Jan

31

As football fans everywhere look forward to a Seattle Seahawks/Denver Broncos Super Bowl, real estate experts are again pitting the two cities against each other in terms of their burgeoning real estate markets. Yes, it’s time for a hard-fought Real Estate Super Bowl.

Last year, Seattle dominated categories like median household income and education level. 58% of Seattleites over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, versus 45% of Denver residents. The teams were almost neck-and-neck in population (612,916 for Seattle; 604,356 for Denver) and average square footage (1622 for Seattle, 1671 for Denver). Forty-nine extra square feet doesn’t equate to a lot of yardage for Denver, but the Mile-High City did surge ahead in categories like average lot size (6250 vs. Seattle’s 5500) and number of homes for sale near the city’s football stadium (299 vs. Seattle’s 194). It was indeed a close contest overall.

This year will be another close call. According to projections, Denver’s “players” move the fastest—the median number of days a home spends on the market is just 18 days in Denver, vs. 32 in Seattle. Seattle, however, has the most valuable players, if you measure value in terms of a home’s selling price: Seattle’s average home price is $285,849, compared to $259,000 for Denver. Seattle also has significantly more veteran players—it has a higher ratio of existing homes on the market compared to new construction. This kind of matchup should make for a riveting Real Estate Super Bowl. Who will come out ahead?

To make an accurate prediction, it’s necessary to look beyond figures and investigate more subjective categories. Seattle leads in two such areas: coaching staff and home-field advantage. Seattle’s superior coaching staff consists of real estate agents who are deeply knowledgeable and totally committed to finding buyers the home of their dreams.

Seattle’s home-field advantage is equally impressive. While the football Super Bowl is taking place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the Real Estate Super Bowl takes place on the home field of each competing city, and the Seattle waterfront home field is considerably more appealing than Denver’s. Ocean views and a wide variety of bay and lakeside homes put the Emerald City decisively ahead. Only in Seattle can home buyers find stunning properties overlooking Puget Sound, and amazing waterfront houses bordering Lake Washington and the other breathtaking bodies of water that dot the Seattle metro area. This is going to be the game clincher for Seattle.

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Nov

21

If anyone were to tell you that the greater Seattle metropolitan area doesn’t have a thriving waterfront community, all you would have to do to prove them wrong is mention the new housing projects that are on their way. The fact is, among Seattle’s many biggest attractions and perks, the city’s proximity to water features like Lake Washington and Puget Sound is a huge boon. Homeowners in the area have plenty to appreciate about the lively nature of the waterfront, including a wide variety of quality parks, shops, restaurants, gardens, and one of a kind landmarks and features. Fortunately, the development of new housing makes it possible for more people to enjoy one of the best things Seattle has to offer.

Upcoming Housing Projects

The two major housing projects in Seattle include a seven-story apartment building and a 16-story residential building, both on picturesque waterfront sites. It’s important to note that the location of the seven-story building was just recently the home of one of the oldest businesses in Seattle. Known as Argens Safe and Lock Company, the business has been in operation since 1880, founded by immigrant Henry Argens. Fortunately, it’s a unique opportunity to live in a fantastic location that residents simply didn’t have access to for more than 100 years.

The Housing Plans

Following the decision to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a 26-block promenade, real estate developers weren’t far behind with interest in capitalizing on the newfound opportunity. The companies in charge of these two new waterfront home projects are Goodman Real Estate and Mack Urban. The two developers aren’t strangers to waterfront property development, with Goodman having leased a building of 16 stories that was fully leased within seven months after completion. For the upcoming project, Goodman is planning to tear down the mid-20th century Argens building to allow for construction of brand new apartments, mostly one bedroom units.

