Previous month:
May 2006
Next month:
July 2006

June 2006

What is a balcony's value?

Caribbeanbalcony Someone asked me today how much a balcony affects the price of a condo.

Of course, like more valuation questions, it really depends. Furthermore, valuation is a highly subjective art and science. That said, most will probably agree that a balcony is considered a nice to have feature for a condo. As for the question on how much value it will add to the unit, I would put it around 1-3% (with some exceptions). A lot depends on:

• The size of the balcony

• Its general usefulness

If the balcony adds a materially big amount of square footage, buyers will obviously perceive more value than a smaller balcony. If the balcony is big but faces another building, the value is naturally less than a big balcony facing the Sound.

If there are two units with an equally good view and one of them comes with a balcony, the value can increase as much as 3% even at the high end. It will be hard to imagine someone paying for more than a 4% premium for a balcony.

In summary, the lowest value blaony is one that has no view and is small (this will yield a small 1% premium, if any).The highest value balcony is the one that is big and has a view which can possibly fetch as much as a 3-4% premium.


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Escala priority presale event

Escala_2Escala is hosting an invitation-only priority presale event for home buyers on July 27th in the Centennial building on the corner of 4th and Stewart.

414 Stewart, Suite 200

Seattle, WA 98101


Home buyers can reserve a home during this priority presale event before the public presale.  There will be floor plans, views, interior finishes information available during this event.

Homes will be offered from below $500,000 to over $5 million.

Read more on Escala.

Latest post.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Madison Lofts

Madison_lofts_1 Madison Lofts is a 20 unit two story loft project located on Madison St between Lake Washington Boulevard and 29th Ave E. You don’t see too many new condos here. Right behind the condo is the arboretum Park. Drive about 1 miles east and you will reach Madison Park. The neighborhood has a lot to offer. Tree lined street, restaurants, grocery stores, cafés and beautiful Lake Washington are all a short stroll away. Well landscaped homes with different architecture designs can be found in this upscale neighborhood.

Lofts units facing north are going to have views of the park. The size of the lofts will range from 850 to 1,497 square feet. Price starts at $400,000.

Interior features

16' ceilings with a wall of windows

Freestanding stainless steel gas fireplace

Metal frame stairway to loft bedroom with walk-in closet and bath

Wide plank hardwood floors on the main level

Euro style kitchens with sleek stainless steel GE monogram appliances

Slab countertops and custom cabinetry in kitchen and baths

Custom lavatory and extensive tiling in the master and powder baths

Storage in unit


• Easily accessible to the highway (520) using Lake Washington Boulevard.

• The convenience of walking to get your grocery, dropping a letter at the post office, getting a cup of coffee and picking up your clothes from the dry cleaners.


• Getting in and out of the neighborhood may take some time during peak traffic hours since there are only a few roads that can bring you out of the area.

• Located along a major road, thus more road noise.

Some of you asked me about the Madison Lofts auction. They did have their auction a while ago. It went really well and they sold about ½ of the project. How much it went for were not disclosed. The developer is planning to hold the rest of the homes until construction is completed, currently estimated for spring of 2007.

Latest post on Madison Lofts.


Technorati Tags: Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Enter Mezzo

Mezzo_1Plaza Del Sol, Epic, Onyx. What’s next? Enter Mezzo. This conversion is located on 711 E Denny Way, one block south of Plaza Del Sol. Mezzo has started selling their units even before the sales center opened.  It is estimated to be completed by end of July.

There will be a total of 21 units in the building, 4 studios, 21 one bedroom’s and only 2 two bedroom’s. New siding and windows were put up, walls knocked down to expand the hallway, and windows enlarged. Clearly, a lot of effort was put into improving the building.

You will get slightly higher end finishes in Mezzo than Plaza Del Sol. Mezzo’s interior features hardwood floors, tile flooring in the bathroom, granite slab countertops, zebrawood cabinets, and stainless steel appliances. All their units come with a deck. If you love a view unit, check out their #01 or #06 series. #06 on the top floor is sold. This unit has the best view for a one bedroom, view of the city, Puget Sound and Queen Anne neighborhood. It also comes with a dinning area next to the kitchen.

