A Double Edged Sword: Property Assessments are Up

by Chuck Roper 26. May 2017 07:50

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.

Janet Horlacher

Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate

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General | Real Estate Market

Be Savvy About Home Improvements

by Chuck Roper 12. May 2017 04:36

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





by Chuck Roper 26. April 2017 05:28

Smart, cost effective updates and improvements will generate more buyer interest and offer a great return.  Today’s buyers do not want a long list of projects to complete before they move in.  These smart improvements are well worth the investment.

  1. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way.  We recommend touch-up painting or if needed, complete interior painting to neutralize your walls.  A fresh coat on trim and baseboards is well worth the expense. 


  1. Knobs and pulls.  Replacing cabinetry is an expensive undertaking.  If your cabinets are in good condition, just out of style, try giving them a fresh new look by replacing the knobs and pulls.


  1. Remove Old Carpeting. The days of a “carpet allowance” are long gone.  Instead, eliminate negative buyer reactions in the first place.  If you have wood flooring underneath old carpeting, remove and show the wood floors.  If not, replace the outdated carpeting with a neutral color.  You can find a less expensive natural looking wool sisal or sea grass, which appeals to a broad audience.


  1. Replace Rotting Windows, soffit or fascia board.  If painting and minor repair work just doesn’t fix the problem, you may need to go ahead and replace it. This is an area where you and your agent’s judgement is required.


  1. Landscaping enhances the “Drive By.”  Replacing unsightly trees, planting evergreens for privacy or to screen an eyesore, replacing scraggly hews with tidy boxwood and lining the driving with appealing perennials will generate a positive first impression. Don’t ignore the landscaping; it almost always generates a positive return.


  1. When in doubt, prioritize kitchens and baths.  Buyers are wowed by great kitchens and baths.  These areas are more likely to generate a positive return on investment.
Janet Horlacher
Principal, Janet McAfee Inc.


Selling Your Home

Tips on Buying in a Tight Market

by Chuck Roper 12. April 2017 13:09

Buyers, be ready!  The St. Louis real estate market is heating up.  In many price ranges, inventory is low and buyers are competing for homes.  The National Association of Realtors suggests 6 ways to improve your chances of getting your dream house.  

1.        Get prequalified for a mortgage - you’ll be able to make a firm commitment to buy and your offer will be more desirable to the seller.

2.       Stay in close contact with your real estate agent - Your agent is on the lookout for the newest listings that meet your criteria. Be ready to see a house as soon as it goes on the market.

3.        Be ready to make a decision – Decide in advance what you can afford and must have in a home so you won’t hesitate when you have the chance to make an offer.

4.       Bid competitively - Your first inclination may be to start out offering something less than the absolute highest price you can afford, but if you go too low in a tight market, you will likely lose out.

5.        Keep contingencies to a minimum - Restrictions such as needing to sell your home before you move can make your offer unappealing.  Talk to your lender about getting a bridge loan to cover both mortgages for a short period.

6.       But don’t get caught in a buying frenzy - Just because there’s competition for a home doesn’t mean you should buy it.  Don’t neglect your agent’s price recommendations or inspections that help ensure the house is a sound investment.


Janet Horlacher

Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate

2017 is a Property Reassessment Year

by Chuck Roper 31. March 2017 08:50

Every odd dated year, your property is reassessed for tax purposes.   The new appraisal and reassessment process is occurring now.  You can expect to receive a Change of Assessment notice in late May or early June.   If you are located in St. Louis County, a preliminary value is now showing up on www.StLouisCo.com.   Select Online Services and Select Real Estate Informationin the drop down menu.  You will be prompted to type in either your Name or Address in the bottom left side Search Inputbox and press FIND.  Double click on your property Record and all your property information will be displayed, including the 2017 Appraised Value.  There is a wealth of information available at your fingertips, including a diagram of your home, your tax history and in many cases, a list of comparable homes sales on which the assessor has based his valuation.

Your Janet McAfee sales associate will be delighted to help you navigate the website and assist in looking up comparable sales.  Don't hesitate to ask us for assistance! 


Janet Horlacher



Principal, Janet McAfee Inc.


