Sunday, March 1, 2015

Who moved our inventory?

Hot market outpaces listings

If you’d like to sell your home in Madison Park, now is clearly the time.  In fact the opportunity seemed so good to my wife and me that we decided to sell.  Our house was on the market for exactly a week. Now we’re living in a Madison Park rental.

Our quick-turn experience was not particularly noteworthy among recent sellers of Madison Park real estate.  The area’s frothy market just doesn’t seem to be abating. There are simply too few listings for the many interested buyers waiting to pounce.

Winter is usually the slowest period for moving real estate; but even so, the inventory level in the neighborhood is shocking low. There are only 13 houses for sale in Madison Park as we go to press, and only two of these are located outside the neighborhood’s more-exclusive enclaves of Washington Park and Broadmoor.

With houses selling in record time the current listings are relatively fresh, with an average time on market of just 41 days.  Almost half of those listings, six of thirteen, have entered the market within the last month.  Meanwhile, there are just three condos for sale here.  That’s perhaps a record low.  For comparative purposes it’s worth noting at this same time of year in 2012, during the dead winter of the down market, there were 22 condo listings.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the housing that’s currently available for purchase in Madison Park, courtesy of Redfin:


Listings:  13
Median List Price:  $2,890,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,590
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $630
Average Days on Market:  41
Percentage with Price Reductions:  8%
New Listings:  6
Pendings:  7


Listings:  3
Median List Price:  $700,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1113
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $629
Average Days on Market:  102
Percentage with Price Reductions:  66%
New Listings:  1
Pendings:  3

The accelerating sales pace of Madison Park’s real estate market is evident in several ways.  In 2014 the 80 homes that sold spent a coincidental 80 days on the market, on average.  Although more houses were sold in the previous year (103 to be precise), those 2013 sold homes remained on the market almost 20% longer: 98 days.  There was also a compression year over year of the average discount at sale compared to the original listing price.  The discount for 2014 was just 4.2%, compared to 6.9% in the previous year.

Here’s the breakdown of 2014 home sales:


Sales:  80
Median Sale Price:  $1,434,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,425
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $475
Average Days on Market:  80
Average Discount from List Price:  4.2%


Sales: 21
Median Sale Price:  $475,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,122
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $486
Average Days on Market:  78
Average Discount from List Price: 6.6%

Although for the full year the average days on market for sold houses was 80, that waiting period declined to just 40 days during the fourth quarter. During that final fall/winter period, 17 houses changed owners, more than half in fewer than 30 days (with seven of those going pending in two weeks or less).

The average price per square foot of sold houses increased 13% year over year, from $421 in 2013 to $475 in 2014 (click to enlarge):

I always caution that this kind of comparison can be misleading since the mix of houses sold (lower market versus upper market) is different from year to year, making it difficult to extrapolate given how small this market is.  But the trend is certainly in the right direction, and those who want to compute their own home’s value based on the market rate can use the $475 number as the best current approximation for the neighborhood.  House sales in 2014 ranged all the way from $254 per square foot to $947, proving an often-made point about the variability of housing choices in the Park.

Zillow uses current sales prices to compute a home value index for various Seattle neighborhoods. For Madison Park (exclusive of Broadmoor), the median home value is now just shy of $1 million, according to Zillow.  As you an see from the chart below (click to enlarge), Madison Park just about back where it was at the height of the market in 2007:

The most expensive house sold in 2014 was a 6,155 sq. ft. modernistic mega-house in Broadmoor at 1515 Parkside Drive, which sold for $4,200,000.  That works out to $682 per square foot.  The five-bedroom/five-bath home sold in just 14 days, which is not typical for Broadmoor, where 196 days was the average in 2014.  Twelve houses were sold in Broadmoor during the year, with a median sales price of $2,326,750.  One of these houses sold after 1128 days on the market and another after 907 days. Excluding these two outliers, the average on-market time for sold houses in Broadmoor was only 32 days.

1515 Parkside Drive East

In Washington Park the most expensive house sale was a 5,500 sq. ft. Georgian Colonial house at 1133 McGilvra Boulevard E.  This five-bedroom/3.5-bath home sold for $3,803,000, $689 per square foot.  The median price of the 26 houses sold in Washington Park last year was $1,512,500, and the average square feet of these was 3,730.  These homes sold in 74 days on average.

