Seattle Rents: High, But Not Highest In Washington State

It’s not a news flash that the real estate scene in Seattle has exploded in recent years. The Emerald City has gone from a town most people outside the state only associated with coffee and flannel, to the tech capital of the US (save for our friends in Silicon Valley). As home to some of the biggest tech names in the world and a booming job market to match, it’s fair to say there’s might not be enough housing to meet demand. Or, at least to meet demand AND your budget.

High rises, apartment buildings and condos are going up all over the city, and soon, our beloved skyline will be dotted with more and more buildings and towers, making the Seattle of just 10 years-ago look almost unfamiliar.

Seattle has recently made headlines as one of the most expensive places to live, get this, in the world. That’s right, recent data has placed Seattle’s rent rates at 5th highest in the nation and, supposedly 9th highest in the world! However, San Francisco and New York still dwarf us, tying for number one most expensive, world-wide.

Those of us who are Seattle Natives know that the average rental rate in Seattle has increased fairly dramatically in the last few years, but it’s interesting to note that, while Seattle’s rents have been on the rise, they don’t quite top the list of highest rents in the state.

According to recent data from Apartment List, Seattle ranks at number 5 in the state for highest rents, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment at about $1,650.

Surprisingly, Mercer Island tops the list of cities in Washington for highest rents. A one-bedroom on Mercer Island goes for an average of a whopping $1,890 per month. No one said Island living was cheap, I suppose.

Filling in the gaps between number 1 and number 5 on the list are Bellevue at number 2 with an average of $1,860 per month for a one-bedroom (not a whole lot lower than their neighboring Island), Redmond at number 3 with an average of about $1,690 monthly rent for a one bedroom and Kirkland at number 4 with an average monthly rent of $1,660 for a one-bedroom.

Seattle and the Eastside are not the only places in Washington with rising rent rates. Tacoma tops the list nation-wide for fastest growing rent with a year-over-year growth rate of 7.7 percent. Seattle comes close, but not close enough to that figure with year-over-year rental rate growth at 5.3 percent.

Staggering growth aside, Tacoma is still a bargain in the rental market compared to Seattle, with a one-bedroom in Tacoma going for an average of $1,000 per month. For those of you keeping score, that’s a savings of $650 compared to Seattle.

But, proving that some things really don’t change, the cheapest places to live in the Evergreen State are still East of the Cascade Mountains. You can get a one-bedroom for only $600 per month in Walla Walla and it’s not much pricier in the State’s second largest city, Spokane, at around $630 per month.

What a difference a mountain range makes…

Dramatic Growth In Seattle-Area Luxury Homes Market

Luxury home available on Mercer Island

Luxury Mercer Island home available for $10,998,000

It’s no secret that Seattle’s housing market is one of the strongest in the nation, but what is a little surprising is the growth in the luxury homes sector. According to a recent story by the Puget Sound Business Journal, 537 homes sold for more than $1 million in just four Bellevue ZIP codes alone over the past year, 108 more than 2014 and an increase of 25 percent. 60 homes sold for over $3 million in those areas, up 43 percent over last year.

In Seattle as a whole, 901 homes have sold for $1 million or more so far in 2015, compared to 689 in 2014, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Of those sales, more than a quarter (241) occurred in the Central Seattle area comprising the neighborhoods south of the ship canal, north of I-90, and east of downtown. Most were clustered on North Capitol Hill and in the neighborhoods bordering Lake Washington, such as Madison Park, Washington Park, and Leschi. The most expensive sale of the year (so far) was a 9,820-square-foot estate on McGilvra Boulevard in Washington Park that fetched $5.75 million, followed by a lakefront Cape Cod-style home in Washington Park, which sold for $5.195 million. The PSBJ article states that sales of homes priced $1 million or higher in Ballard and Green Lake are up a whopping 200 percent.

The Seattle area’s growing job market is cited as one of the main drivers of the luxury home sales market, as is strong interest from international buyers, especially from China. With tech companies flocking to Seattle and Eastside job centers, they bring with them highly paid executives who may seek out luxury homes. The PSBJ article states that “Luxury homes are bellwethers of a thriving economy and growing job market. They are the ultimate proof of a prosperous and strong residential real estate sector.”

