Weyerhaeuser: Woodsy Urban

Weyerhaeuser’s Lobby Area.  Photo: Anthony Bolante/Puget Sound Business Journal

Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters has moved “out of the woods” and into the urban core, to paraphrase The New York Times. A number of large, local companies decided recently to move their suburban headquarters to the Seattle core, including Weyerhaeuser, in an attempt to attract new talent who might prefer the perks of a downtown lifestyle. Another reason Weyerhaeuser decided to move is their previous location, which they occupied for 45 years, was deemed too big. Last autumn, they moved most of their office (between 700-800 employees) from a sprawling 430-acre campus in Federal Way to a single, new building in downtown Seattle. Their 166,000 square foot building is adjacent to Occidental Park, a community in transition, in the Pioneer Square area which is 3 blocks from a transit hub.

Weyerhaeuser Building in Pioneer Square.  Photo: Stuart Isett/The New York Times

Exterior of Weyerhaeuser Building.  Photo: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

The exterior of the Weyerhaeuser building (220 Occidental Avenue South) is understated with quality details, and makes an effort to blend with the historic brick buildings that surround it.  An overhang and mason end walls align with the cornices of the historic buildings around the square, for an even line or flow from building-to-building. Also in keeping with its historic environment and Weyerhaeuser’s 116+ years in business, the bricks on the new building were placed by-hand, highly unusual these days, instead of a prefabricated sheet of bricks. The structure was developed by Urban Visions, who chose to work with architecture firm Mithun.

Weyerhaeuser lunch room with Elizabeth MacPherson, Mithun principal. Photo: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

Photo: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

Weyerhaeuser produces wood products + land-related endeavors, and these materials are highlighted in their interior space, with the occasional burst of color (such as furniture). In the lobby, an employee’s photo of trees in a woods has been converted into a large digital wall mural. The ceilings, walls, tables, desks and other elements are often made from their own sustainable timber or made of natural materials. There’s quite a few windows for natural light. A rooftop garden. Studio SC’s large black and white wayfinding illustration of tree branches begins from an upper landing in the stairwell and works down floor-by-floor, ending with tree roots on a lower level. Even though this is a new building, a sense of history has been infused.

With the new building bordering the east side, Occidental Park is now enclosed on four sides and resembles a small, urban European plaza or Early American town square, especially during the summer. There’s seating available at the park, surrounded by hanging flowering baskets, older trees, and totem poles. Crime has dropped at the park by 2/3rds as of late July 2016, due to a very successful partnership between the Downtown Seattle Association and Seattle Parks & Recreation. As a result, a larger variety of people frequent the park because family-friendly events/activities, food trucks, games, and live music are now more commonplace. The re-invigoration of several downtown parks usually means an eventual rise in real estate values and a renewal of businesses in the vicinity. Weyerhaeuser, steeped in a long history with sustainable endeavors, is no stranger to renewal.

Occidental Park outside Weyerhaeuser headquarters.  Photo: Stuart Isett/The New York Times

Seattle Just Keeps Growing

In spite of the building boom in downtown Seattle, there have been very limited options for buying a home, versus renting. Resembling giant glass Rubik’s cubes stacked 41 floors high, the Nexus Seattle condominiums will be taking ground at 1200 Howell Street in the Denny Triangle. The building will feature 382 units, varying in size and price, ranging from $300,000 to $3.5 million. Sections of the building are twisted to face different directions, views will vary depending which floor the home is located on.

According to the Nexus website, 80% of the units have already been reserved as of this past November (2016). Underscoring the market’s desire for permanent housing and the influx of people for high-paying tech jobs downtown, hundreds of buyers lined up to pay a $5,000 refundable deposit to be guaranteed a spot at a priority presales event on June 4th last year. Some people even camped out overnight to be first in line.

Burrand Group, the Canadian company that owns the site, plans to break ground this month to begin construction. The Nexus building will be within walking distance of at least two large-tech work campuses in the South Lake Union area. An article with Puget Sound Business Journal states a fitness center, common co-working space, the option of renting a guest room, and a rooftop terrace will be some of the amenities available.

As of October 2016, the median price for a downtown Seattle condo was $650,000. The median price for a 1-bedroom rental is currently $1,820 per month, reflecting the 40% hike in rent over the past 5 years. Seattle is now in the top ten of most expensive apartment markets in the United States, as of April 2016.

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.

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.

Millennials Are Buying Homes After All

broadview homewwThe National Association of Realtors 2015 report on generational trends showed that millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers, sitting at 32 percent. According to a recent TD Bank Survey of 1,002 adults, millennials who are currently between the ages 25 and 34 will be looking to purchase their first home over the next two years. Alas, putting to rest their reputation as the transient renter generation.

