Posted by: The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

72 responses to “Time for an Announcement (or: What’s with the ads?)”

  1. Cougar

    Congrats Tim. Once your the boss you will never go back! Good luck.

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  2. Scotsman

    Good move, Tim- I wish you the best of luck! After 20 years of self employment I could never go back!

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  3. biliruben

    Number Five is Alive!

    Good luck on your foray into entrepreneur-dom, Tim. Might I suggest getting that wife digging in the coal mines while you in this transitional period.

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  4. biliruben

    This suggestion probably belongs in some post from last week, but I would really like to see some sort of housing-celebrity death match. Bubble-head (you, now that you have all this free time) takes on local housing “experts” in a fact-fest to the death.

    Or something like that.

    Maybe something like Dueling Fools over at Motley Fool:

    But look at a neighborhood median or even a house’s list price, and debate it’s appropriateness and whether it will go up or down.

    Just a thought.

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  5. David McManus


    Promise you won’t ever become a Realtor. Raise your right hand and swear on it!


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  6. Lake Hills Renter

    Good for you, Tim.

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  7. laxtosnoco

    Great news!

    The only downside is that you may be confirming some people’s stereotype of a dirty renter:
    Unemployed (check)
    Unshaven (check)
    Following his dreams (check)

    Just promise you’re not going to move in with your parents and start eating curry!

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  8. EconE

    Sweet! Now just grab a robe, pipe and slippers and we can roam the 2200 complex with a cocktail in hand like a couple of drunk Hugh Hefners!

    Looking forward to buying a t-shirt also.

    One last thing…can we get email addresses at seattle bubble? I’d love to sign Realtor logbooks at open houses with an email address of

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  9. Ray Pepper

    I have a great place to sell those shirts! We attend most trade shows and I will place them on display everywhere we travel in 2008. Same with Bumper Stickers! Let me know what I can do for you? Were going back on comcast next month with our “headknocker guy” and I don’t mind spreading out our advertising budget a bit.

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  10. Sniglet

    Here are some suggestions for “premium” content Tim could think about to broaden his income.

    1. Collect and publish some very useful statistics in King County that no one currently is putting together. There could be demand from a variety of industry insiders for a more accurate view of where the market is headed. You could make some raw numbers public on a regular basis to attract attention, but provide the details (like neighbourhood break-downs) for a fee. The tricky part would be finding incentives to get particular market participants to hand over the info on a regular basis. Maybe there could be some monetary incentive for mortgage brokers and escrow firms to provide monthly data (e.g. they get a cut of the revenue from selling the compiled data). Such statistics could include:
    – the number of accepted offers that fall through (and the top reasons)
    – the percentage of offers that are made
    – the number of for-sale-by owner places
    – the percentage of loan types being used (e.g. option ARM, 30 year fixed, 100% financed, no-doc, etc)
    – the number of loan applications that are made, and declined
    – planned lay-offs at escrow services
    – volume of business at escrow firms

    2. A referal service that links prospective buyers up to known-good appraisers who can independently verify the REAL market value of a home. People could rate the appraisers (could collect fees from prospective buyers who use the list)

    3. A referal service that links struggling home-owners with good Washington legal help, who specialize in “walking away”.

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  11. CalifornianWhoBoughtRE

    Please tell me you haven’t gotten into the flipping business?

    Congrats on the gutsy move trying to build a business. I have the luxury of a day job that entails working from home and only consumes about 75% of my time. I and am trying to find a business to spin up on the side.

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  12. Sniglet

    Not to be too negative, but I don’t know how great a time this is for relying on web advertising for revenue. If we are about to embark on a signifant recession (which many people who frequent Seattle Bubble believe), then advertising ALWAYS takes a massive hit. Even if Seattle Bubble maintains a large readership (or even grows it), the over-all money spent on advertising is likely to decrease substantially. Companies like Google will more than likely see the effects in their stock price soon (wait, weren’t investors already disappointed by a GOOG earnings miss last month?).

    The irony is that the vindication of Seattle Bubble (i.e. that homes are overpriced and a significant correction is inevitable) may also lead to a loss in revenue potential from the site itself.

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  13. patient

    Case-shiller zooming. From national down to zip code level. If you can get S&P to provide you with the needed data that would be pretty cool even if it’s only once a month and two months old.

