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
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    I find it a bit humerous that Canada, Australia and the UK all had articles stating how strong their housing market was the last few weeks/months and now one can find articles stating that their housing market is begining to cool. BUT the papers still claim a “soft Landing” Sound familiar Yanks?

  2. 2
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    This off of NWMLS news from Janauary…1,951 sales of single family home priced at $1 million or more – about 28 percent more than the previous year’s total of 1,521 million-dollar plus sales. The MLS area covering Bellevue/West of 405 had the highest number with 219.

    Do ya think that might have an influence on rising median? Alright numbers guys, let the cipherin begin.

  3. 3
    Brian says:

    Let me pose a question – what about the lower end of the housing market? Now is obviously not the time to be buying and flipping for huge gains, but what about the modest (under $300k) housing market, especially in the Northwest where we are saturated by the high end pricing – especially condos? All speculation and judgement aside, isn’t it safe to assume you won’t be dying on the vine by making a move in that direction? The scarier thing, I would think, is to make a move like that in an “emerging” area or neighborhood. Those “a few years from now…” dreamers hoping to cash in on larger scale neighborhood development projects should really be careful. Example: Of course the light rail is going to be completed – but what has been planned around it that will require the state or city to trim some fat?

  4. 4
    biliruben says:

    There’s an under 300K SFH market right now? That you can live in?

  5. 5
    biliruben says:

    Checking it out, there does appear to be a handful. Almost all have offers on them.

    My philosophy when I bought into that market 2 1/2 years ago was that I would likely end up selling for 50K less than I bought, and that was okay.

    Of course it is a completely livable decent little cottage that didn’t require much work. I’m not sure they exist anymore.

    I figured if the market did end up shaving 20-40% off housing, when I moved up in 5-7 years, 20-40% of the house I was moving up to was going to be a heck of a lot more than 20-40% of my cottage. I even dream that the low end will lose maybe 10%, the middle 20% and the high 30%. Condos and townhouses 50%. At least that’s what an economist suggests will happen in Sell Now!

    I’m not sure you can find a SFH anywhere in the city for <300K that you would be willing to live in for 5 years without a lot of work and investment anymore, however.

  6. 6
    octopuswithafez says:


    Absolutely depressed. The wife and I just came back from looking at a house in North Seattle for $699K and it basically was lifted from the 60s appliances, cabinets, carpeting and all… I know alot of you are looking for first homes, but let me say for the folks who are like us looking for the trade up… it stinks. The mid-west is starting to look attractive again

  7. 7
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    Hey Florida is looking pretty good about now…and I can’t stand temps above 75 degrees. I told my wife that if house prices didn’t drop, we could move there. but then, that is how confident I am that prices are gonna drop.

  8. 8
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    when does NWMLS release the numbers? I thought it was generally earlier than this.

  9. 9
    softwarengineer says:


    A lot of the home sales the last few years were 2nd homes bought up by investors. I’ve been hearing verbally [I’m no landlord] that its a pain in the rumpus for them. After six months of fighting with subprime tennants or worse yet, leaving the home vacant for months waiting for subprime tennants, the damages then need to get fixed to get rid of the investment home.

    I’d add, its makes sense to me that a lot of the investors aren’t in the 30-40 YO bracket either. Doing your own plumbing and ripping dog rugs out yourself isn’t something a 55-65 YO is usually up to and besides, at that age they want to retire into a fuel efficient 2 bdrm something.

    The Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age and they’re too old for the landlord rap, bingo, more investment homes will hit the market, especially with the price stagnation and declines.

    You can bet on it.

  10. 10
    Eleua says:

    I agree with softwareengineer. 77,000,000 mouseketeers are not going to put up with the landlord crap, once houses don’t magically appreciate by 20%/yr. With all the effort and hidden expenses of being a landlord, it will be much easier for them to plow their money into passive investments (CDs, bonds, etc.)

    I expect a waterfall of selling to occur once the national psyche changes regarding real estate. Why hold an overpriced property that is pounding out 2.5% EBIT, and then be on the hook for negative cash flow and rising taxes? Many tenants are nightmares, and that only adds to the expense and frustration.

