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First Hill Streetcar: Funded and Moving Forward!


This was a great week for rail news! We posted an article on high-speed trains a few days ago and now we have word that the Sound Transit Board has finalized $132.8 million in funding for the First Hill Streetcar line. Covering a 2 ½-mile route, construction is expected to begin in 2011 and finish in 2013.

Plans are to link the First Hill Streetcar line to the Capitol Hill and Chinatown/International Districts. Stops are planned at nearby light rail stops, the medical centers of Harborview, Swedish, and Virginia Mason, plus Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University.

Monies for the line were approved by the voters two years ago, but initial plans were being made to put an underground light rail stop on First Hill. This has now been officially scrapped due to construction problems and the cost to cover them.  Steps are now being taken to select a general contractor/ construction manager, and is expected to be awarded the week of December 13th.

Finally, before the first shovel of dirt is ceremoniously turned for the First Hill line, the City Council needs to decide two outstanding issues.  The first is where to place the terminals in Pioneer Square.  Community meetings will be set up with local residents and business leaders to determine the best locations, and then submitted for a vote. The second is for a maintenance yard and barn. Two sites under consideration are the city’s Charles Street Shops at South Dearborn and 8th Avenue South, and at a block bordered by East Yesler Way, Boren and 12th Avenues, plus East Fir Street.  The latter choice is owned by the Seattle Housing Authority, and would need their approval.

Down the track, the First Hill line could be extended another half a mile at its most northern stop on Capitol Hill, as well as extending a mile into downtown to connect to the South Lake Union line.  The extensions would need federal funding, but it’s expected that their grants of up to $75 million could cover both projects.  

For more project info, just click on this link.

The Decatur: First Hill Finery, with a Neighborly Touch

October 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Decatur, Featured, FirstHill, Wysong Group, Zipcar


You may find yourself torn as to what you want in a condominium home. You thrive in the high energy of a city. Then you come across a photo of a street with big, shady trees and think, “I’ll never find that here”. Surprise! The Decatur Condominiums not only offers you a neighborhood lifestyle but you’re also minutes away from a lot of Seattle living. And, at up to 35 percent off its original prices, The Decatur is a bargain to boot!

The Decatur was designed by Space Needle architect John Graham Jr. in 1950. The recent restoration and upgrading of its 13 stories by Wysong Group (who also worked on Tobira and the Press) now feature 146 one-bedroom (starting at $189,950) and two-bedroom (starting at $269,950) homes. There are four floor plans to choose from, all homes sporting Brazilian cherry wood floors, plush carpeting, granite countertops and top-of-the line stainless steel appliances.


If you’re into green living, this building is a beauty. It has a Zipcar service plus a parking area for bikes and scooters. You’ll also be living in what’s ranked as Seattle’s third most “walkable” neighborhood. Want a place with views? From the ground floor where you enter from tree-lined streets, to the rooftop terrace with wraparound city, mountain and water views, there is beauty from top to toe. Is security an issue? You have a controlled access entry with CCTV surveillance. There’s even a live-in building manager.


But what’s really nice about The Decatur is that when you come home from a busy city day, you really feel as if you’re not IN the city anymore. Its First Hill location is in one of Seattle’s most established neighborhoods, which prides itself in keeping its streets quiet and safe. Neighboring buildings and homes are beautiful and carefully kept. Actually, it’s hard to believe that all this peace and quiet is sandwiched between two of the hottest areas in Seattle. To the north is the edge of Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine neighborhood, and to the south is Downtown. Both areas have something for everyone, with a wide range of shops, restaurants, culture and nightlife.

The Decatur is located at the foot of Capitol Hill on the corner of Boren Avenue and Spring Street. Over 65 percent sold, The Decatur is ready for immediate move-in. Take advantage of their final sales release, with FHA financing* available. There’s also 3.5% down payment options, and closing cost credits available.

Want to check it out?  Contact us at this link!

NOTE: Seller reserves the right to change the product offering without notice. *Financing assumes 3.5% down payment (FHA) on a 30 year fixed mortgage with a 2-1 buy down by seller for 2.25% interest first year, 3.25% interest second year and 4.25% thereafter. Payment includes P&I and MI. (HOA dues and taxes not included). This is not a commitment to lend – certain restrictions and qualifications required. E&OE.

