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September 2012
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October 2012

Winter Weather is Coming, is Your Condo Ready?

We spend a lot of time talking about the condo market, stats, and data for buyers and sellers, but with recent news articles talking about potential heavy rains, snow and the like this winter, we were prompted to do some research on condo winter readiness to protect your investment if you are a condo owner.

SnowRecently, the Seattle Times had an article about keeping storm  drains clear.  Well guess what? This isn’t just for single-family house owners; your condo building is also surrounded by storm drains. On your next trip to walk the doggie, or to the local coffee shop or bar, take a look around your building and pay attention to the storm drains.  Do you have an alley around back? How about a rooftop deck or courtyard? Check there too. In heavy rains or even snow, if these drains are blocked by leaves or debris, they won't drain water and flooding could result.  Take a few minutes to clear those drains and compost those leaves or throw away the debris. Or if it’s within your building, bring it to the attention of your building staff.  If you see a big build up in the street or alley drains, Seattle Public Utilities says to give them a call and they will have crews come out and remove that heavy grate covering the drain to remove the blockage (don’t try to lift it yourself).

Acting now can save you a big headache during a rain storm by preventing flooding into you building or lakes of water blocking your access and exit to and from your building.

Continue reading "Winter Weather is Coming, is Your Condo Ready?" »


Median rent for apartments on Capitol Hill up 12.3 percent year-over-year.

The rental market continues to show tons of steam.  In fact, there was a recent story on the Seattle Times about the resurgence of the Pike-Pine corridor on Capitol Hill in particular with a 12% annual leap in rents in that neighborhood.  Dupre+Scott has some awesome charts showing trends for King County overall.

Rent_trend
Source: Dupre+Scott

Anecdotally, I had one client rent out her condo with a 10% boost in rent within the same day she posted it on Craig's List (3 applications in a few hours) and another client trying to rent a house and has had the hardest time finding a place that isn't swallowed up by the time they make the decision to pull the trigger (usually only a few days).

If this keeps up, I think we'll be in great shape next year as the Seattle real estate recovery continues to gather some momentum.

 

By Wendy Leung with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle Condos and Seattle Belltown Condos exclusively for buyers and sellers.


September 2012 Condo Sales Stronger than Expected

I finally got around to analyzing the September Seattle condo sales data!  Below are some interesting observations and those beloved charts.

  • Last year we saw a drop in sales from August to September of over 20%.  
  • This year we saw as many sales in September as we did in August.
  • Prices are holding steady.  Median prices have been exactly $250,000 for the last three months.
  • Inventory continues to be tight at about 40% fewer listings than September 2012.
  • Capitol Hill / Madison / Central saw the biggest strength with sales jumping 35% versus the previous month.

So overall, we saw a nice September with some encouraging signs that the Seattle condo recovery continues to plod forward.

 

Seattle Condo Sales MOM

Continue reading "September 2012 Condo Sales Stronger than Expected" »


Bus Changes: Ride Free Bus Zone is No More, Rapid Ride is Here

  Bus ride

There have been a couple of changes to the Metro bus system that we thought were worth addressing since many of our readers ride the Metro. The two major changes are the elimination of the downtown ride free zone and the addition of the Rapid Ride bus service.

For those of you that live and/or work in Belltown or Downtown you might have been used to riding certain buses for free. As of September 29th, the ride free areas are gone. Along with this change is a new procedure for paying. All riders will pay upon entering the bus in the front and will exit out the rear door. Pay in front, exit in back. That is the new slogan - cute isn’t it?  Why the changes? According to Metro’s website, eliminating the ride free area will help the city’s budget as they pay to operate the buses in those routes. As for pay on entry, they believe it will make riding the bus less confusing as the method for paying will be the same on all routes.

Continue reading "Bus Changes: Ride Free Bus Zone is No More, Rapid Ride is Here" »


FHA Changes Mean Help for Condo Buyers, Sellers and HOAs

2200_westlake_001The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) recently changed several of its outdated and controversial guidelines, which might help those looking to buy or sell a condo.  Rule changes are “temporary” but include things such as increases to the allowance on percentage of commercial space within a condo project, increased flexibility on percentage of delinquent HOA dues, less liability for HOA Board Members who sign off on the FHA application, as well as allowances for increases in the number of units that can be rented at one time or owned by one person in a building. All of these changes have the ability to help condo buildings, condo owners, and of course buyers who are using FHA loans.

