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Luxury Condo Sales Up 177%!

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1521 logoIn 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.

escalaWhy 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.  

olive-8-condo_thumbieThose 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.

bellevue towers logoAnd 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.

rsz_harvard_logoNo 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! 

rsz_200_w_highland_logoWe 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 urgent@stroupe.com, and let us work on the perfect home for YOU!

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South Lake Union – What the People Said

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Land Use

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People had a LOT to say at a March 28th meeting sponsored by the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.  Held at Unity Church in South Lake Union, around 200 attendees learned about, and provided, inital feedback on SLU’s future– as currently outlined on 659 pages.

slu roadSouth Lake Union was first designated as an Urban Center in 2004, and since then the City has been working on a 25-year plan to fully utilize the area’s potential. Its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Lake Union Height Alternatives addresses plans to:

  • Develop a more diverse and attractive community with a mix of housing types and land uses, plus defined building types and heights.
  • Use height and density increases to meet other goals such as increased affordable housing and open space, plus public benefits through incentive zoning.
  • Enhance street-level pedestrian quality with public view corridors and retail activities.
  • Provide a full transportation system including street networks, transit and non-motorized travel. 
  • Maintain utility systems (electrical, water, sewer and storm drains).
  • Ensure adequate zoned development capacity for long-term growth.

slu militaryDisplay boards highlighted the four Alternatives, or plans, as outlined in the Draft EIS. Attendees discussed the Alternatives with DOPD staff members and consultants.   A presentation by the City followed, explaining how the Draft EIS will work as a tool for the City and its residents to assess the pros and cons of each Alternative.  You can find the plan on this link.  We stayed for the first 35 minutes of commentary (two minutes per person).  Most of those speakers seemed to have read the Draft EIS from cover to cover.

The first stated that 50% of new city populations develop in Urban Centers, and South Lake Union is the most expandable (Seattle) area to accommodate that.

slu streetcarA rep from the construction sector was very enthusiastic about the possibilities of South Lake Union development.  He commented that it’s very flat, very buildable– a real opportunity to build for the future, with a focus on its growing industries such as UofW Research, Fred Hutchinson, and amazon.com.  A restaurant owner later stated that strong residential growth keeps small businesses thriving, too.

Another speaker was dismayed to detect negativity in the Draft EIS, which she felt didn’t expand on the qualities that South Lake Union has and could have. She was also adamant that she and her Gen Y peers would not live in “a city full of Pete Seeger’s Little Boxes on the Hillside” (actually written by Malvina Reynolds).

draft eis 2Most of the speakers, including a surprising number of residents, supported Alternative 1, which carries the greatest height and density levels.  They were tempered by concerns that the Draft EIS made little or no mention of public transportation and services other than police and fire (worries about those, too).  They said it didn’t seem to address families with children, and there was no mention of plans for schools.

Although Alternative 1 was a clear choice among those we heard, others wanted to ensure the City would strive to retain a strong cross-section of residents. We paraphrase one speaker who said she’d “rather have a good mix of 27,000 instead of an 18,000 mix of millionaires.”

Since Alternative 1 was so popular, we’ll provide more details on it in a few days.  To comment on the Draft EIS, send an email to jim.holmes@seattle.gov by Monday, April 11th, the last day for public input. After that, they’ll begin work on a Final EIS for summer release.  We’ll let you know when.

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Alex? No. Volta? No. Foreclosed? Well…

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Belltown, Featured

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Suppose you gave an auction and nobody came?  That was about the size of it when, after no bidders came forward to buy the troubled Volta property on March 18th, East West Bank went ahead and foreclosed. 

volta 1The saga of 2233 First Avenue began with development of a project called Alex in the fall of 2007, owned by an LLC headed by Saltaire Construction.  Located at the prime Belltown location of First Avenue and Bell, this boutique project was mapped out for eight stories plus a penthouse level.  There would be 20 floorplans to choose from, units from 600 – 1,200 sq ft, upscale features, a rooftop lap pool, priced between $500,000 and $2 million. A loan was made through Washington First International Bank for $12 million.  Alex was scheduled to open in the fall of 2008– when, in its first streak of bad luck, the economic roof caved in.

