Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Quarter Real Estate Report

New listings barely keep pace with sales

“Multiple offers are ‘the new normal’ for the housing market around Puget Sound,” proclaims a recent press release from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.  And as if to underscore that point, a recent listing in the Wedgewood neighborhood garnered a virtually unbelievable 33 offers, according to the manager of Windermere Real Estate’s Madison Park Office, Dave Hale, who also notes that a recent sale in another Seattle neighborhood was at a price 27% higher than what the seller had listed the house for.

While the Madison Park market is certainly not that frothy, multiple offers are becoming much more common here, and buyers in Madison Park are now paying “above list” on a select basis for homes in the neighborhood.  One of the reasons for this happy situation is the extremely low level of inventory: there were just 36 houses and condos on the market as of May 20.  This compared to 33 currently pended properties (those where offers have been accepted but the deal was yet to close).  It’s certainly unprecedented in recent memory for the number of pendings to be almost equal to the total homes available in the neighborhood.

“There are just a lot of qualified buyers chasing very few houses,” says Hale. And the quick turn, especially at the lower end of the market, is putting big pressure on inventory.  “There are just enough new sellers putting their houses on the market to keep things going,” he tells us, “but the sales side is so hot it’s tough to keep a balanced board (the ratio of new listings to new sales).”  In fact in the last 30 days, according to real estate website Redfin, there have been only 13 new listings in Madison Park.  During April, meanwhile, there were 16 home sales in the neighborhood, and monthly sales so far this year have averaged 11.  With 36 active listings, this rate of home sales equates to an “absorption rate” of just 3.3 months.

The implication of low supply and high demand in the market means upward pressure on prices.  The psychology of rising home values affects the decision making of buyers and sellers alike.  For some potential sellers who have been waiting in the wings, perhaps now is the time to list.  For prospective buyers, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge before interest rates start to rise and prices really begin escalating.  Spring and summer are the heavy selling periods, so in the next few months it will become more obvious whether the market is hotting up.

Here’s where things stand today:

May Listings


Listings:  31
Median List Price:  $2,775,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,490
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $618
Average Days on Market:  56
Percentage with Price Reductions:  23%
New Listings:  12
Pending Sales:  27


Listings:  7
Median List Price:  $1,000,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,650
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $641
Average Days on Market:  60
Percentage with Price Reductions:  29%
New Listings:  4
Pending Sales:  6

Just to put these statistics into perspective, note that at this point two years ago there were 80 homes on the market, more than twice as many as today.  Meanwhile, pendings stood at 13, less than half as many as today.   Average days on market for single family residences during the first quarter of 2011 was 136, almost three times as long as is the case for the current listings.  Something’s happening.

Veteran Madison Park real estate agent Val Ellis of Coldwell Banker Bain explains the situation this way: “What was once a buyer’s market is changing, especially on the lower end.”  She notes that in the multiple-offer world that some sellers now inhabit, a “correctly priced house” is going to sell quickly and the winning buyer may have had an advantage more powerful than a higher bid.  Ellis notes that “cash is king,” meaning that a lower offer where there is no financing involved may induce a seller to take that offer because it will be quicker than waiting for a higher bidder to close a loan.  Also, “pre-approved” buyers may have an advantage over bidders who haven’t lined up a financing source at the time of the bid, she says.

Both Hale and Ellis agree that the upper end of the market, those houses listed at well over $1 million, are less likely to have multiple offers than is true of “affordable houses” in Madison Park.  Of course the idea of affordability here may mean an $800,000 home.  Based on current listings, there are only seven houses or condos listed at $1 million or less.  At the same time there are 16 homes listed for $2 million or more.  But even in this upper tier, multiple bids are occurring.  Moreover, some houses that have languished on the market for many months are now finding buyers.

This is how the market shaped up in the first quarter:

First Quarter Sales 2013


Sales:  16
Median Sale Price:  $1,342,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,685
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $348
Average Days on Market:  178
Average Discount from List Price:  10.24%%


Sales:  12
Median Sale Price:  $375,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,076
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $406
Average Days on Market:  133
Average Discount from List Price: 5.4%

Here’s a quick take on what the numbers show:  1) the median sale price for houses in Madison Park ($1,342,000) is now more than three times the median sale price for houses in the Puget Sound region overall ($400,000), 2) there has been a significant decline in days on the market for sold properties (303 days at this point in 2011 versus 178 days now), 3) the median list price for Madison Park houses ($2,755,000) is more than double the median sale price for houses sold in the first quarter ($1,342,000), 4) the number of days on market for homes priced below $1 million was 49 days during the first quarter versus 237 days for homes priced at $1 million or more, and 5) the average discount from original list price for homes listed under $1 million was 1.2% during the first quarter versus 15.7% for homes listed at $1 million or more.  Yes, it’s a bifurcated market (it always is).

[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.]

