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June 2008

May 2008

From Flipper to Landlord?

With so many condo buyers still sitting on the sidelines, it appears they're driving up rental prices.  If you were planning to sell an investment property this year but are worried about all those bearish buyers, you may want to rent your place out.  Chances are your condo will command very attractive rents.  One report is suggesting rents are already up 6% over last year and apartment vacancy rates are below 5%.

Seattle Condo Pipeline Drying Up?

Condo_construction_stopAccording to the PSBJ, developers are waiting for the next few years' inventory to get absorbed before breaking ground for new projects. 

The pace of development has slowed so sharply that local experts predict a shortage in 2010 that could drive prices up. One consultant forecasts delivery of just 189 new units that year -- down from an average of 1,100 anticipated in each of the prior three years.

The good news is this suggests there isn't an endless supply of new inventory.  The bad news is we still have new inventory coming on the market till at least 2010.  Hopefully the Seattle economy will continue to produce good jobs and our city will continue to attract well-heeled newcomers from pricier markets.

Here's the full article.

Trace North Update


Trace North has completed its construction and will be holding their open house on May 31st. The rooftop open house event will showcase their penthouses and new release (starting in the mid $200's). Pizza Fusion, an organic, gourmet and environmentally friendly boutique restaurant chain and Barrio, a south-of-the-border inspired restaurant will be occupying the retail spaces in Trace North. With these two additions, owners will have a nice restaurant selection with Cafe Stellina, La Spiga and Boom Noodle just right across the street.

Where: Trace Rooftop Open house (1414 12th Ave)          

When: Saturday, May 31, 2pm-7pm

Overall, the building's striking exterior blends in with the eclectic Pike/Pine corridor with interior finishes looking like a more modest version of the Trace Lofts project. With both Trace North and Trace Lofts on 12th Ave, it certainly adds a little bit more flavor to the neighborhood.

More pictures.....

Continue reading "Trace North Update" »

Moda Update


Moda condominiums is nearing completion with move-in dates estimated around September of this year.  The project initially sold out within 5 days after hitting the market in September of 2006 but now 40 units becoming available.  According to Thach Nguyen, one of the developer partners, the drop outs were due to changes in the buyers' situations -- especially loan financing.  Thach also commented that "the vision for Moda condos is to serve a niche market: to provide condo living with luxurious finishes at affordable prices. Homebuyers who are looking at Moda are willing to sacrifice square footage for better quality finshes at a good location."

Continue reading "Moda Update" »

Looking for a portable fireplace?

For those who are growing bored by concrete and steel, tall windows, extravagant front entrances, and stainless/granite open kitchens, there's something new to catch your eye.  Check out the Eco Smart Fireplace.  This portable, environmentally-friendly fireplace is one of the latest home products and is also featured in 5th and Madison condos.


This Eco Smart Fireplace runs on renewable corn-based ethnol, which can be purchased by the can at any paint or hardware store.  There is no installation or utility hook-up required.  Ethanol burns completely clean so there is no need to worry about harmful chemicals or unpleasant smells.

This fireplace is ideal for homeowners who don't have the option of installing a traditional fireplace and who may not like the aesthetics of an electric one.  While it can be built-in to look more traditional, the Eco Smart Fire is designed to operate safely and function just as well standing alone.

The portability of the fireplace means you can use it as a room divider, easily move it around when rearranging your funiture, push it out of the way when you need more space or move it between different rooms of the home as needed.  It also comes in variety of styles and can be designed to match any color.


Condo Innovation from the Big Apple


Rick S., an SCR reader, sent me info about this cool condo in New York which features "En Suite Sky Garages."  Apparently, owners can drive their car into a car elevator and park their car in their condo. I suppose the advantage is you don't need to lug things from your parking spot to the elevator and through the hallways as well as general convenience of having a reserved spot steps from your kitchen (the idea of getting stuck in the elevator seems kinda scary though). 

Check out the movie here (click in "en suite sky garage" link on the left) to see it in action - it's definitely cool.  This is indeed a very forward thinking feature. I would imagine you will be sacrificing more unit space for the convenience of hoping into your car whenever you are ready to go.  Not sure how they'll deal with emissions / security either but the creativity that goes into a design like this is definitely provocative.  Come to think of it, I wonder what happens if a bunch of people are arriving home from work. It's not like you can put more than one car in the elevator at the same time?

