Seattle Townhouse Market Tanking?

There was a great article over the weekend in the Seattle P-I that looked at the townhouse market, which has slowed down considerably more than the single-family or condo markets so far this year.

Jamie Goodwin knew it would be a tough time to sell her Central Area townhouse.

“I’m a real estate attorney, and I knew that the market was soft,” she said Friday. That’s why she set her asking price at what another townhouse in her development fetched a year earlier.

Even so, agents weren’t even looking at the listing online, said Erin Goodwin, Jamie’s sister and an agent with Re/Max Mutual Realty. “We listed in October, and I think maybe there’s 23 clicks.”

Sitting in a townhouse he was trying to sell last month, Windermere Real Estate agent Alex Eckardt said he’d seen a fair amount of traffic since listing the home about a month earlier, but no offers.

“Six months ago this would have sold in the first week,” he said.

More and more, homes of all types in Seattle are chasing a buyer pool that has become smaller and more cautious over the past year. But real estate agents and sales statistics show that the slowdown in townhouse sales has brought price cuts out of proportion with the rest of the market.

“What we are seeing is these huge price reductions, where a guy’s asking $600,000 one week, then $550,000 the next week and $500,000 the week after that,” said Ryan Thompson, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate.

Greg Bartell, a Re/Max Mutual Realty agent who specializes in townhouses, says he has seen particular slowing since August.

“I think the most apparent thing is prices coming down,” he said. “I’ve seen some come down $90,000 off the list” price.

Seattle townhouse prices were down from the prior year in six of the first 10 months of 2007, with October’s median townhouse price of $358,594 down 13.6 percent from October 2006, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The statistics Aubrey cites in the article appear to be specially compiled for him by the NWMLS, as a specific breakdown for townhouses is not a part of the usually reported data. Kudos to Mr. Cohen for delving into the data to deliver a report that goes further than just quoting an NWMLS press release and a couple of real estate agents.

Some have argued that condos and townhouses are a leading indicator of where a local housing market is heading. I think that argument is fairly sound, since townhouses and condos typically represent the least expensive properties on the market, and if the low end isn’t selling, it will inevitably trickle up to the high end. When an existing owner of a townhouse wants to sell and “move up” the “equity ladder,” but finds they have to significantly reduce their price, it limits their ability to purchase a home on the next rung of the ladder.

Will a significant deterioration in the townhouse and condo market in Seattle lead to a similar meltdown in the single-family market? I’m guessing we’ll find out the answer to that question in 2008.

(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 11.23.2007)

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

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.

74 comments:

  1. 1
    Buceri says:

    Great!!! Now e-mail me when they fall under $200K (my entry point)….don’t laugh……..really!!

  2. 2
    on topic says:

    to be fair, some of the townhouses in town are downright awful. walking around the Central District, there is no possible explanation for why some of these places exist if not for speculative purposes.

    i like the neighborhood (one of few in town where people actually acknowledge one another on the sidewalk, from my experience), but there are townhouses that are only accessible via unlit alleys and 1.5bdrm places 20 feet from section 8 housing advertised for $450k.

    i think Buceri might be right that $200k is a more realistic price point for some of them.

  3. 3

    It makes sense to me that townhomes would be coming down in price. There’s so damn many of them, and more coming on the market all the time.
    i just sold a condo in Issaquah, considered very desirable and would have been snapped up in days a year or so ago. This was on the market for 56 days, and I encouraged the seller to lower her price twice( which is maybe why it sold. It was 10-15 thousand less than identical units for sale.). There are good arguments for both using and not using an agent. Yes, you’ll save on commission, but some sellers need someone to give them a kick and tell them to lower their price to make the sale…and some sellers just won’t be satisfied with a 50% return in 3 years.
    I’m seeing brand new condos and townhomes go on the market for what seems to be relatively low prices in today’s market, so how can these older units compete?

  4. 4
    CKT says:

    No kidding. A drive around quickly reveals that what the real estate professionals call “townhomes” are better termed “air-condos”. Who in their right mind would pay these prices for pieces of crap made from crap materials in crappy neighborhoods so that some crappy speculators can make some crappy profits? Count me out.