If you’re interested in Seattle’s luxury homes market, please contact one of our residential agents today.

Larger Homes Changing Faces of Many Neighborhoods

3804 E Blaine St.According to a new report by The Seattle Times’ “FYI Guy” Gene Balk, construction trends continue to point to a ‘bigger is better’ mentality in much of the Seattle area. Balk’s data shows that between 2012 and 2014, 1,500 houses were demolished and replaced with much larger homes, 450 of which were approximately triple the square footage of the previous dwelling. Many of Seattle’s predominately residential neighborhoods consist of modestly sized Craftsmans or bungalow-style homes, but home buyers seem to be increasingly buying houses with the intent of tearing them down and starting from scratch or adding significant square footage. The average 1,546-square-foot teardown was replaced by a 3,219-square-foot home. According to Balk’s data, Eastside neighborhoods such as Kirkland, West Bellevue, and Beaux Arts; and the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard, Phinney Ridge, and West Seattle saw the highest number of teardowns between 2012 and 2014.

Many residents see these newer homes as out of scale with the existing homes in the neighborhood, especially when they encroach ever closer to property lines and their increased height blocks the amount of sunlight reaching neighboring homes and yards. In 2014, plans for a proposed rowhouse development in Ballard made the news because it was sited so close to the house next door that it would impede the owners’ access for maintenance (the rowhouses were completed in 2015). The Seattle Times article includes before-and-after photos of some dramatic transformations of homes in the Seattle area.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home in Seattle, or if you would like more information on the housing market in general, please contact one of our agents today!

No Slowdown Predicted For Market During Holiday Season

As we head into the holidays, real estate experts in the area predict that the Puget Sound market will not see the typical slowdowns associated with the season. Listings often drop off during this time of year, as potential sellers are more focused on holiday events, but with sustained demand for homes in our region, the next few months are going to be a great time to sell a home. The area comprising King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties saw the highest number of pending sales in a decade in October, and those high sales volumes are predicted to continue.

Though median sales prices for single-family homes are down in King County on a monthly basis, from $490,250 in September to $480,000 in October, prices are up by 7 percent over the year, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Similarly, Seattle’s market saw prices dip slightly from $571,000 in September to $555,000 in October, but rose by almost 8 percent over October 2014. However, some neighborhoods within Seattle saw significant monthly gains, such as Queen Anne and Magnolia, where the median price rose from $699,950 in September to nearly $800,000 in October.

Inventory continues to slide, as there were 10 percent fewer homes on the market in King County in October than in September, and 32 percent fewer than this time last year. Since inventory historically drops anyway at this time of year, the supply of homes could become especially tight, likely prompting an increase in prices. Though well-priced homes are selling quickly, overpriced homes are seeing longer stints on the market, emphasizing the need for an experienced real estate agent who can establish a listing price that will garner your home the most attention possible.

These statistics were gathered from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, but were not compiled or published by that organization.

Late Summer Gains For Seattle Area Housing Market

neighborhoodThe S&P/Case-Shiller Index numbers for August were released yesterday, and after a July where we saw average home prices decrease by 0.1 percent in the Seattle Metro Area (King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties), prices bounced back and increased by 0.7 percent in August. On a yearly basis, prices in the area grew by 7.6 percent, coming in at number five on the list of cities with the highest yearly gains among the top 20 metro areas in the index.

Though prices in the Seattle are are still four percent below their peak, overall prices are showing steady growth and much of it is coming from a surprising sector of the housing market: condos. Zillow’s Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said in a statement that in the national market “…a good portion of the overall home price growth we’re seeing, especially in cities, has been driven by strong growth in condominium values, which are currently appreciating more quickly than single-family homes.” He cited condos’ popularity with younger buyers, many of whom live more urban lifestyles, are looking for more affordable housing options than single-family homes. This appears to be true in the Seattle market, as according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, median condo prices in King County were up 19 percent this August over August 2014. The median price for a condo in Seattle was up 32 percent over the same time period to $248,500.

