Jun

1

As part of the larger market trends, waterfront homes have become more affordable and with higher selection. In some communities, the prices have held up very well due to continued demand by a general group of buyers insulated from the broader market issues of credit, income, mortgage options, and such. However, there are also an increasing number of good options in quality second tier waterfront locations, and supply and demand is gradually catching up with market realities.

The upside for sellers though is that the relative valuation and appreciation of waterfront continues to be stronger in relationship to the rest of the market. It’s always good to have a valuable, in demand type of property where they aren’t making any more shoreline, but they sure can make more inland subdivisions and condos.

An article appeared in today’s Seattle Times about this topic. Although the specific anecdotes in the article are not locally based, the general concepts can still apply.

View of Lake Union and Seattle skyline

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Apr

12

Geese can be a troublesome part of local lakefront living for some. Geese love wide open manicured grass that comes to the water’s edge, like many home owners have. Lawns provide them with foraging spots and open sight lines with no hiding places for predators. The main downside for many waterfront owners: what the geese leave behind…

The easiest way to get rid of geese on your lawn is to create a native vegetation buffer between your lawn and the water. This blocks the sight lines and access routes that geese prefer, and they will move on to open lawns elsewhere. Choose native vegetation of varying heights so that you can frame and enhance your views, with a majority of low lying bushes and native ground cover so that your views are maintained at your eye level but not at the geese’s eye level.

This also provides other benefits to your property. Native vegetation buffers such as this help filter pollutants from your lawn before they enter the lake, and they provide insects for fish and birds. Also, in the rare event of severe wind that creates a lot of high wave action, the larger vegetation will protect your soil and landscaping from erosion far better than grass.

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Mar

1

Here’s the latest update from King County on the public input process to proposed changes of our local Shoreline Master Program:

Preliminary King County responses to public comments received on the draft Shoreline Master Program update from October – December 2007 are now available. Phone message comments were received until September 2007; due to a technical error phone messages after that period were not recorded.

King County plans to release a third public review draft in late summer 2008 and hold a series of public meetings in fall 2008 before transmitting the Proposed Shoreline Master Program to King County Council in November, 2008.

Shoreline Fact Sheets
Draft Shoreline Master Program (September 2007)

King County commissioned a phone survey in winter 2007 to help understand public goals and priorities for managing shorelines. Results are available from the Shorelines Public Survey Findings page.

King County will release a third public review draft in late summer 2008 and hold a series of public meetings in fall 2008 before transmitting the Proposed Shoreline Master Program to King County Council in November, 2008.

Please send an email to shorelines@kingcounty.gov if you have any questions.

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Nov

5

In addition to your own private beachfront, there are many terrific long expanses of public beachfront around the Seattle area of Puget Sound. Here some of the best beaches close in to the city. Be sure to explore further out for many others as well, including terrific parks in Tacoma, Vashon Island, and much more.

 

Best Sand Beaches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Beach Walks

With a stroller:

 

With a day-pack:

 

 

Best Beach Picnics

 

 

 

 

 

Best for Sea Creatures

 

 

 

Best Beaches with Playgrounds

 

 

 

 

 

Best Beaches for Fires

(in designated fire pits only)

 

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Oct

8

As I wrote about before, King County is now in its second phase of updating local Shoreline Management Program designations, policies, and regulations. This is a good opportunity for you to learn about existing and proposed regulations, as well as contribute your thoughts and opinions on the topic.

The county provided a good overview of their upcoming events, which I’ll quote here for your info:

Learn more.
· Visit the King County Shorelines Web site to review the first draft of the updated Shoreline Master Program. Hard copies of the draft will also be made available in public libraries and community service centers in October 2007.
· Schedule a special presentation for your organization by contacting Mary Rabourn at 206-296-1977. (Meetings will be scheduled based on staff availability.)
· Attend an upcoming Open House near you (dates below) to learn about what is new in the draft Shoreline Master Program and the King County Comprehensive Plan, ask staff questions and provide your comments:

Public Meetings – Draft Shoreline Master Program and Comprehensive Plan
· Oct. 11, 2007: Cascade View Elem. School / Snoqualmie, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
· Oct. 15, 2007: Vashon-Maury Island UAC meeting / Vashon, 7:30 – 9 p.m.
· Oct. 16, 2007: Kentridge High School / Kent, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
· Oct. 18, 2007: White Center Heights Elem. School / Seattle, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

How to submit comments.
1. Online: Visit the New King County Shorelines Web site to submit comments, sign up to receive e-mail updates or look up information about a shoreline area: www.metrokc.gov/shorelines/
2. Email comments: CompPlanAndShorelines@kingcounty.gov
3. Mail written comments:Attn: Shoreline TeamKing County Department of Natural Resources and Parks201 S. Jackson St., Ste. 600Seattle, WA 98104

What’s next?
· Fall/Winter 2007 – Public meetings for review and comment on the revised draft program.
· December 28, 2007 – Deadline for public comments
· March 2008 – King County Executive will transmit a proposed Shoreline Master Program Update to the Metropolitan King County Council for review, public hearings and adoption.

