Home Prices Recover in Kirkland 98033

Many around the Country are asking what a Home Price “Recovery” will look like and what will create it. If you have been home shopping on The Eastside close to the 520 Bridge, you are likely amazed at the strength of that market in recent weeks.

Kirkland 98033 is not the only market experiencing this phenomenon, as I first noticed the activity and price increase in the Cherry Crest neighborhood of Bellevue 98005. But since I recently represented a buyer client who closed on a home in Kirkland 98033 near Downtown in the Lakeview Elementary School area about a block from Google, I am focusing on this area first.

While back in October and for the 4th Quarter of 2010 we were talking about whether home prices in King County overall were running in late 2004 levels or early 2005 levels,

Kirkland 98033 has bounced up to February 2006 levels!

Before you jump to the conclusion that this segment simply had a lower % of Short Sales and Bank Owned Property…not so. A full 42% were “distressed” properties. Even with that drag of an additional 5% to 6% down created by the “distressed property sales”, the prices are running at February 2006 levels.
kirkland 2011

None of us are holding our breath for prices to reach peak levels, and I don’t anticipate that happening for many years. But if you chop off the extreme peak of 2007, home prices in 98033 are clearly recovering nicely.


There are several contributing factors.

1) Googleopening in 98033 in late 2009 and hiring a significant number of people in recent times.

2) High Elementary School Rankings – While all of the schools in 98033 don’t enjoy the highest ranking status, those closest to Google and Downtown Kirkland do. Peter Kirk Elementary, Lakeview Elementary and Ben Franklin Elementary, all in 98033, help support and boost home values in these areas. To be fair and balanced, I did not segregate these schools in the stats and included all school areas of 98033, at least one of which ranks fairly low.

3) Anticpated 520 Bridge TollThe soon to be imposed Toll to cross the 520 Bridge has had an impact on home prices closest to that Bridge. Some have moved from Seattle over to the Eastside to avoid the Toll. Some who work on the Seattle side, but prefer Eastside Schools to Seattle Schools, have moved as close to the Bridge as possible to cut down on fuel costs and time delays to compensate for the negatives of the toll.

Kirkland is clearly one of the best places to live in the Seattle Area, and always has been, especially the area closest to it’s Downtown on the Lake. The reasons for that are many, and the subject of another post.

So yes, the Recovery is clearly “Cherry-Picking”.

A few other amazing facts. Of the 44 homes sold in the First Quarter of 2011 in 98033 that were NOT short sales or bank-owned properties, 18% sold in ONE WEEK or less with 23% selling in two weeks or less and a full 50% selling within 90 days. Clearly though the distressed properties were very high at 42%, they were not creating a huge drag on the non-distressed properties. The median for non-distressed properties was a whopping $646,000. Very close to the full median price of 2006 overall.

This is what a “Recovery” looks like. It doesn’t reach peak…but…it looks pretty darned good to homeowners in 98033.


(Required disclosure: Stats in this post are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

OpenSearch is beyond cool – it’s the new cold

I was reading Redfin’s Developer Blog and the IE blog a few months ago and I got this desire to write my own OpenSearch provider. OpenSearch was originally created by A9.com (an Amazon.com company) and was primarily designed as a way for web developers to publish search results in a standard and accessible format. This turns out to be a good idea because different types of content require different types of search engines. The best search engine for a particular type of content is frequently the search engine written by the people that know the content the best. Google is great at searching unstructured content on the internet, but when it comes to structured search on a single web site there are much better options (Endeca, FAST, Autonomy, Solr, my favorite SQL database, etc). The other benefit of OpenSearch providers is that it shifts the balance of power away from Google and back toward web browser vendors & web site developers.

Both of the major web browsers support the OpenSearch Referrer extension. IE 7+, Firefox 2+ & Chrome allows you to add search engines to your browser without leaving the web page. The best place to get started is from the browsers vendors themselves. You can add search providers from Microsoft’s site or you can add search providers from Firefox’s add-ons site. In the interest of full disclosure, Opera allows you to add search engines manually, and Safari currently does not support this feature in any form (unless you count using vi to edit the Safari executable or changing your OS’s hosts file as support, which I do not recommend).

