Weekend Open Thread (2009-04-17)

Here is your open thread for the weekend beginning Friday April 17th, 2009. You may post random links and off-topic discussions here. Also, if you have an idea or a topic you’d like to see covered in an article, please make it known.

Be sure to also check out the forums, and get your word in the user-driven discussions there!

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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.


  1. 1
    Plastic Bags says:

    I already asked this question on Redfin, but I’d like your opinions too. What would be the motivation of a seller to raise their asking price on the day you have an appointment to view their house? It’s been on the market 5 days so there is a chance that we are the first to get a showing. Has anyone seen this before?

  2. 2
    David McManus says:

    What would be the motivation of a seller to raise their asking price on the day you have an appointment to view their house?


  3. 3

    / What would be the motivation of a seller to raise their asking price on the day you have an appointment to view their house?

    1. They might have looked at their finances and realized that they’d be underwater at the original asking price.

    2. When they first thought about putting it on the market, they interviewed agents to list it, and as some agents are less than realistic or honest, they might have been told ” I ‘ll be able to sell this house for x amount, after all it has those lovely granite countertops and adorable pergo, you people have such good taste” in order to get the listing, and they believe that tripe, and were upset that the agent convinced them to list it ” too low”.

    3. Maybe a comp for sale sold at the higher price.

    4. maybe they don’t really want to sell the house in the first place, and that fact that it’s attracting interest is scaring the beejesus out of them, so they raised the price to discourage it.

  4. 4
    tomtom says:

    5. Maybe they believed their Realtor (da) who said that the market has surpassed the bottom and prices are back on the rise.

  5. 5
    EconE says:

    RE: Plastic Bags @ 1

    Cancel your appointment.

    Send them the message the YOU are the one with the money.

  6. 6
    Plastic Bags says:

    Thanks for the replies. We saw it today and ruled out the possibility that they did an upgrade in the last 5 days. The seller also showed up during our showing and created a Redfin account to tell me how good the property is so needless to say I’ve been scared away from the property.

  7. 7
    The Tim says:

    RE: Plastic Bags @ 6 – In that case, care to share the link?

  8. 8
    Everett_Tom says:

    RE: The Tim @ 7

    Hopefully Plastic Bags Doesn’t mind

    Here’s the redfin discussion on this (with a really weird comment or two):

    Here’s the redfin link to the house.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Everett_Tom says:

    FYI. I just noticed that Snohomish updated their GIS viewer recently

    Besides adding a different background color, they also now split their old “recent” sales data out by year.

    It can be found here .

  11. 11
    Scotsman says:

    Dad brag. My daughter, a two time cancer surviver who wants to be a doctor, has accepted Stanford’s offer of admission and is on the road to fulfilling her dream. I’m proud of her for the dedication and perseverance she’s shown, and wish her all the best. I only wish that I could reignite in myself the belief that one person can change the world and make a difference that seems to drive her. Age and experience breeds a cynicism that needs to be constantly fought. Let me be more like her.

  12. 12
    Scotsman says:

    Where did those jobs go?

    This is fun, slow to load and watch, but worth it, especially toward the end when unemployment ramps up. Seattle is again late to the game, but works hard to catch up!


  13. 13
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 11

    Congratulations Scotsman! It’s nice to hear some great news like that. Things like that help renew my faith in humanity and God knows I’ve got precious little of that. May be we can still change the world? Thanks!

  14. 14
    back2reality says:

    Shiny new Redfin listing here:


    On a price per sq. ft. basis, it seems that this seller is way out of touch. Is that still a reasonable metric for a small 720 sq. ft. cottage?

    Maybe they are anticipating the big turnaround that one agent is trying to convince me of:

    “I have noticed a marked improvement in the Seattle market nearly across the board in the past 30-45 days. I’d like to show you two trend graphs I use for the lenders in appraisal reports. Inventories are down, pending sales are up and so are closed sales. The local media doesn’t want to cover good news but at some point, they will have to. The numbers don’t lie. The lowest interest rates in recent history along with the current administration’s helpful policies are creating a recipe for rebound (it’s about time!!) This may not apply to you guys because of the work situation but if you plan on staying here five years………From a realtor’s stand point, we are seeing increased activity from buyers in our office. I have three new buyer clients just this week. It could be just a spike but confidence is high that it’s a trend.”

