Dawn Griffin

Saint Louis City-Focused Broker/Salesperson
GRI, e-Pro, Licensed REALTOR®

dawn@dawngriffin.com / 314.413.7086

Dawn Griffin

How To Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Multiple Offer Scenario

2015 is going to another great season for the home-seller. Inventory still seems to be low. Rates are still absurdly low and FHA just announced that annual insurance premiums will be reduced which will give Buyers more buying power.*

For buyers, this will mean more competition for the available homes. And therefore it is likely that as a Buyer in the 2015 Spring market you may find yourself in a multiple offer situation. (This is when a seller receives more than one offer on a the home at the same time).

Here are some tips on how to make your offer stand-out in a multiple-offer situation:

1. Make sure you are FULLY pre-approved and not just pre-qualified. This requires that you find an excellent lender who will do the work for you ahead of time. Most lenders will not submit your file to underwriting until you have a contract on a home. Other lenders will make sure your file is complete with the exception of the contract and appraisal. This means that when you submit an offer to the seller, the seller is assured of  your ability to deliver the funds on the day of the closing and offers the seller peace of mind when accepting your contract.

2. If you are serious about buying a home, you will likely have saved a decent down payment and you should have funds in reserve. The contract asks that you submit an Earnest Money deposit at signing. This money shows the seller that you are serious. The Earnest Money is your money. If you fulfill the contract, it is credited back to you at closing. The contract also allows you several contingencies to terminate after doing your due diligence.  If inspections reveal serious structural issues or if the home does appraise for the agreed price, the buyer is within their rights to terminate the contract with Earnest Money returned to the buyer. Therefore the Earnest Money is only in jeopardy if the buyer defaults on the contract. So, if you are serious, show the seller your are serious with a larger Earnest Money deposit.

3. Do not write an offer contingent on the sale of your home. (This topic deserves its own blog post)

4. Be ready to pay your own closing costs. In the past, many sellers were willing to credit a portion of the sale price back to the buyer to pay for the buyer’s closing costs which includes lender fees, title fees and pre-paids. In this market and especially in a competing offer situation, the seller wants to see the cleanest offer possible. Talk with your lender ahead of time to see how much cash you need to have ready to cover your down payment and your own closing costs.

5. Be flexible with your closing date. Some sellers want to close as quickly as possible. Others have to wait for their next home to be available. If you can be flexible on timing, the seller may pick your offer over a different higher offer. The more flexible you can make yourself, the easier your purchase will be.

6. Add an escalation clause. I.E (I will pay $1057.00 more than the highest offer not to exceed $X). Talk to your agent about how to structure this so that all your bases are covered.

7. Write a note to the seller. I recently helped a seller sort through FIVE competing offers for her house. Two of the contracts had very similar offer prices and terms. Both used an escalation clause. Both were willing to pay more than the highest written offer on the table. One of the buyers wrote a note of introduction. In that case, the letter was the tipping point in helping the seller choose which offer to accept.

*Note: This means that borrowers will have more buying power. For a $120,000 borrowers, the reduction in annual premium will save them $50/month. Instead of paying $50 a month to mortgage insurance, that $50/month can go to a larger loan amount giving the borrower at the $120,000 about $12,000-$15,000 cushion in their price point.


Tower Grove South Spring 2013 Compared to Spring 2014

The 2015 Spring market is upon us. And every home seller that I meet with is asking: Will Spring 2015 be like Spring  2014?

Last year’s Spring market felt frenzied. For the homeowners who were selling and receiving multiple offers that was fantastic! For those looking to buy homes in the neighborhood that was extremely frustrating. (See: Tips on How to Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Multiple Offer Scenario).

So was last Spring a fluke? Or, are we likely to see similar market conditions in 2015. Here is a snapshot of 2013 Spring compared to 2014 Spring. I always like to see what happened in the past to help give me a glimpse into what might happen next.

The screenshots below show a specific mapped section of TGS (this is not the entirety of the neighborhood). To be included as one of these data points, the home had to be priced above $125,000 with at least 3 bedrooms. Respective dates: January 1, 2013-July 31, 2013 and January 1, 2014-July 31,2014.

SOLD Data for TGS in 2013:
Price range:  $125-$462,000
Total Sold: 39
Average Days on Market: 61
Average List Price to Sale Price Ratio: 96.18
Number of houses receiving 100% or more of asking: 11

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SOLD Data for TGS in 2014:
Prices ranged from $130-$470,000
Total Sold: 46
Average Days on Market: 63
Average List Price to Sale Price Ratio: 97.98
Number of houses receiving 100% or more of asking: 15

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Take aways: Prices seemed to have creeped up between 2013 and 2014. I was surprised to see that the average days on market was higher in 2014 than 2013. I looked a little closer at the CDOM and saw that there were two outliers in 2014 that racked up 248 days and 348 days on market. Removing those brought the CDOM for 2014 down to 52. There were more homes listed and sold in 2014 than 2013 but there were also more homes that sold ABOVE asking in 2014.

