The stories have been piling up in my inbox at a faster rate than I’ve been able to post them lately, so that means that it is time for another bubble link roundup. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover in this post, and I don’t want to totally clutter up the front page, so click below to read the entire post.
Local public radio chimes in on the “Seattle is Special” debate, with a surprisingly original report full of insight and revelations about Seattle’s unique economy. Oh, wait… no—that’s not an accurate description at all. Actually it’s yet another rubber-stamped report full of the obligatory quotes about “strong fundamentals” from Glenn Crellin, Dick Conway, and a handful of local real estate salespeople.
Bellamy Pailthorp, Why Puget Sound Real Estate Bucks National Trend:
The northwest is a bright spot in an otherwise faltering national housing market. When stocks took a dive last week, many analysts blamed it on mortgage woes and dramatically falling home prices around the country. Yet housing prices in the greater Seattle area continue to rise. As KPLU business and labor reporter Bellamy Pailthorp explains, the northwest economy is often out of synch (sic) with national trends.
Meanwhile, over in Ballard (a.k.a. Pink Pony Central), they’re experiencing a “massive housing demand” from a “diverse mix” of people, all dying to get in on the gold rush before Ballard “runs out of dirt.”
Rebekah Schilperoort, Massive housing demand here:
According to Gunnar Hadley, a realtor with Ballard Windermere, 60 percent of everything sold here for the first five months of the year were condominiums and town homes. Hadley, who specializes in condo sales, called that an “impressive” statistic.
“That’s truly crazy,” he said. “There’s clearly a massive demand here.”
While real estate sales are sluggish around the nation, Seattle, and especially Ballard, seems to be one of the exceptions, he said.
“You can be going 120 miles per hour and slow down to 90, but you’re still going 90,” Hadley said.
“Eventually we will run out of dirt,” [Ballard realtor Brent Sanders] said.
In the meantime, homeowners will continue to flock here, predicted Lauren Martin, a developers’ representative…
“Ballard is just hot – it’s one of the hottest,” Martin said. “It has such a unique feel.”
Unfortunately, it would appear that there are some parts of Seattle’s economy that require more than fuzzy feelings and positive reporting to keep afloat. Thanks to the national housing slowdown, HouseValues, a Kirkland-based agent referral service, continues its death march.
Drew DeSilver, Market puts the squeeze on HouseValues:
The deteriorating national housing market continues to batter Kirkland-based HouseValues, which Tuesday reported sharply lower revenues, said it would lay off 100 workers and closed its Yakima call center.
“We were in the early stages of building a very talented team in [Yakima], but given the dramatic change in our environment it simply no longer makes sense to invest in an additional facility at this time,” HouseValues Chief Executive Ian Morris said in a conference call with analysts.
The job cuts and Yakima closure follow January’s layoff of 60 people in HouseValues’ Kirkland office, as the company shut down its business of generating leads for mortgage providers.
You’re also increasingly up a bit of a creek if you’re looking to the state to make home buying a viable prospect, as they’re simply unable to keep up with the demand. Hmm, could demand for state assistance be spiking because people are no longer able to Option-ARM, zero-down, and liar-loan their way into homes they can’t afford?
Devona Wells, First-time home buyer? Not so fast:
A well-used state program for first-time home buyers has drastically restricted eligibility because it’s unable to meet borrower demand.
Before May, a single buyer in Pierce County could earn up to $73,000 and qualify for a House Key loan. Today, the income requirement tops out at $34,800, with a return to the more generous limits not expected until January.
And, even then, the House Key program could face the same issue that caused it to rein in lending three months ago.
Next up, a trio of gushing articles about all the grand things the city of Seattle is doing to “innovate in housing issues” and “make homeownership a reality.”
Greg Nickels & Tom Rasmussen, Seattle makes good on its commitment to affordable housing
Denise Whitaker, Seattle city officials looking for ways to make housing more affordable
Rebekah Schilperoort, Housing costs have risen beyond the reach of many
And lastly, The Olympian takes a look at the growing trend of home staging in the slowing Thurston County housing market.
Rolf Boone, Home sellers look to decor to entice buyers:
Chad and Melissa Stussey of Tumwater put their 2,600-square-foot home up for sale in March. After a month on the market, they lowered the price and then did it again just to be a little more competitive, Melissa Stussey said.
Finally, they moved some excess furniture into a storage unit and “staged” their home by rearranging existing furnishings to improve its chances of a sale.
“The more you walk through houses, the more you realize it does make a difference,” she said about their staging efforts.
More South Sound homeowners are staging houses themselves or using professional stagers to help stimulate sales in a real estate market that now firmly favors the home buyer.
Hey, this sounds a little familiar… Didn’t we read this article before? Yes, yes we did. Back in November, Mr. Boone wrote a very similar article on the same subject. You may recall that when this article originally appeared, I made the point that home staging is “not a cure for a house that is just plain overpriced.” According to Thurston County records, the home featured by Rolf in the article did finally sell. In May. For $22,000 under asking (roughly 7%). At least most of the hopeful sellers in the latest article are staging and lowering their price.
(Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU Radio, 08.02.2007)
(Rebekah Schilperoort, Ballard News-Tribune, 07.31.2007)
(Drew DeSilver, Seattle Times, 08.01.2007)
(Devona Wells, Tacoma News Tribune, 07.31.2007)
(Greg Nickels & Tom Rasmussen, Seattle P-I, 07.30.2007)
(Denise Whitaker, KOMO TV, 07.20.2007)
(Rebekah Schilperoort, Ballard News-Tribune, 07.31.2007)
(Rolf Boone, The Olympian, 07.22.2007)