Perhaps this will be one of those things that gets design awards but isn't embraced by most buyers.  Thoughts?

Oh Canada...

MountieSaw this interesting article about our neighbors to the North.  Hopefully some of their mojo will come our way soon ;-)

While many American and central Canadian cities have seen slowing sales and falling prices in the past year, the most pessimistic thing any real estate expert can say is that Vancouver housing prices are not expected to rise quite as steeply this year as they did in 2006 and 2007.

"What we're expecting is a bit of moderation," said Robyn Adamache, senior market analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. "Prices are going to continue to increase, but at a slower pace than we've seen over the past couple of years."

Check out the full article here.

Seattle Condo Market Update


The April numbers are in and there's good news and bad news.  Let's start with the bad news.

  • For the first time in a long time, median prices in Belltown dropped.  If you remember my last update in March, we saw median prices rise over 13% versus March 2007.  In April, we saw median prices drop by 7%.  We'll have to see how the next few months play out to determine if this is the adjustment we've all been waiting for so that buyers on the sidelines can come back in or if prices drop further.

The good news:

  • April over Apil inventory (April 2008 as a proportion of April 2007 inventory) has come down compared to March over March numbers.  In March, Belltown inventory was 51% higher than March of 2007.  In April, Belltown inventory was 41% higher than April of 2007.  If this trend continues, it would suggest that there while we are certainly seeing more units on the market than last year, there does appear to be a ceiling in terms of how much more supply is entering the market and as a result (all else equal), we will have a floor on how low prices will ultimately go. 

Continue reading " Seattle Condo Market Update" »

Hjarta Update

Picture_001Thirt-nine out of the total seventy-nine Hjarta homes are sold with buyers moving in since last month.  After touring the building with Sam Ward, the sales manger, I felt like I was given a crash course in green building features. The condo is seeking LEED Silver Certification.  When asked about the higher price per square foot for this building versus other new construction projects in the neighborhood, Sam pointed out that the average price for LEED certified building is 4.8% higher than non-LEED certified building.  In return, you get better air quality, efficient use of energy and long term cost savings for the homeowner association.

Here are some green features in the building:

  • Decorative materials in the lobby entrance-recycled glass from Bedrock (a local company)
  • Cork floorings in the amenity areas
  • Concrete walls in the hall ways which require minimal upkeep
  • Recycled glass back splashes in the kitchens
  • Low volatile organic compound level in carpets, paints, sealants and adhesive - which also produces better air quality
  • Recyclable content tile floors in the bathrooms
  • High performance windows which reduce vibration from street noise and heat transfer
  • Carpet square floors in the bedroom which use nylon and recycled content and can be replaced more easily when there is stain
  • Drought tolerant landscaping
  • Electrical car parking in the garage

You don't see a lot of granite materials except for the fireplace and even those pieces are excess granite from other developers.

Continue reading "Hjarta Update" »

Olive 8 Hard Hat Tour

Picture_002_2I went on an Olive 8 hard hat tour yesterday.  As the construction elevator started rising, the views just get better.

We started the tour on the 26th floor.  It was still in a raw stage with only some structural columns and walls but at least you can try to visualize the unit space with the help of a floor plan.  The northwest units view are good but they are partially block by several high rise buildings including the Westin Hotel towers.  My favorites are the north facing units which look over South Lake Union. You definitely get more water views that way. The 08 floor plan is facing the Qwest building looks right into their offices -- not ideal unless you're a Qwest exec I guess.  On the bright side, the 08's are priced very attractively which may explain why they're almost sold out of that plan. 

According to the project engineer, they are paying great attention to the noise transmission level in the condos.  An audio-acoustic company will be sent in to conduct testing in the units after the insulation is installed.  The condo will be tested three times side by side, top and bottom before drywalls are put up.

Some readers commented about the exterior a while ago.  They are using ceramic fritted glass (ceramic based paint permanently bonded into glass) which also helps hide the columns from the exterior.  Here are some more pics.

Continue reading "Olive 8 Hard Hat Tour" »