In a further sign of a market turnaround, Northwest Multiple Listing Service has released data showing that 23 luxury condominiums, priced at over $1 million, have closed during the first three months of 2011! This compares with only 13 sales in for the same period in 2010. Better yet, another 13 multimillion-dollar homes are currently pending. This will provide a strong lead-in for second quarter, and it’s a powerful indication that a luxury home sales trend is firmly in place– and accelerating.
Why now? More market liquidity because contingent homebuyers are successfully selling their homes, enabling them to now buy a condo. Mortgage financing has loosened up over the past year for qualified buyers. The economic outlook is improving, and so is buyer confidence. Seattle enjoyed a number of huge commercial real estate transactions in 1Q11, and job opportunities are resurging.
Those are all good reasons, of course, but more telling was the shift in momentum when November 2010’s Washington State Ballot Measure I-1098, which would have imposed a state income tax, took a pounding at the polls. We heard from a number of buyers, primarily from outside Washington, whose decision to purchase a multimillion-dollar home was contingent on the outcome of that vote. Not having a state income tax is an influence which may have been flying under the radar for some time, but it is now proving to be a real dealmaker in deciding to buy a Washington State property. Out-of-state buyers are snapping up homes for business, pleasure, or both. Baby-boomers are booming here too. Retirees are either looking to downsize to condominiums, or to spend time in multiple homes in different states. All in all, prospective buyers are getting more savvy about investing in Washington State– no income taxes, sharpened prices and a lock-and-leave lifestyle.
And the good news keeps coming. The Washington State Department of Licensing reported a 25% increase in drivers license registrations as of February 2011, compared with 2010 (based on a rolling 12-month period). One-third of 11,237 new state residents relocated to King County. And, thanks to the 2010 U.S. Census, Washington State grew enough over the last decade to snag another congressional seat, plus another vote in the Electoral College.
No high-rise condominium project has broken ground in Seattle since 2007. That’s when the housing market peaked, and a global credit crunch either deferred or canceled dozens of projects. It’s safe to say that Seattle was saved from overbuilding!
We now find that the majority of the most premier, view-oriented units have been quietly absorbed. Inventories at the most preferred properties are finite and prices are firming up. There’s a flight to quality, and sales occur where the value is present. Some examples:
• Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue, a tower averaging nearly $2 million per unit, is 77% sold with seven new sales pending during the past 45 days alone.
• Olive 8 has sold 18 homes since the New Year, with only a few of the coveted northwest corner units remaining.
• Escala has effectively sold out of its larger west-facing plans.
• Fifty homes have either closed or sold at Bellevue Towers since the beginning of this year.
• Harvard & Highland, which opened in November 2009, have closed 22 of their 38 homes, with five pending.
• 200 West Highland, which went on the market in November 2010, is down to only two homes out of an original number of 17.
Currently, 65 condominiums priced at over $1 million are on the market in King County. There are all kinds of wonderful places for sale, and we’re in the know about which ones can best fit your lifestyle. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us work on the perfect home for YOU!
Recently, Library Journal.com 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 ancestry.com
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.
The McGraw Square renovations officially began on September 24. One of the smallest parks in Seattle, it is located near the Westin Hotel at the intersection of Fifth Avenue, Stewart Street and Westlake Avenue. This project permanently closes Westlake Ave between Olive Way and Stewart St to create a transit, bicycle, and pedestrian-friendly plaza at the current terminus of the Seattle Streetcar South Lake Union line.
The goals of the new, centrally-located plaza are to make walking and biking through north downtown safer and more comfortable, while improving the transfer abilities of the Seattle Streetcar, Monorail, light rail tunnel, and major bus routes. The project also seeks to better connect the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods to the existing retail core, offering a “sense of place” to help orient new housing and promote economic development.
Just follow the numbers. The McGraw Square Transit Mall renovations include:
1. A second streetcar platform to improve rider access to/from the new plaza
2. Integrated transit shelter/covered bicycle parking for up to 10 bikes
3. Landscaped rain garden to infiltrate majority of stormwater and reduce runoff entering the sewer system
4. Illuminated seat walls with signage, to act as gateway for Westlake Hub
5. ADA access, lighting, and seating improvements near the historic McGraw statue
6. Inlaid, energy efficient (LED) light tiles as part of a comprehensive dynamic, colored lighting scheme
7. Salvaged granite pavers for detailing, taken from overstock of original Westlake Park installation
8. New street trees to replace (two-for-one) those being removed near McGraw statue; new large specimen trees to anchor Westlake Ave terminus
9. Oversized curb ramp, utility connections to facilitate mobile food vending and plaza programming
SDOT is also considering converting 6th Ave between Virginia St and Westlake Ave to a two-way operation (and to relocate the charter bus zone), with the Westlake Ave to Stewart St approach reduced to a single southbound lane. The Seattle Streetcar and buses running along 5th Ave remain in full service during construction.