High-Speed Rail Plans Still On Track

October 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, MISC, Puget Sound Region


An October 28th press release issued by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the second round of recipients receiving funding under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program. Guess who got $18.2 million for King Street station? The Seattle Department of Transportation will use the funds to continue building restoration and seismic retrofitting work, adding security features, and implementing ease-of-use enhancements.

The funding didn’t stop there. A $9 million award will go towards Sound Transit’s new Tukwila station, providing service for both commuter and the Amtrak Cascades line. Another $3.3 million will help build siding tracks (passing lanes for trains), improving reliability for both freight and passenger trains. Currently, Amtrak shares the rails with Union Pacific, with UP getting the right of way if trains need to use a track at the same time. Finally, $400,000 was allocated to develop a WSDOT state rail plan better integrating freight and passenger service.

Portland and Eugene, Oregon weren’t forgotten either. A $4.2 million grant pays for that corridor’s planning and environmental studies. An additional $4 million will fund a preliminary engineering and environmental study for renovations and track improvements at Portland’s historic Union Station to increase capacity, enhance reliability, and reduce congestion.

HSIPR is intended to help address the country’s transportation challenges by investing in an efficient network of passenger rail corridors connecting communities nationwide. Check out the map below. The solid lines represent high-speed rail work underway, the dotted lines represent where high speed rail will eventually get to.


For our area, the goal is to develop a dedicated track all the way from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC where trains will operate up to 150 miles per hour. In January 2010, the Obama Administration awarded the Pacific Northwest area $598 million in stimulus money to help make this happen.

King Street Station serves more than 3 million intercity rail passengers annually on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, and Cascades routes. It also serves 13 daily Sound Transit commuter trains. 

King Street Station serves more than 3 million intercity rail passengers annually on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, and Cascades routes. It also serves 13 daily Sound Transit commuter trains.  Here are links if you’d like  more information on the King Street Restoration project, and the Washington/Oregon corridor.

The Danielle: A Walker’s Dream in Ballard

October 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Ballard, Buying, Featured, Lifestyle, Terrace


The Danielle, a boutique community of 31 one and two-bedroom homes, got off to a roaring start this past weekend.   Not only did their Open House bring in over 150 attendees, but 40 percent of the community is now sold!

There’s a lot going for The Danielle.  Located a block west of Ballard Avenue and two blocks north of Market Street, you can easily walk to a new QFC plus cafés, restaurants, boutiques and services.  And speaking of walking, gives The Danielle a score of 98 out of 100. Need more than that to keep in shape?  Three fitness centers are also within walking distance.

Homes range in size from approximately 646 to more than 1,250 square feet. You can barbecue on the 2,000 square foot rooftop deck, sporting great views of the Ballard Locks plus Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.  Want more privacy?  You also get your own large deck, patio or  terrace. Hardwood floors are featured throughout, with large kitchens and four different styles of wood cabinetry.  Some homes include dens and gas fireplaces, and even heated tile floors in the bathrooms. There’s also no problem with parking. The Danielle’s garage is access-controlled, with one parking space per bedroom.

Premium finishing touches on The Danielle should be completed by the end of November.  Prices start at $229,950, and they are FHA-approved.  If you’d like more information or to check out this special place, just contact us at this link and let’s talk!

Bankruptcy or Foreclosure? You may now be Loan-Worthy!

October 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Buying, Featured, Finance


We’ve been keeping in touch about the record-low interest rates of late… but if you’ve experienced some bumps in the road with bankruptcy or foreclosure, aka a “derogatory event”, you may not think you can take advantage of loan rates at this time.

What you may not realize is that while there are waiting periods for bankruptcy, foreclosures and such, an extenuating circumstance can cut your waiting periods for a new loan up to less than half the time. A job loss, major medical bills, or an accident serious enough to affect your earning power at the time of your derogatory event are all such instances. You’ll need to bring documentation proving financial difficulties beyond your control, but don’t you think you deserve a GOOD break for a change?

Below is a list of Derogatory Events and their waiting periods. See if these start some rethinking.


