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May is for Maritime – Big Waterfront Events

pos steveDowntown Seattle Waterfront’s Maritime Festival is set to do some major partying from May 12-14 –it’s the 100th anniversary of the Port of Seattle!

Once upon a time, local visionaries realized that Seattle’s natural deep-water port was an asset for the city, and a resource that should belong to the people.  Their efforts helped the Washington State Legislature enact laws allowing establishment of port districts in March, 1911.  By that September, King County voters approved creation of the Port of Seattle, the state’s first public port.

rsz_airport_pick_coolAs Seattle grew beyond downtown, so did the Port of Seattle.  In 2011, its services include a cargo and passenger seaport, Sea-Tac airport, a home for the North Pacific fishing fleet, first-class public marinas and conference facilities, even a string of parks around Elliot Bay.  Its cruise line business snagged a huge win a month ago when on April 6th, Disney Cruises announced their move from Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle for the 2012 cruise season.

The Port of Seattle enters its second century with huge changes on the horizon.  The first is the redevelopment of the Seattle Waterfront itself.  Over 1,000 attended the first meeting held by Waterfront designer James Corner Field Operationss on February 17, which kicked off public input on its future vision and potential uses.  Nearly 2,000 responses via questionnaire and email from the Seattle public were received.   The second is replacing the central portion of the Elliott Bay Seawall.  This part is being handled by the Seattle Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   The Port of Seattle is working with both entities on the best plan for the city and the next Waterfront meeting, where  James Corner presents their first design concept, is scheduled for Thursday, May 19th.  For more information, just visit the waterfront website.

pos tugboat racesThe Port of Seattle has a great centennial link with historical data on timelines, maps, stories and more.  There is also a calendar of events for the remainder of the year.  Here, we’ve attached a .pdf on May 12-14’s Seattle Maritime Festival events.  These include the “world’s largest tugboat race” along the Downtown Seattle Waterfront, a Chowder Cook-Off, survival suit races, a boat building competition, vessel tours, sea-air rescue demonstration, kids’ activities, Stories of the Sea, Career Day and a container ship full of family fun.   There is no charge for any of these events. Maritime_Fest_20110422[1]

The efforts of the Port of Seattle and the Downtown Waterfront are huge contributors to the high quality of life we enjoy in this city.  We hope you’ll check out the Maritime Festival.  We’ve come a long way in 100 years, and we’re sailing full steam ahead into an exciting future.

(Photos of Fisherman’s Terminal 2, Container Ship Terminal 19, SeaTac Aiport, Tugboat Races and Shilshole Bay Marina courtesy of the Port of Seattle)

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Bellevue Towers – Smooth Sailing in a New Direction

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Land Use, Puget Sound Region

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Over the first few days of January, news broke that Bellevue Towers, the Eastside’s largest condominium development, was avoiding foreclosure by transferring ownership of all its unsold units back to its lenders. Six weeks later, we thought we’d check in to see how things were going.  We are happy to report that things are going well!

Here’s a quick history:  Portland-based developer Gerding Edlen began the Bellevue Towers project in January 2007, the majority of funding coming from a consortium of lenders led by Morgan Stanley.  This 1.25 million sq ft complex is comprised of two 42 and 43-story towers containing a combined number of 539 condo units, plus 16,000 sq ft of ground-floor retail space, all located at 106th Ave NE and NE 4th St in downtown Bellevue. 

By early 2008, one-third of the units were presold… then came the financial freefall that September.  When Bellevue Towers was ready for occupancy in early 2009, many presold buyers either couldn’t or wouldn’t close—just in time for the consortium loan to mature. The consortium started picking up the bills shortly thereafter, until word came out in January 2011 that with only 118 of 539 units sold, all remaining inventory was going back to the consortium in order for Bellevue Towers to get a better financial footing and a fresh start.

BT_ExteriorWith cuts averaging 30 percent off original pricing, it seems that the new direction is taking off.  As of February 14th, 26 units have either been sold or are pending, 13 are in the offer stage, and 10 others have strong buyer interest.  And, as we were speaking with them, one of those 10 with strong interest was being written up as an offer!  More telling, however, is Bellevue Tower’s traffic.  In January, 783 interested buyers came through the complex, the best turnout since the entire run of the project!

Bellevue Towers has much to offer.  It features a wide range of views from Mount Rainier, to Lake Washington, to the Olympic Mountains.  You’ll get spacious interiors with high ceilings, glass window walls, high-end appliances and finish materials of sustainable hardwoods and stones. Speaking of sustainable, Bellevue Towers was the first residential high-rise in Bellevue to receive LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.  

Bellevue Towers’ amenities include a fitness center and spa, dining room, screening room, reading room, and a grand room for entertaining and events.  Its ground floor level contains shops and restaurants including Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Barrio and Lot No. 3.   Bellevue Square is a short walk away, with easy commutes to Microsoft’s main campus and Downtown Seattle. 

