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New Listing at 1521 Second – Open House 3-1

February 28, 2009 by  
Filed under 1521, Featured

Come by this Sunday to tour this 180 degree view unit at Fifteen Twenty-One Second from 1:00 to 4:00.  Visit our Fifteen Twenty-One Second website to view a large image photo gallery.

$1,649,000 ($948/Sq.Ft.)
MLS# 29026202 – Active

Interior Size: 1,740 Sq.Ft.
Building: FIFTEEN TWENTY-ONE (building profile)
Beds: 2   Baths: 1.75
Community: Downtown

Remarkable views, refined quality, seduction at every turn. 29th floor featuring sweeping views of sound, skyline, market & mountains. Gourmet Kit w/slab granite, Subzero & Wolf Appl; Spa Bath w/heated floor, California Closets, Toto jetted tub; power blinds; 2 car parking; pre-wire for audio/video & home integrated system; 10′-1” ceiling–highest of any floor in building! Premier building w/24 hr Concierge, Gym, Conference Rm, Sky Lounge. Best location downtown–overlooking Pike Place Market.

2902_kitchenPhoto Gallery

2902_livingPhoto Gallery

2902_bathPhoto Gallery

New Stimulus Package: Part I – Homebuyer Tax Credit

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Finance, National

Now that the dust has settled, Congress has voted, and the decisions has been made, questions about the new stimulus package can finally be answered.  Since there were several provisions made, we’re breaking up the stimulus into 10 parts over the next week or two.  Here’s what areas of the stimulus has been revised/improved.

  • Homebuyer Tax Credit
  • FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loan Limits
  • Neighborhood Stabilization
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Rural Housing Service
  • Low Income-Housing Grants
  • Tax Exempt Housing Bonds
  • Energy Efficient Housing Tax Credits & Grants
  • Transportation Investments
  • Broadband Deployment

Homebuyer Tax Credit

This provision is very exciting for first-time buyers in that the credit has been increase from $7,500 to $8,000, and the credit does not require repayment.  Most importantly, anyone wanting to take advantage of the first-time homebuyer credit must do so before December 1st, 2009.  The National Association of Realtors (NAR) did make a run at making the credit $15,000, but it was considered “too rich for this program.”  Here are a list of FAQ’s provided by NAR.


1. What’s this new homebuyer tax incentive for 2009?

The 2008 $7500, repayable credit is increased to $8000 and the repayment feature is eliminated for 2009 purchasers. Any home that is purchased for $80,000 or more qualifies for the full $8000 amount.  If the house costs less than $80,000, the credit will be 10% of the cost.  Thus, if an individual purchased a home for $75,000, the credit would be $7500.  It is available for the purchase of a principal residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.

2. Who is eligible?

Only first-time homebuyers are eligible.  A person is considered a first-time buyer if they have not had any ownership interest in a home in the three years previous to the day of the 2009 purchase.

3. How does a tax credit work?

Every dollar of a tax credit reduces income taxes by a dollar.  Credits are claimed on an individual’s income tax return.  Thus, a qualified purchaser would figure out all the income items and exemptions and make all the calculations required to figure out his/her total tax due.  Then, once the total tax owed has been computed, tax credits are applied to reduce the total tax bill.  So, if before taking any credits on a tax return a person has total tax liability of $9,500, an $8,000 credit would wipe out all but $1,500 of the tax due ($9,500 – $8000 = $1500).

4. So what happens if the purchaser is eligible for an $8,000 credit but their entire income tax liability for the year is only $6,000?

This tax credit is what’s called “refundable” credit.  Thus, if the eligible purchaser’s total tax liability was $6,000, the IRS would send the purchaser a check for $2,000.  The refundable amount is the difference between $8,000 credit amount and the amount of tax liability ($8000 – $6000 = $2000).  Most taxpayers determine their tax liability by referring to tables that the IRS prepares each year.

5. Is there an income restriction?

Yes.  The income restriction is based on the tax filing status the purchaser claims when filing his/her income tax return.  Individuals filing Form 1040 as Single (or Head of Household) are eligible for the credit if their income is no more than $75,000.  Married couples who file a Joint return may have income of no more than $150,000.

6. How is my “income” determined?

For most individuals, income is defined and calculated in the same manner as their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on their 1040 income tax return.  AGI includes items like wages, salaries, interest and dividends, pension and retirement earnings, rental income and a host of other elements.  AGI is the final number that appears on the bottom line of the front page of an IRS Form 1040.

7. What if I worked abroad for part of the year?

Some individuals have earned income and/or receive housing allowances while working outside the US.  Their income will be adjusted to reflect those items to measure Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI).  Their eligibility for the credit will be based on their MAGI.

8. Do individuals with incomes higher than the $75,000 or $150,000 limits lose all the benefit of the credit?

Not always.  The credit phases-out between $75,000 – $95,000 for singles and $150,000 – $170,000 for married filing joint.  The closer a buyer comes to the maximum phase-out amount, the smaller the credit will be. The law provides a formula to gradually withdraw the credit.  Thus, the credit will disappear after an individual’s income reaches $95,000 (single return) or $170,000 (joint return).  For example, if a married couple had income of $165,000, their credit would be reduced by 75% as shown: couple’s income $165,000 income limit 150,000 excess income $15,000 the excess income amount ($15,000 in this example) is used to form a fraction.  The numerator of the fraction is the excess income amount ($15,000).  The denominator is $20,000 (specified by the statute).  In this example, the disallowed portion of the credit is 75% of $8,000, or $6,000 ($15,000/$20,000 = 75% x $8000 = $6000).  Stated another way, only 25% of the credit amount would be allowed.  In this example, the allowable credit would be $2000 (25% x $8000 = $2000).

9. What’s the definition of “principal residence?”

Generally, a principal residence is the home where an individual spends most of his/her time (generally defined as more than 50%).  It is also defined as “owner-occupied” housing.  The term includes single-family detached housing, condos or co-ops, townhouses or any similar type of new or existing dwelling.  Even some houseboats or manufactured homes count as principal residences.

10. Are there restrictions on the location of the property?

Yes.  The home must be located in the United States.  Property located outside the US is not eligible for the credit.

11. Are there restrictions related to the financing for the mortgage on the property?

In 2009, most financing arrangements are acceptable and will not affect eligibility for the credit.  Congress eliminated the financing restriction that applied in 2008 (in 2008, purchasers were ineligible for the $7500 credit if the financing was obtained by means of mortgage revenue bonds).  Now, mortgage-revenue bond financing will not disqualify an otherwise-eligible purchaser (mortgage revenue bonds are tax-exempt bonds issued by a state housing agency–proceeds from the bonds must be used for below market loans to qualified buyers).

12. Do I have to repay the 2009 tax credit?

No.  There is no repayment for 2009 tax credits.

13. Do 2008 purchasers still have to repay their tax credit?

Yes.  The $7,500 credit in 2008 was more like an interest-free loan.  All eligible purchasers who claimed the 2008 credit will still be required to repay it over 15 years, starting with their 2010 tax return.

14. How do I apply for the credit?

There is no pre-purchase authorization, application or similar approval process.  All eligible purchasers simply claim the credit on their IRS Form 1040 tax return.  The credit will be reflected on a new Form 5405 that will be attached to the 1040.  Form 5405 can be found at

15. So I can’t use the credit amount as part of my downpayment?

No.  Congress tried hard to devise a mechanism that would make the funds available for closing costs, but found that pre-funding would require cumbersome processes that would, in effect, bring the IRS into the purchase and settlement phase of the transaction.

16. So there’s no way to get any cash flow benefits before I file my tax return?

Yes.  Any first-time homebuyers who believe they are eligible for all or part of the credit can modify their income tax withholding (through their employers) or adjust their quarterly estimated tax payments.  Individuals subject to income tax withholding would get an IRS Form W-4 from their employer, follow the instructions on the schedules provided and give the completed Form W-4 back to the employer.  In many cases their withholding would decrease and their take-home pay would increase. Those who make estimated tax payments would make similar adjustments.

17. What if I purchase later this year but can’t get to settlement before December 1?

The credit is available for purchases before December 1, 2009.  A home is considered as “purchased” when all events have occurred that transfer the title from the seller to the new purchaser.  Thus, closings must occur before December 1, 2009 for purchases to be eligible for the credit.

18. I haven’t even filed my 2008 tax return yet.  If I buy in 2009, do I have to wait until next year to get the benefit of the credit?

You’ll have a helpful choice that might speed up the process.  Eligible homebuyers who make their purchase between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009 can treat the purchase as if it had occurred on December 31, 2008.  Thus, they can claim the credit on their 2008 tax return that is due on April 15, 2009.  They actually have three filing options.

