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.

48 responses to “August Reporting Roundup: Recovery Party Time!”

  1. meadows

    I live in Bellingham. The Herald features breathless quotes by various realtors when reporting RE news. There seems to have been a lot of KoolAid swirling around this summer that got swilled. This pending sales change-up business was never reported. There’s very little actual reporting. The “reporter” calls the realtors up, they chat for a bit, there’s some quotes. A couple #’s are reported, pending sales, median prices…

    Wow. Makes the SBB look like the NY Times and the Herald the local PennySaver. Which is pretty much what it is…

    “The truth will out…” This winter, spring, doesn’t matter…. people are broke, joblessness increasing, lending tight. Homes are plentiful and overpriced. For rent signs are proliferating, even after 12,000 WWU students return.

    For sale. For rent. Foreclosed.

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  2. Kary L. Krismer

    What I find interesting is the total lack of context–the sticking to a formula. YOY was worthy of reporting when we had 20 or so years of increases, but at this point it’s just become a random number.

    1606 (or whatever) sales sound good compared to the 1500 something the year before, but the year before we considered that number a great sign of weakness. In a hot market that could be 2500 or even possibly 3000. So I think they’re over-hyping the significance of that number, and also over-hyping the significance of the price change (although again, part of that is because the NWMLS doesn’t report just non-distressed sales).

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  3. waitingforseattletocool

    There are 9400+/- homes on the market in King County, a good portion of which are short sales.

    Given the low probability of these short sales offers being accepted and closed, doesn’t this effectively reduce the level of “sellable” inventory?

    The MOS based on pending sales is about 4 months. The MOS based on closed sales is about 6 months. Using either number, it seems at a glance like a relatively stable market in the short term. Those expecting a 20% drop in the market in the next two months are just wishful thinking (unless you can pick up a distressed sale).

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  4. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 2
    But….given the seasonality in the market, aren’t the YOY numbers more significant than the month over month numbers?
    What I mean is: June almost always sees more sales than May, so when the media reports something like ” June sales are up 20%” , if you didn’t know the context you’d think things were doing really well. But if you knew that June’s numbers were 20% down from the previous June’s, that might tell you a little more.
    But I do get what you’re saying, and that’s why Tim’s graphs are so valuable, where we can see the numbers going back years. August sales are horrible compared to 2004-2006, but better than 2008’s absolutely pathetic numbers.
    Does it mean that we’re turned the corner, everything’s honkey dorey, and we should all rush out and buy houses? Nah. Does it mean that things are only slightly better than absolutely pathetic, and only an absolute idiot would buy a house, especially when there are many more sure thing purchases to make, like cars, poker tables, flat screen TVs, prostitutes, and cocaine?
    Nah. The truth is somewhere in between.

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  5. Jonness

    “We are at the far right end of the U,” Beeson said.”

    IMO, this guy is a disgrace to the profession and tarnishes the names of good hardworking RE agents like Ira. Imagine spending your life fighting for your clients’ best interests and then picking up a newspaper and seeing your profession being represented in this manner. It’s got to be extremely frustrating.

    Our society financially rewards cons, crooks, liars, and psychopaths while punishing honest people. The message being sent to our children is to grow up and become a dishonest thief so you can have more than the next guy. The more you have, the more respected by others you are. So do whatever it takes to be better than your neighbor.

    IMO, it’s a terrible message and is the exact opposite of spiritual living. I mean, if you want lots of materials, go for it. But the price paid is to become a member of the walking dead.

    The worst thing about this Beeson guy is, after years and years of monthly bottom calls, he’ll eventually be right. Then, I suspect, he’ll downplay all the bogus calls and trumpet his correct call from the rooftops. It’s a cheap con game IMO–pseudo-expert.

    Sorry for this post, but that U thing is just pushing it too far.

