All signs are pointing to yet another year where supply outstrips demand in Seattle’s housing market. Every time I read Geekwire or watch the news on TV, there seems to be another company expanding in Seattle.
Just last month I saw Facebook had leased an additional 150,000-square-foot building downtown. They’re beginning to look a bit like Amazon as they gobble up real estate in the South Lake Union/Denny Triangle neighborhood.
These great companies are all bringing employees into the Seattle area — people who need places to live. While most of these newcomers will start out renting, some will be inclined to seek the tax benefits of homeownership, particularly in cases when it proves the less expensive option.
Seattle is feeling very frothy to those of us that grew up here, but not so much to those coming from other affluent West Coast cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles or Vancouver. Seattle is much more affordable, provides an enviable lifestyle and there is no state income tax. Seattle is a place you can get rich — and stay rich.
The high demand to live in downtown Seattle isn’t limited to first-time buyers or entry level prices. Median home prices in surrounding single-family neighborhoods such as Madison Park are the highest they’ve ever been — establishing a new benchmark that exceeds the prior peak in 2007, before the Great Recession cooled the market.
This growth is very different from what we saw in the 1980s and 1990s when Microsoft grew its Redmond campus and created more than 10,000 local millionaires. In 2007, when Amazon announced its landmark plan to construct an 11-building headquarters in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, many other tech companies had established huge, isolated headquarters in the suburbs. The current and ongoing rebirth of Seattle’s downtown core is a much different — and more diverse — expansion.
Why this recent attraction to living close to the city? Traffic congestion for one thing. Easy access to the theater, arts and freeways shouldn’t be discounted either.
But another factor I’ve observed is the desire of people to be around people, even when they’re “alone.” The suburbs can be a lonely place! Despite the proliferation of smartphones and all the other ways humans have digitally connected themselves to each other, I think there is a deep and growing desire to physically connect in a society that’s become more isolated in that regard. Look how packed Starbucks is with clientele who are “by themselves” on their laptops yet surrounded by others. Look at shared workspace companies like We-Work. Or shared events like paint-and-sips, or the growing popularity of community tables at restaurants.
What does all this have to do with Madison Park? In my view, our community is unique in that it resembles an old-fashioned New England township. You see your neighbors at the coffee shops, know whose dog is tied up outside the pharmacy and you can still charge your groceries at Bert’s Red Apple. We are a throwback in a way that is highly sought after right now.
Buyers’ tastes are ever-evolving. At the time of the Great Recession, there was a lot of talk about the death of the McMansion. I think some of that is still true, but let’s not drive the nail into the McCoffin just yet. Buyers still want extraordinary homes, they just want them with different (more open/not so formal) floor plans. They want homes that are greener and smarter, with snazzier garages, sensual indoor-outdoor spaces or rooftop decks.
When the market collapsed, many empty nesters simply stayed put, awaiting the convergence of high resale values and a market full of exciting new properties to choose from before they downsize. The great news is that our housing market is incredibly strong and if you have been tempted to consider the next adventure in your life, your timing could not be better. Whether deciding to downsize to a condominium, purchase a second home in the desert, move up to your dream home, or liquidate it all and travel the world, take advantage of this fantastic market.
LAURA HALLIDAY is a broker for Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty