Are prices in Seattle based on strong fundamentals or speculation? While we can certainly look at the data and draw conclusions for ourselves, there is little to no hard information out there about how many people are buying merely to turn a quick buck.
There are those that treat the lack of hard data regarding speculative buying as evidence that there is little to none of it occurring in Seattle. I highly doubt that is the case (for reasons discussed here numerous times before), but even if we assume that it were true up to this point, I’m inclined to think that speculation in Seattle is on the rise.
Exhibit A: Thursday’s Seattle P-I front-page story about a local flip:
The last time Al Johnson was inside the house at 4425 Cascadia Ave. S. in Columbia City, there were no walls.
“You’ve done a nice job,” Johnson told owner Thomas Loeser after touring the rehabilitated 1911 Craftsman house Monday.
Johnson, an associate broker with Windermere Real Estate, was the listing agent who sold the “extreme fixer” in February to Loeser and his brother, Derek — lawyers when they’re not fixing up houses.
In recent years, many developers have fixed up run-down houses and then put them right back on the market. The Loesers’ house offers an extreme example.
They paid $315,000 for the run-down abode Feb. 20 and put it back on the market for $549,000 last weekend. Thomas Loeser wouldn’t say how much they spent on renovations, but acknowledged that one agent who said back in February the house would take $150,000 in work wasn’t far off.
Johnson speculated just before the sale that the house, once fixed up, could fetch $150,000 over the sales price in the current market — at most.
“Let’s see what happens,” Johnson, who is not representing the house this time, said Monday.
Exhibit B: #1 on Forbes’ latest list, “Best Places to Flip a Home“? You guessed it… Seattle!
Flipping—in which an investor buys a home, makes quick improvements and resells at a higher price—”was a rage in the housing market surge,” says Anthony Sanders, a professor of real estate finance at Arizona State University. “But it is not as popular in this flat housing market.”
It’s easy to understand why. With prices falling quarter after quarter, the prospect of buying low and selling lower doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as buying low and selling high.
However, those looking to make a quick buck may do so in a number of markets ripe for a well-spotted flip.
Best among them is Seattle. It landed atop our list based on a number of measures.
I’m not a violent person by nature, but part of me would really like to gut-punch these reporters that are encouraging people to go out there and jump into Seattle’s already-stalling housing market to try to turn a quick buck. The days of easy money from flipping real estate in Seattle are over (if they were ever even here to begin with).
Exhibit C: Anyone seen or heard from “Seattle Eric” lately?
P.S. (For those not in the know, Seattle Eric was the proprietor of a blog titled Tales of a Seattle Real Estate Investor (formerly located at this address), where he chronicled his quest to flip houses in Seattle for fun and profit. He was also a contributor over at Rain City Guide for a short while. The last time anyone heard from him, he had gotten out of the flipping business to become a real estate agent, and was still having trouble unloading a few of his houses.)
Addendum: Be sure to check out a relatively new Seattle-area blog that focuses specifically on local flips: ReMuddle. I have added a link to them on the sidebar under Bubble Sites -> Regionals. Thanks to RedmondJP for pointing them out in the forum. Speaking of the forum, also be sure to check out the long-running thread on this very subject: Audacious Flips and Renovations.