Bellevue Towers has graciously supplied us with the latest pricing list link that you can access below.  They are subject to change, so if you’re interested in more information on Bellevue Towers, or in scheduling a private tour, please contact us at this Stroupe Group link.   

BT_Availability_(New_Pricing)_02-11-11[1]

Residential RE: Is Business Really Booming?

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There’s been much news lately that residential construction is roaring back!  But is there too much going on too quickly—and will all these projects really materialize?  And what is this telling us about the condominium market?  Here are some of the latest projects in the pipeline:

311 Cedar St:  The former Musician’s Building is now gone, with work underway on The Alto, a 17-story, 184-unit high-rise with 2,700 sq ft of retail space.  The project is scheduled for completion in early 2012.

504 Terry Ave & 1106 East Jefferson St:  The once-proposed Harbor Vista project from now-bankrupt Mastro Properties just got a new owner– an LLC out of San Francisco.  Rumors are that the property will be developed into a residential/retail complex.

888 Western Ave:  Goodman Real Estate’s original plans for an office building have changed to a 16-story residential building with 208 units with 9,907 sq ft of retail, plus 8,300 sq ft of recreation/public plaza space. 

1430 Second Ave (Second & Pike):   Urban Visions’ hotel and condominium plan have changed to a 440 foot, 35-story LEED-certified building of 290 apartments and 14,850 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, which includes a “Sky Bar” and restaurant overlooking Pike Place Market.  

1623 Bellevue Ave:  Proposed is a six-story building with 23 residential units and 1,000 sq ft of retail. 

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2116 Fourth Ave – located next to the Cinerama, the proposed tower will have 357 units, 2,700 sq ft of ground-level retail. 

2625 Third Ave – The current site of the American Lung Association is slated to make way for a 19-story building with 204 units above 4,000 sq ft of retail space.

Second and Bell  – Bell 206, a 122-unit apartment complex,  is expected to break ground in January.

Eighth and Seneca  –  A recent financial deal has been reached to hang onto this site, where a twin tower project containing 280 units is in development.

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Market Street and 14th Ave (Ballard):  Replacing Sunset Bowl will be Avalon Ballard, a 271-unit apartment complex. Construction scheduled to begin in Summer 2011.

Market Street Landing (15th Ave NW and NW Market, Ballard):  Equity Residential, an S&P 500 company specializing in apartments, condominiums and corporate housing, purchased the 1.4 acre site in October 2010. 

5711 24th Ave NW, Ballard:  Replacing the old Ballard Library will be Ballard West.  Currently scheduled to start construction in the summer, it’s planned to have 107 apartments, three live-work units and 6,500 sq ft of retail.

200 – 106th Ave NE (Bellevue):  Soma Towers is a proposed two-tower project –  Tower One at 23 stories high with 142 units, and Tower Two at 17 stories high with 124 units.   

With few construction events over the past several years, current vacancies are lower and rents are higher, making residential construction promising again.  Recently reported was Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors’ latest forecast that 2,500 units will open in the tri-county area in 2011, with an additional 14,600 units possibly opening between 2012 and 2015. This concurs with opinions recently reported from Apartment Insights.  They predict a tight market from mid-2011 into 2012, bringing on significant rent increases.  

However, just because start or completion dates are announced doesn’t mean they’ll actually happen.  One of the items on our residential list first hit the presses in 2007. After inactivity since 2008, another project is now up and running, but still needs to apply for building permits.  We listed a property which sources tell us is a go, but is currently stalled and looking shaky for a start anytime soon.

The glitch?  Money.  Lending institutions now require a project’s net operating income to be profitable based on current, not projected, rents.  Plus, developers have to put up more of their own money.  Before the recession, developers only needed to contribute 15 percent equity.  Debt coverage ratios (net operating income divided by debt services) of 1.25 or better are now required. This pushes equity contributions to rates between 25 to 35, even up to 40 percent.  A number of developers now need to seek equity partners – if they can find them.  Equity partners were recession victims, too.

The Outlook for Condominium Development?

With current debt coverage ratios applying here as well, there’s nothing in the pipeline regarding new construction.  But as apartment development explodes, we predict that if the condo market picks up as well, they’ll look at apartment buildings to fill demand.  We’ve seen this pattern in the Seattle housing market before.  Both Belltown Court and The Klee Lofts started out as apartment complexes.  And, as condo demand increases, former condo projects which converted to apartments over the past couple of years may return to being condos again.  We think one of the first to turn back may be Bellevue’s The Bravern, which announced that intent when they converted both towers from condos into apartments in 2010. Equinox and Rollin Street Flats were once condominiums, too. 