Anyway, our developer friends at Redfin wrote a blog post about their OpenSearch provider on their dev blog some time ago. Of course, they took the easy way out by not developing an OpenSearch Suggestions extension (slackers). I decided that a search provider without suggestion support is lame, so I took a stab at creating one. I think what inspired me to write an OpenSearch suggestions provider is that the IE 8 team blogged about their new Visual Search feature (which embraces & extends the OpenSearch suggestions work that Firefox pioneered) and I could leverage the work to improve the search experience for both IE 8 & Firefox 2+ users. (And the satisfaction of having a cool feature that Redfin & Estately haven’t implemented yet was probably another factor).

This functionality is typically exposed to users, via the search engine bar, next to the address bar in your web browser. So in your page markup, you’ll add something like this that tells the browser that your web site has a search service.

<link title="RPA Real Estate Search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" rel="search" href="http://www.seattlehouses.com/Feeds/OpenSearch.ashx"/>

The above element points to your site OpenSearch Description XML file which describes your search service in a way the browser can understand. When you visit RPA’s site, the browser will read RPA’s OpenSearch Description file located here and unobtrusively let you add the site’s search providers.

Assuming everything is working correctly, the user should be able to visit RPA’s web site, click on the browser’s search bar to add our search provider like so… (IE’s screen captures are on the left, Firefox’s are on the right).

I’ve also added a button in RPA’s search bar (see above right) in case site visitors don’t discover our search provider via the browser (I suspect most users would miss it otherwise).

After you’ve registered RPA’s search provider with your web browser, you can select it and just start typing. Since I’ve implemented a suggestions service, it will auto complete cities, school districts & neighborhoods as you type them (Didn’t I say this was cool?). I should note that although IE 7 & Chrome support OpenSearch, only IE 8 and Firefox currently support the suggestions providers. Anyway, if you wanted to look for listings in Bellevue, here’s what it currently looks like.

As you’ll notice, IE 8 & Firefox 3 displays suggestions differently on RPA’s site. This is intentional because IE 8 supports a newer version of the OpenSearch standards (Microsoft calls it Visual Search) and I designed RPA’s search provider to exploit this fact. In Firefox, the browser can only handle plain text suggestions, which can lead to ambiguous searches. For example, let’s say you search for Riverview. Riverview is both a neighborhood in Kent and a school district in Carnation / Duvall, so in Firefox there is no means for the user to tell the web site in which context they meant to search for when they typed in Riverview. I suppose one could create a “Did you mean” results page for cases like this, but I think that somewhat defeats the purpose of having suggestions support.

However, in IE 8, if a term has multiple contexts, the search provider can display them all and the user can select the one they meant. Also in IE 8, the search provider can display thumbnails next to the suggestions, which further helps the user quickly find what they are looking for. Although, I haven’t implemented that feature yet (mostly because I wasn’t sure what picture I should put up there for search terms that return multiple results), other web sites have. For example, if you wanted to buy a movie from Amazon or learn more about our 16th president from Wikipedia, the IE 8 search provider experience looks like this…

As the Redfin developers stated, implementing OpenSearch Referrer extensions are surprisingly easy (so I think users will soon request them from all web sites once the word gets out). The OpenSearch Suggestions extensions are more difficult to implement because every single keystroke is essentially a REST web service call. If you aren’t careful, you could bring your web server to its knees real quick. However, given all the AJAX map based tricks today’s real estate web sites perform, this isn’t anything that a professional software engineer can’t handle.

Call me crazy, but I think OpenSearch providers are going to become bigger than RSS feeds over the next year. If IE 8’s forth coming release doesn’t launch them into the mainstream, I think future releases of Firefox & Chrome will improve upon IE 8’s good ideas. Maybe you should think of it as browser favorites on steroids? If search is sticky, then OpenSearch is superglue and duct tape. If Firefox’s suggestions support were the tip of the iceberg, then IE 8’s implementation is cooler than Barrow, Alaska. The future of OpenSearch looks bright, even if it’s cold outside.