  • If they purchase between January 1, 2009 and April 15, 2009, they can claim the $8,000 credit on the 2008 return due on April 19.
  • They can extend their 2008 income-tax filing until as late as October 15, 2009 (the IRS grants automatic extensions, but the taxpayer must file for the extension. See for instructions on how to obtain an extension).
  • If they have filed their 2008 return before they purchase the home, they may file an amended 2008 tax return on Form 1040X (form 1040X is available at  Of course, 2009 purchasers will always have the option of claiming the credit for the 2009 purchase on their 2009 return. Their 2009 tax return is due on April 15, 2010.

20. I purchased my home in early 2009 before the stimulus bill was enacted. I claimed a $7,500 tax credit on my 2008 return as prior law had permitted. Am I restricted to just a $7,500 credit?

No, you would qualify for the $8,000 credit.  Eligible purchasers who have already claimed the $7,500 credit on a 2008 return for a 2009 purchase may file an amended return (IRS Form 1040X) for the 2008 tax year. This amended return will enable them to obtain the additional $500 credit amount.

21. If I claim my 2009 $8,000 credit on my 2008 tax return, will I have to repay the credit just as the 2008 credits are repaid?

No.  Congress anticipated this confusion and has made specific provision so that there would be no repayment of 2009 credits that are claimed on 2008 returns.

22. I made an eligible purchase of a principal residence in May 2008 and claimed the $7,500 credit on my 2008 tax return.  My brother, who has never owned a home, wishes to purchase a partial interest in the home this spring and move in.  Will he qualify for the $8,000 credit, as well?

No.  Any purchase of a principal residence (or interest in a principal residence) from a related party such as a sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle is ineligible for the tax credit.  Since you and your brother are related in this way, he cannot qualify for the credit on any portion of the home that he purchases from you, even if he is a first-time homebuyer.

23. I live in the District of Columbia.  If I qualify as a first-time homebuyer, can I use both the $5,000 DC credit and the $8,000 credit?

No; double dipping is not allowed. You would be eligible for only the $8,000 credit.  This will be an advantage because of the higher credit amount, plus the eligibility requirements for the $8,000 credit are somewhat more easily satisfied than the DC credit.

24. I know there is no repayment requirement for the $8,000 credit.  Will I ever have to repay any of the credit back to the government?

One situation does require a recapture payment back to the government.  If you claim the credit but then sell the property within 3 years of the date of purchase, you are required to pay back the full amount of any credit, including any refund you received from it.  A few exceptions apply.  Note that this same 3-year recapture rule applies, as well, to the $7,500 credit available for 2008.  This provision is designed as an anti-flipping rule.

25. What if I die or get divorced or my property is ruined in a natural disaster within the 3 years?

The repayment rules are eased for many circumstances.  If the homeowner who used the credit dies within the first three years of ownership, there is no recapture.  Special rules make adjustments for people who sell homes as part of a divorce settlement, as well.  Similarly, adjustments are made in the case of a home that is part of an involuntary conversion (property is destroyed in a natural disaster or subject to condemnation by eminent domain by an authorized agency) within the first three years.

26. I have a home under construction.  Am I eligible for the credit?

Yes, so long as you actually occupy the home before December 1, 2009.  WITHHOLDING EXAMPLES: Note: The impact of estimated tax payments would be the same.

Situation 1:  Sally plans her withholding so that her withholding is as close as possible to what she anticipates as her income tax liability for the year.  When she fills out her 1040, her liability is $6,000.  She has had $6,000 withheld from her paycheck.  She also qualifies for the $8,000 homebuyer credit.
Result: Sally’s withholding satisfies her tax liability and reduces it to zero.  She will receive a refund of the full $8,000.