Overall, it appears that the U.S. market is leveling out. Zillow’s Gudell says that “Annual U.S. home value appreciation has stabilized and settled into a nice groove over the past few months, and this relative stability should continue into the foreseeable future.”

If you’re interested in speaking with a real estate expert about Seattle’s market, contact your local agent today.

King County Home Prices Bounce Back in August

1After the median selling price for a single-family home in King County dropped to $485,000 in July, prices bounced back to just a hair under $500,000 in August, representing a 14.4 percent annual gain, and the biggest yearly gain of any month in 2015. Inventory in King County was also up slightly from July, and now stands at 1.36 months’ worth of supply, the most inventory we’ve seen since February, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. In contrast, median prices within the sub-market of Seattle stayed essentially flat last month, having dropped by just $500 from $575,500 in July to $575,000 in August. However, that is a 15 percent increase over August 2014.

Inventory in Seattle followed King County’s lead and increased by a small increment to .91 month’s supply, up from .74 months’ worth in July. Lack of inventory continues to put pressure on the market in the Puget Sound region, with total listings down 29.7 percent in King County and down 32.7 percent in Seattle since this time last year. “The biggest challenges our buyers face are lack of inventory and the quality of homes to choose from,” MLS director George Moorhead said in a statement. Some believe this continued double-digit price growth combined with lack of available properties is not sustainable and that we may see a slowdown in the market as we enter the fall season, when inventory historically drops by about half.

The area condo market has made great strides over the year, especially in Seattle, where the median price rose from $299,000 in August 2014 to $395,000 this year – a staggering 32 percent. Prices increased more modestly countywide, but still showed strong growth with a 19 percent rise.

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

Home Tips: Prepare Your House For Fall

Fall has truly begun in Seattle this week, with leaves changing color seemingly overnight, and warm temperatures giving way to crisp fall air. Before you begin cozying up inside for the months ahead, there are several things you can do to prepare your home and yard for wet, cold weather. Here are some tips for making sure you and your house make it through the cold season unscathed:

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  • If you’re handy and can safely do it yourself, make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris. If not, hire a professional to do it for you.
  • Make sure your roof is in good shape. The last thing you want is a roof leak in the middle of the rainy season!
  • Trim back shrubs and bushes at the base of your house. Anything that can trap water near your home’s foundation is a recipe for water damage, so make sure your landscaping directs water away from your house.
  • Make sure your home is air- and water tight. In addition to saving you money on energy costs, making sure your house is sealed up makes it more comfortable and prevents potential water damage. Make sure your windows and doors are weatherstripped and are sealing tightly, and if drafts are still sneaking in under your doors, consider using a “door snake” for additional insulation.
  • If you have a fireplace, have the inside and chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional, and give the exterior a good scrubbing yourself. Porch.com has some great tips on how to clean your fireplace here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Winterize your outdoor faucets and pipes. Read tips on winterization here from Seattle Public Utilities.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning correctly. Washington state law states that you must have a carbon monoxide detector installed outside of each sleeping area and on each floor of your house. Fall leaves
  • Do some yard maintenance to ensure safety. Since it will most likely be dark when you leave your house in the morning and when you come home in the evening, consider installing outdoor lights. Solar-powered options cost you nothing in energy costs, and many models switch on automatically at dusk and turn off at dawn. No brainer. Also, make sure your walkways and porches are free of cracks, moss, and leaves that can make them slippery.

Prices Down In King Co., But Sales Are Strong

1Home prices in the Puget Sound housing market showed signs of cooling in July, but sales volumes were on par with the blazing temperatures we saw for much of the month. While the number of closed sales of single-family homes in King County held relatively steady from June to July, there were 266 more closed sales this July than during the same month in 2014, despite there being 1,311 fewer active listings than a year ago, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The median sold price for a home in King County actually fell from $500,000 in June to $485,000 in July, but prices were still up 3.63 percent on a yearly basis. The median sales price for single-family homes in Seattle showed no change from June to July, holding steady at $575,000.