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  6. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 4 – Yes. Imagine even with the expiration of the 8k credit, how good January’s numbers will seem. If we break 700 sales, that will be an improvement YOY! ;-)

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  7. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Jonness @ 5 – That’s why I sale Realtors should create an ethical rule preventing Realtors from making predictions. It makes the profession look bad.

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  8. Jonness

    “We are back to a healthy market trend,” said Mark Kitabayashi, president-elect of the Thurston County Realtors Association.

    Perhaps we could start an accuracy meter. We collect predictions of these guys back to just before the market cracked up. Then we give an accuracy rating for all the predictions they made. Tim can put a link (clickable dashboard displaying median RE agent accuracy) to the list from the home page. This way we know who the RE agents are with the best and worst prediction skills. This could be helpful to people on the fence and considering purchasing a house.

    I’ll start the list.

    Beeson: 0% accuracy
    Kitabayashi: 0% accuracy
    Steve Tytler: Better than average
    Kerry: Better than average
    Ira: Better than average

    OK. It’s probably too much work to complete the list and build the dashboard, but it was a fun idea while it lasted.

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  9. Jonness

    Sorry to all the agents I left off the list. Most or all of the agents who post here are going to be in the better than average category. I’m clueless as to the actual numbers though.

    I would be curious to see a seattlebubble RE agents who post predictions vs RE agents who post predictions in the newspapers.

    Then again, I like Kary’s ethics rule of not allowing agents to make predictions at all. Even though I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the predictions of such notable bubble posters as Ray Pepper, David Losh, and the like. It provides a certain insight to be able to see how people in the business truly think.

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  10. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Jonness @ 8 – Assuming I’m “Kerry” it’s surprising I’m better than average, since I don’t make predictions. But I guess having no record is better than mainly being wrong. :-D

    I just wrote a piece at SREP where I basically said the market is healthier than it was in January, but not at healthy as July, 2007 (which I described as possibly too healthy).

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  11. meadows

    Propagandists believe in their opinions as facts and their predictions as reasonable. Propaganda succeeds when the general population has no doubts regarding “experts” or the reporters who quote them.

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  12. truthtold

    Meadows…agreed! B’ham is a realtor disaster and journalist Dave at the Herald doesn’t make waves or seek insight – probably not paid to. Skagit is also completely underserved in facts about local r.e. conditions where commune of uneducated brokers/realtors dominate and lie a lot. (Just meeting with ‘em makes me stupid + ill informed). NW corner of US has elected to sit reality out and appears to be succeeding on some level. B’ham is a mystery…rentals that look and smell hellish remain expensive and additionally, what jobs? Fraudulent cap rate numbers have been the norm for years and local realtors seek and still find eager fools.

    Curious – are you just annoyed or do you actually predict “reality strikes B’ham”?

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  13. deejayoh

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 3:

    There are 9400+/- homes on the market in King County, a good portion of which are short sales.

    Given the low probability of these short sales offers being accepted and closed, doesn’t this effectively reduce the level of “sellable” inventory?

    The MOS based on pending sales is about 4 months. The MOS based on closed sales is about 6 months. Using either number, it seems at a glance like a relatively stable market in the short term. Those expecting a 20% drop in the market in the next two months are just wishful thinking (unless you can pick up a distressed sale).

    According to Zip, there are only ~330 short sale listings out of 9600 total SFH listings – that’s only about 3% of the total. Also only 86 foreclosures. Both of these numbers may be a low due to inaccurate listings, but its unlikely that there are 2 or 3x that many hidden distressed listings as it seems counterintuitive that one would minimize exposure for a home they HAVE to sell.

    but I agree with your premise about market outlook.

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  14. Kary L. Krismer

    Zip is wrong. There’s over 1100 short sale actives in King County, SFR alone, and almost 350 REO actives. I think the former number might be dropping.

    Numbers from NWMLS sources, but not compiled or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

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  15. softwarengineer

    Tim, I Know You Repeat the Pending Sales Anomaly Time and Again, as the Missing Link to RE Price Predicting

    And your steadfastness and clarity on Pending Sales is only found on your website, Seattle Bubble. Thank you for your news Tim, its really only found here.