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Sep

25

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is up for a vote again, and this insurance provides important affordable coverage for people in many areas of the Seattle / Puget Sound region. Most home owner insurance policies do not cover flood damage, and many home owners are not even aware that they have no coverage in this area. The NFIP covers obvious areas such as rivers overflowing their banks into property, yet many people also don’t know that it includes high tidal/wave action on the Sound, land movement due to heavy rains, mudslides, and related catastrophes that could potentially destroy a home and yet not be covered by the home’s regular insurance. With our area’s huge expanses of Sound and lake coastline, and our steep terrain with homes perched on fragile hillsides to maximize views, this can be important insurance for many home owners in many different locations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Division manages the program, and it is federally subsidized so the rates are lower than would otherwise be available through private insurance (though of course there is the hidden generalized cost in our taxes to pay for the subsidy). Private insurers have been steering away from flood insurance over the years. Many high risk areas do not even have realistic private flood insurance options, and NFIP fills the void.

The legislation under consideration this week is HR 3121 Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007. This resolution extends the program for 5 years, increases coverage limits and inclusions, adds optional wind coverage, and other items. If this is of interest to you and your community, I recommend calling your Congressperson and expressing support. Later this year the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will be creating its own NFIP reform bill as well.

Seattle area waterfront real estate on Puget Sound beach

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Sep

15

1031 tax deferred exchanges, which allow the owner of an investment property to roll over gains into another “similar” investment property without paying taxes on the gains, can include personal vacation homes. However, the personal use of a vacation home must officially be restricted, usually keeping personal use to under 14 days a year or less than 10% of the time it is rented out.

There have been recent court cases clarifying the allowable personal usage of vacation homes, and what distinguishes between allowable and non-allowable properties for making a 1031 exchange at time of sale. A recent sale and 1031 exchange of a lakefront second home for another larger waterfront home tested some of these boundaries, and clarified some rules on the matter.

In general, there are several important aspects that a vacation home owner can do to demonstrate both intent and actual practice of maintaining a property for investment purposes. This includes: renting the property out and claiming the income, tracking expenses, depreciating the asset, deducting mortgage interest as an investment expense instead of a second home tax deduction, type of tax filings, and number of days of personal usage. Also, a property that is initially used mostly for personal use may be transitioned gradually over more to investment/rental use for a period prior to sale, and this could help justify a case that it was an investment property eligible for a 1031 tax deferred exchange. This is somewhat untested in the courts but some experts feel it could work if an exchange were questioned by the IRS.

There is likely an unexplored gray area between “personal usage” and “onsite maintaining of the property to uphold the investment value”. If you are onsite for the purpose of maintaining and inspecting the property, then likely it would be beneficial to document this with receipts (from the hardware store or such) and a simple log of activities.

It is important to note that the IRS does not accept just market value appreciation of the property to be a valid justification for establishing a vacation home as an investment property. The IRS recognizes that a property can be left on its own for appreciation, but if it is used for personal purposes then it must be treated as investment property via intent and practice as discussed above, even if part of that does not include rental income.

There are a lot of options out there for people who already have a vacation home – or else want to purchase a second/vacation home – and would like to enjoy the benefits of rolling up their gains via a 1031 tax deferred exchange. This is especially the case for people who don’t visit the property frequently and who also do advance accounting and tax planning practices in line with investment property approaches. Lots there to talk to your tax and legal advisors about, but very intriguing…

Vashon Island waterfront real estate home overlooking Colvos Passage, Seattle area

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May

8

Tideland ownership can be confusing and conflicting for some waterfront owners, since property ownership varies between communities and even between nearby local properties within Washington. In Oregon, all beaches are considered public, and private ownership starts above the mean high water mark. In Washington on the other hand, the state sold about 70% of it’s tidelands to private upland property owners between the time of statehood and 1971.

If a property comes with tideland ownership, that generally refers to ownership of the land exposed between the lower low water mark to the mean high water mark. The lower low water mark is rarely exposed, and only at minus tides. There are occasional technical differences to the high water mark, where government meander lines were instead used as approximations.

Land below the low water mark is generally public, although there is “underwater land” ownership in some places, mostly used for the purposes of shellfish harvesting. This public land under the water comes under the jurisdiction of the Aquatic Lands Division of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

So, depending upon where one is located and how the property ownership was exchanged over the years, beach ownership for waterfront owners varies from property to property. As a matter of civility, it’s always important to respect the “front yards” of waterfront property owners no matter what the particular ownership rights. Even if the beach is public, visitors should address loitering, garbage removal, noise, and such just as they would want people to act right beside their own home elsewhere.

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May

2

Because of my specialization in waterfront homes, KIRO TV contacted me this week about doing a story on houseboat living in the Seattle Lake Union area. The reporter, Michael Fox, was interested to show people what a houseboat was like both inside and outside, especially for people who had never been on one before.

So I took them on a personal tour of a current listing of mine that was then located at a prime end of dock view spot on the Ship Canal leading to the lake, and we got together for a nice sunny day on the water.

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Apr

23

For all of you boaters out there: A large array of educational and water safety organizations will be hosting Safety on the Sound 2007 at the Des Moines Marina, 22307 Dock Ave S, on Saturday May 12th from 10am – 2pm.

