Sep 25

Walbrandt Technologies Hires Craig Gulley, Audio and Technology Industry Expert, as Vice President of Sales

Craig Gulley, Vice President of Sales at Walbrandt Technologies

Craig Gulley, Vice President of Sales at Walbrandt Technologies

St. Louis (September 25, 2017) – Walbrandt Technologies, the Midwestern leader for high-end residential and commercial audio, lighting, entertainment and smart technology solutions, announced today that Craig Gulley joined as Vice President of Sales.

Gulley, a nationally known, industry expert for residential and commercial integration and automation technology, brings more than 35 years of experience in sales and manufacturing. As the Vice President of Sales, Gulley will oversee new business development and management of the sales team. He will also be involved with identifying and introducing new products and services.

“We are thrilled to have Craig join Walbrandt Technologies. He brings an incredible amount of experience and expertise to our team, and will help our clients select the best solutions for their homes and offices,” said Aaron Walbrandt, Walbrandt Technologies president and founder.

Prior to joining the Company, Gulley worked at Crestron Electronics holding senior level management positions as Director of Sales for the Midwest, and as a top producing sales representative. He also owned Music for Pleasure, a St. Louis company that provided high-end audio systems.

“My goal at Walbrandt Technologies is to combine my love of truly good, reproduced music, and create an experience with entertainment and automation solutions that allow our clients to enjoy and appreciate the time they spend in their homes with family and friends,” said Gulley.

Founded in 2010, Walbrandt Technologies delivers life enhancing technologies with uncompromising award-winning service. Aaron Walbrandt, company founder and president, and the Walbrandt Technologies team have a single-focus and passion to help residential and commercial clients find solutions for home theater and entertainment, high-end music systems, lighting, shade and drapery, and smart home technology. To learn more, visit http://walbrandt.com.

Sep 19

Thomson Printing, Creative & Graphics Moves to Larger Downtown St. Louis Office

John Meilink, CEO of Thomson Printing, Creative & Graphics

John Meilink, CEO of Thomson Printing, Creative & Graphics

September 19, 2017 (St. Louis, MO) – Thomson Printing, Creative & Graphics (TPC&G), a St. Charles, MO-based, fourth-generation family owned business, announced today that eight employees from its website design and app development teams moved to a larger St. Louis City office located at 449 N. Euclid, St. Louis, MO, 63108.

TPC&G had an office in the Cortex Innovation Community since early 2016 where the app development team was located. The Company’s headquarters and printing facility remains in St. Charles, MO, located at 601 Kingshighway.

“We are excited about our new location and expanded presence in the downtown business community,” said John Meilink, TPC&G CEO. “We’ve experienced significant growth the past several years and found that being in the City provided us with a more central location to meet with clients throughout the region.”

TPC&G experienced milestones this year, which include:

  • Named one of Small Business Monthly’s Top 2017 Family Owned Businesses and voted by the publication’s readers as one of “Best in Reliability St. Louis Companies in 2017.”
  • Launched new website with time-saving, efficient and secure features for current and prospective clients.
  • Rolled out “$0 to 60,” which provides business owners a free 60-minute consultation with an experienced web developer who will provide a review, diagnosis and offer solutions for a small business’ current website.

Founded in 1905, Thomson Printing, Creative & Graphics (TPC&G), a St. Charles, Mo.-based, fourth-generation family owned business, is one of the leading Midwestern printing, web design, app development, and digital marketing development firms serving clients nationwide. To learn more, visit TPC&G’s website.

Sep 18

Looking For A Home in St. Louis? Consider These Options

3 St. Louis Home Loan Options for Homebuyers

Are you looking for a home in the St. Louis area?  You’re not alone.  Though Downtown St. Louis and St. Louis City proper has seen shrinking demand and fewer home buyers, neighborhoods just outside of city limits have seen increased demand.  From Kirkwood to St. Charles, the St. Louis area is a hotbed for new home development and housing options on the market.  In West St. Louis County, due to increased demand in properties, housing values have increased significantly and are expected to continue to increase.  Homes in Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Ballwin, and Ladue have increased in value and homes don’t remain on the market for long.  It’s important to act fast when buying a home in hot neighborhoods, however, acting fast is often limited by scarce monetary resources.  Here are three St. Louis home loan options to consider when buying a home.