[Top photo (courtesy of Redfin): 711 McGilvra, one of many Madison Park properties now listed as "pending."; middle photo (courtesy of Redfin): 1425 McGilvra, at $2,200,000, the most expensive house sale in Madison Park during the first quarter; lower photo (courtesy of Redfin): 1515 Parkside Drive E., at $4,600,000, the most expensive new home on the market.]

Monday, May 20, 2013


Project completion to be celebrated Wednesday

It was years in the making, but the final punch list has been completed and the new Stormwater Tank in Washington Park is now both functional and fully landscaped. The public is invited to join in a celebration of the completion of the Madison Valley Stormwater Project at 10 o'clock on Wednesday morning.  City of Seattle officials, including Councilmember Jean Godden, will be on hand for a ribbon-cutting event sponsored by Seattle Public Utilities.  Following that, attendees are invited to take a "self-guided" tour of the new facilities in Washington Park.  Those interested in the art of the project can find more detail here.

Seward Park Clay Studio Spring Sale set for June

Ceramic art will be on display and on sale June 7-9 at the studio, located at 5900 Lake Washington Boulevard S.  There will be an opening night reception, Friday, June 1, at 6:30 pm, with the sale continuing on Saturday (10 am until 8 pm) and Sunday (10 am until 6 pm).  Proceeds will benefit Seward Park Studio's non-profit arts programming. Madison Park artist, Art Pasette (whose piece is shown above) will be among the artists displaying their works.  More information on the clay studio is available here.

R.H. Thompson Expressway brouhaha remembered

On Thursday, May 23, activist Franklin Butler will be giving a talk on the 40-year-old-story of protest against a planned freeway that would have run through Montlake and the Arboretum if it had not been stopped by a truly grassroots uprising.  Those old enough to remember the controversy understand why those "Ramps to Nowhere" exist (one of them shown above) and why they are connected to nothing.  Those who don't know and those who care to revisit the past are invited to attend Butler's lecture, "Activism and Advocacy in the Arboretum," at 7 pm in the Graham Visitors Center in the Washington Park Arboretum.  To reserve a space, RSVP to Rhonda Bush (206-941-2550).  Space is limited.  Details are available here.

[Photo of the new Stormwater tank near the Washington Park playfield (29th Avenue E. and E. Madison Street, featuring the art of Adam Kuby, courtesy of SPU. Photo of ceramic art courtesy of the Seward Park Art Studio.  Photo of the Ramp to Nowhere by Rhonda Bush, courtesy of the Arboretum Foundation.]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A facelift for Triangle Park

McNae Family extends its gift

Things were looking pretty sparse for awhile at the Triangle Park, located directly in front of Bing's (4200 E. Madison St.).  A landscape crew had swooped in a couple of weeks ago and removed all of the plants, leaving not much more than dirt behind. Last week, however, a crew returned to put some new life into this neighborhood amenity. The park is now looking green and orderly, though perhaps a bit more formal than in its last incarnation.

While the park is on city property, its original installation was a gift to the neighborhood by the McNae family, which has a four-generation connection to Madison Park, having arrived here by way of Canada in the 1920s. In 1980, when it became necessary to take down a large old tree on the site, the second McNae generation, headed by Bert McNae, provided the funds for building the park. Bert's sons, Rod and Bruce McNae, who previously funded the installation of an irrigation system and new plantings ten years ago, have come through again with the money for this year's renewal project.

The reason for pulling out the old plantings has to do with a broken irrigation system and the fact that some plants were outgrowing the space available. With the installation of a new irrigation system and some hardier plants, those issues have hopefully been resolved. The new planting is an English garden design featuring boxwood, white roses and lavender.

Over the years, volunteers on occasion have kept Triangle Park watered, weeded, and pruned, while others have pressure-washed, repaired and replaced the benches which line the interior space.  Park Shore, in addition, contributes annually to the maintenance of Triangle Park, which for over thirty years has been a a bright and cheerful community meeting point.  Thanks to the generosity of the McNae family, it will remain so.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Unfortunate confluence

Tree limb meets up with car in a bad way

This was the scene on the 600 block of 36th Avenue E. this afternoon after a gusting wind passed through the neighborhood, causing a very large tree branch to topple onto a car that had been parked in a more exposed position than its driver probably realized. The car  behind the battered Honda appears to have come off unscathed.

Wind speeds in the Seattle area were reported to be as high as 40 mph today, so there were plenty of opportunities for area trees to shed some foliage. These photos were taken by blog reader David Chapman while on an afternoon stroll in Washington Park.

Friday, May 10, 2013

April Police Blotter

Madison Park: crime hotspot?

To look at the April crime map, which shows multiple reports of harassment (the red icons with the exclamation points) and a couple of arrests (those blue icons with the handcuffs), you might think that the neighborhood is suffering a significant escalation of criminal activity.  Fortunately, you'd be wrong.

While there was a fair number of unlikely and not-to-serious situations that resulted in police reports last month,  the house and car break-in activity we typically report on was almost non-existent during the period. Or, rather, it was almost non-existent from the standpoint of reports to the police. As we'll discuss below, some of this petty criminal activity clearly took place without the victims bothering to make a formal report.