  5. 5
    b says:

    All of the drawbacks of a condo for the price of a SFH. Why aren’t people lining up to buy these??

  6. 6
    deejayoh says:

    All of the drawbacks of a condo for the price of a SFH. Why aren’t people lining up to buy these??

    Well – there is one major advantage: No HOA. That is huge. That said, the majority of them are built like crap, undistinguishable from each other, and in crappy locations.

    I rent a 2002 vintage T/H on Capitol Hill. It’s nice infill in a n established neighborhood. When I compare the quality of construction in that place to the new construction – it’s amazing how bad the new ones are. Not saying my rental is a palace, but the current vintage is mostly slapped up by amateurs using sub-standard materials, under the guise of a quickly disbanded LLC to avoid all future liability for claims.

  7. 7
    Angie says:

    The no HOA thing is a disaster waiting to happen. What do they do when the roof needs to be replaced? Replace it up to the “zero lot line”?

  8. 8
    Jonny says:

    “the current vintage is mostly slapped up by amateurs using sub-standard materials, under the guise of a quickly disbanded LLC to avoid all future liability for claims.”

    there are some townhouses a block from my apartment building put up by an LLC called “white lightning.” maybe just a tad too much subtext in that name. i about shot latte out of my nose.

  9. 9
    on topic says:

    the other difference with townhouses is that they are often built by small-time developers, hundreds and hundreds of small-time developers that need to compete with each other to get from under their investments. so, there is plenty competition on price point.

    condos might hold out a bit longer b/c there are far fewer condo developers, so they have a greater ability to control prices. also, they may have more flexible funding, allowing them to hold properties off the market for a few years if they think it is best.

  10. 10

    NOTHING MAKES SENSE TODAY

    Bad news is good news, re: the +340 point DOW stock market surge today.

    Perhaps Condo Prices could make a temporary rebound, like stocks did today, while simultaneoausly immersed in $91/barrell oil, with far-away promises of a Fed Rate Cut Christmas Present and a beige paper today from the Federal Reserve that specifically gave 2008 the “slow” signal due to a housing crash.

    Is the current stock market surge a “sucker’s market” or another time for guys like Buffet to make a billion in 2008 as the scared sell so the smart rich buy?

    Are Seattle condos a similar “pink pony” or a completely different animal?

    I’m gonna pour me a bigger glass of Merlot tonight.

  11. 11
    craptastic says:

    crap crappity crap crap crap!

  12. 12
    deejayoh says:

    To test the premise of the article, I just did a quick search on ZipRealty for properties that fit a townhome profile: in seattle city limits, 3 bed, >2 bath, 1250-1750 square feet. Not a perfect method, but pretty accurate judging by the listings that came back.

    It came up with 200 properties and 154 of them are price reduced. 75%. wow!

  13. 13
    deejayoh says:

    oh yeah, and built 2006-2008. forgot that part

  14. 14
    on topic says:

    is there a way to track median MLS listed prices. to a certain extent, they point the short term direction of the market median price.

  15. 15
    deejayoh says:

    is there a way to track median MLS listed prices. to a certain extent, they point the short term direction of the market median price.

    That’s available here, and yes – they do track quite closely
    http://www.altosresearch.com/research/WA/SEATTLE

  16. 16
    Buceri says:

    deejayoh – Townhomes do have HOA; they have to since they share walls and the roof.
    I personally like them much better than condos; they generally have a garage (one car); and the 2 story layout separates the spaces giving the impression of being larger.
    Ira – existing units will have to come down to compete with new ones. Builders can not hold to new units too long, so after they throw in all the upgrades and people don’t bite, they have to go down. Happening in Florida (big time in my neighborhood).

  17. 17
    wreckingbull says:

    Most townhomes don’t have a HOA. (more accurately, HOA dues) They have a very loose agreement that states that owners will ‘work together’ to fix common problems.