St. Louis Military Loans

St. Louis Military Loans or VA Loans are available to a wide range of St. Louisans and Missourians who are connected to the US Military.  Unfortunately, as the name would suggest, you must have ties to the US Military.  Civilians who don’t meet the criteria listed later in this post are not eligible for military or VA loans.  To determine eligibility, take a look at the criteria below to see if any of the characteristics fit you or a loved one.

  • Active Duty US Military
  • Active Reservist Us Military
  • US Military Veterans
  • Spouses of Active Duty US Military
  • Spouses of US Military Veterans
  • Spouses of Deceased US Military that haven’t remarried

If you fit one or more of those descriptions, you’re probably eligible for a Military/VA home loan.  That’s fantastic as these loans can be very significant.  However, Military/VA loans are more restricted than conventional home loans.  Here are the following criteria that come with applying for or taking out a Military/VA loan.

  • Primary House Only (as compared to primary, secondary, or investment property)
  • No Down Payment (as compared to a down payment that varies by creditworthiness and bank)
  • Fixed VA/Government fees and monthly premiums (as compared to fees that vary by bank)
  • No Insurance Required (as compared to up to 20% of loan amount)
  • FICO Score of 620 or Higher (similar to FICO requirement of conventional home loan)

St. Louis Military Loans can sometimes, cover the entire cost of a home.  With no down payments, generous loan amounts, generous rates, and low fees, if you’re eligible or believe you could be eligible for a Military/VA loan, apply as soon as possible.  These loans are a great way to honor those who are serving or have served their country.  With a flourishing military community in St. Louis, these loans are sure to be a popular option.

St. Louis USDA Loans

St. Louis USDA Loans are housing loans offered by the US Department of Agriculture.  Again, these loans are restricted to certain applicants and geographical areas.  USDA loans were launched to stimulate rural (and occasionally suburban) growth and home ownership.  These loans encourage younger individuals and middle-income individuals or families to move to developing rural regions of the country.

In the St. Louis region, areas including Troy, MO, parts of Edwardsville, IL, Hillsboro, MO, and Pacific, MO, among others, are eligible for USDA loans.  The USDA has provided a detailed map outlining eligible and ineligible regions.  In addition to the USDA loans being restricted by location, the loan is also income restricted.  Again, income eligibility is determined by the area in which you plan to live and of course, income.  In some areas, the maximum income is $50,000 a year while others, the maximum income can be as much as $75,000 a year.

(Image: USDA)

(Image: USDA)

Again, the USDA loan has more restrictions than a conventional housing loan.  Below are the criteria for a USDA loan and how the loan differs compared to a conventional housing loan.

  • Primary House Only (as compared to primary, secondary, or investment property)
  • No Down Payment (as compared to a down payment that varies by creditworthiness and bank)
  • $100 Fee per $100K Borrowed. monthly premium (as compared to fees that vary by bank)
  • Insurance Required, amount varies but can be financed into loan (as compared to up to 20% of the loan amount)
  • FICO Score of 640 or Higher (similar to FICO requirement of conventional home loan)

St. Louis USDA loans are very generous, however, highly restricted.  If you believe you’re eligible for a USDA home loan, you should apply, however, there will be fees to access and submit the USDA home loan application.

St. Louis Conventional Home Loans

St. Louis conventional home loans are offered by a variety of financial institutions.  The amount of money accessible to an individual varies with income, assets, and creditworthiness.  If you’ve spent your young adult life building a credit score and have sufficient income, conventional home loans will probably be accessible.  Interest rates and fees will, of course, vary by financial institution and one’s creditworthiness.