Situation 2: Nick and Nora file a joint return.  Nick is self-employed and makes estimated payments; Nora has taxes withheld from her salary.  When they compute their taxes, their combined withholding and estimated tax payments are $11,000.  Their income tax liability is $9,800.  They also qualified as first-time homebuyers and are eligible for the $8,000 refundable tax credit.
Result: Ordinarily, their combined estimated tax payments and withholding would make them eligible for a refund of $1,200 ($11,000 – $9,800 = $1,200).  Because they are eligible for the refundable tax credit as well, they will receive a refund of $9,200 ($1,200 income tax refund + $8,000 refundable tax credit = $9,200)

Situation 3: Cesar and LuzMaria both have income taxes withheld from their salaries and file a joint return.  When they file their income tax return, their combined withholding is $5,000.  However, their total tax liability is $7,200, generating an additional income tax liability of $2,200 ($7,200 – $5,000).  They also qualify for the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit.
Result: Cesar and LuzMaria have been under-withheld by $2,200.  Ordinarily, they would be required to pay the additional $2,200 they owe (plus any applicable interest and penalties).  Because they are eligible for the refundable homebuyer tax credit, the credit will cover the $2,200 additional liability.  In addition, they will receive an income tax refund of $5,800 ($8,000 – $2,200 = $5,800).  If they owed penalties and/or interest, that amount would reduce the refund.

Condo King County Weekly Sales Ratios for Febuary 12th, 2009

February 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Weekly Sales Ratios

Condo Only, NWMLS Area 701 (Belltown & Downtown Seattle)

Active Listings and Pending Sales by NWMLS Area 701

Active Listings and Pending Sales by NWMLS Area 701


Condo Buyer Boot Camp in Wallingford on Wednesday

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Finance, MISC, Puget Sound Region

When to buy?

What can I afford?

Why a condo?

This is a complimentary class that seems to offer some value for those who beginning their search, and may still need some guidance on loans/credit.  We usually try to stay away from promoting things like this, and try to use it more for just sharing knowledge and providing a resource to those who are still deciding who to contact when it comes time to call a Realtor.  But, this group of individuals are really good at providing unbiased information, and answering questions honestly.

Here’s the message in their marketing material:

Wednesday, February 25th
7:00 to 8:30 pm
Tavona Condominiums — Unit 104
3333 Wallingford Ave N, Seattle WA 98103

As the first in a series of educational market insight events offered by Urban Condominiums, Condo Buyer Boot Camp will provide you with direct access to a panel of experts to answer all your questions about today’s dynamic real estate market.  Join other homebuyers just like you and explore your future home buying opportunities including:

• Real estate market snapshot – the myths and facts
• Developing your personal home buyer profile
How to research and compare properties
• The condominium buying process
All about home loans and credit scores
• Financial planning

Click here to RSVP


Marco Kronen, Urban Condominiums
Craig Walker, Cascade Mortgage
Tim Nausin, Financial Advisor
Roger Cruise, Eukopia Credit Solutions


The last class they offered had about 30 people show up, so seating is limited.  Be sure to RSVP.

View Larger Map

Lumen Called

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Lumen

…so we went.

Lumen has about 20 or so units left on the market, and for the most part the availability is all across the board.  The only real update we can give on the project is that it’s finished, the QFC is convenient, the entrance to Office Max seems to have moved to the southwest corner of the building, the conveyor belt sushi restaurant is getting some good reviews, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is coming along just fine.


In fact, the value of location is surely Lumen’s best quality.  Sure, it has some nice amenities like the SkyLounge with full kitchen and movie room, but when it comes to real estate’s #1 rule in determining value, Lumen really does have it.

So, here’s a look at what the location has to offer that many other projects do not:

  • Grocery shopping
  • Across the street from the Seattle Center (walk to the Bite of Seattle, Bumpershoot, and many other festivities).
  • Across the street from a soon-to-be national landmark–The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • On-site Sushi!
  • Easy access to I-5
  • Hop, skip and jump to several parks
  • and restaurants galore.

As far as the units themselves are concerned, you really have to be a fan of concrete since it’s exposed in the floors, walls, and ceilings.  The architecture is modern, the floorplans are very spacious, there’s a few 2-story lofts left, and the units with the folding glass Nana walls are very cool.


Here are some other pics we took during out visit:

Condo King County Weekly Sales Ratios for January 29th, 2009

Condo Only, NWMLS Area 701 (Belltown & Downtown Seattle)

Active Listings and Pending Sales by NWMLS Area 701

Active Listings and Pending Sales by NWMLS Area 701


ESCALA Starts to Buzz – Media Coverage & Wine Cave Table

February 5, 2009 by  
Filed under ESCALA, Featured

In addition to our photos we took at ESCALA just last week, a lot of other media has surfaced recently as well.  If you’re following the progress of ESCALA closely, then you may have already seen the “In the News” email that was just sent out.