    What happens when half of your neighbors have no savings to replace a leaky roof? Worse yet, what happens when it burns down and you now have 4 insurance companies squabbling? What if one 1 of the four residents let his policy lapse? This is one case where an HOA and an accumulated maintenance fund is a good thing.

    I owned one of the first ones built in Seattle under the zero-lot-line system. Glad to be out of it. I already see some which were built 5-6 years ago starting to show their age.

  18. 18
    deejayoh says:

    deejayoh – Townhomes do have HOA; they have to since they share walls and the roof.

    Angie is right that it could be a disaster waiting to happen, but I do not believe it is generally the case that Townhomes have HOA. I had one under contract and there was no HOA. And in reviewing most of the listings, “No HOA” is often a key selling point for townhomes. My $0.02

  19. 19
    Chris says:

    softwarengineer-
    Market hurt me today. It zigged when I was zagging on the heels of a really bad housing report last night. Damn Fed. Tomorrow’s another day…

  20. 20
    patient says:

    Before deciding on our current sfh rental we looked at a handful almost new townhouses for rent. Crap is a nice way to describe the quality of the appliances, finishing and materials. That combined with a 2-story layout on what is sufficient for a 1-story made the floor plans close to useless for other then doll house furniture.

  21. 21
    patient says:

    That said, if you are single with a lot of toys like snowmobiles, bikes, surfboards etc the garage is a very nice bonus compared to a condo. If it comes with another parking spot for the car that is…

  22. 22
    Chris says:

    There are a bunch of new townhouses sitting empty in Greenlake/Phinney Ridge. There are two within a block of my apartment, one of which has been on sale since September, and one of which put up a ‘pre-sales starting in September’ sign back then. It doesn’t appear that any units in either have sold. Each weekend there are signs at nearby intersections directing you to an open house on the finished one.

    Interestingly, the final steps of construction seem either slow or stalled on the ‘pre-sales’ one. I kind of wonder if the builder isn’t sitting on other units elsewhere, and so sees no reason to hurry these up.

    In addition to those, there are probably 10-15 more early-stage units, and 6-8 finished but empty units along my 3 minute drive to the Phinney Ridge Starbucks.

    I think SFH in Seattle are overpriced, but I would be surprised if anyone loses huge money buying a SFH and holding it for 3-5 years. But with these knock-off condos, I could believe that really painful loses are possible.

  23. 23
    confusa says:

    I wanted to point out that the two townhouses in 98107 I referred to in the last post on this site dropped their price from $650K to $599K pretty quickly. But, they still sold. Honestly, the flood of these awful “craftsman style” monsters is absolutely ruining Seattle. I mean are the same plans being used for every development?!? There is NO WAY these things will ever appreciate in value at the prices people are paying.

  24. 24
    Angie says:

    Honestly, the flood of these awful “craftsman style” monsters is absolutely ruining Seattle. I mean are the same plans being used for every development?!?

    Not in my neighborhood. There have been a couple of very attractive contemporary developments (including the Columbia City Live-Aboves, which are actually mixed-use residential and commercial). Then there’s a behemoth going up near my house that I think is trying to be contemporary, but my husband refers to it as the “Borg Trapezoid”, which should give you an idea of its aesthetic.

    The Rainier Vista redevelopment is almost all “craftsman style townhomes”, and at least they look, you know, domestic. I will say that it’s a whole lot nicer looking and more efficient use of space than what was there before.

    Friends of mine up in Vancouver, BC, live in a huge (hundreds of units) housing development up near Granville Island built in the early 80s, maybe, that is all zero-lot-line townhome-style units. It’s probably 1600 sf all told, spread out over 4 (!) levels separated by half-flights of stairs. Think of a split-level that keeps on giving. Everyone has a private deck on the roof. Anyhoo, it works surprisingly well as a living space and the larger community is very friendly and strong, with community gathering spaces between houses.

    That’s an example where townhouse living works well—it seems to take that economy of scale and makes it greater than the sum of its parts, sort of. It makes me hopeful about Rainier Vista and the other Hope IV projects that have a similar template.