Predictions for Spring 2015: There will be fewer homes listed for sale. Many of the homes listed will be NEW rehabs not previously lived in by anyone else. Those homes matching the magic formula (3+beds, 2.5baths with Master Suite and 2 car garage) will sell for over $300,000+. That will keep resale prices on the higher end as well.

should not over-estimate what their home is worth. If sellers price according to market data, they are likely to receive multiple offers with good terms. If sellers try to out-perfom the market based on the low inventory, the buyers will move on. The home noted in 2014 that took 348 to sell was a great house. The ultimate buyer probably got it for 15k less than its nearst sold comp though. By the time the seller came to grips with the market data, the home was stigmatized. Had that seller priced at $239,900 out of the gate instead of $289,900, he would have received more than $215,000.

Buyers need to get their ducks in row now. Do your research. Get a good idea of what your price point buys in different areas. Make sure you are fully pre-approved and talk with your Buyer’s Agent about a strategy for submitting a contract in multiple offer situations. When you find the right house, be ready to make a good offer.

List Your Home for Sale During the Holidays

Homes sell every month of the year. Here are 7 reasons why you should list your home today rather than wait for Spring

1. People tromping around in the snow are serious buyers
2. Serious winter time buyers have fewer homes to choose from during the holidays and less competition = a higher sale price.
3. Buyers are more emotional about “getting into a place before Christmas”
4. Houses show better when decorated for the holidays
5. Many relocation buyers have to move before their new job begins. They cannot wait until Spring to buy.
6. Some people must buy before the end of the year for tax reasons.
7. If your home is not on the market, it won’t sell. You can still restrict showing access to conform to your holiday schedule.

When selecting agents to interview to sell your home THIS YEAR, here are 3 reasons to call me first.

1. Average list price to sale price ratio is 97%
2. Average days on the market from list date to sale date is 58
3. Superior marketing program ensures that your home stands out from the pack.




Homes Near Wash U’s School of Medicine within Walking Distance of a Park or Playground

Case Study:
We have a 2 year old and another on the way. We are looking for 3-4 bedrooms and 2 baths. Our price range is between $300,000 and $400,000. We would love to educate ourselves on and to visit some of the many charming neighborhoods of St. Louis, preferably with some walkability and retail/restaurant components. We would love to look at a few houses to see what our price range can afford us in which neighborhoods and to better understand the local market and we need to be close to Washington University’s School of Medicine.
It is a bit overwhelming to look into all of the different neighborhoods (switching between a map to conceptualize, google directions to understand distance to WashU medical center, and blog/website urls to get a sense of the each vibe), but I want to maximize my exploration time in St. Louis…In addition to the TGE and South neighborhoods, do you have any other neighborhoods on which I should do some research and/or look into exploring on my own time …would love suggestions on maybe neighborhoods/locations that would be nice to check out and grab breakfast/coffee or dinner (and to take a 2 year old to).
Homes around Tower Grove Park (neighborhoods: TGE, TGS and Shaw)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Lunch at the New Rooster Crepe Sandwich Cafe
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Homes around Lafayette Park (neighborhoods Lafayette Square and McKinley Heights)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Afternoon Snack at Park Avenue Coffee
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Homes around Benton Park (neighborhood: Benton Park)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Dinner at Sidney Street Cafe 
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Homes around Forest Park (neighborhood Skinker DeBaliviere)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Coffee at Kayak’s Coffee
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Homes around Tilles Park (neighborhood Lindenwood Park)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Picnic basket from Salume Beddu
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Homes around Lindenwood Park (neighborhood Lindenwood Park)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Dine at Stellina Pasta
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Homes around Francis Park ( neighborhood: St Louis Hills)
Click the following link to view the Listings:
Ice Cream at Ted Drewes
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University City
Homes around Flynn Park
Click the following link to view the Listing:
Brunch at Winslow’s Home
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Homes around Lewis Park
Click the following link to view the Listings:
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Real Estate Investing Offers Only One Likely Outcome: a Low Return, Part II

Yesterday, spurred by some of the interesting data in the Carl Richards article, I went on a tangent about timing as it relates to the value of your real estate.

But the real meat of the argument in the article, Real Estate Investing Offers Only One Likely Outcome: A Low Return,  can be summed up in this excerpt:

“And between who you know and what you hear on the news, it may be tempting to believe you can experience the same success. But as with most things, there’s a difference between professionals who’ve paid their dues and people who are just pretending.