If you’re considering a conventional home loan, it’s smart to consult a mortgage broker and explore as many financial institutions as possible.

Sep 13

ACT Season Is Here in St. Louis

Get Ready Parents, It’s ACT Season

It’s that time of the year again.  High schoolers are back in class and that means homework, tests, exams, and papers.  For many, the academic year also means the return of college entrance exams.  Across the United States, high schoolers everywhere will be taking the ACT or SAT.  In some cases, students will take both tests.  In St. Louis and throughout Missouri, the ACT is the preferred test which means students are rushing around during these next few months to prepare for the test and get ahead of their peers.  The importance of the ACT test cannot be stressed enough.  If a student suffers from a low GPA or underwhelming high school resume, high ACT scores can play a major role in college acceptance.  Even if a student has a 4.0 and was the president of the student body, competitive colleges will look closely at a student’s test scores.  Given the importance of the ACT test, ACT prep and ACT tutors are not just recommended, they’ve become almost essential to success.  Here’s a breakdown of all things ACT.


All You Need to Know About the ACT Test

The ACT test was first offered in 1959 and aimed at becoming a competitor of the popular SAT test.  For much of the ACT test’s existence, the test played second fiddle to the more popular and widely accepted SAT test.  However, in recent years, the ACT has grown in popularity surpassing the SAT in the number of test takers in 2011.  Today, the ACT closely resembles the SAT featuring a Math, Science, Reading, English, and optional Writing section.  The test is scored from 1 to 36 with 36 being the best possible score.

A 36 is what all students strive for but few achieve this score.  Students are allowed to take the test up to 12 times and can choose to take the test once per academic year or up to six times in a year.  The test is typically administered on Saturdays usually at large high schools, community colleges, and local community centers.  This year, 2017-2018, tests are offered on the following dates: September 9th, October 28th, December 9th, February 10th, April 14th, June 9th, and July 14th.  The September test has come and gone, however, the rest of the dates are still open for registration.  Here’s how to ensure a student can score as close to a 36 as they possibly can.

(Image: ACT)

(Image: ACT)

ACT Test Prep in St. Louis, What to Do?

With a strong base of private high schools and great school districts, the ACT test scene in St. Louis is competitive.  Having a lot of ACT test takers, all of whom want to do well, is both a pro and con.  The downside of this means there are a large amount of well educated high school graduates with solid ACT scores applying to colleges.  The upside to the popularity of the ACT test in St. Louis means there’s no shortage of test prep resources.

Group Study

The first and often least expensive ACT prep resource is a study group.  Study groups can be as casual or as formal as the student or parent would like.  Formal study groups will often be facilitated by a teacher, a local college student, or tutor.  Formal study groups can also be a great way to obtain ACT test resources.  Casual study groups might be beneficial, however, teenagers aren’t the best moderators when placed in groups of their peers.

ACT Classes and Courses

Private high schools in the St. Louis Area do a fantastic job of offering ACT test prep classes that are usually offered to any high school student.  These courses can cost upwards of $200 or even $300 but are usually taught by experienced instructors.  These classes also allow students to obtain a wide array of ACT test prep materials and resources.  Some public schools might offer ACT classes as well though, will likely feature a larger more packed classroom with fewer resources.

The ACT Test Prep Book (Image: ACT)

The ACT Test Prep Book (Image: ACT)

ACT Tutors

The best and most rewarding option is to hire a St. Louis ACT tutor.  One-on-one tutoring facilitated by professional tutors, often formal teachers or professors gives a student uninterrupted and unparalleled access to ACT test prep resources.  Students who at first, take the ACT test without a tutor and then later consult a tutor for later test dates, see the largest jump in scores.  Unfortunately, the best option is also the most expensive option.

Learn more about the ACT Test here.