    I’ve rented all over the nation, and in a stable market, rents are at a premium to owning, in terms of monthly payment. This makes sense if there is no speculative premium, and large relocation costs with selling a home.

    Axe yourself how much property values in the PNW need to come down to put rents at a premium?

    LOTS! and it will happen.

  11. 11
    Eleua says:

    If 70% +/- of the Discoballers think the primary source of retirement funds will come from the sale of their home, how much of a hair trigger will there be if the market is perceived to be a loser?

    How much more unstable will the situation be if the stock market takes a big dump?

    With subprime lending imploding in the face of rising ARM resets and first time defaults, how important is this coming Spring/Summer to all the RE bulls?

    The ponzi scheme is now in the phase where we ID the bagholders.

    How many more rabbits does the FED have up their sleeve?

  12. 12
    Nolaguy says:

    Interesting report by Demographia:


    The 3rd Annual International Housing Affordability Survery

    Seattle is considered “Severely Unafordable” and ranked 36th least affordable metro area – internationally. LA and SD were 1 and 2.

    I’ve only skimmed the report, but they talk about many factors that could be the cause in rising housing costs. (low interest rates, cost of land, etc.).

    Their consensus seems to be that in areas where there are strict land use policies (where seattle is noted as being one), the price increases are more substantial.

    Sorry if this is a duplicate post.


  13. 13
    Richard says:

    Well, the Times is running another story about the slowdown…

    New year, new month, same old housing story

  14. 14
    CRichard says:

    January NWMLS numbers are available. King Co. residential median sale price is down, but the rest of the numbers are all over the place. It looks like we may be in a transition phase, marked by high volatility.

  15. 15
    deeplennon says:

    we’re still a ways a way from peak baby boomer housing liquidation, though early retirees and downsizers are certainly becoming a factor.

    When it starts to show up in earnest in five year (probably peaking in 10-15) it could add a VERY interesting dimension to any ‘recovery’ the housing market may be in during that time. A double dip housing recession seems very possible.

  16. 16
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    real-estate agents credited January’s sluggish home sales to snowy weather, which kept shoppers home.

    Well any excuse will do. Bad Weather, Good weather, somewhere that has to be a reason other than, THOSE F’N HOUSES ARE TOO EXPENSIVE AND YOU’D HAVE TO BE AN IDIOT TO BUY ONE.

    Again, Median price goes up due to the Million dollar homes selling.

  17. 17
    MisterBubble says:

    “I’ve rented all over the nation, and in a stable market, rents are at a premium to owning, in terms of monthly payment.”

    Yup. And traditionally, the thing that kept you from owning was the need to build up a pile of cash for a down-payment. The world made sense.

    I have had a rash of bad experiences with crooked landlords in Seattle (deposit theft, poor maintenance, etc.), and for a long time, I wondered why this place would be so darned special in terms of unprofessional property management. Then I realized that most landlords were taking a huge bath on their carrying costs.

    There’s a reason that 1) Seattle has very few professionally managed rental buildings, and 2) Those buildings tend to look like cold-war relics. That reason isn’t because it’s cheaper to own than to rent….

  18. 18
    MisterBubble says:

    Damn! Leverage Lizzie wrote that Times article?

    Things must be bad out there.

  19. 19
    hapalicious says:

    greetings from Maryland. just wanted to say how much I appreciate and enjoy the posts by Tim and the other regulars. i missed out on the housing runup in the past few years and am waiting for things to return to some semblance of sanity…it’s good to have some moral support. i was listening to local radio over the weekend and a realtor commercial (disinformation) was on. a 20-ish couple was talking about what a good time it was to upgrade to a bigger house. the hubby said “for the same money, we could be owners!” as this and other sites have pointed out, in many markets it is not “the same money” but alot more that people are paying to become ‘owners’ , AKA renters from the bank. keep up the good work.

