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February 2009

98 Union- Market District

98 Union Condo

98 Union was one of the few buildings built in the 1980's in the Market District.  This twelve story condo offers 76 units.  12 of them are two-level homes at the atrium, 3rd, and 5th level.  Studio, one bedroom, two bedroom floor plans, and a whopping sized, 3,101 square foot four bedroom home also round out the layout offerings. 

98 Union has some really basic amenities including a doorman, roof top deck and a fountain courtyard.  A fitness area is also available but it's in the same room as the club room and oddly located below ground level.  The club room looks like it needs some updating.

The main selling point for 98 Union is its location.  It is within walking distance to Pike Place Market, Pacific Place, SAM, and numerous restaurants.  The newly opened Four Seasons hotel right across the street has enhanced the general area as well.

Overall, 98 Union is a decent building with a great location.  Ironically, in light of its sparse amenities, 98 Union still has slightly higher homeowner dues for a building this age.  If you are not looking for something fancy and love the convenience of being close to Pike Place market, you may want to check it out.

Condos near to 98 Union:

Four Seasons
Fifteen Twenty-One

Queen Anne High School: Inventory Close Out Auction Review

 Queen Anne High School Auction           

Queen Anne High School Condo is following the foot steps of Press Condominiums and Seventeen07 and will be auctioning their 12 remaining homes on Sunday, March 22nd at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at 1:00pm.

Minimium bids for these homes start at $145,000 for the studio, $325,000 for the one bedroom plus den, $245,000 for the two bedrooms, and $650,000 for the penthouse.  Click here for more details and the auction video

I visited the project again today and took another look.  Of all the homes, #367 and #402 (penthouse) seem most interesting.  The penthouse was previously listed for $1.29 million and the price was dropped to $999,950.  It has a great view of the city, 14 foot ceilings and large vintage arched windows (though they are single pane).  As for #367, I like the fact that it is facing the fountain courtyard, well laid out, and the deck is accessible from both bedrooms.

In the last auction for Press Condominiums, 350 people attended the event and all the homes were sold within 45 minutes at ~ 92% of the asking prices.  Queen Anne auction will be conducted by the same company, Kennedy Wilson Auction Group, a real estate company based in Beverly Hill, California.  So far, they are not extending this type of service to individual owners yet but if this method continues to find success, I wouldn't be surprised.

Ruby Update

Ruby courtyard Fannie Mae's new guidelines requiring new construction to be at least 70% presold before they will fund loans has affected some projects in Seattle.  One such case is Rollin in South Lake Union delaying their closing.  As for Ruby in Eastlake, it looks like they have found a way to get over this hurdle.  Ruby has started partnering with a local lender (Seattle Mortgage) that has committed to close homes with no presale requirement.  The developer is also working with other regional lenders for additional commitments to close homes with no presale requirements.  The building is also FHA and VA approved which opens up more doors for them to appeal to home buyers with low down payment.  To encourage purchase, the developer is offering rate buy- down's for home buyers.  I wonder if other projects will follow suit.

Related posts:

Ruby Condos Update
Ruby Condos
Rollin Hard Hat Tour
South Lake Union Update

Home Auction

Canal stations auction Developers aren't the only ones using auctions for a speedy sale nowadays. Some individual owners are trying this non-traditional way to sell their homes. I came across one such auction yesterday (Canal Station #304) sent by a fellow colleague. According to her, the home isn't distressed or being foreclosed upon. The seller simply wants to do a fast sale (knowing it would likely be at a loss). The auction is for an one bedroom condo (873 sq.ft) in Canal Station. The minimum bid starts at $279,000.

Housing Rescue Plan

President Obama announced the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan today.

Under the plan, many homeowners whose loan-to-value ratio was previously too high to refinance will now become eligible to refinance their homes at the current low rates.  The plan will also reduce foreclosures and provide transitional help for those who are facing difficulty making their payments.  

Read here for more details, Q&A and some housing example situations.  Mortgage lenders will start accepting applications after more details of the program are announced on March 4th.

There seems to be a lot of thought put into the plan (e.g., not providing assistance to speculators or flippers).  It's probably the most direct effort to stem the bleeding in housing markets we've seen since this whole thing started turning south.