    It’d be nice to think that these 4 and 8-plat developments could foster tight communities, too. That would go a long way toward dealing with the worst-case scenarios we’ve tossed around upthread.

  25. 25
    NostraDamnUs says:

    Here’s more jerkoff material for some of you here who aren’t here for anything but to bitch, moan and complain:

    http://www.investingintelligently.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/a_history_of_home_values.png

  26. 26
    Josh Mahar says:

    So there is a lot of talk on here about how the market has, “a large inventory and a low demand” thus, falling prices are inevitable. But to be honest, Seattle IS becoming a more desirable location and will only continue. If realtors see that prices are right then why cant they just wait until rents fall?

  27. 27
    Josh Mahar says:

    Ahhh! sorry, until rents RISE. That makes far more sense.

  28. 28
    NostraDamnUs says:

    “softwarengineer said,

    on November 28th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    NOTHING MAKES SENSE TODAY

    Bad news is good news,”

    Softie- that’s what I’ve been saying all along. The converse of it is also true – “good news is bad news” (or as I’d like to put it – the road to hell is paved with good intentions).

    If you “feel” bad news is coming in at 200 mph, then perhaps it isn’t a bad time to buy!

    Check this one out – just got sold – http://www.windermere.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Listing.ListingDetail&ListingID=18801993 at 575k.

    Original sales price was 720k. Now, what do you call that? Overpaid? Good deal? Bla bla? Whatever!

    Act now – it’s probably as good a time to act now as it’s been in a while. It might stay this way, but it might not. I give it another year, at least until we see Hillary in office.. then it’s anybody’s guess.

    So all of ya who’re reading – stop your iPhone, MacBook, brand new Lexus, latte frenzy – save up – and act within the next year!

    Or you can act, by waiting. And tell me I’m wrong later. Or right. Or whatever.

    Either way – get in the game, get a piece of land under the sky that you will _like_ and enjoy and can afford!

  29. 29
    Bitterrenter says:

    So glad down here in Portland we’re not seeing the horrendous price drops you poor folks up there in Seattle are experiencing. Our paper had a HUGE front page story about how Portland is still appreciating and looks to escape the downturn! Of course, Seattle is usually mentioned as being that other “oasis” of economic un-reality in an otherwise afflicted country. So what’s this about townhome price reductions??

  30. 30
    Matthew says:

    575k for that house in Snoqualmie???? You are joking, right?

    Yeah everyone, buy now! You can buy at the top of the greatest asset bubble in the history of the United States, and slowly watch your “investment” deteriorate along with the rest of America. Join the party!

    Great advice Nostra! Keep the humor coming!

  31. 31
    j says:

    looks like it listed for 699k originally. ahhh, the foreclosure/short sale bug.
    if you search google by mls#27185478, you’ll see it pop up for that. there’s about half a dozen below original prices that i see just in that s-ridge area just on a brief glance

  32. 32
    CliveL says:

    On quite a few houses in s-ridge, prices are below 2006 and in some cases even below 2005.
    The Tim, maybe the time has come to list such roll backs similar to Irvine Housing Blog.

  33. 33
    Mama says:

    Well, townhomes _are_ a bit cheaper than SFH and, unlike condos, have more space…granted spread over a few levels, but space. If you have 2+ kids a 1200sq foot condo is as small as I’d go — the 500sq ft things that are all over QA/CH won’t do.

    Angie — “The Rainier Vista redevelopment is almost all “craftsman style townhomes”” — you’re right, they’re nice. BUT if you look at the parcel map on the KC site, Seattle Housing Authority owns pretty much everything around them…Don’t know what that means for the neighborhood, but can take a guess what it will mean for the schools…

  34. 34
    deejayoh says:

    “The Rainier Vista redevelopment is almost all “craftsman style townhomes”” — you’re right, they’re nice. BUT if you look at the parcel map on the KC site, Seattle Housing Authority owns pretty much everything around them…Don’t know what that means for the neighborhood, but can take a guess what it will mean for the schools…

    Actually, Rainier Vista is a project of the SHA and it’s on the site of an old WWII-era housing project. They tore it down in 2002 and have been using federal money to redevelop the area.