Why Connect with Facebook?

connect-with-fbIf you’re been to RCG recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that I added Facebook Connect to the sidepanel.   I really want to invite you all to use this feature, so I thought I’d let you know why I added it:

  1. I’m a Facebook addict, love the service, and enjoy connecting with others.  I’m thinking there’s at least a few other RCG community members who would enjoy connecting via the service
  2. I’ve been looking for a way to give a “carrot” to folks who properly identify themselves when they leave comments. I don’t want to “punish” anonymous commenters, I just want to give a bonus to those who aren’t anonymous.

The carrot we’re now offering is two-fold:

  1. Your comment will bypass almost all of the moderation filters that occasionally slow down a comment from showing up immediately on the site.
  2. Your profile link will be of the “dofollow” variety.

For most of the folks in the RCG community, I’m positive you’re here because you love the conversation and could care less about the positive link luv RCG can give you.   Nonetheless, if you’re willing to identify yourself with your “real” identity, then these two things are just two small carrots we’re now offering…

So, please consider taking advantage by clicking on the “Connect with Facebook” button to the right and follow the simple instructions.  As a bonus, after you “connect”, you’ll be able to update your profile on RCG with a few additional fields that will make it easier than ever to connect with others from the RCG community.

And finally, I launched FB Connect on the site despite the fact that I’m not 100% happy with it yet. Here are some problems I’ve found and/or things I’m working on:

  1. FB Connect plays funny (or doesn’t play at all!) with early versions of Internet Explorer, (especially IE 6.0 and below).  This might sound harsh, but my solution is to beg for you to get and use Firefox (or even Chrome),  but if you’re not willing to do that, at least get the latest version of IE
  2. The feature that let’s you “add your comment to your Facebook feed” was giving some folks some problems, so I disabled it.  I really like the idea of this feature, so I’ll work on troubleshooting exactly what was causing problems, although I think it had something to do with old versions of IE (see previous comment!).
  3. I really want the avatar that shows up next to users to default to the “gravatar” instead of the FB avatar.  My thought here is that many folks have a “fun” avatar on Facebook, but might prefer to have a more consistent avatar on a business site like RCG.  I spent some time trying to get this work and while I made some progress, it’s still not working well enough for me to feel comfortable launching… but hopefully soon.

I have a feeling there’s going to be lots more to come in terms of taking advantage of Facebook tools within RCG in the future. Hopefully, you’ll play along and if there is something that doesn’t appear to be working right or a feature you’d like to see, please let me know!

Avoid Seattle's nasty traffic jams

Google is now predicting traffic in the future to help you avoid nasty Seattle traffic on freeways, but that is nothing compared to…

Microsoft’s Clear Flow doesn’t just tell you that traffic usually sucks on Thursdays at 5:30 (because if you’ve driven on I5 twice at rush hour, you already know that). It tells you the best route to take and it includes side street speeds in it’s analysis. It doesn’t leave it to your wits to find the fastest route – it tells you the fastest route. It is one of the smartest real products the company has created in years. Now if it didn’t ask me to finesse the address when I type in a street address and a zip code, it would hands-down amazing.

You like Turkey and Christmas more than real estate

Seriously. Real estate agents have known this forever: people aren’t very interested in buying or selling a home during the holidays. Do you really want to put in an offer and then manage it from your in-laws house in Florida?

Search volumes for Real Estate, Christmas Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Christmas and Thanksgiving alone (without “day”) totally overwhelm the chart for real estate:

Real Estate agents work whenever you aren’t; evenings, weekends, holidays, but many take December off. Except the ones who sell homes on Christmas Day (it’s a holiday – that means a chance for the busiest of professionals to fly in and close). See you in January!

Tech Thursday: Are you addicted yet?

After a Wacky Wednesday, I thought it might be time to return to real estate technology…

ShackPrices adds mass transit to their listing search and Greg continues to be impressed(so am I)

USA Today provides an idea for a potential update to ShackPrices… What if Galen included the emotional map of each area?

