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…

Pioneer Square “Ruin” to Become Seattle’s Newest Boutique Hotel

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Commonly dated to 1892, the Metropole Building in Pioneer Square is about to be transformed in the city’s newest boutique hotel.  The building’s finely proportioned façade, articulated in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, has been boarded up since a fire extensively damaged its interior in 2007.  While some restoration work was carried out inside the building following the fire, today, the Metropole resembles a ruin.

In 2015 Seneca ventures purchased the Metropole building for $4 million, planning to turn the dilapidated historical building into a boutique hotel with dining and retail space on its first floor. BuildingWork, a Seattle-based firm, has been hired to undertake the transformation. Matt Aalfs, the owner and principal of BuidlingWork, told the Daily Journal of Commerce that the hotel will have 36 guest rooms, about half of which will be “micro private rooms” geared towards single travelers and those on a budget. The micro rooms will be 120 square feet, but will have private, ensuite bathrooms.  Standard rooms at the hotel will be 220 square feet.

If the permitting process runs smoothly, construction could begin on the Metropole as early as September.  Before any work can begin though, the development team is seeking approval from the National Park Service in order to procure federal historic preservation tax credits, which will provie vital in the financing of the project.

City Proposes Code Changes to Promote the Construction of Back Yard Cottages

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Seattle is seeking new and innovative ways to preserve affordability as housing costs continue to soar. Along with programs like the Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program and the Mandatory Housing Affordability Program, the city of Seattle is proposing to ease land use restrictions that hinder the building of backyard cottages, or in official parlance “accessory dwelling units.”

Since 2010 backyard cottages have been permitted in Seattle, but they are rarely built by homeowners. Only 159 were built in Seattle between 2012 and 2014.  Advocates for backyard cottages lament that the reason so few have been built in Seattle is due to the stringent regulations placed on them in the city’s land use codes. Under current city code, backyard cottages are subject to height limits, footprint, and square footage limits, and require off-street parking.  Along with these restrictions, the city has recently mandated that backyard cottages are subject to King County’s sewer connection charge, which cost one homeowner $10,000.

Portland, which is facing similar affordability issues as Seattle, has softened restrictions placed on backyard cottages. The city, which has allowed backyard cottages since 1981, removed requirements that each cottage must have dedicated off-street parking and a mandate that owners must live on the property, in either the main house or cottage. What made the largest difference to builders, however, was when the city waved the System Development Charges. These charges, which are a set of one-time fees for new or increased use of property, can run up to $12,000 and were a sizable deterrent to potential builders.  Since the city waived these charges, the number of accessory unit permits has drastically increased.  In 2015, there was approximately one permit filed per day.

In Seattle, the changes that the Office of Planning and Community Development are proposing will remove certain barriers that have kept homeowners from building backyard cottages. The most significant changes are an increase in allowable size for detached accessory dwelling units from 800 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft. and decoupling the garage area from the allowable size.  An increase in height limit will also make a big difference in some situations. Under the proposal, owner occupancy would be required for only one year, rather than being abandoned altogether, in an attempt to limit speculative development interests. In making these changes, the Office of Planning and Community Development hope to increase the stock of moderately-priced housing options in Seattle’s low-density neighborhoods.

Washington State Home Sales Soar Past Previous Highs

sold-sign2015 may have been an interesting year for many reasons, but in the world of Washington real estate, it sure felt like the good old days.

Not since the way-back-when of 2007 had so many homes and condominiums sold in the Evergreen State. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, 2015 saw a whopping 88,331 homes changed hands last year, about  14% more sales than in the previous year. Those who have done the math say that works out to about 75,975 single family homes and 12,356 condominiums, valued at  approximately $34 billion, about 23% more than the dollar volume sold the year before. Those impressive figures make 2015 one of the best years for Washington State real estate in recent memory.

The last time this state saw real estate figures like that was in 2007, before the bubble burst and sent the country into what is not-so-affectionately known as The Great Recession. Even in 2007, the figures only added up to about 82,197 sales valued at $32.3 billion, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Furthermore, despite a ‘lower inventory’, so to speak, prices and number of sales continue to grow. In King County, the median home price was $480,000 and more than 26,600 homes sold. Compare that to a median price of  $440,000 and 26,600 homes sold, in 2014 and you’ll notice a jump of close to 10%. Snohomish and Pierce counties can top those figures with growth figures for both median home price and number of homes sold over last year at nearly 16.80% ($355,000, up from $326,360 with 11,303 homes sold) and 17.39% ($249,950, up from 230,000 with more than 13,200 homes sold) respectively.

Overall, region-wide, the growth was about 8.8% from 2014, with a median price for single family homes and condominiums at about  $310,000, up from $285,000  last year.

Numbers like this are a positive and encouraging sign for the state of the  real estate market and the country’s economy as a whole. Let’s just hope nothing comes along and tries to ‘burst our bubble’ this time.

No Horsing Around – Union Stables Restored

TUNE, architecture firm Weinstein A+U, and joint owner of the building, general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis will take up the ole’ nine to five in arguably one of the coolest workspaces in Seattle. Once housing over 300 horses, employees of TUNE, Weinstein A+U, and Lewis will be the first human tenants to move into the building.

