Queen Anne Condo Conversion Checkup: 2 Years Later

I was looking through some old posts on here and came across one from November 2006 by Synthetik titled God Save the Queen. In it, he linked to an Aubrey Cohen piece about a developer converting two apartment buildings on lower Queen Anne to condos.

Let’s check in and see how those conversions are doing, two years later…

From the article:

The Pittsburgh, a brick-and-stone building at 125 Warren Ave., dates to 1907. It has plenty of character, including bay windows, stone balconies, high ceilings, wide moldings, fireplaces and built-in cabinets. But the windows are old, the radiator heating system shot and the place generally down at the heels.

Still, Rankin expects to start selling the Pittsburgh’s 31 condos in February or March [2007].

First off, it would appear that the conversion took a little longer than the developer had hoped. The first sales in the Pittsburgh didn’t close until July and August 2007. If July 2007 rings a bell to you, that might be because it was the peak month for home prices in the Seattle area. Whoops.

Two years later, King County Records indicate that 45% of the 31 units in the Pittsburgh remain unsold.

Pioneer already has applied that model across the street from the Pittsburgh, selling 34 condos in the Queen’s Court building, which dates to 1930.

J.D. Johnson, 86, has lived in the Queen’s Court for about 30 years and spent the 20 before that in a nearby apartment building.

The developers bought Johnson’s apartment and will continue to rent it to him for $300 a month, Rankin said. … But nearly all the other renters left. Although several expressed interest in buying in the building, just two did. Rankin said only a couple of Pittsburgh renters considered buying. Most just can’t afford the condos.

Queen’s Court got a slight jump on the peak, selling its first units in December 2006. However, to date, King County Records indicate that 20 of the complex’s 34 units (59%) are still held by the developer.

Five units in Queen’s Court are currently on the MLS, (4 by the developer and 1 by a previous buyer), with days on market ranging between 89 and 158 (over 5 months). Three units at the Pittsburgh are on the market (all developer-owned), with days on market ranging between 45 and 157.

Between the two projects on Warren Street, less than half the units have sold. At least one unit in each building is currently listed for rent on Craigslist, however it does not appear that Synthetik’s prediction that “these units will “repartment” themselves less than one year after they’re finished” came true. Of course from the look of things, they may have been financially better of if they had. Now it’s probably too late. Can you even “repartment” a complex where roughly half of the units have already sold?

I found this line from one of the Craigslist rental listings in the Pittsburgh (archive) to be amusing:

MUST WANT TO LIVE IN QUIET BLDG

Yeah, when half the units around you are vacant, I guess that would tend to be pretty quiet.

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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.

16 comments:

  1. 1
    Synthetik says:

    Looks like I was a little too bearish!

  2. 2
    DavidB says:

    Interesting story, thanks for following up on the sale of these condos.

    Does anyone know what happend to with the sale of the high priced condos in downtown Seattle? I think they were named Escada. Remember the developer said around March (or so) last year that they planned to raise the price on these condos (like in June 08). This was a tactic to try to entice demand. I haven’t seen any follow up stories written on how that worked out but I’m guessing not so well.

    I’m also interested in hearing how well the Queen Anne High School condo auction went. I think the auction is close if it hasn’t already happened.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    DavidB says:

    Thanks! Hopefully we’ll hear what those condos sold for sometime next week.

  5. 5
    anony says:

    Escala Midtown has been remarkably quiet lately. I can’t find anything on them.

    Their particular brand of arrogance kind of symbolizes the whole real estate mess for me. I would have a very hard time feeling sorry for them if things weren’t going well.

  6. 6
    alex says:

    Quiet… as in eerie, horror-movie-like setting :)

  7. 7
    badquaker says:

    I used to live in that building (Queen’s Court). It was beautifully maintained and a great apartment. Was paying $700 for a big studio with a pretty decent view. They wanted $270k for it and more than $200/month in dues. No thank you! It would have cost me $2000/month to own my $700/month apartment. Plus the view was going the way of the dodo with a new “luxury apartment” going up across the street.

    I saw some of the renovations for the show units and I preferred the original; who in their right mind wants a pedestal sink in a small condo or apartment?

    I think the developer paid around $4 million for the entire building, which I estimate means the wholesale price for my unit was $170k. Even that would be too much.

    The Pittsburg I think was sold for under $2 million, but required much more remodeling. It has been a while since I looked up the sales records.

  8. 8
    DaveyDave says:

    Since you’re going down memory lane a bit, I looked at the old blog, ‘SeattleBubble?’. In it, Tim Dunn, REALTOR said in this July 2008 piece called, “More Snoozeworthy Real Estate News”:

    Seattle home prices are off 3.6% from a year ago, and Snohomish County prices are off 7.2% from a year ago. Sales volume continues to be off by about 1/3 from a year ago. If this is a market crash, then it’s like saying the sky is falling- by about 1/16″ of an inch. Seattlebubble.com hysteria looks more amusing than ever. People who followed ‘the Tim’s’ advice are looking more than ever like those who trickle, one by one, out of an ‘End of the World’ compound after the world fails to end.

    It’s interesting that in less than a year people have all but given up this nonsense…
    PS — Is this guy still alive? He sounded, eh, like he’s been around a while.

  9. 9
    David Losh says:

    I just released a seattlecondo domain name last week. I couldn’t even sell the domain name for twenty bucks.

    Escala is just another problem down town. Even though I am a big believer in condos near the down town core both here in Seattle and in Bellevue there are just way too many way too late.