Fast forward to March 2010. Construction nearly finished, it was decided to give the Alex a second chance at life by  repackaging it under the name of Volta.  Why Volta?  We checked wikipedia.org to see if there was a meaning beyond the name of a river in Ghana.  Sure enough, listed was an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta, whose claim to fame is inventing the electric battery.  “Alessandro” paid homage to the original building name, and its location on Bell Street was one block away from… Battery Street.  There you go. It was also repriced from $299,950 to $1,095,950 (for a penthouse shell), and amenities changed to a rooftop deck, dog run area and green space. 

Things were looking up when three months later, bad luck struck again!  The project was blindsided with a bank closure on  Washington First International Bank that June.  East West Bank, located in Pasadena, California, became the new lender.  Finally, on January 20th, 2011, East West announced that at $1.48 million in arrears plus interest and fees (on a second WFIB loan of $1.4 million), the Volta was headed for auction.

volta2That brings us to today… where we discover that the luck at this address may finally be changing.  2233 First Avenue was appraised at nearly $5 million by King County, and its location in the heart of Belltown offers amazing views of Elliott Bay, Mt Rainier and downtown.  In reality, this property is pretty hot at the moment– we’ve heard that up to 35 buyers are very interested in it!  East West is most likely biding its time a bit longer before settling on a buyer who will allow them to bleed the least on their balance sheet.  Not so lucky was WF Capital Inc., which provided a $3.75 million loan in late 2008.  There were also a number of construction liens on this still-unfinished project, and some lawsuits are still pending.  It may be some time before the property shakes free from the ashes, and rises once and for all.  However, we’re betting it will do just that.

We’ll be watching this one carefully, and will keep you posted on any developments.

Hjärta – Living Green, and Making Green

March 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Hjarta

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rsz_hjarta_kitchenHear what you will about home sales in Seattle, but we continue to find success stories all over the place.  The latest news is that Ballard-based Hjärta Condos has closed 13 sales in three months! 

There are two reasons for this tremendous burst of success.  The first one is price reductions.  A review was done on every unit and pricing was readjusted accordingly.  Low HOA dues and FHA financing are also helping to close deals. The second is that Hjärta is currently the only LEED Silver-certified suburban Seattle condominium development.  Constructed of concrete and steel, it also includes high-performance fiberglass windows, a central gas boiler instead of individual water heaters, and energy-efficient elevators.  Hjärta owners average a 30% reduction in energy bills.  Buyers are finding this competitive with buildings of wood frame construction.

rsz_hjarta_deckHjärta’s Ballard location is only 10 minutes north of downtown Seattle.  It’s also within walking distance of public transportation, locally-owned shopping, dining, salons, coffee shops, movie theaters, groceries and recreation. Speaking of recreation, the area is pedestrian and bicycle-friendly.  Old Ballard Avenue is nearby, as is Market Street, plus you’re a mile away from the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.  

rsz_hjarta_bathThere’s some great amenities, too.  Hjärta’s rooftop garden provides raised beds for vegetables, flowers and herbs. Add some lush professional landscaping and it provides a peaceful retreat from the day, not to mention spectacular city, water and mountain views.  An elegant common area features a pool table, catering kitchen, fireplace and internet access. Comfortable for socializing, it also opens to a private, inviting outdoor deck. It’s the perfect place to host old friends or meet new neighbors.

That’s enough about amenities for your soul… how about some for your body?  Aside from the ease of walking and biking, Hjärta also has a private Yoga Room which provides mats, straps, blocks and other accoutrements for resident use.  Its Workout Room is perfect for a good cardio or weight workout, with natural daylight and a TV to keep you moving.

rsz_hjarta_lroomCurrently, one bedroom homes start at $259,950. A one bedroom corner unit with 917 sq ft is priced at $319,950.  They also have two bedroom homes.  One recently sold at $379,950, and a corner unit with an outdoor patio is currently priced at $409,950.  Penthouses on the 7th and 8th floors are also available.

 All in all, Hjärta offers a nice mix of green, high-rise living in a neighborhood setting.   If you would like more information or to schedule a private tour, just drop us a line at urgent@stroupe.com.

