Daniel Rivero, Fusion, March 16, 2015
Peering outside the office window of his tire shop, John Zisser grumbles about the pile of burnt rubble that lies on the opposite corner of a busy intersection.
“If you come here to my shop and you see that,” he says, as gestures out the window, “is that going to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling like you want to come back here to do business?”
“Short answer: no, no it’s not,” he says.
Zisser, 55, has owned and operated Zisser’s Tires in this city since 1987. He says the still-visible damage from the November protests that followed a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown is hurting property owners. His store’s insurance is in the process of being cancelled after it was twice vandalized during the unrest, he says.
“If I sold this place today, I could probably get $300,000 for it, if anyone is crazy enough to buy. Last year, the county said this lot was worth almost a million,” he says. “The value here is all going down. There’s about nine burnt-out buildings this way,” he says, pointing. “And about four more behind me.”
Zisser is one of many Ferguson residents feeling a financial toll from the months of protests, media attention, and now another high-profile shooting. They’re worried not just about their own situations, but about the city coffers, too. The future of Ferguson, they say, is anyone’s guess.
For the city’s 2014 budget, approximately 20 percent of the city’s revenue came from the city’s courts, and 17 percent came through property taxes. But after a Department of Justice report found the courts were profiting off racial discrimination, the State of Missouri took over to implement reforms. Couple that with rapidly falling property values (which are used to calculate owed taxes) and it seems like key parts of the city’s business plan are falling out from under it.
The average selling price of a home in the city has been on a steady decline since the shooting of Brown last August, according to housing data compiled from MARIS, an information and statistics service for real estate agents. Prior to Brown’s death, the average home sold in 2014 was selling for $66,764. For the last three and a half months of the year, the average home sold for $36,168, a 46 percent decrease.
The trend has continued on through this year, with the average home selling for only $22,951 so far in 2015. Another negative indicator: in the eight and a half months leading up to Brown’s death, the average residential square foot in 2014 was selling for $45.82. In the eight and a half months since Brown’s passing, the average residential square foot in the city has sold for $24.11. That’s about a 47 percent downtick in one of real estate’s core indicators.
“We’re gonna start seeing more foreclosures and more short sales, I’m certain of it,” predicts Terry Gannon, 63, a REMAX real estate agent who has done business here for 34 years.
“Yesterday a property owner called. He has three properties for sale, and he can’t get out. At this point, he’s ready to take a loss,” she says. “And there’s another family I work with–the family has been here for over 50 years. The dad married the girl from two doors down, and the brother lives across the street. They’re from here, and at this point they’re done . . . They’re gonna try to put the house on the market, even though last year it was worth $55,000, and now it’s worth only maybe $45,000.”