Bankruptcy – Chapter 7 or 11

Waiting Period:  4 years

with Extenuating Circumstances:  2 years


Bankruptcy – Chapter 13

Waiting Period:  2 years from discharge date or 4 years from dismissal date

with Extenuating Circumstances:  2 years from discharge date or 2 years from dismissal date


Multiple Bankruptcy Filings

Waiting Period:  5 years if you had more than one filing within the past 7 years

with Extenuating Circumstances:  3 years from the most recent discharge or dismissal date



Waiting Period:  7 years

with Extenuating Circumstances:  3 years but there are additional requirements from 3-7 years.  You’ll need to have a 90% maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio; the purchase has to be a principal residence, and there is a limited cash-out refi on any type of occupancy.


Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure, Pre-Foreclosure or Short Sale

Waiting Period, 2 years – 80% maximum LTV ratios

Waiting Period, 4 years – 90% maximum LTV ratios

Waiting Period, 7 years – LTV ratios per the Eligibility Matrix

with Extenuating Circumstances:  2 years, 90% maximum LTV ratios


It’s a buyer’s market out there. Let’s see if we can help you get back into the game. Contact us at this link and let’s get you started!

NOTE:  Please keep in mind that the maximum LTV ratios permitted are the lesser of the LTV ratios presented here, or the maximum LTV ratios for the transaction per the Eligibility Matrix. This information is based on rules and regulations issued by federal agencies, but please check with your bank or loan adviser to ensure you meet all requirements and disclosures.

Last Dance at the McGuire

rsz_mcguire front

There’s a lot of mixed feelings as you pass by the McGuire Apartments.  This 25-story, 272-apartment high rise is only nine years old but steps are being taken to finally begin demolition and arguably, it’s the first time in Pacific Northwest history that a high rise is being de-constructed due to structural defects.  


The last of McGuire’s renters moved out in August and most of the street level venues are gone. FedEx/Kinko’s looks to be the last retailer to turn out the lights. They’re working nearly round the clock to relocate to Fourth and Cedar, in space formerly occupied by Katie’s Formal Wear and The Christian Science Reading Room. They expect to be relocated by the second week of November or sooner.

But let’s move to the tale of a project gone horribly wrong. McGuire was built in 2001 at a cost of $32 million. Its owners, Carpenter’s Tower LLC, is a property-owning collective of Carpenters Union Local 131 and the Multi-Employer Property Trust (pension funds).  The contractor, Mc Carthy Building Companies Inc., was founded in 1864 and is now employee owned.  Headquartered in St. Louis, they are one of the top ten commercial builders in the U.S., with $3.5 billion in annual revenue and nine offices nationwide.  The McGuire location was prime Belltown property at Second Avenue and Wall Street.  This looked like a partnership made in heaven.

rsz_mcguire tower

Until 2007, that is, when Carpenter’s Tower filed a lawsuit against McCarthy over construction problems. Reports surfaced that the post-tensioned steel cables reinforcing the concrete slab floors were corroding because the ends were not properly protected with corrosion-preventive paint. Claims arose that the grout used to seal the cable ends and anchors was not the specified non-shrink grout and was defectively installed. This resulted in water leaking into these areas, causing cable ends to rust and corrode.  Deficiencies in the concrete material and reinforcement placement were also getting notice.  

After a number of inspections by a number of firms, it was concluded that the cables were likely to start breaking in 2011, and nearly one-third of them would fail by 2019. The Department of Planning and Development declared that the city intended to issue an order calling the building unsafe and if the problems couldn’t be fixed, that McGuire be demolished.   After trying to work out ways to save the building, it was decided to let it go.  Recently, legal questions were finally resolved between Carpenters Tower and McCarthy about the decision to raze the building and they have reached agreements with all the project’s subcontractors.  Settlement terms were not disclosed. Applications have now been made to the city for a demolition permit. A contractor has not been selected and a timeline has not been set.

So, a project filled with promise takes a final bow before fading away in plain sight. The dreams of Carpenter’s Tower LLC will be taken down piece by piece, a slower death than usual because of the building’s location.  One can’t help but feel the pain and anger of the union and the pension funds, and astonishment as to how McGuire’s construction could have so bad to have warranted an actual demolition. We’re sure we haven’t heard the last of this tale, and will keep you apprised of further developments.