As the older tier of Gen Y rounds into their early 30s, many of whom didn’t experience the housing crisis firsthand, they view home buying with innovative eyes. Millennials see the potential in the “fixer upper” home and aren’t ruling them out as viable housing options. Just as likely to roll up their sleeves as the generations before them, millennials like the idea of tailoring their home to their needs.  Despite being laden with college loans and debt, and maybe because of that, Gen Y-ers are also less romantic about the process – purchasing before marriage, owning for shorter amount of time and flipping with success. There is as much risk as there is reward, and this robust generation isn’t questioning if the rewards exists.

Beyond changing the home owner relationship, this generation is also changing the home buying process. “We’re on our phones all the time, and this generation does not like to pick up the phone,” Player Murray, managing broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty told US News. “They don’t want to bother with a conversation if it can be texted.” And because it’s predicted that millennials will (soon) rise as the generation buying the largest number of homes this year, their preference in how the process works, matter – big time. Nela Richardson, chief economist for the real estate company Redfin, agrees that “because of their size, whatever they decide to do will have an impact on the housing market,” and really, with smart phones and searching apps like Redfin and Zillow, Richardson is on to something.

This tech-savvy generation is spearheading change in many industries and real estate has been no exception. As Gen Y-ers overtake baby boomers in the home buying game, there is a ripple effect. Being that only 3 percent of agents are under 30, and 81 percent of real estate agents are over the age of 45, according to a NAR survey of its members, the tables have turned and the consumer isn’t being served by its own age group.

It’s not that Gen Y-ers aren’t buying homes, they are, just on their terms. They know what they want, which is not a phone call, but rather a text or app that will give them the freedom to research on their time. They do their homework – they aren’t looking for an access point to the information, as that is already at their fingertips, what they are looking for is a person to interpret the information and not leave anything out. Surprises aren’t fun for this generation, but home improvement projects are!

Nearly Half Of Seattle Homes Selling For Over Asking

Blue RidgeOnly four cities in the U.S. have a higher percentage of homes selling above their listing price than Seattle: San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. are seeing nearly 80 percent of homes selling above asking; Oakland, Calif. is not far behind at more than 70 percent; and Denver, Colo. is narrowly edging out Seattle with slightly more than 50 percent of homes going for more than list price. Seattle clocks in at just under 50 percent, according to Redfin Research. Despite home prices in Seattle being up 15 percent from this time last year, a recent report by the Puget Sound Business Journal showed that homes are not only selling for above asking, but FAR above asking. A home in Ravenna, where the buyers never personally set foot in the house before making an offer, sold for $1,175,000 – $200,000 more than its list price of $975,000. Similarly, a home in Magnolia listed for $699,000 ended up selling for $800,000. Underscoring the great lengths buyers are going to in order to purchase a home, even this home in Bellevue, which backs up to a 50-foot ravine instead of a backyard and was found to have cracks in its foundation, sold for $893,900 – 6 percent over asking.

Not only are homes selling for sky-high prices, but they’re selling in the blink of an eye. Seattle boasts the second lowest number of days on the market of any city in the U.S. at an average of nine days, according to Redfin. Only Denver is seeing its homes sell in a shorter period of time, at an average of just six days. With inventory down 27.5 percent over the year in Seattle and very high demand, it doesn’t look like this mad scramble for homes will let up in the near future.

If you have questions about buying or selling a home in Seattle, one of our agents would be happy to help you navigate this challenging market!

Median Home Price In King Co. Hits $500,000

1215 McGilvra NewThe median price of single-family home sold in King County has reached new heights this year. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the median price in King County has risen to $500,000, a 10.3 percent increase over the last peak of $481,000 in July 2007. In Seattle, the median is significantly higher than that, having risen 15 percent over the year to $575,000. It’s been rumored that we are in a bubble, but Alan Pope, a real estate appraiser in Redmond, says he believes we aren’t in a bubble, but that “… the balloon is growing, and I can’t tell when it’s going to stop.” In fact, the housing market is just gaining traction from taking a hit during the past recession and isn’t too far above the prices they normally would be had we missed it.

The Seattle area’s healthy job market has caught the eye of the nation and beyond. As more people settle in to Seattle and surrounding cities, the housing market has become quite competitive. With a surge of buyers and very little increase in single-family residential development, there is a shortage of houses on the market. Between March and May of this year, Seattle only had a month’s supply of single-family homes and condominiums on the market, according to a Seattle Times analysis of NWMLS data. Inventory in June of this year was well below the average three months’ supply, and the number of residential listings in King County was 23 percent lower than last year.

Other counties are seeing similar patterns. In Snohomish County, the median price of single-family homes sold was $360,125, that’s 6 percent higher than last year. Pierce County prices are up an impressive 9.5 percent, sitting at $257,000.

In Seattle, homes for sale sit on the market for an average of just eight days, compared to the national average of 28 days. When a home goes on the market, Seattle house hunters are ready to play ball, even if that means paying well above the listing price. The only true fix to relive the pressure on the current housing market is to build new houses. The National Association of Home Builders reports that there were 3,481 permits issued for new single-family homes between January and May, down 4 percent over the year. That might be due to the lack of adequate plats to build on. Allison Butcher of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties told the Times that land is becoming increasingly hard to find in Seattle.

