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Magnolia real estate tidbits

April 8th, 2014 · 41 Comments

By reporter Steven Smalley
Lots of real estate chatter around the water cooler…actually Starbucks (remember when they had a water fountain?). Here are a few odds & ends for your casual consumption.
The most thought-provoking phenomenon revolves around the amount of housing inventory on the market – a desirable market it seems for newly-minted Amazon employees dreaming of a life away from South Lake Union.

At last check there were 34 homes for sale in Magnolia, not including condos. A typical average number of houses on the market is closer to 70-80 units, according to real estate sources. Of those 34 homes, 20 are listed at over $1 million. That leaves 14 homes in Magnolia available for under a mil. Supply & demand anybody?
On another front…we hear there’s a tear-down for nearly $750,000…homes in great shape just across the street sold for $800,000. Yeowza. Get ‘em while they’re hot….
Here’s the scoop on the construction encompassing two lots just behind the United Church of Christ. This reporter spoke with the owner who tells us, “I want to build as big a home as I can.” Looks like he’s about to get it. It’s a one-level, Spanish/Mediterranean-style home of 4,100 sq. ft. with a 4-car garage off the alley in the back.
Currently a Magnolia resident living in a three-story home on the north end, the owner wants a place that doesn’t require walking up and down so many floors. Look for the huge piles of dirt covered with black plastic near Bank of America. That’s the place. The home’s foundation is already poured.

Tags: Uncategorized

  • leonardk.

    Two things come to mind with your article. The first is that the new kind of Amazon or IT buyer doesn’t really want a yard (working too many hours to use it)… but does want to entertain. A few blocks down the street from me a run down unoccupied house was bought for $400,000 and torn down and a million dollar home put up with almost nothing but blank grass. So I expect to see more homes like the ones up in Briarcliff..alot of glitz, no privacy or landscaping. Your Magnolia buyer moved sideways and eliminated steps, so he paid for that convenience.

    But the other thing is that from the seller’s point of view, the “hot market” doesn’t mean that much if they took a very big hit in the recession. My home’s value went down by $300,000 during the recession and I have no idea what it would sell for today, but my property taxes are still low even after I remoded adding an additional story. I live in a prime part of Magnolia, so this is good news for me, but not if I wanted to sell. Anyone who bought around the recession…it would take more than a “hot market” to break even or make money. The houses I see selling are lower end houses that make perfect tear downs and probably are owned or rented out by absentee owners…so its practically all profit. I know real estate agents want houses to fly off the shelf, but in real dollars for owners, it will take years, at least for me, to even consider selling my home, since I’d wait until it was worth much more than it was before the recession. My friends on the bluff are only now seeing their house’s worth get back to 2007 levels. Luckily I have no desire to sell. Do any of you agree, or are you seeing huge amounts offered that make selling irresistible?

    • kaonevar

      I bought my condo in Magnolia for $300K last year. The unit next to mine, without most of the upgrades we have, just sold in 2 days for $330K, after having multiple bids. It is very much a sellers market right now.

      • roger on 38th

        Yes, for condos that is true. But for the people in Magnolia who own larger homes, not necessarily up on the bluff, prices have not yet recovered to where they were before the bust. Houses on the bluff? Perkins? I remember seeing things offered for 6 million. Nothing, not on Galer, not on the bluff, not on Perkins fetches anything like that. I don’t even see the 8 million dollar Jamie Moyer house offered anymore on Redfin…The houses that go for 2 million used to be offered for 5. Its the more modest homes that are selling, and the sellers are people who have owned them since way before the recession.

        • kaonevar

          There was a house 2 blocks down from us that was up for 2 days and sold in 2 days for more than asking.
          Maybe it is the “moderate” homes only. I know when we moved here, many homes in the neighborhood were listing in the 400-500K range. Now they are all in the 700K+ range. That’s a huge hike for 1 year.

          • leonardk.

            That is the kind of info I was looking for. Thanks. But those houses might have been 700K before the recession….

  • Priscilla

    Amazon is taking over the Selig Buildings that sat empty on Elliott so it”s creeping ever closer to home. Will they support the community activities and support their local bookstore, the jury is out.

