The challenges presented by COVID-19 have been felt locally by every home buyer, seller and real estate broker. Residential real estate, which was moving at breakneck speed through February, came to a screeching halt for two weeks in March after the initial Stay Home order was implemented.
As soon as Governor Inslee declared real estate an essential business, the engines started to rev again. Despite job losses and a nosedive in general consumer confidence and spending, home buyers started to jump back into the market. Theories abound about why this could happen in the middle of a pandemic:
- With some exceptions, our local tech sector has generally performed well during COVID-19 and its employees may feel reasonably insulated from the worst of the economic fallout. For some, their stock options may have actually increased in value during the worst of the coronavirus.
- Many buyers were already feeling the squeeze of low housing inventory and the defeat of losing out in multiple-offer situations. Some likely saw the lower competition during the shutdown as an opportunity to finally gain a foothold.
- Mortgage rates in the early stages of the shutdown dropped to historic lows, with some 30-year fixed loans carrying percentage rates in the low threes.
- Renters and homeowners with sustained income security found themselves suddenly doing everything from home – working, schooling, exercising – which may have motivated them to pursue a change in space, moving from dreamers to active buyers.
- Lots of real estate “window shoppers” suddenly had a lot more time on their hands and spent hours perusing eye-candy listings online and watching more HGTV than ever, accelerating their property lust and their entry into the buyer pool.
Some of these theories have metrics behind them and some remain just theories. Regardless of the motivation, buyers are back “out” in force, touring prospective homes online, via livestream video with a broker or pre-produced 3D tours and videos. Brokers are showing them homes in person too – while following many safety precautions. Because of this strong buyer interest, prospective sellers are hearing from their brokers that now may be a good time to list.
For weeks now, we have seen multiple offers on homes in popular neighborhoods. Brokers, for whom business was put on hold at the end of March, are as busy as at any other point this year. Though the new normal is still not completely normal, the market in many neighborhoods and price points seems to be skipping along as if it were.
To learn how various sectors of our local real estate market are performing during COVID-19, we asked Windermere experts from Seattle and the Eastside what they are seeing.
Real Estate Across Seattle
Laura Smith, co-owner and principal broker of Windermere Real Estate Co., which operates multiple real estate offices in Seattle, has been busy helping brokers ramp up quickly and navigate a hefty transaction load along with new protocols for listing and showing homes. “It’s been a total whirlwind,” she said. “The market went from zero to sixty in a heartbeat.”
Smith explained that out of nine MLS areas in the city of Seattle, seven had less housing stock (measured as months of inventory) than what was available in May 2019, and the other two areas had the same inventory levels as last year. She noted that Seattle’s pending home sales during Week 3 of May already had reached 95% of the transaction count from the same week in 2019.
“Right now buyers want in,” Smith said, “and inventory numbers favor sellers.” Prices, as a result, have “stayed strong,” according to Smith, even in the midst of a health-related shutdown.
Bouncing Back on the Eastside
According to Matt Deasy, President of Windermere Real Estate / East, Inc., the volume of business has bounced back quicker than expected and brokers are busy helping buyers and sellers while following new practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“After reentering the market, buyers are finding the competition as fierce as it was before COVID-19,” Deasy said. His analysis shows that while Eastside pending sales are still down from a year ago, by Week 2 of May they were at 73% of last year’s figure from the same week. “Each week we are seeing the market steadily catch up to last year,” Deasy observed, “and I think it will soon head north of 2019 weekly transaction yields.”
Deasy pointed out that low Eastside housing supply is a challenge for buyers rushing back in to the market. “There is so little for sale” he said, noting that of the Eastside’s eight MLS areas, all but one had extremely low levels of inventory. “In fact,” Deasy continued, “three Eastside areas have a month or less supply of homes.” As a result, he predicts that “prices in popular neighborhoods will continue to climb” for the foreseeable future.
The Luxury Market
Patrick Chinn, owner of Windermere Real Estate Midtown, regularly works with luxury brokers and their clients. He observed that the luxury market was proceeding at a seasonally appropriate pace prior to the shutdown but has appeared a little slower to come back online as restrictions on real estate lifted. “Luxury sellers are typically not in a rush,” Chinn noted, “and the safety considerations of listing a home during COVID-19 may have delayed” their entry into the market.