A Tale of Two Fishies


Belltown residents still mourning the loss of their beloved Flying Fish restaurant, rejoice! Some new venues are set to fill their former space at 2234 First Avenue, and it’s all good!  Marcus Charles has leased the entire space and will convert it into a café, butcher shop, cheese counter and produce store. The project is called Local 360, so named because it’s Charles’ goal to have nearly 90 percent of all products sold originate within 360 miles of Seattle. Local 360 will be the general contractor and Mallet Inc, a Seattle design and construction firm whose track record includes Café Presse, Spinasse and Stumptown 12th Avenue, will be the designer. The Local 360 venues are scheduled to open in December.

If Marcus Charles’ name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s quickly turning into a Seattle legend. Over the last 14 years, he has owned, operated, and consulted on a number of entertainment / retail properties, including The Capitol Hill Block Party, Neumo’s, Raven’s Brew Coffee, Spitfire and Marcus’ Martini Heaven, among others.  He not only is owner of the JuJu Lounge, but as a partner of the newly remodeled Crocodile Cafe, was instrumental in helping to reopen this Seattle music institution.  Both venues are located in Belltown, check them out!


And now we move to the fish that swam to South Lake Union.  Renowned Seattle chef and restaurateur Christine Keff moved her wildly popular Flying Fish restaurant to 300 Westlake Ave North (corner of Thomas Street) in May 2010. Flying Fish is a sitdown restaturant and bar, open for lunch and dinner. Their private dining area, the Tobiko Room, seats up to 36 for lunch or dinner and up to 70 for a cocktail party or buffet.  Flying Fish also hosts culinary events such as the Annual Oyster Frenzy and Keff, a James Beard Award winner, also conducts cooking classes at the restaurant.


The move to South Lake Union also allowed Keff to join a trend of established chefs opening smaller, more accessible spaces adjacent to their primary restaurant.  On the Fly opened in August just around the corner at 950 Thomas Street.  It features a lighter side of Flying Fish such as take-out lunches, espresso and pastries, a wine market featuring Washington and international wines, and local artisanal goods.  On the Fly shares Flying Fish’s kitchen and staff, and allows Keff to personally interact with customers, as well as share cooking tips and recommendations. More than 300 titles from her personal cookbook collection are on display, and she encourages patrons to peruse her favorite recipes. She and her staff do the same when planning the ever-changing menus.

We hope you venture to South Lake Union to enjoy one or both of Keff’s restaurants if you haven’t already, and we’ll keep in touch with you on the progress of Belltown’s Local 360.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Lowest Level In Nearly 60 Years

October 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Buying, Featured, Finance



So what was happening in April 1951, the last time that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages were this low?  Harry Truman was in office — 12 presidents ago!  All in all, it took nearly 60 years for rock-bottom mortgage rates to come full circle, but here we are.

The Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.19% with an average 0.8 origination point for the week ending Oct. 14, down from last week’s average of 4.27%. A year ago the average was 4.92%. This is the lowest rate the survey has recorded since its inception in 1971. Mortgage rates were last at this level in April 1951, according to Freddie Mac. 

Rates for 15-year, FRMs are falling steeply, setting a new low for Freddie Mac. The GSE said the rate was down to 3.62% with an average origination point of 0.8. The rate for a 15-year FRM was 4.37% a year earlier.  Further, Freddie Mac commented that the September employment report held no big surprises to the financial market, allowing long-term bond yields and fixed mortgage rates to continue easing.

Bankrate reported the average rate for a 5-year, ARM fell last week to 3.62% from 3.64% previously. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.43% with an average 0.7 point up slightly from 3.4%. At this time last year, the one-year ARM averaged 4.6%.

Coincidentally, Seattle-based Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors’ latest report predicts that based on historic rents and incomes over the last 30 years, Puget Sound-area rents could climb almost 25 percent by 2015 and 50 percent by 2020.  They also discovered that while rent rates fell during the last two recessions, it wasn’t by that much.  AND, when the economy rebounded, so did rent rates.  Add historically low interest rates to low apartment construction levels forecasted for 2011 and 2012 and  we’re telling you, the time is ripe for buying!  Contact us at this Stroupe Group link and let’s talk some more.

