Immigration and the St. Louis Housing Market

In a city where residents can’t seem to resist asking where you went to high school, it can be easy to assume that most of your clients have lived here for multiple generations.  Not so for many St. Louisans!  Immigrants have been relocating to St. Louis from around the world in recent years, and they’re often looking to buy a house.  Here is a quick profile overview of these fine folks, and why they matter to your business.

Who are St. Louis immigrants?

St. Louis has a long history of immigration.  In the 19th century, the City’s population exploded as people from the East Coast and England were joined by German, Irish and later, Italian immigrants who came to the area to work in factories and mines.  Today, St. Louis has one of the faster-growing immigrant populations in the country. In 2016, KMOV reported that the number of immigrants increased by 8.9 percent between 2014 and 2015—the largest percentage increase of any major U.S. metropolitan area.

According to the US Census Bureau, St. Louis is home to the largest Bosnian community outside of Europe; however, immigrants have emigrated from a wide variety of locations including China, India, Southeast Asia, Haiti, and many Latin American and Caribbean countries. Overall, the immigrant population has a higher mean household earnings and attain graduate degrees at more than twice the rate of American-born St. Louisans.  While immigrants are settling across the bi-state region, the area with the highest concentration of foreign born residents is Olivette, at 19 percent.

What does immigration mean for St. Louis real estate?

There are about 135,000 foreign-born residents of the St. Louis metro area as of 2016 data — i.e., about 5 percent of the population.  That may not sound like much, but immigrants often have a disproportionately-positive impact on the neighborhoods they move to.  According to Karen Dunn, Director of Professional Development and Project Management for St. Louis REALTORS®, foreign born families from Bosnia, Latin America and other regions have revitalized and stabilized neighborhoods that were once considered blighted.

Their presence has brought back businesses and prevented schools from closing due to lack of students. Many foreign born families are fueling the growth of West County schools. (And) while the overall percentage of immigrants who own their own home is lower than that of native born, it’s important to note that there are more immigrants in their prime home buying years and they represent a growing population; at the same time, the region’s Caucasian and African-American populations are declining. Forty-two percent of foreign-born St. Louisans are between the ages of 25-44,prime home buying years,versus 25 percent of American-born St. Louisans.

Many foreign-born people lease their homes, especially international students, with the goal of buying when they’re financially able.  Betsy Cohen, Executive Director of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, which promotes regional prosperity through immigration and innovation, says that immigrants look for a variety of attributes besides just cost when house-hunting, including sense of community, schools, and access to parks and shopping.

So what does all this mean to you and your business?  Regardless of what part of the metro area you specialize in, odds are good that you’ll come across an increasing number of foreign-born home-buyers in the years ahead.  The more you can understand the culture and customs that factor in to their home-buying decisions, the more prepared you will be to meet the needs of foreign-born buyers.  Developing business practices that are welcoming and inclusive is a win-win for everyone.

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