Participants include US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 32, Puget Sound Keeper Alliance, South King Fire and Rescue, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Program, Boaters World Inc., United States Power Squadron and Poverty Bay Squadron, City of Des Moines Marina, and the King County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit.

Should be informative and helpful as we get ready for a new boating season upon us!

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Mar

27

If you own or are considering purchase of property with wetlands, which can include anything from boggy areas to full waterfront properties on large bodies of water, then you may be interested to attend an in-depth two day course that teaches about many aspects of properties with wetlands:

  • Functions and values of wetlands
  • How wetlands are identified and classified
  • Regulations involved when buying and selling properties with wetlands
  • Wetland mitigation
  • Wetland mitigation banking
  • Working with wetland consultants
  • The role of land trusts in regard to wetland properties
  • Afternoon field trip to a wetland
  • Date: Wednesday & Thursday, April 18 & 19, 2007
  • Times: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Place: Lacey Community Center (directions sent upon registration)
  • Fee: $180, includes resource binder, lunch, and morning refreshments

For more information, contact Kelly Martin (360-786-5445 ext 7915 or Martink@co.thurston.wa.us) or Karen Janowitz (360-786-5445 ext 7918 or janowitz@wsu.edu).

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Mar

14

The Seattle PI recently raised awareness again about the efforts of the local volunteer group Friends of Street Ends, which works toward ensuring public access to the approximately 148 different street ends that run directly into Lake Washington, Lake Union, Ship Canal, and Puget Sound. They are trying to maintain, create, or open up these public property street ends as miniature waterfront access points and mini-parks for the local community. Recent negotiations regarding a specific street end on Lake Washington were reported, plus how it had all gone before the state Shorelines Hearing Board. In a somewhat unusual result, it seems that both the community and the adjoining affected waterfront property owners are fairly happy with the end result (which dictated that private/public stairs did not need to be replaced/relocated by the waterfront property owners). The owners were concerned about public intrusions onto their private property, as well as safety and disturbances that sometimes come with next-door public access, but hopefully the local community will be respectful of their rights to quiet enjoyment.

Waterfront property is valuable for its aesthetics, beauty, and access to public waterways. This sometimes creates friction when private property owners want their expensive private property privacy, and local inland community members want to share in their public access rights to the same bodies of water. Over many decades, variations on this idea also have created a very interesting and unusual array of encroachments and easements on some waterfront properties, and these are rarer to find in non-waterfront properties. Here are some examples to be on the lookout for, so that you can make your own informed decisions regarding any effects on your current or future property’s values and enjoyment:

1) Encroachments onto public right-of ways. This includes the street ends mentioned above, but may also extend onto adjoining parks, boat ramps, and other examples. A survey and determination of surrounding properties can help address these questions.

2) Encroachments onto private property. Fences, old shacks, overhangs of buildings, shared walking paths or steps down an embankment, and many other types of encroachments can create issues of “understood” ownership that are contradicted by a professional survey. If next door to a commercial property, the same situations can apply there also.

3) Adverse possession. Examples such as the encroachments above, or even just access provided over many years across a person’s property to the water, can create adverse possession. Adverse possession in Washington is basically “open and notorious” use of another’s property continuously for over 10 years, and it can create a situation where the trespasser can claim legal right to ownership of the property even though another person actually owned the physical space per legal descriptions. I have significant qualms with that concept, but it exists nonetheless and does come up from time to time due to waterfront values and long forgotten sloppy maintenance of property lines and official permissions for accessing property. There are ways around it where a neighbor can provide access or temporary/ongoing use while still ensuring that the property will never fall under adverse possession (you can contact me for basic info and an attorney to really do it).

4) Easements. Easements are a way of life on some waterfront properties. Older communities may have a mish mash of access easements that go from inland properties and across some waterfront properties. This may have been exchanged among friends, or been part of a land deal, or sold for a relatively small exchange of value, but most importantly it usually doesn’t hold any value to new owners and is only a potential source of friction regarding access rights across their property.

I personally was involved in a waterfront deal where one property encroached on an adjoining property by 5 feet, and the 5 foot encroachment rippled across 5 different properties in a row until the last one was effectively shorted 5 feet. This situation was not discovered until years after the initial encroachment (by a professional survey team who repeated their work three times due to the controversy it created). Was there ever a lot of discussion and negotiations that resulted out of that surprise finding!

The take-away from all this: it’s very important to check existing surveys, information on surrounding properties, and all aspects of a full title search, plus ask around regarding any possibilities of adverse possession. All of that is not a 100% solution, but it certainly can go a long way toward eliminating surprises later.

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Feb

13

If the record November 2006 floods adversely affected your home, business, or place where tax-related records are kept, you are eligible to receive various forms of tax relief this year. King County was included with 10 other Washington state counties in the Presidential Disaster Area resulting from storms, flooding, mudslides, and landslides that occurred throughout the state in November.

Most of the relief areas include significant time extensions across a wide range of filing dates, both for personal and business forms. Also, individuals may deduct personal property losses that were not covered by insurance or other forms of reimbursement.

If any of this may apply to you, consult your tax advisor to utilize the relief areas and to obtain more specifics for your particular situation.