  20. 20
    hapalicious says:

    As for subprime lenders, another one went belly up late last week. it was 15th largest or something like that. in the last few months Ownit filed for bankruptcy also….just wondering if there is a list of subprime lenders arranged by size, and if one would expect them to continue to topple from smallest to biggest. FYI the “bellweather” of subprime lenders, Countrywide Financial, is shorted in Ken Heebner’s CGM Focus fund.

  21. 21
    The Tim says:


    Thanks for the feedback, it’s always appreciated.

    just wondering if there is a list of subprime lenders arranged by size

    I think maybe this is what you’re looking for. Actually I should really add that to the sidebar.

  22. 22
    Eleua says:

    I know it is considered tacky to laugh at someone elses misery….


    you HAVE to laugh at the implosion of the subprime lending market, and all those that thought it was perfectly normal for someone with no job, no down payment, little or no credit, swimming in debt with multiple bankruptcies/forclosures to be able to get $300K for a house they cannot afford.

    If I wasn’t too weak from this nasty flu that cycled through my house, I would lose another 10# laughing what is left of my ass off.

    If anyone is taking requests, I would like to read, yet another, article on how ‘special’ PNW real estate is, because of how we have morphed into the economy that caters to the ‘creative class.’ These ‘creative’ people live in (would be) world-class cities that have ‘amenities’ that are not available in flyover country. That is how we justify spending 10-13X income on a crappy Ballard craftsman, whereas those dullards that live in suburban Dallas are only spending 2x income on a 3000sf brick starter mansion in a crime-free neighborhood. BTW, those uncreative morons in suburban Dallas make alot more money, and spend alot less of it on housing, than the creative titans that live on Mercer Is, Bainbridge, Kirkland, Ballard, etc.

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time this week on the thunderbucket, and I can tell you that my poop stinks. Am I unique among my PNW fellow residents? You would think that people around here believe ripping a wicked fart is tantamount to a Glade air freshener.

    Yes, please let me read another article on just how smart we all are in the coastal regions of the country.

  23. 23
    Eleua says:


    I agree that IF the housing market continued as it has for the past few years, it would be 10-15 years from prime Mouseketeer liquidation time.

    However, my point was that if the market suddenly, and unmistakably shifted into reverse, and this made its way into the psyche of the average Boomer, then you would see a premature liquidation of their properties.

    If 2/3+ of them believe they will fund their golden years by selling their home, and that came under fire, you would think they would sell.

    Panic early…beat the rush.

  24. 24
    Herb Wright says:

    I’m not sure anyone here, self included, can REALLY predict what will happen to real estate prices. We all take information in, process it, and produce our best guess at the future, but time and again, the future regularly holds surprises that none of us factor in.

    To me, it does seem like many here take in only the news that points toward downward real estate prices, even huge price drops. There is certainly evidence for almost every possibility in the future, but no one seems to be adding in the data that DOESN’T point toward lower prices.

    To me, these factors exist that keep upward pressure on prices:
    1) more jobs, a lot more jobs predicted by State agencies in the next couple of years. Yes, a lot of them will pay diddly, but a lot of them won’t. More jobs also means people moving here. Unless these people are all living with relatives, that means increased needs for housing.
    2) The Growth Management Act is preventing urban sprawl. We could be filling up all available land from the Sound to the Cascades with subdivisions, but the GMA prohibits large-scale development in outlying areas.

    As in other economic arenas, increased demand, decreased supply is a recipe for higher prices, not lower.

  25. 25
    Eleua says:


    Unless these people that the State says will be moving here will be paying cash, they will have to borrow money to buy that $600K crapbox.

    The biggest news in the past 4 weeks has been the rapid implosion of the subprime lending industry. That, my friend, is where “demand” is coming from. With that demand on the wane, expect a stuck market followed by decreasing prices.

    UGBs and McJobs don’t support homes at 10X income. Sorry, they just don’t. Back in the day (’80s – early ’90s), if you were at 4X income, you were living on the edge. Entire communities rarely would exceed that metric. Normal house prices drift between 2X-3X income.