McGraw Square is named after John Harte McGraw. This grocer from Maine was a Seattle police chief, harbor master, fire warden, King County sheriff, and Washington State governor from 1893-97. The designer of McGraw Square and its completion date are unknown, but it was influenced by the famous park plan that John Charles Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers firm in Brookline, Massachusetts drew up for Seattle in 1903. Their vision of the Seattle park system was to celebrate, showcase and protect Pacific Northwest landscapes while providing residents and tourists with park access and recreation.
The McGraw project is also part of the City’s larger Center City Strategy to make Westlake one of three transportation “hubs” serving downtown (with King Street Station and Colman Dock). Construction of the plaza project is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving 2010.
All the final bids are subject to the seller’s acceptance which should be finalized within the next four days. The penthouse did not sell.
The auction was standing room only, attracting over 300 people for the units in this 24-story tower known for its sustainable living features. The building was named one of Natural Home Magazine’s Top 10 of America’s Best Green Condos and designed to be 20% more energy efficient than industry standards.
|Unit Number||Floorplan||Beds/Baths||Approx. Sq. Ft.||Original Price||Starting Bid||Selling Price|
|1402||02||1 Bed/1.5 Bath||978||$499,000||$235,000||$353,000|
|1702||02||1 Bed/1.5 Bath||978||$615,000||$235,000||$358,000|
|1703||03||1 Bed/1.5 Bath + Den||978||$600,000||$235,000||$391,000|
|1705||05||1 Bed/1 Bath||808||$399,000||$195,000||$348,000|
|1803||03||1 Bed/1.5 Bath + Den||978||$600,000||$235,000||$370,000|
|1805||05||1 Bed/1 Bath||808||$415,000||$195,000||$331,000|
|2003||03||1 Bed/1.5 Bath + Den||978||$746,000||$290,000||$476,000|
|2103||03||1 Bed/1.5 Bath + Den||978||$720,000||$275,000||$415,000|
|2200||00||1 Bed/1 Bath||913||$760,000||$290,000||$445,000|
|2202||02||1 Bed/1.5 Bath||978||$700,000||$290,000||$405,000|
|2203||03||1 Bed/1.5 Bath + Den||978||$746,000||$290,000||$476,000|
|2301||01||1 Bed/1.5 Bath + Den||1,241||$899,000||$385,000||$719,000|
We have recently been given a press release from Pryde + Johnson regarding another bulk buy sales strategy for LEED Silver (targeted) built Hjarta in Ballard and Florera in Greenlake – units will be sold at up to 35% off original pricing in an alternative to auctions.
“We’re meeting the market on price and are committed to selling through as condominiums,” said Curt Pryde, principal of Pryde + Johnson and developer of both Hjarta and Florera Condominiums. “Homebuyers will also benefit from our preferred selection, FHA financing (3.5% down payment), today’s low interest rates and other limited-time incentives such as Federal tax credits up to $8,000 (for purchases contracted before April 30, 2010).”
As we understand it, several dozen sales have been generated to date using the sales strategy at The Decatur and Eleven Eleven East Pike. Rather than slowly lowering prices over a longer period of time (which seems systemic at many projects), Realogics was able convince the developer and their lender to explore more dramatic cuts in hopes of garnering quicker sales. The block of sales also helps shore up FHA financing and unit appraisals. In theory, this establishes a stabilized market value for the remaining sales while resolves a common concern amongst “wait and see” buyers that prices will drop further after buying. Hjarta and Florera will be undergoing a similar strategy and should offer some great deals for those who take advantage.
Studios (578 – 598 sq. ft.) will start from $244,950
One bedrooms (614 – 921 sq. ft.) will start from $274,950
One bedroom plus dens (792 – 923 sq. ft.) will start from $314,950
Two bedrooms (1,037 – 1,447 sq. ft.) will start from $399,950
Two bedrooms plus den penthouses (1,331 – 1,578 sq. ft.) will start from $589,950
Three bedroom plus den penthouses (1,909 sq. ft.) will start from $799,950
Pryde + Johnson appears to be motivated to sell now so buyers can take advantage of the extended homebuyer tax credit, and today’s historically low rates. Since rates will soon begin to climb, and the homebuyer tax credit will soon expire, these are exceptional opportunities for buyers who are interested in living outside the urban core, but within one of two prime urban neighborhoods. The official sales release will begin on March 27 but you can preview in advance – open houses will be scheduled for each weekend or by appointment. March 27th is the same weekend as Escala reintroduces sales at price drops and 5th & Madison auctions their remaining inventory so it should be a marketplace as buyers hunt down bargains.
