Archive for the ‘Local & Regional News’ Category

Bothell Real Estate Recap – July 2007

Here’s a recap of what happened in the Bothell, Washington real estate market in July 2007. The area this information pertains to is shown on the map to the below (provided courtesy of the NWMLS). Though slightly cut-off, this area’s southwestern border is Hwy 522 (east to west) and 68th Ave NE in Kenmore (north to south). Click on the map to enlarge.

Bothell, Washington Real Estate Market Area, according to the NWMLS

Summary:

Single-family resale homes  Slightly fewer houses sold for negligibly less money in July, but took about three weeks longer to sell than those in June. Though there are slightly more buyers buying this year, there are many more sellers selling. The results are longer market times/cooling prices for sellers and greater selection/ability to negotiate for buyers.

If you’re planning to sell your home, it’s crucial to allow no less than 90 days. The average market time our area was 83 days last month, but (to echo what I said on last month’s recap) in order to sell within this timeframe your home has to be priced very competitively (i.e. 5-10% less than any brand new homes in your neighborhood, and lower than 80% or more of the homes that are direct competition to yours). With a few exceptions, no experienced agent will agree to market your home for less than 90 days given current market conditions (doing so would be a disservice to you). And while selling your home without professional representation (“For Sale By Owner”) has always been possible, it is much less likely at this time given the swell in housing inventory. Understand that buyers are still buying (the sky is by no means falling) – the Seattle market is just returning to a level of “normality” that we haven’t seen in several years.

The buyer’s market continues for this market segment.

Resale condos – Sales were down slightly vs. June but up significantly vs. last year. Condos sold about 2.5 weeks quicker last month than in June, and prices increased between 10-13%. Even more than last month it’s a good time to sell your condo and upgrade to a detached home, or roll it into another investment property via a 1031 tax-deferred exchange. Like I’ve mentioned before, the current buyer’s market means your condo’s equity may get you more home than it would have in the past. For investors, low vacancy rates all around the Sound bode well for rental demand and income. Seller’s market in this segment.

Newly-built single-family homes – Sales were up vs. both June and last year. Prices dipped very slightly, and more homes sold on the lower end of the price spectrum than the upper. Seller’s market continues in this segment.

New condos –  Sales are down vs. June but up vs. last year. With fewer units sold in July, the median price decreased and the average increased compared to June. 

Resale single-family and condominium homes: (“Resale” means pre-owned/not newly built.)

  • A total of 301 resale homes were listed for sale last month – 51 of these were condos. This brought the total number available to 963 in July.
  • 188 of these homes sold – 28 were condos.

The median selling price* of resale single-family homes was $466,592 in July, down less than 1% ($3,408) from June’s $470,000 median. The average sale price was $509,011, down negligibly ($246) from June’s $509,257 average.

The median selling price* of resale condos was $261,475 in July, up 10.5% ($24,745) from June’s $236,730 median. The average price was $276,188, up 12.7 % ($31,041) from June’s $245,147 average.

* “Median” means half the homes sold for more than this amount and half sold for less than this amount.

  • Resale single-family homes sold in July were on the market an average of 83 days – three weeks longer than in June and nearly twice as long as in July 2006.
  • Year-to-date, resale single-family home sales (in terms of total sold) are nearly exactly what they were at this time last year. (From Jan. 1 through the end of July 2006, 1,035 homes had sold; as of the same time last month, 1,034 sold.) 
  • Resale condos sold in July were on the market an average of 46 days – 17 days shorter than in June and 32 days longer than in July 2006.
  • Year-to-date, resale condo sales are 65% greater than last year at this time.

Newly built single-family and condominium homes: 

  • A total of 87 new homes were listed for sale last month – 26 of these were new condos. This brought the total number available to 495 in July.
  • 58 of these homes sold – 1 was a condo.

The median selling price of new single-family homes was $509,950 in July, down less than 1% ($1,750) from June’s $511,700 median. The average price was $548,891, down 2.5% ($14,297) from June’s $563,188 average.

The median selling price of new condos was $272,950 in July, down 7.6% ($19,173) from June’s $253,777 median. The average price was $272,950, up 7.1% ($18,107) from June’s $254,843 average.

