Weekend Open Thread (2009-08-28)

Here is your open thread for the weekend beginning Friday August 28th, 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
    vermillionsky says:

    Anyone know why the previous sale price listed on redfin/zillow would be different from the one listed on the property record (Snohomish county)? Both list the sale on the same date, but Redfin and Zillow say the price was $259,588, and the property record says it was $302,000.

  2. 2
    softwarengineer says:

    Hi Vermill, haven’t a clue why the figures are all incompatible

    But we’ve always been suspicious of the RE statistics, like the home affordability index, here at the Bubble….IMO, just ignore the statistics and go with your gut….if they don’t take your low-ball offer what’s gonna happen? The price collapses some more later…LOL

    See the US News and World Report recent article that edges with me, calling this economic mess a Great Depression:


    Add in layoffs of undocumented immigrant farm workers and we do in fact have a Great Depresssion right now.

  3. 3
    Cheap South says:

    A buddy who is stressed out at work, just send this to me. Nice talk…


  4. 4
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    Here’s a Harney article on possible tax code changes, some of which relate to mortgage interest:


    (It also appears in the Sunday Times, but I couldn’t find their link for some reason.)

  5. 5
    S-Crow says:

    RE: vermillionsky @ 1 – I would go with what the Snohomish County records say at $302K.

  6. 6
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: S-Crow @ 5 – I would too, since that number is a number that taxes are based on, and unlikely to be overstated. If it were less I might go with the NWMLS number.

    My only issue would be maybe there was some underlying debt assumed that would change the number somehow. That would be very rare.

  7. 7
    Markor says:

    FWIW I recently got a 20% rent reduction on a renewed lease.

  8. 8
    Nutterbutter says:

    RE: Markor @ 7 – Interesting. I’ve been watching the market for single family homes in 3 Eastside cities for several months now while waiting for our house sale to close so we can actually choose something. I’ve seen several homes appear in my craigslist search month after pathetic month, some with the same price. Others have dropped their prices several hundred dollars/month, way into the “teens”, and still no takers. It makes me wonder how low prices will go in September now that the summer moving/selling season is over, and if the owners of some homes for sale I’ve had my eye on will give up and come on to the rental pool. I sure hope so. The only question is, do we go for a 12 month lease, hoping rents will be even lower next year, or do we lock in for 18 or 24 months?

  9. 9
    Nutterbutter says:

    P.S. I’d also like to tell every prospective landlord out there who has a “no pets” policy: you’re turning away tons of potential renters and really irritating me. Yes, we have a cat. She’s a member of the family, and she’s coming with us to our next home. That should have no bearing on whether or not we can rent your home. And please, for the love of God, clean up the dang homes before you show them. I’ve seen more grungy dumps than I care to remember.

  10. 10
    vermillionsky says:

    Thanks, s-crow & Kary. After I posted this I read somewhere that tax records don’t show the “seller subsidy,” but MLS records must disclose it, so the sales price can differ. I can’t imagine seller subsidies would be over 42k, though. Have you seen any sales where there was that much? Are seller subsidies usually just closing costs?

  11. 11
    vermillionsky says:

    RE: Nutterbutter @ 9

    I have two cats, and have never had any problems with them using the litter box. My brother had two cats that were also perfectly fine.. until my sister-in-law had a baby. After that, one of the cats started urinating all over the house. It’s very difficult to get rid of cat urine smells, so I can understand why a landlord wouldn’t want to take the risk. Even if you keep the security deposit, you may never be able to get your house back to the condition it was in before it was rented. Also, it may be difficult to rent to people with allergies.

  12. 12
    tman says:

    Seattle PI is reporting that two major condo developments are headed for auction in the coming month, both were developed by Schinitzer NW. The Brix is located in the heart of Capital Hill on Broadway, and the Gallery is located in Belltown, both great locations for a condo development. The minimium auction prices seem to be approximately 50% to 55% off the reported “previous price”, however the “previous price” seems to be high even for the top of the market. Previous auctions, Press, Lumen, sold for approximately 40% off the top of the market. A third project by this same developer was reportedly flipped from condos to apartments earlier this month.

    This has got to be brutal for this developer. There is no way you can rent out a project built to condo standards and break even. I am guessing the lender is taking all of the cash flow from the rental, and all of the auction proceds from the two projects to be auctioned off.

  13. 13
    S-Crow says:

    RE: vermillionsky @ 10 – By “subsidy” I’m assuming you are referring to seller concessions such as allowable closing costs paid by the seller. This would not show up. And there would not be two sales prices, only one.

  14. 14
    Markor says:

    RE: Nutterbutter @ 8

    Well if you offer an 18 or 24 month lease on something that’s sitting, you might be able to convert a no-pet landlord to take your cat. I can’t imagine that too many landlords would not want to lock in for longer in this economy. Having your lease end in late fall / winter could be a benefit, since it’s harder to get a tenant then.

  15. 15
    Markor says:

    Anyone else enjoying the super sales at the grocery store? Like Breyer’s all-natural for $2 to $2.50 all August, after peaking at $6.50? Many cereals for $1.50 / lb., down from $4. You can see the state of the economy in a nutshell at Safeway.

  16. 16
    Jillayne says:

    Hey Markor,

    I just got home from Safeway and the bill topped $400 this week. Yes, I’m stocking up for two birthday parties coming up in Sept but I have found that after food prices went up last year….because of gas prices, they never went back down and instead have been inching up ever since. Especially on things like fresh produce that’s in season. Example; Corn is 3 for 1.98. A few years ago I could get 10 for $1. What’s up with that? Ethanol?