    • caroljamieson

      Who cares? If they do what they want, who cares whether their employees shop Magnolia? I mean seriously, don’t you think half of Magnolia shops online for books (Amazon)? Aren’t we being a bit alarmist here…what do you think Magnolia is anyway, some little haven safe from IT? What community activities? Baseball? Magnolia is a nice quiet little neighborhood with low crime (I know, half of you are afraid of the magazine pushers). Magnolia actually has no identity…because most of the people who live here prize their anonymity…I certainly don’t support the local bookstore, since the one time I went there they were snooty and I see no point in paying double for a book. And there is no decent place to eat Asian, so I don’t eat in my neighborhood either. I prize the quietness and I am glad more IT people are coming. Maybe there will be decent sushi.

      • 20 yrs. now

        I think Priscilla was talking about the people who will buy homes and live here and work there — Amazon. Who doesn’t want their neighbors to support their community? And, your neighborhood won’t support your every want/need so it’s good to leave the “island” for diversity. But,our bookstore rocks! Our neighborhood/community is much better than when we moved in 20 years ago! And it’s mostly because of the families — who like to take care of their yards and support the schools with their time (and money).

        • caroljamieson

          I agree with you. I think Magnolia will improve with a more diverse base. The software workers who have bought starter homes on my street seem eager to be part of our “village”. But like me, they don’t find too much in the Village to interest us, other than the peace and quiet and proximity to work. I am looking forward to seeing how we grow/change with the new blood. I yearn for a decent baguette that is walking distance without having to drive to Whole Foods or Ballard Town and Country. Anyway, sounds like you love Magnolia too…with our diverse opinions we will have a great neighborhood in another 20 years too.

          • 3yrsin

            A decent baguette would be awesome. Could somebody talk Bakery Nouveau into moving into the village? On a more serious note, it’s true that the village is missing the great restaurants of Ballard or Capitol Hill but I’m fine with that. Would you want Magnolia turning into either one of those scenes at night? No thanks. It’d be great to get one or two more good restaurants into the village but it’s not a big deal. Based on how busy the current restaurants are, I can imagine it scares any restauranteur away. I’m not sure if the nobody goes because the restaurants aren’t that good or the other way around.

          • 8 year resident

            Yes, you are right. It is quiet here at night and we like it that way. However, with all the new IT people coming in, it would be so great to have decent food available in the Village. Fresh Chinese, better quality Thai. Can you imagine if the old Mieko’s became a food coop (think farmer’s market under cover, a mini Pike Place Market) where we could buy really good bread or veggies (who on earth shops at Albertson’s except for something last minute they are out of) or lavender honey, or flowers, or any of the things we shop for at the summer farmer’s market.. I would walk there every day. I buy virtually nothing in Magnolia since it is Wonder Bread stuff that is available here. No good brunch place, no good bakery or deli. Once the apartment or condos go in on 32nd I hope that someone…PLEASE…will take our little village a bit closer to being interesting for shopping. I have lived in Magnolia for 8 years and get my hair cut in the village, do my banking, use the vet and post office and dry cleaners here..but it is a graveyard here on Sundays, when many of us are home and would like to go out. I spend all my dining dollars elsewhere. The blue laws don’t pertain any more in the 21st century. I personally am delighted I live in Magnolia and look forward to seeing it lifted from its stupor and provide services for people who will otherwise just drive over to Ballard or Belltown.

          • 3yrsin

            What’s wrong with the Met Market? Yes, it’s small but it has a great selection of gourmet goods (though I admit, no good baguette). Is it just too far away? I live on the south side but I can include it on my jog without too much trouble.

          • theresa

            It is overpriced. I have a thing about getting value for what I buy, and buying there is paying double for what you can get at Fred Meyer. I admit Fred Meyers doesn’t have a gourmet selection, but they have Boar’s Head (quality) meats at their deli and Essential baguettes and everything costs less than at Metro market. I pay for gourmet foods at the right price, and Met Market is never the right price.

