How to buy a single family house in the Ladue School District – our own experiences

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“No short cut; and I wish I could get those sleepless night back but I do understand no pain no gain in life sometimes.” -MXU April 2023

Everyone knows the prices for single-family houses (SFHs) in the US went up since the pandemic, and this is applicable to the SFHs in the Ladue School District (LSD) too. It may go up more than the national average. Luckily for us, we bought our starter home, a nice little ranch house, about 9 months before the pandemic shut down in March 2020, and we were grateful that we have the room to spread out, both for virtual school and our Work From Home (WFH) jobs. It’s not perfect, but it put us in a better position than the 2 bedroom condo we had earlier.

I lived in the LSD since the year 2005: I bought a condo across the street from the Schnucks/Monsanto in April 2005, at a price which is the market top at the time. Note that condo prices topped before the actual housing/financial crisis in 2007/2008. At the time I have basically two choices, and I think I still made the right choice looking back. The other choice was a 1st-floor condo near Creve Coeur Mills Road and Olive Road (Parkway School District, PSD): the condo was facing north which is not the best direction in terms of facing (it will be cold in winter and hot in summer). Plus the LSD is considered a notch above PSD (this is probably subjective opinion).

Since our 2nd daughter was born in the Summer of 2014, our 2 bedroom condo basically needs one more room, not in a hurry but in a time ticker bomb – as we believe eventually our younger daughter needs her own room. We didn’t put her in a separate room when she was an infant (same for our old daughter). When we hired a nanny when Sophia was a newborn, note it was customary to have some external helper in Chinese culture when there is a newborn in a family, the nanny had to sleep in the living room. My wife, myself, and Sophia were in one bedroom, Serenity the big sister took the other bedroom.

Fast forward a few years, I changed jobs in June 2015 and started working for the credit card co., hoping to make a few more bucks for the new house down payment. I recall probably in the summer of 2017 I joked with a few friends that the SFH is out of reach. Also, I don’t miss the sleep deprived nights and on calls while I worked for the credit card co: it’s basically a “sweatshop” that pays better than a normal sweatshop 🙁

In the Summer of 2018, we almost bought an SFH (Zillow link), and my wife had a second thoughts after realizing the house didn’t have a dishwasher. So we backed out after inspection while it was still in the cooling period. I really liked the backyard, but over the years I learned to listen to my wife. East or west, listening to the boss is the most important 🙂

Fast forward one more year, Sophia is also about to start attending Kindergarten at Spoede Elementary, and we were looking at houses more seriously: we even got a buyer agent who is grew up in/familiar with the area, and has a good supporting team. For us, Luckily everything worked out for our current house in June 2019. We saw the house listed, and my wife liked it, we did not really negotiate the price – we paid the asking price. Another small break for us is we had built a bit more savings in one year for down payment etc, since the summer of 2018. Now I think about it, we made decision pretty quick, I did not even do my neighborhood check: basically come at one morning, and come at one afternoon to make sure the neighbors are nice 🙂

I understand with the Pandemic and the SFHs price went up a lot. But we have zero control over things such as the pandemic, the economy, interest rates, mortgage rates, and so on. We do have control over ourselves, in terms of saving money, and being proactive. I heard a friend bought the house directly from a lady by knocking on the door, I have not confirmed but seems like a variable approach to me, as long as he/she asked it nicely. In another case, I heard friends did the SFH transaction privately. Both were done before pandemic, and the houses are not brand new. In recent years I did see more new houses come to market, after the investor buy/tear down/build much bigger 2 stories home etc. Another trend is the developers’ activities, such as I wrote it here earlier. Overall though, the supply is not catching up with the demand. One reason is sometimes the seller can afford to hold on to it, e.g., this century old house at the entrance of our neighborhood. I did a little research on the St. Louis county real estate website, and found out the owner likely lives in a mansion in Florida. The reason for my research was: I was thinking about investment property, and this one is close to where we live, and I walk by that house every day.

Last but not least, I want to add merely complaining (or self-pity) is not useful, and here is Charlie Munger’s quick talk on the topic.

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