    It has been the abdication of any responsibility in the lending industry that has allowed this to become the circus that it is. The clown music is coming to a close.

  26. 26
    The Tim says:

    more jobs, a lot more jobs predicted by State agencies in the next couple of years.

    The Growth Management Act is preventing urban sprawl.

    Are those factors going to prop up the housing market just because Herb Wright says so, or does anyone have any actual data that proves these assertions?

    Because every time I investigate these claims to see if they hold up under scrutiny, I come up empty.

  27. 27
    SLTO says:

    I’m still amazed at how people on the street still buy the “not here line…” and they just moved from Cali where they saw housing values plummet daily and got out barely in time…

    only this time it’s neighborhood by neighborhood….

    houses are cooling but not here in XXXlake (or any other neighborhood with a sound view) because we’re special, we have our lake/view.

    I know somebody who just bought a home at 350/sqft and still believes that it will appreciate to 400/sqft in a few years…

    who knows, they may be right, but I won’t gamble on it…

  28. 28
    Dean says:

    As for all these jobs,I work for the employment security department. We are preparing for a recession over the next 2 years…something doesn’t fit…more jobs in the future and yet we are preparing for an economic tailspin and ramping up to serve more unemployed workers. Then again it’s state government so we could be totally off.

  29. 29
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    Jimminy H. Crickets Herb. Nobody states evidence here that will lend itself to prices continuing to sky rocket because there isn’t any. Jobs don’t raise house prices just as jobs don’t raise a stcks price. Here is a big reality check. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad a company is doing that determines it’s stock price. what determines it’s stock price is how well or how bad people think it is gonna do. and when you own the stock, you don’t own a part of that company, what you own is a peice of paper that you hope someone else will want to own for more than you own it. Same as housing. you own (or the bank owns) a peice of paper and you hope that peice of paper is worth more to the next person than what you paid. 99% of realestate transactions are done by speculators. Unless you plan on dying in that house and don’t care about leaving it to anybody, then you are speculating. that is what raises real estate prices. period. nothing else. When people can’t or won’t purchase for more than what you purchased, then the price has to go down. We are at that point. The run is over. You may feel that you can’t really predict what is going to happen with housing prices, so be it.

    Tim has done an excellent job of discrediting every single point you have made, but in the most simplistic way, the above is all there is to it.

  30. 30
    Eleua says:

    How much of the “creative class” jobs that have appeared in the PNW over the past few years are RE agents, mortgage brokers, construction workers, contractors, HD/Lowes employees, granite countertop fabs, and retailers that are sopping up all that HELOC money?

    The State does not know how many jobs have been created in the past 5 years, much less how many will be created/destroyed in the next 10. Anyone who relies on gov’t numbers for employment is probably better off getting stock tips from Bongo-the-Chimp and his dart board.

  31. 31
    Eleua says:

    T, V, and Mr. B,

    Right on! bro.

    Ask yourself…how much would you pay for your house if you knew you would sell it for 80 cents on the dollar when the time came? How about 50 cents? 40? How about 20?

    Now, how much would you pay for your house if you knew you would sell it for 1.5x, or 2X? It really doesn’t matter, because if you KNEW it would go up, you would pay ANY price. In fact, the more you paid, the more you would make.

    This is a classic bubble. Prices don’t matter on the way up, because they will always liquify any dumb mistakes. Idiots make tons of money. On the way down, it works in the same way, but in reverse – and faster.

    Would I pay $600K for a Bainbridge mold/mildew incubation facility, if I knew I would only be able to sell it for $450K? Nope. Prices would have to dip VERY low to make that worthwile, and the difference would have to be equal to what I would have lost in paying a HIGHER rent, and any accrued benefit of being a homeowner.

    The past 50 years has been one, long bull market. Once this slips into reverse, it will be very interesting. It is uncharted territory (at least for these generations).

  32. 32
    Matthew says:

    I’m in Boise Idaho right now, and a lady I was talking with said there are flippers out here! The madness is everywhere!