A Bulletin from Bellevue: The Bravern’s North Tower Goes Rental


It’s been one of the hottest rumors around and now sources have confirmed that developer Schnitzer West is converting The Bravern’s second tower in downtown Bellevue from condominiums to luxury apartments. Its North Tower is 33 stories high and will have 211 apartments available. Units range from 600 to over 2,000 square feet, and rents will start at $1,550.

Schnitzer acknowledged that while the North Tower received conditional mortgage financing approval through Fannie Mae and FHA, sales demand simply wasn’t there. All purchase agreements have been terminated, and earnest money deposits are being returned. The Bravern’s first residential complex, its South Tower, also started out as luxury condominium building. Lack of demand caused Schnitzer to convert it to apartments in April 2010. Also 33 stories high, 65 percent of its 236 apartments are currently leased.

The Bravern isn’t the only complex experiencing slow sales. Units in two other downtown Bellevue high-rise condo projects aren’t doing big business either. However, the Bellevue apartment scene is a different picture. Demand for in-town living is increasing across the Seattle area, causing rents to rise and vacancies to shrink. In addition to The Bravern, Schnitzer converted its 204-unit Equinox condo complex in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood to apartments in 2009. At least four recently built Seattle projects have converted from condominiums to apartments.

Why is this a silver lining for the Bellevue condo community?  Conversions to apartments means more inventory is off the table, further solidifying its condo market. And, Schnitzer sees its actions as a temporary situation. Its press release states that “…a structural shift has occurred in residential demand from owned to rental housing. Over time, we expect the pendulum to shift back to more normalized market conditions and The Bravern Residences will be positioned to capture ownership demand when market conditions warrant.”  

We can’t emphasize enough how good a time it is to buy. With apartments approaching historical highs, plus home pricing and interest rates at historical lows, maybe it’s time to take a second look at sticking your rent money into an investment, and a place, to call your own. Contact us at this link and let’s get you started!

Seattle Public Library – Five Stars, and Five Secrets


Recently, Library posted the L J Index of Public Library Service 2010, rating 7,407 public libraries nationwide. 258 of these were designated as “Star Libraries”. In its category, the Seattle Public Library System (SPL) received Library Journal’s highest rating of five stars, ranking # 1 west of the Mississippi and # 3 nationwide.  Portland and San Francisco came in at # 11 and # 14 nationwide, respectively, and both received three stars.

In light of this terrific news, we thought it’d be a good time to revisit the SPL, with special emphasis on its crown jewel, the Central Library.  Located at 1000 Fourth Avenue, it is not only a marvel in glass, but in the breadth of services it offers.  From checking out books to booking a catered event, the Central Library is the last word in community service.

Ready for the Five Secrets?

 1.  If you’re into genealogy, you’ve hit a goldmine. Logging into the SPL website with your library card number gives you access to a number of databases. The Central Library itself is a repository for many genealogy items AND you can sit at a terminal and enjoy free access to

2.  On the first and third Mondays of each month, take a bag lunch to the Microsoft Auditorium on Level 1  (4th Avenue) and treat yourself to a “Thrilling Tale”, read aloud by a library staffer. This starts at noon and runs for about 50 minutes. This is one of a number of lunch hour programs that SPL does.

3.  Looking for a unique gift?  Level 3 near the Fifth Avenue entrance has a wonderful store called Friendshop, featuring items created by more than 65 Northwest artists. Along with library souvenirs, you can buy jewelry, cards and many other items at prices that won’t bust your budget.  This Friendshop link takes you to their website where you can even purchase online.

4.  They host a wide range of events, from the daylong “To Kill a Mockingbird” event held in September to a children’s Fall Festival afternoon of stories and craft making. Check their Calendar of Events link for readings, author visits, concerts, classes and more, which cover not only the Central Library but the entire 26-branch system. All of these events are free of charge.

5.  SPL has a free mobile app. Learn more about it here.

Library Journal is the field’s leading professional publication and developed its national rankings based on per capita statistics for library visits, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer use. This year’s ratings were based on 2008 data that libraries reported to the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.  SPL was one of only five libraries in the country in the expenditures of $30 million or higher category to receive a five-star rating.  The others included three public libraries in Ohio and the Denver Public Library.

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