    You can see some of the newer buildings become rentals, but if they started selling they are stuck. Banks don’t lend on individual units in an apartment setting. You are either a condo or commercial rental. Most home owner associations put a cap of 10% up to 25% rentals per building or complex to correspond to lending guidelines.

    You will find some developers offering rebates to make the sales price look higher. It’s hard to sell remaining units for less without upsetting the previous buyers.

    So once you know this you’re going to find that builder developers are very agreeable to odd offers that maintain the intergrity of the pricing.

  10. 10
    Aaron Smothers says:

    On a related topic on the Eastside: the “Urbane” condo project in downtown Redmond
    (http://www.urbane-redmond.com/) was announced in early 2007; folks were urged to snap up units for occupancy in the Fall of 2007. I remember seeing ads in Craig’s list some months ago for renting units in this building. When I drive by the building these days, I see lights turned on in 2-3 units in the evenings, probably the same units every evening. Not sure if they are occupied, and if so, whether they are owned or rented. On the whole it looks unoccupied and lifeless. Anyone knows what’s going on at Urbane in Redmond?

    AS

  11. 11
    sf_boomerang says:

    RE: DaveyDave @ 8

    Errr… I went to the Dunn & Dunn realty site. And it redirected me to this website about Catamarans…

    http://bigcatcatamarans.com/

    Because if there’s one sure-fire way to make money in a recession, it’s to sell custom boats.

  12. 12
    voight-kampff says:

    I looked at a unit in the pittsburg about a week ago, it “looked” nice, but after asking just a couple of questions I learned that the “conversion” did not include replacing any plumbing or wiring. So you get 100 year old plumbing and wiring. Essentially the conversion consisted of new paint… and a PARTIALLY stainless steel oven, just for good measure.
    This might have already been mentioned, but The Marlborough House on Boren ave( another of Live Historic’s conversion projects ) recently filed for bankruptcy

    I have lived downtown for years, I love it and I want to buy again, but when? …hmmm

  13. 13
    Jonness says:

    It looks like those condos won’t get sold for a few more years. WA unemployment went up to 8.4% in February. We are now 0.3% above the national rate. We saw a 0.6% increase since January. At the current pace, we will be at 9% unemployment 2 weeks from now (end of month). This is ugly, ugly, and I feel bad for the families getting brutalized by this thing.

    Fortunately, if you qualify (worked for an employer for x weeks and made $x), you can get Unemployment benefits up to $611/wk for 105 weeks (~2 years). In some cases, it’s possible to get more from unemployment benefits than you were earning. So if you’re concerned about losing your job, this can help calm your fears a bit. Sure it won’t save everybody, but if you are frugal and lived within your means, it could carry you through this thing or at least help you transition to a more frugal lifestyle.

    Here’s the press release:

    “OLYMPIA – Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in February, up from January’s rate of 7.8 percent, according to the state Employment Security Department.

    The state lost an estimated 28,200 non-agricultural jobs, seasonally adjusted.

    The most job growth occurred in the financial-activities industry, which added 1,200 jobs. Industries with the largest declines were professional and business services, down 13,400 jobs, transportation, trade and utilities, down 4,900, construction, down 4,200, and manufacturing, which cut 2,500 jobs.

    Year over year, Washington had 97,100 fewer jobs last month than in February 2008, a 3.3 percent decrease. Nationally, employment declined by 3 percent from a year ago.

    An estimated 330,572 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in February, another new record.

    “I urge unemployed workers to visit their nearest WorkSource center and take advantage of the expert resources there,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee. “More and more workers qualify for training assistance to prepare for a new career, and federal stimulus funds will arrive soon to help pay for it.”

    In addition to training programs, unemployed workers can get help looking for work at Employment Security’s affiliated WorkSource offices across the state, where a variety of employment services are offered, including free help with interviewing skills or résumés and with job referrals. In addition, more than 15,000 current job openings are posted on http://www.go2worksource.com.

    Locations of local WorkSource offices are listed in the blue pages of telephone books and online at http://www.go2worksource.com.”

  14. 14
    . says:

    “Seattlebubble.com hysteria looks more amusing than ever. People who followed ‘the Tim’s’ advice are looking more than ever like those who trickle, one by one, out of an ‘End of the World’ compound after the world fails to end.”

    And arrogant, loudmouthed real estate bulls are looking more than ever like the dumbest people alive. If I weren’t living in the USSA, I would hope that this snake oil seller took his own advice and bought all he could carry. Unfortunately, that would mean that responsible people like me, whom this clown and his bottom-feeding ilk have been making fun of for the last five years, would now have to bail his worthless ass out.

  15. 15
    Jason says:

    I looked at those units a few years ago, I really liked them but wow, pricey. I’m not surprised they sold so few. What they don’t tell you in the ads is that those prices don’t include any parking. No parking in that area? Forget it, sell your car or you’ll be parking it 20 minutes’ walk up the hill on a good day.

  16. 16

    RE: badquaker @ 7

    do you know of anyway I can contact either a tenant or manager for queens court? I am a photographer wanting to shoot in the lobby this afternoon but can’t find any contacts!!! the phone number listed under live historic is not working and the building is like a ghost town….no one coming in or out. I’m sure no one would mind me and my friend shooting in the lobby for 30mins, but I have to figure out how to get in.

    any help would be great!!!!!!

    thanks!
    -rachel

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