  • New single-family homes sold in July were on the market an average of 129 days – 28 days longer than in June and 57 days longer than during July 2006.
  • Year-to-date, new single-family home sales are up 16.9% compared to the same time last year.
  • New condos sold in July were on the market an average of 48 days – 6 days shorter than in June and 6 days longer than in July 2006.
  • Year-to-date, new condo sales are up 5.9% compared to last year.

Could this data be presented in a way that’s more visually appealing and/or understandable? Do you have questions about how to interpret what’s been presented? Please let me know by leaving a response below, giving me a call at (206) 465-3698, and/or sending an e-mail to jay (dot) matthews (at) century21 (dot) com.  I’m also happy to provide the same data for specific neighborhoods outside the Bothell area by request.  

This data was taken from reports published by the NWMLS.

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Fed leaves interest rates unchanged

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At its meeting today, the Federal Reserve board voted unanimously to leave short-term interest rates unchanged despite the choppy waters some financial markets are moving through. The Fed has left the federal funds rate, currently 5.25 percent, unchanged for over a year.

This is good news for well-qualified buyers currently searching for a home, as it means the cost of financing will not likely increase in the immediate future. However as time goes by and the sub-prime meltdown continues, lenders may raise rates to maintain profit margins. If you’re shopping for a house, get a rate lock and move quickly to get your offer accepted.

Yes, we’re in a buyer’s market – but think carefully whether haggling with the sellers over a new hot water heater is really worth paying a higher interest rate over the life of your mortgage. In the worn and tired words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Git ‘er done!”

Source: Associated Press

Bothell Places: The Ananda Meditation Temple

Ananda Meditation Temple (front entry)On several occasions while driving home along the Bothell-Everett highway, I’ve noticed a unique building with a cobalt blue roof and a single clear spire. At first I thought it might be an Eastern Orthodox Church, the spire reminiscent of the architecture in Moscow’s Red Square. On a sunny day toward the end of last week, I decided to pull in and find out exactly what it was. As I got out of my car I saw a sign directing me to the reception area. Camera in hand, I went inside and introduced myself.

At the desk I met a very nice lady named Jacqueline Snitkin, who in turn introduced me to Institute Director Hriman McGilloway. Both were very agreeable to having me tour the Temple and take photos. Because I forgot to make notes as Jacqueline explained what Ananda is, I did some supplemental research at Ananda Online. According to this site:

Ananda is a worldwide group of individuals who share the search for higher consciousness and the ideal of service to others. Ananda, which means “joy” in Sanskrit, was founded in 1968 by J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda) to support others in their quest for spiritual growth.

Ananda is based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. I’d heard of this book prior to my visit to the Temple, but didn’t know it was named one of the top 100 spiritual books of the 20th century. Apparently Yogananda was the first yoga master to permanently relocate to the West from India. He emphasized the “direct inner experience of God” in his teachings, which he referred to as self-realization

Bothell’s Ananda Meditation Temple (front view)

As I followed her into the temple itself, Jacqueline explained its design was conceived by a Swiss architect and was patterned after the Ananda Temple of Light in Assisi, Italy. According to her, “The dome represents the upward moving energy of spirit, the aspiration of the soul. I believe we respond to that shape and the space it creates from a deep place within ourselves. The blue cobalt is as well a color of higher consciousness. The cupola on the top of the dome represents the sharing of the light of wisdom with all.”

Within the Temple (looking toward entry)          Looking inside the Temple from the entry          The Five Masters of the Ananda Tradition         

She went on to say that the space is used for meditation and yoga classes as well as a regular Sunday service. I could see immediately how the serenity of the large, circular, well-lit room would be very conducive to these activities. The dome roof, with ethereal lighting and paint effects designed by Ananda’s Willow Kushler, looks like an upside down flower in bloom with the light from the spire as its stamen. To reinforce Ananda’s assertion that “All Are Welcome,” religious symbols from the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Judaic, and Islamic traditions appear alongside the Ananda symbol (shown below) in small recessed shrines all around the room. 

The Ananda Symbol

The Ananda Meditation Temple is located at 23305 Bothell-Everett Highway, Bothell WA 98021, and can be reached at (425) 806-3700. Reception, the book and gift shop, and the temple’s administrative offices are open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Sunday from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Sunday service begins at 10:00 AM. For information on current meditation and yoga classes and other services/activities, visit the temple’s website at http://www.anandaseattle.org.