1133 McGilvra Boulevard East

For the rest of Madison Park, the 41 houses sold in 2014 averaged 2,794 square feet. At a median price of $1,200,000 this is an average of $470 per square foot.  These houses also had the lowest discount at sale from the original list price, just 2%.

And here’s a very interesting fact:  of the 80 houses sold in Madison Park last year, 34 of these (43%) sold at or above their original listing price.  Of the 23 houses initially priced at $1 million or less, 17 (74%) sold at or above list.  There must have been a bidding war for some of these.  For example, one house listed at $625,000 ultimately sold for $755,00 and another house that was listed at $629,000 sold for $765,000.  This kind of premium to list did not occur as often in the upper market, but a house listed at $1,850,000 did sell at $2,200,000, 119% of original list.

By the way, the least expensive house sold in Madison Park last year was a 1,450 sq. ft. two-bedroom on E. Madison Street, changing hands at $524,000.  There were 11 houses that sold for under $800,000 during 2014, but the days of a “cheap ticket to Madison Park” may be behind us.  There is only one house priced at under $1 million in today’s market—and that’s a two-bedroom 1923 cottage (shown at top) which is listed at $840,000.

Expect that baby to be gone soon.

[As always, thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate, for her assistance in compiling market statistics for sold homes, utilizing data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Lower two photos courtesy of Redfin.]

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Develop or not develop?

A quick trip around the neighborhood reveals that there is plenty of development currently in progress here, all of of it involving the construction of single-family residences.   In our part of town it’s unusual for there to be new office or multi-family developments underway.  This is principally due to the fact that the few blocks that are zoned for commercial or higher-density residential buildings have already been developed.   Here and there, however, there are some pockets of real estate that could be developed on a grander scale than what currently occupies the space.  Right now there are several separate plots in Madison Park that could see something other than single-family-residence development in the next year or so.

In general, higher-density residential buildings in Seattle can only be built on properties in areas specifically zoned for that purpose.  Madison Park has several areas near the Lake that are designated as available for lowrise development, which includes cottage housing, rowhouses, townhouses and three-story apartment buildings.   Most of the Park is designated either SF 5000 (meaning zoned for single-family residences on average 5,000 sq. ft. lots) or SF 7200 (which encompasses all of Broadmoor and most of Washington Park).  There are also some SF 9600 lots in the neighborhood, along the water south of E. Prospect Street and continuing south through Denny Blaine.  Very little commercial/retail zoning exists in Madison Park, with the area along E. Madison Street between 41st and 43rd Avenues constituting the vast bulk of these properties. Such development is also allowed along 42nd 43rd Avenues between E. Blaine and E. Newton Streets and along E. Madison Street between 31st and 33rd Avenues E.

With the recent sale of the building that housed Café Parco (1807 42nd Ave. E.) there was speculation that the property would be slated for development.  But as we previously reported, that is apparently not going to happen.  Rehabilitation is going to happen, however, and the space will house the personal office of a Madison Park resident who would like to both live and work here.

At about the same time the Café Parco space turned over, the neat 1929 brick building just to the south also changed hands.  It was purchased by third-generation Madison Park resident Brad Augustine, through a real estate holding company.   We quizzed him on whether he has any development plans for the property and he responded that he doesn’t plan to do anything more at the present time than remove an underground storage tank that’s on site.  The building currently houses two office tenants and Augustine says he will continue to manage the property as a commercial building.  His property management/development company, Madrona Real Estate Services, is known for developing some high-quality projects in the area.

One new low-rise development that definitely is on the drawing boards is slated for 2307 43rd Avenue E., the property across from Swingset Park from which a 1920s Craftsman-style residence was lifted and then barged away several years ago.  The property has sat forlorn since that time, awaiting a new owner with a plan.   That plan has now been filed and, assuming the City approves the project, a three-unit residential structure will be built on the site, including parking for six vehicles.