          • 3yrsin

            I disagree that it is overpriced. When you factor in the quality of the goods, the ease of the location and configuration I think it is a great value. I can run in and out of Met in 5 minutes – total trip is 15 minutes back and forth and come back with grass fed beef, a nice selection of cheese and veggies and a good loaf of bread (which I’m certain is the same price as FM). Fred Meyer would easily triple the amount of time and Magnolia isn’t large enough to support a Fred Meyer.

    • anonymous322

      Why would Amazon employees be different than anyone else? If the number of blue badges I see on the bus every morning is any indication, half of Magnolia already works at Amazon.

  • RealTord

    Bubble 2…crash to follow. Buy now and it is like buying in 2006 “at the top”.

  • Yes is more

    serious

    gentrification going on in seattle

  • MagNag

    Seriously? 4,100 s.f.? That’s appalling. And so few homes under a million dollars, or even under half a million? Ugh. Housing affordability is a huge issue that may not appear to effect our city right now, but makes it highly unlikely that Seattle will be a sustainable city down the road. As someone who was hoping to still live in Seattle in 20 years time, I’m disgusted.

    • MagNag

      (Not to say it *doesn’t* effect Seattle already – what with skyrocketing rents – but, come on! Either pay people more equitably, be modest in your housing, or try not to use property as a way to build wealth… better yet, all three!)

      • jerry

        Modest? Are you the judge of what is modest? Build your own wealth and let others be. Skyrocketing rents happen when there aren’t enough units to meet the demand. When there are too many, the rents go down. But back to modest…do you want to measure my square footage and pronounce my house as appropriate for your standards?

    • jerry

      Actually, since so many 21st century businesses (biotech, software) are coming here, its only natural that housing prices should go up. I think the city should reserve some areas for affordable housing, but if you live in Seattle now, then except for your property taxes going up, the increased cost of housing won’t affect you inordinately. If you are saving for a house, and you buy relatively soon, then in 20 years you may well have made a good investment. No one knows…another poster was right…it could just be a bubble. The family who is a building a 4100 s.ft house is building what they want, not building it as a spec house, so what is the problem?

    • Brat

      Appalling? I would *love* to have a 4100 sq ft home again, but prices here are on the order of 4 times what they are in other parts of the country. What does 4100 sq feet get you? Bedrooms, if you have a bunch of kids. A home office. A studio. STORAGE SPACE.

      But I’m right there with you on affordability. That’s the gross part. $750k for a 2000 sq foot house with sloping floors, a 1970s kitchen, and no yard? Are you crazy?

      • guest

        I have a friend who just bought a 4 bedroom in Mill Creek for $425,000 and it is 3800 sq feet. That is just 30 minutes north, so its not like you cannot find affordability in the Seattle area…but you cannot have it 10 minutes from downtown with no freeway traffic. The demand for a house that is so close to work that you can do it on a bike is what makes a 2000 sq foot house $750,000. Its obvious. You don’t have to go to other parts of the country. Live out in Maltby or Granite falls and $425,000 will buy you 5 acres of land and your 4100 sq foot house and you just have to drive in traffic an hour to get to your Seattle job. Just pick your priority.

    • KDrexel

      MagNag says “Housing affordability is a huge issue that may not appear to effect our city right now, but makes it highly unlikely that Seattle will be a sustainable city down the road”. This seems to be a huge issue only to those who cannot afford to live near the city. And why would this affect the sustainability of Seattle? Are you saying that people who can hardly afford a home somehow can then contribute to sustain Seattle? I say “hogwash”. It is the wealthy that are supporting Seattle and those individuals that cannot afford to live there without the help of the wealthy’s tax dollars and private contibutions.

      • jeffk.

        I strongly agree. People who are contributing to making the Seattle area diversify,where Boeing’s actions no longer are life and death to our economy… those are the people in bioengineering or software or other areas who are commanding higher salaries… and they are using those salaries to buy homes close to where they work. I work in one of these companies and I can tell you that a large percentage of employees come from out of the country because there are not enough skilled IT people here… because the U.S. quality of education is low, at least here in Seattle. That is why you want to make sure your kids get an education of a high enough quality to get a job in a field that pays enough to be home from work in 10 minutes… in Magnolia.