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Feb

8

The Washington State University Extension Water Resources Leadership Team is providing a full day class – intended for both real estate professionals and waterfront property owners – that details impacts of shoreline development and how to best work with natural processes that occur along shorelines. I’ve been to a similar class in the past and it was quite interesting and informative; it includes classroom time plus a shoreline field visit to have hands-on discussion and learning.

The instructors will cover the following topics:
Natural shoreline processes
Bluff processes
Signs and risks of landslides
Avoiding natural hazards
Issues of human modifications, including bulkheads
Shoreline stabilization
When to contact a consultant
Alternative methods of erosion control
Regulatory framework
Field visit to a shoreline site (wear weather appropriate clothes)

The class is 8:30am – 4:30pm way out in Shelton (about 1.5 hour drive from Seattle) and costs $120 (which includes materials, refreshments, and lunch). Contact and registration information is available on their website.

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Feb

4

Come visit Seahurst Park on the Puget Sound shores of Burien to experience the beach creatures that come out on a low tide winter evening. The event will be led by naturalists from the Environmental Science Center and People for Puget Sound, who will provide hot drinks. They’ll have a glowing bonfire to gather around and share stories before walking the beaches at night to educate you, your friends, and family about many things you likely did not know before. Prior starlight walks have been a big success with a great turn-out, and I’ve found them to be very fun and educational.

Be sure to bring weather and temperature appropriate clothing, good flashlights, and waterproof boots.

Date: Saturday February 17
Time: Starts at 7:30pm
For additional information: 206-988-3712

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Jan

18

The Shoreline Property Owners and Contractors Association (SPOCA) is sponsoring a seminar on dock permitting rules and regulations, shading, grating, construction time windows, and mitigation requirements for shoreline property owners. The seminar will be held at the 2007 Seattle Boat Show in Seattle’s Qwest Field Event Center at the following times: Monday January 29th 1:00pm, Tuesday January 30 3:00pm, and Wednesday January 31 5:00pm.

SPOCA is a contractor-created organization led primarily by waterfront construction interests, and they are trying to expand their membership to private waterfront property owners. They aim to reduce and streamline shoreline environmental regulations, which you may or may not agree with but the seminar should be interesting and informative for anyone considering a new dock, dock repairs, or dock modifications.

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Jan

11

2006 has come and gone, and it was yet another terrific year for WaterHavens everywhere. Waterfront real estate has risen with the general market throughout the year, and in many cases outperformed market averages. This is a normal occurrence: waterfront is always more desirable and tends to be a better investment than non-waterfront real estate. And if a down market ever occurs in the future, waterfront will still be the most desirable and first to sell if priced appropriately.

First, a review of the general King County real estate market: in December 2006, house prices increased 12% for the year and arrived at a median price of $440,000, while condo prices rose an astounding 21% to a median $270,000. For all combined residential properties, median was $399,900 and average was $477,845. Available inventory has risen and average time on market has recently taken longer than a year ago, yet prices have continued to rise.

Strong underlying fundamentals continue to drive our market strength: low interest rates continue, alternative mortgage models, strong job growth and professional economy, and lifestyle desirability of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Condos continue to be in demand due to demographic and age trends, second homes, investments/rentals, urban lifestyle movement, downsizing and simplifying, and continuation of having many singles or childless couples in the Seattle metro area. These large appreciation increases won’t continue forever, but current outlook for 2007 indicates a stable market with lower – but still positive – appreciation.

Now for the actual waterfront property sale price results of each local waterfront community for all of 2006. I have compiled all of this specific data for house and floating home properties (in west to east / north to south order), and at the end I have also provided general aggregate information for condominiums (since condo waterfront status is not as clearly tracked in the MLS as with houses) and vacant land.

Here’s a key to reading this data:
Number of houses from lowest to highest sale price, average list price / average actual sale price / average cost per square foot / average days on market.

NORTHWEST SEATTLE lakes: 6 from $350,000 – $994,000, list $625,408 / sale $634,667 / $285 sf / 113 days.

MAGNOLIA Sound: 2 from $899,000 – $1,500,000, list $1,224,500 / sale $1,199,500 / $1,087 sf / 261 days.

WEST SEATTLE Sound: 10 from $390,000 – $1,928,000, list $1,257,890 / sale $1,240,816 / $466 sf / 126 days.

BURIEN Sound and lakes: 11 from $250,000 to $1,300,000, list $914,350 / sale $840,277 / $339 sf / 160 days.

NORMANDY PARK Sound: 3 from $1,450,000 to $1,950,000, list $1,831,667 / sale $1,666,667 / $461 sf / 239 days.

DES MOINES Sound: 4 from $625,000 – $1,600,000, list $1,067,500 / sale $1,023,250 / $379 sf / 164 days.

FEDERAL WAY Sound and lakes: 11 from $302,500 – $1,770,000, list $719,400 / sale $698,209 / $268 sf / 134 days.

SEATTLE Lake Union houseboats: 17 from $158,500 to $1,385,000, list $514,135 / sale $484,300 / $466 sf / 108 days.