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  14. Joel

    I agree with Sniglet. Right now seems like a difficult time to start a web-based business. I think we’re hitting the end of this little Web 2.0 boom. I will be interesting to see what your service oriented sites are (I’m assuming they will produce profits from something other than ad-revenue) because it looks like ad revenue is dropping precipitously and will continue to do so for a while. Then again, I might just be jealous because I have been day-dreaming about doing the same thing, although my circumstances are the exact opposite (I pay rent, just had a baby, very little saving because I just graduated a little over a year ago).

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  15. thelongwait

    good luck, Tim. I’ll be sure supporting your endeavor, indirectly.. “wink wink” :-)

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  16. nitsuj

    Congrats, and welcome to the realm!

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  17. Rhonda Porter

    Congrats on living your dream, Tim!

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  18. nitsuj

    Overall online ad spending isn’t dropping precipitously, it’s just that the growth rate isn’t what it was. Overall online ad spending is growing, and will continue to grow as money shifts from trad media to online.

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  19. Sniglet

    nitsuj said: “Overall online ad spending isn’t dropping precipitously”

    True, on-line ad spending has dropped significantly– YET. For that matter, neither has spending for traditional media advertising seen much in the way of declines in the last 6 months either.

    However, once the recession really kicks in, I fear that all bets are off, and that we will see over-all ad spending plunge precipitously. All it takes is for corporations to start reporting actual declines in business. So far we are just starting to hear companies report they are seeing declines in growth (like CSCO did this evening). Give it a quarter or two and we will start to see these same companies report outright contractions in their businesses, not just slower growth.

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  20. deejayoh

    True, on-line ad spending has dropped significantly– YET. For that matter, neither has spending for traditional media advertising seen much in the way of declines in the last 6 months either.

    Online advertising won’t be dropping any time soon. Growth has slowed, but it’s mainly a “size of base” issue. Online is currently <10% of all advertising spend and keyword based (e.g. Google) advertising is about the only form of spend and advertiser can calculate an ROI on. Tradiitional media advertising may drop, but the rate of substitution from that to online will also probably increase during a recession.

    I’ve talked to plenty of advertising people about the trends, on both the traditional media (ad agency) and online side (Google and Microsoft). The view is pretty consistent.

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  21. mike2


    During my early days of entrepreneurship, I was spread all across the board. Anything that was interesting I’d jump on. It only took a few months before the revenue generating projects took 90% precedent, as it became clear which projects were going to bring in cash.

    After a few months it was all projects and marketing. Projects came and went, but marketing had a life of it’s own. Search engine optimization was a tiresome chore, however it had a direct and long lasting impact on lead generation and sales.

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  22. stephen

    Best of luck, I have enjoyed my daily stop here.

    I’ve tried the switch a couple of times with crappy results. The day job is here to stay for me. My downfall was always sales. Always had other things to do instead of sales. The best advice I ever ignored was ask at least ten people a day to do business with you…

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  23. nitsuj

    “However, once the recession really kicks in, I fear that all bets are off, and that we will see over-all ad spending plunge precipitously.”

    If you can purchase advertising on a performance basis, where you only pay for a customer, you will continue to spend in downtimes.

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  24. Alan

    Congratulations and best of luck!

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  25. Amarjit Sandhu


    It is good that you are working on a side business other than your job. I am a Mechanical Engineer by profession, eceived a masters degree from University of Washington and can relate very well with your intentions. It used be that you could proudly retire from one job happily but not any more.

    I think what you are doing is excellent but just keep in mind the consumers you target, just like I do woking for

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  26. jess/pumpkin

    Good luck, Tim!

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  27. Greg M

    How do you remove comments from here? I didn’t realize they get archived and now they show up when I google my name! I’d like to remove a couple that I made earlier if possible.

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  28. Joel

    If you can purchase advertising on a performance basis, where you only pay for a customer, you will continue to spend in downtimes.

    A click doesn’t always translate to a sale and it seems reasonable to me that during a consumer led recession the percentage of people window shopping vs. actually buying will increase.

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  29. Angie

    Best of luck on your new venture(s), Tim.

    low living expenses (including no rent, as my wife and I are caretakers on an unused property), no kids (yet), and enough liquid savings to last over two years with zero income, it is hard to imagine a better time in my life to chase this particular dream.

    Pardon me, did I read that right? *No* housing costs?

    Sure is easy to cast a critical eye on other peoples’ choices when you enjoy a rare and enviable situation. Also far easier to maintain zero debt when you’re exempted from what is usually a major expenditure.