      • Benjamin Lukoff

        Where would the wealthy be without all the service employees?

        • KDrexel

          Even wealthier, if they didn’t have to pay $15 per hour minimum wage for burger and fries service!

          • Benjamin Lukoff

            Er, right. And they’d be making their own food, I suppose.

        • j.bremers

          The service employees may well have degrees in English. We all make choices. It isn’t worth it to some people to become business majors, or work in the tech industry…but real estate has always been just what it name implies….something tangible and real….property, and to buy property in Seattle you have to have enough income. For a dance or artist or anthropologist, living in Renton or Everett doesn’t sound so terrible. But you cannot have it all.

          • Benjamin Lukoff

            I have two degrees in English, a BA and an MA, and I’m doing just fine.

            Some people make choices that result in them only being able to get low-skill jobs; others are in that situation for other reasons. You don’t imagine that everyone making minimum wage wants to be in that situation, do you?

            At any rate, no, not everyone is entitled to live in the most convenient place possible. But I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we push our service employees out of the city.

          • jbremers

            I don’t disagree. And no matter what the degree, I expect everyone should find a way to be happy with their choice. The choices that lead to low-skill jobs are generally because the individuals don’t have the education or the skills for the job, or the economy has shut them out (M.As, for example, who cannot find work as a barista because they are overqualified). The city would have to make a conscious effort to have subsidized housing to make a plan work…or rent control. Can you imagine someone saying they wanted to live in Manhattan because they provide needed services? They live in Brooklyn or Queens. Same thing. Its good to see Seattle grow, and I share your unhappiness with the plight of the service employees, but they can rent in Ballard and enjoy proximity…just not property ownership.

          • Benjamin Lukoff

            Perhaps we’ve been talking at cross-purposes, then… I don’t think everyone should be able to live wherever they want… but the thing is they increasingly CAN’T live in Ballard. Have you looked at rents lately?

          • jbremers

            Not cross purposes. Everett and Kent or Renton and they can afford the rents. I hiked yesterday with a teacher who lives in West Seattle and could afford to buy a carriage house type of home. She lives in the Seattle area and earns under $30,000 a year. If there were no affordable rents or places to buy within 1 hour of Seattle, then I’d agree with you. Then a working train system would really be called for.

          • Benjamin Lukoff

            Everett or Kent or Renton, sure. No argument there about affordability. West Seattle… I wonder if she’s in Delridge. There’s crime to think of, too.

            At any rate, do you really want those people driving in from Everett or Kent or Renton? Aren’t those far enough away as it is to make a useful transit system worth it? Isn’t a working transit system called for no matter what? I wish it didn’t take twice as long for me to bus to work as it does to drive… it’s for that very reason that I do drive, which puts wear on the roads and emissions into the atmosphere, etc.

            Either way, I miss the old Seattle, where you didn’t have to go beyond the city limits to find something decent. But I guess those days aren’t coming back.

          • jbremers

            They are never coming back, because the industries of the 21st century are the industries Seattle is embracing. My friend got a great neighborhood…a short sale. The bubble may indeed happen again, but as long as Seattle attracts 21st century work, then service people will need to bus in from the suburbs. Seinfeld from years ago made jokes about having a 212 area code and all it implied. It will be the same for those who live close in to Seattle. I hope we become that developed. The alternative is the disgusting state of affairs with Boeing, who is cutting their engineer force by something like 30%. Be glad you don’t have a gorilla like Boeing in your life… my Magnolia neighbors do. I don’t know if you rent or own, but $425,000 will buy you a great home if you buy in Lynnwood or West Seattle… and if you explore the sad circumstances of short sales.

          • Benjamin Lukoff

            I hope we *don’t* turn into Manhattan or San Francisco. I can tell we’re not going to agree on this, but I’ll just say I think diversity — both of culture and of income — is a good thing. And, remember that racial diversity is related to income diversity. I don’t particularly want to live in a place that is even whiter and richer than it is now. I honestly think we are all better off if we have all sorts of people in the city. I don’t want a monoculture here.

