Friday Flashback: A Great Time for Wise Investors

Here’s an episode of the HGTV show “House Hunters” that aired on July 17, 2008, but was probably filmed around September 2007 (based on the closing date of the featured buyer).

Here are some choice quotes for those of you who can’t watch the video:


Host: “Because of the abundance of new construction, it’s a great time for wise investors like Christopher Togawa to get in the market.”

Christopher Togawa, wise investor: “I definitely don’t want to miss this market, because this opportunity now in Seattle is like… no other place in the country.”

Olga Dyckman, Real Estate Agent: “Seattle is a wonderful city. The housing market is extremely strong.”

Togawa: “These countertops are nice. These are granite, right?”
Dyckman: (Enthusiastically) “It’s actually glass, and that’s more expensive than granite! Very dramatic. Very contemporary.”


[Spoiler Alert] Mr. Togawa ended up paying $400,000 for unit #605 at 5th & Madison, a building that just so happens to be auctioning off their remaining inventory this month, with starting bids at $195,000. That advertised starting bid is for two units the same size as and directly above the one Christopher bought. One is on the 17th floor, the other is on the 18th floor.

Regarding his Queen Anne house, Togawa noted that “three and a half years ago, I paid $480,000, and the market value today is approximately $700,000.” I guess he waited a bit too long to sell (he still owns it now). Zillow guesses it’s now worth just $20,000 more than he paid in 2004. That’s a 4% gain in six years.

Hat tip: ivan

The purpose of our Friday Flashback series is to remind people why it’s never a good idea to base your home purchase decisions on the word of someone with a vested financial interest in selling as many homes as possible for as much as possible, no matter what. If you’ve got a good example of local home salespeople or other industry shills on record making fools of themselves in the years before the bubble burst, shoot me an email.
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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.

39 comments:

  1. 1
    gloomy gus says:

    Oh snap!

  2. 2

    I remember Trump’s Apprentice show was showing off their Vegas condos, which I think had two phases as I recall. At the time I really wondered how Vegas could support such a thing. Anyway, does anyone know what happened to that?

  3. 3
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    Awesome. I despise those real estate porn shows.

  4. 4

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 2

    I read somewhere that Trump was renting out some luxury units in the Trump Tower Las Vegas because they weren’t selling. Curiosity got the best of me. I just read an ad advertising a luxury studio condo on the 21st floor of the Trump Tower. The price? 150,000 dollars.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Astro Kermit says:

    I actually feel bad for Christopher Togawa. I’m sure he’s been feeling the pain and now when people google search his name this will come up. Google alerts tomorrow morning will point him to his site to make the pain even more unbearable.

    Well at least he can walk away from his condo and move back into his Queen Anne home. Also with 19 months of rent on his Queen Anne home, he must have received at least $30-40k.

    Also, what was he eating while being interviewed in his back yard? Oat meal? Risotto? Couldn’t he just wait until the interview was over??

  7. 7
    Ross Jordan says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 2:

    I remember Trump’s Apprentice show was showing off their Vegas condos, which I think had two phases as I recall. At the time I really wondered how Vegas could support such a thing. Anyway, does anyone know what happened to that?

    I won a priceline bid for the trump in vegas, staying for around $50/night at the supposedly 5* hotel. The rooms were reasonably nice, but the service did not live up to its 5* rating and slightly off strip location kinda sucked. But for the price, I wasn’t complaining.

  8. 8
    singliac says:

    Olga makes my skin crawl.

  9. 9
    singliac says:

    He’s got more than a 15 minute walk to watch the Sonics now. Poor guy.

  10. 10
    Ray Pepper says:

    I can’t watch anymore. I made it about 15 minutes. Its like watching this video and saying GET OUTTA THERE! QUICK!!! HURRY!! PLEASE RUN RUN!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrRWQzRoJ28&feature=related

    I can’t take it!

    However, I would let Olga buy me a beer anytime.

  11. 11
    ChefJoe says:

    To be fair, they may not sell for $195,000. All bids subject to Seller’s reserve.

    It’s nice to hear that he reps pemco insurance (love them, compared to State Farm), but it’s too bad his office is off nickerson near the fremont bridge and his downtown condo is, well, a stone’s throw from VM and Harborview. The video made it sound more convenient on all accounts but his Queen Anne spot had a better commute.

  12. 12
    MooseGH says:

    I can’t take it either! After about two minutes I thought I was going to hurl. However I think Ray is on the right track – I’d buy HER a beer, then kick her a$$ to the curb before she took 3% or more of some overpriced POS condo from me!

  13. 13
    Scotsman says:

    Beer or no beer, Olga is only in it for the money. One. Cold. Fish.

  14. 14
    Scott Weitz says:

    Great find, Tim!

    I think he said ‘i want’ about 35 times…a sign of the boom times.

  15. 15
    BillE says:

    Olga wouldn’t like me.

  16. 16
    Anon. says:

    “It used to be that condos were for people that couldn’t afford houses, but now they’re the place to be!”