Estimated price range

Studio                  Low $200,000
One bedroom         Low $300,000 to High $300,000
Two bedroom        Mid $400,000


• Most of their one bedroom units come with 1 ½ bath. One bathroom for the bedroom and ½ bathroom for your guest. They don’t need to walk pass your bedroom anymore.

• New exterior.


• No amenities. In the case of Plaza Del Sol, they have a nice courtyard connecting the north and south builing.

• Homeowner dues are on the higher side.

Overall, Mezzo is comparable to Plaza Del Sol. As it turns out, both projects are converted by the same developer.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

2200 Westlake, Who wants to be a Vulcannaire?

The South Lake Union sneak preview took place last Saturday under a giant white tent next to the Discovery center. It was certainly one of the events that many prospective buyers have been waiting for with anticipation. DJ playing music, hors d'oeuvres served and a steady stream of Martinis from one of many drink stations. The sneak preview showcased the four condo projects that Vulcan has been planning over the last few years. It is evident that the market has a bigger appetite for more of Vulcan’s condos after the successful sell out of their units in the 2200 Westlake project. The four new condos will add approximately 596 units to the South Lake Union community.


Slu_enzo_2_1 This is going to be a 450,000-square-foot, mixed-use development with residential units occupying from 6 to18 stories in the South tower. It is going to be right across from 2200 Westlake on 9th and Denny Way. Vulcan is designing the development as a high performance "green" building and it will feature more natural daylight than traditional buildings, energy and water saving fixtures, and the use of environmentally sensitive building materials. It will also feature a garden terrace, an exercise facility and an entry atrium. This will be a glass building so it looks like Seattle is starting to catch up with Vancouver glass skyline (we can all thank our planning boards that 7 story earth-toned synthetic stucco projects are a thing of the past).

There will be four different standard color palette options for homebuyers. Acrylic door panels are available to separate the bedroom and living area.  Other features include Bosch appliances, limestone, wood, and broadloom carpets. Their open one bedroom floor plan features a private entrance area, open living room, balcony and end to end windows from the bedroom to the living room.

My favorite 2 bedroom floor plan is their 05 series. Windows stretch all the way from the living room to the two bedrooms giving each room an expansive view of the neighborhood. One draw back of the 05 series is that it comes with a small balcony. Their biggest unit is approximately 2,300 square feet: a 2 bedroom plus den penthouse that comes with two separate balconies  Most of the floor plans are nicely layed out and very functional.

Estimated Price range:

Open One Bedroom- 703 sq. ft.
Low $400,000s to high $500,000s

One Bedroom- 705-895 sq. ft.
Mid $400,000s to mid $700,000s

One Bedroom + Den- 877-977 sq. ft.
high $500,000s to low $800,000s

Two Bedroom- 1127-1375 sq. ft.
high $700,000s to over $1 million

Penthouses- 1559-2285 sq. ft.
Price over $1.6 million

Continue reading "2200 Westlake, Who wants to be a Vulcannaire?" »

Asia, Epic & Onyx!

Download AEO.pdf


ExteriorLocated only two blocks away from Uwajimaya, Asia condos sold half their units within the first two weeks on the market. Most of the two bedrooms were the first to sell out with only 5 units left in the building as of this posting. Right in the International District, the location is definitely a big plus. Residents can do their grocery shopping in Uwajimaya, have a hair cut or drop in to one of the restaurants for midnight snacks during the weekend or catch a game without driving. The Asian influences are evident by the completely remodeled lobby with oriental umbrella, fountain, and the use of slate walls. Dragon printed carpets line the hallway.

Entering the model unit, you can instantly feel the youthful energy. Don’t expect to see neutral colors Carpets come in a variety of colors. One would think that red wouldn’t really work in a condo but you would be surprised. If you are someone who loves the convenience of a supermarket and prefers a secured building, Asia may be right for you. Check out their model unit and it might inspire some creativity in you.

Location: 668 South Lane St, Seattle WA 98104 (International district)


• Great location- convenience to supermarket, restaurants, minutes away from downtown Seattle. Easy access to highway.
• Updated amenities in common areas and very secure building.


• Traffic can be tricky when there is a game going on, time to consult your mapquest.
• A lot of older buildings in the neighborhood. After all, it is still International district.