    I was reading an interesting article on HELOC’s the other day, I’ll see if I can track it down. It said that people were consolidating their credit card debt into their Home Equity because of low interest rates, but now with the raise in mortgage rates, people are actually doing the reverse! Taking their HELOC and paying it off with credit cards!!!

  33. 33
  34. 34
    Matthew says:

    REBECCA WALKER AND her husband were anxious to refinance their adjustable rate mortgage. But a $7,000 home-equity loan (HEL) stood in the way.

    The Walkers bought their house in 2003 with a 100% mortgage, and now the two debts combined were more than the home was actually worth. “No lender would touch us,” the 28-year-old from Broomfield, Colo., explains. “We were told that if we could pay off the home-equity loan, then we would be in a position to refinance.”

  35. 35
    plymster says:

    The State does not know how many jobs have been created in the past 5 years, much less how many will be created/destroyed in the next 10.

    I don’t know; executive director of the state Revenue Forecast Council, ChangMook Sohn seems to know which way the wind is blowing. If you can forecast a drop in state budget, you can see the state and construction jobs vanishing (hence the recession talk at the unemployment office). There’s also been a lot of talk in the MSM about state “rainy day” funds. Overall, I think Washington State is trying to be somewhat cautious.

    I don’t have an inside track to the state government, but it sounds like somebody with some pull is more than a little concerned about the economy.

  36. 36
    plymster says:

    …those dullards that live in suburban Dallas are only spending 2x income on a 3000sf brick starter mansion in a crime-free neighborhood.

    Yeah. Two friends of mine bought 2 and 3 bedroom homes in Arlington (30 minutes to Dallas and Ft. Worth) for under 100k. They aren’t in a great neighborhood, (comparable to Shoreline, I’d guess). They also have highs in the 90’s for 6 months out of the year, and a culture that is very anti-walking (partly because of distance, partly because of those highs I mentioned). I wouldn’t want to live there (I grew up in Irving), but I can see how some would. Personally, I’d rather find a happy medium.

    We’re still a ways a way from peak baby boomer housing liquidation…

    I don’t know about that. I’ve run into a number of people between 55-65 that are taking the money and running. My girlfriend’s old teacher just sold a house and a condo here to move to Albuquerque, and fellow I work with just moved out to the sticks to live out his dreams of Bluegrass heaven. Retirees aren’t buying homes in the city to be close to hospitals; they’re moving to the country to flee from traffic, that “Creative Class” that eleua frequently mentions, and a standard of living that would have them subsist on dogfood.

  37. 37
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    I spent the first 30 years of my life in north and central Texas. Highs in the 90s in the summer is cool. I remember summers of over 100+ for a month straight.

  38. 38
    plymster says:

    Yeah. I remember 1980. 69 days with highs over 100. But the lows in the summer are really what get to you. I remember sweating my butt off at 11:00 pm when the nightly low was a chilly 89 degrees.

  39. 39
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    Summer 2000 was my last one there (Dallas), and it was awful. If I remember correctly, there were over 90 consecutive days without a drop of rain, and over 40 days of 100+ degrees, the highest being 116. I can’t say I miss that whatsoever.

  40. 40
    Herb Wright says:

    Maybe that’s why those prices are so “reasonable” in Dallas. We visited relatives in Houston and Dallas last year. Better off suffering financially up here but enjoying life as opposed to whatever Dallas and Houston have to offer.

    There’s no talk of any bubble in Dallas and Houston, yet the relatives pointed out house after house in “high-end” neighborhoods (in law is a Doc) that had been sitting for sale for months. $400,000 for a palatial, all the bells and whistles, 4 year old home.

    Yet the same home would be snapped up in Seattle in a second. Are all buyers here really just speculators ?

  41. 41
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    Herb….”There’s no talk of any bubble in Dallas and Houston”
    Really? 10 articles in Texas news papers since February 1 talking about rising inventories in Dallas. I would consider that talk. But those educated in the Texas School system might just consider that a whisper. But I must remember that there, they don’t know the difference between a bottle in front of me and a frontal lobotomy.

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