  35. 35
    deejayoh says:

    NostraDamnUs said,

    on November 28th, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    Here’s more jerkoff material for some of you here who aren’t here for anything but to bitch, moan and complain:

    http://www.investingintelligently.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/a_history_of_home_values.png

    In other news…. man lands on the moon. mariners win 116. seahawks lose superbowl

  36. 36
    Buceri says:

    Well; I have to agree then with you. But my townhome in Bothell had a HOA and $200 monthly dues. I have not seen any advertised without HOA dues; but I believe you. I have to agree that they are made like crap. But they know they can get away with anything since these are the entry point for young families.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    RG says:

    Just got a notice from the management today:

    “We are pleased to announce that the owners of West Ridge Park have decided to not go forward with the planned condo conversion at this time. The property as a whole will remain a rental property.

    We sincerely want to thank each and every one of you for your patience and understanding during these past months of change and uncertainty. We hope this announcement will please all of you. I know you are very excited that we are staying as a rental community, and hope each of you will stay with us in 2008!”

    These guys got in in March 2007. Guess they were late to the party and no one was biting. Sign of times to come. If it can happen in West Seattle, it’s gonna happen elsewhere.

  39. 39
    deejayoh says:

    It probably depends on the size of the development and whether or not they form an HOA. 8 Units, the developer probably doesn’t need to/isn’t required to – so they skirt an regulation that may apply.

    here’s an example listing, there are many
    http://www.estately.com/p/WA_Seattle?location=Seattle#listings/info/747863

  40. 40
    Mike2 says:

    Josh Mahar said,
    But to be honest, Seattle IS becoming a more desirable location and will only continue.

    I lived in Seattle for the past 10 years, and I just left. I’ve run into 2 other couples that moved out east from Seattle in the past few months.

    I hate to break it to you, but it’s not as desirable of a place to live as it was a few years ago and the high house prices don’t help. If you do a general poll across the US of people that are willing to pay $500K+ for a house somewhere that it rains for 6+ months out of the year, I think you’ll find that the appeal is pretty limited.

    It’s a nice place, it’s just horribly overpriced for what it has to offer. But hey, in just a few years it’ll have a few miles of light rail, just like “big” cities had 50 years ago.

  41. 41
    Buceri says:

    Mike2- The area is bleeding the people that can not afford housing. And if you are not into the outdoors lifestyle, there is little desirable about living with 10 months of clouds. But jobs pull; my boss just told me her sister is moving to Seattle; our inventory guy’s son just move to Seattle; jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs…….
    If you left to grow in your career (I am guessing), you are in the minority. Generally, professionals move TO Seattle. That’s a fact.
    I am also a 10 year former resident that sold and now visits this blog to get hope that one day I will be able to return with my family. (Florida sucks….after you lived in Seattle!!!)

  42. 42

    I live in a 3 year old townhome and another was just built nextdoor to me. It was the first by this specific developer. I think he may have moved into one of the units. I see his truck there everynight. Being an Agent I know that they are overpriced and they don’t show very well since they haven’t been staged and even the pictures his agent is using to market them are lacking.

    I think it depends on the size of the town home in whether the price is falling. The entry level homes priced at 350 and below are holding well it is the 450+ range that is suffering. Come on if your going to spend half a million you should get a little more than granite in the kitchen. Maybe some space:)

  43. 43
    Mike2 says:

    Buceri, Seattle’s jobs jobs jobs don’t pay the incomes incomes incomes that other places do. That was a factor, in addition to general career development.