Sep 07

Purk & Associates Selected as one of Small Business Monthly’s “2017 Future 50” Recipients

September 6, 2017 (St. Louis) – Purk & Associates, P.C., the leading St. Louis-based independently owned accounting and management consulting firm, was selected as one of Small Business Monthly’s “2017 Future 50” companies, an award to recognize the privately held companies that are key economic indicators of regional business growth.

“This is an honor to be recognized as one of the Future 50 award recipients. We understand the small business community of St. Louis because most of our clients are small business owners. The local entrepreneurial community is growing and thriving, and we’re proud to be part of it,” said Bill Purk, CPA, Purk & Associates president and founding co-shareholder.

Since its founding in June 2009, Purk & Associates has achieved significant financial growth, attracted and retained leading talent, and has been recognized by business groups and industry organizations for company awards and recognition of individual employees.

Purk & Associates has doubled the number of full-time positions since 2009 to more than 25 professionals with less than a 10 percent turnover of talent. The firm’s team members collectively have contributed hundreds of hours of accounting and other professional services to a variety of non-profits throughout the St. Louis region.

Within the past five years, the firm has been recognized by the business community and accounting industry as one of the country’s leading accounting firms. Purk & Associates has been named to the prestigious Inc. Magazine’s 500 | 5000 list in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and has been voted one of the “Best Accounting Firms to Work For in the Country” by Accounting Today from 2014-2017. 

For more information about Small Business Monthly’s “Future 50” 2017 recipients, please click here.

Founded in 2009 with headquarters in St. Louis, Purk & Associates, P.C., is a nationally recognized and award winning, independently owned accounting and management advisory firm that delivers a full range of tax, accounting, audit and consulting services. At Purk & Associates, our focus is to help our clients achieve more financial and business success. To learn more, please visit http://purkpc.com.

Sep 06

AMM Communications Selected as one of Small Business Monthly’s “2017 Future 50” Recipients

image of Ann Marie Mayuga

Ann Marie Mayuga is AMM Communications co-founder and principal

September 6, 2017 (St. Louis) – AMM Communications LLC, a WBE-certified, St. Louis-based public relations, communications skills training and marketing firm, was selected as one of Small Business Monthly’s “2017 Future 50” companies, an award recognizing privately held companies that are key economic indicators for regional business growth.

“This is an honor to be selected as one of the Future 50 award recipients. We are thrilled to be included with this amazing group of local companies. Give the caliber of the Future 50 companies, St. Louis has a bright future,” said Ann Marie Mayuga, AMM Communications principal and co-founder.

For more information about Small Business Monthly’s “Future 50” 2017 recipients, please click here.

AMM Communications has also been voted one of the “Best St. Louis Public Relations Firms” by the readers of Small Business Monthly for eight consecutive years from 2010-17.

Founded in 2008, AMM Communications LLC, the St. Louis-based strategic marketing communications, public relations, and talent acquisition firm, provides media relations, business development, crisis communications, content marketing, internal communications, communications skills training, digital marketing, reputation management, social media consulting, and executive search services for businesses nationwide. AMM Communications is WBE certified, and has been voted one of the “Best PR Firms in St. Louis” by Small Business Monthly from 2010-2017. We want to help you … Drive your sales. Communicate better. Hire well. For more information, please visit, visit AMM Communications’ website or call 314.485.9499.

Aug 31

NutritionHQ, St. Louis-Headquartered Premium Supplement and Vitamin Retailer, Plans Nationwide Expansion Fall 2017

St. Louis (August 31, 2017) –  NutritionHQ (NHQ), the premium supplement and vitamin retailer headquartered in St. Louis, announced today that its first retail store will open August 23 at 8:00 a.m., located at 9430 Manchester, Rock Hill, MO, 63119.

Founded in 2015, NHQ now has five locations, including the Rock Hill that serves as its flagship store. The retail outlets are in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Later this year, NHQ will announce plans with the introduction of its franchise program.