    Ouch. I think your cred just took a big hit there, Tim. Come on back and talk to us when you have to live in the real world, ‘kay?

    Enjoy that situation while you’ve got it.

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  30. Angie

    Well, it’s news to me.

    Obviously, all we have to do to make housing more affordable is to get the kind of deal Tim has! Imagine what it’d do to the median house price! Sniglet might actually be right!

    Don’t give me that “data-driven” BS. Two and a half years–what, you must have started this blog at about the same time that your rent bill evaporated? Your writings are shot through with sarcasm equal to or greater than that of my preceding paragraph. All that arch, look-at-the-foolish-people talk looks a lot more like gloating about the suckers who don’t have the sweet deal you do.

    30*$800 is $24K, which is still a serious bunch of spare change. Would you still have “enough liquid savings to last over two years with zero income” if you subtracted out $24K, and had to pay for the roof over your heads besides?

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  31. nitsuj

    CPA Joel, CPA

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  32. nitsuj

    Tim, don’t feed the trolls. Oh wait, she’s not a troll and still posts things like that? Arguing that most of your posts aren’t data-driven? HuH?

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  33. old timer

    Congrats on your new focus.
    I wish you all good fortune as you explore your new world.
    Your intelligence and diligence will pay off big time.
    Thanks for the good energies you have so freely shared.

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  34. Angie

    However, I would be interested in any specific examples you would like to point out of this alleged “look-at-the-foolish-people talk” that you accuse me of.

    Here are a few choice snide remarks from last month:

    Jan 31: “Wow, $5,000, huh? That will let some overstretched buyer keep making their adjusted-ARM payments for about… six months. After which, they’ll either need to find another sucker to front a loan, or they’ll end up in foreclosure anyway. Or maybe they’ll just take the $5,000 and get in touch with You Walk Away. Cha-ching.”

    Jan 29: “In this case, the people in question are a room full of “professionals” whose income depends on suckers consumers continuing to buy homes all the way down the declining price slope.”

    Knock yourself out, buddy.

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  35. Angie

    I talk with my husband about Seattle Bubble blog a bit. We were just chatting about the whole FREE RENT thing and had a good laugh over it. Definitely not good for your cred, man.

    He asked me to point out that when you do end up paying for your own lodging again, your YOY costs are going to be up, like, infinity percent.

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  36. Dave

    Hi Tim;

    Please don’t think I am backing Angie up on this but I did want to add something. Not having to pay rent (to someone like me who likes this board generally) does impact what I take away from the conversation. Not having to consider the greatest single financial expense does somewhat impact your credibility – not from a “he doesn’t know what he is talking about” point of view rather a “he is so far outside my situation anything he says has to have an asterisk next to it”. Put it this way – you are in the same situation pretty much as someone whose parents gave them a house (in the short term at least). Now those peole may very well know the “theory” behins the fiances – but when they start talking about how “easy” things are I have to tune them out – they are so much better off than me that their view point isn’t that useful. I liked this blog because you were (I thought) pretty much a normal guy like me – nothing too special financially. You get by and can make enough to have a life in this city on the west coast. Now when I read what you write it will always have the “but hey – he can say that – he lives for FREE!”. Just like those people who have their parents give them alot of money – I can’t relate. Do you think it could affect your credibility? You neither rent nor buy?

    Any thoughts?

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  37. LeftOverpricedSeattle


    Angie is just annoyed because she is realizing that what some of us have been forecasting for the last couple of years is happening, right now, in Seattle.

    Seattle???? the bio-tech hub, the aerospace hub, the latte hub, the software hub, the home gaming system hub, say it isn’t so!!!!

    Angie, keep believing in the infallible Seattle market, just make sure you can deal with a significant value drop on your current home, because that is what is about to happen.

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  38. patient

    I for one things The Tim’s situation ADDs to his credibility. To be fully credible you need to be objective. How can you be more objective about the market than if you are not in it?

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  39. Dave

    Hi Tim;

    Fair enough – I can’t actually remember a time you called out your specific situation enough for me to notice. It did come to me as a surprise (and I can see you critics gloming onto it – definately) when I found out. No worries.

