About 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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    christiangustafson says:

    Notes toward a Seattle bubble glossary:

    30-year latte – buy a Starbucks, pay with a VISA, then pay the bill with your HELOC. Enjoy!

    HELOC – a second mortgage

    Allentown – the luxury condo urban village disaster formally known as South Lake Union, built with SPAM.

    SPAM – Spending Paul Allen’s Money. A Seattle tradition, since his one big score back in the 80s.

    $200K Ballard SFH – what a $500K Ballard SFH will be in 2009.

    Savings – extra money that renters put in the bank each month, because they can.

    Cash-n-Carry – the calculation a doomed homedebtor makes as to when to stop paying the mortgage altogether, stashing as much raw cash as possible under the mattress before foreclosure and BK arrive, as they must.

    Microsoft – a large regional employer in Puget Sound, whose products include a knock-off of Java, an upcoming bad copy of Mac OS X, and a doomed music player (with wireless!). Chief competitors include free software, better software from companies like Apple, and the ‘good-enough’ software they sold you 5 years ago, that hardly needs replacing.

    It’s coming, folks. Prepare for the great deflation.

  2. 2
    christiangustafson says:

    Actually, I think a better tagline for the 30-year latte is “Taste the amortization!”

    And I shouldn’t be so hard on Paul Allen. After all, the Experience Music Project is a perfectly good museum to visit … once.

  3. 3
    wreckingbull says:

    I’ll add one.

    SAT – (Still A Turd) What a FB realizes when the lipstick wears off the pig.

  4. 4
    Oddleif says:

    Taken from the PI via Bloomberg:

    Fed indicates economic ‘soft landing’ is closer


    The Federal Reserve said consumer spending and demand for services quickened across the U.S. last month even with “widespread cooling” in the housing market, evidence that the economy might be poised for a so-called soft landing.

    Four of the 12 Fed bank districts said economic growth “firmed,” two said it “cooled” and others said it was “moderate or mixed.” Most regions saw little pressure to raise prices, while manufacturing was strong and the job market stayed tight, the central bank said in its regional survey the beige book.

    The report comes after Fed officials over the past week dashed investor speculation that the central bank would trim interest rates in the first quarter. On Wednesday, minutes of their last meeting on Sept. 20 said policymakers saw a substantial risk that inflation wouldn’t ease as they predict.

    “It’s supportive of the soft-landing scenario,” said Drew Matus, senior U.S. financial markets economist at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in New York. “With the current rate of inflation, that doesn’t give the Fed a lot of leeway to cut rates anytime soon.”

    The Fed’s rate-setting Open Market Committee next meets on Oct. 24-25 in Washington.

  5. 5
    stephen says:

    You’ve got to love some of these market explanations. Gas goes up from $2 to $3.50 and then drops back to $2.50 all in less than a year and I read articles now claiming the low gas prices are going to save x-mas for retailers, take the edge off the RE bust etc…

    We all feel rich because we are not getting hosed as much as we were a few months ago :-)

  6. 6
    Robert says:

    Are there any stats for the % of homes in the Seattle area that are owned free and clear (no mortgage) by the homeowners?


  7. 7
    rentalbliss says:

    Has anyone noticed as of today the King county recorders no longer have deeds of trust to view on the website due to an ordinance to safeguard personal information.

  8. 8
    redmondjp says:

    Has anyone noticed as of today the King county recorders no longer have deeds of trust to view on the website due to an ordinance to safeguard personal information.

    According to what was reported on the local TV news, this is supposedly a temporary situation, such that they can redact any SSNs on the paperwork before having it publicly available again.

  9. 9
    S Crow says:

    True, King Co. is complying with State Legislation regarding a “privacy” issue. I don’t know the language of the law, but I’m very suspicious that it has to do with Soc. Sec. issues.

    Social Security #’s are not on Deeds of Trust. If someone can find a case where it was placed under the borrower’s name, please let me know and I’ll stand corrected. I can tell you one thing, if I had my SSN on any document that had the capacity to be recorded at the county and available online I would object.

    I just got off the phone with Snohomish Co. Records & Recording Office and they have not implemented anything yet to comply.

  10. 10
    S Crow says:


    Escrow & Title Co. Escrow divisions routinely use the county websites to get property information in routine transactions.

    This is not terribly helpful, to say the LEAST. But then again,many laws are passed without fully understanding the fallout.

  11. 11
    synthetik says:

    >but I’m very suspicious that it has [nothing] to do with Soc. Sec. issues.