Speaking of new online mapping tools, Joel has a nice write up on a new home search site out of Toronto called Real Estate Plus that was built by Fraser Beach

The vFlyer folks published a huge list of Web2.0 sites… There are some obvious omissions (I would have found a place for sites like Cyberhomes, Sellsius, PropertyShark, RealEstateShows, HomeHugg and, of course, Shackprices), but overall, it was a valiant effort to capture the cutting edge of the online real estate front…

[photopress:dustin_reptile.jpg,full,alignright]The Real Estate Zealot gives some good background on using Yahoo’s JumpCut to edit and stream real estate videos… (If YouTube made the previous list, then JumpCut appears to have earned a spot as well…)

Nothing too big, but I have been working with some others to build some new themes and widgets for a WordPress website for a Move Trends website that went up a little bit ago… (Note: I also took control over the “hat” at the top of Move.com, so don’t be too surprised if I start sending traffic to random places! LOL!)

The release of the updated Google Analytics has been a real joy! I spent way too much time this evening clicking on the “Entrance Sources” option for popular pages on RCG (it feels much more informative than the previous layout). In the process, I’ve learned a ton about where and how traffic is reaching the site and I’ve actually learned that some of my previous assumptions were completely wrong. (However, considering I’m not using any of the goal tracking or funnel analysis, Seth thinks I should just quit… but I’m having way too much fun to quit…)

I’ve also been wasting spending way too much time on Facebook recently (it ramped up after Joel’s recent post). Fight it if you wish, but I predict online social networking is in your future…

UPDATE: Shortly after hitting publish, Trulia announced some major enhancements to their websiteBloodhound has the details (including a podcast by Bryan).

Google's My Maps

You can create and link to custom maps on Google now. It’s an easy to use slick interface that would be useful for real estate agents interested in making a tour of their neighborhood. Parts of your tour will also pop up in searchers results, so don’t forget to put a link to your homepage. Actually useful for marketing? Only if you do it “right” and make some interesting tours. It’s like websites – every agent has one, but only a few (like Marlow) have great ones.

Non-agents (the home buying / renting public): it looks like it’ll be a great way to get to know a neighborhood once more maps are created.

Where's Dogbert when you need him?

Before Reba posted her article on the upcoming House Values layoffs, I recently ran across an interesting article about HouseValues on MSN Investor. It was basically a press release from Zacks Investment Research that stated HouseValues (SOLD) made their list of the top 5 stocks to sell now. Needless to say, this is not a glowing recommendation.

Also during that same surfing session, I stumbled upon an article about AutoByTel (ABTL). At first glance, it may not be that germane to the issues that face HouseValues, but AutoByTel is essentially a variation of the HouseValues business model. AutoByTel’s business model is essentially, generate lots of internet traffic and sell leads to auto brokers/dealers. HouseValue’s business model is essentially, generate lots of internet traffic and sell leads to real estate agents/brokers.

A problem with this model (as the article noted), is that traffic acquisition costs are going up. The deals that a company like this are going to strike with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo or some other major internet portal that brings in a lot of traffic are increasingly low margin / high cost deals. After all Google, and it’s fellow portal competitors know what the value of their net traffic is (and it isn’t going to get any cheaper).

Furthermore, there’s the $50+ million gorilla on the horizon…. Zillow. They have a more customer centric business model,  superior technology, lower head count expenses (last I heard they were about 100 employees), and would probably fare better in a beauty contest as well. Even if HouseValues were to reverse course by attempting emulate Zillow’s business practices, I get the feeling that they’d be less successful than Microsoft’s search efforts have been against Google.

Another problem, is that nationally the housing & mortgage market is cooling down. I guess this means there are fewer agents out there who are able to buy leads from the company (either that or there are fewer agents out who willing to buy leads, which portends an even bigger problem). It’d be interesting to see if this problem corrects itself when the housing market heats back up again or if the company has hit a strategic inflection point.

