Progress Report: 2015 National Housing Market

neighborhoodIn the years since the housing crash, economists have kept a close watch on the housing market, as it is a significant indicator of the overall health of the U.S. economy. The huge number of foreclosed properties that flooded the market after the bubble burst created a buyer’s market across most of the country with historically low prices, but many owners are now coming out from underwater on their mortgages and are seeking market rate when selling their homes. With fewer “distressed” properties on the market, lack of affordable inventory has become as issue across much of the country, and the median prices for homes in some markets, such as San Jose, Calif., and Denver, Colo., have surpassed their previous peaks. RealtyTrac reports that the number of foreclosed homes actually increased in January of this year, but it is too early to tell whether that will have an influence on getting more inventory on the market.

RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said in a press release that getting more inventory on the market is crucial, and he predicts that the supply situation will improve slightly in 2015. “I think we’ll see numbers tick up. It’s kind of a seesaw right now between supply and demand. One of the reasons 2014 saw fewer sales [was] not so much lack of demand but lack of supply, especially in the price range the majority of buyers were looking for,” Blomquist said in the release. While low supply is fueling a rise in prices, consumers have also seen their incomes increase at a much slower rate than home prices, making purchasing a home further out of reach. According to RealtyTrac,the median price for a home in the U.S. grew by 17.3 percent over the past two years, whereas the median weekly wage increased by a mere 1.3 percent. Home price appreciation outpaced wage growth in 76 markets in the U.S. in that time period, most dramatically in California, which saw home prices grow by a 141:1 ratio over wages.

Industry experts are cautiously optimistic about the market during the remainder of the year. With national inventory of existing homes is sitting at a five-month supply, with some regional inventories much lower (Seattle is hovering around a two-month supply, and some neighborhoods have even fewer homes available), prices continue to rise. Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Auction.com, told RealtyTrac that “Until these situations change, low inventory will keep sales relatively flat, and keep prices relatively high.”

If you are interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

 

4-Star SLS Hotel Graces Seattle

seattle nowOriginated in Los Angeles, the SLS Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel owned by Hollywood tycoon, Sam Nazarian, founder and CEO of the SBE Entertainment Group. Dubbed as the “King of the Night”, Nazarian is responsible for some of the hottest clubs (Create, Greystone Manor, Emerson, Hyde, MyHouse), restaurants (Katsuya, The Bazaar, XIV) and hotels (the SLS Hotels in Beverly Hills, South Beach, and Las Vegas). Creating his very own hotel empire, he has set his sights on expanding the luxury hotel chain to the Bahamas, Philadelphia, four properties in China, two locations in New York and lastly, but most importantly, the SLS Hotel will be coming to Seattle in Spring 2016.

Behind the SLS masterpiece stands a trifecta of men, comprised of owner Sam Nazarian, French-designer Philippe Starck, and James Beard Award-winning chef, José Andrés. These men operate at such a level excellence that joining forces in creating a hotel brand known for its style, luxury, and service, was clearly a no-brainer. They have already established quite the reputation, which is why it’ll be interesting to see what they feel the SLS Seattle should encompass in order to capture the hearts of the notoriously cold Pacific Northwesterners.

Philippe Starck, excited about the expansion to the Emerald City, feels Seattle is “a city of science and city of nature,” he told Marc Stiles in an interview for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Monday through Friday, people “create the future in science and on the weekends they hug trees.” As much of a generalization that is, he isn’t entirely off. Seattle effortlessly sits pretty between these two worlds. A hub for information and technology companies like Amazon, Google, and F5 Networks, Seattle also attracts outdoors enthusiasts to its gorgeous mountainous terrain and acres of uncharted territory.

Just as Seattle has become the mecca for hikers and tech-geeks alike, the 44-story Fifth + Columbia tower offers a seemingly contradictory exterior design – a 44-story contemporary silhouette is paired alongside a church sanctuary.  The structural collaboration has promise to effortlessly settle into a city that doesn’t overlook its history in exchange for progress. The First United Methodist Church which was sold with the property, will remain the same on the exterior as an ode to its important history, whereas the interior of the church will be re-purposed as a restaurant, ballroom and conference center for the SLS Hotel.

To Starck, “the most interesting thing is not the [high rise]. It is not the church. It is the mix of both,” which is so much of what Seattle is – a mix of contradictions that supports one another as if they are the same. For Starck, there isn’t a standardized formula he applies to every hotel he designs. Rather, he looks at each new location individually and focuses on creating an environment where people “will be at their best, will be uplifted, will be more sexy, more intelligent, more creative, more sparkling, more in love.”  Who isn’t on board for feeling smart, sexy and in love? Can we move in?