  44. 44
    b says:

    buceri –
    “Jobs jobs jobs” are available in basically every major metro area right now. However, unlike Seattle most areas are not concentrated on only two companies for life support. This is one line of realtor-vomit I never understood, they act like everywhere else in the country is facing huge unemployment except Seattle. I live in silicon valley right now and the economy here is in much better overall condition than Seattle. Plenty of high tech jobs, with the diversity of Oakland/SF for plenty of other jobs. Yet folks leave after a few years of living here because of housing affordability and the realization there are plenty of jobs elsewhere, despite having some of the best weather in the country. Prices here are coming down and they will eventually fall much faster in Seattle with its shit weather and lackluster economic diversity.

  45. 45
    Buceri says:

    b- you live in another “kick ass” place. Take the west and the northeast out of the picture and you are left with a huge vast piece of crap.
    If you think there are jobs everywhere, good luck. Come down to the South. There is a reason why property is cheap here.

  46. 46
    Angie says:

    Rainier Vista is a project of the SHA and it’s on the site of an old WWII-era housing project. They tore it down in 2002 and have been using federal money to redevelop the area.

    Yep. Much higher density, with a mix of market-rate housing and SHA-administered low-income housing.

    BUT if you look at the parcel map on the KC site, Seattle Housing Authority owns pretty much everything around them…Don’t know what that means for the neighborhood, but can take a guess what it will mean for the schools…

    Ah, I see, your kids are too precious to go to school with poor kids. And any parental involvement that you can provide to help make the school and community a better place is probably better spent on higher-income kids, who deserve your attention more. OK, nevermind, you probably wouldn’t fit in down here after all.

    That sort of thing really pushes my buttons, as a welfare kid who went on to get a graduate degree. But hey, maybe I’m less afraid of poor people because I was one myself, and I just have more obligation to “pass it forward”.

    And, more anecdata on Seattle’s desirability–one of my colleagues is about to turn down a solid job offer in Cincinnati in hopes that one may materialize in Seattle, since she doesn’t want to move away.

  47. 47
    Denny Retrograde says:

    Good on ya, Angie!

    I’m not sure Cincinnati vs. Seattle is really apples-to-apples though, especially factoring in the stress and ick of uprooting.

  48. 48
    patient says:

    C’mon Angie you know the stigmas attached to poverty where higher crime rate is on top of the list. Right or wrong, true or not given the choice the vast majority want to avoid the risk especially if they have kids.

  49. 49
    WestSideBilly says:

    Check this one out – just got sold – at 575k.

    Original sales price was 720k. Now, what do you call that? Overpaid? Good deal? Bla bla? Whatever!

    Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are now proper nouns. That’s why it sold. Just ask Angie!

    I never understood the appeal of living on a golf course. They’re not that attractive, really, and you have hundreds of people walking through your back yard more or less. Not to mention ‘errant’ drives into your windows.

  50. 50
    b says:

    Buceri –

    I used to live in Atlanta until a couple of years ago, and the economy there was/is doing just as well as Seattle. Really any major metropolitan area is doing well right now with only a few exceptions (e.g. Detroit). You could find a job in any of those areas just as easily as in Seattle. Why would someone from the Midwest choose to live in Seattle if they could make more money and buy the same priced home in California? Saying there are no jobs, if you exclude the entire west coast and entire northeast and every major metropolitan area in between as well is ridiculous.

  51. 51
    b says:

    Angie said,
    Ah, I see, your kids are too precious to go to school with poor kids.

    That is the stupidest thing I have ever read. Schools are locally funded, living in a poor area means your schools are going to be poorly funded, plain and simple. I would rather rent a house and have my children attend good schools with those nasty rich kids then buy a POS which forces them to attend bad schools so that I can tell people I own a house. Quite a selfish attitude for a parent.

  52. 52
    Matthew says:

    Having grown up in Los Angeles and Houston TX (mainly a product of the LA public schools system), I can say, “HELL NO” I don’t want my kids going to school in a poor area. The public schools I went to as a kid were horrible, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else. My old man worked at the Watts GM plant in LA, when he got a chance to get the hell out he did, and we moved to eastern WA, where the public schools are decent.

    Not wishing the same for your kids is borderline idiotic. It’s tough enough growing up as a kid in modern day why would you not want your kids to grow up going to the best schools?