Finally with regard to potential neighborhood development, we note that the city’s Department of Planning and Development is apparently still deliberating over the proposal to build a six-unit apartment building at 2346 43rd Avenue E., the site of Madison Park’s only over-water single family residence.  We reported on the controversy surrounding this proposal when the plans were made public last January. To date, it looks like the review is continuing.  A check of the DPD website shows that the permit status for the project is nothing more advanced than “Application Accepted.”

[Illustration courtesy of E. Cobb Architects.]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Area artists converge on Madison Park

"Holiday Handmade" show at Pioneer Hall upcoming

Multiple local artists (meaning ten or twelve) have banded together to present their "handmade" wares at a show in Pioneer Hall (1642 43rd Avenue E.)  this Friday and Saturday.  Of course it's about more than just displaying the art:  it's all for sale.  And just in time for the holiday-giving ritual.

Here's a list of the artists who will be showing: Barbara Clark (Ceramic Tiles), Marin Curry (Vintage Inspired Jewelry), Linnea Donnen (Handwoven Textiles), Debbie Ellis (Art Yarns & Accessories), Paula Gill (Ceramic Tiles), Beth Hall (Beadwork), Molly Hashimoto (Paintings & Blockprints), Virginia Hungate-Hawk (Etchings), Dorothy McGuinness (Sculptural Basketry), and Elena Louise Richmond (Watercolors).

The show runs 11 am to 6 pm on Friday and 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday.

[Art by Molly Hashimoto.]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We've been hacked!

A warning for Madison Park Blogger readers

Earlier this year Yahoo! announced that the usernames and passwords of some or all of its 273 million subscribers had been hacked.  It's now clear that the Madison Park Blogger's account at Yahoo! was compromised.  If you receive any email from our Yahoo email address that contains a link, do not open it.  Subscribers to this blog are not directly impacted by this hacking situation since the blog-posting emails are sent by Google from our account.

Although Apple technical support has determined that there is no malware on MPB's MacBook laptop, the fact that all of the email addresses stored in our Yahoo! account are in the hands of hackers means that is no longer a trustworthy source.  We no longer send emails from this account, though you may still communicate with us using that address.

We apologize for trusting Yahoo! with our email account.  Who knew?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Armed robberies put neighborhood on edge

Two scary incidents in two days

It's unusual for gun play to occur in Madison Park, so the two holdups that took place on Friday and Saturday kept the neighborhood buzzing over the weekend.  The police action late on Saturday evening, involving multiple squad cars with sirens blaring, necessarily focused a lot of attention on the second crime, but it was the earlier broad-daylight incident that initially stoked the fears of many area residents.

To begin at the beginning:

On Friday evening, those on the distribution list for the Denny Blaine/Washington Park Block Watch received this disturbing email from a resident reporting on an incident occurring earlier in the day along Hillside Drive, just above Bush School:

"This afternoon around 1:30, two men walked into my neighbor's front courtyard and held a gun to her gardener's head ordering her to her hands and knees.  We think they thought she was the owner of the house, they ordered her to empty her pockets, give them her wallet and car keys.  She did and also said 'I'm just the gardener'.  The men ran off, past my house and got into a waiting van at the end of the street.  The police also got a call around the same time, someone calling in saying they saw 2 guys running down the street and jumping into a waiting blue van, it appeared suspicious they commented.  Both men had guns but only one pointed it at her." 

This email was forwarded to many who were not on the original distribution list (including the Madrona Moms, who then gave it wide circulation). By Saturday morning the robbery was the talk of much of the neighborhood, at least south of Madison.   By that night, however, a wider swath of the neighborhood became aware that Madison Park had suddenly become less of a crime oasis than normal.

At around 10:00 pm, according to unverified reports, several teenagers were "assaulted" near Bert's Red Apple by several (three or four) African-American men with a gun or guns.  The 9-1-1 call elicited a very large police response, with patrol cars combing the neighborhood for at least an hour.  The police did not discover the suspects.