Disclaimer: These projects are listings of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty’s “special projects” division, which is affiliated but independent of the “resale” division co-founded by James Stroupe and Moira Holley.
5th and Madison is a great building! Across the street from the Federal Court House and the Seattle Public Library, one could argue that it’s one of the quietest and safest parts of town. The corner of 5th and Madison is referred to as being in the business district, so there are several commercial high-rises where business professionals have found it convenient to walk to work.
The most interesting thing to note about the 5th and Madison auction is the fine print which states all bids are subject to Seller’s reserve. If a starting bid is $195,000 (as advertised), and that bid is the only bid that unit receives, it’s likely that it will not meet the undisclosed amount the seller is willing to accept for the unit. Keep this in mind when considering expectations of your possible bid limits.
The auction does require a registration and $5,000 deposit and prequalification to bid.
Again, especially for this auction, representation is a wise idea.
The prospective client (“Bidder/Buyer”) must register their broker on the Auction Registration Form at the time of their initial registration or no later than Thursday, March 25, 2010. No broker registration will be accepted on auction day.
Brokers must accompany the Bidder/Buyer to the auction and, if successful, through the entire purchase process at the auction on Sunday, March 28, 2010, and execute the Cooperating Broker Agreement.
We had the pleasure to speak with one Bob Rennie of Rennie Marketing regarding Club Cielo. Rennie Marketing has sold over $1 billion dollars’ worth of condos each year for the last eight years and counting. Mr. Rennie and the ESCALA partnership are working on the revamped project, and we were privileged to be updated on the latest news.
First off, Club Cielo is no longer! Let’s call the 25,000 sq/ft spa, gym, and wine cave… amenities. There are a few influencing factors in play. First, the public found the HOD too high. Second, there is a belief that a condo owner should not have to pay for services they don’t use. Third and perhaps the most important, lenders had difficulty in funding buyers. Club Cielo allowed membership from the outside, and this issue presented problems to lenders with ownership in the HOA without an actual condo ownership. Outside ownerships were discontinued.
The new arrangement now will be a user-based system. If an owner wants a massage, give a call to Columbia Hospitality and they will send someone to meet you in the spa. If you want to do a banquet, call and everything will be set up for you. All of the amenities are physically there, but not staffed full time. This will help HOD get much more in line with the new economy. So far, it’s working. HOD’s have been reduced from $0.79/sq. ft. to $0.58, with a goal of reaching $0.55.
The question on everyone’s mind is, “What are the new prices”? We understand that the new prices are still being ironed out and we hope to have them by the 19th. Not a definite date, but priority update subscribers at EscalaTower.com will be the first to find out.
After the prices are determined, the current buyers will be contacted first. I would assume that many will like the new prices. Obviously, many will still not close. It has been a long time for some of these buyers and life changes as years go by. The questions we do not know yet are if the buyers will be allowed to move into other units and the big questions of earnest money to buyers who do not wish to close. Personally, we hope Escala makes the decision to create goodwill in the city and creates a positive movement. Enso went to their buyers in contract and treated them properly. And now, look how well that project is going.
Escala’s new team is proving to be much more transparent and many of our interested buyers have a revitalized excitement for the project. In fact, Escala is turning out to be a good example of what it feels like to take a long deep breath of fresh air. Regardess whether or not you like the project, we think we can all agree that the success of Escala would be beneficial to the whole community.
We had an opportunity to visit ESCALA this week. There is so much to absorb as more details are being ironed out as ESCALA undergoes their three weeks of resetting for the current market. We had a quick (very quick) glance at the proposed pricing and it will be quite compelling. Again, with an asterisk, everything is still being worked out and prices have not been formalized. From what we can tell at this time, the pricing may be at least 30% under the previously published prices.
We at the Stroupe Group couldn’t be more excited for buyers that have that have expressed interest in ESCALA. From what we’ve gathered, an approximate 200 units will be priced under $500 per square foot and sure to draw a lot of attention from all buyers interested in downtown.
If you are a regular reader of our post, you know we do not get overly excited with marketing news coming from projects. Their job is to create “hype” to encourage movement in a project. We do our best to see the project regardless of the marketing. That being said, if these prices at ESCALA are indeed what we expect, this is a great opportunity for a buyer looking for an exceptional product at a very attractive price. Think of what buildings are ESCALA’s competition and what the price per square foot are in those buildings. We cannot speak for the motivation for this drastic discount but we cannot wait to see how the public responds.