A recent article in the Seattle Times summarized some of the key relaxed guidelines the FHA recently announced.   I wanted to share this article with you and go into more detail about how it affects us here in Seattle. If you are a buyer, seller, or HOA board member, and FHA has been a topic of recent discussions, you might want to revisit it. As of September 13th you now have more options so I’d take another look to see if your condo building or one you thought about buying in might now be in a position to get FHA approval.

Continue reading "FHA Changes Mean Help for Condo Buyers, Sellers and HOAs" »


Amazon Buying Vulcan's South Lake Union Buildings They Currently Lease

Well this is certainly some good news for us downtown dwellers as it looks like Amazon is buying the 11 buildingsthey lease in South Lake Union that Vulcan recently announced they were selling.  The PSBJ is indicating the sale will be for a reported $1.16 billion.  This recent news by Vulcan that they planned to sell the buildings caused a bit of a stir in the SLU and Downtown neighborhoods since everyone was wondering how the sale of those building might affect the area with a new owner coming in.  But this may put fears at ease knowing Amazon is the potential buyer. Nearby condo buildings such as 2200 Westlake, Carbon 56, Enso, Veer Lofts, and Cosmopolitan have been enjoying new vibrancy from the restaurants, bars, services, and the like all popping up mainly due to the new larger tenants coming into the area.  Amazon obviously being one of the main draws of these new businesses.

Read the PSBJ article here:  Amazon to pay $1.16B for 11 Seattle buildings

By Marco Kronen with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle Condos exclusively for buyers and sellers.


Client Question of the Week: What is a Senior Tax Exemption?

Tax“Marco, in the last few months we have come across a couple properties for sale with senior tax exemptions. Because we are downsizing ourselves to moving downtown to a condo, we were wondering should we just search for condos with senior tax exceptions since we are retired seniors as well or if we buy a condo without this tax exemption can we qualify?”

Great question!  We realize not everyone knows what senior exemptions are or how they affect the sale of real estate. We thought we would clarify that.

When you are looking at a condo or house for sale and see that the taxes are significantly lower than you think they should be, you are likely looking at a property with a senior tax exemption. If a home owner is over the age of 61 and is in a low income tax bracket and meets some general criteria as determined by the county tax Assessors office, they can apply for a senior tax exemption, which will in turn cause the county to re-assess the property and assess a much lower tax amount to the home owner.

If you are a buyer of a property with a senior tax exemption you should be aware that you are entitled to that lower tax amount, even if you are a mature urban dweller over 61 years of age. After the sale is complete, the tax exemption no longer applies to the property. The county will re-assess your home value and your taxes will go up accordingly. Until that happens you will be dealing with an estimated tax amount so be aware that your mortgage payment can change after the re-assess occurs and if the estimate was low you would owe the difference. You can always re apply however if you meet the criteria. 

On another note, if you are an Estate selling a property with a senior tax exemption and the home owner who originally applied for the exemption has passed away, the Estate is not entitled to the exemption. So, if the Estate has held onto the property after the passing of the home owner,  they would be required to have the property re-assessed and pay for the higher non-exempt tax amount. If an Estate is unaware of this, they might have quite a bit of unpaid taxes to pay off at closing, especially if they held onto the property for an extended amount of time.

For information on senior tax exceptions, you can visit the county Assessors website at

http://www.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/TaxpayerAssistance/TaxRelief.aspx 

By Marco Kronen with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle Condos exclusively for buyers and sellers


Owning in Seattle 42% Cheaper than Renting?

Great article in Seattle Times about folks deciding that it's getting too expensive to rent and if they plan on owning for 5+ years, it's a better economic bet for them.  

That said, make sure you run the numbers yourself and believe all of the assumptions.

Take Trulia's calculation that owning in the Seattle area is 42 percent cheaper than renting, for instance.

It assumes prospective buyers can make a 20 percent down payment. Many can't.

It also assumes buyers can get a fixed-rate mortgage at 3.5 percent interest; that they fall in the 25 percent income-tax bracket and itemize their deductions; and that they won't sell for seven years.

Change any of those variables, Trulia acknowledges, and the balance between renting and owning can shift dramatically.

Here's the full article.

 

By Wendy Leung with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle Condos and Seattle Belltown Condos exclusively for buyers and sellers.