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The Most Affordable Homes in St. Louis: Dollar House Program

Feb 14, 2019 | Around Town

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Considering purchasing a home in St. Louis? Have you thought about a fixer-upper? St. Louis has recently launched a program to sell around 500 city-owned homes at $1 a piece. With a goal of reviving some forgotten spaces, this program appeals to those creative buyers prepared to put in some serious elbow grease. Though a $1 house may sound like a deal that’s too good to pass up, there’s a lot buyers need to consider before jumping in.

More about the houses

Where are the dollar houses coming from, you might ask. These homes are currently owned by the Land Reutilization Authority, or the LRA, and they’ve been owned by them for at least 5 years. They’re all smaller, single-family homes under 1,500 square feet. Most of these homes are located in north St. Louis, and a handful are in south St. Louis

What to expect

You know the expression, ‘you get what you pay for’? It’s probably a good one to keep in mind here. Think water damage, rotten wood, mold, broken windows, bad roofs, and ransacked buildings. Buyers are required to find licensed professionals to install electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Though beyond that, the renovations are in their hands. While for some, this will sound like a nightmare, others will see these homes as blank canvases full of potential.

Preparing for rehab

Given the condition of these homes, extensive rehab and renovation are part of the deal. To protect the building and your own safety, it’s important to bring in the right people and prepare ahead. Projects can vary in length, many taking at least a year to complete. Some of the most common challenges rehabbers face are working with contractors and surprises that push their budget.

The Rules

These dollar homes certainly are not a no-strings-attached purchase. Here’s the deal: Owners are required to stabilize the structure, meet city building codes, and improve the facade within 120 days of purchasing. The property needs to be in a livable condition within 18 months, and buyers agree to then live there for at least three years. If the buyer fails to meet all the requirements, the LRA is allowed to reclaim the property.

How to buy

Ready to take the plunge? First, you’ll need to inspect the home. It’s a smart idea to bring an architect or engineer to these inspections to help you get a better sense of what needs to be done. Then you’ll have to prepare your renovation strategy and budget in order to apply.


The Dollar House Program is about so much more than a great deal or a cheap home. It’s about bringing life to these abandoned spaces, contributing to the neighborhood and community, and seeing your creative vision through. It will be fascinating to see the transformations that take place.

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