The few, very successful real estate investors I know share three things that make them exceptions. First, they’ve developed the unique skill of identifying undervalued properties. It requires many years of painful trial and error. A three-day course on “How to Become a Successful Real Estate Investor” won’t cut it.”

Just in case you missed it: A Three day course on “How to Become a Successful Real Estate Investor” won’t cut it.

I couldn’t agree more! Every couple weeks I get a call from an out of town “investor” who has a “system.” They almost always start the conversation by saying something like “With your help, I can make us a lot of money.” (EEW!?!?!?)

I can usually tell within the first couple exchanges, that the person on the other end of the line has just “graduated” from one of the seminars going around the country. I find it especially irksome when the caller reveals that s/he has no intention of improving the home or the neighborhood. Their goal is to find under-valued properties. (Which they intend to do by having me submit 50-100/per week on homes I haven’t seen at half or less than half the list price). Buy them quickly with cash and re-list them at an inflated value.

Despite what the seminar taught, this is NOT a system. It’s one strategy and ultimately not a good one. When the property is listed at a higher value without any change in condition, the buyer pool is severely decreased. Rather than pricing according to market value you are just looking for that “one dumb fish” and thankfully (for the overall health of the real estate market) there are a lot fewer dumb fish out there. So you just might get stuck holding that property.

Beware of the seminar curriculum that leads you to believe you can get something for nothing. But don’t write off real estate investing all together. Despite what the title of the Richard’s article implies, real estate can be a good investment vehicle. But as he outlines in the article it takes experience, knowledge and connections.

Over the last ten years, I have worked with several experienced investors. I have learned much from each one of them. While each had their own unique strategy, there were a couple unifying threads. First, while real estate investment may not have been their full-time job, they treated it as though it was a job. Second, most were in it for the long-term. And finally, they knew they weren’t getting something for nothing. If they bought low, they invested an additional amount in the asset in order to sell high.

Real Estate Investing Offers Only One Likely Outcome: A Low Return

On October 6th the New York Times published this article, Real Estate Investing Offers Only One Likely Outcome: A Low Return, by Carl Richards. Someone sent it to me and asked me what I thought. So, here goes:

Part I:

First glance at the title made me want to disagree. But the author understands that you have to select a really sensational title to get people to keep reading. The article itself is full of common sense wisdom.

I love that he touches on timing with this quote: “… it becomes very easy to convince ourselves that we’ll find the perfect real estate deal and time both our entry and exit into the investment perfectly.”

What that quote illustrates is that timing is probably the most important factor in determining the value of real estate. But to some degree, timing is almost always the one thing out of your control when buying your home.

When buying your HOME, you cannot time the market. Most people simply do not have the luxury of time when looking for a place to live. I have one past client who affectionately refers to herself as my “forever” client. We looked (or rather waited and pounced) for over a year for her “dream” home to come on the market. However, the majority of my clients who are buying their homes have a limited amount of time to purchase. People who are relocating often have only one or two weekends to make a decision. Their options are limited to the inventory available when they have to make that decision.  Other people have to sell their home before they can buy their next home. Again they have a short window of time to search because they have to  find a home AND arrange for the details of their purchase so that it coincides with the sale of their current home. With the exception of the first time home buyer who is free-loading at their parent’s home, almost everyone is constrained by time.

Timing is also the key to selling. When it’s time for you to sell your home, its value will be determined by the sale of similar homes in a close geographic area at the time of your sale. But when you are purchasing a home it’s very difficult to predict WHEN you are going to sell? Will you get transferred and take a new job out of town? Will your third baby be a set of twins that literally causes you to out grow the occupancy limit of the home you are living in? Will you need to sell your home to move closer to an aging parent?

What’s happening in the larger economy and on a local scale within the 6 months of your sale will determine the value of your sale. And since those things are pretty much out of your control, don’t hang your retirement plans on home ownership. Makes sense to me :-)

To be continued….



Fox Park Featured Neighborhood

Fox Park is a fantastic neighborhood tucked between Tower Grove Park and Lafayette Square. Most home buyers that I meet aren’t really familiar with it. When I drive them through the area, they are impressed with the architecture and the tree-lined streets. They are shocked at its affordability and they immediately open their search criteria to include more than just Shaw and Tower Grove South.

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Speaking of affordability, let’s compare value. The magic formula these days is a 3 bed and 2.5 bath home that includes a master suite. In Fox Park, 2650 Armand is available and is listed at $179,900. Recently renovated, this home includes updated systems and a new(er) roof. The kitchen features a HUGE center-island with granite top and a MASTER SUITE

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In Tower Grove South you can find something with 3 beds and 2.5 baths starting at $250,000. However to find a home with a kitchen as desirable or a master bath as luxurious, you would need to pay $150,000-$200,000 more. (See screenshot of sold values in TGS below). To put this in perspective, by living a couple blocks further from Tower Grove Park, you can save at minimum $100,000 !$!$!$!$!