However, the recession has made for reluctant homebuyers. What will the potential glut of rentals really do for the conversion market this time around?  Will more potential buyers simply remain permanent renters?  We think it’ll depend on what a buyer wants in the long run.  Predictions are that a renter’s market won’t resurface until well after 2015, and maybe beyond if the conversion market takes off.  In the meantime, rents should continue to rise and keep pace with the same costs it would take to own a home.  

All indicators seem to point to the real estate market heating up again. With record-low home prices, plus interest rates the lowest they’ve been in 60 years, buying a home is not only more affordable but is also an investment that could pay off big over time.  You don’t get that option with a rental.  There is a lot to think about but if you’d like to discuss your options further, just contact us at our Stroupe Group link.

Mass Transit Made Simple

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We recently reported on parking updates, and now we’ll look at mass transit. Most of us have experienced a late or no-show bus, some even deciding that $20 of parking is worth 40 minutes of wasted time.  However, new technology could now change your mind.  AND, if mass transit access is a factor in your real estate purchase, we’ve come across a link for that as well.  Click on the titles below for these websites:

ONE BUS AWAYis an online bus tracking system, using data feed supplied by transponders of its various transit companies.  There’s even an “Explore” tool which allows you to search for restaurants, businesses, parks and other amenities “One Bus Away”!   

Get real-time arrival information, on the stop of your choice, for the following transit companies:

  • Metro Transit
  • Washington State Ferries
  • King County Marine Division (Water Taxi)
  • Sound Transit
  • Community Transit
  • Pierce Transit

 And, you’re able to access this in a number of ways:

  • Web Interface
  • Touch-Tone Phone
  • SMS Text

Plus, there are native OneBusAway client setups for:

  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Windows Phone 7

Finally, OneBusAway is a local business!  It was developed at the University of Washington by grad students Brian Ferris and Kari Watkins, with additional funding by Nokia Research and the National Science Foundation. It’s an open-source system and the group is working towards offering the service to other cities nationwide.  OneBusAway was also a 2010 winner at the Washington Technology Industry Association’s Industry Achievement Awards.  

RIDER ALERT – Sign up for your bus route and Metro’s “rider alert” tool delivers text or e-mail alerts about your bus in case of construction, special event re-routing, or snow emergencies.  It’ll also zap you an email with schedule changes and holiday information.  

METRO APP CENTER –  There are a number of apps and mobile tools which developers have built using Metro Transit data, and they’re free for you to download at this site, including OneBusAway.

REAL ESTATE — For those who want to buy in an area with mass transit options, there’s a local link in the Metro App Center for estately.com.   Click on Options. The right hand column has a “choose” link under Mass Transit where you can type in a Metro route number, and properties either along or close to that bus line appear.  You can check out neighborhood walkability scores and yes, parking too. Run in conjunction with NWMLS, it provides a lot of information and can be confusing to wander through.  Just contact us at this Stroupe Group link and we’ll help you find what you’re looking for, in fewer steps.

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There’s still some glitches with OneBusAway and Rider Alert, most recently when buses changed to snow routes during the recent Thanksgiving week storms. In 2011, these should run smoother when Metro buses are equipped with GPS systems.  Technology comes at a price, though– fare increases for most passenger groups go up in January.  However, mass transit is easiest on the environment, your wallet and your driving sanity.  For most of us, mass transit is the only way to fly.

Beep, Bzzt: Electric Car news (and a test drive, too)

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Nissan’s first zero-emission, all-electric car, the Nissan LEAF, will be hitting Seattle streets in December. And where will you plug them in?  In August 2009, a $99.8 million goverment grant to Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation (eTec) was awarded to set up electric car networks in five cities nationwide. Seattle’s portion will be used to set up around 2,550 charging systems, enabling drivers to use electric vehicles throughout the region with the security of knowing a charging station is nearby.  AND, under this program, LEAF buyers will also be offered a free 220-volt charging station for home use, similar to the power level you’d use to run your dryer.

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With an agreement between local goverments and Nissan North American in place, both Seattle and King County are working to get these cars into their carpools, as well as encouraging buyers to get them on the streets. Zipcar users both public and with the city will be able to drive a LEAF, too, because Zipcar is also an eTec program partner. 

Plug-in locations are still being determined throughout King County, but currently scheduled for setup in Seattle are as follows:

Central Library Parking Garage- 4 stations

Fauntleroy Ferry Dock- 6 stations

King Street Center- 8 stations 

Pacific Place Parking Garage- 5 stations

Pike Place- 2 stations

SeaPark Garage – 6 stations

Seattle Center, 5th Ave Parking Garage- 5 stations

UW Foster School of Business- 1 station

The LEAF is a five-passenger hatchback with sporty handling that can go about 100 miles on an eight-hour charge. At current Seattle City Light electric rates, the LEAF would cost approximately $200 to drive 10,000 miles, or around 2 cents a mile. With the same scenario, a gas-powered vehicle based on 25 mpg would cost approximately $1,220, at $3.05 per gallon. One hears about the high cost of purchasing an electric car, but the LEAF is scheduled to be priced in the range of a typical family sedan. And, you’ll be able to set your mobile phone to activate the air conditioning and the charging performance wirelessly.