Now we've got a stimulus and a housing plan.  Still need to work on those zombie banks but definitely a take-charge start for Obama's first month at work...

Tax Credit for First-Time Home buyers

As part of the Economic stimulus bill, home buyers can now enjoy a tax credit worth $8,000 or 10% of the home's value, whichever is less.  This is definitely an improvement from the current $7,500 tax "credit" which was passed in July 2008 which was really more like a low-interest loan than an actual credit. 

So, how can homebuyers qualify for the credit?

  • The purchase must be made between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009.    
  • Home buyers cannot have owned a home for the past three years.
  • They must also live in the new house for at least three years.  If not, the credit will be recaptured on sale.

  • Buyers must make less than $75,000 for singles or $150,000 for couples.

Read more here.

Fannie Giveth...and Taketh Away?

Couple of important Fannie updates recently:  

  • On the one hand, they are putting the breaks on foreclosure sales and implementing new policies to work with owners in default to try and keep them in their homes.
  • On the other hand, they're making it much harder to get new Fannie loans for condo buyers.  New requirements are that 70% of units must be presold and existing projects can't have more than 15% of all units behind on HOA dues.
On the foreclosure prevention effort, this seems like a good idea given that putting more inventory out their at distressed prices seems like that last thing we want to see in this market.  Hopefully this will help buy some time for the stimulus to kick in.  No one really knows if it will work.  One thing is for sure, doing nothing hasn't worked so good...

On the tighter guidelines for condo loans, it would have been great to have implemented these more conservative guidelines last year to soften the landing.  You could almost make the argument that now that things are where they are, it isn't the ideal time to make it harder for buyers to get financing.


Lakeview Residence Condos

(Photos from NWMLS, achived under Seattle Condo Review Gallery)

Lakeview Residence is a new construction project built on the slope of 1114 Lakeview Blvd. E.  The project is designed by Studio Meng Strazzara, the same architect for two other high-end condominium projects (Havard and Highland, and the Harvard Estate) in Capitol Hill.  There are only 6 homes in this 3 story building.

Each home has its own private elevator access.  There are two homes on each level.  Unit 3N has the best lake view but it's the smallest home (1,392) compared to the rest of the homes which range from 1,409 to 1,670 square feet.  The two homes on the 2nd level come with their own private backyard.

Continue reading "Lakeview Residence Condos" »

Maison Jiselle Condos

Maison Jiselle condos  Maison Jiselle 1 bedroom

Maison Jiselle is a conversion project on 120 14th Ave.  This is a 16-unit condo, all with one bedroom floor plans.  Square footage for these homes fall a little under 500.  The building is partially converted with more units coming on the market soon. All homes are priced under $184,950 and doesn't come with parking.

The building has updated mechanical, plumbing, windows, and electrical wiring.  There is a center courtyard which gives the condo a little more of a community feel.  The floor plan is really efficient for a one bedroom this size.  Each home has a walk-in closet which slightly offsets the lack of a storage unit.

There's not a whole lot going on in the neighborhood but the location is pretty close to Seattle University, the International district, and Capitol Hill.  If you are very price sensitive, this condo is worth considering as a starter home.

Seattle Condo January Market Results

Jan 09 (blog) 

So the January numbers are in from the MLS.  Below are some of the key stats comparing Jan 2009 to Jan 2008 numbers as well as Jan 2009 versus previous month.

January year-over-year (Jan 2009 compared to Jan 2008)

  • Encouraging News    
    • 9.4% less inventory than last year (in order to have a functioning, balanced market -- we'd want to see less inventory since there are fewer active buyers)    
    • Median closed transaction price up 9.8%.  The increase in median price is largely contributed by higher-end condo sales in Belltown/Downtown.
  • Sobering News 
    • Volume of pending sales down 20.2%    
    • Volume of closed sales down 25.5%  

January 2009 versus previous month


  • Encouraging News    
    • 22% more pending sales  
    • 21% more closed sales 
  • Sobering News 
    • December 2008 was pretty ugly so improving on them was not too hard


As interesting as some of these stats are, my current view is the state of the overarching national economy (e.g., federal stimulus plan, banking rescue, housing rescue) will ultimately drive what's going on over here.