    With a 1/2 trillion in commercial loans going sour later this year, even all the kings horses and men of Barney Franks, trying to put the FHA uncontrolled growth Humpty Dumpty back together again, the same way it cracked to pieces in the first place, won’t make Seattle Home Prices stabilize.

    My hat is off to you kind sir.

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  16. meadows

    RE: truthtold @ 12

    In a philosophical sense it may be possible to postpone reality until we die and the Inevitable Fact trumps all other imagined “facts”. But regarding Real Estate in Bellingham I think there are 4 stages:

    1) For Sale
    2) For Sale (price reduced)
    3) For Rent
    4) Foreclosed

    There is always a white knight in the future. The current horse being bet on is the 2010 Winter Olympics in BC. Canadians over the last few decades have done a significant amount of buying/building in Blaine (right on the border) and in Sudden Valley, in our despoiled watershed above Lake Whatcom. And the Looney is at a high point.

    But the jobs aren’t here, the mythical wealthy retirees didn’t show up in hordes, the Californication slowed dramatically for obvious reasons and any recent transplants from sunny climes got the shock of their lives this past winter. If they imagined a mild weather location.

    Until I see good paying jobs or a climate like San Diego’s I see RE decline our City of Subdued Excitement.

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  17. waitingforseattletocool

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 14

    So I’ll stick by my contention, the amount of “sellable” inventory is less than what is posted by NWMLS.

    If the pending sales numbers are “useless”, the “inventory” numbers should be reduced by some amount to account for those buyers who realistically expect to close on a transaction within a 45-90 day period.

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  18. Ira Sacharoff

    “Jonness @ 8 – Assuming I’m “Kerry” it’s surprising I’m better than average,”
    Dude! You’re Kerry? I voted for you against Bush, man.

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  19. deejayoh

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 14:

    Zip is wrong. There’s over 1100 short sale actives in King County, SFR alone, and almost 350 REO actives. I think the former number might be dropping.

    Numbers from NWMLS sources, but not compiled or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

    Interesting. Zip is the only source I know of where a consumer can actually request “short sales” as a filter. I guess they must be using a text string look up. Do you know if there some “consumer friendly” rule from the NWMLS that protects us from seeing the short-sale field that I think they added some time back?

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  20. AMS

    RE: waitingforseattletocool @ 17 – How do you address the so-called ‘shadow inventory?’

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  21. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: deejayoh @ 19
    Before the rule, you were supposed to state something like ” Third party approval required” in the agent remarks, and I am aware that some short sale homes are stated as such on Redfin, and some are not. According to NWMLS, but not guaranteed or verified by them, there are currently 1152 short sale single family listings in King County, and 347 condos.

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  22. Jillayne

    I would bet that 1152 out of 9,600 listings way, way lower than reality regarding short sales.

    Some agents will put the list price HIGHER than current market value because if the prices was lower, then the agent would have to disclose that it’s now a short sale. Sometimes it’s the home OWNER who requests to start out at a higher price.

    I am still hearing that some market areas are 50% short sale or REO as a percentage of all available inventory.

    I am also hearing that there are plenty of agents who are part timers (and not in the loop re: mls rules) or otherwise not well managed by their broker who are putting homes on the market at incredibly low prices and not stating in the MLS that it’s a short sale, which attracts a huge number of walk throughs.

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  23. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Jillayne @ 22
    I agree Jillayne that the real number is likely much higher. I run into short sales that I never find when I’m screening for them. It’s mentioned only in the agent remarks…So do you mostly attribute it to lack or proper training on the part of brokers, or is it incompetence on the part of agents, or laziness, or malicious intent, or a combination?

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  24. waitingforseattletocool

    RE: AMS @ 20

    I wasn’t trying to address the shadow inventory issue, which I place as part of the overall distressed inventory.