“We have long wanted a NHQ St. Louis retail location to further our brand, train our team, and provide a unique customer experience to every friend in The Lou,” said Ricky Hall, NutritionHQ founder and CEO.  “We are transforming 1,000 square feet of retail space into our flagship that will become the national model for all NHQ stores across the country.”

In 2016, NHQ exceeded $2,000,000 in revenue, which included its e-commerce business and retail operations. The company employs more than 25 team members. 

NHQ sources and sells only the highest quality products made from manufacturers that follow the FDA Good Manufacturing Products (GMP) regulations to help clients achieve their goals for weight loss, good health and sports nutrition.

“What distinguishes us from other supplement, vitamin and nutrition retailers is our commitment to sourcing and selecting the most reputable vendors in the industry who are manufacturing high-quality products that WORK!  NHQ Team Members listen, learn, educate and provide solutions to every client consistent with his or her goals.  To make it simple, its people and products that set us apart, and we are unparalleled in this industry,” said Jennah Purk-Hall, CPA, NutritionHQ CFO.

Hall and Purk-Hall, each of whom is a serial entrepreneur, selected the Rock Hill location to open their flagship store because it is a community they know well since they live, worship, workout and raise their family. Leveraging Hall’s industry expertise and Hall-Purk’s business and accounting expertise, they are a dynamic duo that cannot be stopped.   

Hall, who served in the Air Force, learned early in his career that strong physical conditioning leads to better decision making, stress management, and improved attitude. “Good physical health is an attainable goal. You don’t need to be a triathlete or performance weight lifter to achieve your physical goal. Our purpose is to help people make educated and informed decisions about how to use the best GMP supplements and vitamins available to achieve their fitness goals,” he said.

NHQ will sell its premium, private label brand, Legit Supplements, along with top-tier supplement and vitamin brands such as Rule1, NOW Nutrition, Magnum Nutrition, and many more.

Founded in 2015, NutritionHQ (NHQ), a St. Louis-based, veteran owned business, is the premium supplement and vitamin retailer that sources and sells only the highest-quality products online and at its retails locations in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. At NutritionHQ, our focus is about you, our customer, to provide the best supplements and vitamins for weight loss, general health and sports nutrition. To learn more, please visit, http://nhqrocks.com.

Aug 24

AMM Communications, LLC, Launches Executive Search Division to Expand Service Offerings

image of Ed MayugaAugust 23, 2017 (St. Louis) – AMM Communications LLC, a WBE-certified, St. Louis-based public relations, communications skills training and marketing firm, announced today that it has launched a new executive search division to help clients identify the best talent for their open management positions in sales, business development, marketing, finance, accounting, operations, and administration.

Ed Mayuga, a partner at AMM Communications, has nearly 20 years of executive recruitment experience, and he will manage the new division while overseeing the talent acquisition process.

“Since 2008, we’ve helped multiple clients place A-players within their organizations as part of a strategic marketing plan. The demand is there, and it has become increasing difficult to recruit and retain top talent as the US economy has improved,” said Mayuga.

Mayuga uses a proprietary and customized search process that has a successful retention rate of more than 90 percent for new hires after the first year. In addition, what sets the AMM Communications executive search process apart from other search firms, is that the talent acquisition is guaranteed. If for some reason the new hire is not a fit for the position, AMM Communications will reopen the search free-of-charge.

Founded in 2008, AMM Communications LLC, the St. Louis-based strategic marketing communications, public relations, and talent acquisition firm, provides media relations, business development, crisis communications, content marketing, internal communications, communications skills training, digital marketing, reputation management, social media consulting, and executive search services for businesses nationwide. AMM Communications is WBE certified, and has been voted one of the “Best PR Firms in St. Louis” by Small Business Monthly from 2010-2017. We want to help you … Drive your sales. Communicate better. Hire well. For more information, please visit, http://ammcommunications.com or call 314.485.9499.

Aug 24

Demo Alert: Big Bend and Clayton

40 South News reports that Richmond Heights is considering a plan to replace the building at Big Bend and Clayton with an urgent care facility.