Going beyond the design of the four-star hotel, the SLS Seattle will offer 30,000 square feet of a José Andrés dining concept is sure to flood your mouth with flavor. Los Angeles Times’ food critic, S. Irene Virbila, described the food experience at The Bazaar, Andrés’ restaurant in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, as, “Fellini-esque, a gastronomical circus, a flirtation with the flavors and soul of Spain.” She continued, “Los Angeles has never seen anything remotely like this exciting restaurant,” and she was right. Six years after Virbila’s bold words, a simple “Best Restaurants in Los Angeles” google search will come up with pages of lists all with The Bazaar still sitting at the top. So the question is, is Seattle’s foodie culture ready for José Andrés?

With the magnifying glass hovering over the Pacific Northwest, there is no question Seattle is emerging as one of the nation’s hot spots. Running with the cool-kids can come at a cost; for growing cities that generally means tearing down the old in exchange for the shiny and new. Fortunately masterminds, Nazarian, Starck, and Andrés saw the beauty in the conflicting architecture of an old church, a new skyscraper and wanted to incorporate a piece of Seattle’s history into its trendsetting future. A trend hopefully Seattleites can jump on board with.

 

For more information about the SLS Hotel Seattle

 

 

The Seattle Times To Host Forum On Affordable Housing

seattle nowWith home prices and rents in Seattle continually rising, housing affordability has been a hot topic among residents, city council members, and the media alike. On March 31, The Seattle Times’ business reporter Sanjay Bhatt will host a forum addressing how wages, policy, and costs intersect to create Seattle’s complex and ever-changing housing landscape. The event, titled “Priced Out: The Struggle for an Affordable Seattle”, is free, but space is limited, so make sure to register in advance if you’d like to attend.

The event’s featured speakers include Skylar Olsen, chief economist at Zillow; David Rolf, president of Service Employees International Union 775; Jake McKinstry, principal at Spectrum Development Solutions; and Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin.

Event Details: “Priced Out: The Struggle for an Affordable Seattle”

Location: Kane Hall at the University of Washington, 4069 Spokane Ln.

Date: Tuesday, March 31

Time 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Register here: http://livewire.seattletimes.com/

7 Tips To Prepare You to Sell Your Home

Madrona Home KL

Ladies and Gentleman, the House is back on the Market!

Like a freshly single twenty-something with a new hair style, a little black dress, and a recent appreciation for the gym – here is your seller’s to-do list to spiff up your crib and attract some lookers. Now we’re talking!

1. Mentally & Emotionally Remove Yourself

When preparing to sell your home, the first step is mentally and emotionally separating yourself from your home. A home is a place holder for a human – that is all. Just like any other transaction, a home is something you purchased, as you would a car, a phone, or a t-shirt – there comes a time to let those things go. Take a moment to honor your time in the home, say your goodbyes to each room, and allow yourself to sit with the idea of the home no longer being yours. You’re moving on to a new chapter and it’s time to look towards the future, not wallow in the past.

2. Pack up those Pictures

You’ve shed your tears, said your goodbyes, and taken a moment to cherish the time spent within those walls. Now it’s time to pack up those memories and clear the space so new memories can be made. Would you be able to envision yourself with someone if you walked into their place and there were photos of their ex still up? It would kind of derail your daydreams of life with them, wouldn’t it? The same goes for house-hunters. When they walk into your home, they should be able to see themselves building a life there, not wondering about the life of current tenants.

3. Check that Curb Appeal, Homie!

External appearance isn’t everything, but you want to catch their eye. If they like what they see from the curb, chances are they will be knocking at the front door.  So, mow that lawn, trim those bushes, and keep the sidewalk clean. Also, make sure visitors are able to easily identify your home address.

4. Dump the Junk, Cut the Clutter, and Organize Closets and Cabinets

laurelhurst11

You’re in the game now. You’ve mentally moved out, the space is ready for new life and memories, and the exterior of the home is attracting interested candidates. It’s time to de-clutter, check that baggage (or trash it?) and rearrange the closets.

Buyers want to know what their seeing is what they are getting – they will do their job (a.k.a. snooping around) to make sure the image is consistent with what’s hiding behind those closet doors. Make sure your home isn’t just for show – it truly is what is seems – a dream home for that potential buyer.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you haven’t used it in over a year, chances are you aren’t going to need it. Create three piles to ignite the process:

To sell, to keep, to donate. GO!

5. Don’t be a Tease

If you have items you love and plan to take with you, take them down before showing the home. This is important for the overall happiness of both the buyer and the seller.  If that show-stopping chandelier is making the move with you, don’t let your prospective buyers lay their eyes on it. A buyer could easily fall in love with it and use the fact it isn’t in the deal, for leverage.  Don’t let them know what they are missing out on. If necessary, replace the items with cheaper models.

6. Repair, Renew, Reinvent

This one takes a little elbow grease, but the concept is simple: make your house sparkle.