If you’d like to take the future out for a spin today, Nissan is sponsoring a test drive in Tukwila from Friday through Sunday, November 12th – 14th.  Register ahead of time at https://www.drivenissanleaf.com, select Events in the left column, then Seattle, and a registration form will pop up. Allow around 60-90 minutes for the test drive. If you want to go on a first-come, first-serve basis, the event takes place at Westfield Southcenter in the parking lot area north of Macy’s.  Hours on Friday and Saturday are from 7am – 5pm, and Sunday from 8am- 4pm.

High-Speed Rail Plans Still On Track

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

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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.

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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.

What’s the Market Like?

Almost all newspapers across the country referenced increases in home sales on the front page over the last few days.  However, all stories have been careful to recognize if the market has in fact hit bottom or not.

The Multiple Listing Service reports the first quarter of 2009 to have 52 sales.  The first quarter of 2010 reports 103.  Loan applications have also been reported to be on the rise in addition to a slight increase in the median price of homes in King County.  Most of the activity is of course hypothesized to come from expected increases in interest rates, and the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit.

King County house prices post year-over-year rise for first time in 2 years (article):

Tim Ellis, who edits the real-estate blog Seattlebubble.com, said in an e-mail that he expects Seattle-area sales to continue to rise through May, then plateau and maybe drop in the summer and autumn after the tax credits expire.

We’re of course optimistic in that housing sales will continue, and agree with Tim that prices will continue to be flat.

Today’s Market Conditions vs. A Year Ago

November 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Puget Sound Region, Weekly Sales Ratios

We’ve been seeing a lot of areas becoming what is technically a “sellers” market, as buyers have either rushed to take advantage of the Tax Credit or just take advantage of low pricing.  It appears our local market is not starting to look a little more balanced as experts have predicted….

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Some Areas Pull Back While Others Pull Ahead

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Puget Sound Region

While some areas seem to be pulling ahead in becoming more of a seller’s market, others are falling back.  Or, while some areas are falling back and becoming more of a balanced market, others are pulling ahead.  Here is a comparison chart of how the general King County area has changed from a year ago, to three months ago, and compared to today.

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Brief Review of Washington State Demographics

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Puget Sound Region

The Puget Sound Business Journal recently published demographics by county, and we found a lot of the data interesting.  Since we couldn’t post the images printed, we’ve found our own data to supplement what the Business Journal created.  Here’s somewhat of the same information:

Population Change and Net Migration

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Although population growth has slowed as a result of the economic situation, Washington still continues to be a leader in growth.  From April 1st, 2007 to April 1st, 2008, Washington’s population increased by 99,600.

Washington and U.S. Per Capita Personal Income

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

In the late 1990′s, Washington experienced a boost in income per capita from stock options and software industry wages.  Even before then, Washington shows to have averaged higher than the rest of the US almost every year since 1980.

Education

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

In 2007, an estimated 44% of King County residents 25 years old and over have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.  When it comes to enrollment into four-year institutions, Washington doesn’t place as much of a leader.  However, higher education attainment places Washington within the top ten states based on percent of residents who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Unemployment Rate

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Again, Washington shows another positive trend in leadership among averages nationwide.  Boeing continues to be the number one employer with over 74,000.  Microsoft employs over 36,000, and the University of Washington over 20,000.

Median Single Family Home/Condo Prices

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Source: WA Trends - Office of Financial Management

Of course King County leads in number of closed sales, and highest median price.  Although single-family homes are 85% of residential sales, condominiums seeing much less of a reduction in prices compared to last year’s decline.

The profiles done on counties within the Puget Sound Business Center are actually quite impressive, but we couldn’t find nearly as much data.  In case you’re thinking of picking one up, additional information includes population race and origin, local B&O taxes, median age population, comute times, crime statistics, number of licensed business’s, types of employment, average wages, office/industrial real estate statistics, property tax rates, real estate excise taxes, housing growth, rent and vacancy rates, wealthiest zip codes, critical contacts, and public/private school rankings.

Although the majority of the information on this post came from the Office of Financial Management, here are some other websites to consider using if you’re looking for more information:

Office of Financial Management: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/

City Data: http://www.city-data.com/city/Washington.html

Washington Center for Real Estate Research: http://www.wcrer.wsu.edu/

US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/

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