Though that may seem like a modest yearly increase compared to the 10 percent year-over-year price increase in June, median prices in many sub-markets in King County are growing at much higher rates. Prices in west Auburn in southwest King County grew by nearly 25 percent over the year, and Kirkland saw a yearly increase of almost 18 percent. The city of Seattle saw median prices rise by 5.9 percent to $575,000. Even the West Bellevue area made up of communities including Medina, Hunt’s Point, and Clyde Hill, which is home to the county’s highest median price of $1,537, 500, saw prices rise 14.4 percent over last July.

King County’s supply of homes actually increased slightly over the month, from 1.18 months’ worth in June to 1.22 months’ worth in July, but that is still far below the ‘balanced’ range of 4-6 months’ of inventory. Some areas, especially neighborhoods within Seattle, are scraping by with under a month’s worth of homes. The northwest Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard, Green Lake, Fremont, and surrounding areas have just half a month’s supply; and northeast Seattle is doing just slightly better with 0.6 months’ worth of homes available.

Despite the slight drop in home prices over the month, the continued lack of inventory means it is still a great time to sell. If you’re interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

A Hidden Cost That May Be Helping Drive Rent Increases

Parked CarsThe affordable housing crisis in Seattle is garnering attention from the media, homeowners and politicians alike. Rent costs continue to rise and more than 100,000 people are estimated to move to the Seattle area in the next 20 years. Minimal affordable housing options have over half of Seattle renters paying more than one third of their income on rent, an average of $1,501 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Common reasons thought to contribute to rising rentals costs are lack of rent control and the fact that almost 65 percent of the city is zoned for single-family housing, leaving limited areas for multifamily development. But an article in The Stranger recently outlined a less visible factor that contributes to monthly rental costs: parking garages in apartment buildings.

Off-street parking requirements and more conservative developers contribute to the, arguably excess, parking built for apartment buildings. It’s estimated that one parking stall in a residential garage can cost between $20,000 and $50,000. Depending on the size of the building this can add several hundred thousand dollars in cost, not to mention taking up space that could be used to construct far more profitable housing units.

The article states that though many still cite parking as an amenity they prefer, more than 30 percent of parking spaces in buildings built after 2008 go unused at night, according to a  2013 report by the Sightline Institute. So who pays for these parking spots? All tenants, even those without cars.

Because the developers rarely see a full return on investment for parking spaces, landlords generally pass on the expense to their tenants. These expenses, usually represented in higher rent, can add up to 15 percent of monthly rent, applying to all tenants regardless of whether or not they own a car.

This issue was recently addressed in the final proposal of Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. “Off-street parking requirements or quotas have a large impact on the financial viability of new housing for both market and affordable housing development,” the report states. “Parking quotas act as density limits, inflate the average size and price of housing units, and prevent some smaller properties from being developed altogether.”

Price Growth In Seattle Area Slows In May

1S&P/Case-Shiller released its monthly home price index this Tuesday, and the numbers show that home prices in the Seattle metro area have reached a minor lull in the traditionally busy buying season, with the index up just 1.4 percent in May from April. Average prices stayed the same from April to May, whereas prices grew by 0.6 percent from March to April. The weaker than expected gains still reflect a 7.4 percent increase from last year, on par with year-over-year gains in April. The median price in the Seattle area is still 6 percent below the 2007 peak.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee, said in a statement that first-time home buyers are partially to blame. “First-time buyers provide the demand and liquidity that supports trading up by current homeowners. Without a boost in first-timers, there is less housing market activity, fewer existing homes being put on the market, and more worry about inventory,” he said.

Though the Case-Shiller index showed an overall gain of 7.4 percent from last year the most notable jump was still in the most affordable homes. There was a 10.7 percent gain in homes sold under $296,017 and only a 6.7 percent gain in houses sold over $471,764.

Data from CoreLogic shows that only 2.18 percent of homes mortgaged in King and Snohomish counties are delinquent by 90 days or more. A sharp decline from last year’s 3.26 percent delinquency rate, and the July 2012 peak of 6.68 percent.  This decline has helped to ground home prices.

Though gains have slowed for the current month, it is anticipated that the stagnation will not continue in the coming months according to Stan Humphries, Zillow Chief Economist.

If you are looking to buy or sell a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!