The owner of one of the operating businesses in the occupied building is none to happy about it:

Jon Paul had several comments. He said he heard about the plan on Thursday last week.

“They’re taking away the nostalgic look of the town with all this building **** that they’re doing that looks like crap,” he said. “It’s a historical building and it could have been redone to where it would look phenomenal. The people who are doing it want to buy the building and tear it down and Richmond Heights is letting them do it. There’s nothing we can do.”

I couldn’t find any renderings or site plans on the Richmond Heights website. One has to go in person to Richmond Heights City Hall 8:30-5:00 M-F to see related documentation. Pretty pathetic transparency. I suppose such a small city just doesn’t have the capacity to inform citizens by putting such things online. Here is the meeting agenda for the Plan and Zoning Commission which will meet August 24th at 7 pm.

PUBLIC HEARING: PETITION 2017- 10: TAUC Properties LLC, Mark Harriman, Joe Godfrey, Dr. Matt Bruckel seeking Site Plan Review to permit the construction of an urgent care medical facility at 1005 S. Big Bend Blvd.

About Richard Bose

A nextSTL contributor since 2011, Richard is an Electrical Engineer by profession. He earned a BA in Physics and Economics and an MSEE from Washington University in St. Louis. Richard is a transplant from Central Illinois and has called St. Louis home since 1998. He is Vice President of St. Louis Strong. He can be found on Twitter @Stlunite and contacted at [email protected]

Aug 23

Rents Rose Fastest in Skinker DeBaliviere

{Zillow}

Great news? According to Zillow’s May 2017 Rental Market Overview, Skinker DeBaliviere has shown the largest increase of any St. Louis neighborhood in annual rents, a 12.9 percent gain. The only other neighborhoods where rents grew by more than 10 percent in the last year were Vandeventer (11.2 percent), and Tiffany (10.3). Notably, the increase in rents in our neighborhood was also higher than any town in the St. Louis Metro area, including towns in St. Charles County and Metro East in Illinois. People clearly want to live here, and we are on a roll. If you own rental properties in the neighborhood, this news might make you feel like breaking out the champagne. It also might give you some second thoughts about selling when you get those unsolicited letters from real estate operators asking to buy your home, as so many of us on my block seem to. If you own property in the neighborhood, then what’s not to like?

{Zillow}

Well, even if you like and will benefit from higher rents, don’t count your chickens. At the current rate of increase, if sustained, rents in our neighborhood would double in only six years, a highly unlikely course of events. All the areas seeing the highest growth in rents right now are also parts of town with significant ongoing rehab projects and/or new construction. But be advised that other parts of town with building/rehabbing booms in the last 10-20 years, Downtown and Downtown West, saw 8.1 percent rent declines last year, now that the party is over. Just because growth is predicted, doesn’t mean it will come, and when everyone is convinced it will happen, watch out and hold onto your wallet. I collect rent on the duplex I own, and I have my reasons to think rents will rise some more, but let’s not get crazy here…

Plus, if like me you are benefiting from higher rents, realize that you may be in a pretty rarified group at this point. The fact is that although many of the small, duplex rental properties in our neighborhood were once owned by people who occupied them or lived nearby in the neighborhood, large operators such as Manor and Roberts Realty now rent out a large portion of the small multi-family buildings in the area. There aren’t too many of us small duplex owners left, and this increase in rents is often going to owners and investors who live outside the neighborhood. That’s a bit different than the larger (4-20 apartment) properties, which have been generally owned by bigger companies for a long time, with Washington University (in the form of Quadrangle Management and Parallel Properties) and Laurel Management (owned and operated by Mark Gorman, a lifelong neighborhood resident), currently playing an outsize role among the large residential buildings in the neighborhood that haven’t been converted to condominiums.

