Seattle’s Queen Anne Neighborhood Is Amazing

Queen Anne has long been one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods because of its easy proximity to Downtown Seattle while still maintaining a “small town” feel.

Queen Anne Seattle WAThe Queen Anne Neighborhood of Seattle is amazing from all angles – on the North slope there are lovely views of Ballard & Fremont over the canal and the Fremont Sunday Market is practically right there!  To the East is Lake Union with houseboats all along Westlake, the Bigelow Ave portion of Queen Anne Boulevard, Downtown Seattle views, and more.  In the Southeast, the newer QFC is just one of the factors that make this part of the neighborhood score high on WalkScore (my latest Queen Anne contract  in this area has a WalkScore of 94!!!).  In the shadow of the iconic Space Needle, Lower Queen Anne or Uptown is full of restaurants, pubs, and nightlife and has the Seattle Center at its heart.  West Queen Anne is perched high above Puget Sound and offers sweeping views of the sound, city, Space Needle, Mount Rainier, and pretty much anything else you want to see as it is one of Seattle’s highest hills.  Upper Queen Anne is the true heart of the neighborhood and a stroll or drive along Queen Anne Ave North will show you why.  This is the heart of the upper portion of Queen Anne and where you can find all of the offerings from local clubs, restaurants, and merchants. One of my personal favorites is Queen Anne Books.

Historical Queen Anne: Queen Anne

Queen Anne is one of the original Seattle neighborhoods settled and the history of it is quite fascinating!   A stroll around Queen Anne Boulevard is a great place to start.  Old Queen Anne Boulevard is a series of streets that form a loop around the top of Queen Anne – a crown around the top of the hill.  Many people don’t know about the Boulevard, but it has been around in one form or another for about a hundred years thanks to the citizens of Queen Anne at the time who pushed for it.   Queen Anne Boulevard is Queen Anne’s version of the Green Lake path although it is almost a mile longer at roughly 3.7 miles and shares its surfaces with cars.   Look for historical sites on the Boulevard including the Wilcox Wall on the West slope, but also notice that there are some of the city’s best views along the way!

Queen Anne Real Estate:

Homes in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood range from small co-ops and condos for under $200,000 to sweeping historical mansions priced in the millions, but the current median for listed residential (non co-op or condo) Queen Anne homes is $650,000 with a range of $325,000 to $4,890,000.  Although much of Queen Anne hill is made up of historical architecture, there are some really well thought out new construction projects on the hill – many that incorporate greener building products and that have incorporated the character of the surrounding neighborhood as well as the views available into their design.  Queen Anne has a lot to offer and can be surprisingly more affordable than one might initially have thought  in some areas.

Queen Anne Living:

This neighborhood is so livable!  The streets of Queen Anne are connected by a matrix of pedestrian staircases  (check out Thomas Horton’s map of them here) and sidewalks which lead to the wide array of  neighborhood parks, local grocers and shops, eateries, coffee houses, and more.  Transit is thoroughly incorporated into the infrastructure here with bus routes all over the hill.  If you are looking for a good no car option, than Queen Anne is definitely one of my top recommendations in Seattle, but obviously, with or without a car, it is one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods!

Rantings on volunteering, wigs parties, de-icing

Although I’ve just recently become accustomed to Seattle and its nuances, and my schedule has fallen into a rhythm of some sort, I’m looking to somewhat overhaul my routine. I enjoy being busy to a large degree and too much free time definitely breeds indolence. Therefore, outside of work, one class and freelancing I’m beginning to familiarize myself with some of the local food banks by performing service work for a few through Seattle University and my church.

There was a time when, after volunteering during several college spring breaks at a Franciscan soup kitchen in the heart of Philadelphia’s most destitute neighborhood, that I was going to be a live-in volunteer there for one or two years after college before starting my career. But as perhaps anyone would, I had grave concerns regarding how I would jump into my career after a two-year hiatus and little professional experience under my belt. Luckily, the bevy of opportunities to help the less fortunate in Seattle have stymied any regrets I may have had in not welcoming the amazing opportunity that the friars in Philadelphia offered me. Within a year, I do hope to voyage back to my volunteer roots for several days and assist the needy there once again. 

