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…

Understanding the Basics of Appraisals

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A home appraisal is a step of the mortgage process when an unbiased state-licensed professional determines a home’s value based on size, condition, function, and the quality of the home. To do this the appraiser must first inspect the property. Then, by researching similar homes within the area and comparing recent residential sales, the appraiser will present their “opinion of value” with all supporting data and research used to come to their conclusion.

The appraisal process is important because mortgage lenders require an appraisal before they’ll provide a home buyer a loan. This is because the value of the property will likely determine how much a lender will lend. Lenders want to make sure that homeowners aren’t over borrowing because the home serves as collateral for the mortgage. So, if the borrower were to default on the mortgage and go into foreclosure, the lender would be able to get back the money they lent by selling the house.

If you’re a buyer, a home appraisal also can function as protection for the client too. If an appraisal comes in higher than the price being paid for the residence, than the borrower will have more home equity than initially expected. Also, an appraisal can help protect a client in keeping them from overpaying for a home, if the appraisal comes in lower than the asking price.

If you’re a seller, you want your home to be appraised for the amount you’ve listed it for.  In order for that to happen there are a few things you can do to impact that number. Clean, updated, well-maintained houses tend to receive higher appraisals. Make sure things like the home’s exterior and curb appeal is one that is eye catching, holes in the drywall are patched, and rug stains are cleaned can help. It’s also a good idea to provide your appraiser with a list of recent list of improvement you’ve made to the home as well as a list of attractive aspects about your neighborhood. Be sure to mention items like grocery stores, parks, and neighboring schools.

If you are unhappy with the appraisal, sometimes there is an option to appeal called “Reconsiderations of Value.” So, if there were enhancements made your home or recent comparable residential sales that happened the neighborhood to which wasn’t considered in the initial appraisal, it’s important to provide this information to your lender. Also, getting a second appraisal is always available to the buyer as well. Lastly, it’s important to add that an appraisal that was conducted beyond six month prior will likely be considered out of date by a lender.

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.”

Millennials Opt Out of Seattle’s Real Estate Goat Rodeo

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The fact that the housing market in Seattle is hot, is not new news, and finding a home without over paying is becoming quite a task. When a 1,100 square foot home listed at $559k, sells for $717K, it feels it might take miracle to lock something down that is both desirable and reasonable. Moreover, when, and more so, if¸ you find a great buy, the market heavily favors those willing and able to pay cash to win the bid. Well, there is one demographic of Puget Sound residents who aren’t jumping on the real estate bandwagon – millennials.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, people between the ages of 25 and 35 who are homeowners is at the lowest since the Gold Rush era. And for good reason. Overall, things are just more expensive now than they were during the previous decades. College tuition has tripled since 1980, causing millennials to take out college loans or needing to take a longer time getting their education due to having to work simultaneously. As such, paying off acquired debt, or simply just getting the basics (job, place to live, overhead costs) nailed down is priority number one. With such a competitive job market, it takes a few years (or ten) of hard work to reach reasonable earning potential.

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However, Seattle has some of the biggest businesses headquartered here favoring hiring millennials, one of which is Amazon. The online retailer hires thousands of employees yearly, many of which are coming in out of state. Most of those recruits, still fresh to Seattle and a little leery of all the grey, are perfectly content with renting even if they could afford a nice house to match their nice salary. And this doesn’t just happen for Amazon employees, as Seattle has plenty company employees working the same model.

Not surprisingly, this might be a piece of why Seattle currently ranks second on the list of best cities to own a rental property (a jump from seventh place last year). The region’s job growth, paired with the number of people moving into the area, and with the lack of available homes for sale, these are some key factors in why the rental market is going so well. So, for now the millennials are opting out of Seattle’s real estate goat rodeo, but it doesn’t seem like too many people, no matter how ready, are having much success either.

The 10 Most Expensive Streets in Seattle

 

Recently Seattle-based real estate company, Zillow took a look at which Seattle streets were most expensive to live on. Through their examination, they found homes on descriptive streets, like Laurelhurst Lane or Hunts Point Road, were the highest contenders. Let’s take a look at how Seattle streets stack up.

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Countdown to the #1 Most Expensive Street in Seattle:

#10 Brook Bay Road – The median value of homes on this street, located on Mercer Island, is $2,389,913.

#9 Overlake Drive – The median value of homes on this street, located in Medina, is $2,590,160.

#8  Killarney Way – The median value of homes on this street, located in the Meydenbauer neighborhood near Bellevue, is $2,638,714.

#7 Evergreen Point Road – The median value of a home on this street, located in the Meydenbauer neighborhood near Bellevue, is $2,789,945. You can see the full listing here.

#6 Cherry Loop – The median value of homes on this street, located in The Highlands community in Shoreline, is $2,997,348.

#5 Fairweather Place – The median value of homes on this street, located in Hunts Point in the Eastside, is $3,148,178.