    As I mentioned, I am sure one can get a large discount to market if they are able to acquire a distressed property.

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  25. waitingforseattletocool

    RE: deejayoh @ 19

    You can filter on Redfin with by checking “exlude short sales”.

    In my quick glance by a few zip codes, the difference amounted to roughly 10%.

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  26. deejayoh

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 25:

    RE: deejayoh @ 19

    You can filter on Redfin with by checking “exlude short sales”.

    In my quick glance by a few zip codes, the difference amounted to roughly 10%.

    yes, but not for the whole county. Redfin limits you to 500 results.

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  27. AMS

    RE: waitingforseattletocool @ 24

    Market value is often defined as the sales price, unless there is a good reason to the contrary.

    As far as the shadow inventory being distressed, why isn’t it on the market? The reason it’s not on the market is because it is not really distressed. I have a friend who owns his home without any underlying obligations, debt. He’d like to sell, yet he is unwilling to sell at the prevailing prices. I guess he values the place more than the market. Distressed? Not in my opinion. By the way, no seller gets as much as they want for a home… If you ask any seller, they always wanted more. They might be happy with the deal, but a higher selling prices is always desired.

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  28. Kary L. Krismer

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 17:

    So I’ll stick by my contention, the amount of “sellable” inventory is less than what is posted by NWMLS.

    If the pending sales numbers are “useless”, the “inventory” numbers should be reduced by some amount to account for those buyers who realistically expect to close on a transaction within a 45-90 day period.

    I think it’s a good point. Someone here was noting that they don’t look at short sales, and we have a lot of buyers that don’t. Right now no first time buyer would be. So that is basically irrelevant inventory for a lot of buyers.

    On the absorption rate issue, I’ve always preferred looking at comparing solds to inventory, not pendings to inventory.

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  29. Kary L. Krismer

    By deejayoh @ 19:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 14:
    Zip is wrong. There’s over 1100 short sale actives in King County, SFR alone, and almost 350 REO actives. I think the former number might be dropping.

    Numbers from NWMLS sources, but not compiled or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

    Interesting. Zip is the only source I know of where a consumer can actually request “short sales” as a filter. I guess they must be using a text string look up. Do you know if there some “consumer friendly” rule from the NWMLS that protects us from seeing the short-sale field that I think they added some time back?

    Have you tried Estately? I’m not aware of any simply because I seldom visit such sites.

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  30. Scotsman

    Hey, when we’re finally down to only 2 houses for sale and one buyer… there will only be two months supply! From what I hear, that’s a seller’s market- prices should sky-rocket shortly thereafter. Gotta love statistics and the way you guys interpret them.

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  31. patient

    RE: Scotsman @ 30 – Thanks Scotsman I was waiting for someone smart enough to blow a hole in the perception that a market where noone wants or can sell is some how balanced and headed for stability or even appreciation.

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  32. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: patient @ 31 – I would just like to note that when a lot of people wanted to sell because of high prices that was viewed as a sign of a bad market on many Internet sites, but when few want to sell because of low prices that apparently doesn’t mean anything now.

    In reality these numbers mean very little either way. Just as how NWMLS medians and C-S don’t help you value your house, county wide absorption rates and inventory levels mean nothing to anyone. You need to get specific as to your property.

    Also, it’s exactly what you’d expect. Higher prices bring higher supply and lower prices lower supply.

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  33. Tim

    I’m up in Bellingham too. I’m pretty amazed that we haven’t seen more of a collapse up here. Seems like the under 300,000 range is selling briskly. I get the sense there will be a collapse in the 3-500,000 range. My wife and I want to buy, but if it comes down to overpaying for garbage we will continue to wait. If prices don’t come down dramatically up here I don’t think there can be much price appreciation for at least 5 -7 years. We currently rent for about half of what we’d expect our mortgage to be.

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  34. meadows

    RE: Tim @ 33

    Wait. Find a nice rental. Ditch any debt, save some cash. You’ll know the bottom when you see it because it won’t get up off the floor for many years….