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As Fox Park takes off there are more and more restaurants calling the neighborhood home. The Purple Martin just went in at the corner of Shenandoah and California. Kakao Chocolate is at the corner of Shenandoah and Jefferson. Van Goghz Marini Bar and Bistro is at the corner of Shenandoah and Compton.

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Fox Park itself has one of the best playgrounds of any city neighborhood. The neighborhood has its own “Farm” on Russell Blvd. The home-owners in Fox Park are involved and friendly. Don’t believe me? Check out this FB thread
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Want to learn more about Fox Park? Join their FB page or read this post on City Talk.

Want to view 2650 Armand and become a part of the neighborhood? Call me! 314-413-7086

Why IKEA Chose St. Louis City and Why Should You Too

While IKEA coming to St. Louis is not necessarily breaking news, the selected location at the corner of Forest Park Parkway and Vandeventer was still a surprise to some.

In regards to the location question, the St. Louis Business Journal (12/4/2013) quoted an IKEA spokesman as saying “highway visibility and accessibility; centrality in the region; and available land” were keys issues in this particular site selection.

IKEA  is part of Phase III of the Cortex Development whose objective it is to “Transform a 200-acre midtown industrial neighborhood into vibrant, 24-7 live-work-play-learn innovation community.”

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(Slide taken from a presentation given to the Urban Affairs Committee of SLAR in March 2014)

The area is anchored by Saint Louis University to the east and the Washington University and BJC Medical Campus to the west. Other area amenities include the Grand Arts Center District, Central West End, Forest Park and Missouri Botanical Gardens.

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(Slide from the Presentation to the Urban Affairs Committee of SLAR in March 2014)


The Innovation District Projections include 3,700,00 square feet of mixed use space, 13,000 new jobs and $711 million in annual payroll.

Now, that is starting to sound pretty interesting!


Check out some of the nearby housing options below:

A quick radius search of 3miles around the district shows that there are 145 active listings with 3+ bedroom homes priced above $200,000.

Here are two of my favorites:

3159 Allen: An expansive home with a cottage feel in sought-after Compton Heights for just $339,900

3285 Gustine: A sleek town-home style condo in the heart of Tower Grove South includes access to two salt-water pools on the back deck. List price $339,900
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Economic Forecast from NAR’s Chief Economist

The National Association of Realtors Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research, Lawrence Yun, spoke to the St. Louis Association of Realtors this month. Here are some highlights from his presentation.


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The St. Louis residential retail market has rebounded. People are no longer asking “Have we hit bottom yet.” The data shows that we hit bottom between 2010 and 2011. The number of sales and housing prices have increased year over year for the last two years. 


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Nationally the median home price has increased almost 20% over the last two years. Homeowners who couldn’t consider putting their home on market two years ago because they were under water may now be in the black. Which is great because the Exiting Home Inventory is down near a 13 year low.


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Lack of inventory will drive housing prices higher and the inevitable rise in mortgage rates will hurt the affordability of homes. Meaning a person considering buying a home NOW will be able to get more for less now. While a person who waits a year, will not only have to confront higher sale prices, but will also be paying higher interest rates.


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Two take aways from Forecast #3:

If you were ever considering buying rental property as an investor, now is the time to do it. Home purchases will become more expensive keeping solid renters from becoming solid home owners. These will be ideal tenants.

If you are considering purchasing a home, now is the time to talk to a lender and Realtor about your options. Prices are rebounding and interest rates are increasing. A $1300 monthly mortgage payment today means you can afford a  home with a list price of $272,300  with a mortgage interest rate of 4% versus a list price of $228,900 with a mortgage interest rate of 5.5%.


Remodeling: Cost Versus Value Report

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 10.11.11 AMRemodeling’s Annual Cost v. Value Report is out.  The report which catalogues the 35 most popular renovation projects and shows how those projects maintain their value at resale is divided by region. Missouri is in the “West North Central” region.

Top 3 Interior Renovation Projects

Adding and Attic Bedroom: Percentage of Cost Recouped in Resale 68%
Basement Remodel:
Percentage of Cost Recouped in Resale 63%
Minor Kitchen Renovation: 
Percentage of Cost Recouped in Resale 65%


Top 3 Exterior Renovation Projects

Upgrade to Fiber Cement Board Siding: Percentage of Cost Recouped in Resale 72%
Wood Deck Addition: Percentage of Cost Recouped in Resale 68%
Window Replacement both Vinyl and Wood: 
Percentage of Cost Recouped in Resale 62%