    Hey – another question. I totally agree housing prices are set to fall. I bought in July and don’t intend to Monday morning quarterback myself – for us at the time it was good decision. We plan on staying a while and upgrading the house to live in – not flip – really we wanted a “home” rather than a “house”. Anyways… have you ever picked up on the mocking tone of most of the conversations here? It really is like a big version of Nelson off the Simpson’s going “HAHA”. If you are turning this into (hopefully) a profitable business – how are you going to address that for new cusotmers who may very well be completely tuned off by it? I mean runnign a boutique blog where people who didn’t get intot he housing market is one thing while tryign to appeal to enough people to have a revenue stranm is another. I know it sometimes bugs me a little – the little digs people throw in conversations. Hell, I’ve done it to Angie enough about Biotech.

    Just curious,

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  40. Dave

    Dear Patient;

    That’s a crock. That’s like saying you can be more believable talking about poverty if you’ve never been poor or hungry because you can be more objective about it.

    There’s objective and there’s completely outside the realm of experience.

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  41. Everett_Tom

    (including no rent, as my wife and I are caretakers on an unused property),

    I’m kinda surprised that some of you didn’t know this… After I first found this site one of the first things I did was read the “Important post” … sections” post and comments. (which I think had a different name before the layout change?).

    I remember being struck by this comment.

    2 – To be honest, our rent is unbeatable right now—free. No, we’re not living out of a parent’s basement. It’s a converted garage in the back of a skinny plot of land that I’m pretty sure the owner is only keeping as some sort of tax write-off.

    But after reading the rational for what this blog suggest (and the compelling data to back it up), I’ve been very happy with it. I see no reason why not having to pay housing cost for 2 1/2 years out of your adult life disqualifies you from understanding how it works..

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  42. John

    People like Angie is one of the reasons I want to see the housing market crash. It is fun to see condescending people proven wrong and taken down a notch. Housing bulls have had their fun. This is a bubble blog. Of course there will be snide remarks here and there towards those who think home prices have reached a permanent plateau or some such bullchocolate. If it is not your cup of tea, go read RCG. I am sure all the realtors will need your hug soon.

    This site provides solid analysis, data and graphs, and Tim isn’t the only contributor. I wonder if the annoying little twerp would want to see the others’ financial records and rental/ownership history.

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  43. John

    Tim, this place is already more civil than many places I have been. If one of us goes to a realtor or a flipper forum (if they still exist) to stir things up every other day, I am sure we will get blasted just the same.

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  44. Lake Hills Renter

    This is a funny as saying someone has no “cred” analyzing the stock market because they haven’t owned any stock in 2 years. When the analysis is based on data and statistics, personal investment is irrelevent.

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  45. Dave

    John –

    I hope “annoying little twerp” comment wasn’t directed at me. Or I could thank you for making my point for me – in a way.



    A colleague of mine had an idea – he called it a “Thunderdome” discussion board. Just say at the title of it that nothing within is regulated and let people do what they want. Outside that particular forum – professional and considerate. Inside chainsaws and giant hammers.


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  46. WestSideBilly

    Dave, my experience on other forums is that lawlessness eventually spreads to the whole board. If people can flame, insult, and attack other members at will, they will do so elsewhere too.

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  47. patient

    Dave said,

    “Dear Patient;

    That’s a crock. That’s like saying you can be more believable talking about poverty if you’ve never been poor or hungry because you can be more objective about it.

    There’s objective and there’s completely outside the realm of experience.

    First I’m not your dear. Second, nice try but objectivity adds to credibility. Knowledge is another subject. The Tim has credibility here as well from having both been in the market and studied it. Don’t mix up subjects to make a weak point.

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  48. Angie

    Tim, just to be clear–I think it’s terrific that you’ve been fiscally responsible (killing that much school debt is no small task). You are also smart to be taking advantage of a very good deal with your housing.

    But you do look down your nose quite a bit at other peoples’ choices–not only personal financial choices, but of professional choices as well (no one here can can deny a general prejudice toward agents and other people in the industry, which just to reiterate, I am not). I don’t have to tell *you* that housing is one of the biggest expenses in the typical family budget, especially so in recent years. People do what they do to make the best of the available choices, to make ends meet. The fact that you are fortunate to be relieved of one of that big burden makes that judgemental attitude look really bad. (And don’t make it worse! Please now, $3K to fix your place up? That’s $100/month…be honest with us, I’ll bet you spend more than that on video games.)

    I love the data here and I’m glad you provide it. (Don’t I thank you for it every time? I try to remember to do that.) That’s why I keep reading here, although the peanut gallery is also entertaining. I think you’re smart to stick the google ads on here and try to work up some scratch for all your work–I’m kind of surprised you didn’t do it long ago. I genuinely do wish you luck in your new endeavors…consider my comments an attempt to keep you from presenting yourself poorly and shooting yourself in the foot.