    Hahahahahah.. That extra half-mile closer!

    I work downtown. It’s such a craphole. Poor guy – hope he doesn’t mind getting beat up in the tunnels..

  17. 17
    Anon. says:

    Actually, this Christopher guy was smart.
    At the peak, he sold his 700k house and got in the market for something priced at 500k.
    When values are about to decline, downsize, when they’re about to increase, upgrade!

  18. 18
    Anon. says:

    Also:

    She says that one of the amenities is that he’s buying into a “green project.” No wonder the bubble popped. Green building is usually a euphemism for crappy construction that “uses less wood!” Why would anyone ever consider that a good thing?

  19. 19
    Anon. says:

    RE: Anon. @ 17
    Didn’t see Tim’s note that he actually didn’t sell. *ALMOST though!*

  20. 20
    mark says:

    OK, this is a condo, and Escala had a thread here also.

    How are the condos doing? I looked at Bellevue Towers a bit last night, looks like they have less than 60 units sold so far, that would be out of nearly 540 units.

    Who finances these things? Will the financer foreclose on them? Will the terms be extended to the developer in hopes of getting out from under? How about the Bravern? How are they doing?

    Lots of high rise condos in Seattle and Bellevue that look like they are struggling. Will anyone lend to potential purchasers? How are the homeowners that have bought up to this point doing? Are they living in ghost towns? Who is paying all of the dues? Are the new owners going to be made whole if these projects go to the auction block? In other words, if someone pays say 800K for a unit, and a similar unit sells for sale at 500K, will the 800K person walk? Too far under water to keep paying? Will these big towers kill any banks? How long will it take to sell all of these units?

    The way Bellevue Towers is selling, it looks like it will take many years to clear their inventory.

    I went to the Bellevue Towers site and read a few press releases. A presale was made to Ken Schoenfeld. On King Counties web site there is no indication that Mr. & Mrs. Schoenfeld have closed on their unit. Have they backed out? How many others have backed out?

    I know that the Limo Driver & Hair Stylist haven’t closed on their unit either!

    So many questions, not many answers.

    Oh the humanity!

  21. 21
    ChefJoe says:

    @mark
    Listen to “This American Life: #377 Scenes from a Recession” for what it’s like to live in one of those partially sold condo developments in Chicago. The first 21 minute story part is entertaining, but certainly makes you not want to live in a building like that.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/377/Scenes-From-a-Recession

  22. 22
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    “Olga tells me the prices has probably gone up 15-20% already.”

  23. 23
    anonimaniac says:

    Good thing he is in a state regulated business like insurance.

  24. 24
    pdxdave says:

    I love the part right at 6:10 !!

    Chris: “Well look at all these exposed…”
    Olga (rudely interrupting) “The ductwork, I know that’s terrific! So let’s take a look at the terrace.”

    Later on…. in the bedrrom Chris is pointing to the ceiling and more exposed crap on it
    Chris: “.. for some reason I…I wonder if..this can be closed ..??”
    Olga: “You know, I think if you enclosed it it would make this space feel.. you know.. a little too intimate.”

    Obvisouly he doesn’t like the fact that it looks like crap. Olga don’t care though.

  25. 25
    Astro Kermit says:

    @ 8:45 the RE agent buys him lunch, and back then it was a seller’s market! Question: do agents normally buy lunch?? A couple of months back I had to buy my agent coffee! What the hell?!!! Arrrrggggghh!!!

  26. 26
    BillE says:

    I’ve learned a lot from the real estate shows on HGTV. For example, houses don’t have rooms anymore. What used to be a room is now a “space.” Also, it’s required that you “entertain” at your home. Keep the entertainment prospects in mind when touring.
    There are no prices anymore either. It’s a “price point.”
    Absolute must haves for a house now? Hardwood floors, crown molding, a unique backsplash, his and hers bathroom sinks, and a jetted tub. Don’t touch a house without these features.

  27. 27
    Cheap South says:

    RE: BillE @ 26

    Yeap; it’s all about the marketing. A space without separating walls is a “big room” (never mind that when the kitchen faucet is on you can’t hear the TV); and don’t forget it’s a “big room concept”; meaning you are adequate, you belong baby!!!

    Master bedrooms are now suites, bathrooms are spas. The awkward room with no windows or closet left over by poor architecture is now the “bonus room”. My complex had a model with a small room in the middle of the house (like a hallway), they called it the “media room”; never mind it did not have a phone jack and this was back in 2000.

  28. 28

    By Astro Kermit @ 25:

    @ 8:45 the RE agent buys him lunch, and back then it was a seller’s market! Question: do agents normally buy lunch?? A couple of months back I had to buy my agent coffee! What the hell?!!! Arrrrggggghh!!!

    The classic agent drives you around in his/her Mercedes, whips out his credit card at lunch, and gets the full 6%.
    I’m not sure what’s normal nowadays. I’ve purchased clients lunch ( “Mmmm, teriyaki chicken, and only $5.99!”), and driven folks around in my 10 year old Chevy, but I’ve also had clients buy me lunch and coffee, drive me around, and meet me at properties. I think the idea is that the agent has to constantly impress his clients with how successful he is, even if that means charging another expensive lunch, despite the fact that the agent’s house is about to be foreclosed on.

