Big Banks Increase Their Lending

There’s good news for the economy, specifically those involved in commercial real estate. A recent Seattle Times article via the NY Times reported that big banks have increased their lending. Finally, the purse strings are loosening, so businesses can expand and the economy can start growing a bit more.

In the article, a RBC Capital Markets banking analyst, Gerard Cassidy, is quoted saying, “The banks want to lend.” However, I question if that’s true, due to the fact that the loan growth is still conservative, aimed at only the strongest borrowers. But, it’s better than nothing. It’s a move in the right direction to rebuilding our economy and improving the real estate market.

The only people this is bad news for is commercial real estate buyers who have been qualifying for loans. Get ready for a bit more competition from other able buyers. Snag the commercial real estate steals while you still can.

Either way, I’m looking forward to having more businesses to frequent. News like this speaks wonders for the economy. I cannot wait until the lending extends to small businesses, so they can snatch up lovely retail space. I want to see prime spots, like the former Epilogue books in Ballard, filled with new, exciting businesses.

Olson Kundig Projects Wins Architecture Award

The Olson Kundig-designed Art Stable was a winner at the 2011 Honor Awards for Washington Architecture. Out of the 140 submitted projects, the “Art Stable” received one of four Honor Awards distributed that night. According to the release, the project was well-received by all of the judges, with one stating that it “improved the standing of architecture in the United States.”

Looking at the South Lake Union project, it is understandable why it received the award. The 6 units boast gorgeous 11-ft floor to ceiling windows, fantastic for catching sunset views across the South Lake Union neighborhood. The design is avant-garde and customizable, due to the units only being shell. Additionally, it has a wonderful environmental aspect to it, with environmental heating and even an electric car hook up. Welcome Nissan Leaf owners.

When I last checked, there were still units available in the Lake Union building. However, I suspect that it won’t be long until it has full tenancy. I cannot stop looking at these interior photos. It is gorgeous inside. I can only think of the endless possibilities of living or working in a breathtaking, award-winning building, such as the Art Stable.

Live or Run a Business in a Historic Seattle Firehouse

Here are two interesting properties that will be on the market shortly. How would you like to put your business or have the chance to live in a historic firehouse? The opportunity’s a reality when the West Seattle Fire Station 37 and the Ravenna/Bryant Fire Station 38 are up for grabs. According to the Seattle Times article, there will be an open bid process, with all proceeds going to the fire levy fund. Check out these pictures of each firehouse on the Seattle PI blog.

Owning a former firehouse can have its ups and downs. Determining the value of the firehouses is a bit difficult because there aren’t too many comparables. After all, how often does a firehouse go on the market? Once you purchase it, the firehouses, especially Firehouse 38, have interesting configurations. For example, Firehouse 38 has a handball court and a hose tower. Another point to consider is that both of the firehouses have historic landmark designation. If you plan to make any changes to the exterior, you will have to talk with the city’s Landmark Preservation Board.

On the upside, owning a firehouse can be very charming. There are numerous examples of success. Look at the Firehouse Station 25 in Capitol Hill, which has been converted to sixteen townhouses. Or look at the old Ballard Firehouse, home to the popular restaurant, the Hi-Life. (The old Ballard Firehouse will even be turning 100 this weekend)! Other businesses recognize the charm and attraction of a historic firehouse, as both the Leading Tone music shop and the Northwest Puppet Center have expressed an interest in bidding on one of the historic Seattle firehouses.

If you’ve always dreamed of hosting a business in a charming building but miss out on owning a historic firehouse, never fear. There’s plenty of historic, charming commercial spaces in the Seattle area. The Old Spaghetti Factory near the waterfront leases out office space. I can only imagine what kind of creativity would emerge when working in the old Ainsworth and Dunn Fish and Grain brick warehouse.

Commercial Landlords Rejoice! The Office Vacancy Rate is Dropping.

Good news for commercial real estate landlords! According to a Seattle Times article, the office vacancy rate in Seattle fell over the past three months.  For example, Lake View in Fremont was half empty in December and now it is fully leased. We can thank our expanding tech industry for that. Companies, especially tech companies, appear to be expanding and simply need more space. For example, Expedia recently leased out 55,000 sq. ft in Bellevue’s new Skyline Tower.

With growth and no speculative construction, vacancies in commercial space will continue to decline.  This affects the average asking rents. As supply decreased, the average asking rent for Class A space rose to $32 per square foot. It’ll be interesting to see how the vacancy rate changes in the coming months. Hopefully, the buildings fill up, as that only translates to good news and growth for the Puget Sound.

Mortgage Rates Continue To Fall

Jumbo Loan LimitsThis week, Freddie Mac reported some not-so-surprising news; mortgage rates have fallen again.  This time however, all previous records were broken when rates fell to below 4 percent for the first time in history.  Yesterday, the Seattle Times published the article revealing rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.94 percent, which means now is the time to buy.  But rates aren’t the only thing dropping.  The amount of mortgage applications fell 4 percent, and refinancing applications by 5 percent.  The market is still bleak, say experts, as buyers simply think purchasing a home is a risky move in the current economy.  Rates are expected to fall even further before they start picking up again.  For more information, please see the full Seattle Times article.

Don’t Miss the 13th Annual Seattle Home Show 2

If you want to make your Seattle home greener, don’t miss the 13th Annual Seattle Home Show 2 this weekend. It will run from Friday to Monday and will be held at the Century Link Field Event Center. The Seattle Home Show 2 features the latest home and yard improvement products and ideas to fix up your Seattle home or rental. I especially enjoy going to the home show for the tips or products I can use that are good for the environment. There will also be a 10,000 square foot New Products Pavilion that includes the latest trends in Seattle real estate living. Making use of your backyard and the outdoors seems to be the latest trend, so there will be loads of various deck ideas.

Additionally, don’t miss the chance to catch the “Renegade Gardener,” Don Engebretson offer his tips at one of his three daily shows. Also, Dr. Lori will be there to offer her tips on collectibles and appraisals. Either way, it seems like it’ll be an exciting weekend for Seattle home improvement at the Century Link Field Event Center, and will certainly be great for inspiration or ideas to implement at your Seattle home. For specific information, including a map, hours, admission, and more, please visit the Seattle Home Show webpage.

The Advantage of Weak Nationwide Home Sales

A recent Seattle Times article reported that the U.S. new home sale season was the weakest it has been in the past fifty years. Sales on new homes and resales were both down, with average falling prices. However, I believe there is an upside. While nationwide recovery is still years away, analysts say that they expect prices to bottom out at the start of the year. If you can pay in cash or get funding, now may be one of the best times to snag a great deal on a residential home or commercial property, especially in the Seattle area.

There are a few main reasons why it might be good to buy in the Seattle area now or in the next few months. First, there are fewer buyers to compete with than before, due to unemployment, nervous buyers, and banks taking a more conservative approach in granting mortgages to creditworthy buyers. If you have a stable job and can seek funding, take advantage of the opportunity. Second, home sale prices are being slashed, due to the low prices of foreclosures and short sales in the Seattle area. There is the potential for buyers to find great deals around the area.  Here’s an intriguing property in Madrona that might work for an investment. Finally, Seattle is a thriving metro. It’s one of the 20 strongest-growing metros in the U.S. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, Washington was in the ninth in the U.S. for overall positive job gains.

When you plan to invest in Seattle real estate, consider each property on a case-by-case basis. Find someone you trust who knows the Seattle real estate market. Look around and see what’s available on the marketplace. Your real estate agent can become your closest confidant & adviser in navigating the Seattle real estate market.