As a landlord, Nick Kasoff doesn’t just accept what the St. Louis County assessor’s office says his properties are worth without pushing back.
This year is no different for the Ferguson resident, who owns 15 rental properties in the municipality. After property reassessment notices began hitting St. Louis County mailboxes in recent weeks, Kasoff said six of his properties were reappraised with increases of more than 50 percent. One, he said, rose in value to $84,000 from $38,500.
“I can’t imagine what sort of calculations led them to believe this house doubled in value in the last two years,” he said.
He plans to contest many of the initial valuations handed out by the St. Louis County assessor at the Board of Equalization. But he probably won’t fight his own Ferguson home’s reappraisal, which the county estimated rose in value by 11 percent. “I think that one I’m probably OK with,” Kasoff said.
Whether or not they agree with the county’s appraisers, St. Louis County’s once-every-other-year reassessment does suggest that homeowners in north St. Louis County are finally seeing their property values stabilize. The area bore much of the pain wrought by the foreclosure crisis nearly a decade ago, and it’s only in recent years that the declines appear to have slowed or started to reverse.
“We can safely say we put a stake in the heart of the real estate bust of several years ago,” said St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman. “This is the most consistent appreciation in property values since I became the county assessor in 2011.”
The initial estimate of all assessed property values, which is subject to change as owners appeal the county assessments, showed real estate values haven’t quite climbed back to their pre-recession peak in 2007. But the assessment this year came in just 1 percent below the initial estimates in 2007.
Home values across the county showed broad appreciation, with median single-family home values up 7 percent from 2015, according to the initial assessment data. That compared to a 2.3 percent increase countywide when property was last reassessed in 2015.
According to a Post-Dispatch analysis of county appraisal data, the vast majority of census tracts in the county saw an increase in the median appraised value of single-family homes since 2015. That analysis excludes new construction and tax-abated and tax-exempt properties and uses preliminary data for 2017.
Map by Walker Moskop
“Seeing stable property values in even the less affluent parts of the county, and even seeing significant increases in places like Lemay, that strikes me as really positive news for the region,” Zimmerman said.
The exceptions to the broader trend of rising values were mostly in inner-ring suburbs north of Interstate 70. Farther out, most North County neighborhoods saw appraised values rise.
Prices ‘creeping up’ in North County
According to home sale data provided by MORE Realtors, home sales in Hazelwood, Ferguson, Florissant and Black Jack were up during the past 12 months, with the median sale price rising by double-digit percentages in each municipality.
“Last year was an amazing year,” said Georgia Denise Rossel, a real estate agent with Alexander Realty who works with buyers and sellers in Ferguson and surrounding communities. “It’s just inventory is so low.”
All but two school districts saw median home values rise, according to preliminary data. Jennings and Riverview Gardens experienced slight declines.
Still, compared to 2007, the last assessment before the housing crisis, median values in most census tracts have not returned to their pre-recession peaks. That was the case everywhere in north St. Louis County, some areas of which saw huge surges in appraisal values before the recession, in part driven by subprime lending that was followed by a wave of foreclosures. In a handful of North County tracts, the typical value is barely more than half what it was a decade ago.
“They’re creeping up,” Rossel said of values in the north St. Louis County neighborhoods where she works. “They’re still not where they were in the early 2000s, but they’re slowly getting there.”
In the north St. Louis County suburbs that make up the Normandy Schools Collaborative, property values were stable or showed increases. Overall, the school district notched a 9.4 percent increase in median home values, the first increase in 10 years.
Map by Walker Moskop
*2017 values are preliminary and subject to change.
“It’s good news that the downward trend that we’ve seen since 2009 has stopped or slowed to a crawl,” said Chris Krehmeyer, chief executive of Beyond Housing, the nonprofit that works with residents and local governments in the Normandy area.
Beyond Housing has invested tens of millions of dollars in commercial development along Page Avenue for a grocery store, bank and four-screen movie theater. Millions more has gone to property rehabs for homeowners and new houses with programs to help residents afford them. It plans to start construction on 41 new homes in Pine Lawn this year.
“If we can keep up the direction we’re going, we’re going to see some great rebounds in property values and perceptions of the community,” Krehmeyer said.
March upward elsewhere
In other areas, the St. Louis County assessor’s office believes values rose markedly over the last two years. Some 75,000 parcels out of almost 400,000 showed increases of 15 percent or more. By state law, that size increase requires an in-person visit by a representative of the assessor’s office with an offer to inspect the interior and exterior of the home if the owner disagrees with the value.
In 2015, the assessor’s office estimates only about 22,000 properties met the 15 percent appreciation threshold.