First, however, let's start with those cases of harassment. One of these, according to Seattle Police's public information officer, is simply "too convoluted" to be worth going into.  Suffice it to say that it was labelled "harassment" in the report, but was apparently something else. That incident occurred on April 4 on the 1000 block of 32nd Avenue E. The second incident, which happened on April 9, involved a ten-year-old fourth-grade student at McGilvra Elementary School who called another student "names."  Although the school's principal had been notified of the incident, the victim's parents decided to report the case to the police as well. The final incident, reported on April 9, involved activity that had been taking place since September 2012.  A "specialty store" owner on the 4100 block of E. Madison St. reported that an employee was being bothered by a customer who continued to come into the store to talk to the employee but did not buy anything. The owner reported having called the customer to ask that he not return to the store and reported the situation to the police so that it was documented.

That's what we know about the harassments.  Nothing too terrorizing.

The arrest situation during April a bit unusual for the neighborhood, which sees very few cases where police actually haul someone away.  On April 11, at the request of the Attorney General of Michigan, an SPD unit arrested a man living on the 2300 block of McGilvra Boulevard E. on a felony-arrest warrant.  The man was wanted for non-payment of child support. He was taken into custody without incident.  On April 13, a police officer sitting in a parked car on the 2300 block of 43rd Avenue E. happened to spot a suspect he identified as wanted on a DUI warrant.  He took the suspect into custody without incident.

Unusually for this time of year, there was only one reported burglary.  That happened on the 1200 block of 39th Avenue E. on April 20.  The victim reported that a Sony flat screen TV and an Apple TV device had been stolen from his garage.  No force was used to enter the garage, and the victim admitted that the door may have been left unlocked.

While there were no car break-ins reported in April, anecdotal evidence indicates that there were many cases of car prowls, often involving cars left unlocked. Wallets, coats, electronic devices, and spare change were among the objects lifted. The thefts appeared to be the work of kids roaming the streets at night. No one bothered to report these crimes to the police, however.  This may be a mistake on the victims' part.  As we're reported many times, SPD patrolling patterns are determined in part by the number of criminal incidents reported in the various neighborhoods of each precinct. The failure to report crimes happening in Madison Park could have the consequence of lowering the overall policing of our community.  Something to think about next time you are victimized.

[The dollar-sign icons on the map above represent incidents of fraud, generally reports of identity theft or credit card fraud, and the icons showing a can of spray paint represent incidents of property damage, generally graffiti. Click on map to enlarge.]

Monday, May 6, 2013

Almost summer

With the air temperature reaching into the low eighties, Madison Park Beach this weekend looked very much as it does at the height of summer---minus the swimmers. The water temperature was most likely in the mid-50s, typical for this time of year, so there was a lot more wading, paddling, and kayaking going on than immersion. Water temperatures generally range from the mid-60s to as high as 75 degrees when summer heats up.

We're still six weeks away from the arrival of the lifeguards.  Madison Park Beach officially opens on June 23 (lifeguard hours: noon until 7 pm on weekdays and 11 am until 7 pm on weekends).

In the meantime, no one's complaining.

Washington Park's Peter Seligmann to speak

'We are all connected!'

The connection between "the health of Puget Sound, our planet, and people" will be the subject of a upcoming lecture by noted conservation activist, Peter Seligmann, founder and CEO of Conservation International. The Seattle Aquarium will be the location for this education evening, May 16, beginning with a reception at 6:30, followed by the program at 7:30 pm.

Seligmann, whose work with Conservation International spans the globe, is an advocate for creating an environmentally healthy world that provides economic opportunities and security for everyone. He believes that vision can become a reality if industry, government, religious leaders, the educational community, and local people, including indigenous communities, all work together. Conservation International initiatives include biodiversity, climate, health and food.

For a fuller description of Seligmann's approach to conversation, check out this Seattle Times article or this interview from the New York Times.  Information on how to get tickets for the Seattle Aquarium program is available at the website of the evening's sponsor, the Seattle Garden Club.  Washington Park residents Ted and Iris Wagner are the underwriters of this lecture.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bomb squad makes an appearance

May Day false alarm enlivens neighborhood

At about 7:15 this morning the call came in to the SPD that a suspicious object had been found near the intersection of 39th Avenue E. and E. Galer St., close to the Wells Fargo branch that has been the target of previous attacks. The police immediately mobilized their ABS (Arson/Bomb Squad) Unit, which rolled into Madison Park soon thereafter. This was the scene as a part of E. Madison Street was blocked off while the object in question, described as a green military amunition box, was checked out.

According to SPD's public information officer, Det. Renee Witt, it was soon determined that the amo box posed no threat (that's the box shown in the photo below). At that point ABS cleared the scene, the excitement ended, and traffic again flowed on Madison.  That's the story.

[Thanks to Madison Park resident/photographer Jim Waltz for the photos and for alerting us to this story.]