Due to their high net worth, luxury buyers on the other hand may have been “less adversely impacted by the very real economic impacts of the shutdown,” Chinn said. But he also observed that fluctuations in the stock market usually make for “a restless luxury market, despite greater potential access to capital.” Chinn expects the pace of new high-end transactions and inventory to remain below what it was pre-shutdown, at least until there’s a clearer economic picture in sight.
Chinn did note that if a singular property is listed during an economic downturn such as the one we now find ourselves in, there can still be great urgency by luxury buyers to purchase. He gave as an example a Medina property listed during the topsy-turvy days just before the shutdown that quickly went under contract at its asking price of $11.75 million. “Iconic homes on iconic streets will still generate lots of enthusiasm, even during a downturn,” Chinn said.
He reported that one of his brokers went full speed ahead to list a one-of-a-kind beachfront property in Magnolia. Even during the lingering impacts of COVID-19, “there’s no time like the present for listing incredible homes,” Chinn explained.
Continuing New Construction
Joe Deasy, co-owner of Windermere Real Estate / East Inc., says that the early phase of the shutdown created significant waves for residential builders. Initially both the building and listing/showing of all residential new construction projects were stopped due to the Stay Home order.
As builders start building again and brokers start showing finished units, “the early pace will naturally be a bit slower,” Deasy said. He explained this as a result of builders needing to rehire furloughed workers and buyers’ agents implementing safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“I expect things to accelerate pretty quickly as we move forward,” Deasy predicted. His reason? “There’s so little inventory out there, both new construction and resale,” he explained. “The product that is available looks pretty attractive right now, since it’s brand new and no one’s ever lived in it.”
Deasy remains positive about the region’s new construction market. He pointed out that leading into the Stay Home closure, Windermere’s King County new construction business was through the proverbial roof. “Even factoring in the shutdown, our year-to-date unit sales are up 41% over last year,” he noted, “and our sales volume is already at $700 million.”
Looking ahead, Deasy predicts that demand for new construction homes will remain strong and that supply will have the biggest impact on the sector’s overall market performance. “Low inventory may influence 2020 sales more than the shutdown,” he explained, “which, all things considered, was relatively brief.”
This post originally appeared on GettheWReport.com
Facebook is continuing to add on to its presence in Bellevue, signing a deal to lease yet another building in the city’s 36-acre Spring District development.
The lease will span 325,000 square feet of office space in Block 6 of the Spring District complex, adding on to a 338,000 square-foot lease in Block 16, and 200,000 square feet in Block 24.
Block 16 will finish construction and open up in 2020, while Block 24 is scheduled for 2021. By 2023, Facebook will be completely moved into its Spring District buildings.
Business Insider estimates that in total, the tech giant will have room for 20,000 employees between Bellevue and Seattle. This makes the Seattle area Facebook’s second largest headquarters outside of its home base in Menlo Park, California.
According to Geekwire, Facebook has a combined 2.7 million square feet of office space in the Seattle area either planned, being constructed, or already occupied. That includes a pair of newly-constructed buildings in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood that opened in May and September respectively.
Facebook employs the third most tech employees of any company in the Seattle area, trailing only Amazon and Microsoft.
With light rail on the way to the Spring District as well, this all represents an infusion of commerce and transit for the Eastside, as it continues developing into major tech hub in the Puget Sound region.
Meanwhile, Amazon still plans to construct Bellevue’s largest office tower yet. The 43-story building will be dubbed “Bellevue 600,” located on the east half of the Bellevue Corporate Plaza. Amazon purchased the property in April for $650 million. Amazon has roughly seven spaces in Bellevue it either plans to move into or is already occupying.
Of all the impacts posed by thousands of new Amazon employees migrating to the Eastside, Bellevue officials perhaps weren’t expecting this — this could get ruff.
The Puget Sound Business Journal went through a series of emails among Bellevue city employees, and found that officials are now preparing for thousands of dogs that will likely come with their Amazon employee families. The company’s Seattle headquarters allows many employees to bring their dogs to work, numbering up around 6,000 to 7,000 pets.
