December 6, 2016

Webster groves property values rising, amid concern

Residential properties in Webster Groves have risen more than four percent in average value and are expected to rise more than one-and-half percent in the coming year, according to the online real estate database Zillow.com. The database also lists median list prices of Webster Groves properties $163 higher than properties in the St. Louis Metro area.

The prediction from Zillow.com is contrary to the worry Webster Groves resident Frank Janoski expressed at the Aug. 19 city council meeting. Janoski said he and other residents north of Lockwood Avenue were concerned that if Webster University was to expand, their property values would decline.

St. Louis real estate agent Mary Krummenacher, who works for the real estate company RE/MAX, said a large reason for the rise in Webster Groves property values is because the area appeals to families. Areas close to school districts are desirable, Krummenacher said.

“That is a huge driving factor because Webster Groves is typically a family-oriented neighborhood, in terms of culture and style of homes,” Krummenacher said.

Krummenacher said of the 70 real estate transactions she made last year, 15 percent were either the selling or purchasing of Webster Groves homes.

Interested buyers of Webster Groves homes were not concerned if the nearby university or its students were a problem, Krummenacher said. She said buyers saw their university neighbors as a positive rather than a negative.

“Part of the draw (for buyers) is that Webster (University) is a good campus. It’s not like (the University of Missouri-Columbia), where you have a frat party environment,” Krummenacher said.

But Dan Stevens, a real estate developer with properties in Webster Groves and University City, knows the University of Missouri-Columbia is not the only place with a party environment.

Stevens owns two apartment buildings, capable of housing four families, in University City near the Washington University (WashU) campus. He used to manage those properties while living in Webster Groves, but the need to tend to the repairs with the University City properties became too great, causing him to move to the area to be closer to his apartment buildings.

Stevens said a large part of the repairs stemmed from the WashU students renting the apartments causing major damage to the properties.

“Interior damage is the major problem; smashed doors, molding torn off, bicycles in and out, a lot of floor damage,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he does not paint student renters with a broad stroke. He said half of his student renters decently maintain properties while the other half cause damage that have  major repair costs. Spending money on normal wear-and-tear repairs is expected every ten years or so, Stevens said, but some renters have been causing him to go beyond the expected threshold. 

“I am having to rehab (my apartments) every three years and that’s too much,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he has one property he cannot even rent out because the damages are so bad. He said he will have to spend thousands of dollars just to get the apartment to pass real estate inspections.

In terms of having Webster University expand and collaborate with Eden Theological Seminary and possibly use their vacant dormitory buildings to house more Webster students, Stevens has mixed feelings.

Stevens said Webster expanding and having more students live in the area off-campus would be beneficial for him economically. Stevens, who owns the Ozark Theater, said if Webster expanded and housed more students, it could bring business to his theater.

However, Stevens said he is more concerned with how Webster Groves residents are affected if Webster was allowed to expand.

“Economically, it would help me if Glen Park (apartments) was loaded with students and the university did expand north of Lockwood. But there is more than my own self-interest here. Yeah, it would help me but I don’t care. I am more concerned about the general care of the residents,” Stevens said.

However, as a private business owner with property in Webster Groves, Stevens said he takes issue with how some residents and city council members are trying to dictate how their property is used.

“But I also have a problem with the residents and the council trying to dictate everything that happens on campus, how much green space there needs to be. To me, that is meddling a bit too much,” Stevens said.

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