    I agree with you. It’s possible there was some pressure from certain people to have feature removed for obvious reason (other than SSN)

  12. 12
    E-sidedave says:

    If someone can find a case where it was placed under the borrower’s name, please let me know and I’ll stand corrected.

    SSNs on were common on DoTs many years ago. I know for a fact that both my parents’ SSNs were on their DoT (purchased 1988). I advised them to ask to have their DoT removed.

  13. 13
    synthetik says:

    I just spoke at length with one of my clients in Tampa, FL.

    She said that she’s interviewing people on a weekly basis that have 20+ years experience as Realtors. Her words “the market has completely dried up – it’s not just newbie Realtors that are having a tough time”

    She purchased a McHouse in a N. Tampa suburb in 2004 for $324,000 and noted that her neighbor’s house sold for $445,000 just a year later (2005).

    Now she says there are 10 homes (mostly identical) for sale on her street that are NOT selling for listing prices of $300,000 – below her 2004 purchase price.

    In my opinion, Tampa has not been nearly as investor driven as markets such as Ft. Lauderdale, Vegas, Phoenix, etc – and I fully expect similar results here in King County.

  14. 14
    synthetik says:

    More news [Inman] from the Canary in the coalmine.

    “Prices fall in San Diego for fourth month, report finds”

    “September home sales in San Diego were off 35 percent from their year-earlier level while the median home price lost 4.4 percent to $476,000.”

    What is the median home price in King County again?

  15. 15
    rentalbliss says:

    I work at a title company and deal with DOTs all day from turn of the century till now and have never seen a SSN on any docs.

  16. 16
    E-sidedave says:

    Sorry dude. I’d show you, but they aren’t available anymore.

  17. 17
    rentalbliss says:

    But I guess I am not looking for them so I might not notice if they are there

  18. 18
    Kate says:

    People are talking about the housing market bubble on ChangeEverything http://www.changeeverything.ca

  19. 19
    msrelo says:

    Can some one post a link to Seattle Eric’s new Bubbleator blog? The link is now gone from his profile page.

  20. 20
    Dukes says:

    This is a rebuttal to the information that oddleif posted above regarding consumer spending and its pickup by the Fed.

    This was posted on Fleckenstein’s site yesterday, it was from the Liscio report, it speaks for itself and it counters the prevarications spewed from the Fed..enjoy:

    “Liscio Reads Tealeaves in the Tax Receipts

    Turning to the economy, I’d like to share some data from the always-insightful Liscio Report. For those who don’t know, Liscio monitors (among other statistics) sales-tax receipts by state around the country, as that’s obviously a good barometer for expenditures. Here are some quotes from their weekly commentary:

    “State sales-tax collections continue to fall, relative to budgetary projections. In September, just 37% of the states in our survey met their forecasted sales-tax collections, down from 51% in August. . . . [There is] “a growing weakening in consumer spending. . . . The slide that began in January has continued since, and our contacts believe it’s real.”

    Liscio attributes the slowdown in consumer spending to the weakened housing market. (The report includes an informative chart that shows the continuing decline in the rate of equity extraction.) According to Liscio, people are walking away from downpayments, and some of those who’d like to put their homes for sale cannot do so, because they’d have to “bring a check to the closing.”

    Sunny Skies, Sullen Realtors

    Continuing on, Liscio quotes one of its contacts in formerly hot South Florida: “The market has evaporated. Even the affordable stuff can’t be given away. Desperation among developers, bankers, and speculators is palpable.” As to those folks pointing to the recent uptick in mortgage financing generically, Liscio says that it’s related to people trying to “avoid painful resets on kinky mortgages, and not to monetize depreciating equity (as equity seems not to be appreciating anymore).”

    The report sums up: “We’ve noted in the past that this expansion was the most consumption-intensive in modern U.S.economic history. . . . That’s changing, and dramatically. . . .Retail sales are clearly in a slowing trend.” So, for those folks who think that the stock market rally means the economy is on the mend (before it has even really weakened), I offer up the Liscio Report as food for thought.”

  21. 21
    kpom says:

    “Can some one post a link to Seattle Eric’s new Bubbleator blog? The link is now gone from his profile page.”

    It’s gone. Guess Eric isn’t interested in debating the bubble anymore. If he is lucky, it’s because he has given up on having a time-consuming “debate”, and is actually going to price his Seattle properties so they sell quickly, but somehow I don’t think he’s doing that…

  22. 22
    Eleua says:

    formerly hot South Florida: “The market has evaporated. Even the affordable stuff can’t be given away. Desperation among developers, bankers, and speculators is palpable.”