NORTHEAST SEATTLE Lake Washington: 13 from $940,000 – $4,250,000, list $2,761,531 / sale $2,619,692 / $642 sf / 80 days.

SOUTHEAST SEATTLE Lake Washington: 5 from $985,000 – $1,775,000, list $1,437,331 / sale $1,395,333 / $480 sf / 56 days.

MERCER ISLAND Lake Washington: 22 from $1,100,000 – $6,200,000, list $3,524,136 / sale $3,304,955 / $774 sf / 317 days.

KENMORE Lake Washington: 3 from $1,410,000 – $1,605,000, list $1,606,667 / sale $1,530,000 / $464 sf / 52 days.

KIRKLAND Lake Washington: 3 from $2,400,000 – $6,175,000, list $5,087,667 / sale $4,525,000 / $816 sf / 397 days.

HUNTS POINT Lake Washington: 10 from $2,100,000 – $8,700,000, list $5,362,600 / sale $5,113,834 / $1,179 sf / 353 days.
MEDINA Lake Washington: 9 from $2,570,000 – $15,000,000, list $6,309,889 / sale $6,093,889 / $1,191 sf / 308 days.

BELLEVUE Lake Washington: 13 from $1,300,000 – $4,300,000, list $2,906,077 / sale $2,709,064 / $649 sf / 166 days.

WEST LAKE SAMMAMISH: 18 from $930,000 – $7,600,000, list $2,220,417 / sale $2,192,483 / $516 sf / 98 days.

EAST LAKE SAMMAMISH: 9 from $1,199,000 – $2,100,000, list $1,722,444 / sale $1,683,000 / $600 sf / 91 days.

RENTON lakes: 18 from $495,950 – $2,645,000, list $894,461 / sale $881,775 / $292 sf / 98 days.

KENT lakes: 10 from $325,000 – $825,000, list $642,980 / sale $635,965 / $211 sf / 90 days.

AUBURN lakes: 4 from $349,950 – $690,000, list $496,975 / sale $494,738 / $258 sf / 59 days.

CONDOMINIUMS all local areas: list $506,773 / sale $496,207 / $371 sf / 61 days.

VACANT LAND all local areas: list $773,734 / sale $751,496 / 215 days.

To summarize all of the home sale price data above from all of the local waterfront communities:

Lowest: $158,500 (houseboat)
Highest: $15,000,000
Average: $1,806,860
Median: $1,187,000

Quite a year! Enjoy a WaterHaven. Our waterfront and waterview is the best in the world.

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Jan

9

I was recently contacted by a television show producer who occasionally asks me for ideas on our local communities. She has chosen Normandy Park as where she wants to film a show with two families competing to make their homes “greener” and more energy efficient; the show pays for all of the upgrades and remodel costs. Good deal! If you or someone you know might be a match, tell me about yourselves and I’ll make the introductions. Here is the concept description that the producer sent to me:

CASTING CALL: FAMILIES WHO WANT TO “GO GREEN”
The 2006 wind storm left many western Washington residents without power and influenced many New Year’s resolutions to include being aware of how much energy we really use and possibly abuse in our everyday lives. A renewed dedication to “go green” and reduce, reuse, recycle in 2007 is gaining momentum and Screaming Flea Productions is offering two local families the opportunity to do it on national TV!

The new program called “Green It Up!” will give two western Washington families an opportunity to explore their energy usage and will challenge them to green up their lifestyle with do-it-yourself home improvement projects we can all learn from. Each family will be given the resources to tackle projects, large and small, that will feature Earth-friendly materials, appliances, and concepts to be implemented and monitored over a month to see which home has improved the most. With rising energy costs, “Green It Up!” will show how families can save money AND the Earth’s precious resources at the same time.

DETAILS: We are looking for two families living in Normandy Park who would welcome a little green competition into their lives. Families with multiple children are preferable. Project materials/appliances for the show will be funded/provided by the production team.

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Jan

8

Good news that we will have local King County (Des Moines) state representative Dave Upthegrove to lead the Select Committee on Puget Sound. He was elected chair last month, and he will help bring south King County viewpoints to the table when deciding how to address Puget Sound clean-up and how to improve its longer term environmental health. There are a number of different legislative districts that border the sound, so it’s beneficial for us to have a local presence in the lead.

The initial goals for the committee are broad and far reaching, and as such may not get anywhere for a while as politics, budgets, and priorities get straightened out. However, these committees eventually define – or at least guide – new legislation and regulations which impact waterfront home owners. Bulkheads, septic system design and policies, new development, remodels, setbacks, vegetation, dock permitting, and many other topics can eventually be affected and existing regulations can be changed. Keep in contact with your local representatives and with Dave Upthegrove if you have opinions and feedback on how to best preserve the long term health of Puget Sound. It’s always a tricky balance between owner rights and our ecosystem’s health, so your inputs can help provide elected officials with a feel for “the local pulse”.

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Dec

18

Wanted to share the good news! For the second year in a row, Seattle Magazine has selected me for its Best In Client Satisfaction and 5 Star Real Estate Agent Awards. This award was determined by the independent research firm Crescendo Business Services. They surveyed 22,000 local real estate sellers and buyers, plus convened a blue ribbon panel, to select me for one of the area’s top real estate honors.

