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September 2008
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October 2008

Escala Update


Escala CondosSince we won't be hearing of new projects breaking ground anytime soon. I thought I would focus on condos completing next year.

Let's start in Midtown. Escala (currently, Seattle's largest condominium project under construction) rolled out their launch of Club Cielo a few weeks ago. What's the big deal with Club Cielo? For one thing, the 25,000 square foot club will be managed by Columbia Hospitality, which manages Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie and will also be running the soon to be opened Four Seasons.

The Club also takes up the entire 2nd floor of the building and includes a private dinning area, spa and fitness center (exercise classes, pedicure, manicure, 2 resistant lap pools, massages, steam room), 18 seat wine cave, theater for screenings/meetings, business center, cocktail lounge, dog run, and full service outdoor terrace with menu. 

Continue reading "Escala Update" »

Future Pipeline for Downtown Projects Slows to a Trickle

Seattle Stalled Projects There was a good article in the Seattle Times today about how after the existing projects get finished, there's unlikely to be many more commenced for a few years. Aside from the obvious concerns about credit and demand, I actually find these stories partially heartening since the last thing we need is any more inventory on the market.

"Brokers and developers agree that few, if any, proposed office buildings will start construction soon. So many condo projects in downtown Seattle's core have been postponed that there could be nothing new on the market until 2012 once the crop now under construction is completed next year."

Full Article

Some Good News

Yes, we're almost definitely in a recession. Yes, our banking system is scratching its way out of a crisis. And yes, there are a ton of condos sitting on the market while some buyers await the apocalypse.

But there is some encouraging news to be had. Check some of these new stories coming out in the last 7 days calling out Seattle as one of the most promising parts of the country.

Seattle real estate rated No. 1

Among major metropolitan areas, Seattle's real estate is the best in the nation as a prospective investment, a national report released Tuesday says.

On an eight-point scale reflecting investment value, Seattle was ranked 6.2, according to the 30th annual study of emerging trends in real estate from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute.

That ranking reflects averaged ratings by more than 600 surveyed real estate professionals, who assigned a number of 0 to 8 to each the nation's top 10 regions. The better the location for investment purposes, the higher the rating.  Full article

Seattle one of the "best looking markets" in the country

The Emerald City is that rare major metro area near the coast that is not on a nausea-inducing roller-coaster ride. While home prices in Florida and Southern California are in a free fall, homeowners here are experiencing a gentler landing. Of course, that’s partly because the ride up was not as euphoric—home prices here peaked at 65 percent above January 2003 levels, compared with more than 95 percent in Los Angeles. Thanks to well-paying mega-employers like Microsoft, and Boeing, unemployment remains under 4 percent. That, in turn, has kept median sales prices from falling far. Just as encouraging: Only 11.5 percent of local homeowners who bought within the past five years have negative equity on their property, well below the national average of 29 percent, according to the real estate services firm Zillow. That indicates there won’t be a flood of foreclosures and short sales around the corner. Full article


Rental Prices Continue to Climb in Seattle

According to the Seattle Times, rents are up 10% over the last year and some analysts project rents to increase a further 17% by December 2010.  

The biggest demand is for units renting for less than $1,500 a month. Anyone who bought a studio or 1BR for investment a few years ago is probably quite happy.

Those seeking to spend less than $1,500 a month, especially in urban Seattle, must act quickly when a high-quality apartment or house becomes available in their price range.

"If you see anything on Craigslist for a decent price, it's gone in a day," says Steve Spencer, 23, a student at Seattle Pacific University and another early arrival at the Dexter open house. He's lived at his current home for two years and says "prices have gone way up" in that time.


Full Seattle Times article here.

Slowdown Reaches Seattle Real Estate Tech Stars

Looks like more folks are "battening down the hatches" as Zillow's Barton said. Here are some excerpts from Seattle real estate startups regarding their cut backs. I have to say I hope these companies make it through the rough patch. Redfin's MLS search is one of my favorites and Zillow is always fun to check out from time to time.

The unprecedented economic events that are playing out on a global stage began in our own industry and have made a prolonged recession likely, in our judgment. We are a young company that is not yet making a profit. Despite having sizeable cash reserves, we deemed the responsible course was to meaningfully reduce expenses, so that Zillow emerges from the other side of the recession in a very strong position, even if the recession lasts many years.