As shown by a recent open letter in The Times of Skinker DeBaliviere and quite a lot of buzz about the issue within the neighborhood and on the Nextdoor website, the next frontier for investors (for the moment) looks to be single family homes, often rented out to students in the form of (illegal if to more than three unrelated occupants) rooming houses. Professionals running their property like a business will likely charge the most profitable rent they can, but less scrupulous owners might do that even at the expense of following city zoning rules and regulations. Meanwhile, many “mom and pop,” owners, charging more or less the same rents to the same tenants, year after year, may start to wonder if they’re doing things the wrong way, as everyone else starts to bring in much more from their tenants. Some might wonder if maybe it’s time to sell to a bigger investor, and there is a line of people waiting to buy (at a discount, at least).

That’s all the more true when renovating a rental property to contemporary standards is much, much harder for an individual operator, between financing, dealing with contractors, deciphering the applicable rules and regulations, forgoing rent for an indefinite period, and potentially relocating from their personal home. It’s more expensive—in time, money, and inevitable mistakes—for small fry landlords to provide souped-up apartments to prospective tenants than for larger operators. And what did I say about not counting your chickens? Few of us would want renovating our house, and a tenant’s apartment to boot, to be a literal “bet the farm” decision. All-or-nothing renovation tax incentives play a major, if complicated, role in this story. In any event, small, law-abiding landlords, and in particular owner-occupants, may be turning into an endangered species based on simple economics.

Outside this limited group of rental owners, who don’t necessarily all benefit in the same way and in the same proportion, this recent increase in rents has some pretty mixed effects. If you rent, you’re more likely to see an increase in your monthly bills, stretching your budget and perhaps making your current home unaffordable. That’s pretty awful. If you own but like your neighbors who rent, you may soon be saying goodbye to several of them, as we recently have on my block. Because of the high student population, turnover in this neighborhood is generally high in the best of circumstances, making for a generally transient population in this neighborhood. With increasing rents, expect that to get worse. Higher rents are not unrelated to higher real estate prices over all, and many front yard conversations have been had, I am sure, over our recent increase in tax bills. For owners who are financially strapped, this breeds all the same problems that renters have with affordability, and potentially a need to move to cheaper housing. And guess what? Even duplex owners charging “below market” rents can fall into that category.

On the other hand, when rents (and home prices, for that matter) go up, the market for investments is likely to respond. No one with profit in mind is going to spend $100,000 to fix up a property with an expectation they will only get $1,000 more a year in rent. Not when certificates of deposit still have a positive interest rate, anyway. When the number is more like $10,000 more rent each year for your $100,000 investment, that changes. Walk through the neighborhood on any week day, and on practically every block you will see plenty of painters, tuckpointers, plumbers and carpenters hard at work. Those investments in an improved housing stock will soon be reflected in a shinier, “nicer”-looking neighborhood… and in even higher rents.

Anyone who has owned a house for long enough in this neighborhood should be aware that maintaining a 100 year-old brick home in good working order can sometimes involve some expensive repairs. Some big-ticket items, like tuck pointing and a new roof, can be deferred here and there to save some money, but the cost of waiting too long can be catastrophic. Other systems that have worked fine for 100 years (like the cast iron sewer pipes under my home that we just replaced), are now at the end of their natural life spans, and need expensive, wholesale replacement when that happens. Environmental issues, like lead and asbestos contamination, are a ticking time bomb in most if not all of the properties in this neighborhood, requiring substantial money and expertise to properly abate, and even more money to eliminate entirely.

If rents are too low, there’s simply no incentive to spend the large amounts of money sometimes required to keep an old home running properly, or at least an incentive to slowly let a home deteriorate, treating it merely like a “cash cow.” Investments like repairs and renovations happen far more often when there is a return on that investment. Absent that, and a neighborhood can easily fall into complete disrepair, as has happened to too many once-beautiful neighborhoods in this city. A certain amount of rent is needed if you want area homes to sustain a certain amount of habitability. Higher rents are at best a mixed blessing, but we may have to take the bad with the good.