Probably the most interesting was the Daily Journal of Commerce article where developer John Midby is quoted for pointing out that only an estimated 659 condos will be delivered as new inventory by 2011.  When doing a search for solds in the downtown area from January 1st, 2008 through 2009, there were 446 sales.

So 659 new listings added to the market in 2 years, minus 2 years of an approximate 446?

No!  That 446 does not include many of the new construction sales.  So, the history of sold properties is often skewed (lower), hence the disclaimer in newspaper articles about basing their info on NWMLS data when reporting active, pending, and sold listings.  Many developers and other bullish industry professionals will expect to see another abnormal increase in prices in the next couple of years due to lack of inventory.  With ESCALA being the last new construction site to break ground since the increased restrictions on lending, Midby proves the value of ESCALA, even in this down market.

Read Article

Also, we have found Dean Jones, CEO of condo market analysis company Realogics, to be an excellent and reliable source for additional information when gauging the market since he specializes in the new construction arena.  King-5 recently featured a segment with a testimonial from an ESCALA buyer and he shares his excitement for the urban lifestyle.  The clip also recognizes an approximate 10% depreciation in home prices for October 2008 in the greater Seattle region.  However, the downtown area proves to be unique with only an approximate 3% depreciation.  Therefore, it’s unlikely that we’ll see prices decrease for presales at ESCALA.

View Clip

Another “buzz” that was recently published is about an Eastside professional who’s looking forward to ESCALA’s private social club.

“As an Eastsider, this is a chance to be a part of a facility where I can entertain clients in a high-end environment,” he explained. “The club has a broader scope than other clubs in the area and a higher estectic.”

Club Cielo will really raise the bar to clubs in Seattle, and be another talley mark for what our city has to offer when comparing to New York and San Francisco.  Fortunately for those in the know, ESCALA prices are still…low.

Read Article

Just in!

ESCALA’s wine cave table is here and in the shop.  We’ve got some pictures, but still waiting to hear more about the story behind the tree.

Four Seasons Announces 22 Closings and 3 More in the Hopper

February 5, 2009 by  
Filed under 4Seasons

Only 11 remaining units at the Four Seasons.  That’s pretty good.  The high-end market seems to be doing well here in Seattle.  Both the Four Seasons and Fifteen Twenty-One are showing several closed sales this month.
Here’s the news release:

Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Seattle Announces Project Milestone

Property Demonstrates Continued Momentum with Recent Closings

SEATTLE – February 5, 2009 – Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Seattle today announced it has sold 25 of its 36 luxury private residences and officially closed on 22 of those sales.  The major project milestone is valued at more than $120 million dollars in closings to date, most of which have occurred in the past several months since Thanksgiving.

“Despite current economic conditions, the steady demand for our unique residences is fueled by a combination of key elements, characteristic of the Four Seasons brand: exclusive, world-class locations, the most luxurious amenities, unsurpassed service and attention to the smallest of details,” said Ben Trodd, General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Seattle. “Residents are effortlessly catered to and we provide the same levels of attentive, intuitive service that have become our hallmark throughout the world”.

Residents of Four Seasons have access to residential concierge service, valet parking, 24-hour room service and the hotel’s full array of amenities and services.  Whether having Four Seasons cater an event at home or tend to their affairs while they’re away, residents live an effortless lifestyle.  Available residences range from $2 million to more than $15 million.

The Impressive Interiors of 1521 – Photo Gallery

February 2, 2009 by  
Filed under 1521, Featured

Last week, Fifteen Twenty-One opened their doors for the public media and press to view the building’s interiors.  We’ve all seen the lobby photos, but too many curious Seattleites were forced to wait until today to see what all the “hush-hush” fuss has been about.  If you’re from out of town, getting a peek at the new building has been difficult, and rightfully so.  Today, a search pulling from the NWMLS only shows 6 remaining.

Another local real estate blogger did an excellent job at covering many of the buildings overall specs that were presented during private tours, and the only photo we think we’re missing is one that shows the playroom for children.  In addition to providing some spectacular views, everyone we’ve met that has purchased, or been involved in the building’s development are extremely friendly and interested in the overall quality of life the city has to offer.

We’re truly excited to have been able to work with the team at 1521 in helping a few Seattleites purchase a new home at Fifteen Twenty-One.  Enjoy the pics!

Photography Credit: Michael Walmsley