  15. 15

    “Age and experience breeds a cynicism that needs to be constantly fought. Let me be more like her. ”

    Absolutely! And the thing is- age and experience don’t necessarily result in wisdom, just cynicism.

  16. 16
    Snigliastic says:

    Sellers are still delusional:

    Last June/July, when I was thinking about buying a house, we looked at this house. It was listed around 280k. We decided it was a POS, and I decided to wait for prices to fall. Looks like 10 months later, it’s back on the market for about the same price. WTF?

    Also, Redfin doesn’t have the whole price history, but it does show it has 250 cumulative days. why no entire pricing history?

  17. 17
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    Plastic Bags, as a first time buyer (hopefully) that whole situation screams of “walk away” to me as well.

  18. 18
    dancingeek says:

    RE: Snigliastic @ 15Also, Redfin doesn’t have the whole price history, but it does show it has 250 cumulative days. why no entire pricing history?

    They have the information, but are not allowed to display it as per NWMLS rules.

  19. 19

    By dancingeek @ 17:

    RE: Snigliastic @ 15Also, Redfin doesn�t have the whole price history, but it does show it has 250 cumulative days. why no entire pricing history?

    They have the information, but are not allowed to display it as per NWMLS rules.

    So I won’t display it either, but….

    That house was listed in June ’06 for 360,000 and the listing expired.
    It has gone “pending inspection” twice, once in August ’08, and once in Feb ’09.
    It has seen both price hikes and price drops.
    The owner of the home also happens to be the listing agent. He used to live there . He also used to rent it out, and now it’s vacant.

  20. 20
    Hugh Dominic says:

    Great article by a regretful real estate agent over at Salon.com:

    “They shoot real estate agents, don’t they?”
    I only sampled the comments – but what a lot of vitriol – whoa. An as one commentator noted, this is just the beggining….

  21. 21
    Angie says:

    Scotsman, heartiest congrats! That’s my undergrad alma mater and it is amazing. (The cost of tuition has only become more amazing since…)

    Sadly, however, Stanford has the world’s shittiest school song:
    From the foothills to the bay/ It shall ring as we sing/ It shall ring and float away/ Hail, Stanford, hail…

    I was about to offer to chat with her/you about the campus, the area, etc, and then I realized that I graduated about the same year she must have been born, and the info might be a wee bit out of date!

    In any event–in all those intervening years I have gained quite a bit of perspective about different types of higher ed institutions, and how to survive and thrive in them…if you think she’d like to talk a bit about that, please feel free to drop me a line via the forums and I’d be happy to meet you two for coffee.

  22. 22
    David Losh says:

    Price increases put the property back on the NWMLS Hotsheet that some agents use to find properties for buyers. A property on the market for over 200 days trying a price increase tactic shows the seller is unsophisticated.

    The seller now needs to be below $299950 with price reductions until it sells.

    Make the offer at about $250 and negotiate if you are at all interested. Stop looking and start making offers if you are interested in buying. You look to know the market and neighborhoods. Once you have an idea then in today’s or any market then you start making offers.

    Also ask an agent to look at off market properties. There must be thousands of people ready to sell for any price.

  23. 23
    David Losh says:

    By David Losh @ 22:

    Make the offer at about $250 and negotiate if you are at all interested.

    That should be to offer $250K.

  24. 24
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I like to complain about bad reporting. This morning on Headline News they had a story of a guy who the police wouldn’t kick out of his garage. It turned out the guy had let his son live there, and his son let others live there. He kicked his son out, but two of the others wouldn’t leave, and the police wouldn’t do anything about it.

