Monday, June 9, 2014

Locked-out scammer back at it

At about this time three years ago we reported on a guy who was scamming unsuspecting folks in the neighborhood with a story about being locked out of his place of employment and needing money to get a locksmith.  As we later learned, the guy had been using this particular ruse for years. Reports on this scammer, as we discovered, had appeared on the blogs of several Seattle neighborhoods.

Well it now appears that this con artist or someone working the same angle is back on the scene here in Madison Park.  The Seattle Tennis Club this week sent out this warning:

"To Our Neighbors:  

It has been reported that a man is going door to door in the Club's Madison Park neighborhood knocking on doors and asking for money for his car. He claims to be a STC staff member. He is not.  He has worked this scam in the neighborhood in the past and he's back. Please do not open your door to this man or give him any money."

We earlier had this report from a reader: 

"Last night at 10:45 PM someone was knocking loudly at my door.  I went out on the deck to see who it could be at that hour. It was an African American man, guessing in his 50s, claiming to be a janitor at McGilvra school.  He said his name was Patrick, and that he had locked keys in his car and needed $14 more to pay the locksmith.  He also said he was a gay man and I need not be scared." 

The Madison Park Blogger was a victim of this guy many years ago, so we can attest to his being a very convincing fellow.  

You are now informed.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Keeping Up

Tree Walk returns June 21

Last year's first-ever guided tour of neighborhood trees is being repeated this month for those who missed the first go-round, as well as for those who would like to learn more about what makes Madison Park one of Seattle's great arboreal neighborhoods.  The "walk around" will be guided by the former Pacific Northwest editor of Sunset Magazine, Steve Lorton, and Ronald Heibert of Madison Valley's City People's garden store.  Both are current on Pacific Northwest biota, and each of them is a story teller with an historical bent. So come prepared to learn something (and perhaps to take some notes).

Steve Lorton expounds during last year's Tree Walk

The Tree Walk begins at Park Shore Retirement at 10 am, Saturday, June 21, and ends there an hour and a half or so later. This year's tour is a fundraiser for the Madison Park Community Council, which is the sponsor.  Donations to the MPCC, which is a registered non-profit, are encouraged but not required.

Neighborhood-based Arts & Crafts Farm

If you're a kid aged 7-12 (or are the parent of one), you may be interested in knowing that it's possible this summer for neighborhood kids to spend a week at an art camp without having to go anywhere far for the experience.  Madison Parkers Gayle Jack and Ann Wyman, who each have extensive backgrounds teaching kids arts and crafts, will be offering three one-week sessions of an "Arts & Crafts Farm" here in the Park during the weeks of June 23-17, July 14-18 and July 21-25.

The location will be 1601 41st  Avenue E., which is just one block south of Bert's Red Apple.  Activities will include painting, printing, jewelry making, tie dying and beading. The fee is $220 per week. More information is available from Gayle or Ann, (206) 322-4342 or

Madison Park Conservatory for sale

Although the website was recently taken down and the restaurant's Facebook page now reads "Permanently Closed," Madison Park Conservatory is actually on the market, we've learned, with a sale price of $249,000. The current owners apparently have a long-term lease on the property and would like to sell the lease rights, leasehold improvements, furnishings and the name to a new owner/operator. We've heard there's some interest in the space if the lease becomes available. It appears that the MPC has been on the market since it shut down in February, after three years on the local scene.

Villa Marina sold

The 14-unit Villa Marina apartment building at the foot of Madison Street was sold last month for $4,025,000, according to real estate broker Paragon Real Estate Advisors. The building was built in 1921, but many of the residential and commercial units have been recently renovated and we understand the new owners intend to complete that process for the remaining units.

[Art photo above (Kandinsky riff) from the website,]

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A buyer's or a seller's market?

We got some pushback recently when we described Madison Park as an extreme “buyer’s market” on the residential real estate front—in other words, a “very cold” sales environment.   That was not an original conclusion on our part, however.  We were simply quoting the opinion of real estate website Zillow.

Not surprisingly, some readers disputed the notion that this is not a seller’s market; and they seem to have a point.  According to Merriam-Webster, a buyer’s market is “a market in which goods are plentiful, buyers have a wide range of choice, and prices tend to be low.”  That seems to be pretty much the opposite of the situation here, where at the end of the first quarter there were only 22 residential listings, hardly a “goods are plentiful” situation for a market that saw more than 100 listings during the downturn, with prices significantly lower than the current median sales price.

Here’s a capsule summary of the market at the end of the first quarter:


Listings:  22
Median List Price:  $2,595,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,105
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $625
Average Days on Market:  78
Percentage with Price Reductions:  9%
New Listings:  22
Pending Sales:  10


Listings:  5
Median List Price:  $475,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,025
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $463
Average Days on Market:  132
Percentage with Price Reductions:  60%
New Listings:  2
Pending Sales:  0

This market snapshot seems to prove we’re experiencing a seller’s market, which the dictionary defines as “a market in which goods are scarce, buyers have limited range of choice, and prices are high.”

We went back to Zillow to get a clarification of their reasoning, and here’s how the website defines its approach:  “Based on three metrics—sale-to-list price ratio, the prevalence of price cuts on home listings, and time-on-market—the market temperature provides information on the current balance of bargaining power between buyers and sellers in this neighborhood relative to other neighborhoods in the same metropolitan area.”  So the “hot/cold market” issue for Zillow has do with other variables than simply inventory levels.  In the case of Madison Park, Zillow showed 21.3% of Madison Park properties as selling below the list price earlier this year, with 26.7% of properties on the market having undergone a price cut from the point of the original listing.  The days-on-market metric, however, was not high at the end of the first quarter.

Here’s an overview of the first quarter’s sales activity:


Sales:  11
Median Sale Price:  $1,499,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,457
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $434
Average Days on Market:  80
Average Discount from List Price:  5.8%


Sales: 6
Median Sale Price:  $597,500
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,500
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $542
Average Days on Market:  81
Average Discount from List Price: 6.8%

An average rate of six sales per month is certainly not barn-burning performance, but for the market as a whole it’s clear that discounts are still being required of many sellers and price cuts are common.  So Zillow has a reasonable point to make about a “cold” buyer’s market in Madison Park, using their definition of what that means.

Most expensive listing, at $6,450,000: 3414 E. Shore Drive, Broadmoor

As we discussed last month, however, the market here can really be divided into two segments, each of which is exhibiting a different sales pattern.  Houses priced under $1,500,000 or so are selling quickly, may garner multiple offers, and are sometimes being sold at a premium from the original list price.  At the upper end of the market, however, price cuts and discounts are the norm and the waiting time is longer.  Hotter (a seller’s market) at the bottom, but colder (a buyer’s market) at the top.  Interestingly, Zillow has now removed the “Hot/Cold” thermometer from the Madison Park home-value page.  Perhaps the company’s methodology was just not in keeping with the generally accepted definition.

We noticed some other changes as well.  When we first reported on Zillow’s analysis of our market we were looking at the website’s Madison Park page in mid-March.  At that time, Zillow showed a 7.1% year-over-year increase in Madison Park home values and was projecting a 4.8% increase for the upcoming year.  The Zillow Home Value Index for Madison Park (Broadmoor excluded) then stood at $925,200 (the estimated median value of homes in the neighborhood).  Now, just two months later, Zillow shows a Madison Park Home Value Index of $964,300, an 11% increase in neighborhood values over the past year, and a one-year forecast of a 7.9% rise.

Things are looking up, at least in Zillow’s significantly revised opinion.

[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. Lower photo courtesy of Ewing & Clark, via Redfin.]