Wigs n’ Wine 

On a lighter note, last weekend my roommate along with friends and myself donned wigs and slurped libations for a Wigs n’ Wine Party commemorating my upcoming birthday. We kicked off the notable occasion with dinner at Peso’s Kitchen & Lounge in Queen Anne. Having resided in Seattle now nearly five months, it was neat to get out and poke around the nuts and bolts of Queen Anne a bit. It’s probably by far the Seattle neighborhood I have frequented the least. Our evening out was a far cry from my birthday outing last year, which took place at a sleepy pizza parlor nestled in a leafy Illinois suburb. Despite the mundanity of last year’s evening, it was a pleaseant time nonetheless; this year was just understandably extremely new and different.

Am I back in Chicago?

Sure, it rains here plenty, and, of course, no shock there, but I am a bit perplexed at how much the sun has poked it’s head out from the clouds the past couple weeks. On the other hand, must say I was surprised at how much the temperatures have fluctuated lately; the thin coat of frost that blanketed my car windows the other day reminded me of my numerous years in Chicagoland and the frequency in which I had to de-ice my windshield. Oh well, I’m not complaining, guess it’s just an unseasonable cold October for Seattle standards. 

Seatte Metropolitan Magazine's Best Places to Live

This month’s issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine features their annual “Best Places to Live”.    What strikes me is their number one pick is[photopress:seattlemet.jpg,thumb,alignright] not any where near Seattle; nor is it “metropolitan”.   It’s Kent.  I’m not knocking Kent.   In fact, my main office is head quartered on the East Hill of Kent and I grew up in south east King County.   It just seems out of place to have 40% of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine’s Best Places to Live be outside of Seattle city limits.

Here is the Best Places to Live according to SMM with the median home price:

  1. Kent $278,500
  2. Lower Queen Anne $289,000
  3. High Point $315,990
  4. Belltown $324,450
  5. Victory Heights/Pinehurst $356,750
  6. Rainier Vista $390,000
  7. South Lake Union $394,000
  8. Issaquah Highlands $569,950
  9. Somerset $697,500
  10. Yarrow Point $1,500,000

Is SMM out of neighborhoods in Seattle they feel are worthy?  Are they searching for newly constructed fresh neighborhoods…Seattle is pretty darn old, afterall.  

Last year, Eileen covered SMMs 2006 Best Neighborhoods on RCG.   She asked why not Burien?  Which I agree–Burien continues to be completely overlooked and…in my opinion, so is Des Moines.   Both of these neighborhoods are technically “Seattle”.  

What Seattle neighborhoods would have made your top 10 that are not receiving recognition on this years list?

The House was Smokin'

[photopress:issaquah_highlands.jpg,thumb,alignright]Randy (husband) and I are buying a new home in Issaquah Highlands, a neighborhood I really love. Won’t we be neighbors, Robbie?  Reminds me of Queen Anne with the local community feel.  It was supposed to be the new home for Microsoft, but the company decided to stay in Redmond although Issaquah Highlands is home to many Microsofties. It didn’t seem to matter that Microsoft didn’t take up residence there as it is booming anyway.  I’m looking forward to seeing it continue developing.  I understand the shopping district will be like the U Village and that they’re just waiting for an anchor grocery store before they begin building the village. In ground internet and intranet, acres of playgrounds, in community grade school, wine restaurant, everything you need in a community.[photopress:smoking_house.JPG,thumb,alignleft]

The Highlands has several green builders and we’re buying from one of them, Specialized Homes who specializes in the Healthy Habitat approach to building. It’s educational to understand the purpose behind the eco friendly materials and systems he’s using. One of the really interesting things I’ve learned watching the home get built is the heating system.  Most heating systems lose up to 50% of the heat in leaky ducts making the 92% efficient furnaces hardly worth the extra money when the system is really only 46% efficient.  

One day, my duct work was all gunked up with a gray substance which I’d never seen before. It was applied to about 90% of the ductwork in the entire house. Bob, the builder, told us that he had conducted a ‘smoke test’ by running smoke thru the ductwork to look for leaks. The gray gunk was applied anywhere and everywhere there was smoke coming thru. They applied it until it was totally sealed and no more smoke! It improves comfort, lowers heating bills and improves air quality.  There’s also better windows, totally sealed doors, better insulation. it all adds up, but the smoke test I thought was cool and it makes sense now to spend the extra cost of the 92% efficient furnace.

These are great websites to learn about this if you’re so interested. Not only am I happy to know that the house will be healthier to live in, but I predicting a heating bill 1/2 of what I am now paying which I’ll need with the higher payments! Check out those web sites to learn more ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home.


Fire Sale in Queen Anne on Craig’s List

[photopress:fire_sale.jpg,thumb,alignright]I was out and about in Seattle today. Before heading off to finish staging the townhome I listed tonight in Ballard/Fremont, I got a call from a new client asking me about a property she found on Craig’s List.