Some Perspective on the Housing Bubble

Don’t click or it’ll pop!This morning I came across an article on the financial troubles facing publicly-traded companies that build new homes. It inspired me to talk a little about the housing “bubble” and hopefully convey some perspective on what’s happening with real estate both nationally and locally.

Written by Oxford-educated financial analyst Judith Levy, the article cited rising foreclosures “particularly among sub-prime borrowers…and a corresponding tightening of credit standards among [mortgage] lenders” as the reasons for the rise in unsold inventory and decline in new home sales nationwide.

Unfortunately, the consequences of this scenario effect more than just these companies’ bottom lines – some consumers also suffer. When new homes don’t sell quickly, downward pressure is put on resale home prices as builders offer deep discounts to get their homes sold. This means the average seller gets less money for their home. Buyers fare better however – they pay less for a home and can sometimes negotiate concessions like seller-paid closing costs.  

Looking at the national real estate market, things aren’t pretty in some areas. Las Vegas, parts of Southern California and Florida have been among the hardest hit by negative price changes. Many who bought homes in these areas over the last 4 years or so are having trouble selling for what they paid. It’s generally agreed that the two main contributing factors to this “bubble” were/are easy money and rampant speculation. 

Around 2003, it became much easier for those with marginal credit and income to get a mortgage. Unfortunately many of these mortgages had a short-term fixed “teaser” rate which changed to an adjustable rate 1-3 years later. (Imagine a mortgage payment of $1200-1500 the first 1-3 years in your new home, followed by payments that jumped to $1700-2000 or more as rates increased. Frightening, eh?) It’s now obvious to many that this money was irresponsibly (or even unethically) lended.

Speculation is also to blame. It’s my impression that many so called “investors” with little or no property investment experience and perhaps at the prodding of unscrupulous real estate agents made some (very) bad decisions. The statement, “there’s no way this property will ever go down in value – get it now, make a bundle on appreciation, then sell it” was likely said in many ways on occasions too numerous to count.

Late last year I had a listing appointment with a seller in West Seattle who purchased a home in May 2006 for 270k. She paid a contractor to completely renovate it and put it on the market 4 months later for $465k. 2 different agents, an attempt to sell it herself, and price drops totaling more than $100k haven’t accomplished much – it’s still on the market! When I entered the picture she was interviewing her second round of agents. She didn’t like what she heard when I told her what it was likely to sell for, and listed with someone else. It was my impression that she financed the renovations and continues to borrow to make the monthly mortgage payment.  She’s an unfortunate example of a speculator who got burned – badly.

What does all this mean for the Seattle-area market, and specifically for the Bothell micro-market? According to the article Getting Real About Real Estate in Fortune magazine’s 2007 Investor Guide, not much. In fact, it predicted 3 of the 5 strongest western markets during 2007 and 2008 would be right here in the Northwest – Tacoma, Seattle/Bellevue, and Portland (in that order). And as for whether new home sales are slumping in the Bothell market area, the answer is a resounding no. Quadrant Homes, the state’s largest builder, reported stronger-than-expected sales last month, and the stats support their claim – February’s new home sales were up 9% over the same time last year in our immediate area. As Quadrant Homes president Peter Orser noted in the comments section of this post, housing affordability poses a much bigger challenge to our market then any “bubble.”

More Jobs, Shorter Commutes for Bothell?

In an article printed by the Everett Herald yesterday, Eric Fetters reported a sharp decrease in Snohomish county’s available industrial space.

Commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield reports a 9% industrial vacancy rate locally – 3% less than last year and 8% less than in 2004. Businesses contributing to the decrease include moving and storage company PODS, as well as print news industry’s Sound Publishing in Everett. 

Conversely, the vacancy rate for office space remains high – in the neighborhood of 18%. Gary Bullington at Cushman & Wakefield expects this rate to decrease in the near future, however. With office space in Seattle and Bellevue becoming increasingly hard to find, businesses are moving north along the I-5 corridor to Snohomish county. Bullington expects Bothell to benefit from this influx first – something commercial developers knew awhile ago, evidenced by the abundance of new office buildings currently under construction. 

