Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Real Estate Sales Are Heating Up; Only Madison County Showed a Decline This Year

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Real Estate Sales Are Heating Up; Only Madison County Showed a Decline This Year

Article excerpt

Real estate agents are happy people these days. Sales are up a lot. Home prices are up at least a little in most neighborhoods. A rise in mortgage interest rates this spring may have taken a bite out of sales of lower-priced houses, but sales of upscale homes are strong.

That means bigger commissions for real estate sales people.

"It's fun to come into the office," said Norm Polsky, broker at Coldwell Banker Premier in Maplewood.

Overall, estimated home value are rising in metropolitan St. Louis, although it is unclear how much. Zillow, the real estate website, estimates that the median value of all homes as of August was up 1.7 percent from a year earlier. Using a different calculation method, CoreLogic says the overall value of local homes was up 5.7 percent as of July.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, using somewhat older figures and actual sales prices, says prices here were up 1.8 percent over the year as of last spring.

Those regionwide figures disguise a big variation by neighborhood. Zillow, for instance, reports estimated home values were up 8 percent over the year in Kirkwood, but down 6.7 percent in Florissant and down 6.8 percent in Belleville.

Sales are recovering nicely. In St. Louis County, 8,476 homes sold in the first eight months of this year, the most since 2007; this figure is up 12 percent this year. Sales are up 10 percent in the city of St. Louis, 22 percent in St. Charles County, 15 percent in Jefferson County, up 5 percent in Monroe County and up 18 percent in St. Clair County. Only Madison County showed a decline, a slight 3 percent.

RATE IMPACT UNCLEAR

Mortgage rates jumped by more than a percentage point in May and June and 30-year loans were averaging 4.32 percent this week. Realtors worried that higher rates would clip sales, but the effect has been hard to sort out.

Real estate sales rise and fall with the weather, so sales in one month are usually compared to the same month a year earlier. In St. Louis County sales that closed in August were up 11 percent from the previous August. Most of those contracts would have been signed after rates rose.

Realtors say the rate increase seems to be hitting the low end of the market houses priced $100,000 and under. So far this year, sales of such homes are down 17 percent at Coldwell Banker Gundaker, one of the largest real estate firms in St. …

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