Ten Things I love about Living in Seattle

Ask ten people and you get ten different answers. So I thought I’d give my take on Dustin’s topic from last year. Maybe every Frequent Contributor can do one on the ten things about living in Seattle that they think are worth knowing.

1) The flip side of rain – not only is the weather close to perfect here from April/May through October, the days are a lot longer than anyplace I have ever lived before…and I’ve lived a lot of places. The painted naked cyclists on the Summer Solstice are a clue as to how much Seattle celebrates the longest day of the year here. Sitting on Alki Beach on the evening of the longest day of the year is something everyone should do. Watch the sun set around 10 p.m. But get there early if you plan to eat…the restaurants tend to run out of food before sunset.

2) Everyone “belongs” here – No matter who you are, or are not…oops…What’s that Kim?

my partner Kim Harris is jumping in with HIS perspective…which is much longer and in a different direction than mine. Going to Kim’s Perspective on what drew him TO the Pacific Northwest in 1964 and KEPT HIM in Seattle since he got off the plane from Vietnam in 1969…The History – The Tremendous Impact and Signficance of this area on the Music Industry (Kim’s previous life and passion, as founder of Easy Street Records and teacher of “The History of Rock and Roll” at the U and BCC and original manager of Queensryche, when they were high school kids hanging out at his Easy Street Records, of then, on Bel-Red Road…long past history all over the world managing bands and music venue and private label and much more…on to his LOVE of Seattle from a music perspective:

[photopress:blue_moon_1.jpg,thumb,alignright] The (fabulous) Wailers – Tall Cool One, being able to find things in Seattle he spent two months trying to find in record stores in San Francisco as a teenager, The Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Quincy Jones, The Sonics, Viceroys, Jimi Hendrix, Bluebird, The Daily Flash, Brothers Johnson, Sir Mix-a-Lot, QueensRyche, Heart, Sound Garden, Nirvana, The Melvins, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Presidents of the USA, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains

The Castle, Lake Hills Roller Rink (believe it or not), Eagles Auditorium, The Blue Moon, The Show Box, The Vogue, The (original) Off Ramp, RKCNDY, The Tractor, the Crocodile…

Other influences that made a difference: Sub Pop and CZ Records, Thom Bell, Bruce Pavin, Boyd Grafmyer (presents), Pat McDonald who was a major influence on music from his time at KOL-fm to this day, as a not often enough writer of the Seattle Times. His infrequent musings on today’s music are not to be missed. Jack Endino and the Great Pad O’Day. Campus Music, Discount Records, Music Millennium, East Street Records and Celophane Square.

Paul Allen and his Experience Music Project (EMP) for having kept Seattle’s Music History alive, for the benefit of both visitors to Seattle and local residents of Seattle, due to his love of music generally.

The Seattle Weekly and The Stranger still give a left of center approach to what is happening currently in the Seattle Area. Great Articles on Food, Music, Shopping, what to do…etc.

Well…so much for “Ten”…went off on a tangent in “stream of consciousness blogging” fashion…there will have to be a part two on this one…I have work to do πŸ™‚

Enjoy Seattle Music Lovers!!! A trip down Memory Lane!

Redfin's Maven of "The Mavens"

[photopress:hoffman__s.jpg,full,alignright] What a lovely unexpected surprise! When Kevin Boer of Three Oceans called to ask if we could have coffee during his whirlwind tour of Seattle, we “group dated” with Redfin’s Marie Hagman. Redfin’s new “Maven of the Mavens” I’ve already signed up to get an auto email with every new “Sweet Digs” entry. It automatically comes up as San Francisco, so be sure to hit the drop down menu and put in Seattle.

Marie assures us that the seven bloggers selected from the 300 or so that replied to Redfin’s Craig’s List Ad, just turned out to be ALL WOMEN destined to be in the running for next year’s Top Ten! Hey, that only leaves three spots for all of the rest of us.