The bottom line for Bothell and the rest of Snohomish County? As more industrial and commercial space is leased, the availability of local jobs increases and commute times for local residents decrease. 

Bothell Places: Caffe Ladro

Caffe Ladro in BothellNot only does Caffe Ladro serve great tasting coffee in an inviting atmosphere, they do it with social conscience and plenty of smiles.

When I first moved to the area from Eastern Washington about 10 years ago, I frequented Ladro’s location on 15th Ave East in Seattle. It was my favorite place to study, read, and people watch – good coffee, clean tables, and friendly service. Supporting a locally-owned small business that offers only 100% fair trade, organic, shade-grown coffees also made me feel good. When I moved to Bothell about 3 years ago I was happy to see a Caffe Ladro location 3 blocks north of Main Street, and resolved to visit at my first opportunity. 

Well, life gets busy. “Would like to’s” get pushed aside as the “have to’s” pile up.

On the way home from showing houses yesterday, I saw the yellow Caffe Ladro sign and decided I’d finally stop in. Ladro interiorAs I walked in the din of clanking coffee cups and chatting neighbors filled my ears. The walls were lined with black and white portraits set against rich, warm paint tones and lit by Tiffany-style chandeliers. As I went to the counter to order I was greeted with a genuine smile. While waiting it struck me that there aren’t many cafes with atmosphere as comfortable and inviting as Ladro’s.

After finishing a tasty spinach & feta croissant, I looked closer at the black & white portraits on the walls. Seattle area photographer Davis Freeman “specializes in unique fine art portraits that truly capture the spirit of family.” I enjoyed the photos on display, and would offer that while not so much “capturing the spirit of family,” several definitely succeed at capturing the spirit of the individual in a compelling and emotionally-charged way. Click here to view some of his work.

At another spot on the wall I saw a poster for an evening of acoustic open mic performances and live painting, to be hosted by Ladro on Friday April 6th. Visit the Community Events page for complete details.

Selena and HannahAs I finished my last sip, I thanked barista Selena and cashier Hannah and headed for the door. I’m grateful Caffe Ladro is still as great as I remembered.

Caffe Ladro is located at 18610 Bothell Way NE in Bothell, WA. There’s free wi-fi inside and a drive-thru outside. Click here for a map and directions. 

Hours: 5:30 AM to 11:00 PM daily.  Phone: 425-415-1202

G-Sales on the Community Events Page

Some seek thrills by jumping out of airplanes or climbing mountains. But for my mother, aunt, and sister, nothing beats the rush of searching for buried treasure at weekend garage sales. I pity the person who spots a piece of Noritake China, a vintage record, or a retired Beanie-Baby at the same time any of them do.

Do you live in the Bothell area and want to tell local readers about your upcoming garage sale? Visit About Bothell’s Community Events page!

(And I promise to keep my family away…)

Passport No Longer Needed for Border Crossing

Update 7/31/07 I.D. Requirements at the Canadian Border

Follow this link for an informative and easy to read summary of what’s needed and by when: Canada for Visitors.

*** *** *** 

In Thursday’s edition of the Herald, the AP’s David Ammons wrote an article about a new driver’s license that would also establish proof of U.S. citizenship to expedite U.S./Canadian border crossings. In a landslide 43-3 vote the state Senate signed off on the new license, which was formally approved by the Dept. of Homeland Security yesterday. The initiative was fueled by legislator’s concerns over how trade and tourism with Canada could be negatively impacted by the expense and delay involved with getting a passport, especially with the 2010 Winter Olympics in BC fast approaching. Gordon Campbell, Premier (Governor) of BC has announced a parallel program will be adopted by his government, though a target date has not yet been announced.

The new license, available January 2008, will cost about $40 – $60 less than a passport – will require an in-person interview to obtain and won’t require the 6-8 week wait passports do. It will also incorporate technology that allows for easy scanning, which will hopefully reduce wait times at crossing points. In June 2009, these new licenses or a passport will become required for all cross-border travel – land, sea, and air. Currently passports are required only for cross-border travel by air or sea.

I like the idea of spending less and waiting less when traveling to and from Canada. I’m also happy that legislators are looking out for small businesses – the cafes, restaurants, and retail shops near crossing points that depend on tourist traffic for revenue. 