  17. 17
    Markor says:

    I got $80 of cereal (pre-sale price) for $30 at QFC. I get my corn in the form of organic frozen; the price hasn’t been lowered. Yeah I wouldn’t be surprised if ethanol was a factor. Seems like most stuff isn’t on sale or just went back to its pre-Bush-Oil-spiked price. But the stuff that is marked down…wow. Presumably it’s the stuff people are cutting out of their budget.

  18. 18

    RE: Jillayne @ 16 -Absolutely true about corn…It really wasn’t all that long ago when you could find in season corn on sale for a dollar a dozen.

  19. 19
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By vermillionsky @ 10:

    Thanks, s-crow & Kary. After I posted this I read somewhere that tax records don’t show the “seller subsidy,” but MLS records must disclose it, so the sales price can differ. I can’t imagine seller subsidies would be over 42k, though. Have you seen any sales where there was that much? Are seller subsidies usually just closing costs?

    I’m not sure what you’re saying. Both the NWMLS and the tax records should show the gross sales price, including any seller contributions. I wish the NWMLS would net them out, but it will never happen, in part because it would mess with the stats.

  20. 20
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: Jillayne @ 16 – Yep, seems to be ethanol. Corn was expensive last year too.

  21. 21
    ivan says:

    Residential leases can’t be longer than twelve months.


  22. 22
    Markor says:

    RE: ivan @ 21

    Interesting. I had a lease for longer than a year at my request. That clause is typically vague language, to feed the lawyers no doubt. The “without acknowledgment, witnesses or seals” could be interpreted to mean that a lease can exceed a year if it’s signed by witnesses or notarized.

  23. 23
    Tim says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 19 – Kary, are you saying that the NWMLS and the County recording offices should show seller concessions or are you saying that they do show them already?

    County Tax records & recording offices do not show seller concessions; they are not privy to the terms of purchase and sale agreements.

    As a side note: we had delayed closings last Thursday due to excise desk at the county not being able to process transactions in a timely manner. This is probably due to lack of staff.

  24. 24
    Tim says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 18 – Our family started a modest garden this season and our corn is yielding some really good ears. I think the heat this summer really helped. We didn’t think things were going very well initially and then the garden just really took off. Pumpkins are growing like mad too. There are some locals selling corn on the corner in downtown Snohomish for 4/$1 which is about a good as I’ve seen. It is maddening seeing acres and acres of corn growing in the Snohomish Valley along Hwy 9 and then going to Top Foods and seeing it for 2 for a $1.

  25. 25

    RE: Tim @ 24
    I garden like crazy every summer, and usually I never get melons to achieve any size, and sometimes tomatoes won’t turn red, but not this summer. Tomatoes are reddening like crazy, and peppers, eggplants, and melons are all doing well. Who said global warming has no advantages?

  26. 26
    vermillionsky says:

    RE: Tim @ 23

    I think what Kary is saying is that both records show the full purchase price, even if the buyers added in the seller’s concessions when they made their offer (e.g., buyer buyers offer at a higher price than they would normally pay, if the seller agrees to pay closing cost.. the higher price shows up on all of the records). This might mean that the full purchase price isn’t actually the “value” of the house, because other costs are being included in the sales price. I suppose that depends on the market, though (in a seller’s market, seller concessions may artificially inflate the “value” more than in a buyer’s market, because in a buyer’s market they may be standard for most purchases).

    I searched the redfin forums, and found a post on this:

    Redfin gets the prior sale records from PropertyInfo.com who gets it from the county. The prior sale records are NOT from the listing agent.

    Unfortunately sometimes there are mistakes in the data, it’s unavoidable when dealing with so much information. To go straight to the source check out King County records.

    If you let us know where the error is we can take a look but it is a bit of work to get past sale records corrected either with the county or with our provider. We know that this isn’t ideal and are looking at ways of improving this.

    I suspect that Zillow gets their data from the same company, if they have the same incorrect price.

  27. 27
    vermillionsky says:

    Ira Sacharoff @ 25

    Sounds like you’re going to get a good haul. Out here in the midwest late blight fungus is ruining a lot of tomatoes. I think farmer’s market tomatoes are one of my favorite parts of summer :(

    RE: Jillayne @ 16RE:

    Agriculture prices have been pretty volatile this summer. I think the high prices at the grocery are more related to the stickiness of price drops at the consumer level, compared to price drops at the wholesale level (of course, price increases at the consumer level aren’t so sticky :P). The corn and soybean crops are really big this year, so maybe retail prices will go down again.

  28. 28

    RE: vermillionsky @ 27
    When I was visiting New Jersey in July, I was told that New Jersey’s corn crop was going to be smaller this year because of a particularly cold and wet spring…Corn’s another crop that usully doesn’t do real well in the Seattle area. I don’t even bother. I tried watermelon a few years ago, and got a few, and they were the size of marbles.

  29. 29
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: Tim @ 23 – What I’m saying is both should show the largest amount. If the sales price is $295,000, and $5,000 of that is going to buyer closing costs, both systems should should $295,000, not $290,000. It would really be nice to know, without calling someone, that it’s really $290,000.

  30. 30
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    On the crop front, I planted about 12 pumpkins, and only one is doing good, two okay, and the rest are pathetic. Someone told me it’s my beauty bark sucking nitrogen out of the soil.

  31. 31
    Nutterbutter says:

    RE: vermillionsky @ 11 – Hi, not sure if you’ll ever see this since it’s an old thread now, but…point well taken about the cat pee. But I’ve had over 20 cats in my lifetime (sometimes 3 or 4 at a time in the 70’s when I was a kid) and we only had one cat who liked to mark his territory, shall we say. After that, we just got girl cats and never had a problem. I have seen a few ads that referenced the owners’ allergies in the refusal to take pets, and of course I understand that. I think a lot of landlords are just lazy and put “no pets, no smokers” just to get the rest of the ad done! I guess I’m just used to owning and chafe at the idea of someone telling me what to do…

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