Bubble Link Roundup

Here are a few short quotes from some recent interesting articles (followed by some pithy one-liners) that I haven’t had the time to dedicate entire posts to:

Slumping sales of lots could presage fewer new houses for region

A key future indicator of the housing market is down sharply, but that could be a good thing, local real estate executives are saying.

Puget Sound area home builders have been buying substantially fewer finished lots from residential developers as the builders try to gauge the demand for their new homes in the months ahead.

Builders buying fewer lots today could mean fewer new homes tomorrow.

“Finished lots are hanging around longer than they have in quite some time,” said consultant Matt Gardner, a principal at Gardner Johnson LLC in Seattle.

But, I thought the Seattle market was still hot, hot, hot!

Generous pay isn’t enough to keep some on the road

The number of commuters in South Sound continues to grow, but some people are bucking the trend.

They’ve quit.

Melinda Spencer of Olympia took the step a few years ago. Spencer used to commute from Olympia to her job as a technical writer at Redmond-based Microsoft, where she earned about $73,000 a year.

Making that kind of money, Spencer’s husband, Keith, could complete his degree at The Evergreen State College, and they could invest in property. In 1997, the couple paid $110,000 for their Olympia home.

Yet after three years of driving to Redmond, spending three hours in her car each day, something had to change. “It was awful,” she said about her commute. “I felt like I showered (in the morning), ate (at night), and turned around and did it all over again. It was time to end this lifestyle.”

She ended it by starting her own home-based technical communications business. Another reason to stay home was the birth of her first son, she said. Today, her husband works as a high school teacher in Rochester, while Spencer works at home and raises their two children. The money is tighter. Spencer estimates their combined income at just more than $2,000 a month after taxes and health insurance are deducted.

But in the 10 years they’ve owned a home, it has tripled in value to $300,000; they would be unable to afford it today, Spencer said.

“We would be looking at one of those old dogs that has been foreclosed on,” she said.

Isn’t appreciation wonderful?

Home bailout scams on rise

As interest rates rise, many people with adjustable-rate mortgages find their payments too high to manage. That has paved the way for con artists offering relief.

WASHINGTON – As home foreclosures increase across the country, scam artists promise struggling homeowners a quick bailout, but they end up stripping the properties of their value or owning the homes outright.

State officials urge cash-strapped property owners – particularly the elderly, immigrants, minorities and low-income – to be wary of mailings, phone calls and visitors offering to help “save your home” and “avoid foreclosure.”

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office recently settled a suit against three businesses that claimed to save the homes of people who were facing foreclosure for unpaid property taxes. The companies – Fiscal Dynamics Inc. and Cumulative LLC, of Tacoma, and Northwest Assets of Seattle – allegedly broke promises to pay the back taxes and instead tried to sell the houses at auction and keep the owners’ rightful proceeds, according to the complaint.

Now wait just a minute. How can people possibly be facing foreclosure in the fantasy rainbow-land of forever double-digit appreciation? Hmm…

Last and most certainly least: Average Seattle worker can’t afford to live here

Last year, the typical single person in Seattle earned enough to buy a home for just under $200,000 while the typical family of four had enough to pay just over $280,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The median prices were about $450,000 for a house and $290,000 for a condo.

Typical families can afford apartments, but the rent for the average one-bedroom apartment in King County rose 8.5 percent in the past year as vacancies fell 17 percent — down to 3.9 percent, according to Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors. Hal Ferris, a partner in developer Lorig Associates, said increasing construction prices mean living in a new development will cost more than what HUD assumes typical families can pay.

And many median-income workers choose to buy and commute rather than rent.

“They can buy somewhere, but that somewhere isn’t in the city of Seattle,” said Adrienne Quinn, director of the Seattle Office of Housing.

First off, I’d take that data from Dupre + Scott with a giant frikkin’ grain of salt. Secondly, government solutions like the ones discussed in this article are like putting a band-aid on a tumor. They completely ignore the root cause of the problem, and don’t even effectively address the symptoms.

(Jeanne Lang Jones, Puget Sound Business Journal, 03.26.2007)
( Rolf Boone, The Olympian, 04.01.2007)
(Tony Pugh, Tacoma News Tribune, 04.02.2007)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 04.02.2007)

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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.

One comment:

  1. 1
    redmondjp says:

    I bought yesterday’s PI while at the gas station because of that headline on Seattle housing prices.

    The article contained a whole lot of obvious and no real useful information. It did mention other cities where they had enacted some kinds of affordable-living mandates for certain sectors of the population (one public school somewhere has their own apartment building for new teachers, which seems like a pretty good idea IMO).

    I had hoped that Aubrey would have at least touched on the realtors(TM)’ “It’s A Priority” campaign that’s in full-swing right now, but maybe that’s expecting a bit much. There’s a bill that they are currently pushing but I haven’t looked into it.

    In local neighborhood news, the $1.1M FSBO flip down the street from me that was bought new last summer for $999,450 is still for sale. It’s not on the MLS so other than the street signs (and Craigslist or other such sites it may be on), I’m not sure how much exposure it is getting. This house is in the Grasslawn Park area of Redmond just north of MS-West campus, BTW.

    Seems to me that you would at least want to spend a few nickels to get your house on the MLS. I’ll keep you posted. Think days on market (or since the sign went up) is now at least 15-20.

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