    The advise of Headline news was to always get a lease for anyone who lives on your property. That would simply result in the same situation! The people in possession are tenants, and need to be evicted. Lease or no lease, the result is the same, but the news people didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

    The story was a non-story. It would be like any other landlord expecting the police to evict based on a call to 911. You need an eviction order.

  25. 25
    Plastic Bags says:

    He actually took the property back off the market the day after we viewed it. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him out of Redfin?!
    (Just to be clear, we were no longer interested in it. We decided we should try to act our age [early 20s] and get a place in the Ballard/Fremont area. Though if there is a problem with that area, tell us now!)

  26. 26
    Ben says:

    Ballard / Fremont has always looked like a shifty, dirty neighbourhood to me. A lot of my friends like the bars there, but I don’t like the bars either.

    There seem to be a lot of homeless people wandering around there. It will resemble the worst of SF in a few years IMO.

    Maybe I am just a snob.

  27. 27
    David Losh says:

    RE: Plastic Bags @ 25

    Absolutely. Kirkland is an area that escapes me for value. Bellevue is also a mystery. There was a time when the planning of Bellevue made tremendous sense with the expansion of the Puget Sound region, but that is getting to be a distant memory. Microsoft and related industry along with bonuses and pay scale made the East side more viable. Again pay scale and bonuses may become a memory.

    Today with commercial rents in down town Seattle, South Lake Union, Fremont and along Elliot coming down fast it’s my opinion that Seattle will become more viable as a job center than Bellevue. There is also pressure in the Seattle area because many companies are based in Bellevue and Bellevue will cave in a lot to keep business on the East side.

    There are areas of Ballard worth having. Some parts of Ballard have been decimated by town house and condo building. If you stay north of 65th and below 85th from 15th to the water you should be able to find something viable. In Fremont you need to be north of 40th between 3rd NW and Fremont Ave up to 50th.

    Avoid new construction. Buy something structurally sound. Consider a place that two people can share and have private space. Basements should be above 7′ 6” in head room. Look at expired, and off market listings that may have become rentals. One or two years of being a land lord usually straightens most people out.

  28. 28

    Ballard and Fremont both have suffered from too many townhomes, and both have a lot of small old craphole overpriced houses, but…they are both walkable neighborhoods with great restaurants and shops.
    I particularly like the area on the border known as ” Freelard” around the Hales Brewery.

  29. 29
    G4George says:

    Good news, I went out to look at some open houses today and I was told that the market is stabilizing. When I pushed on what was meant by stabilizing I got the ‘are you stupid’ look and ‘how dare you be so impudent’ tone. I questioned a little further whether it was prices that were stabilizing or volume that were stabilizing. After a few seconds thought I got the answer that they are seeing more activity, so I asked again are more houses actually selling. They answered yes more houses are selling but I think that was for lack of a better answer and without any real knowledge of the market. So I asked one more question, after last year’s annus horribilis for the real estate are both prices and volumes better than this time last year as this would show signs of stability?

    I am not sure if it was because the realtor had no knowledge of Latin or, more obviously, no knowledge of the real estate market but they failed to answer the question and started babbling non-sensically about how they knew a house where for the first time in a year 2 people had bid on it at the same time. I finally got with the program and went away with the belief that I need to buy now or be priced out forever. NOT!!!

  30. 30
    deejayoh says:

    Interesting post over at the Redfin blog last week:

    Let’s look at Redfin’s March numbers from the Seattle area.
    We Have The Top Three Agents In King County

    According to the NWMLS, Redfin agents Febe Cude, Trevor Smith and Rachelle King are tops among agents who represented home-buyers in King County for March based first on number of deals, then by total dollar amount. All six of our Seattle agents rank in the top sixteen for King County.

    Looks like they are eating somebody’s lunch…
    I wonder how they compare to the other brokerages in total

  31. 31
    Scotsman says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 30

    That is interesting- I wonder what the sales mix is. With the high end homes in Bellevue, etc. not moving at all the typical high volume offices such as Coldwell-Banker East, (Bellevue) etc. are probably out of the running.