  53. 53
    Matthew says:

    That was supposed to say modern day America (sorry, my LA public school edukation showing itself once again :) )

  54. 54
    Brian says:

    If we’re talking about schools, as long as the school is safe, that is all that matters to me personally. Looking back at school I feel I learned more outside of school than inside. Bad schools don’t hurt smart kids. Dangerous schools hurt smart kids.

  55. 55
    Angie says:

    Schools are locally funded, living in a poor area means your schools are going to be poorly funded, plain and simple.

    King County is the wealthiest county in Wash state. Seattle and other King County municipalities are the ones most likely to support school levy funding–look at how the recent vote to fund schools via simple majority was distributed across the state.

    Having grown up in Los Angeles and Houston TX (mainly a product of the LA public schools system), I can say, “HELL NO” I don’t want my kids going to school in a poor area. The public schools I went to as a kid were horrible, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else. My old man worked at the Watts GM plant in LA, when he got a chance to get the hell out he did, and we moved to eastern WA, where the public schools are decent.

    If schools in eastern Washington were a step up, that’s saying something.

    There is nothing in the Seattle area remotely comparable to Watts.

  56. 56
    Matthew says:

    I’d put my high school (Hanford High School) up against any other high school in this state when it comes to academics.

    I know you think that people from eastern Washington are a bunch of hill-billies, but Richland, WA has more people with PHDs per capita than any other city in Washington. Their kids tend to be pretty bright.

  57. 57

    I hear ya, Buceri. That’s my hubby and my entry point too! :) At least someone’s benefitting from the bubble burst.

  58. 58
    Linda M says:

    Home prices: Worst drop since ’70
    http://money.cnn.com/2007/11/29/news/economy/

    New home prices were down 13% in October, yet sales pace still falls well short of forecasts. August and September sales reading cut.

    newhome_sales/index.htm?postversion=2007112915

  59. 59
    Angie says:

    Here’s what I was mulling over this morning on the way to work:

    This is a blog where many feel unfairly maligned (“dirty renters”) because they can’t buy one of those outrageously expensive houses.

    Look how quickly y’all looked down your noses at people in SHA housing, people for whom the prospect home ownership seems also, presumably, unattainable (“you know the stigmas attached to poverty where higher crime rate is on top of the list. Right or wrong, true or not given the choice the vast majority want to avoid the risk especially if they have kids., emphasis added.)

    I say again, from my oh-so-inflammatory post the other day:

    If the only place you can afford to buy a house is in the poor part of town, guess what that makes you, even if you are “well-employed”. You could work on getting over the sense that you’re better than other poor people.

  60. 60
    John says:

    Angie, and you should get over how owning is better than renting when it costs more than twice as much to do so.

  61. 61
    The Tim says:

    Angie, you seem to be slightly confused. While there are certainly people here for whom these statements of yours are true (emphasis mine):

    This is a blog where many … can’t buy one of those outrageously expensive houses.

    If the only place you can afford to buy a house is in the poor part of town, guess what that makes you…

    It has been shown time and again that there are also many people here that can afford a home around here, but choose not to because homes are overpriced.

    If you believe that the informal polls have any relation to reality, such people outnumber those that can’t afford a home on this site roughly 9 to 5.

    If your argument is directed only at the minority of people here that can’t afford a home, then fine. But it comes across as if you’re addressing the majority, when in fact the majority most likely does not fit your assumptions.

  62. 62
    Angie says:

    Yeah, I don’t trust that poll. I’m betting more than 450 people read this blog on, say, a weekly basis. I also think people who couldn’t afford it are less likely to share that with the world.

    You know full well what median means (half more, half less), and that what’s reasonably affordable for the median household income is far less than median prices. Do the math.

  63. 63
    Matthew says:

    Angie,

    If you don’t like this blog, I’m sure the Tim will give you a refund and you can go spend your time elsewhere.

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

  64. 64
    biliruben says:

    Show some courtesy, Matt.

    I think she likes this blog fine.

