Seattle Times: Trilogy Lawsuit, Condos, Cabin Battle

The Seattle Times was on a roll this weekend with interesting real estate stories. Here are a few excerpts:

Homebuilder faces suit over construction at Trilogy of Redmond Ridge

For years, hundreds of Trilogy at Redmond Ridge residents say they have been pleading with California-based Shea Homes, the 55-plus resort community’s developer, to fix and better waterproof more than 1,500 homes.

They say the things every other homebuilder in the Pacific Northwest does to waterproof houses — put flashing around windows, use the right paint at the right time to prevent mold, and installing moisture barriers on garages — were not done on Trilogy homes. And by the time many of the original homeowners say they discovered the problems, possessions in their garages had been ruined and extensive wood rot needed massive repairs.

…more than 950 Trilogy residents [are] hoping to win a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle against Shea Homes. Lead lawyer on the case, Steve Berman of Seattle, says he’s seeking $30 million in damages, and is seeking class-action status for the case.

Too-hot housing market? Not for condos

Financing hurdles, a smaller buyer pool and high homeowners dues are among the factors that have slowed sales in the condo market, industry experts say. But over the past year, condos have appreciated at a faster rate than single-family homes, MLS data show.

In areas with at least 100 condo sales this year, southeast Snohomish County has led all submarkets with a 59 percent annual increase in median price, to $249,800. Everett/Mukilteo, Kirkland, Des Moines and Federal Way also have seen strong improvement in sold prices, rising more than 25 percent over the year.

Surprisingly, while single-family home prices and apartment rents climb, some submarkets have seen condo prices drop this year.

The biggest decline: downtown Bellevue, where the median price last year reached a record, only to tumble this year by 14 percent to $430,000. West Seattle, the Eastside south of Interstate 90, and Burien also lost ground over the year (see chart).

Downtown Seattle, the biggest condo submarket, saw the largest increase in sales activity, but only 3 percent appreciation to a median price of $439,500.

Tiny cliff cabin rocks the Methow Valley

From the distance, it’s a speck of a cabin, only 850 square feet, that sits on top of a cliff.

In the CinemaScope view of mountains, forests and pastures, it’s easily missed by visitors to the Methow Valley as they drive on Highway 20.

But the cabin sparked a nasty court fight about ruining ridgeline views. By one estimate, attorney fees for both sides will total as much as $300,000.

Descriptions of the cabin by opponents in interviews for this story, on a Facebook page and in local media have included “an extended third finger,” a “boil,” a “blight” and a “wart” to a Mazama area that has no “ridgebuster” dwellings atop hills.

Kundig and three partners were the defendants in a seven-day August trial that explored whether the cabin broke covenants drawn by previous owners of the property that protected the visual impact on the valley.

The plaintiffs want the cabin torn down.

Sounds like a barrel of fun!

[Update: The architect has been ordered to move his eyesore cabin off the ridge. Methow Valley ‘ridgebuster’ cabin has to move, judge rules]

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.


  1. 1

    My guess is that the condo thing is short sale/REO mix changes. I’ll try to verify that later.

    But for the pessimists, Snohomish Condos were hot in 2007!

  2. 2
    redmondjp says:

    I’m glad that you brought up the lawsuit regarding the moisture problems. I pay very close attention to every new home being constructed in my area, and I can tell you that there are a lot of corners being cut.

    For example, most of you have probably seen new houses that are framed and sheathed with bare OSB (in the rain), with the windows installed, and 6″ wide white tape around the window openings. Well, that is the wrong way to do it.

    I purchased a whole roll of Tyvek house wrap (it makes great pattern templates since it doesn’t stretch or tear) and read the installation instructions. There are very specific steps for how to cut in a window opening, and NOBODY follows them. Most builders don’t even use Tyvek anyways.

    My neighbors picked one of the top-rated siding contractors off of the Microsoft employee discussion board, and they used 15# tar paper underneath their new siding. Really. They also didn’t cut in the attic vents that were in both gable ends previously (yes, I have told the homeowner twice but they don’t seem to care). And this was one of the top-rated contractors (according to the super-smart people who sit at their computers all day)!

    It sickens me to see to see how poorly constructed most houses are around here with regards to proper protection against moisture. At least over in Hawaii they are prohibited (I think) from using OSB – when I saw new homes being constructed over there, they were using exterior-grade plywood for both the exterior and roof sheathing. THAT is how it is supposed to be done, but almost no builders around here does that either.

