Housing

Pending sales around western Washington during August jumped nearly 21 percent from a year ago and inventory dropped more than 18 percent, according to new figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. 

Multiple Listing Service member-brokers said those indicators, along with signs of stabilizing prices, set the stage for brisk activity in the next few months as first-time buyers try to take advantage of the Nov. 30 deadline for tax credits.
 
“The typical August cool down in the market did not happen this year,” observed Northwest Multiple Listing Service director Kathy Estey, managing broker at John L. Scott’s office in downtown Bellevue.

She said agents are busy with both first-time and move-up buyers, and they’re reporting multiple offers on homes priced up to $700,000.
 
Brokers reported 7,539 pending sales (offers made and accepted but not yet closed) for August, up 20.7 percent from a year ago.  That volume out-gained July’s total by 260 transactions.
 
In the four-county Puget Sound region, pending sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) surged 25.7 percent from a year ago. 
 

09/04/2009

According to the National Association of Realtors, for the first time in five years, existing-home sales have increased for four months in a row.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million units in July from a level of 4.89 million in June. Sales are 5.0 percent above the 4.99 million-unit pace in July 2008.

The last time sales rose for four consecutive months was in June 2004, and the last time sales were higher than a year earlier was November 2005.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said he is encouraged.

“The housing market has decisively turned for the better," said Yun. "A combination of first-time buyers taking advantage of the housing stimulus tax credit and greatly improved affordability conditions are contributing to higher sales."

The monthly sales gain was the largest on record for the total existing-home sales series dating back to 1999.

09/01/2009

Existing-home sales in the second quarter showed healthy gains from the first quarter in the vast majority of states, and price declines have increased affordability in most metro areas, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million units in the second quarter from 4.58 million units in the first quarter, but remain 2.9 percent below the 4.90 million-unit pace in the second quarter of 2008.

Thirty-nine states experienced sales increases from the first quarter, and nine states were higher than a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, explained housing’s impact on the overall economy:

“Given the need for related goods and services, each home sale pumps an additional $63,000 into the economy – that’s how the housing engine traditionally pulls us out of recession. In addition, sales are drawing down inventory and that will help stabilize home values, which in turn will lessen foreclosure pressure and boost credit availability for other sectors of the economy.”

08/26/2009

Port of Seattle officials announced on Aug. 25 that the Nickelsville encampment must leave port property in West Seattle by Sept. 30, despite the homeless camp requests to stay.

According to a press release from the Port, a second notice of trespass will be posted at Terminal 107, 4700 West Marginal Way, this week. 

"While port commissioners considered requests for up to an additional 90 days, the Port has no authority to provide temporary housing, the shoreline park is an inappropriate location for the encampment, and the camp violates Seattle city code," according to the release. "Port officials reiterated their hope that encampment members and advocates will continue efforts to find an appropriate site for the group, and that they will leave port property voluntarily."

08/26/2009

When the Compass Center, a low-income housing provider, demolished the boarded-up house at 1753 N.W. 56th St. there was talk of a temporary open space at the site that would be open to the public.

Rick Friedhoff, the Compass Center's executive director, said grass would be planted on the property as part of the demolition of the existing structure, and Sustainable Ballard showed interest in planting a temporary community garden.

At the time, Neighborhood District Coordinator Rob Mattson encouraged Ballard residents to enjoy the neighborhood's newest open space.

That was in June. Now almost three months later, the property is mostly dirt and weeds. A solitary sunflower is the space's only inviting feature.

Friedhoff told the Ballard News-Tribune in June that an uncertain construction schedule would most likely preclude a community garden, but the space remains without planted grass.

Depending on available funding for the Compass Center's planned six-story, low-income development, construction could start in fall 2010 or sooner, Friedhoff said in June.

08/25/2009
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Photo credit: 
Michael Harthorne

A small sunflower stands sentry over the Compass Center property on Northwest 56th Street.

The Calvary Interim Housing Task Force released the minutes from its Aug. 6 meeting today.