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Gallery Condominiums – Looking Back, and Ahead

March 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Gallery

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rsz_gallery_stack_2bThe story began on March 4th, 2011, the day before 24 units of Gallery Condominiums were scheduled to go up for auction—with a press release announcing there was now NO auction!  An eleventh-hour decision by Gallery Condominium, LLC and auction coordinator Accelerated Marketing Partners radically shifted the March 5th  auction at the Grand Hyatt to a non-compete buy on a first come, first serve basis at the Gallery itself.  

There’s much to speculate about the sudden format change.  Adding to the confusion was the press release itself.  It stated that the Sales Event would only be opened to potential buyers who officially registered during the auction campaign.  Later, we were told that the public could preview the homes that Saturday morning, then sign up at the Gallery Sales Information Center for the afternoon sale. 

A number of price incentives were in place, but tighter credit requirements and expensive conventional financing slowed the purchase process.  Buyers needed more time to obtain financing pre-approvals, and were allowed seven days to finalize their purchase.  Of the 24 homes offered that day, only eight were sold. 

rsz_gallery_stack_1The Sales Event may have been a little too much and way too late–  but the Gallery story may still have a happy ending.  We checked with management and a week later, sales are running on a positive note.  Three more homes have sold since the March 5th event, with three offers pending.  There are a total of  29 units open, building occupancy is now at 87%.

And, we still feel that the Gallery is a great property for a first-time buyer, a professional or an empty-nester.  Situated at 2911 Second Ave (at Broad St), Gallery captures Space Needle views to the east, and Elliott Bay panoramas to the west. Its crossroads location allows you to easily zip up to Queen Anne, out to Ballard or South Lake Union, or into Downtown Seattle.  No car?  Their WalkScore is ranked 92 out of a possible 100.

rsz_1gallery_bottomFloorplans offer maximum use of space. Interiors include European-styled kitchens with custom cabinetry, slab granite or microcrystal countertops and premium stainless steel appliances; floor to ceiling windows; hardwood floors; and generous balconies.  Amenities include a full-service concierge, two-story lobby, Owners Lounge, plus an exclusive Supper Club and Sky Lounge to accommodate your special events.

The Gallery is back to traditional sales methods, with prices 10%-15% lower from the most previous listings. Open one bedrooms range from $225,000 to $315,000. A two bedroom, two bath is going for $459,000. Homes are available on all sides of the building—three with water views, others with great views of the Cascades and Downtown.  There is also special pricing for homes located on the lower  levels. 

Check out our Gallery website, GalleryinBelltown.com for more information. If you would like to schedule a private tour, just drop us a line at urgent@stroupe.com.

The Decatur: Cheaper to Own than Renting?

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Decatur, Featured

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decatur awningWe’ve recently received a study claiming that it’s now more cost-effective to own at The Decatur Condominiums than it is to rent in the popular First Hill neighborhood.  This study compares one and two bedroom homes in The Decatur to comparable properties offered at nearby apartment buildings.  It considers variable market dynamics including lower selling prices, FHA financing, historically low interest rates, rising rents and tax advantages for homebuyers.  The chart they provided contains two scenarios tallied over a period of five years aggregating the total housing costs for both renting and owning, and you can tap onto it here– The_Decatur_Chart.

The study also referred to a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article headlined “Ascent of Rent” , which takes a look at rental rate increases, plus the lack of new condominium projects scheduled for development.  This article also covers the number of rental properties slated for construction–subject, as always, to funding availability.    

decatur interiorMore than 80% sold, The Decatur has 146-units comprised of one and two bedroom homes starting from just $187,500.  Built in 1950, the concrete and steel high-rise landmark was substantially renovated in 2006 and 2007, and converted to condominiums before the market corrected.  Prices are now up to 40% below the original sales prices.  Take a look at the links we’ve provided and if you’d like more information or to schedule a private tour, just contact us at urgent@stroupe.com.

Fifteen Twenty-One Second: How “Design Matters”

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under 1521, Featured, Opus, Pike Place Market

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“Design Matters” is a new video series on the attributes of Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue, bearing testimony that the unique qualities of Fifteen Twenty-One have earned them their distinctive market niche, which has continuously held its value in spite of the current condominium market.