Redfin’s Rule stated that none of the bloggers could be real estate licensees. Sweet Digs is very cool, and very much the answer to Galen’s prayers. As non-licensees they are free from all of the weight and chains of rules, rules and more rules, and they are just blogging away to their heart’s content. And I DO mean their “heart’s content” as all were chosen, Marie included, based on their passion for anything real estate and their ability to write with that same passion.

And OH MY GOD!…the Eastside Sweet Digger is Jessi Princiotto…cool enough to have her photo taken by cell phone while in the car…I can’t wait to meet her…I can’t wait to read her…and my side of town to boot!! How lucky can I get! My East Coast fix and local real estate reading all wrapped into one!

Congratulations ladies. Marie and Jessi, we’re calling ahead to Hoffman’s for that torte…just name the day and time.

Oh, and Kevin and Kim were there too LOL. My partner Kim Harris (far right in the photo) and Kevin Boer (left of Kim). Kevin is definitely going home with some stories, and hopefully some insight, into how very different the Seattle Market is from his neck of the woods.

Kevin asked, “What do you say when a ‘Redfin Buyer’ calls and says, “I want to see your listing RIGHT NOW!!”, LOL. I answered “Same thing I say to ANY buyer who says I want to see your listing RIGHT NOW!!” Redfin Buyers don’t exactly grow horns, by definition. We had a fun chat. This is Seattle, very few times do we meet people that are ornery, nasty or unreasonable. It’s a great town with a lot of great people…even “Redfin Buyers”.

Have a safe trip back to CA, Kevin! Great meeting you and thanks for the intro to Marie.

Do the Banks Own Seattle?

[photopress:bank.jpg,full,alignright] The photo is of the Bank I worked in for twenty years. Lots of memories in there and lots of pranks pulled up on that balcony πŸ™‚

I was perusing The Tim’s blog while writing something on my blog earlier today, and ran into the comments regarding King County median income and median home prices, again. I never seem to draw the same conclusions as other people. So I tested my thinking on the subject. From my way of thinking, at least SOME of the people have SOME money to put down when they purchase a house. So the median income is relative to the median mortgage used in the purchase, not the sale price. Isn’t it? So I calculated some random stats you might find interesting to prove that the Banks and Mortgage Companies don’t TOTALLY finance EVERY home purchase.

First I went to the high end and found that Seattle high end homes were financed at only 36% of value. That includes 40% of the randomly chosen properties sold in the last 3 or 4 months that were bought with cash and no mortgage at all. Mercer Island and high end Eastside, like Clyde Hill and Medina, financed at a higher rate of 49.5%. Both represented about $28 million dollars worth of homes purchased. Seattle financed $9,750,000 of their $28,000,000 purchase prices while Mercer Island, Clyde Hill and Medina financed $13,500,000 of their $28,000,000. Still plenty of equity though, so NO, the banks do not own the McMansions πŸ™‚

One thing I found that was surprising to me up in the high end is that one of the most expensive homes sold was sold all cash…not surprising. The occupant at the time of sale was a tenant! That cracked me up. Why would someone rent a Six Million Dollar house? Oh, well…just a random observation.

Then a went down to the $475,000 to $500,000 price range, more in the median range and pulled through separate market segments. South Seattle was 90% financed. North Seattle was 85% financed and Eastside was only 70% financed. Why would the Eastside have more people with more money to put down on their homes? Easy. Cheap condos. The condo market was really cheap two to three years ago, and is still relatively cheap by Seattle standards. So people who bought those instead of renting 3 to 5 years ago had built up enough equity to put an average of 30% down on their single family home purchases.

Just random stats that I found interesting. The banks own 90% of South Seattle, 85% of North Seattle, 70% of Eastside and only 35%-50% of the most expensive homes. At least the ones that everyone who is reading King County median income/median home price stats are talking about, those bought recently.

The last seven days in Real Estate

Last week of August. Who bought what, where and for how much? Typically a slow week with agents and clients taking some time away with their families before school starts.

[photopress:v.jpg,full,alignright]This is my absolute favorite property that sold this week, in Sammamish for almost $4,000,000. Going home there is like going on vacation every day after work. My definition of “sold” in the last seven days, for this article, is STI or PENDING…people “making decisions” to purchase.

