Touchstone Plans Hotel/Office Space for Denny Triangle

Seattle developer Touchstone is starting to plan a Hotel/Office project just blocks from Amazon’s proposed 3 block highrise project in Denny Triangle. They filed paperwork this week for a 13 story office and hotel complex, on a half block site along Boren Ave,

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between Stewart & Howell St. Touchstone currently owns a piece of this property already, the properties on the front of Stewart street resembling two retail buildings, and the rest of the site is owned by Diamond Parking. The site is scheduled to be reviewed by the Downtown Design Review Board on April 24th. For more information on this project, visit the Seattle Times.

Vacation Home Sales Rise in 2011

Last year vacation home sales and investment homes took off, as investors took advantage of homes that were selling well below their retail value. According to the National Association of Realtors, vacation home sales rose 64.5% to 1.23 million in 2011. 41% of these buyers even picked up more than one property during the year, compared to 34% from the previous year. And interestingly enough, almost half of these buyers paid for their homes in cash, according to CNN Money. Buyers who took out a mortgage to finance their homes even forked over hefty down payments compared to previous years. The average down-payment for both investment and vacation home buyers was estimated at 27%, with the median home sale estimated at $100,000. Many investors have taken advantage of the foreclosure surge for the 2nd home sale and it will be interesting to see what vacation home sales will be like in 2012. For more information, visit CNN Money.

Rental Rates Continue Rising Through 2012

Are you currently a renter who believes they’re paying too much for their  500 sf studio apartment in Belltown? If you’re not, you likely know someone who’s paying an arm and a leg each month, and the cost of rent continues to rise as vacancies around the city continue to shrink. While rates are predicted to continue steadily rising through 2012, next year real estate analysts say the trend may come to a hault. 

Rent is continuing to rise in the King and Snohomish counties and according to the Seattle Times, several experts suggest these rates will continue to rise until next year, when a surge of current projects are scheduled to be completed, creating more vacancies around the city. According to the Apartment Insights Washington, the average monthly cost of rent in Seattle is currently $1,094, up 1.7% from last quarter. Our region is in the largest apartment construction boom we’ve seen in over two decades, and should expect rental rates to drop, or at least begin to rise more modestly after this year. For more information, please visit the Seattle Times.

Underwater Home Values in 2012

Next week, Zillow, the Progressive Policy Institute and the Columbia Business School will host a housing debrief exploring how public and private sectors have responded to the national housing crisis. While unemployment is notably a hot topic in the national political debates, the central focus should not ignore the issue concerning the housing crisis. According to Zillow “the percentage of Americans who have lost their job is actually exceeded by the number of Americans who have either lost significant wealth on their home, or are currently “underwater” owing more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.” Over the past 6 years, Americans have lost an estimated 7 trillion in housing wealth, a number that isn’t going unnoticed under the public eye. In the report that will be released early next week, Zillow and the team will analyze home values in the 16 battleground states; and in 15 of these states, home values have fallen by an average of 16% since 2008. The report will also go over suggestions and tips for how to tackle this issue. For an extended report, and further information on this debrief, click here.

Harbor Urban Sells West Seattle Apartments

Seattle Real Estate developer Harbor Urban sold two new apartment buildings in the West Seattle junction area last week, with a total estimated sale of $105 million. Harbor Urban came to shape earlier last month as a collaboration between Urban Partners and Seattle developer Harbor Properties. The West Seattle properties were sold to a company affiliated with American Realty Advisors of Glendale, CA. The Link Apts, a 195 unit complex, were sold for $62.7 million and the 135 unit “Mural Project” was sold for $42.3 million. According to the West Seattle Blog, both buildings are almost entirely leased as well; please find the extended article from the Seattle Times here.

Bank of American Allows Foreclosured Families to Rent

Bank of America has announced a settlement for homeowners that allows people who have been foreclosed on, or facing foreclosure to stay in their homes as renters. This “Mortgage to Lease” will take effect as a trial program in Arizona, New York and Nevada for a select group of 1,000 homeowners in each state, hand picked by the bank. The bank has expressed that if the program succeeds, they could extend the offer to more  at-risk homeowners with mortgages through the bank. Those who will be selected by the bank will be more than 60 days delinquent on their home loans, with high loan balances, and have an income to support their rent, among other qualifications. Homeowners will have to surrender the title to their homes over to the bank, but will be forgiven their mortgage debt, and will have the opportunity to lease their homes for up to three years at or below the current market rate. For an extended story, please refer to CNN Money.

Amazon Releases Design Proposal for Denny Triangle

Amazon has released a few ideas for the design of their new downtown office complex in Denny Triangle, and they’re pulling out all the stops to create the perfect working environment. The design proposal includes a large conference room that seats 2000 people, has more than 3,000 underground parking spots and three high rise towers than cover over 3.3 million square feet. So much for a quiet opening. Amazon released these details in paperwork filed on Tuesday this week with city planners and a design review board that will discuss the proposal late next week.

But the design isn’t the only thing gaining attention from the paperwork; Amazon is also considering hosting several “public benefits” in hopes of gaining permission to dramatically transform the three blocks in the Denny Triangle area. This design meeting will launch the beginning of months of a permitting process, while giving Amazon the time and opportunity to present their design ideas to the public, and gain much sought out feedback.

Is the Cost of Buying a Home Cheaper than Renting? YES!

According to Real Estate site Trulia, there have been studies done on the national housing Market and results are showing that in 98 out of 100 markets, buying a home is actually more affordable than renting. The only two states that beat the bar were Honolulu and San Francisco. There are several factors that justify this claim today, such as all time low mortgage interest rates,  foreclosures have been on the rise and the folks crunching numbers for the housing affordability index indicate an optimistic outlook.

Of course not everyone is in a position to buy, but the cost of rent in many metro areas is leading this group further and further away from that goal. Rising rental costs make it harder for people to save money for a down-payment, creating a greater gap between home buyers and renters in a buckled economy. For an extended article, please refer to CNN Money.

Smith Tower to be Auctioned off in Foreclosure Market Friday

The iconic 97 year old Smith Tower, Seattle’s first skyscraper, is set to be sold at a foreclosure market this Friday, March 23rd outside the King County Administration Building. The building’s owner, Walton Street Capital has fallen behind on loans totaling $42.5 million that they took our when they bought the building, as well as a building kitty-corner to Smith Tower in 2006. The building fell into the hands of CBRE Capital Markets of New York last fall, and began planning for foreclosure last week.

According to The Seattle Times, CBRE paid less than what Walton owed on the building, and is likely to regain ownership of the building by default if bidders fall short of the outstanding debt. Fancy owning the Smith Tower? Come prepared with a cashier’s check; all purchases at the auction must be paid in full at time of purchase.

Homebuilders Feeling Optimistic About Housing Market

Today the National Association of Homebuilder’s/Wells Fargo, said that it’s Builder Sentiment Index  has stayed at 28, which has been the highest reading since June of 2007. This reading was followed by 5 consecutive increases, indicating a steady outlook. Builders have stimulated more confidence in housing sales over the past 6 months, but even with the optimistic outlook, the industry in general will have a long road ahead. According to The Seattle Times, a reading below 50 on the scale indicates a negative sentiment on the housing market as a whole; and the index hasn’t reached 50 since April of 2006.

But builder’s confidence in the market today is stemmed mostly from the peaked interest in home-buyers. Mortgage rates are at an all time low, previously built home sales are on the rise, and home construction is beginning to pick up again. For a detailed article, please visit the Seattle Times.