Amazon has made other accommodations for its four-legged coworkers. The front desk has a steady supply of dog treats. There is a doggy deck on the 17th floor of one of its buildings — it includes a fake fire hydrant. The company also keeps plenty of poop bags on hand, water fountains, and relief areas. Amazon has even opened an off-leash park in the Denny Triangle.
Amazon even knows the most common doggy names at its HQ — Lucy, Bella, and Charlie.
This all means city planners in Bellevue are now looking to the area around the 1 million square feet of office space that Amazon will eventually occupy. Where are all of these dogs going to … go?
Amazon’s South Lake Union headquarters has a few parks and dog areas surrounding it. They are equipped with bushes and trash cans. One email from a Bellevue official expresses concern about the urban landscape around SLU, and how that issue may migrate to the Eastside.
“So … with Amazon coming, it is not just the residential buildings that need pet relief areas built into their developments,” they write. “Office buildings are becoming just as susceptible to impacts from dogs — if not more.”
About 45,000 employees are expected to move into the Bellevue office by 2022; more if the company expands even further in the city.
A decrease in inventory coupled with an increase in sales activity led to fewer options for home shoppers in August. There is some good news for would-be buyers as mortgage rates have dropped to their lowest level in three years. Demand remains high but there simply aren’t enough homes on the market. Brokers are hoping to see the traditional seasonal influx of new inventory as we move forward.
The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was $935,000 in August, unchanged from a year ago and up slightly from $925,000 in July. New commercial and residential construction projects are in the works. Strong demand for downtown condos has prompted plans for yet another high-rise tower to break ground next year.
Home prices in King County were flat in August. The median price of a single-family home was $670,000, virtually unchanged from a year ago, and down just one percent from July. Southeast King County, which has some of the most reasonable housing values in the area, saw prices increase 9% over last year. Inventory remains very low. Year-over-year statistics show the volume of new listings dropped 18.5% in King County.
Homes sales were up 12% in Seattle for August, putting additional pressure on already slim inventory. There is just over six weeks of available supply. There are signs that prices here are stabilizing as the median home price of $760,000 was unchanged from a year ago and up less than one percent from July. With its booming economy, demand here is expected to stay strong.
Buyers looking for more affordable options outside of King County pushed pending sales, mutually accepted offers, up nearly 16% over a year ago. Home prices have softened slightly. The median price of a single-family home in August was $490,000, down slightly from the median of $492,225 the same time last year.
This post originally appeared on GetTheWReport.com
Almost exactly one year ago, Bosa Development paid $11 million for the Sushi Maru site in downtown Bellevue, at 205 105th Ave. N.E. Prior plans filed with the city indicated another condominium tower for the site, which is immediately north of Bosa’s One88, which is mostly sold out and nearing completion (occupancy is expected next year).
The second condo tower has now entered design review with the city. It’ll have 21 stories, 77 units and 137 underground parking stalls on two levels. As with One88, Amanat Architect of Vancouver, B.C., is designing the project.
A public presentation of the unnamed tower will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22 at City Hall, 450 110th Ave. N.E. The public comment period ends that same day. The city says that a SEPA determination of non-significance is expected.
The city lists the project at 138,450 square feet, which probably excludes the parking.
Bosa mentions “two active commercial uses” at grade, likely indicting some small retail/commercial bays. The site is on the northwest corner of 105th and Northeast Second Street. It totals 17,945 square feet.
Bosa hopes to start construction next year, and it typically acts as its own general contractor.
Both the new tower and the 21-story, 143-unit One88 will be walkable to Downtown Bellevue Station, where light-service will begin in 2023. Both are also close to Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square. Bosa also has a third site lined up—presumably also for condos—on the Park Row retail complex on the west side of Bellevue Way Northeast, which the developer purchased this February for $36 million.
Bosa’s biggest local project remains the 58-story 3rd & Cherry condominium tower on the vacant downtown Seattle block at 601 Fourth Ave. No permits have been issued there, but the project received a favorable recommendation following it fourth design review in June.