  32. 32
    Plastic Bags says:

    We did tour several houses in the Ballard and Fremont area and were disappointed by the misleading listings. How do they get away with lying about the number of bedrooms or having a basement? My biggest surprise is that even if we stretch our budget to do $400k, there aren’t really more choices for single family homes. We’ve looked at a lot of townhouses but they look like they’re made of cardboard. One open house we went to was the model which was the only unsold unit and it looked like it had been lived in for several years already just from the open house traffic.
    It seems like you need to get above the FHA loan limit to really get anything nice over there. By the time we save that much, we’ll be too old to want to live there. =)

  33. 33
    David Losh says:

    RE: Plastic Bags @ 32

    Unfortunately you will need to make offers. Look for off market properties and make an offer that makes sense. Avoid new construction and blocks, or quadrants over built with new construction. There are sellers who want to move on and have the ability.

    As an aside to the radfun comment, making offers is what radfun is good for. If you want to chose a property based on your own expertise then by all means make your low offer through radfun. Forget the commission and make an offer that makes sense to you.

    BTW in the blog post mentioned from the folks at radfun they are saying REOs are well priced by the banks that brought you a global economic melt down. Be skeptical of these types of claims from anyone. In my opinion REOs are selling for top dollars because no one would pay the price at foreclosure.

  34. 34
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 30

    Redfin is eating somebody’s lunch but I think its a salad and a diet coke at Mickey D’s, not a steak sandwich at the Met. The business model is generally lowering costs by giving the client access to information and allowing the client to do some of the work themselves. I think they also out source some of the leg work on a piece work basis to the starving hords at other brokerages. The business model has promise but so far I don’t think it’s proved that it will be a huge gold mine or necessarily displace the old guard of the industry. Ray is in this business and I assume he is a little more optomistic than me on that issue. But if you ask him, I think he has also said before that he hasn’t entirely quit his day job. Ray, I value your opinion and I know you might be following this issue so feel free to tell me if I’m out to lunch.

    In March, Redfin did 26 or 27 deals on the buy side (selling office is such brokerage industry anachronistic crap). According to what I pulled up, Redfin didn’t sell any of their King Co listings in March. They have about 40 listings. (Somebody correct me if zero sales of Redfin listings is wrong, that just seems statistically unlikely, and I screwed up somewhere.) The total number of deals in King Co in March was about 1500 residential and condo. Redfin’s average price appears to be close to the average price of about 445K. That’s a little under 2% of the King Co market. That’s up from closer to 1% a couple of years ago.

    Redfin does more business than other brokerages per agent. In general, Redfin and most other discount brokers allows the client to access data and do some of the work in exchange for a rebate or discount. They attract clients through providing information and a discount rather than having agents harass their friends, relatives and the general public to gain market share. I always thought that rather than their normal refrigerator magnets, the best agent advertising mailer would be a condom with their picture on it saying “Don’t get screwed in your next deal. Call Joe Realtor at ____.” It would be even more symbolic if their face were at the end of the actual product and allowed to participate in the act. It would be kind of fun to get some made up with J. Lennox picture, but he might not see the humor in it.

    The above numbers are my counts and involve some estimates and assumptions that may affect accuracy. I won’t take the time to explain them here.

  35. 35
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 30 – I haven’t checked for a couple of months, but typically they are only about the size of one office of one of the traditional companies.

    Over in one of the P-I forums someone was looking for a top buyer’s agent (by volume), and I suggested Redfin, because they have a small number of agents doing a lot of transactions. Their business model is such that they would be that way, but that doesn’t mean the firm overall is doing a lot of transactions.

    I also suggested volume was not really a good basis to judge a buyer’s agent.

  36. 36

    “The best advertising mailer would be a condom with their picture on it saying “Don’t get screwed in your next deal. Call Joe Realtor at ____.” It would be even more symbolic if their face were at the end of the actual product and allowed to participate in the act. It would be kind of fun to get some made up with J. Lennox picture, but he might not see the humor in it.”

    ” Protect yourself from unscrupulous Realtors”.

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