smart home products would be an affordable, but good investment, for your home.
- The Nest Learning Thermostat (Nest, $250)
- The Ring Video Doorbell (Ring, $99)
- The Nest Protect Smart Smoke Detector (Nest, $119)
- The Amazon Cloud Camera (Amazon, $119)
5. Play up special features and amenities in your marketing materials
As the tech and financial sector brings newcomers to the area, some have a little more disposable income than the historic St. Louis buyer. If you have a specialty amenity, make it a feature on your listing to differentiate your home. Special amenities, include, but aren’t limited to:
- A outdoor fire pit
- Finished patio
- Pet washing station
- Heated floors
- Green or energy saving features
Consider what makes your house different from others on the market, and remember to play the feature up in the listing description.
6. Focus on strategic improvements in specific rooms
Looking to make other improvements? Sellers should focus their energy on finishes in the master bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, as these spaces tend to influence buyer decisions the most.
The greatest return on investment will come from small changes in these rooms, where buyers focus their first impressions.
Improvements can be as simple as a fresh coat of paint, or as involved as new lighting fixtures. Remember, the St. Louis buyer wants a catalog ready look for a home, which doesn’t include signs of wear and tear such as scuff marks on the ground or hand prints on the wall.
St. Louis homebuyers are more selective, but motivated sellers shouldn’t feel compelled to renovate their entire home. When it comes to buyers in the area, certain spaces need not be updated, explains Wilson.
Sellers are better off strategically updating features in finishes in key rooms, not the entire home. Don’t spend energy on perfecting additional bedrooms, the great room, or dining room. Here, buyers tend to want custom features and additions built just for them.
7. Bet that buyers will care about the basement
While there’s no cookie-cutter style for homes in St. Louis, there are certain features that always come into play. One feature, in particular, is the basement.
For the most part, basements in St. Louis homes are finished. Young families look at them as a place for the kids to play, but any buyer will expect the basement to be in move-in ready shape, similar to the rest of the house. Make sure the following is in order before listing your home:
- Inspect pipes and fixtures in the basement. Are there any water stains, signs of leakage? If so, consult with a plumber to have these fixed. Stains or signs of a leak are an immediate turn off for buyers.
- Do a thorough inspection of your basement, taking note of discoloration or cracking in the foundation. This can be an indicator of water leakage. Try to determine if the leak came from pipes running through the basement, or the foundation. Leaky pipes can be repaired easily by the homeowner or a plumber, but the foundation can be trickier. If discoloration and leaking in the foundation proves to be the problem, it’s best to contact a waterproofing or foundational specialist.
- If you’re giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, consider using a water resistant sealant to repel moisture.
- Many basements in St. Louis are equipped with sump pumps, a pump that can remove water from a basement in the case of a leak or overflow. Check this step by step guide from Roto-Rooter, a top plumbing service in the US that has been operating since 1935, to make sure your sump pump works properly.
The basement doesn’t have to be decked out in features like the master bath or bedroom, but it in no way should be neglected. At the very least, buyers need to see the potential in the space, if not a finished space already. Basement repairs might not be the most fun improvement, but a basement free of leaks will help the buyer rest easy.
8. Invest in lush greenery that’s camera ready
Sellers shouldn’t forget that St. Louis has the nation’s oldest botanical gardens, and buyers will expect landscaping that wows.
For a compelling property, buyers should prioritize curb appeal, specifically for the camera.
“A first impression isn’t when someone walks through the front door, a first impression is when buyers view the house online,” says Wilson. Realtors across the country agree; 99% say that sellers should work on landscaping before putting their homes on the market.
In reality, landscaping your home shouldn’t take more than a weekend, and most homeowners will be able to tackle the project on their own, even if the budget is small. Sellers should focus on landscaping that photographs well, and with colors that contrast against the home. Manicured bushes and vibrantly colored plants help sell the edifice.
St. Louis sellers should keep the following in mind as they foster their green thumbs.
Don’t let your hard work become dinner for deer
Your hard work will go to waste if you plant something that deer find delicious. To keep your front yard from becoming a buffet for animals, avoid planting daylilies, hostas, hydrangeas, or roses, say experts at St. Louis’s Greenscape Gardens. In addition to avoiding their favorite varieties, consider purchasing physical fencing or pest repellent sprays like Liquid Fence to keep deer and rabbits at bay.
Plant to soak up the sun, or stick to the shade
Not all lawns are created equal, and sellers should have an understanding how much sun their yard gets in order to plant efficiently. Take a day to note if your yard receives full sun, partial sun, full shade, or partial shade (use this guide from HomeGuides by SFGate, the established home section of the sister-site of the San Francisco Chronicle, for more detail). Once you have an idea of your yard’s sun exposure, you can plant native species that thrive in those conditions.
Black-eyed susans, marigolds, dahlias and zinnia thrive in sunny yards, explains a Greenscape Gardens landscaper, while ferns, begonia and flowering vinca are more shade tolerant.
Don’t forget attention to detail in the edifice
Flower boxes and a fresh garden will go a long way in selling your home, but don’t forget about refreshing the physical exterior of your house.
Give shutters and windows a good cleaning, and grab a ladder to clear out the gutters. Small details, like repainting or updating house numbers, as well as a new mailbox or doormat help set a strong front door curb appeal first impression, both online and in person.
9. Sell your house fast during the St. Louis summer, but don’t discount winter
HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator, which uses comprehensive real estate transaction data to show you when homes sell the fastest in St. Louis and for the most money, indicates that the the best time to close a home in St. Louis quickly is May. That means listing a home in March or April could help you sell your home for as much as 8.22% above the yearly average.
While St. Louis’s yearly snowfall is half the nation’s average, many are still hesitant to keep their homes on the market through the winter. But based on experience and data, Wilson doesn’t rule out the benefits of marketing your house during this quiet period.
“What I’ve found was that the active inventory in December in St. Louis goes way down,” says Wilson. “I think it’s because everyone thinks you’re not supposed to list over the holidays. But, the buyer pool doesn’t necessarily shift down at the same rate.”
In other words, motivated buyers will continue their home search even with all the end-of-year distractions. In his experience, Wilson has found that during December, many homes sell in their first weekend on the market. If sellers are under a time crunch to sell in the fall or winter, they shouldn’t hesitate to list their home.
10. Connect with a top St. Louis real estate agent to sell your house fast
Unlike other big cities, St. Louis has enjoyed a relatively stable market that didn’t take a hit during the recession, explains Wilson. While the surrounding area has been a seller’s market for the past few years, times are changing. Buyers want a finished home and are unwilling to compromise.
As the market changes, sellers need a real estate professional they can trust, with a track record to prove it. According to data from HomeLight, some of the top agents in St. Louis can sell a house 37.49 days faster than the average agent, make sellers 5.6% more on the sales, and move 1.8x more properties. If you’re looking to sell well, connect with one of these agents today.