    If you’re going to spend the better part of a million dollars on a home, it should at least have plywood instead of OSB. It costs a few hundred dollars more, a few thousand at most, to use plywood/Tyvek. And for heaven’s sake, extend the eaves out so they keep part or all of the exterior walls dry!

    Oh well, most people are clueless about this stuff and don’t seem to care until their paint starts discoloring and they are getting musty odors inside. Unfortunately, there is really no way to easily tell if your new home has potential serious moisture problems without taking some of the trim and siding off. You have to watch it being built or have it custom-built by somebody that you trust.

  3. 3
    Erik says:

    If someone wants to make some money, I recommend they buy a condo in Bellevue, west of 405.Second best place for condos is probably gonna be my area… West Seattle. I bought a condo in a beat down neighborhood in a beat down complex. I never really looked at the data or did any analysis. It just looked like a good deal because the condos in the complex sold for a lot more in previous years. I look at the price graphs on zillow for the place I want and the graphs of surrounding places. If it looks like a bottom and it’s a place I want to live, I buy. Seems to work pretty well.

    Look at this graph.

    Looks kinda like I bought at the bottom again, huh?

  4. 4
    Saffy The Pook says:

    Ever more strident pleas for attention and affirmation from the troll… Basing the wisdom of your purchase on a Zestimate graph smacks of desperation. The only hard data are the two prior sales at $170K and $157K. All you’ve proven is that you’re willing to give the bank a CAGR of 3.6% for 16 years.

  5. 5

    Its Real Easy, Quick and Relatively Cheap to Install Waterproof Glueboard Homes

    That once treated properly will last far longer than the new untreated “slipshod” construction and exterior remodeling by contractors I observe. Simply seal the exterior board vertical seams together with plastic [Goop] after attaching them to the studs. The same with the bottom 12″ of the house with horizontal phone, cable and exterior systems drill holes and eventual soon rot gaps; seal the holes and cracks with Goop [or equivalent]. Then paint the house. Will our Contractors do it this way? Hades no, the homes will last forever and never need maintenance right away.

  6. 6

    By redmondjp @ 2:

    I’m glad that you brought up the lawsuit regarding the moisture problems. I pay very close attention to every new home being constructed in my area, and I can tell you that there are a lot of corners being cut.

    I’ve mentioned this before, a number of Snohomish county condo complexes built before 2007 needed to be re-sided.

    As to cutting corners, they also cut eaves! While it is true some older houses (e.g. 40s and early 50s) also don’t have much in the way of eaves, many newer houses just have minimal eaves. The roof extending over the side of a house is the first defense to water intrusion, and is often deficient.

    One of the things I like about my house is the eaves also take golf balls into account, so they are extended a bit more than most.

  7. 7

    Attorney fees of $300k, fighting over the existence of an 850sf cabin. These are nasty cases where nobody wins. Well, not quite nobody…

  8. 8
    The Tim says:

    RE: Craig Blackmon @ 7 – Well, did you see this bit?

    One of the founders of MoveTheHut is Bill Pope, a former corporate attorney for Microsoft, who also worked as general counsel for Paul Allen’s Vulcan. Since 1994 he has owned the Mazama Country Inn, and has been a longtime environmental activist.

    He’s the one who came up with an attorney-fees estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 and says he has been a major contributor to fund the lawsuit, with some 110 people giving money.

  9. 9

    By Craig Blackmon @ 7:

    Attorney fees of $300k, fighting over the existence of an 850sf cabin. These are nasty cases where nobody wins. Well, not quite nobody…

    You’re right, not quite nobody. Some Methow Valley attorney may be seeing revenues he may not see for a while in the future.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Erik says:

    RE: Saffy The Pook @ 4
    Happy Tuesday to you too.

  12. 12
    Erik says:

    RE: Saffy The Pook @ 4
    Read the condo article. West seattle condos went down 6% in value while most other places went up in value last year. Seems like a good sign from the real estate gods.

    Btw, you need to relax.

  13. 13
    Saffy The Pook says:

    By Erik @ 12:

    RE: Saffy The Pook @ 4
    Read the condo article. West seattle condos went down 6% in value while most other places went up in value last year. Seems like a good sign from the real estate gods.
    Btw, you need to relax.

    Your analytical insights are truly…Unconventional.

    I’ll relax when you stop bragging and trolling the comments section here.

  14. 14
    Erik says:

    RE: Saffy The Pook @ 13
    The one in Kirkland was crazy. I went from flat broke to having money. I barely invested any money into it and came out with $128k. I was pretty shocked and I wanted to tell others how I did it so they could do it.