Update: The SPD's public information officer confirmed both incidents this morning, adding a little color to the narrative surrounding incident involving the gardener who was accosted on Friday afternoon.  According to the investigating officer's report, the two suspects---after learning that the gardner was not the homeowner and that she had no money---ran from the yard, one of them yelling back to the victim, "Sorry, ma'am."  According to a witness, the two teenaged black males then jumped into a waiting silver and blue minivan and were quickly driven from the scene by a young white woman with "dirty blond" hair.

With regard to the Saturday incident, the SPD report adds few details to what was already known. The crime, which occurred at 9:59 pm, involved several victims who were "threatened, assaulted, and robbed" by multiple suspects.  The perpetrators fled on foot, southbound on McGilvra Boulevard, after committing their crimes, and were not captured by the police dragnet.  One of the victims had a "bleeding bump on the left side of his head" as a result of the assault.

Also this morning, Bush School's principal, Dr. Percy Abram, sent an email to Bush parents and guardians in which he reported that in the Saturday incident "three students--including a Bush freshman--were robbed at gunpoint while walking in Madison Park near Bert's Red Apple.  Two of the boys were assaulted during this incident."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Art Messer dead at 65

Local artist succumbs to cancer

We're very sorry to report the death last week of Art Messer, a Madison Park artist known both for his cheerful, colorful paintings and for his outsize personality.  He was a regular fixture on the neighborhood scene for many decades, once having operated a frame shop/art gallery in what is now the "black hole of Madison Park" building on Madison.  Messer died after a year-long battle with leukemia.

Messer, who described his art as "Fauvist", was intimately involved in organizing the Madison Park Art Walk, in which his works were always featured---and over the years he often engineered impromptu installations of his art on the walls of various Madison Park businesses (sometimes in empty storefronts).

Although he himself would probably have agreed that he was "a difficult personality," many who knew him could testify to his gift of friendship and his generosity of spirit. He will definitely be missed.

Friday, October 31, 2014

No new restaurant here

Foodies and those concerned about the shrinking retail core of Madison Park will be saddened to know that there will not be a replacement restaurant for the late Cafe Parco.  We have it on good authority that the building, located on 42nd near Madison, has been purchased by someone, apparently a Madison Park resident, who is going to renovate the space and transform it into his personal office.

Building owner Karen Binder, who for a couple decades operated Madison Park Cafe from the one-time residential building, did not respond to our request for confirmation.  But it's clear that the place is being emptied of restaurant paraphernalia. One of the problems with operating a restaurant in that space is that the kitchen was inadequate, both in terms of size and the age of its equipment.  Extensive work would have been needed to make it efficient.  Even if that obstacle had been overcome, the limited seating indoors was always a problem with no solution. We've been told that in the restaurant's final years in particular, the outdoor good-weather seating and the weekend brunches were what made Madison Park Cafe profitable. Cafe Parco, as was evident to anyone who wandered by regularly, was unable to achieve the same results.

The brick building to the south of the old Cafe Parco location has also been recently purchased, but there's no indication that it will be used for anything more than offices. The same situation is true for the building that housed the now-notorious Lakeside Capital offices on 43rd. That space had been marketed as a potential retail location, but that's not going to happen according to the word we've received.  The building changed hands recently and the new owners will not be adding to the retail space along that street.  As others have found, in any event, it's tough to do retail off of Madison.

Meanwhile, there's a now-empty shop where Ann Marie Lingerie used to be, in the building that also houses Starbucks.  It's unclear from the sign posted in the window whether the current tenant plans something else for that space.  For some reason, the Madison Park Blogger was unsuccessful in getting any response from Ann Marie concerning their abandoned location.

Perhaps we're losing our touch.

Monday, October 27, 2014

No cheap ticket to Madison Park

Affordable houses are a thing of the past

A current snapshot of Madison Park’s real estate market reveals an extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented situation:  there is only a single house available for sale at under $1 million—and that one is priced at $900,000  Moreover, there is virtually no other inventory of housing available close to the million-dollar mark. The median price of a listed house in Madison Park is over $2.7 million. That’s the highest median value for listings we have seen in the more than five years we’ve been covering the neighborhood’s real estate scene.