So why are rents going up? Simply put, we live in a neighborhood where the demand for rental housing has gone up, while supply has not. Supply may have even decreased, since some places that once were rented are now owner-occupied condominiums instead. And with little developable land and stronger restrictions on development than most of the St. Louis area, don’t expect that to change. It’s hard to imagine a fall in rents here, like the Downtown West neighborhood in 2017, when there is little room for the neighborhood to become over-built, like Downtown West was in 2005, when it seems every warehouse became an apartment building at the same time. But why is demand increasing here? Well, it’s easier to speculate than to know, but some of this seems pretty obvious to me. Many good landlords in this neighborhood (Parallel, Laurel, and Quadrangle I know from firsthand experience, but I’m sure they’re not the only ones), have been putting a lot of money into making their apartments great places to live. It’s no surprise that an apartment with an in-unit laundry, updated kitchen and bathroom, and central air conditioning will have more tenants ready to pay more for it than it did when the laundry was a basement coin-op and the air conditioner was a window unit or a fan. But again, keeping up with contemporary standards in a 100 year-old building can be no simple task, and smaller owners face unique challenges in keeping things equally up-to-date.

This is also a great neighborhood, with amenities like restaurants and clubs on the Loop that are particularly attractive to young people, an outsize proportion of renters. Recent additions to our nearby commercial area include a grocery store, a concert hall with first-rate acts, an Italian bakery, an all-night diner, and numerous other restaurants. Again, it’s not surprising to me that a place where you can walk to the park, yoga, cafes, at least four music venues, and now even a grocery store is more popular with tenants than before some of those amenities existed. I’d guess that some of these changes take a while to filter into the perceptions of outsiders who might choose to rent here, but word is spreading.

Wider trends also come into play. Nationally, a higher proportion of people rent right now than did 10 years ago, and that change is most pronounced among younger age groups, who comprised most renters even before this change. And you need only look at data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey to know that Saint Louis City today, particularly among those ages 25-45, has substantially higher median income and education levels than it did 10 or even 3 years ago. Young renters with college degrees and money are either moving to the city or not moving away (also a national trend), with predictable effects on rent.

I also have my own pet theory about why rents have risen more here than other neighborhoods. It’s Washington University, its students, and the parents who often pay their rent. Wash U. subsidizes home purchases by its employees in our neighborhood, and recently raised their limit on downpayment assistance from 5 percent of the purchase price up to 120,000 dollars, to 170,000, or 8,500 dollars, forgivable over five years. This subsidy tends to put a distinct floor under the home prices in Skinker-DeBaliviere. For instance, when I sold my home in the Grove, with the same subsidy, it went for just shy of 170,000 to a Wash U. family. This subsidy to home prices probably has some effect on rents too. As mentioned, Wash U. has also funded major upgrades, at least indirectly, to our housing stock through Parallel and Quadrangle, which are owned by its endowment.

It also seems to me that Wash U. has substantially changed the perception among its students, intentionally or not, concerning which areas near campus are “good” and safe for them to rent, with our neighborhood a major beneficiary of this change in attitudes. I don’t know, for instance, if it has done the same for the Clayton-Demun neighborhood on the South side of campus, or for the many apartments buildings on Pershing and Forsyth to its West, but here on its North side Wash U. funds blue light security phones, mobile security patrols down our streets, and even free private transportation home for its students. I would expect that for many student-tenants, particularly from suburban areas, these factors may all come into play when convincing a parent to co-sign a lease in this neighborhood.

The fact of neighborhood security is of benefit to all of us who live in the neighborhood, as well as to Wash U. and its students; but the perception of neighborhood security among those outside the neighborhood is of most benefit to local landlords, and anyone selling a home and moving away. So if you’d like lower rent, and live in Skinker DeBaliviere, maybe start by telling everyone you can how you live in a free-fire zone! Otherwise, it seems to me that most of the factors driving higher rents in this neighborhood are unlikely to change too soon.