With such compelling prices, it may be likely that ESCALA will get a lot of attention over the next couple of months as the marketing for the building steps up. Expect a BIG media splash soon.
We are currently working to get some images of the project and perhaps the exceptional furnished models. They were also installing the chandelier over the concierge desk. That should be fun to see.
We have an appointment on Monday morning where we expect to have significantly more information. Perhaps some established prices too. Be sure to register on our new website for ESCALA at EscalaTower.com where you can view floor plans, sign up for listing updates, and get more details on the building overall. We will also be sending out pricing updates and pictures as we receive them to those who have registered.
January 25, 2010 by James
Filed under 1521, 2200Westlake, 81 Vine, ArborPlace, AvenueOne, BayVista, Bellora, Cosmopolitan, Cristalla, ESCALA, Featured, Gallery, Marketing, Meridian, Newmark Tower, Parc, Pomeroy, Seattle Heights, The Vine, WFP
We wanted to take a moment to share a beneficial service we provide for both buyers and sellers looking at downtown Seattle real estate. Over the last couple of years, we have built a collection of websites for buildings downtown, and have many more in the hopper. Our intention with these websites is to allow each unique address to convey its own personality online.
Every site we build for a condo building allows a visitor to:
- View active units for sale,
- View the past three years of sold history,
- Sign up for instant email notifications of new listings,
- Inquire about a particular unit’s value,
- See a neighborhood map and WalkScore,
- Look at a photo gallery of amenities, and
- Get building management/concierge contact information.
In addition, whenever we have a seller that lists with the Stroupe Group, we integrate a customized page with professional photography. All of our building websites also place at the top of all major search engines for maximum exposure, and we also use linking strategies to further secure placement.
Visit our current project: EscalaTower.com
Below is a list of other websites that are constantly being improved, and we would love to hear any suggestions on how we can make them better.
- 81 Vine Lofts
- 2200 Westlake
- Arbor Place Tower
- Avenue One
- Bay Vista Tower
- Bellora Building
- Fifteen Twenty-One
- Meridian Tower
- Newmark Tower
- Seattle Heights
- Tavona Condos
- The Cosmopolitan
- The Parc
- The Vine
- Watermark Tower
We got wind of some big news happening over at ESCALA. To begin with, the sales center is currently closed for approximately three weeks to discuss a new direction for the building.
Since all the statements below are still being considered and negotiated, there are no specifics in stone at this time. However, the statements following are all the things that are being discussed. Currently, everything is on the table.
First off, The Homeowner Dues (HOD) appear to be high and they are looking at ways to reduce them. One way to address that would be to reevaluate the relationship between the Club Cielo and the condominium units. There is a strong chance the club use will be separated from the condominiums. We do not know details on how this will affect owner use, or what additional charges may be for use of the club. If this is the direction taken, it would give owners the option to participate in the club, rather than the current structure which assumes membership. This should be a savings for those who do not wish to be a member. If this is indeed the direction that is taken, the question is how much of the club (if any) will be available to the owners without an additional fee. According to our sources, ESCALA is very sensitive on making this work for buyers. Therefore we would be surprised if the amenities were to not be included–such as the gym. There are a lot of options for the team to discuss. We think this will be very important to watch for before any decisions are made on moving forward.
The pricing will be also be addressed. Out of respect of the current buyers, we will not know what kind of price reductions will be determined until after that process is completed. We expect to see a big marketing splash in February with new pricing better representing the current economy.
Also, exciting news from behind the scenes is that the entire sales team is new. John L. Scott agent Erik Mehr from Team Builders will be taking over sales. Erik has a great reputation for moving inventory quickly. The marketing team will be headed by Bob Rennie from the very impressive Rennie Marketing firm. We are very excited to see what this team comes up with.
In regards to financing, there is wording in the original Public Offering Statement (POS) that the owners have the ability to use a unit as a time share. This caused difficulties in obtaining financing. This is being removed from the POS. We’ve yet to hear anything about any preferred lenders or what limitations will be in regards to investment purchases.
Another thing that is in conversation is what the current buyer options are. Earnest and upgrade money are being discussed.
Stay tuned to see what happens in three weeks. We will be on top of this along the way and will be posting news as we get it. If you want to be automatically updated on news about the ESCALA, please subscribe to our RSS feed. For past information on the project review our past articles.
For other updates you can get via email, you can either subscribe to our blog posts to the right of this page, and/or receive instant email updates for new Escala listings as they reenter the market on the MLS.