Of the 19 single-family residences currently for sale here, there are only two that would pass as “affordable” (using the Madison Park definition of that term).  Those two are priced at $1,082,000 and $1,328,000 respectively.  You’ll have to pay almost $2 million for any one of the next four higher-priced houses on the active list, with the remaining 13 for-sale houses ranging in price from $2.4 million to $4.5 million.  And as might be expected, all of these houses are big.  There is only one residence on the market boasting less than 3,000 sq. ft., and the median size of the 19 homes is a whopping 4,200 sq. ft.

As is obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention, Madison Park has increasingly become “rarified” in recent years, bungalows making way for mega-houses. Based on current listings, it’s clear that the audience for single-family homes in Madison Park today is principally divided between the pretty wealthy and the very wealthy.  Of course Madison Park wannabes can still rent an apartment here or even purchase a condo at a relatively low price point.  Of the five condos currently available for sale, four range in price from $300,000 and $400,000, with the remaining condo listed at just under $1 million.  The median size of the five condos, however, is just 970 sq. ft.

This house at 825 Hillside Dr. is priced at the median for listed homes: $2,745,000.  

Here’s the state of the market as we head toward winter:


Listings:  19
Median List Price:  $2,745,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,200
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $653
Average Days on Market:  64
Percentage with Price Reductions:  26%
New Listings:  9
            Pending Sales:  4


Listings:  5
Median List Price:  $400,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  970
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $412
Average Days on Market:  172
Percentage with Price Reductions:  60%
New Listings:  1
Pending Sales:  1

House sales in the third quarter exhausted the available inventory of lower-priced abodes.  The median sales price of properties sold during the quarter was $1,475,000.  That is $1,300,000 (or 48%) less than the median price of houses currently available in the neighborhood: $2,745,000.  Seven of the 28 houses sold were under $1 million and only one house sold last quarter for more than the current median list price for houses in this market.

This is the breakdown of sales during the last quarter:


            Sales:  21
            Median Sale Price:  $1,475,000
            Average Sq. Ft.:  3,430
            Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $431
            Average Days on Market:  48
            Average Discount from List Price:  1.7% 


            Sales: 7
            Median Sale Price:  $365,000
            Average Sq. Ft.:  949
            Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $385
            Average Days on Market:  56         
            Average Discount from List Price: 4.0%

One of eight under-$1 million sales last quarter: 1031 32nd Ave. E.

Here’s a critical data point about third-quarter sales in Madison Park: houses sold in just 48 days on average, with condos taking only slightly longer to change hands (56 days).  Of the houses sold there were only two outliers in terms of time on the market.  No houses other than these took more than 60 days to sell, and the back story on one of the two is pretty good: the seller held out for the original list price and won the bet after 455 days.  That house sold for $2,250,000.  This was clearly not what’s referred to as a “motivated seller”.

And speaking of successful, we should include the sellers (eight of the 21) who sold their houses at their original list price or at a premium to list.  The biggest winners in that regard were two sellers who achieved more than an 8% premium on their houses, selling them in 6 and 8 days respectively.  Most houses that were sold were very well priced to market, with only two homes taking a double-digit hit: 12% in one case and 13% in the other.  These houses both sold in less than 30 days, proving either that there are some motivated sellers still left in the market or perhaps just some who are not keeping up on what’s possible in this inventory-challenged environment for sellers who are willing to wait.

Condo sales were also brisk (only one outlier among seven sales taking longer than 75 days), and the sold properties for the most part changed hands at or above their original asking prices.  The sales ranged from a 680 sq. ft. unit going for $335,000 to a 1,113 sq. ft. unit unloaded at $705,000.  The sold prices of condos, on average, achieved 99.88% of the final list prices of those properties, which is a pretty good statistic for any market.

[Photo at top: 1535 Parkside Drive E., a 7,020 sq. ft. mansion on a Broadmoor golf course fairway, is the most expensive house currently on the market, listed at $4,500,000. All photos via Redfin.]  

[Thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate for her help in compiling the sales data. Listing data courtesy of Redfin, using information from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beach House Bar & Grill opens friday

They were just putting the finishing touches on the space when we barged into the place this evening to get some pix for the blog.  Owner Ricky Eng reconfirmed that the Beach House Bar & Grill will open as scheduled for lunch tomorrow.  The new restaurant's hours will be 11-10 daily, with the possibility of expanded weekend hours sometime in the future, he said.