Fix the leaky faucet, re-caulk showers and tubs, paint any loud walls in a warm neutral color, patch holes in the walls and do any other work that would leave a potential buyer on the fence. The little things matter, so replace linens and dingy rugs, bleach the title grout, and grease those squeaky door jams. Give the bathrooms a spa treatment with candles, some greenery and fresh towels fastened with bows. Oh, you fancy! Also, pay attention to smells – this hugely impacts our memory and no one wants to be remembered as the smelly house.

7. Final Touches

Pretend you are the buyer from start to finish. That’s right, get out on the curb and take a step-by-step walk-through of your home as if you are the buyer. Is the home inviting? How does it make you feel? Are the pictures hung evenly? Does that bed-spread need replacing? Would the front yard fare better with some bright flowers? Try to work from an objective point of view and write down anything you need to change or rearrange.

Home Prices Up 6% Over Year In King County

renton homeSpring has officially sprung for the Seattle-area housing market, with a now all-too-familiar story playing out: inventory is at a historic low of less than two months’ worth of supply, while strong demand for homes is fueling a continued rise in prices.

In King County, the median price for a single-family home stands at $429,900, up 6 percent from this time last year. The number of active listings is down, but at the same time, the number of pending sales in February was up more than 18 percent, demonstrating that the homes that are on the market are selling quickly. “February was a very robust month,” Gary O’Leyar, a former chairman of the MLS board said in an NWMLS press release. “If there is any real estate market slowdown, we’re not seeing it.” The city of Seattle is performing better than King County as a whole, with prices having risen 13 percent over the year to the current median of $520,000. Not helping matters is the fact that there are 18 percent fewer active listings in Seattle than there were a year ago.

Prices for condos are up nearly across the board. Snohomish County saw a dramatic increase in the median condo sales price over the last year, with the median price increasing from $174,975 in February 2014 to $240,712 in February 2015. Prices in King County increased just slightly from $245,000 to $257,000, but prices for condos in Downtown Seattle actually decreased by 2 percent over the year. Pierce County saw a nearly 52 percent jump, but the Puget Sound Business Journal suggests that number could be skewed because it is based on only 40 sales.

All of these numbers add up to a strong sellers’ market in the region, so if you are interested in selling – or buying!- a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

No Horsing Around – Union Stables Restored

TUNE, architecture firm Weinstein A+U, and joint owner of the building, general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis will take up the ole’ nine to five in arguably one of the coolest workspaces in Seattle. Once housing over 300 horses, employees of TUNE, Weinstein A+U, and Lewis will be the first human tenants to move into the building.

An ode to Seattle’s pioneering days, the landmark building was used as a livery stable, housing horses used for deliveries and to pull streetcars. Once considered the most modern building west of the Mississippi, the building has seen fires, earthquakes and was the scene of a major Prohibition raid back in 1923.

Paying respects to the building’s rich history, Lewis persevered and reused 127,000 board feet of lumber and milled old beams from the original building turning them into flooring and other materials. Additionally he reused every single road brick, as road brick is no longer available. Timber chewed and rubbed on by the horses can be seen throughout the build, as well as a large V-shaped hay cart which will be hung in the lobby of the building as “a nice little reminder of what the building was like..,” Dave Rauma, Lewis senior project manager said, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Offering exposed beams, bike storage, and a green roof on part of the building, the renovation hits a sweet balance in paying homage to the past while setting an energy conscious precedent for the future. Going beyond the boundaries of the building, thinking of our carbon footprint, Lewis anticipates the green roof to be certified LEED gold, and hopes to outfit his office at the highest LEED certification, LEED platinum. It seems this waterfront building has jumped leaps and bounds ahead of its time and is quickly becoming more legendary than its historic past. With the tone set, let’s hope to see some legendary business for the companies settling in.

Union Stables Building

2200 Western Ave.

Seattle, WA 98121

Real Estate Steps into the 21st Century with Cloud Based Apps

Seattle, known as a progressive leader in information and technology, houses established companies and growing start-ups alike. As Amazon expands, Facebook moves in, and numerous start-ups take up stake in Seattle’s burgeoning technology hub, it is evident the commercial real estate industry, a sector some would say is lagging on the technological front,  is a major player in assisting these innovative companies set up shop.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, in 2014, high-tech tenants accounted for 45 percent of leasing activity in Seattle. That’s a good chuck of business coming from a client base who appreciates system innovation – it would be wise if the real estate sector jumped aboard the techie train and geared their marketing strategy towards their forward thinking client base.

That is exactly what co-founder of Hightower, Brandon Weber and Floored CEO, Dave Eisenberg are monopolizing on. Seattle based, Hightower, takes commercial leasing to that magical place everyone seems to love – the cloud. Allowing for full business execution in the palm of your hand, Hightower allows commercial owners and brokers to manage their entire portfolio, leasing documents, and collaborate with their leasing team all in real time. Joining forces with New York City based company, Floored, a fully interactive 3D visual tool for the real estate industry, Weber and Eisenberg have created a full-bodied leasing platform like no other.