  29. 29
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    Agent buying clients lunch? WTF? I guess that’s yet another reason I’m different from the typical home buyer — I don’t expect my agent to wine/dine me, or to sell me on a house. I expect him/her to be there to answer my questions and help me with the process, someone who can give honest advice and opinions. I’m looking for more of a real estate sage than a salesman, I guess.

  30. 30
    ray pepper says:

    RE: Lake Hills Renter @ 29

    “I don’t expect my agent to wine/dine me, or to sell me on a house. I expect him/her to be there to answer my questions and help me with the process, someone who can give honest advice and opinions.”

    If anyone is buying anyone lunch here Lake Hills its YOU buying US. We will answer all your questions, help you in the process, give you honest advice and opinions, (as you requested) but you would be lucky to get a Costco Hot Dog outta me.

  31. 31
    ray pepper says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 25

    “A couple of months back I had to buy my agent coffee! What the hell?!!! Arrrrggggghh!!!”

    Love to hear that!!! My question is , Why did you do it?” Personal friend? Brain fart? Oh let me guess…..You offered….Your mistake…Never offer if you don’t want to pay.

    I doubt you “HAD” to buy your Agent coffee. You DECIDED to buy your Agent coffee is my guess.

  32. 32
    Astro Kermit says:

    RE: ray pepper @ 31

    My agent asked for a latte and I got it without thinking about it. Considering that it is a buyer’s market and watching that video, I figured my agent should have offered.

    Ray Pepper let me buy you some classes on design at Bellevue Community College. Your web site is an eye sore. My eyes are bleeding. <- See? I can be a dick too.

  33. 33
    CCG says:

    By pdxdave @ 24:

    I love the part right at 6:10 !!

    Chris: “Well look at all these exposed…”
    Olga (rudely interrupting) “The ductwork, I know that’s terrific! So let’s take a look at the terrace.”

    Later on…. in the bedrrom Chris is pointing to the ceiling and more exposed crap on it
    Chris: “.. for some reason I…I wonder if..this can be closed ..??”
    Olga: “You know, I think if you enclosed it it would make this space feel.. you know.. a little too intimate.”

    Obvisouly he doesn’t like the fact that it looks like crap. Olga don’t care though.

    What a sad way to make a living.

  34. 34
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 32 – I’d much rather buy from a stingy agent without a snazzy website if it means they helped me get the best deal possible. Sorry, I guess I don’t really understand your angst over this whole coffee thing. If you need your ego stroked, there are far less risky and expensive ways to do it.

  35. 35
    GV says:

    Enjoyed the show. Chris Togawa will be fine. I thought the exposed ductwork was rotten, so was the wall of old sewing machines. The “green” building looked terrible too. I think he made a decent choice. So what if price fell. He’s a big boy. I wouldn’t care to live in a condo in downtown Seattle. He keeps talking about the Sonics–my frustration there is Schultzie Starbucks who sold the team out in order to get $100M for himself. The real estate agent doesn’t come across as professional in my opinion.

  36. 36
    ray pepper says:

    <- See? I can be a dick too.

    ???????? Don't really get what your saying.

    I agree website Sucks. The new one is coming. Sooooooooon!..

    Were you insulted?

    "My agent asked for a latte and I got it without thinking about it." This is entirely different then: A couple of months back I had to buy my agent coffee!

  37. 37
    john says:

    Where is the Gateway District? Being that I’ve lived/worked within ten blocks of Trace Lofts for almost 10 years, and I’ve never heard Capitol Hill or anywhere around it called the Gateway District. The narrator, buyer, and realtor all calling it that makes me scratch my head.

  38. 38

    RE: john @ 37
    There were a whole bunch of new names created for certain neighborhoods over the last ten years or so, which nobody uses and probably never will. The “Gateway District” is supposed to be the gateway between the downtown Seattle retail district and South Lake Union, so the heart of it is supposed to be around Whole Foods on Denny.
    Meh.

  39. 39
    The Tim says:

    Mr. Togawa ended up paying $400,000 for unit #605 at 5th & Madison, a building that just so happens to be auctioning off their remaining inventory this month, with starting bids at $195,000. That advertised starting bid is for two units the same size as and directly above the one Christopher bought. One is on the 17th floor, the other is on the 18th floor.

    Well, the auction is over and Matt has posted the results at his site. Four units in the auction were directly above Mr. Togawa’s, with the same square footage. Here are the units and what they sold for at auction:

    #1705 – $348,000
    #1805 – $331,000
    #2005 – $355,000
    #2305 – $390,000

    So someone got the same floorplan 16 floors higher (there is no floor 13) for slightly less than Christopher paid, and someone else got the same floorplan 11 floors higher for 17% less. Ouchie. “A great time for wise investors” indeed.

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