Sellers and buyers rated all area agents on nine criteria: customer service, communication, finding the right home, integrity, negotiation, marketing the home, market knowledge, closing preparation, and overall satisfaction. Then a panel of local industry experts, executives, and professional association representatives provided further inputs. The independent results demonstrated that I earned top marks in all areas, and was selected for this honor again.

This recent honor adds to my recent accreditations over the past few years, including Accredited Luxury Home Specialist, Accredited Buyer Representative, Relocation Specialist, Project Management Professional, and others.

I was also interviewed in the March 2006 issue of Seattle Magazine for an article about the local waterfront market, and have recently been consulted by several television shows and book authors.

Thank you very much to all my clients who participated in the independent survey and were an integral part in helping me win this award.

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Nov

30

The events of the Dalco Passage oil spill a couple years ago near Vashon Island may have got you thinking ‘what would I do if an oil spill were to occur in front of my own beach?’ To answer this question, I helped create an evening program for local waterfront home owners. Here are key points you need to know.

When a marine spill occurs, the creator of the spill is fully responsible for its clean-up. The Coast Guard is the official federal onsite coordinator and the Washington Department of Ecology plays a major supporting role. Their job is to ensure the spill is contained, collect evidence, conduct enforcement, and prevent recurrence.

One quart of oil can create an oil slick covering 2 acres of water. A spill in Puget Sound needs to be quickly contained to reduce damage to wildlife and your property. The experts recommend that if a spill occurs, waterfront home owners do the following:

  1. Report sightings of spills, sheens, or pollution in the water around your community (800-424-8802).
  2. Do not volunteer your services to help. While well meaning, it actually takes time away from the authorities in addressing the issue. The effort and personnel needed to train and coordinate civilians on the spot actually reduces critical reaction times and effectiveness for containment and clean-up. Further, professional spill remediation companies are usually called in.
  3. Allow access across your property from roads to beaches for emergency response personnel and clean-up crews.
  4. Provide local knowledge when response crews request information (access points, tides/currents, roads, local points of contact).

You can also join Northwest Watch. This is a local program of volunteer waterfront and waterview home owners who are willing to be called by the Coast Guard in the event of an on-water emergency. These home owners may be asked to relay on-location information such as the whereabouts of a vessel, flares in the air, progression of an oil spill, weather and visibility conditions, local communications, and local knowledge. A very worthwhile group, plus you get to be directly in the loop and receive information before the general public.

Summary notes, forum handouts, and web links to the organizations mentioned above are available at www.WaterHavens.com/stewardship/oilspillresponse.

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Nov

15

With my upcoming move to a new Blog format, I have archived my extensive list of waterfront community news collected for the years 2004-2006. Click here if you’d like to see some of the key local waterfront topics from during that time.

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Jan

1

The real estate market for 2006: The real estate market finished at an historically high pace last year; 2005’s average local price appreciation was over 1% per month. The market is starting to cool its rate of appreciation as we begin 2006 due to slightly rising interest rates, part of the market demand having been met, and concerns about high prices among both the media and buyers. That is a very healthy sign actually, and one that I have predicted. The huge increases could not realistically continue forever. Our area’s ongoing real estate drivers are still here and are doing a good job of keeping us out of “real estate price bubble” territory. Those drivers include: an ongoing net inflow of people, lack of easily accessible buildable land, very high desirability and livability of the Seattle area, and ongoing economic recovery with continued job growth. The result is that the inventory is still decent (though there is still demand for more), but multi-offer and quick-buy situations have been steadily dwindling.

The market dynamics between buyer and seller are becoming more balanced than the ongoing seller’s market we have had recently. High end homes have also been tending to sit on the market longer and need to have realistic price expectations on both sides of the transaction, with average days on market rising over the past few months. Current indicators point to another solid year for both sellers and buyers. The rate of appreciation should be in line with more normal single digit percentage price increases. Desirable realistically priced homes continue to sell well, and overpriced homes are sitting longer on the market.

Waterfront market recap: For our local Puget Sound and Lake Washington area waterfront homes market during the period October 1st through December 31, 2005:

Houses: Median sale price $1,650,000; Price range $331,000 – $7,000,000; Number sold 36; Average sale/listing price percentage 93%; Average days on market 156.

Condos: Median sale price $299,889; Price range $68,500 – $1,350,000; Number sold 38; Average sale/listing price percentage 98%; Average days on market 65.

Floating homes: Median sale price $632,000; Price range $425,000 – $1,303,000; Number sold 4; Average sale/listing price percentage 104%; Average days on market 21.

King County market: Median home prices for the general real estate market in King County recently rose to near $393,000, with the average price above that. The condominium market continues to outperform in terms of demand, although the price increases have still been lower than regular residential homes in general. The high end condo market has really taken off, with both an increase in supply and demand for excellent view properties in areas such as downtown Seattle. Condos have become big draws for first time home buyers, empty nesters, retirees, investors, and people with renewed interest in urban living or second homes, all fueling the demand. Outlying counties such as Kitsap have recently been experiencing the highest gains in Washington state, attributed to rising interest in second homes, growing economic bases, increasing numbers of retirees, increases in the number of telecommuters and long distance commuters, and interest in lower priced housing as compared to more expensive central counties such as King.