An ode to Seattle’s pioneering days, the landmark building was used as a livery stable, housing horses used for deliveries and to pull streetcars. Once considered the most modern building west of the Mississippi, the building has seen fires, earthquakes and was the scene of a major Prohibition raid back in 1923.

Paying respects to the building’s rich history, Lewis persevered and reused 127,000 board feet of lumber and milled old beams from the original building turning them into flooring and other materials. Additionally he reused every single road brick, as road brick is no longer available. Timber chewed and rubbed on by the horses can be seen throughout the build, as well as a large V-shaped hay cart which will be hung in the lobby of the building as “a nice little reminder of what the building was like..,” Dave Rauma, Lewis senior project manager said, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Offering exposed beams, bike storage, and a green roof on part of the building, the renovation hits a sweet balance in paying homage to the past while setting an energy conscious precedent for the future. Going beyond the boundaries of the building, thinking of our carbon footprint, Lewis anticipates the green roof to be certified LEED gold, and hopes to outfit his office at the highest LEED certification, LEED platinum. It seems this waterfront building has jumped leaps and bounds ahead of its time and is quickly becoming more legendary than its historic past. With the tone set, let’s hope to see some legendary business for the companies settling in.

Union Stables Building

2200 Western Ave.

Seattle, WA 98121

Construction of Seattle Seawall to Start This Week

rerouteWork to replace Seattle’s deteriorating seawall will begin this week. About 175 parking spaces under the viaduct between Madison Street and Pike Street will be displaced during construction of a temporary road. Traffic will be redirected to a new roadway in January as Alaskan Way will be closed during the construction of the new seawall which is said to finish in Spring 2016.

Access to all businesses along the waterfront will remain open. Arrangements have been made by the city with parking garages near the area to offer short-term parking rates at the price of city on-street parking. About 226 parking spaces have already been removed from King Street to Madison Street to make way for construction. Eventually all parking will be eliminated down to Virginia Street as work progresses. Construction will be done Monday through Saturday with the noisiest work done before 10:00pm.

UW Approves New $123.5 Million Animal Research Facility

mouseDespite the number of protesters sitting in on the meeting Thursday, UW Board of Regents approved a new 2-story animal research facility to be built near the shore of Portage Bay. Protesters holding signs “No New Animal Lab” were not only upset about the fact that it was approved but also that the decision was made so quickly without much discussion. The board says that everything regarding the issue had been discussed in a previously held meeting. Two UW students who were among the 30 protesters there were aloud to comment on the vote. They hoped that the University of Washington would become a leader in phasing out animal experimentation which is becoming a growing trend throughout the United States. Harvard has announced plans to shut down its primate research center.

The number of animals being used in experiments has decreased substantially. While these numbers are decreasing, UW is making plans to make room for an increase in numbers of animals it will house for experimentation. It currently houses 650 monkeys and other primates with plans of making room for an additional 280 as well as doubling the number of pigs and up to 20 percent the number of rodents. UW’s animals are currently spread out at different locations in facilities not meant for animals to be kept in. The new underground facility will be a proper environment for the number of animals UW plans to accommodate.

UW feels that in order to continue medical research, animal experimentation is needed. UW does use alternatives to animal testing whenever possible. Animal-rights activists urge UW to reconsider there plans.

Seattle Homes For Sale Increasing

Last months statistics are in, and August has shown a slight increase in homes hitting the market than there was noted in July. According to the Seattle Pi, in August Seattle had listed 1.6 months worth of homes for sale, up slightly from 1.5 months in July. King county listed 1.9 months of inventory last month, up from 1.7 months in July. Both of these numbers are down from a year ago, when there was over 2 months inventory listed, and are considerably lower than what is noted as a balanced market between supply and demand (between 4-6 months). west seattle homev

There is still high buyer demand for home in Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound, and even though interest rates are slightly increasing and the average home sale is slightly higher in comparison to the rest of the country, Seattle home buyers are not put off. Home are still more affordable in the area than they have been in years. If you’re looking to buy or sell your home, contact your local real estate agent today.

Seattle One of Five Top US Cities for Electric Car Sales

carSeattle is the third U.S. city to dominate the electric car sales market. The top five metro areas, in order of market share size, include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Atlanta which together make up more than half of all the electric vehicle sales in the U.S.. Four of the states, including Seattle, have incentives for purchasing electric vehicles. It is surprising that Atlanta has more plug-ins than Portland or Seattle. Both Portland and Seattle do not rank in the top five for new hybrid vehicle sales.

DSA letter to Mayor requests action upon rising violence downtown

sdp rangersThe Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) has a sent a letter to Mayor McGinn requesting something be done about the rise in violence in Downtown Seattle. In the letter DSA asks that there be more park rangers available and present at all city parks as well as additional bike and foot patrol officers on the streets throughout the city. These recommendations stem from not only the rising violence but also the fact that with increasing economic stability and population growth comes more revenue which should allow the city to be able to provide services to keep the city clean and safe.