What Does the Interest Rate Hike Mean to Us?

by Chuck Roper 17. March 2017 11:29

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced raising the Federal Funds rate (the rate which banks lend money to other banks for overnight borrowing) by one quarter percentage point.   Historically, an interest rate hike sends Realtors into an emotional frenzy.  This time, however, I have heard very little push back and I think this is why: 

1.       We all anticipated the rate hike.  Generally, we don’t like surprises, so it just confirmed what we already thought.

2.       We are happy the economy is performing better; unemployment is under 5% (4.7% in February); 200,000 jobs are being added per month; and the stock market is at record levels (actually closing higher on Wednesday).

3.       Mortgage rates remain historically low.  After the announcement, the 30-year rate rose from 4.21% to 4.30%.  If you’re like me and purchased your first home with a 12% mortgage, this still seems like a pretty good deal. 

4.       Real estate sales are gaining steam.  In our market area, 65 homes went under contract from Wednesday to Friday.  71 homes are pending, which means they are scheduled to close. 

As Realtors, we can’t predict the future.  But for now, we are seeing positive economic signs, confidence and optimism.  I’ll take that any day!


Janet Horlacher


Principal, Janet McAfee  

In Like A Lion!

by Chuck Roper 6. March 2017 07:33


“In Like a Lion”


The St. Louis Spring selling market is early and robust.   Consumer optimism, a record stock market, spring-like weather and favorable interest rates have all aligned to create this early surge.  Listings which expired in 2016 have re-activated and have already received offers.   We are seeing declining days on market, favorable pricing and competitive bidding.    The tail wind going into our Spring market is vigorous. 

Here is a snapshot of 2017 versus last year:

·         Closed sales up +2.6%

·         Average sold price up +3.6%

·         Number of sales up +3.6%

·         Average days on market down -20.5%

·         Number of Active listings DOWN -10.2%

What can we expect going forward?

All indicators suggest we are poised for a strong Spring market, provided we fill the listing pipeline.  The number of active listings is on a multi-year decline not only in St. Louis, but around the country.  We need to reverse this slide in order to satisfy buyer demand and prevent buyer fatigue.  The risk when there are not enough relevant properties to satisfy demand or buyers repeatedly lose out in competitive bidding, is that buyers get discouraged and opt out completely. 

Another trend we are watching is Millennial home purchasing (or lack of home purchasing).  This generation, now approaching their 20’s through mid-30’s has surpassed their parents as the largest demographic.  Unlike their Baby Boomer parents, who purchased their first home in their 20’s, this generation is delaying home ownership.  This generation graduated from college with the highest level of student debt in history and the most difficult job market.  Today, the “30 something” Millennials are gaining financial security and entering the market.  Going forward, I believe Millennial housing preferences and purchase cycle will be the most significant drivers in residential real estate.  


Principal, Janet McAfee Inc.

Groundhog Day

by Chuck Roper 3. February 2017 13:25

Today is Groundhog Day, a day which reminds us to change our strategies if we want to achieve different results.  Unless you are Bill Murray, you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.    This principal could not be more true for listing and selling homes.   If your home has been on the market 60 or more days, we need to rethink our strategies and make some changes to appeal to prospective buyers in a more compelling way.

 There are things we cannot change and there are things we can change.   We cannot change the home’s location, the lot characteristics and the home construction.  It is futile to focus on things we cannot change.  There are many things we can change … and should change.

1.       Price – The price is your invitation to a specific set of buyers to come visit your home.  If no one has accepted your invitation, perhaps you are inviting the wrong group of buyers.  Perhaps the buyers in this price range expect a larger home, more bathrooms, new kitchen.  If other homes are selling in this price range, then perhaps you are being displayed among the wrong group.  You should ask your agent to update the Comparative Market Analysis and determine how your home compares to the others which have recently sold.  If you had showings, what did those prospects end up buying?

2.       Landscaping – The drive by is often the buyer’s first impression.  It is imperative that you continually freshen your landscaping.  Keep leaves raked, gum balls removed, flower beds trimmed and mulched.  The front walk should be swept clean.  Nothing says “this listing is stale” more than old, droopy landscaping. 