Preparing for the Future

What does all of this mean for people interested in waterfront property in the Seattle area? It means that now is a great time to look into finding some space there, because demand is sure to be high. For those who have always thought about buying a home on the waterfront, leasing a unit in an upcoming waterfront residential building is a good way to test it out and see how you like it. The whole affair is also indicative of the fact that Seattle is continuously rebuilding itself, with old buildings and developments making way for new ones. For better or worse, the Seattle waterfront scene keeps changing, bringing with it plenty of attractive opportunities for new experiences.

In the end, the seven-story project at 80 S. Main St. and the 16-story project at 1301 Western Ave. represent the potential to enjoy features in a location that you couldn’t have come by until now. You can rest assured that the waterfront community in Seattle continues to evolve, thrive, and eventually, to reinvent itself in new and exciting ways.

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Jan

7

A precedent setting dispute and complicated situation for property rights just came to a close. On one side of the dispute was the owner (a former American League baseball player) of a Clyde Hill home who wanted his view of Lake Washington and Seattle improved by having the trees on his neighbors’ property cut down. On the other side of the dispute were the owners of the adjoining property and trees; they wanted to keep their trees (which had been there long before the other neighbor purchased his home). The unique factor: Clyde Hill has a 1991 view obstruction and tree removal ordinance in place.

The view-desiring neighbors had law on their side. The tree-owning neighbors had property rights and 50 year old pre-existing trees on their side. In the end, law won. However, the view-desiring neighbors had to pay about $63,000 to remove and replace the trees, although a professional appraisal found that the improved view will increase the market value of their $4 million home by $255,000. So, it was a good return on investment for resale, if not for neighbor relations.

In the end, it does demonstrate the value of our area’s gorgeous water views, and what people will do to get it or keep it.

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Mar

24

Since we participate in the Windermere Premier Properties program for our listings, we have just received a copy of the Windermere Premier Properties 2010 Luxury Home Market Report that I can share with you.

It is an interesting read. Though not specific to waterfront properties, the price range tends to include many of the local higher end waterfront sales. 2010 improved somewhat over 2009 for properties in the $1 Million+ price ranges, and I have seen further improvement continue into 2011. Prices are not necessarily going back up yet, but market activity is increasing as buyers are coming off the sidelines to purchase well priced quality homes.

Windermere Premier Properties

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Jul

10

You know there’s something “over the top” when the sale of a waterfront home makes the front page lead story of the Seattle Times… The 23,000 square foot Mercer Island waterfront home of the Lytles (founders of Leisure Care retirement community chain) finally sold after 6 years on the market and eventually being put up for auction (though not a foreclosure auction). The original $40 Million asking price was always overpriced, even in the go-go heyday of a few years ago. It was a classic case of asking too much in the beginning and continually chasing the market down, never getting ahead of the actual market value and market trends to make it truly in sync with real buyers. If it had been priced right initially they would have sold much quicker and they would have received a higher sales price.

The home sold – to the owner of the Video Only electronics stores chain – for the auction’s minimum bid of $12 Million. It is set up with grand spaces, indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, large dock and waterfrontage, great views, and all the details you would expect in a $12M waterfront home. Mr. Edwards will be having some great parties soon!

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Aug

10

Bill Virgin, the Seattle PI’s veteran business reporter, recently wrote an interesting article about area economic development efforts behind capitalizing on community waterfront locations. His article’s opening remarks are worth repeating. The concept certainly applies to individual waterfront homes as well as large scale waterfront community development:

“Our ancestors may have crawled out of the water millions of years ago, but we haven’t traveled far since then. Even in our present, highly evolved form, if we’re not playing on or in the water, then we like to live, dine or work next to water, or just spend a lot of time staring at water.

No denying it, water still holds considerable allure for humans. People flock to cities on water. And when humans want something that is in relatively finite supply, then its value goes up.”