#4 Avalon Place – The median value of a home on this street, located on Mercer Island, is $3,698,755.

#3 Laurelcrest Lane – The median home value is $4,590,474.

#2 Ambleside Road –  The median value of homes on this street, located in the Windermere neighborhood, is $6,022,040.

#1 The most expensive street on the list is Hunts Point Road.  The median value of a home on this road, located in Hunts Point on the Eastside, comes in at $6,181,914. Notable residents reportedly of the neighborhood include, former Microsoft CEO and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer, American saxophonist Kenny G, and former CEO and co-found of Costco Wholesale, Jim Sinegal. More recently, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll sold his Hunts Point home for $6.1 million.

Five Tricks to Boost Your Home Value

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De-Clutter

Dump the junk, pack up the knick-knacks, and depersonalize the house as much as possible. Make it as easy as possible for potential buyers to envision themselves in the home. 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.

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Makeover the Kitchen

Viewed by many as the heart of the house, the kitchen is the top rated room to have in pristine condition.  Make any minor repairs that aid with the function of the kitchen such as leaky faucets, loose light fixtures or missing counter top tiles. Also, painting can go a long way in terms of spiffing things up. Lastly, finishing touches such as new cabinet hardware, curtains and lighting fixtures can really pull a room together.

 

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Turn the Bathroom into a Spa

Give the bathrooms a spa treatment with candles, some greenery and fresh towels fastened with bows. Replace any dated mirrors and light fixtures to really brighten the space up. Be mindful of any unpleasant smells and consider placing a diffuser or scented wall plug to keep the room smelling fresh. 

 

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Paint, Paint, Paint

As mentioned above, painting a few the well-used rooms (read kitchen, bathrooms, and kids playroom) in your home can have a major pay off. Just a few rooms lapped in a fresh coat of paint can help cut costs for a potential buyer and help close a sale.  Make sure to paint the rooms in neutral tones, being white, beige, and grey to allow the eye to appreciate the layout of the home and not any assaulting wall colors.

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Exterior Touches

Appearance isn’t everything, but sadly in real estate, this sentiment doesn’t apply. Mow the lawn, yank the weeds, and add some bright flowers. It’s important to work on that curb appeal to gain as many oohs and aahh’s as possible. Any cracked side boarding or paint needs to be repaired.

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/

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.

City Council Votes To Enact Mandatory Developer Fees

towersThe Seattle City Council voted 7-2 Monday to make real estate developer fees that would go toward building affordable housing mandatory; until now, developer fees have been voluntary. As reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Program will require commercial and residential developers to pay a fee of anywhere from $5 to $22 per square foot of rentable space in the building, or make 3 to 5 percent of the building’s units available to those who make 80 percent or less of the area’s median income. According to KIRO, that works out to no more than $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Linkage fees will apply to developments mainly in commercial areas and multi-family residential zones, and will range from $16-$22 per square foot in Downtown and South Lake Union to as low as $5-$7 per square foot in the Rainier Valley and North Seattle (see the map of where fees would be applied here). The money generated by the fees would be used to build housing for people making 60 to 80 percent of the median income, which works out to $45,000 to $65,000 for a family of four, according to The Seattle Times. The fees would not apply to buildings in single-family neighborhoods.

Before the city council vote, a group of 13 land-use lawyers sent a letter to the council opposing the mandatory fees, saying they were illegal under current state law.

If you are interested in learning about housing in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.

Tips For Young First Time Buyers

In many generations past, buying a small home in your 20s-30s was a milestone; people tended to stay put in the city they grew up in, not falling too far from the tree. Today’s generation of 20-30 somethings have certainly evolved, and don’t necessarily want to be tied down to any particular area. They want the freedom to travel for a few months at a time, or take that job across the country at a moment’s notice. They feel the weight of student debt piling up after graduation, and are not thinking about adding to it with a home purchase. Although it may feel like the majority of this group does not want to be tied down, there are many who have an interest in home ownership, and if you or someone you know falls into this category, here are some useful tips if you’re considering buying vs renting. renton home

Don’t assume you cannot afford to buy; many believe that since they likely do not have the funds for a 20% down payment, buying a home is not within reach. In today’s real estate world, there are so many options for financing if you have good credit, such as loan options for qualifying home buyers to put down as little as 5%. In a market like Seattle’s, where renting is likely as expensive (if not more) than buying, so do some research and explore your options before ruling anything out. It’s also important to find a good real estate agent. Times have changed, and while it is very easy to get on your computer and browse for homes online on your own, there are perks to having a professional with their ear to the floor guiding you along your search. Agents know the market better than anyone, and can be an excellent resource should any unforeseen issues arise along the way. Remember that this is not a race, it is a marathon; take your time to find the right home for you, as this is likely going to be one of the biggest purchases of your lifetime. Do your research, and do not feel rushed. Take the time to do your research and determine if and when buying is the right option for you. If you’re interested in learning more about Seattle real estate, contact your local real estate agent today!