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…

Only 2% of Seattle Renters Plan To Buy Within Year

371 ProspectSeattle is home to one of the nation’s highest homeownership confidence rates, according to Zillow’s recently released Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI), but our region’s soaring home prices could be causing renters to think twice about entering the home-buying market. According to a Zillow report, only two percent of renters in Seattle are planning to purchase a home in the next year, which is far below the national average of 11.4 percent and the lowest rate among the top 20 metro areas. Miami led all metros with 21 percent of renters planning to buy in the upcoming year, despite a healthy 8.9 percent year-over-year home value increase.

The Seattle Times cited another statistic from Zillow stating that even among renters making $90,000+ per year, 48 percent said they were not planning to buy in the next five years. In the most recent census data available (from 2013), the biggest growth in the rental market was from those making $100,000+ per year. Though some of Seattle renters’ hesitation may largely have to do with discouragement over the high prices and bidding wars that have become the new normal, many are consciously choosing renting for the flexibility it allows. With the plethora of luxury apartment buildings sprouting all over Seattle, many offering amenities akin to those at high-end hotels, renting, and avoiding the obligations of home ownership, is looking more and more appealing to many.

But just because renters are staying out of the fray doesn’t mean no one’s buying, in fact, quite the opposite. Even with almost a third fewer listings this August than August 2014, pending sales and closed sales in King County were both up this August compared to a year ago, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. After a slight dip in home prices in July, the median price for a single-family home in King County bounced back to just a hair under $500,000 at $499,950 in August. The Seattle area’s market also rose from 10th to 2nd on Zillow’s Housing Confidence Index.

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

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!

Seattle Housing: What To Expect In 2015

Wash park home11Millenials

In Seattle’s housing market, where the supply of homes over the past year never exceeded two months’ worth of inventory, a whole new generation of home buyers could be poised to make an even bigger dent in the pool of available homes in 2015. Millenials – people born after 1980 – have been putting off home purchases due to factors such as high student debt, stagnant wages resulting from the recession, and a desire to not be tied to a permanent home, but they could be a bigger force in the housing market in 2015, according to a new report in The Seattle Times. With the median rent in King County now standing at $1,750 per month, home ownership is beginning to look more appealing to many in their late 20’s and early 30’s who have thus far been exclusively renters.

Rental Market

Rents in the Seattle area (King and Snohomish counties) grew at a staggering rate of more than 8 percent in 2014 and are projected to continue to rise in 2015. An estimated 12,273 new apartment units slated to go on the market next year are expected to increase competition for renters and help ease price hikes somewhat, but the glut of new units likely won’t provide much relief for those with budgets at the lower end of the spectrum. For example, in Ballard, where many of these new buildings are going up, apartments built after 2010 are renting for an average of $1,731 per month – not exactly affordable for many single renters. Overall, Seattle remains the 8th most expensive place to rent in the country, with a median rent of $1,580 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Home Prices

Seattle median home prices continue to rise on a yearly basis, having grown 11 percent in 2014, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, but most are predicting slower, yet steady growth for 2015. The median price for a single-family home in Seattle in November this year was $357,000. In King County as a whole, the median price was $440,000 in December, just slightly lower than the 2007 peak of $455,000. Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, told The Seattle Times that he expects to see continued moderation of price gains over the next year, compared with the double-digit growth the market saw in 2013 and early 2014. OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, said in a statement that he expects price growth of 4-6 percent in 2015.

New SHA Program Would Raise Rents For Many In Subsidized Housing

housesAn article published yesterday by The Seattle Times outlines a proposed new program from the Seattle Housing Authority that would introduce progressive rent increases for about 35 percent of households that are part of the subsidized housing system. The program, titled “Stepping Forward”, aims to cycle more people out of subsidized housing by putting residents on the path to a higher wage through job counseling, and would raise rents accordingly over a span of six to eight years.

Stepping Forward would apply to 4,600 “work-able” households, which is defined by SHA as one where at least one person between the ages of 24 and 61 has no disabilities that prevent them from working. Currently, residents in subsidized housing pay 30 percent of their income for rent, but under the new plan rent would be based on home size rather than income. For example, potential rent for a one-bedroom apartment would be $140 per month for the first year of the program, $310 per month for years two and three, $480 per month for years four and five, and $720 per month for years six and seven. Different rent amounts would apply to studios, two bedrooms, etc. For households with no work-able adults, rent would continue to be a percentage of income.

Five community meetings being held in September will give the public a chance to comment on the proposal. All meetings are at 6:00 p.m. on the following dates:

– Today, September 16 at the Meadowbrook Community Center

– Wednesday, September 17 at the Yesler Community Center

– Monday, September 22 at the Rainier Community Center

– Tuesday, September 23 at the NewHolly Gathering Hall

– Monday, September 29 at the High Point Community Center

For more information on rentals or real estate in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.