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Apr

1

King County market: The 2005 King County Annual Growth Report was just released, which included historical data related to the status of our housing market. Some of the interesting findings: about 50,000 of the 85,000 jobs lost in the 2001-2003 downturn have been replaced, in year 2000 there were 742,000 housing units in the county (95,000 more than in 1990), the county population was 1,808,300 in April 2005 (only 34,000 more than 3 years before and the smallest population increase since 1983), county households have among the nation’s highest average incomes, and the majority of new plats/lots in 2004 were created in towns east and southeast of Lake Washington. In the recent market, there is still a continuing good supply of buyers and multiple offer situations are still being seen due to low amount of available inventory, as a result prices continue to rise on strong demand.

New waterfront homes book: Prolific waterfront writer and photographer Linda Leigh Paul has just released her new book “Island Living: Inland Retreats and Shoreside Havens“. Great writing and photography that includes many unique waterfront homes and waterview oriented architecture.

Seattle Magazine feature: I was featured in the March issue of Seattle Magazine as one of Seattle metro’s top waterfront specialists.

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

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Dec

1

Have you checked out the Christmas Ships around Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Sound this year? Definitely worth a look, especially the December 23rd finale with the Best Decorated Boat Contest at Gasworks Park on Lake Union. Come bundle up and watch the festive sights at the different locations. It’s a great way to enjoy your WaterHaven, or visit someone else’s!

In local waterfront news, proposed land use regulations still dominate the talk among local rural WaterHaven owners. Both the Critical Areas Ordinance and a new ruling related to federal flood insurance / salmon protection have stirred up the debate something fierce. Petition drives and court cases are underway opposing restrictions on property usage, while other local organizations are educating people about environmental and community benefits. This should be interesting to watch…

Also, a team of divers discovered a World War II era fighter plane in the bottom of Lake Washington; certainly a more intriguing find than the usual array of old anchors and lawn furniture. If you haven’t mustered the time or courage to take up diving around our waterways, I highly recommend it. The lakes can be interesting, but the life teeming along the shores of the Sound are especially fascinating and world class. Yes it’s rather cold, but modern wetsuits or – even better – drysuits can keep you warm enough for your short explorations into inner space. Check out the Activities section of WaterHavens.com for a listing of local scuba clubs to get you started.

Unlike normal holiday trends, the real estate market is still very active right now. Last month saw new highs, available inventory has declined 18% from last year, and there are more buyers than sellers out there. Accordingly, prices have risen and time on market has declined. Some of the better priced properties are still moving very fast. For the November general King County market, the average residential closed sales price was $399,464 (as compared to $368,496 for November 2003) and the average condo sales price was $238,508 ($223,735 for November 2003). Average time on market has shortened from 61 days to 49 days.

In the WaterHavens waterfront market, house sales ranged from a Federal Way walk-down home on the Sound for $299,950 to a Mercer Island Lake Washington home for $5,250,000, condo sales ranged from $145,000 for a Redmond condo on Lake Sammamish to a Kirkland Lake Washington condo for $900,000, and floating home sales ranged from $135,000 to $1,135,000. Waterfront and water view inventory is down across the board, but that is usual for this time of year and is amplified by the still hot market plus excellent interest rates. There are currently 216 waterfront WaterHavens available in our local area, and even more water view and water access WaterHavens.

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

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Oct

1

Last month’s issue went on summer vacation with me (kayaking trip, staying at B&Bs; in seaside towns, exploring WaterHaven communities), but we’re back now.

In local waterfront news, the big stories have included controversy and possible government intervention in a 1 mile shoreline mining operation on Vashon-Maury island, proposals for state legislation of hillside tram inspections, addition of Wi-Fi on selected ferries and new passenger ferry routes, Seattle’s waterfront Olympic Sculpture park is underway, and a state validation to go ahead with replacing Seattle’s waterfront viaduct. See WaterHavens.com for more info on these and other waterfront stories.