Full Zillow Blog Post


Even a month ago, we were raising 2009 revenue projections. All our markets, now including Chicago, contributed profits. But the past few weeks have seen a major reversal. As the stock market wiped out prospective down-payments, tours and offers dropped 30%. Transactions that were done came undone. October will still be pretty good, then we’re headed for a big dip.

Full Redfin Post

For what it's worth, I remain hopeful things will turn around in the new year. I know a number of my clients are pondering if January is the right time to make a purchase. A few are waiting for after the election to decide on what to do. It remains to be seen if the news will get better, worse, or stay the same leading up to the new year.


Seattle King County First Citizen

Seattle_king_county_first_citizen Paul_allen_2

Paul Allen will be one of the recipients of this year's King County First Citizen award. He was picked for his support of numberous areas including health and human services causes, dedication to the advancement of science, technology and the arts, and generous donations to various foundations in Seattle. As a founder of Vulcan Inc, he is well known for his high profile developments in South Lake Union (2200 Westlake, Enso, Rollin and Veer Lofts) which created quite a buzz from 2004-2006. With his contributions to Seattle, I think he well deserves this award.

Seattle Home Show 2

Seattle_home_show_2_4 The 10th Anniversary of Seattle Home Show 2 is here again this year from October 16-19. This year the focus will be on money saving tips for homeowners. The show will include exhibitors for products and services such as home improvement services, kitchen gadgets, furniture, and green products.

Location: Qwest Field Event Center, 800 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle.

Time: Friday (10am-8.30pm), Saturday (10.00am-8.30pm) and Sunday 10am-6pm)

Cost: $9/adults, $6/ages 60 and older, $3/ages 7-15; show visitors can register to return a second day for free, ID required.

Condo Q&A

Seattle Times staff reporter, Elizabeth Rhodes has a great Q&A forum answering property questions. She covers condo as well. If you are new to living in a condo, on a home owner association board, or simply curious about how a homeowners' association functions, here are a couple of interesting questions:

Lowdown on condo reserve studies

Collecting delinquent condo dues

Just what do condo owners get to vote on?

Loan options for condo repairs

Inhabit Modular Homes for sale


Inhabit_2I came across this interesting property listed by Moira Holley.  On the outside, it certainly doesn't look like your typical condo or townhome.  In fact, these are actually modular homes designed by Mithun and Hybrid sitting on top of the outdoor terrace of Rainier Tower on 5th and Seneca 4th and University.  It was toured by 1,200 visitors in September 2007.

The two built green homes are approx 1,155 square feet. Each home comes with a one bedroom and one bathroom.  Asking price is $300,000. They can be stacked vertically, separated into two cottages, or reconfigured to form a single home.  The units were built in a modular factory, transformed in Burlington, and had their interiors designed by Seattle's Art Vision. According to Unico Properties, who commissioned the architect firms to design these homes, it’s a plug-and-play solution for a vacation cottage, guest house, artist studio, or building addition.  Unico Properties has also recently received approval for a 66 unit modular apartment complex on Dexter Ave North.

Seattle Condo Market Update

Sep_08_blogFor the first time this year, the number of Seattle condos for sale dropped below same period last year.  This is a hopeful sign since the last thing we need is more people putting their property into the sluggish system. August 2008 numbers showed total active inventory of 1,503, 1.83% lower than August 2007. Looking at the numbers earlier this year, inventory was over 60% higher than the same time in 2007. This is largely due a number of reasons: developers holding off on their projects and waiting out on the market, a number of completed condo projects turning into apartments, apartments that were intended to convert to condo reverting back to apartments, and unsold inventory in completed condo projects becoming available as rental units.

The median price for last month's closed sales of condominiums was $310,000, a drop of 6.03% from a year ago when the median price was $329,900. Comparing to the previous two months this year, median prices were about the same -- $310,000 for August and $299,975 for July. The number of home sale closings in September was almost half of same time last year at 191.

The volume of year-over-year pending sales transactions for September was down 14.50%. On the other hand, months inventory (how many months it would take to sell all the inventory currently on the market) has improved from 8.9 in August to 7.8 in September.

Overall, September numbers indicate a modest shrinkage in inventory with pending sales still lower than last year but better than the last two months and median prices experiencing negative single digit % reductions.

The recent credit market crisis and negative news report has definitely hampered many home buyers' confidence. Most now believe that prices will continue to drop and have adopted a wait-and-see approach. As we are moving to the seasonal slow period of the year, we probably won't be seeing activity picking up until early next year.