Location            4.0/5.0
Interior             4.0/5.0
Exterior             3.5/5.0
Price                 3.5/5.0
View                 3.5/5.0

Overall             3.75/5.0


Onyx_2Close to the Bobby Morris playfield, this condo offers a lot of ‘green views’ from their westerly units. The developer put a lot of thought into enhancing the common areas. The lobby is redone, and art work can be seen everywhere. Good taste and great updates to the amenities area. “Spare no expense” was how Stacy Anderson, sale representative for the Onyx, described this new conversion. Check out the lovely rooftop deck.


• More updated amenities and secured building.
• Located on a quiet part of Capitol Hill but close to Broadway.

Nothing big comes up in mind.

If you need a fully furnished unit as your new home and willing to pay for the premium, Onyx’s model unit comes with high quality furnitures.

Address: 1125 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA98122 (Capitol Hill)

Studio             $189,900-$239,990      436-609 square feet
One bedroom    $234,990-$289,900      539-719 square feet
Two bedroom   $359,900-$529,900    869-1,125 square feet

Location           3.5/5.0
Interior             4.0/5.0
Exterior            3.5/5.0
Price                3.5/5.0
View                4.0/5.0               

Overall            3.75/5.0


Epic_1 This the quietest location compared to the other two conversions. Except for their studio unit, their one bedroom and two bedrooms come with a balcony. Overall, most units in the building get some sort of view (neighborhood, city or Mount Rainier view.) If a home buyer purchases a unit with its original finishes, they will receive a $5,000 credit for a studio, $6,500 for one bedroom unit and $8,000 for a two bedroom unit. For buyers who like an updated building but are not prepared to spend any money yet on upgrades, you can go with the original finishes and upgrade it at your own pace later on.

• Located away from the main street, less traffic and thus quieter neighborhood.
• Bigger square footage for your money.


• Further away from restaurants and convenience stores.
• Amenities and common areas are much smaller than Asia and Onyx.

Address: 412 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122 (First Hill)

Studio                $199,000-$260,000   
One bedroom       $265,000-$300,000      
Two bedroom       $425,000-$475,000   

The three buildings were converted by the same developer from Florida. You can see a lot of similarities in terms of the standards and upgrade options offered, the enhancement of the existing amenities (or creating them if there aren’t any),and improvements of the common areas (lobby, decks and hallway). If you like Athena condo in Queen Anne, These three condos will meet your expectations.

Location         3.0/5.0
Interior          3.5/5.0
Exterior          3.5/5.0
Price              3.5/5.0
View              3.5/5.0 
Overall           3.5/5.0


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Domaine..... or No Domaine?

Domaine_1_1 Domaine’s preview event took place this week. The center was swamped with prospective home buyers and realtors. For a moment, I felt like I was in Nordstrom for their annual sale. The only difference was that, there were no sales transactions going on, only reservations for an appointment to purchase a unit.

Domaine is right across from Seattle’s oldest restaurant, Canlis, along Aurora Avenue. The developer is part of Intracorp whose recent projects included Avenue One and The Parc. The condo is designed by Mithun Architects who is also involved in Mosler Lofts.

This condo is not your typical one block on a piece of land project. There are 6 rows of low rise condos comprising 96 homes. Some of the town homes are stacked on top of the flat units. Many of the homes include den/office nooks. Completion is expected to be in spring 2007.

Domaine kind of reminds me of Tribeca with your own personal outdoor space/ deck. The difference is there is a courtyard that stretches in between two rows of condos. It has more of a community living feel. Other than the courtyard, there are no amenities. Perhaps you don’t need it. You are right by Lake Union!

Another interesting thing about Domaine is some of their two bedroom flat units come with two entry doors, a feature that I’m not sure will be of much use to home owners. The sales center will only be able to provide a price range for the different floor plans. Home buyers will have to wait for a couple more weeks to get them online. Interior finishes include hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, gas cooking stove and wood cabinets. (Remember the days when this was impressive :-)  There are two standard color options available with one upgrades options finishes.

For any condo project, there are always plusses and minuses. Here are a couple that I can think of :

• Community feel
• Most units will have views of Lake Union
• Appealing outdoor areas and personal spaces (courtyard/ outdoor patio)
• Large windows

• Right off busy Aurora Ave
• Limited amenities
• Most two bedroom size is only around 1,000 square feet -- even for town homes

Floor plans   
One & two bedroom flat unit 
Two bedroom town home
Live/work loft

$5,000 deposit to reserve home
Purchase and Sale agreement will be written by appointment. During that time, you will need to put down a 5% earnest money check (good faith deposit)

If you are someone who loves living close to the lake and likes plenty of open spaces, Domaine may be a good match for you. Stay tuned for more information on the pricing : )

Latest post.