Even so, Zimmerman said he didn’t expect the same kind of sticker shock that riled some St. Louis city homeowners this year to hit as large a proportion of county homeowners. Values are up, but many areas of St. Louis County already began seeing some recovery in past reassessments, he said.
But there are some areas where values are rising quickly as buyers bid up prices, real estate professionals say.
“We are seeing a real lack of inventory and that is driving the prices up,” said Susie Gitt, a real estate agent in the Chesterfield office of Coldwell Banker Gundaker. “In some cases, more than some, we are seeing multiple offers and houses selling in a day or a couple days.”
“I’ll tell you, the Glendale, Kirkwood area is really hot,” said Levison Appraisal Co. owner Marty Levison. “Below $500,000, most of those homes, as long as they’re priced properly, they’re going pretty rapidly.”
Another area where some owners may see a bit of sticker shock is within the Lindbergh School District, said H. John Neff, appraiser with appraisal firm Mueller & Neff.
Source: Post-Dispatch analysis of St. Louis County Assessor data
*2017 values are preliminary and subject to change
“The agents that we speak with and the market data suggest that the demand has been very strong for that district, and the supply has been a little bit on the low side,” Neff said.
While he said his firm could probably “add another phone line or two when these assessments come out,” he, like Zimmerman, didn’t think there would be more outcry than usual.
“I suspect that it will be similar to what it was two years ago,” Neff said. “The market has been stable to good for the past two years.”
Of the areas that have returned to pre-recession appraisal amounts, most were in mid-St. Louis County.
But one area outside the most affluent parts of the county that recouped its losses from the recession was a tract in Lemay by the southern tip of the city of St. Louis. Median home values there had climbed 4 percent above their 2007 median, though the neighborhoods surrounding it had yet to fully rebound.
“There’s clearly a sense of some recovery happening in terms of real estate values and investment,” said Reginald Scott, executive director of the Housing Partnership (formerly the Lemay Housing Partnership), a nonprofit group focused on stabilizing and developing the Lemay area.
His organization has used money from the St. Louis County Port Authority to pay for community development projects over the last six years. Home repairs, streetscape improvements and a new recreation center — the Pavilion at Lemay — have all been financed by rent payments from the River City Casino to the Port Authority.
“You hope all these things are making the community a little bit more desirable,” Scott said. “A good bit of renaissance is starting to happen as well.”
Don't like your St. Louis County Assessment? Tell the Assessor before July 1
If you don’t like the reassessment value that showed up in your mailbox recently from the St. Louis County Assessor’s office, don’t just complain to your neighbors, do your homework.
That’s St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman’s advice. With some 400,000 parcels across the county, he said the county is bound to miss some details. The values are used to calculate property taxes.
The rates are not set by the assessor’s office but by taxing jurisdictions like school districts and the library. Many are likely to revise their rate downward this year because property values rose in much of St. Louis County and taxing jurisdictions are not allowed to reap a windfall from property appreciation. That should offset at least some of the increase due to rising property values.
The assessor’s office focuses on determining those values. Unless the county does an on-site inspection, which is only offered when a property rises in value by more than 15 percent, the assessor’s office doesn’t know if you have a leaky roof or other problems.
Property owners have until the end of the month to get the assessor’s office to correct any details before having to file a formal appeal. Zimmerman says anyone who suffered damage from the flooding last month, especially, should inform the assessor’s office.
“They should not assume that we know, they should let us know,” he said.
Check the comparable sales the assessor uses to determine your home’s value to see if they actually are comparable. Find out what homes on your block sold for recently, a much easier task now that much of that information can be found online.
Homeowners can schedule an informal conference with a member of the county appraiser’s office by calling 314-615-4595. They will be held from June 6 to June 14 at 715 Northwest Plaza Drive. After that, homeowners can still call to speak with an appraiser but the assessor’s office can’t guarantee it will have time to review the property assessment before the July 1 deadline.
After July 1, appeals must go through the St. Louis County Board of Equalization. Property owners can request free help appealing their valuations by leaving a message on the advocate hotline at 314-615-4611 or sending an email to Advocate@stlouisco.com.
Before filing a formal appeal or hiring a professional to make your case, appraiser H. John Neff of Mueller & Neff in Sunset Hills said to consider whether you would sell the house for what the assessor’s office says it's worth. He recounted a west St. Louis County homeowner calling recently to complain that the assessor’s office increased his home’s value by 27 percent.
“While I told him that would be a pretty hefty increase, I said, whatever they have it appraised at, would you sell it to someone this afternoon? And he said no, I think it’s worth more.” Neff said. “They may see an increase, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the value is too high.”