    I don’t understand those who prefer an echo-chamber.

  65. 65
    WestSideBilly says:

    You know full well what median means (half more, half less), and that what’s reasonably affordable for the median household income is far less than median prices. Do the math.

    The math says that the median household income can’t even get in at the bottom of Seattle’s housing market using a tradtional 20% down 30 year fixed mortgage, despite near-historic low interest rates. I guess that makes median income families poor, which would make Seattle truly special.

  66. 66
    deejayoh says:

    I don’t understand those who prefer an echo-chamber.

    +1

  67. 67
    B&W Nikes says:

    By most accounts the average earner in Seattle can afford to purchase about one half of the average home at current prices without overextending themselves. If average earners are in this position because they are too ‘poor’ to buy a whole average house we are in some really strange new waters.

  68. 68
    Angie says:

    +1
    Is that an echo I hear? ;)

    The math says that the median household income can’t even get in at the bottom of Seattle’s housing market using a tradtional 20% down 30 year fixed mortgage, despite near-historic low interest rates. I guess that makes median income families poor, which would make Seattle truly special.

    About as special as other major US cities, which are also unaffordable to median household income-earners:

    San Francisco: median household income 2005 = $57,833 (Wikipedia), median home price late 2007 (Cnn/Money article 11/07) ca $800K

    New York City: median household income 1999 (from 2000 census, via Answers.com) = $38,293, median home price 2005 (USA today article) ca. $1.15 million

    Chicago: median household income 1999 = (Answers.com) $38,625, median home price 2005 (housingtracker.net) $286,900

  69. 69
    biliruben says:

    “…and we all go down together…”

    Leaving aside for the moment whether Seattle belongs in such a lofty group, C-S has all three of those cities declining. Perhaps that’s not the best comparison, Angie, if you are trying to justify the current price levels.

  70. 70
    Angie says:

    Not justifying current price levels–I know they’re falling across the board–just pointing out that other major cities are nowhere close to affordable to median households. And aren’t likely to be even after the slide, just like Seattle.

  71. 71
    biliruben says:

    If you read some academic economists, there is a theory of superstar cities – ones which through geography, accident of history or what have you, have been a haven for the best and the brightest which skew the rules due to perpetually high demand by top-notch earners. In the US, NY and San Fran, LA and Miami fall into this category. Internationally, you see London, Paris, Moscow, and such. Seattle generally isn’t even in afterthought in these theoretical papers. It simply isn’t mentioned.

    Maybe you can make an argument that something has happened in the last 10 years which make it worthy to be considered in the same breath as such superstar cities, but if there some reason for it, I’ve missed it. The fundamentals of Seattle, except for home prices, are pretty much exactly what they were when I arrived in 1995.

    I posit we don’t belong in the class of city that defies standard relationships between housing prices and rents and incomes. And so we will see a return to those relationships.

  72. 72
    The Tim says:

    We’ve done the “world class cities” thing to death on here earlier this year, and it’s not a subject on which I feel there are any new arguments to be heard.

    Seattle’s nice and has a lot of things going for it, but comparing it to New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, is just silly. The only people that make that comparison are people that live here.

  73. 73
    Affluent Bitter Renter says:

    “The only people that make that comparison are people that live here.”

    I have relatives in Minnesota – they have occasionally compared Duluth to San Francisco: founded about the same time, set on hills overlooking a bay, lots of old Victorian houses.

    I commented (to my California relatives): “People in Duluth may compare Duluth to San Francisco, but nobody in San Francisco compares San Francisco to Duluth.”

  74. 74
    Jonny says:

    So true. It may take a couple years of declining prices for the anti-depressant effect of easy money to wear off and for recent immigrants and speculators to realize they are paying $500K for a dumpy little house where it’s overcast and/or rainy most of the year and it’s only light outside while you are at work during the winter. Sure, Summers are great, but we sometimes have them last only from July to September.

Leave a Reply

Use your email address to sign up with Gravatar for a custom avatar.
Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please read the rules before posting a comment.