3.       Staging – Giving your home a fresh look can bring buyers back to take another look.  Have you completely decluttered?  Neutralized the colors? Rearranged or removed mismatched and overly large furniture?  Stripped wallpaper?  These small changes can help prospective buyers see your home in a different light.  I recommend consulting with a professional stager to get ideas on how to change the look of your home to appeal to more buyers. 

4.       Photography – We know that almost all home buyers are searching the internet for homes.  Change your photography (especially after you have painted and decluttered).  Photograph your rooms from a different perspective and remove photos which captured negative aspects of your home. 

Happy Groundhog Day and Happy Selling!

Janet Horlacher

Principal, Janet McAfee Inc.

“To Stage or Not to Stage? That is the Question”

by Chuck Roper 20. January 2017 05:52

Sellers often ask me if there is a benefit to staging their home.  The answer is a resounding YES!  Research from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and our “real world” local experience is indisputable: staging adds value, reduces the time on market and produces a positive ROI.   Here are the 10 Reasons to Stage Your Home for selling:

1.       You will make more money.   A 2015 NAR survey found the majority of buyers were more likely to offer higher prices for a staged home compared to a similar home.

2.       Your home will sell faster.  Professionally staged homes spent 72% less time on the market, according to a survey from the Real Estate Staging Association.

3.       Buyers can visualize themselves in the home.  81% of buyers it was easier to visualize the staged property as their future home.   

4.       Your online photos will look better.  Over 95% of home buyers look online.  This is where you make your first impression and where potential buyers decide whether to make an appointment.  Professional staged homes stand out and generate more buyer interest. 

5.       Staging helps defuse other property flaws.  2015 NAR survey revealed 28% of buyers viewing a staged home overlook other property faults.  The eye is naturally drawn to clean, well-appointed furnishings and away from minor imperfections.

6.       Personal photos and memorability distract your buyer from viewing the home.  Remember, you are trying to help a buyer see themselves living in this property, not as a guest amidst your family’s personal life story.

7.       The cost of staging is less than your first price reduction.  Some sellers will say “I’ll give it a try without staging and then if it doesn’t sell, I’ll stage it.”  This is a huge mistake.  Days on market tick on.  By the time you have determined you need to stage, your best prospects have already seen your home and formed their opinion.   You are looking at a price reduction just to attract new interest.

8.       Sellers are not objective about their own homes.  The chinoiserie fabric you selected to match the floral chintz may be your pride and joy, but the buyer may not share your design style.  A professional stager will select a neutral pallet which appeals to a broad range of prospective buyers.

9.       You will save time and reduce your anxiety.  Selling your home can be stressful and time consuming.  A professional stager will manage the process for you so that you can devote your energy into your new home.

10.   Your Realtor will support you 100%.  Real estate professionals know that staged homes attract higher offers and faster sales.  We are delighted to help facilitate the process, make appointments for you, meet painters or handyman at your home and help you arrange an estate sale.

Janet Horlacher


Janet McAfee Inc.

(Property in photograph is 9044 Clayton Road, professionally staged by Property Enhancements LLC)

Perseverance and Passion

by Chuck Roper 17. January 2017 07:30


Have you ever heard a graduation speaker declare "follow your passion and you will be successful?"  What if you don't know your passion?  What if you are just starting out, trying to figure out your career path and you don't know your "passion?"  I think some things in life are not always "love at first sight."  And, I think selling real estate is not necessarily "love at first sight."  

If you speak with successful Realtors, many will tell you that it took time and perseverance to excel.  Moreover, they did not become passionate about selling real estate until they had stuck with it, worked really hard and begun to see the fruits of their labor.  The passion came after the hard work.  I believe the real estate profession is about perseverance.  Successful Realtors are committed every day; they keep abreast of market activity; they touch base with their clients regularly and they are passionate about helping their clients. These are the Realtors who succeed and love their job.  They become passionate about their job when they see the benefits of their hard work and the lives they have touched.

I believe real estate is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose.  It requires a great deal of perseverance.  Perseverance is the key ingredient to success and self fulfillment.

- Janet

Principal, Janet McAfee Real Estate


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