The real estate market continues on at a juggernaut pace. In a complete turn of usual events, mortgage interest rates actually decreased after the Fed raised their rates, and have risen only a bit since. Lots of factors there, including a mix of indeterminate financial indicators plus financial institutions wanting to maintain the high pace of loan transactions. The King County market is maintaining a similar level of sales as compared to last year and also prior recent months, and the usual end of summer activity drop-off appears to be less than usual. King County average days on market dropped significantly from 56 to 44 days, and the median price rose significantly to about $330,000. We are in a “seller’s market”, where there is an imbalance between supply (less) and demand (more). Even more amazing, a wide range of experts from many different organizations all agree that there still does not appear to be the characteristics in place for a housing price bubble to burst. Improving economic indicators, low interest rates/payments, and steadily increasing demand are all supportive of continued positive market activity. Of course, I always recommend being conservative in your real estate appreciation projections and let the extra upside potential be a “cherry on top”.

The higher end waterfront market continues to be very strong, and many local waterfront communities are getting fairly picked over at this point in the year. Waterfront-heavy regions such as San Juan County and Island County have led the entire state in year-over-year price increases.

For the months of August and September, local waterfront house final sale prices ranged from $205,000 on Auburn’s Dolloff Lake to $9,000,000 for a Lake Washington home in Seattle. For certain areas of waterfront condominiums, prices ranged from $124,950 for a complex in Des Moines to $755,000 for a condo on the Alki strip in West Seattle. For floating homes, sales ranged from $363,500 to $633,500. Two waterfront duplexes were sold on Alki Beach, at $600,000 and $925,000. And for vacant waterfront land, finalized sales ranged from $100,000 on Auburn’s Dolloff Lake to $1,300,000 on Lake Washington in Bellevue’s Enatai community.

For a fascinating look at the state of our local luxury WaterHaven communities, contact me for a copy of our in depth review of the luxury home market from the first half of 2004. It shows how strong the upper end market has been in 2004, outpacing prior years very significantly in many cases. The desirability and ongoing investment value of WaterHaven communities shines through in this report.

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

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Aug

1

Our wonderful WaterHaven weather continues, making it still part of the best time to either buy or sell waterfront property. Demand tends to peak in the Spring and continue into the Summer as people think about the outdoor waterfront lifestyle and also families plan for moves during the Summer between school years.

WaterHaven inventory turnover is holding up well and the total number of properties are remaining fairly consistent over the past few months. However, some neighborhoods are getting picked over without much replacement of new listings, so the selection in some areas is getting tight. The importance of proper pricing is also apparent with some properties that have been sitting on the market quite a while now. Fairly priced WaterHavens sell well and quickly.
The general real estate market continues to hum along at a very strong pace, with year-over-year appreciation of 11.5% for the median priced home in King County. The factors that I discussed last month are contributing strongly to this. This upward pressure has helped WaterHavens, in that their prices are relatively more “reasonable” than before and people who had not considered WaterHavens are now doing so. WaterHavens are also moving upwards at a good pace, though not as fast as the median since they tend to have top end price ceiling pressures that exist above a community’s median.

There continues to be a lot of media discussion and focus on the investment potential of waterfront properties and also second homes, which of course only helps power the WaterHaven market. The cover story for Kiplinger Magazine’s August edition featured the above market investment returns attainable from WaterHavens, emphasizing how the investment can be enjoyed while making money on it by buying and selling. The Seattle Times just ran a feature story emphasizing the investment returns people have received on second homes, especially those that are WaterHavens. Recent books such as “How A Second Home Can Be Your Best Investment” are also powering the growing second home phenomenon, which is of course primarily fueled by recent real estate market gains. I always caution my clients to not rely upon the gains of the past 5+ years to continue indefinitely, and make sure that you can absorb both market bumps and rate increases if you use an adjustable rate mortgage. In my opinion, I’d rather have a nicer local WaterHaven so that I could enjoy a waterfront vacation every day, and only then move on to also purchasing a vacation home elsewhere. One higher end mortgage / property is certainly easier to handle than two lesser mortgages at properties located far from each other. But, I’m a big believer that it’s hard to get better than our local waterfront with its wonderful mix of beauty, location, and amenities.

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

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