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December 2009

Escala Update

Prior to a couple of weeks ago, the last time I visited Escala was early 2009 so I was curious to see how the project has come along now that people are starting to move in and all the construction equipment is nowhere to be seen.  Here are some thoughts from my most recent visit earlier this month.  

The lobby is the grandest that I've ever seen in Seattle, perhaps even including the residential sections of the hotel/condo combos.  It competes easily with some of the five star hotels like Four Seasons.  The long stairway leading up the Club Cielo was accented with gorgeous Koa wood.  The owner's lounge was beautifully designed and filled with handmade furniture, carpets, and curtains.  This fine accoutrement was put together by the oh so fancy folks at Masins in case you want to deck your halls with the same.  

I toured the spa, exercise room, cozy wine cave, lounge, and restaurants.  Say what you will about Escala's prices (which I agree are overdue for reconciliation with the current market conditions), but the totality and quality of the amenities are truly impressive (even to someone who tours condos daily).  Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take any pictures but the building will be available for public tours during the months of February-March (Luxe Life Tour) so you can see for yourself that this ain't your typical Seattle condo.  

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November Seattle Condo Market Numbers

November Seattle Condo numbers are in and overall, they look great.  

  • Pending sales were up almost 40% versus the same period last year.  
  • Closed sales soared and were 60% higher than November 2008.  
  • For those buyers who are wondering if this means they have to pay a lot more, you'll be happy to know that prices are 10% lower than a year ago so there's good news for everyone in these numbers.

It's worth noting that the two neighborhoods that are leading this condo recovery are Queen Anne/Magnolia and Capitol Hill.  Queen Anne/Magnolia condo sales were more than double the previous year's November and prices were up 10%.  Capitol Hill condo sales were up almost 80% over November 2008 (though prices were down).

Belltown, while it is lagging in this recovery with "only" 18% more closed sales than the previous year had 10% fewer pending sales and median prices 24% lower than November 2008.  You might assume this is due to the large supply of condos in Belltown/Downtown, but Capitol Hill has just as many condos on the market yet had 50% more sales than Belltown/Downtown did.

FHA Update

FHA Update 

Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent out a letter explaining some changes to the FHA in regards to condos. Here are some of the highlights.

1.) FHA will permit spot loan approval until January 31, 2010.

2.) The number of allowable FHA loans in a particular building has been increased from what was going to be 30% to a higher limit of 50% with the possibility of 100% if it meets the following criteria:

  • The building is 100% complete and construction has been completed for at least one year, as evidenced by issuance of the final or temporary/conditional certificate of occupancy for last unit conveyed;
  • 100% of the units have been sold and no entity owns more than 10% of the units in the project;
  • The project's budget provides for the funding of replacement reserves for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance in an account representing at least 10% of the budget;
  • Control of Homeowners Association has transferred to the owners; and
  • The owner occupancy ratio is at least 50%.

Note: New construction and conversions are not eligible for this exception.

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Matrix, the Marriage of MCM Group & Williams Marketing


MCM Group and Williams Marketing are merging.  The two companies have decided to tap on each other's strengths and have formed Matrix Real Estate.  Both have a pretty impressive list of projects they've taken on over the years selling over $1B worth of property since 2005.  This partnership will probably be mutually beneficial for them and perhaps gaining the largest market share in town.

Matrix announcement

What do you all think?  Will this be good, bad, or neutral for condo buyers and developers?