    On this recent one, I bought it at an auction because Ardell told me to and I specifically chose this area because it seemed low and would catch up later. The story isn’t over. If I lose my a$$ on this one you should ram it down my throat. I would ram it down your throat if the tables were turned. I am setting the stage for an epic success or epic failure because that’s how I do things. I like to put the pressure on because it drives me to succeed even more at my remodels. Pretty sure this one will be another major success, but I need to market to push me up further. I think if I sold at current market conditions, I wouldn’t make enough money after all I have put into this to make it worth it. Over $50k profit would be enough to do it again, but I want to break $100k again. These remodels are a lot of stress and a lot of work. I am pretty exhausted.

    My guess is that you feel unsuccessful so you get defensive when others talk about their successes. I talk about my failures. I got laid off from Boeing, which sucked. I have failed at more than that, but I will spare you the details. I like to talk about what I am doing and hopefully get some solid advice. In the past, I got really good advice on here. Tim and the people on this website are a large part of the reason I did so well last time. Why would I stop trying to get advice from people that are a lot smarter about real estate than I am? If I talk about what I am doing, hopefully someone that knows more about real estate will say “Hey dummy, you bought the wrong place in the wrong area at the wrong time.” If there is good reason, I will get rid of my place sooner than later. I wish someone would have told me back when I owned a place in north everett that I made a mistake. I would have listened and got out. Instead that filth whole stole 6 years of my life. I may not have said, okay and then sold, but it would have planted a seed and I would have gotten out before it sucked me down with the thieves and child molesters. Luckily, you tax payers through me a branch called TARP which bailed me out. I moved to Kirkland then Seattle and never looked back.

  15. 15
    Azucar says:

    By Erik @ 12:

    RE: Saffy The Pook @ 4

    Btw, you need to relax.

    …Says the guy who kneejerk responded three times in a row with equally meaningless responses to a comment that he didn’t like.

  16. 16
    The Tim says:

    Update: The architect has been ordered to move his eyesore cabin off the ridge. Methow Valley ‘ridgebuster’ cabin has to move, judge rules

  17. 17
    redmondjp says:

    By The Tim @ 16:

    Update: The architect has been ordered to move his eyesore cabin off the ridge. Methow Valley ‘ridgebuster’ cabin has to move, judge rules

    “Call 1 – 8 – 8, Cab – Jack”

  18. 18
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Azucar @ 15 – Best to simply ignore. Someone who posts three consecutive responses within minutes of each other, trying to get someone to respond is really not going to contribute much to the community. I actually feel a bit sorry for him, as I think there are some internal struggles going on. I hope he can find internal peace someday, for our sake, but more importantly, for himself.

  19. 19
    redmondjp says:

    I saw a picture in my local Redmond Reporter of the water damage to one of the homes – yes, you guessed it, they used OSB. For a front porch! Covered with who-knows-what? But it was at the base of a column and had all turned into mush.

    Unfortunately, as long as the big homebuilders keep their lobbying fees current, this won’t change. What I don’t understand is why the building inspectors (who are taxpayer-funded) turn a blind eye to all of this.

  20. 20

    RE: redmondjp @ 19 – Does the building code prevent the use of OSB in that instance?

    But the answer to the question might be “covered with who-knows-what?” Once covered I doubt many building inspectors would uncover it to look. And the job of the buyer’s inspector is even more difficult because they will also be dealing with the siding covering the house.

  21. 21
    Steve Conboy says:

    I know Shea Homes and other builder around teh country are having these mold and moisture related problems just google search any national builder and put mold law suits behind there name and watch what happens. They are all being targeted now and UL’s Chief Economist in a white paper report published recently says this is teh new sleeping giant of the building industry. I’m going to approach Shea and others with a solution because we need o help them they support our economy. The problem with all these mold related claims is two fold. First is teh fact that like many things in wood framed structures that have changed for the better we need to consider these fabrics we use and what they we designed to defend verses coatings that are readiliy avaliable that show be used from wondow sills down to the concrete and one foot around windows and sill beore windows are set than we can install the fabric over the coatings. This wil not increase builders brick and mortar much and it will significantly reduce moisture related problems. The second problem is our lumber producer are producer more lumber thn we are consuming and in many cases the lumber ued to build these homes already has rot setting in and mold growing and moisture levels that should not be allowed to dry in. There are products like Eco Red Shield and Bluwood that would defnd and fight these mold and rot problems if we are still trying to build safe buildingings here in America instead of allowing those seeking profit to cut every corner they can so they can install granite instead of defensive building materials.

    I will let you know what Shea has to say when i approach them with a solution, Steve

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