As for condominiums, we’re seeing a bit of a trickle-down effect, as the median price in King County was $287,000, up 7 percent over last year, and up 12 percent in Snohomish County, now sitting at $239,950. However, Pierce County is down about 7 percent, at $162,500. Listings for condos aren’t climbing as quickly as single-family homes, but they are taking some of the heat as buyers look for other more available options.

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

Seattle Area Market: Prices Are Rising, People Are Buying

812 W GalerS&P/Case-Shiller released its Home Price Index for April today, and the numbers paint a familiar picture of the Seattle-area housing market: prices are rising, and people are buying. The average price for a single-family home in the area comprising King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties rose 0.9 percent in April from March, and was up 7.5 percent over the year. Despite the rise in prices, homes are selling in an average of 8 days in Seattle, and the number of completed sales in the three-county region was up a staggering 38 percent from last April. According to Zillow, the median single-family home in the area will now cost you $366,100.

Compared to the blistering pace of price gains at this time last year, when prices were up 11.2 percent on a yearly basis, gains seem to be moderating. In reference to the housing market as a whole, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said in a statement that “Normal home value growth is usually between 3 percent and 5 percent annually, well below growth rates of just a year ago, so the current pace is far more sustainable.” While the Seattle area’s growth has not fallen into that threshold yet, we’re not seeing the sustained growth of last year, when prices in the area grew by double digits on a yearly basis for 14 consecutive months. San Francisco and Denver are leading the nation in appreciation, with home prices having risen by 10 percent and 10.3 percent respectively.

It is still a great time to sell in the Seattle area, so if you are interested in listing your home, contact your local real estate agent today!

Seattle Homes Selling In Average of 8 Days

3804 E Blaine St.Across the U.S., houses are selling at breakneck speed, with homes only surviving on the market for an average of 28 days before being snatched up by eager buyers. Many homes sold even faster than that in May, with approximately 35 percent going into contract within two weeks of hitting the market. But you think that’s fast? The national market has nothing on Seattle, where last month homes sold after a mere 8 days on the market, and almost half sold above list price, according to Redfin. This no doubt is due to extremely low inventory, especially within the Seattle city limits, where there is less than a month’s supply of homes available, not nearly enough to satisfy the high demand for homes in the city.

Despite this increased buying activity, national home prices actually grew at a slower rate this May – up just 1.6 percent over April – compared to the 3 percent rise in prices we saw last May. On a yearly basis, prices across the country are up 6 percent from a year ago. List prices in the Seattle market increased just slightly from April to May (1.4 percent), and the median was $426,000. Year over year, Seattle prices were up 6.5 percent.

As these statistics illustrate, now is a great time to sell your home! If you’re on the fence, contact your local real estate agent to learn more about the selling process.

Seattle-Area Monthly Home Price Gains Second Highest In U.S.

Madison Park home for sale - $2,395,000

Madison Park home for sale – $2,395,000

Just when it seems like Seattle’s home prices couldn’t possibly go any higher, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index releases its monthly housing numbers. According to Tuesday’s release, Seattle-area home prices rose 2.3 percent in March, the second highest monthly gain of any city in the national index, trailing only San Francisco. That is up significantly from the 0.9 percent increase in February. The year-over-year change in March saw Seattle-area home prices gain 7.5 percent, which put us just outside the top five cities in terms of yearly gains. Yet again, San Francisco topped the list with a 10.3 percent increase, followed by Denver, Dallas, Miami, and Tampa. According to The Seattle Times, September 2008 was the last time Seattle’s index was at its current level (ominously, the same month Washington Mutual failed).

The question on everyone’s minds, especially in cities seeing double-digit gains, is whether we’re in the midst of another housing bubble, but S&P Dow Jones Indices Managing Director and Chairman David Blitzer does not believe that’s the case. Despite the steep gains in local markets, Blitzer says the national market is actually moderating. Whereas the national price index saw a yearly gain of a staggering 10 percent in February 2014, this month’s report showed a gain of less than half that, at 4.1 percent.  He says that even though that 4.1 percent gain is far higher than the average rise in inflation-adjusted home prices of 1 percent per year (since 1975), the fact that the rate of increase halved from 2014 to 2015 signals a return to moderate gains. He says “I would describe this as a rebound in home prices, not a bubble and not a reason to be fearful.” National housing prices are still 15 percent below their peak during the housing bubble.

The numbers for Seattle, however, come on the heels of a report from Redfin citing that the number of Silicon Valley residents searching for homes in Seattle has more than doubled over the past year. Likely pushed out by the Bay Area’s 10 percent jump in prices, transplants looking for homes in Seattle are adding even more pressure to the area’s extremely tight housing market, where the median home is selling in just 39 days in April, according to the National Association of Realtors.

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