According to the minutes, there remains no large problems with the SHARE homeless shelter located the old Calvary Lutheran building at 7002 23rd Ave. N.W.

According to neighbors, there have been problems with drug dealing in the neighborhood as well as the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association soup kitchen that operates in the Calvary building. Both of those issues are unrelated to SHARE.

Security patrols operated by the SHARE shelter residents agreed to watch for any drug dealing and report it to police.

These security patrols, operated nightly have been greeted by neighbors, according to one shelter resident.

The soup kitchen that the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood operates on Mondays has lead to patrons sleeping in the church yard and decreasing the feeling of safety in the neighborhood, according to neighbors.

Pastor Steve Grumm of Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church, operators of the Calvary Lutheran building, agreed to talk to the association about having more supervision and shorter hours for the soup kitchen.

08/24/2009
Quiet Homeless.JPG
Photo credit: 
File Photo

The August meeting of the Calvary Interim Housing Task Force found no major problems with the SHARE shelter located at the old Calvary Lutheran building.

Mayor Greg Nickels has announced the city of Seattle is awarding $4.3 million in federal and local funding to 10 agencies, for a total of 13 programs, to prevent more than 1,600 low-income households from becoming homeless over the next two years.

Another $1.1 million will help more than 100 homeless families move from shelters and the street into affordable housing, according to the mayor's office.

“Especially in these difficult economic times, it is important that we help provide stable housing for our most vulnerable individuals and families," said Nickels in a statement. "This funding will also help quickly move homeless families into permanent housing, supporting our efforts to end the cycle of homelessness."

The funding, much of it from the federal stimulus, will support a variety of programs providing short- and medium-term financial assistance to those who might otherwise become homeless. This includes short-term rental assistance (up to three months), medium-term rental assistance (up to 12 months), security deposits, utility deposits, utility payments, and help with moving costs.

08/22/2009

Based on a survey done by the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, the public's concerns about the impacts of backyard cottages don't seem to be playing out in southeast Seattle where they are currently allowed.

The Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee had its first discussion of legislation to allow backyard cottages citywide on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

The backyard cottages were described by Anrea Petzel from the Department of Planning and Development as an accessory “dwelling unit separate from the main home but on the same lot as that primary home.” They are often referred to as "mother-in-law" units.

This type of accessory dwelling unit (ADU) has been permitted in southeast Seattle since 2006. They differ from attached AUD’s, such as above a garage or in a basement, which are already permitted citywide.

Since ADU's are already permitted citywide, this is not an issue of re-zoning, explained Petzol. The reasoning behind the cottages is to provide affordable housing in singe-family neighborhoods and a place for extended family or caregivers to stay.

08/14/2009
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Photo credit: 
Seattle Department of Planning and Development

Backyard cottages, like this one in Columbia City, are allowed in southeast Seattle and could be permitted in the rest of the city as early as this fall.

Who would have ever guessed that just one little four letter word could have such a powerful impact on your future? FICO.

Perhaps one of the most powerful words in the world, your entire financial future is dictated by what your FICO score is, otherwise known as your credit score. You see the advertisements in newspapers, on TV and on the Internet.

You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail, and maybe even calls offering credit repair services. They all make the same claims:
“Credit problems? No problem!”

“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!”

“We can erase your bad credit — 100 percent guaranteed.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these claims: they’re very likely signs of a scam.

08/13/2009

Metropolitan King County Council Chair Dow Constantine joined Shaun Donovan, secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on a walking tour of Greenbridge on the afternoon of Aug. 10.

Greenbridge is a White Center mixed-income community built on the site of the former Park Lake Homes public housing complex and funded in part through a federal Hope VI redevelopment grant.

“I am pleased that Secretary Donovan got a first-hand opportunity to see the community redevelopment work that HUD funding has helped accomplish in White Center,” said Constantine. “We hope this can become a model for similar Hope VI projects.

Former King County Executive Ron Sims, who is now deputy secretary of HUD, was a key leader in