The space has been freshened up and revitalized, but the basic configuration of the predecessor restaurant, Madison Park Conservatory, has been retained on both floors.

The Beach House purchased some of the assets of the Madison Park Conservatory, but the most noticeable reminder of MPC is the goose on the wall of the upstairs bar.

The goal, Eng told us, is to have comfortable, family-friendly space with a wide menu, where there's something for everyone.  The target audience is the residents of Madison Park. 

The curtain rises tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

While we were away...

It's been a long time since we last did a blog posting, as regular readers of Madison Park Blogger are no doubt well aware.  We've been in the Great Southwest enjoying some excellent vibes, as well as a lot of hot, dry, and sunny weather.  But now we're back; and it's about time to get everyone updated on what's been happening in the old neighborhood---as well as what's upcoming.

First off, one of the two new restaurants slated to debut in September did manage to get the doors open, as anticipated, in a nicely refurbished space formerly the haunt of Mad Pizza on Madison St.  We're of course speaking of Bella Viet Cafe, which we just saw described by one local food blog as a "pho parlor." Though that's certainly not a derogatory term, it hardly does justice to the wider menu that owner Tani Phan (that's her in the photo above) and her business partner, Elena Vo, have created here in the Park.  As a result of our own personal experience at Bella Viet, bolstered by the positive anecdotal responses of other patrons (as well as excellent reviews on both Urban Spoon and Yelp) this new eatery is clearly an outstanding addition to the neighborhood.  (Did we mention that they do take out?)

The second restaurant that coulda woulda opened in September (but didn't, due to construction delays) is the Beach House Bar & Grill, occupying space vacated by Madison Park Conservatory, near the foot of Madison on 43rd Avenue.  We have it on good authority (that would be co-owner Maria Eng) that this Friday is finally going to be the big opening.  The menu has been posted (you can find it here), and reservations are being accepted by phone (206-294-3842).  We expect to post some photos of the revamped interior space of the Beach House on Thursday, after we get a quick tour.

And speaking of things that were supposed to happen but didn't, the fabled SR-510 "Ramps to Nowhere" were slated to get a visit from the wrecking crews last weekend to begin their demolition (those notorious Arboretum ramps are shown in the photo above, marked by the big "X" at the bottom as well as the "X" immediately above).  The Seattle Times just reported (well, three hours ago), that the contractor has delayed the project in order to concentrate on other demolition work related to the bridge. That's surprising, since there was supposed to be some ceremony marking the occasion last Saturday.  No reports on whether that happened or not.  Anyway, for those who may have missed it, Times columnist Danny Westneat had a cute piece on the eventual tear down of the infamous ramps (which you can find here).

And while we're on the subject, let us again remind readers that the Ramps to Somewhere (a turn of phrase that we just coined) will also eventually be coming down. We're referring of course to the Arboretum's freeway ramps that lead to and from 520.  If you've missed that fact after all this time, you must be a new reader to the blog (the story can be found here).

Okay, enough time on what did happen and what didn't happen while we were not reporting. Here are a couple of events upcoming:

Tree Walk:  Here's what our friend, Mary Henry, has to say on that subject: "On Saturday, October 25th Steve Lorton, former Northwest editor of the Sunset Magazine, and Rolland Hiebert, horticulturist at City People's Garden Store, will lead the third Tree Walk in Madison Park sponsored by the Madison Park Community Council.  The walk will begin at Park Shore, 1600 43rd Avenue East and tread new avenues.  Starting at 10 am and lasting about 90 minutes, the walk will head north and explore streets north of Madison.  One of the exotic plants to be seen is a Trumpet Vine twined around a light pole.  Previous walkers have found that pencils and pads prove valuable for noting certain plants, flowers and trees.  Steve is most knowledgeable about all and in addition is a formidable and enchanting story-teller.  The walk is free to the public but donations may be made to the Madison Park Community Council, a 501C3 organization."

Trick or Treating:  The annual happening, sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association, will occur this year from 4 until 6 pm on Halloween, October 31.  This is a kids' event, by the way.