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Escala: Cristalla’s biggest competition?

Cristalla_2Two years ago, one of the most high-end luxury condos was the Cristalla; now we see more and more ultra high-end and high-rise condos springing up on the market every month. Developers are putting more thought into their designs and raising the ante with each new project. Customized options are becoming a pretty standard offering. If you are a Cristalla homeowner, how are the new kids on the block going to affect your unit’s resale value?



Sitting on the corner of 2nd Ave and Lenora, the land became famous almost a century ago as the site of the crystal pool.  A warm salt water bath was pumped uphill from Elliott Bay to the bathing hall. Bathers could watch the sky through the sparkling glass pergola and it became one of the most popular spots in the city. Around 1940's, the site was converted to a church. It was later renovated in 1966 by the owner. A few years ago, the land was bought by a developer who also bought the "air rights' over the building on First and Lenora, so that some of the westward view will never be obstructed. The building's original facade remains -- blending the cool blue glass and Italian limestone architecturally mixing the old and the new. When the units became available, almost all sold out very quickly. Buyers had many options to customize their units (adding translucent sliding doors, moving a wall, changing the lighting out, adding/removing built-ins, custom cabinetry, wall beds etc.)

Certainly, Cristalla owners have done quite well so far.  I did an analysis on the gains of some Cristalla units sold a year after it was completed. Here is some interesting data:

                                       Bought                  Sold             Gain

One bedroom                $309,990             $435,000           40%

One bedroom + den       $419,990             $550,000           31%

Two bedroom                $675,000             $939,000           39%

The average gain for all units sold was a very attractive 29%.

Enter Escala

Even though it doesn't have a rich story like Cristalla, Escala it is still positioning itself as an ultra high end condominium located on 4th and Virginia.

Escala_3Escala, as the name suggests in Spanish, means “scale” giving reference to the building's architecturally presence as one of the tallest and largest residential communities in Seattle, with a whopping 276 condominium units. Escala focuses on more space and more design and ultimately enhanced cosmopolitan lifestyles. The developer, Lexas, is essentially developing a city club comprised of the entire 25,000 square feet floor plate. Residents of the building can enjoy the exclusive amenities complete with full service gym, lap pools, a theater, an events center, a game room, meeting rooms, a salon, outdoor recreation area and more. Their development approach is to offer the same or better amenities and services of the best hotels but to do it in an exclusively residential tower. Escala will be offering home plans ranging from open one bedrooms beginning from 950 square feet to three bedroom units. The public opening is scheduled for this summer.

Similarities of Cristalla and Escala

  • High rise and high end condo with grand lobby, in the case of Escala, their lobby will be two stories with symmetrical staircases rising to an entire floor of common areas.
  • Balcony/terraces providing views of the city and Puget Sound.
  • World class amenities for both condos (Escala will probably raise the bar for the rest).
  • Nostalgic architectural base with glass styling exterior

What should Cristalla Owners Do?

Coming back to the question, how will Escala affect Cristalla’s resale value? Once you consider the macro-economic factors and overall demand for ultra premium condis in general, a lot of it comes down to Escala's pricing.   

If the premium for Escala is 20-25% higher than Cristalla, Cristalla owners will have plenty of people who will prefer to save 20% by going with Cristalla. If the premium is 10-15%, the brand new construction will be more appealing to many potential Cristalla buyers and thus affect the resale values and time on market of Cristalla units.

What am I telling my Cristalla clients?  Obviously, a lot depends on their personal and financial situation (not to mention their overall investment strategy and risk profile).  If I had to generalize, I would say it’s unlikely that your unit’s value will go down because of Escala given the strength of the market and Cristalla’s intrinsic value. 

On the other hand, if you are in it purely for investment purposes and want to continue getting aggressive returns, we may have seen the steepest part of Cristalla’s capital appreciation and now might be a good time to redeploy capital to alternative properties which have more immediate head room.

Latest update on Escala.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,