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  35. Jonness

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 10:

    RE: Jonness @ 8 – Assuming I’m “Kerry” it’s surprising I’m better than average, since I don’t make predictions.

    Sorry. I work with a guy named Kerry, and I easily confuse the spelling. I got it right in the post below that one though. :)

    What I mean by your predictions being better than average is when you predict, you have a basis of logic that goes along with it (unlike Beeson). For instance, you’ve predicted the Case-Shiller for a particular month will be roughly a certain figure based on your knowledge of the way it typically tracks the MLS median which you already have in hand. That’s a prediction, but I think it’s a different class of prediction than you are thinking of.

    Personally, I make a lot of predictions because I’m more accurate than Nostradamus. Here is my latest prediction:

    The median price will go down this winter compared to the current month and back up again next Spring compared to the winter low. The great bear will slay the bull again before it makes another run. The blood will run knee deep in October.

    LOL, just funning around of course. :)

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  36. stephen

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 4 – also the current market is really only what matters to folks in the market now. For many of us (if not most) this is about buying and selling at the times in our lives we need to do one or both and need to sell for the highest amount and buy for the lowest, in the current market. The YOY tells us what we need to add to comps and other factors to price things properly. Most of you folks beat this up waay more than the rest of us. Maybe you need to for professional or finacial reasons but the average buyer seller needs the YOY to do their homework with.

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  37. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: stephen @ 36 – What do YOY numbers tell anyone when one house type in one neighborhood is down twice as much as another house type in another neighborhood?

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  38. patient

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 37 – Kary that sounds like just another spin on the “we’re special” tune. First it’s the state, then it’s the county, the city, the neighbourhood and last it’s the home. There’s a difference for a while but it all goes down in the end. The thing is that crappy homes and nice homes were both overpriced with approximately the same percentage and are now both falling in price. For a buyer or seller to believe otherwise is most likely going to yield in either overpaying or not selling the home. There are probably a few exceptions but why would you as a buyer take the risk to try to find one or trust your agent to be able to do it? I believe that if you are just patient you’ll get the home you want to the general market discount without having to pay “special” mark ups. That’s why following the market with tools like c/s is very important to not be ripped off or live in the clouds regarding your homes value.

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  39. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: patient @ 38 – Actually, it has nothing to do with Seattle or even King County as a whole. It’s focusing down more narrowly than that and pertains to my latest piece at SREP, where I found that 3+ bedroom, 2 1/4+ bath homes built before 2001 in Fairwood have declined about 20% since the peak, while 2 bedroom, 1 bath homes in Skyway have declined about 36% from the peak. The drop in Fairwood is actually fairly close to the drop in NWMLS median and C-S, but that’s merely chance (and correlation).

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  40. deprogram

    By patient @ 31:

    RE: Scotsman @ 30 – Thanks Scotsman I was waiting for someone smart enough to blow a hole in the perception that a market where noone wants or can sell is some how balanced and headed for stability or even appreciation.

    Wait, does ANYONE who posts to this site any more think this market is ‘balanced’ or ‘headed for stability’?

    I’m probably the one who said I didn’t even look at shorts. Still don’t. I’ll consider them when I have a house of my own from which to comfortably take pot shots at the market.

    The market segment I’m looking at is falling, slowly but surely. When I can buy a livable fixer for 2008 assessed tax values for the land alone… I’m in. My guess is that this point may be reached in a few months. Of course, that’s just my guess, but a bank-owned I’ve been watching dropped 13.5k off asking since I last looked at it. It’s rotten, and I don’t want it, but it’s nice to see [some] banks at least trying to move properties.

    I wish the wannabe ‘investors’ would do themselves a favor and take a few years off, though. Maybe go back to school and take an economics class in the interim.