    So, is this what it looks like when your market goes from “special” to ordinary reality?

    Remember, South Florida was “special.” I think Seattle has a rude awakening ahead.

  23. 23
    Dukes says:

    I think Seattle has a rude awakening ahead.

    I too think we are in for a very rude awakening. We are witnessing a change in market psychology, and for something like real estate that shift is devastating.

    The reason it is so devastating is simply because trends in real estate take time to play out, and psychology is reinforced in both directions by market realities.

    Sorry for the long Fleck post, but I thought it was worth posting as the news in it affects us all.

  24. 24
    synthetik says:

    Just a funny observation…

    I was using my laptop last night and the wife looked over my shoulder.

    “…Another F@’d Borrower… ANGRY bear? Calculated Risk… Housing Panic… Foreclosure report? Day of Reckoning??”

    I responded “But look honey; I have ‘Boing Boing’, ‘Savage Chickens’, and ‘Joe Mathlete Explains Today’s Marmaduke‘ when I’m tired of all the gloom n’ doom stuff”

  25. 25
    synthetik says:

    oops… I meant, the Daily Reckoning. Same difference.

  26. 26
    Oddleif says:


    Didn’t have time to qualify it, but that was the point of puting the entire text in….to show how life in bizaro land can be really rosy and peachy keen…

    It’s just simply amazing that “information” of this ilk passes as news when reality is so damning…

  27. 27
    Eleua says:

    The more I look at this, the more abrupt I think the change will be. Look how the late summer caught the REIC by surprise. Mid-summer, they were saying all is well, by late summer they were sniffing out a slowdown.

    My RE agent contacts have told me that business on the KP/OP has just stopped. My sampler homes have just been sitting vacant. ‘For rent’ signs are replacing ‘for sale’ signs.

    If they don’t get a miracle by the end of the year, 2Q-07 is shaping up to be pretty ugly. I think that is when panic will be commonplace. 4Q-07 will be a complete meltdown of psychology.

    The only thing that can even “save” the REIC/bulls is lowering of interest rates. Even with a completely irresponsible FED, they can only lower rates so much, and I doubt they can do it before the bulls run out of time.

    It isn’t enough, but they don’t know that. Some of the other headwinds are:

    pre-election “fixes” will be out of the system.
    Iran/PRNK problems
    -Possible change of Congress (taxes going up)
    Dollar trouble
    Feds investigating kinky loans
    Fannie Mae
    ARM resets
    bubble psychology shifting
    -lofty stock valuations burning up on re-entry.

    I think the housing bulls are drawing dead. I also think the break in the market will be fairly binary. One day all will be well, and the next, it will be curtains.

    So, where are we? I see it this way:

    Phase I – market puts in a top (complete)
    Phase II – Buyers and sellers in a standoff (just started)
    Phase III – Sellers capitulate (4Q-07 est.)
    Phase IV – The descent
    Phase V – The bottoming
    Phase VI – Time to buy on the cheap.

    How long can the sellers hold out? As you can see, I’m guessing they won’t want to see the winter of 07/08. That is when I think their lenders will start to lean on them. The only deus-ex-machina that I see is the Feds will try to soften the blow with some sort of legeslation that will deal with debt abayance. It will only make the problem worse, but it could put off “judgment day” for a little while. Personally, I don’t think they have the money. They will be too busy trying to cope with all of the people in the REIC and retail sectors that have lost everything.

    This should be interesting.

    BTW, has anyone heard from ‘Shug? I’m curious how Ballard is holding up. Perhaps someone should stop by to make sure he is OK. He didn’t miss a thread for 10 months, and then as soon as the market peaks, he disappears.

  28. 28
    synthetik says:

    One last comment about San Diego… it kinda blew my mind a bit initially that places like CO and MI would have punched the foreclosure button so much faster than the earliest markets to enter the housing bubble (San Diego).

    Here is an article from North County times confirming that foreclosures are up in SD a whopping 319% from the same quarter in 2005.

    It doesn’t surprise me however I figured it would happen before, say, the suburbs of Denver. I wonder if the homicide rate will rise in SD too?

  29. 29
    Dukes says:

    No sweat oddleif, I didn’t realize you were making a point with the post. If I hadn’t just read Fleck’s Daily Rap I wouldn’t have posted the rebuttal, but it was info that was fresh in my mind, and on my screen.

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