Buying A Home In Seattle 34% Cheaper Than Renting

Wash Park Homed

High rent and high home prices in Seattle can often make it feel like the decision between buying and renting isn’t so cut and dry – either way you’re paying a premium for housing. But a new report from Trulia makes a strong case for home ownership, reporting that it is 34% cheaper to own a home than to rent in Seattle at today’s 4.5% mortgage rate. According to the report, mortgage rates would have to hit 9.3% before renting would be cheaper than buying in Seattle.

Nationally, home ownership is 38% cheaper than renting in all of the 100 largest metro areas, but in some extreme markets small changes in mortgage rates could tip the scales in favor of renting. For example, in Honolulu, a mortgage rate of 5% would make renting a better value, and a rate of 5.8% would make renting cheaper than owning in San Francisco.

Try Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy calculator to see how the numbers work out for you. If you’re interested in buying a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent.

 

 

 

 

Make A Rental Feel Like Your Own Home

rentalJust because you live in a rental space doesn’t mean that you have to feel like you are living in someone else’s home. Adding a touch of “you” to the space will make it feel more special and like your own place. Before making changes be sure to talk with your landlord. Many landlords will be okay with certain changes if things are put back the way they were at the end of the lease or because those changes may make the space more desirable.

Sometimes you may have to negotiate certain changes such as painting walls. A new color on the walls could make the space feel more your style and the landlord may give the go ahead to paint in your choice of color as long as you repaint to the original color it was when you move out. You could also negotiate new appliances. If the landlord does not want to purchase new appliances, maybe if you offer to pay half the cost then they might be willing to do so.

Switching out light fixtures for more stylish ones such as hanging globes, chandeliers or sconces would be a great way to brighten the place up and add another touch of “you”. Either changing the cupboard doors in the kitchen or removing them entirely is another way to update the place or make it feel more cozy. Something as simple as replacing door knobs is another way to add character. Be sure to keep the original doors and knobs or anything else you might change so that you can put everything back the way it was before moving out. Things such as removing metal blinds and replacing them with ones made of fabric or putting up curtains are something that could be negotiated with the next tenants. They may want to purchase them from you instead of using the metal blinds which usually make a space feel darker and like a rental.

Little touches here and there and new furniture from retailers or flea markets can make a big difference in making your rental feel like home. Remember that when looking for a rental, keep an open mind and see the potential.

 

 

Fall is Here! Maintenance Tips to Safeguard Your Home

As you know fall in Western Washington can be quite wet, and it’s important whether you rent or own your home to take proper precautions to ensure your home is prepared for fall and winter conditions.

Photo Courtesy of Seattle Pacific University

You can check the foundation for cracks in caulking around the exterior where pipes and wires enter the house, and especially around windows and door frames in older homes, to stifle heat from escaping through the cracks! Be sure to tell your landlord if you notice anything problematic, because even the slightest crack can cause water to get in and freeze, sometimes resulting in extensive mold damages. Check with your landlord if the roof was checked recently for damages that could lead to leakage, and put away summer tools and lawn furniture. Ask your landlord if they’re going to clean your screen doors, and store for the winter, as winter conditions can damage these as well. For more information on how to best prepare your home in the fall, visit Zillow.

Vacationing Late Summer? Review Home Security Tips to Keep Your Residence Safe

Summer is prime time for vacationers to pack up and get in the car, and it’s smart to make sure your home is secured before leaving the humble abode for an extended weekend or longer. Zillow has compiled a precautionary checklist to review before leaving your home alone, and the first item on the list is to consider having a house sitter or consulting with your friends and neighbors to see if they’re able to check on the house while you’re gone, which could be simple if you’re having someone check on your pets, or water your plants.

It might be wise for a neighbor to park in front of your home while you’re away, creating the illusion that someone is home at all times. Shutting off a main valve might be a cautious step to take before you leave to avoid any pipes leaking, which can cause extensive damage, and become very costly. You could consider putting up motion sensor lights (check with your landlord to see if this is feasible) or electrical timers for inside lighting, again you could also have your neighbors stop by and do the same thing. For other tips on securing your home, visit Zillow.

Buying a Home Might Not Get Much Cheaper

Many renters today are choosing to put off buying a home for several reasons, statistics show that buying a home might not get any cheaper than it is right now. Experts say that 2012 may bet the last year for buyers to take advantage of the weak housing market and foreclosure influx. According to CNN Money, home prices are down 34% Nationally from 2006, and mortgage rates are at an all time low, making it the best year yet to find the bargain deal of a lifetime.

Economists with PNC Financial Services believe that home prices will flatten out by the third quarter of this year, and might begin to climb at the beginning of next year. There are several indicators that the housing market is picking up like the decline in foreclosures, and continued job growth nationwide, and buyers will have more access to affordable mortgages as they build their credit scores. While some prospective buyers who have been wary might be more willing to follow through because of the all-time low mortgage rates and lower home values, some renters still aren’t in a position to take the next step and will ultimately miss the grace period. For more information on the housing market, click here.