How homes are bought and sold today: A national NAR survey taken among a huge sample of all recent home purchasers showed that:

  • Properties sold through real estate professionals earn sellers a 16% higher price, on average, than for the same homes sold through FSBOs (For Sale By Owner properties). 90% of buyers use a real estate professional and FSBOs have been on a continuing decline since peaking in 1997. The majority of FSBOs that actually fully complete a sale are between parties who knew each other in advance or buyers who went direct
    to builders.
  • A record 77% of buyers now use real estate Internet sites as part of their search.
  • The typical buyer walked through 9 properties, searched for 8 weeks, and moved 12 miles from their prior residence.
  • The typical seller had their home on the market for 4 weeks, had lived in it for 6 years, moved 15 miles, and previously owned 3 homes including the one just sold.

Luxury home sellers: When selling a waterfront home, it is important to understand many key aspects of potential buyers. We at Windermere have recently completed our annual study of local luxury home buyers. Detailed results include their occupations, backgrounds, housing preferences, and especially the most effective contact / selling methods for this niche group. This terrific information is available to all of my listings in formulating a targeted and successful marketing strategy.

Local news: The orcas have finally received endangered species status protections, and the Seattle City Council has endorsed wide ranging plans to help improve salmon populations. On the regulatory front, Seattle has tentatively approved the expansion of stream/wetland development buffers, and incentives (not requirements) for daylighting
of covered creeks is being considered for the permit process. State ferries have had a number of security measures implemented, and a system-wide ferry toll increase is predicted for May.

Shoreline Property Owners & Contractors Association: A new organization is now ramping up called SPOCA. It is primarily led by contractors looking to change the waterfront building permit processes by reducing “inconsistent or indefensible” restrictions; they are reaching out to homeowners with shared interests and concerns. You can learn more at www.spoca.org.

Awards: I was recently named 5 Star Real Estate Agent and Winner of Best In Client Satisfaction by Seattle Magazine. An independent research firm surveyed local recent home buyers and evaluated every agent on nine criteria: customer service, communication, finding the right home, integrity, negotiation, marketing the home,
market knowledge, closing preparation, and overall satisfaction. Before finalizing the top picks, a blue-ribbon industry panel evaluated every nominated real estate professional, and I made the final cut. I look forward to the opportunity to personally show you why I earned these awards. I set myself apart, and the results speak for themselves in obtaining the h
ighest price for my sellers and the most personalized experience for my buyers. You can read client testimonials on WaterHavens.com.

Accreditations: I have also added to my accreditations over the past year. Already an Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR) and Project Management Professional (PMP), I am now fully certified as an Accredited Luxury Home Specialist (ALHS) and Certified Relocation Specialist. This education and experience is important for representing the sellers and buyers of luxury homes, plus I have the tools available for meeting the needs of people relocating to and from the Seattle area. I am continually expanding my repertoire, techniques, and knowledge to best serve the needs of my waterfront and waterview seller and buyer clients.

Share the blog: If you found this blog informative, please pass it along to your neighbors and friends.

I look forward to helping you purchase the WaterHaven of your dreams, or helping you sell a wonderful WaterHaven. My experience will get you the best price in the shortest time using the most cutting edge and specialized techniques that truly raise the bar in highest quality services.

Enjoy a WaterHaven! Our waterfront is the best in the world.

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Feb

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Update for Lake Washington waterfront owners: the King County bulkhead softening grant program just received its funding, and they have decided on a path forward. There will be two focus groups in February-March to determine current attitudes, concerns, and acceptance of softened gravel bulkheads that control erosion while improving fish habitat. Then in April two initial grants will be provided to two home owners: one for $20,000 and the other for $10,000. Contact me if you would like further info and would like to be included for consideration on this grant. It’s a great opportunity to improve your landscaping while also improving your habitat.

The general market is still hot hot hot. For 2004, there are some interesting tidbits out there. The number of $1,000,000+ home sales in the general Puget Sound region rose a whopping 55% over 2003. In King County, there were 762 single family homes and 44 condos that sold for prices over that benchmark. Also, the total number of all homes sold rose 11%, while the total dollar volume jumped 31.5%. Condos are very much in demand and seemingly a growing part of the real estate market due to baby boomer effects, downsizing, lifestyle changes, and second home purchases; 19% more condos sold last year than in 2003. With an improving economy and better job availability, still historically low interest rates, increasing populations, and limited supply of both land and homes, the demand continues. I recommend planning for a cooling period later this year, although there are still few tangible indicators of any price bubbles (due to continuing affordability relative to incomes, plus ongoing demand relative to supply) and few immediate indicators of price softening.