It was a For Sale By Owner in Queen Anne at 2447 5th Ave W. I decided to meet her over there so we could chat and I could see the place for one of our investor clients. I have never seen a house after a fire like this one…every burnt ember is still intact! The hanging burned curtain…the mattress springs from the totally burnt mattress…all that was left were the springs! The walls in the dining room were incredible…looked like folded black crepe paper.

As we were chatting outside, my favorite “non-client” was coming to see it. It is such a small world sometimes. Luckily no one was hurt in the fire. We were having so much fun, it was a blast, that I felt guilty and asked a neighbor, and they assured me no one was hurt during the fire. So we partied on!

You can’t tell from the outside that there was a fire, but the inside is worth seeing. I’m not sure if someone will gut this and remodel it, or just tear it down and build a new one. Investor types should go over and take a look. Not sure what the lot value is over there, but it’s a great location. Too much for my new clients or my favorite “non-client” to handle…but one of you might be interested. Owner’s number is on the sign out front and the place is open for inspection, but be careful, some of the floor boards are pretty soft and there’s a lot of soot to wade through. Don’t wear your best shoes.

What’s hot and what’s not in Seattle?

Where to invest next in Seattle/Eastside neighborhoods? I’ve been thinking about the list Seattle Metropolitan Magazine came up in April (see below). With gas prices up, rapid transit going in, I think the next hot spots will be along those rapid transit routes like what happened in San Francisco and Portland.

Here are 2 lists, one from last month and one from 3 years ago. My clients usually make a decision where to buy based on either the commute or schools, sometimes as specific as a certain grade school. What about home age and style. It has been suggested that buyers like the homes their grandparents lived in, not the ones they grew up in, so Will the next batch of buyers want the 50’s and 60’s houses as has been suggested and if so, should we be buying in those areas? There was supposed to be a trend away from large homes, and that’s probably the case considering home prices are so high most can’t have the size home the buyers of the 90’s did.

Here is the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine list of 15 of the hottest neighborhoods in it’s April issue.

Grandes Dames: established and well rooted neighborhoods:

  1. Medina: (recognize the house above?)
  2. Madison Park
  3. Admiral

The Rock Stars: fast rising districts surging with glamour and vitality.

  1. Ballard
  2. Pike/Pine Corridor
  3. Moss Bay, Kirkland

Cinderellas: Formerly neglected areas now traipsing to the ball

  1. South Lake Union (courtesy of Paul Allen)
  2. Columbia City
  3. Georgetown
  4. Westwood

Sleeping Beauties: Location, economy and neighborliness drawing overdue attention

  1. Upper Rainier Beach
  2. North Greenwood
  3. Monroe
  4. Stadium district, Tacoma
  5. Cape George Colony, Port Townsend

This is a dramatic change from 2003, when had their list of hot neighborhoods

  1. Bryant
  2. Montlake
  3. Sunset Hill
  4. North Beach
  5. Blue Ridge
  6. Olympic Manor
  7. Phinney Ridge
  8. Greenwood Manor
  9. North Admiral
  10. Westwood

Almost all of these were north of the U District.

Does this mean that our citizens are fickle and don’t have favorites more than 3 years in a row? Or was it this kind of story that drove the prices up in those neighborhoods so that they are now not affordable? Is it possible in 3 years that even Georgetown will be sizzling? I’d love to tap into the collective minds of RCG bloggers and see what you think.

I think Burien is an up-and-coming area and it’s not on either list. Any other hidden gems out there?

Meet a Realtor Who Doesn't Sell Houses…

The NY Times ran an article a few weeks ago on how hard it is for new real estate agents to break into the market (I’d like to the article but it is now behind a password-protected wall, so instead I’ll just link to the Property Grunt’s excellent summary and analysis). This article got me thinking of a way that I could still be very useful to my clients without actually buying or selling any homes.

What’s that? A Realtor who doesn’t buy or sell any homes?

For the next six-months or so, I really won’t be in a position where I can dedicate a significant amount of time to helping clients. (higher priorities! ) But what I would really enjoy doing over the next few months is staying connected to the business by helping buyers and sellers find appropriate agents.

Say that again?

Mariel Kicking a Soccer BallIn my office alone, there are almost 100 real estate agents who would love to have your business (assuming you’re buying or selling a home) and while I don’t know all of these agents, I do know the successful ones . What I would like to do is use my inside knowledge of successful Seattle agents to connect individuals with the right agents.