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  41. waitingforseattletocool

    RE: deprogram @ 40

    Balanced – NO

    Headed for stability – Not in the next 6 months

    20% off over the winter – NO

    Additional 50% off before balanced – People who believe this are just smokin’ dope

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  42. Jonness

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 41:

    Additional 50% off before balanced – People who believe this are just smokin’ dope

    As are the people buying now because they believe we’ve reached a bottom.

    http://seattlebubble.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/japanes-and-us-housing-bubbles.png

    Seattle is the #1 city in the U.S. for commercial RE defaults. Rents are headed further down. House prices will track rents.

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  43. Jonness

    This just in:

    TACOMA, Wash.–(Business Wire)–
    Russell Investments announced it will relocate its global headquarters to
    downtown Seattle. The company will move into 1301 Second Ave. which, upon
    occupancy in 2010, will become the Russell Investments Center.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS200974+09-Sep-2009+BW20090909

    Good for Seattle; Bad for Tacoma. I think we all seen this coming. At least they stayed in WA. BTW, if I’m not mistaken, that’s the old WAMU building.

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  44. DrShort

    I think there’ a decent possibility of that.

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  45. deprogram

    By Jonness @ 42:

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 41:
    Additional 50% off before balanced – People who believe this are just smokin’ dope

    As are the people buying now because they believe we’ve reached a bottom.

    See, that’s what I think.

    I’m not in any way considering buying now because I think we’ve hit bottom. I fully expect to lose a substantial amount to depreciation, and am therefore only considering houses at around half of the King county median. How much of a loss is 50% on 175k? I won’t like it, but I can handle it. A 50% loss on 375k? Not a chance.

    Yeah, house prices may recover in 10 years. They may only fall another 30% in this market. They may fall further. Why couldn’t we see a rewind to inflation adjusted 80s prices?

    I just refuse to consider all possibilities. Therefore I’m spending as little as possible (think 1.35x our combined gross).

    I find it difficult to admit that I’m even considering buying – I wanted to wait at least another year, but the instability of renting is starting to cost me substantially in consulting dollars.

    This false bottom is just an annoyance right now. I’m seeing MOM price adjustments on the bank-owneds that i’m looking at of 15-30k. Yes, once they drop into our price range they tend to disappear, but I’m starting to be glad of that.

    We put in a serious offer on one house, yet someone bid far higher, ultimately ended up paying 20k more than our highest bid. Now, I’m looking at houses that are nicer and have more of the items on our checklist for 50k less than those people paid.

    This is at the very bottom end of the market. These are not insubstantial adjustments. For every property that gets snatched away from us by someone with more means, another two fall into our price range.

    As far as dope smoking goes – I hear it makes people more open minded. Hmmm. Not that I’d advocate anything like that, of course.

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  46. waitingforseattletocool

    RE: deprogram @ 45

    Yes, if open minded means you find deep intellectual depth in the Spice Girls’ lyrics.

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  47. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: deprogram @ 45
    I was reading on a real estate agent forum a quandry an agent was in. A vacated rental home was put up for sale, and when the agent went in, a couple of days before the scheduled open house, she found many large marijuana plants, belonging to the former tenant, who was a medical marijuana patient. She wanted to know what to do. Some people suggested calling the authorities, others suggested brownies for the open house, I suggested offering it as a buyer’s bonus….
    As far as the lower end bank owned homes, I look at a lot of them, and while some of them are horrible, smelly teardowns, others are pretty nice, merely dirty and need updating. Some are in neighborhoods that are not perceived as being nice, but are often merely quiet overlooked neighborhoods simply lacking hipsters and granite counter tops.

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  48. deprogram

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 46:

    RE: deprogram @ 45

    Yes, if open minded means you find deep intellectual depth in the Spice Girls’ lyrics.

    Stoners listen to the Spice Girls? Wow. You really are poorly informed.

    Ira: Your suggestion definitely wins.

    So, in your professional opinion, how much do I need to spend to get a worthy fixer with a Seattle zip code? I’m only looking south of the city center, wife works south of the city so her commute is a pretty big consideration.

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