Seattle under $300,000 – 38 people, between $300,000 and $400,000 – 66 people

70 people in each for the $400,000 to $500,000 range AND the $500,000 – $600,000

Then we really drop off to only 20 from $600,000 to $700,000, and then half of that at 10 from $700,000 to $800,000, half that again to 5 at $800,000 to $900,000, and 3 in the $900,000 to a million.

15 from $1 million to $2 million and two just over $2 million, one in Broadmoor and the other a tudor in Denny Blaine.

On the Eastside I used, Bellevue, Bothell (King County), Kenmore, Kirkland and Redmond.

Only 5 under $300,000 this week. 75 between $400,000 to $600,000. 4 between $2 million and $3 million vs. only 2 in Seattle, and about 10 in most other categories.

So all tolled on both sides of the Lake, most homes this week were sold between $300,000 and $600,000. That includes condos, townhomes and single family homes.

Fits into the theory that the average buyer is at $450,000 give or take.

Hair Raising Fears of a Housing Bubble!!!

[photopress:hair.JPG,thumb,alignright]It is very difficult for young people today to buy with confidence. There are some very real fears, and justifiably so, that housing prices can not and will not continue to rise at the levels they have in recent years. Some ask if they should wait until they have saved 20% down. Historically, most people have bought their first homes with less than 20% down for good reason. There are no guarantees that interest rates will not rise. Interest rates are still, historically very low. How would you feel if you waited to purchase only to find that prices were still high and interest rates were 9.5%?

Renting when you are a family with children has its risks. What do you do when one day the landlord knocks on the door and says “I’ve decided to sell the house and you all have to move out in 30 says”?

Anyone who can qualify for the first time buyer program at First Tech, should consider that option. It is an excellent program, with almost no loan costs and a very low interest rate. Take the time to find the very best loan program that you can and work on your credit score to insure you can get the best possible rate available.

When selecting property, try to convince yourself to buy that diamond in the rough. This way if values do not increase, you will still be able to sell at a profit. Buy the house that needs a lot of cosmetic fixes, but has good curb appeal and is in a decent area. Consider all of those areas that have only increased by 10% or 15% but border on areas that have increased by 30%. Buy that “old people” house in a great neighborhood that everyone else is turning their nose up at because it has sculptured carpet and pinch pleated avocado drapes.

The one sure way to buy with confidence is to ignore the cosmetic issues and don’t be fooled by heavy “staging” that might lure you into paying too much for the house. It has never been more important to buy wisely. It has never been more important to avoid making choices based on creature comforts like “needs nothing”, totally remodeled or brand new, less than 15 minutes to work. Don’t get tangled up in these creature comfort premiums, unless you are willing to face the fact that the tradeoff may be having to sell for less than you paid when you need to move.

There are still plenty of values and many of them require a little TLC like paint and landscaping. Be the smart buyer who isn’t crying the blues in a year or two if prices level out or take a dip.

Duvall – Single Family Home – $350,000

WOW! Robbie’s new super duper Zearch site is very, very COOL! But let’s put it to the test. I checked my listing in Duvall and I didn’t have a light blue dot. Seems to me a single family home for $350,000 should have a light blue dot, no? Now I’ll do a post on it and see if the post link shows.

[photopress:1.jpg,thumb,alignright] First error is that the photo that shows in Zearch is not the photo that shows in the mls as the main photo. This is a glitch in the mls system and not in Robbie’s search tool, so I have to go into the mls and erase all of the photos and reload them to correct it. Even though when I pull up the mls, I see the photo shown here of the actual house, downloads, including Robbie’s, pick up the OLD photo number one. The only way I know to fix this is to empty the entire photo cue and start from scratch. Let’s see if that works.

[photopress:2.jpg,thumb,alignleft] One of the problems with all of the available public sites is that people who are looking for reasonably priced single family homes think they do not exist. If you are not familiar with Duvall, for example, and do not realize that it is within “target range” of Microsoft and other densely populated areas,Β they might never search Duvall. All search engines should allow you to put in a radius of where you WORK!