“Tenants struggle to visualize how space might look, landlords spend billions of dollars on speculative space construction,” Brandon Weber, explained to Commercial Observer. “Floored greatly reduces this need by delivering a virtual tour experience showing the tenant exactly how their space will look once built out. We believe this can save Landlords billions in spec build out costs.”

Between Hightower’s mobile app technology and Floored’s 3D visual sophistication, brokers and building owners have the ability to virtually walk clients through available properties that provide such robust example of what the space could look like, that the platform is unmatched with anything else out there. What a refreshing game changer – but it is changing the game?

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, Weber says Hightower is tracking more than 10,000 vacant office spaces, and that figure is growing 20 percent a month. Hoping to streamline his business for bi-coastal clients, Weber is excited at the prospect of assisting a Los Angeles tenant find property in New York via the Hightower application.

Thanks to new kids on the block, infusing life into the real estate industry, like Hightower and Floored, maybe some of the biggest names in the business will step into the 21st century.

Downtown Seattle Steadily Attracting New Residents

downtown condo1The Downtown Seattle Association held its state of downtown economic forum yesterday, and one of the major takeaways of their economic report was that the state of the downtown housing market is strong. Not only are increasing numbers of people calling downtown home – 16 percent of Seattle’s total population growth between 2010 and 2014 happened downtown – but more and more of them have families, with the number of children living downtown having increased by 17 percent since 2010. Overall, downtown residents tend to be younger, more well-educated, and more likely to live in a single-person household than the rest of Seattle as a whole.

Though only two condominium projects are currently under construction downtown, 3,089 residential units (the majority of which are apartments) are set to be in the construction phase in 2015, with 2,642 more in the works for 2016. Currently, the majority of apartment units downtown are small – an average of 638 square feet – but with the influx of families we could see a trend toward larger two- and three-bedroom units.

Overall, it’s going to cost you more on average to rent downtown compared to other areas of the city. Average rent downtown in 2014 was $1,904 per month, whereas the average for Seattle as a whole was significantly lower at $1,485 per month. Similarly, the median price for condos downtown stood at $409,500, a staggering 40 percent higher than the $292,500 median price for condos in the city of Seattle as a whole. Despite the relatively high prices, the vacancy rate remains under 4 percent. Visit the DSA website to read the economic report in its entirety.

If you are interested in renting or buying a home in Downtown Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today!

Drones Approved For Real Estate Industry Use

DroneEvery realtor wants that spectacular overhead shot of their listing, and recently, the use of drones (or “unmanned aircraft systems”) for real estate photography purposes has become a hot-button issue in the industry. Despite privacy concerns from neighbors and aviation-safety concerns from the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA recently approved the use of drones by realtors – with a catch. Make that several catches.

First, you’ll need to get a private pilot’s license, unless you can manage to get an exemption from the FAA. Second, even if you get permission to use it there are several restrictions on when and where you can fly your drone. It must stay under 300 feet and within a 100-foot radius of the controller at all times; the drone must always be in direct sight of the operator; the operator must alert all airports within five miles and give an estimated flight time, elevation, etc.; and the drone cannot be operated over congested areas such as freeways. Your drone must meet the safety standards set by the FAA, so get ready to give them every last detail, including your equipment’s weight, number of propellers, and the details on what type of camera you’re using.

Even with the increasing use of technology, such as virtual tours and videos, in real estate marketing, drones’ capabilities allow agents to create dramatic presentations with views not otherwise available to prospective buyers. Now that they are approved for commercial purposes, there is likely to be a rush on licenses, but if you’re queuing up for one get ready for stacks of paperwork.

2015 Housing Market Off To A Good Start

Wash Park HomedHistorically, mid-winter has been a sluggish time for home-price growth for the national housing market, and while the median price for a single-family home did decline from December to January this year, it fell by a mere 1.2 percent, signaling a stronger than normal start to the new year for the housing market. As a comparison, in recent years month-to-month price declines from December to January have been recorded at 2.8 percent (2014) and 3.5 percent (2013). Redfin reports that the combination of an increase in listings and buyer demand has led to lots of activity, and prices are up 7.6 percent over the year.

Closer to home, supply is still low in the Seattle area, and prices continue to rise. The median price for a single-family home in King County this January was recorded at $441,500, up from $410,000 in January 2014. The city of Seattle saw the median price rise to $517,500, up 12.5 percent over the year. The Seattle Times reports that inventory in Northwest Seattle is down to a three-week supply, driving prices in that area up 19 percent over the year. In the Seattle market as a whole, inventory has been hovering around the two-month mark for several months. Generally, a four-to-six-month supply constitutes a healthy housing market.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.