            I do own, but it’s a long story why that’s possible. Suffice it to say that on just my salary and that of my wife’s — and, like I said, I do fine — we’d have a hard time raising a family in this town. THAT can’t be good, either.

            Speaking of which, it’s not justy service employees that have a hard time affording Seattle. It’s teachers. Firefghters. Policemen. Should they not be able to live in the city they serve, either?

            One last thought: displacement breeds resentment.

          • jbremers

            You are right, and I’d like to see that diversity too. So look to models that have worked in other areas of the country. Take any developed city, be it Manhattan, San Francisco, you name it….and you’ll see vibrant neighborhoods develop that are not in downtown Manhattan…So think Columbia City and its downtown renovation. The key, in my opinion, is not to force a city to have low income housing close in (though many cities have successfully accomplished this, if it is the citizen’s will to do so), but for the satellite neighborhoods to get a sense of self and develop into interesting places unto themselves…like Edmonds. What cities would you use as a model? Seattle doesn’t have a great record of voting for subsidized anything, but maybe that mindset will grow too. Your opinion? I am as liberal as you are…but I am so hungry for Seattle not to look longingly at its backwater status from 20 years ago and look ahead to what it could be.

          • Benjamin Lukoff

            I honestly don’t know what the solution is, and of course I don’t want things to go backward. I do want a city where my children will be able to live. I can’t afford to live in the neighborhood I grew up in, and I’m OK with that… my children may not be able to afford to live in Magnolia, and I’m OK with that. I’d like us to always be able to live in the city, though. Perhaps I’ll have to expand my definition of the city beyond the city limits. That would be easier to do with better transportation options, of course! We’ll see how today’s vote goes…

            The thing about New York is that, if you believe these stats, even if you go out to Queens you still have the fifth-highest cost of living in the country. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/cities-high-cost-of-living_n_1236841.html#s644529&title=5_New_York

            People aren’t being entirely priced out of METRO areas yet (that would be a disaster for the wealthy), but they’re having to go farther and farther out. And political borders matter, because of school funding, among other things. If you can’t afford New York and you move to New Jersey, or can’t afford D.C. and you move to Maryland, all of a sudden the NJ and MD schools have more costs without a comparable increase in tax revenue.

            It’s probably not as bad as some people think, and it’s definitely nowhere near as good as others think.

            I’m looking at Columbia City on Zillow right now. The cheapest actual house is $350,000, 1,120 square feet, about as far west (i.e., toward MLK Jr. Way) as you can get in the neighborhood, 110 years old. I’ll bet it needs a lot of work.

            If you put 20% down (which is $70,000… good luck saving that) and have a great credit score, your mortgage, taxes, and insurance are ~$1,660 a month. Adjust Zillow’s calculator for a more realistic credit score and lower down payment and it’s about $2,000.

            Meanwhile, the lowest *rent* I see for two beds is $1,375.

            I have a friend who was born and raised here. He’s now moving to Bellingham because he can get so much more for his money in terms of housing there. We’ve lost another good one.

            Still, though, it’s true… there are affordable places to live in Seattle… just not as many as people need.

            Like I said, I don’t have an easy solution. I wish there were more people like you willing to talk about it… and I wish there were more people in positions of power who were willing to actually DO something about it.

  • HappyRealEstateOwner

    Supply and demand people! Welcome to the free market? Location, Location, Location!

  • HappyRealEstateOwner

    I would love to live in Medina, but I cannot afford to live there. I don’t complain about the price of homes there. Why do some people feel that the ‘deserve’ affordable housing? If you want to live in a particular area or neighborhood, then save your money! Nobody is ‘entitled’ to live where ever they want to live! Home Buyer’s (not Real Estate Agents) set the price of the home. As long as someone is willing to pay the price, the cost of homes close to the city will keep going up!

    • Benjamin Lukoff

      Most people are not complaining that they can’t live in Magnolia (or Medina). They are complaining that they’re either being pushed out of the city entirely, or are only able to afford housing in the most polluted areas of town. Do we really want a city where all our service workers have to spend a good portion of their day commuting? Than means more cars, worse traffic, more pollution. Some can take the bus, of course, but we’ll see what happens after the April 22 vote.