For the local WaterHavens waterfront market in December-January: house sales ranged from a fixer on Renton’s Lake Desire for $155,000 to a $8,400,000 sale in Seattle’s Madison Park on Lake Washington and another $8,400,000 sale in Hunts Point also on Lake Washington. For waterfront condos, sold properties ranged from $118,500 on Swan Lake in Redmond to $1,799,000 in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood on Lake Washington. One floating home slip sold for $55,000, and vacant land ranged from $149,950 on East Lake Sammamish to $235,000 on SeaTac’s Angle Lake. There are currently 186 waterfront WaterHavens available in our local area, and even more water view and water access WaterHavens. Inventory is low, so it’s a great time to sell if you’re thinking about it. For buyers, the inventory should be picking up again over the next couple months as the market picks up again and the weather starts to make people think more about living near the water..

There has been quite a bit of recent activity regarding the downtown Seattle waterfront. An initial decision has been made to replace the viaduct with a tunnel; the project would incorporate new waterfront public space, parks, and beach access. Also, a long section of Elliott Bay’s rip rap seawall is being repaired and an attempt to create a waterfront residential/commercial community at Terminal 46 was officially nixed and the lease of the current tenants was extended.

In local neighborhoods: the ongoing controversy over rails-to-trails conversion behind Lake Sammamish waterfront property owners came to a decision point in favor of the trail project moving ahead. Also on Lake Sammamish, the state park is proposing major changes and expansions centered around the waterfront facilities and access points for the public. And in Magnolia the proposed development of the Navy’s land in Discovery Park was nixed in favor of a land swap with a development company, thus increasing the size of the park.

That’s the latest from the world of WaterHavens. If I can ever be of assistance you or your friends, family, and neighbors, please let me know any time.

Enjoy a WaterHaven! Our waterfront is the best in the world.

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Nov

1

Ahoy there! Hopefully you are securing your summer toys and transitioning to the season of watching your winter views from the coziness of your fireplace. WaterHavens are always great year around…

There are some interesting new financial grant programs available to waterfront/view home owners and their communities in King County. For instance, Lake Washington home owners can receive $10,000 to put toward the cost of replacing their bulkheads with a sloped gravel beach. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a grant program for private owners of large rural land tracts who will improve fish habitat on their property; they’ll give you up to $50,000. There is also an Urban Environment Program that will provide your community up to $40,000 for habitat restoration in your neighborhood. Contact me for information on any of these programs for waterfront home owners.

October was another strong month for the general residential real estate market. For King County: the pending number of sales rose 2.32% from October of last year, median price rose from $290,974 to $325,000, average days on market declined from 54 to 46. The ongoing “seller’s market” is still here. While demand is still high due to the factors I have discussed in previous newsletters, the local inventory levels have dropped 18.8% from last year. That accounts for a significant difference in the supply & demand curves. As I’ve been noting, this has definitely reflected itself in certain local waterfront communities having significantly fewer homes to choose from.

With the upcoming holiday seasons fast approaching, activity levels tend to decrease significantly over the next couple months. However, with the current market dynamics, if you are considering selling or buying it would still benefit you to stay in the market over the next couple months before activity levels pick up again in January. For sellers, there is still high demand for market priced properties (overpriced properties still sit without offers, as usual). For buyers, you will likely have fewer competing buyers to contend with and potentially more time to evaluate properties before they get grabbed by other buyers.

In the local WaterHavens market: single family homes ranged from a fixer for $124,950 on Kent’s Panther Lake to $5,375,000 on Mercer Island, condos ranged from $117,000 on Redmond’s Swan Lake to $1,069,000 on Lake Washington in Kirkland, floating homes ranged from $67,900 to $551,000, and one vacant lot sold for $250,000 (2 vacant floating home slips also sold for $58,000 and $265,000). There are 233 waterfront properties available on the local market at this time.

For tram and walk-down home fans, there’s a new tram company in the local market: MunsonWorks. You can contact owner Eric Munson at www.MunsonWorks.com or 866-WHY-HIKE.

The big story last month that grabbed national attention was the oil spill in south Puget Sound’s Dalco Passage. Locally, this event generated concerns over the slow response in containing the spill, brought attention to the relatively small amount of infrastructure and materials that would be available if a larger spill occurred, and worried local waterfront residents since their offers to provide volunteer cleanup help were appreciated but rebuffed nonetheless. The culprit is still officially undetermined, although the focus is now tightening on an old tanker owned by Polar Tankers.

In local waterfront news, Metropolitan King County Council’s approved Critical Areas Ordinance has been very controversial for rural landowners in unincorporated areas of the county. The new regulations, which are aimed at improving – or at least maintaining – both local and regional wildlife habitat and watershed quality, would pose new restrictions on owners of properties that are near streams, rivers, lakes, and other wetlands. Depending upon lot size and other parameters, owners of rural land are required to maintain 50-65% of land in native vegetation when the rest gets developed, and it requires larger setback/buffer areas around wetlands. It is a classic disagreement of community environmental issues versus individual property rights, and there is currently an organized effort to challenge it both in the court system and via referendums. Stay tuned for further developments…

In other news, Bellevue’s Newport Shores community is moving forward with a settlement of getting old sediment cleaned up on its shores by Lake Washington, ferry system security has been increased, and Seattle has officially acquired the beautiful West Point Lighthouse at the western tip of Magnolia’s Discovery Park. See WaterHavens.com for more information on these topics, other news, and upcoming events.

Enjoy a WaterHaven! Our waterfront is the best in the world.

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