The six spokespersons representing different design attributes on the Design Matters series (note that the starred* names are also Fifteen Twenty-One homeowners) are:

1.0 – Architecture / Blaine Weber*, Architect and Principal of Weber Thompson Architects

2.0 – Interior Design / Susan Marinello, Interior Designer of Susan Marinello Interiors

3.0 – Amenities & Lifestyle / William Justen*, Project Visionary and Longtime Downtown Resident

4.0 – Development Practices / Tom Parsons, Developer and Senior Vice President of OPUS Group

5.0 – Community & HOA Operations / Amanda Ciliberto, Chef Concierge for Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue

6.0 – Mortgage Lending / Jeff Bell*, Preferred Lender and Partner with Cobalt Mortgage

rsz_1521_living_roomThe contributors cite numerous tangible and intangible attributes that set the project apart including: transformative “tall and slender” architecture; protected water views; all larger format homes averaging 1,988 sq. ft.; the first-of-its-kind “Glass Rooms” in the homes; a uniform “all penthouse” approach to design; a strong sense of community; and a sales focus towards principle residences helping to maintain established market pricing.   This has led to numerous awards and acknowledgments by industry judges at regional and national development competitions held by such organizations as NAIOP, Multifamily Executive Magazine, The Pacific Coast Builder’s Conference and The National Association of Homebuilders.

Right off of Pike Street, Fifteen Twenty-One is within easy walking distance to Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, plus a number of shops and restaurants in the best of Belltown.  Only 3 to 5 homes are located on each floor (143 units on 38 stories), ranging from 1,659 to 2,958 sq ft.   Their claims of being “The West Coast’s Most Successful High-Rise Condominium” are well-founded because they paid off their $176 million construction loan in the fall of 2010.

rsz_1521_kitchenFifteen Twenty-One also has a great list of amenities including a 24-hour concierge, security controls, conference space / digital boardroom, rooftop terraces with wide-open city, water and mountain views, a rooftop Sky Lounge, spa-worthy residential fitness center plus a yoga and Pilates studio, playrooms for kids and a convenient pet area.

With over 75% of its homes sold, public records confirm that Fifteen Twenty-One has closed more in-city condominiums valued above $1 million than all other new construction condominium developments in the city combined.   Some of this is attributed to overwhelming consumer preference to the matchless design characteristics, plus protected water views programmed several years ago. 

We at the Stroupe  Group are very proud that we have helped many buyers purchase homes at Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue, and they still express their satisfaction over their decision to buy.  We continue to be positive about this project, and firmly believe that this is one of the nicest condominium developments in Seattle.  Check out the Design Matters series for yourself, then send us an email at urgent@stroupe.com for more information or to schedule a private tour. 

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Happy Birthday to Us! Reflections on Year One

February 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Featured

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February 23rd marked the first anniversary of the Stroupe Group’s partnership with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, and we’re very happy with how things are going!

Since opening for business, Realogics has doubled its roster of brokers, earned several high-profile project accounts and recently opened a second office on Bainbridge Island.  Its brokerage participated in approximately $120 million in real estate transactions during the past year, representing all price points including record sales in both condominium and single-family categories in Seattle. While very engaged with the local real estate community, its global reach provides visibility to Seattle-area properties worldwide. 

As for the Stroupe Group… well, we have great news, too.  We enjoyed our best year ever in real estate.  We have also been able to bring a broad international exposure to our team.  The best example of this was our recent 10-unit buy for a foreign investor in Olive 8!  We are very proud and honored for the accomplishments we’ve enjoyed over the past year. 

We gained market share in 2010 by focusing on distinctive properties across all price segments.  It’s a new economy to be sure, but success has been built upon Sotheby’s 266-year heritage, and exercising the Brand gives our office unparalleled consumer awareness and reach.  Inventories range from affordable in-city resale condominiums to a new waterfront estate with an asking price of $28.8 million. Trendgraphix confirms our success, as you can see by the following charts.

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As these graphs show for 2010, we were the leading brokerage for property listings in downtown Seattle and among the most accomplished sellers of new construction.  We should note that while Teambuilder Jls handles sales for the Escala property, Realogics manages sales for Four Seasons Private Residences, Fifteen Twenty One Second Avenue, and Olive 8.  We believe that the housing market began to stabilize in 2010 and will continue through 2011, helped in part by a noted rise in relocating buyers from out-of-state or internationally. 