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  49. Lake Hills Renter

    I’m with WestSideBilly. I’ve helped run another (non-housing) forum for 6+ years now and we learned quickly that lawlessness cannot be contained. If you give one forum where people can post nastiness and personal attacks, not only gives the entire site a black eye to most, but it will spread like a cancer through the rest of the site. It ultimately drove away some of our best members, and we had to squash it outright.

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  50. Mike2

    Yikes, this thread went off topic fast. I was hoping it would be more about making the jump to self employment.

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  51. John

    Dave, I wasn’t referring to you.

    It is funny to see some here not liking the sarcastic treatments when they repeatedly play devil’s advocates. It isn’t like the renters and housing bears don’t get heat in realtor blogs if they choose to venture into those dark corners.

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  52. Angie

    If your comments truly were intended to be constructive criticism, then I apologize for interpreting them incorrectly

    Well, I try to work my comments around to be constructive eventually, though I will confess it’s fun to twit youa little. ;)

    Along those lines–it might not be a bad idea to build up a thicker skin! Jeez, you guys heap way more abuse on Pepper and he lets it roll right off his back every time.

    John, I love you too. Don’t ever change, babe, ‘kay?

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  53. Dave

    Hi Tim;

    Hey – maybe this is sommething you coudl add to the site for the recent home buyer. As opposed to the overall “you bought recently and screwed the pooch” information (which you have to admit is the general gist here) you coudl add value to the site for those people by HELPING them – provide useful information on how to improve their situation. Not onkly those poor bastards (yes their own fault I agree) who have exploding arms coming. You know – added value stuff that would set you apart form others. The “We both know you screwed up but there are ways we can help you and you help yourself” – sales pitch. Credit counseliors etc. could advertise. You coudl seel yourself as the only truthful resource in real estate. Am I making sense?


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  54. Ira Sacharoff

    Angie mentioned something about a general prejudice towards people’s professional choices, such as real estate agent.
    I personally haven’t felt a lot of that prejudice here.
    I think the general feeling here is that most real estate agents are either liars or have swallowed the Kool-Aid so much that they actually believe that it’s a great time to be a buyer.
    Oh, there have been one or two people here who accused me of being some kind of smarmy placater in order to attract business, but i think most people on here realize that I don’t try to act as some kind of expert, and that my posts are incidental to my being an agent.
    Re: The Tim’s ventures- may his multiple streams of income free him from the shackles of ” the man” and give him enough money to buy a home ( with cash? ) when the time is right.

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  55. Declining Economy vs. Self-Employment : Thatch Mound

    [...] going by the name “Sniglet” brought up a great point yesterday in the comments on Seattle Bubble when I announced Thatch Mound: Not to be too negative, [...]

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  56. John

    Angie, build up a thick skin? You should take your own advice since you are the one who mentioned the snide remarks towards RE bulls and realtors. I am more of a tit-for-tat kind of guy. If this market turns out to be more like Japan or even Hong Kong, ie. a 40%-60% drop, there will be a lot of time to “twit.”

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  57. Cougar

    Tim – I like how you added “Jump to the bottom to add your comment.” could use also add “Back to the top” and/or links to the next/previous posts? You will know your success in this blog by the traffic it gets. If traffic starts to decline it will be from sarcastic bashing more than self promotion. I like the diversity and interesting conversation it currently has.

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  58. Cougar

    Excellent – thanks!

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  59. patient

    Seattle Bubble has two great things going for it IMO.
    1. It’s mainly consumer driven.
    2. It provides information and support for home buyers compared to the seller biased propaganda and information that is generated by the real estate industry.

    A suggestion for evolution of the same concept is to add more buyer support with
    consumer input. One example is a neighbourhood description where you present updated data of the normal stats as crime rate, eduction level, income level, percentage moving onto to college from schools etc but also add a real time consumer rating and blog aspect where readers can rate the neighbourhoods on a scale from 1-10 in the main categories to make up a general desirability score. A user driven comments/q&a section would also be cool.

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  60. What do you want from Seattle Bubble? | Seattle Bubble — News & discussion about real estate & the housing bubble in the Seattle area.

    [...] making the big announcement on Wednesday, I’ve received a lot of feedback about Seattle Bubble and some of the improvements people [...]

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