[photopress:sales_dropping.jpg,full,alignleft]What’s also interesting is ABTL has 377 employees (and $116.6 million in annual revenues), while SOLD has 522 employees (and about $101.9 million in annual revenues). Even though HouseValues just laid off 60 employees, it still feels there’s more head count there than what they need. Especially since their Selling/General/Administrative expenses are over 8 times what their Research & Development expenses are! For comparison sake, AutoByTel’s ratio is closer to 2.5 times, Microsoft’s ratio is a little under 2, Google’s ratio is a little over 2. It appears that the PHB (Pointy Haired Boss) hired too many sales drones and not enough Dilberts.

Frankly, if I ran the company, I’d probably try to get InterActiveCorp (IACI) to buy me. Why? InterActiveCorp is a diversified internet commerce company with 28,000 employees and had revenues of $6.6 billion last year. They own many popular web sites (Ticketmaster, Ask, Match.com, Home Shopping Network, Evite.com, Lending Tree, RealEstate.com), and they used to own Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, and other travel related properties prior to their spinning off.

Because HouseValues would complement IACI’s LendingTree / RealEstate.com business units nicely and since a IACI spin off (Expedia) is already located in Bellevue, I’m sure there’s a way that IACI could extract more value out of the combined company that than HouseValue’s current management could do alone. Perhaps there’s a way in which the HouseValues employees who stuck around would only have to change their Kirkland commute to Bellevue commutes?

So is this the beginning of the HouseValues death spiral, or is just a temporary hiccup on the road to better days?

Rain City Guide on Your Mobile Phone!

The other day someone emailed to ask me to fix Rain City Guide so that the site wouldn’t break when they tried to visit via their mobile phone. I gave a LOL and told them that RCG already works on a mobile phone!

Here is how I read Rain City Guide (and or the other 250 blogs in my feed reader) when I’m on the go.

Using your PC or Mac:

  1. Go to Google Reader on your PC (not the Pocket PC): http://www.google.com/reader/view/ (You will likely need to sign in using a free Google account. Let me know if you don’t have one and I’ll send you an invite)
  2. Click on the “+ Add Subscription” button
  3. Copy and paste this feed into the empty field and click “Add”:
  • http://raincityguide.com/feed/

Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the comment feed:

  • http://raincityguide.com/comments/feed/

Now, you’ll have all the posts and comments send to your Google Reader where you can check them using the browser on just about any handheld phone (assuming you get an internet connection on your phone!).

However, note that the URL for the Mobile Google Reader is a little different. So on the browser of your phone, you’ll need to go to this address to check the blog:

  • http://www.google.com/reader/m

I recommend typing this in once on your phone and then saving it as a bookmark! (or better yet, email it to an address you can check with your phone and then just click on the link!)

These same instructions will work with just about any blog on the planet… Just replace the RCG feed with the appropriate feed!


I just remembered that there is one other Google Reader-related item you may be interested in subscribing to and that is the list of articles that I “share” using my feed reader. The idea is that as I’m reading articles using Google Reader, I often click on a share button to share items that I think are interesting. I watch a few other people shared items and I’ve found this to be a great resource for finding new and interesting bloggers. Similar to the other feeds listed above, simply subscribe using this URL to add this item to your feed reader:


BTW, if you are also sharing or staring items in either Google Reader, del.icio.us or any other service and think that others might be interested, definitely leave a comment to let me know about it!

I need friends!

Despite my preference for blogs, (I really dislike the peer pressure games associated with almost all online social networks), I’ve been diving into a bunch of other platforms over the past two weeks (call it “work research”).

If you are on any of these, please consider sending an invite to me at dustin (at) raincityguide (dot) com.

If I’m missing a social network that you really like, please feel free to clue me in!

Also, one glaring hole in my social network is ActiveRain. The first reader to (1) send me an invite to ActiveRain AND (2) an invite to connect on at least two other social networks gets the credit for me joining up! 🙂 I’m now an ActiveRain Blogger! Thank you Cheryl of NELALive.