Our collective presents a vertically integrated real estate solution comprised of market research, product development, full-service marketing and sales.  We are very proud of our one-year mark in the Seattle real estate arena.  We invite you to learn more about Stroupe Group and what we can do for YOU by contacting us at urgent@stroupe.com

Waterfront Seattle’s Meeting of the Minds – All of Them

February 20, 2011 by  
Filed under City of Seattle, Featured, Land Use

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The Waterfront Seattle project’s February 17th public meeting was expected to bring out only 100-150 attendees, but a whopping 960 turned out for the event, filling all areas of the Seattle Aquarium plus a tent set up outside.

Seattle-Aquarium-04With a theme of “What Makes a Good Waterfront?”, it was pretty clear by the end of the presentation that how to develop the Central Waterfront will be a Seattle hot -button for some years to come. Lead Designer James Corner of james corner field operations was the keynote speaker.  They are most renowned for designing High Line, an urban park set on top of an old railroad structure in New York.  This link to a recent AIA Seattle  article contains interviews with the principals involved.

Along with questionnaires asking for audience opinions of what they want/don’t want in a waterfront, Corner’s firm is also working with up to ten different groups, or Stakeholders, for their input.  They are, in order of presentation:

Neighbors:  representatives from all Central Seattle neighborhoods plus Magnolia and West Seattle

Entrepreneurs:  includes for-profit and nonprofit developers plus startup companies

Business Owners:  Waterfront venues, Pike Place Market, Seattle Chamber of Commerce

Commuters:  car ferries, motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians

Greens:  nature experts, environmentalists plus those concerned with salmon and wildlife

Shippers & Builders: Port of Seattle plus shipping industries

Tribes:  Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Duwamish

Visitors: includes tourism venues, hotels, Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau

Creatives:  involved with Arts and Culture, plus Seattle Parks and Recreation

Sports Teams:  Mariners and Seahawks organizations

waterfront walkCorner acknowledged there have been struggles for all parties to come to a consensus in forming a plan regarding the Waterfront, but is positive that differences will be resolved.  We only hope the Stakeholders remember the overlying theme of “A Waterfront for All”, and that all factions will need to do some give and take in order to do what’s best for the City of Seattle.

Waterfront Seattle spans 26 blocks, running from Olympic Sculpture Park (Broad Street) to the sports stadiums (King Street area).  Redevelopment will take approximately eight years to complete. This waterfront timeline shows the schedules for the Waterfront, Elliott Bay Seawall Project, and the proposed SR99 Bored Tunnel projects.

Another public meeting will be scheduled in May where a first draft of the Central Waterfront design should be ready for review.  We plan to attend that, so stay tuned. 

waterfront pierYou can follow Waterfront Seattle’s progress, and can still voice your opinions. Click on the City of Seattle’s new Waterfront site.  Select “Answer” to “What Makes a Great Waterfront?” to provide your own ideas. Choose the video link to watch the full 76-minute presentation of February 17th, produced by the Seattle Channel. You’ll find tapings of past meetings and presentations here as well.  Finally, waterfrontseattle.org  also has links in Facebook and Twitter.

Stroupe Group Lands Bulk Buy at Olive 8

February 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Olive 8

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olive-8-condo-200x300We are extremely pleased to announce that we have successfully closed a bulk buy of ten units at Olive 8!

The buyer is a foreign investor, represented by Julie Roh and James Stroupe of the Stroupe Group. For our buyer, improving market conditions and the investment value at Olive 8 were compelling.  We helped our client make an informed decision using our experience and research tools found at www.stroupe.com   Our buyer could have selected any metro area in the US, but preferred our economic outlook and the fundamentals of supply and demand for in-city condominiums.  It’s a reminder that Seattle is on the radar of many interstate and international buyers; whether it’s for lifestyle or investment purposes. In this instance, Olive 8 provides for both.

We also point to a convergence of sharper pricing, low interest rates, the prospect of job growth downtown, rising rental rates and the fact that no new condominiums are planned for the future.  The new construction supply pipeline is shut down.  Based on trends we watch very carefully, we believe the resale market is going to shore up property values in the near future.  

We are continuing to see clients come to us, asking about current market conditions.  As this latest tranaction demonstrates, there are some opportunities in the market that are worth exploring.  If you would like to schedule a meeting with us to discuss your personal goals, please contact us at (206) 910-5000, or by email at  urgent@stroupe.com.

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