For example:

  • Are you looking for a condo in Downtown? I know an agent who specializes there!
  • Are you looking to buy land in Woodinville? I know a different agent who specializes there!
  • How about a modern-style home in Seattle? I know a different agent who specializes in modern homes.

Regardless if you’re trying to sell a home, condo, boathouse, townhome, etc., I’ve come into contact with a highly successful agent who specializes in that field. Talk with me, and I’ll connect you with the right person.

Why would I do this?

It is really a win-win-win situation. You get the best representation possible, a successful real estate agent gets one more client, and I can continue to help people in a small but important way. (I’ll also get a small referral fee from the agent…)

By the way, my recommendations are not limited to just people moving to Seattle. I know a few listings agents who go out of their way to please, so if you are currently a Seattle-area homeowner looking to list your house, talk with me before you list. I’m confident that no matter how good your realtor is, I can get you a better one!

Monorail Death Watch

monorail's green lineInspired by Timothy Noah’s Death Watch (the latest regarding Karl Rove) series on slate, I’m tempted to start something on the Monorail as the whole operation seems to be in a death spiral lately… However, rather than go for the jugular, I’ve decided to give my view on how the monorail’s future became so dire.

After the defeat of Initiative 83 that would have effectively banned the monorail, the project seemed on a high. The monorail supporters (rightfully) saw the overwhelming support as a great sign in that the project could now move forward with the full support of the City (at least at the highest levels of the City government). However, as the negotiations between the sole-bidding contractor and the monorail agency dragged on, support seemed to wane. I heard numerous times from people who said that they were tired of all the delays and their support was waning with each passing day.

The latest crop of news began when the monorail announced on June 3rd that an tentative agreement had been reached with the prime contractor for the (relatively unusual) design, build AND operate contract.

On June 21, more details of the agreement were released to the public. This set into motion a series of articles documenting the total cost of the proposal. The Times has a decent article, while the PI put out sensationalist piece giving the total projects costs as “$11 billion”. This holds the monorail up to a higher standard than any other public project and is really just bad economics. For example, it is like saying the price you paid for your $400,000 home ballooned to $1,200,000 because that is the total amount you will pay over the life of your loan. The worst part of this journalism is that I’ve heard numerous individuals quote this number as if the cost of the monorail jumped from $1.7B to $11B overnight. This type of apples to oranges comparison seems irresponsible of the Seattle PI…

If the monorail fails someday, I would say that a definitely turning point happened around the time of the PI’s “$11 billion” article. After that, the Monorail Board and the City Council members had to start explaining economics in order to justify their positions, and this became a no-win situation. Both the Times and the PI ran articles describing how support was quickly evaporating.

Seattle Center FountainThen on July 1, the Monorail board rejected the complicated 50-year financing scheme which led to the resignation of Project Executive Director Joel Horn and Board Chairman Tom Weeks. The Seattle Weekly has since written a scathing article about Joel Horn.

Does this mean that the monorail project is dead in Seattle? Not necessarily. The acting director is working hard to attact a new director and sway public opinion back in favor of the monorail. However, the odds are definitely against the monorail at this point.

On Friday (7/15) the editorial board from the Seattle PI, which has generally been a supporter of the monorail, gave an editorial which asks for the final nail to be put in the coffin of the project. (This had the anti-monorail voices over at the Sound Politics blog jumping for joy, or as one writer put it: “Stunned. Encouraged, but stunned.”)

Can’t get enough monorail information? Here’s a list of my resources:

Farmers’ Markets in Seattle

Tulips As a test for a new little program I wrote to post things on Google Maps, I’ve put a map together displaying all the Farmers’ Markets in Seattle. In order to do this, I cribbed heavily from a few websites such as metroblogging and the Neighborhood Farmers’ Market Alliance .

The farmers’ markets current being displayed include:

  • Pike Place Market
  • Ballard Farmers’ Market
  • Broadway Farmers’ Market
  • Capital Hill Farmers’ Market
  • Columbia City Farmers’ Market
  • Fremont Market
  • Lake City Farmers’ Market
  • Magnolia Farmers’ Market
  • University District Farmers’ Market
  • West Seattle Farmers’ Market

If you know of some other farmers’ markets that should be included or some data that needs to be updated, just let me know.

By the way, I also made my first google maps “marker” for this site. If you look closely, you may notice that the marker is a tulip based on the flower in the center of the above photo.

Farmers’ Markets in Seattle