[photopress:3.jpg,thumb,alignright] Here’s a question. I took this great photo of the flowering plum tree on the front lawn before I listed the property. A couple of weeks later when I put it on the market, the flowers were gone. Early spring flowering trees sometimes only bloom for a few weeks. But I love this tree in bloom! Do I have to go take a picture of the way it looks now with all reddish leaves and no flowers?

[photopress:4.jpg,thumb,alignleft] Also, I took a lot of the photos before it became vacant and before I listed the property. Do photos need to show the way it looks today, without that table and chairs?

[photopress:7.jpg,thumb,alignright] This was my “original” photo number 1, which is the view FROM the house, not a picture OF the house. I have since changed that some time ago to photo number 7 or so. But the dowloads, including Robbie’s, show it as photo number 1 as if the mls has some kind of memory bank that doesn’t update when I change the order of the photos in the mls, and only remembers that this is photo number one when doing a download.

When agents pull up this listing they see a completely different photo (the first one above) than the public sites. Again, I think this is a Rappatoni glitch, and not a Zearch glitch. I also think I know how to fix it.

Woohoo…I feel like a techie fixing download problems! Not bad for a “Granny”!

South Lake Sammamish celebrates annexation by City of Issaquah

The South Lake Sammamish Association (SLSA) has worked tirelessly to make this happen. As a part of unicorporated King County, they were frustrated with inadequate police patrols, road maintenance and similar public services. Last fall the Greenwoord Point-South Cove Annexation area voted to join the City of Issaquah and now it’s time to celebrate.

On March 1st, 6:30-9PM, the city will host an open house at Pickering Barn (just east of Costco) to welcome everyone. Issaquah’s mayor and other city officials will be there to celebrate and answer questions about city services.

In addition, SLSA will be hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony and parade on March 4th from 10AM to Noon. There will be refreshments and activities for the kids including tours of a fire truck and police car. See their website for details.

It’s great to see community involvement pay off for residenets on Lake Sammamish.

Housing assistance for the middle class on the eastside

I have a client who has been searching for a condominium for 6-months. Typical problem β€” what he likes, he can’t afford — what he can afford, he doesn’t like. We even looked down at Othello Station and thought we might find something there. They had several units set aside for low income families to purchase. Here the problem was he made too much to qualify for the set-aside units but not enough to buy the market rate units. What’s a person to do?

Well, we found the answer. Last week we had offer and acceptance on a really nice 2 bedroom / 2 bath unit at Frazer Court in Redmond. How did he do it? There is a great program setup between King County and several eastside cities to preserve and increase the supply of housing for low and moderate income households in East King County.

This program is called ARCH (A Regional Coalition for Housing) and has several below market rate duplexes, condominiums and town homes located in various developments in East King County. During the initial marketing period, maximum income levels are established for buyers. Typically, each development will establish a maximum income for buyers somewhere between 80% and 100% of median income. In addition, maximum income guidelines are often adjusted for both household and unit size.

Finally – a program that helps out the buyer caught in the middle income bracket. Check it out at www.archhousing.org.

Interesting Insurance Program from King County Metro

I just received a newsletter from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute that describes an innovative project that is being tested by King County Metro.

King County Metro, the Washington State Department of Transportation and other partners has $2,2 million to develop a Pay As You Drive (PAYD) Insurance Pilot project for Washington State over a 4-year period to evaluate the impacts of a pilot including at least 5000 participants. They are in the process of recruiting an insurance carrier to join in the project. The deadline for expressions of interest is February 15, 2006. For more information contact Bill Roach (bill.roach@metrokc.gov) or Bob Flor (bob.flor@metrokc.gov).

I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it, but I noticed that the Cascadia Scorecard had an article on this topic today, Pay As You Drive Insurance, and they didn’t mention this interesting program. This makes me think that the project must be really below the radar and in need of some Rain City Guide attention!

So how does it relate to Seattle real estate? Barely… But what’s important is that if you are a King County resident whose car spends almost all day at home, then you may be able to save money by joining this program and only paying insurance on the miles that you drive.