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In Ferguson, real estate agents are using the protests as a selling point

The unrest has hurt the housing market there. But some agents are trying to turn that into a positive.

Houses are seen on a cul-de-sac in a residential neighborhood near where police and protesters clashed over a number of days after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“MOTIVATED SELLER wants an offer! Come be a part of the solution in Ferguson,” opens the Zillow ad for a house on Chartier Drive in Ferguson, Mo.

Asking price for the 5-bed, 2-1/2-bath house with 2,900 square feet? Just under $200,000. A deal is listed as pending.

You might expect that the waves of violent protests would devastate the real estate market in Ferguson. Who would want to live there?

But so far, people are still buying homes, though, at a slower pace, according to interviews with area real estate agents and a review of sales data.

Some agents are getting creative. At least one other house ad – 4-bed, 1-1/2 baths for $149,900 — features the same pitch acknowledging the unrest in the St. Louis suburb.

Ferguson’s 63135 Zip code clearly has been hurt by the protests.

The supply of properties for sale has shot up. And the time it would take to sell all of the houses on the market at the current pace jumped from five months in July to 10 months now, according to Berkshire Hathaway Select.

And the average number of days a house stays on the market has trended upward since August, when the protests began.

But – perhaps most surprising – the average sales price has jumped 20 percent this year to $48,000, up even since August.

That’s still a very low average sales price – few homes in Ferguson sell for more than $150,000. And it’s shockingly low if you live in a coastal city like Washington. But real estate has never been expensive in the suburbs to the north of St. Louis. Even during the market’s height of 2006, the average price for a single-family house was only about $80,000. And these same suburbs were hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis.

No one wanted to buy a home in Ferguson in early August, immediately after the first bout of rioting that followed the police-shooting death of Michael Brown, said Pearce Neikirk, a longtime real estate agent in Ferguson.

“There were no inquiries for almost two weeks,” he said. “It was disquieting.”

But things have picked up. The market is slow, but alive. Neikirk said he closed on a commercial property last week and plans to close on two houses this week.

This is a slow time of the year for home sales, anyhow. And Neikirk has been contacted by several Ferguson home owners about conducting appraisals so they can list in the spring.

“I kinda suspect the activity will be higher than normal,” he said.

There will be homes for sale in Ferguson. The only question is whether there will be buyers.