But at what cost to my privacy will this needed balance come? As I was reading the article, red flags started going up. What’s being implemented is a federal license. It will be scannable and will establish my US citizenship, WA state residency, and give touch-of-a-button access to any number of federal databanks all at once. In addition, a high-frequency radio chip will be embedded in them. I’m not a tech wiz, but can’t high freq. chips be used to track movement? To be honest, this all makes me a little nervous.

Visiting Technorati this morning to see what others were reporting on the topic, I came across an informative post in the American Patriot Journal. I also found a lengthy post on concerns over federally controlled ID’s (link no longer available). Though the latter has a conspiracy theory flavor, it certainly contained some good information.

These new ID’s are strictly optional at this point – or are they? Even with the program’s apparent benefits, I’m less than happy about lawmakers putting me in a position where I’m forced to choose between expedited travel at the cost of privacy or higher costs and longer waits.

Blake Lewis Puts Bothell on the Map

Bothell’s Blake Lewis, as seen on American IdolI’m not normally an American Idol fan – in fact, outside of catching a few minutes of the morning news before heading out the door, I rarely watch TV. But when I heard that Bothell’s very own Blake Lewis is among Idol’s 12 remaining contestants, my interested was sparked.

A little time spent researching Lewis on the web turned up no shortage of info on the 25 year-old Bothellite. According to this article, Lewis has been writing songs, singing them, and winning local beat boxing competitions at various venues in the metro area for the last 7 years. Some of his favorite places to perform include the Nectar Lounge , SeaMonster Lounge, and Lo-Fi Performance Gallery. And after Idol is said and done, there’s a chance Lewis could be spotted enjoying a meal at his favorite restaurant, La Casa del Mojito on Lake City Way. blake-lewis-billboard-3-25-07-004.jpg

Lewis graduated from Kenmore’s Inglemoor High in 1999. Apparently he stopped working “square” jobs in August of 2006 (which included serving at the Outback Steakhouse in Canyon Park) so he could pursue his music interests full-time. A month later he turned out for the Idol auditions at KeyArena – braving rain, long lines, and Simon Cowell’s icy gaze. 

Blake’s parents seem very supportive – in watching the last part of Blake’s audition (below), I thought his father was going to burst into tears out of sheer pride. I imagine his mother two younger sisters, and younger brother is excited about Blake’s current fame and future potential as well. After all – if Blake wins he gets a national record deal, right?

Washington Getaway: Cave B Inn

The travel bug began to stir when I read an article on living & buying real estate in Ireland linked from Marlow Harris’ Happy Saint Patrick’s Day post over at 360 Digest this morning. 

I did volunteer work in London for several months right after high school, and took as many side trips to Wales and Ireland as I could. As I read the article above, I started to miss how unattached and able to “get up and go” I was back then. But then I remember what I got in exchange for some of that freedom – a fantastic partner, a home, and a career I love. So in the spirit of compromise, I decided to begin gathering a list of destinations right here in Washington that I’d commit to visiting over the next year or two. The first in this series: Cave B Inn and Winery in Quincy, Washington. 

Cave B Inn, Quincy WAI first heard about Cave B about a year ago while tasting a few Columbia Valley reds at Everett’s Wicked Cellars (which, by the way, is the best wine cellar in the North Sound – expansive inventory and knowledgeable, friendly, unpretentious staff). Cave B is about 2.5 hours east of Bothell via I-90, literally right next door to the Gorge Amphitheater at George. Interestingly, Cave B has more in common with the Gorge than mere location, namely Vince and Carol Bryan of Seattle. The Bryans purchased what’s now known as the Gorge at George in the early 80’s, and are the current owners of Cave B. Though they sold the amphitheater in 1993, the Bryans remain stewards of “the Northwest’s first luxury wine resort.” (Travel Age West magazine, May 2006.) Considering the posh accomodations and the resort’s proximity to the Gorge, rumors of celebrity guests during the summer concert season come as no surprise.

As I read and became more excited about all that Cave B Inn has to offer, the idea of spotting Dave Matthews or Tracy Chapman in the dining room or walking the halls quickly lost ground as the reason to visit.

First, the food. Reading Leann Pauley’s review of Tendrils, the resort’s on-site restaurant, was enough to make me wish it was Friday instead of Monday so I could drive over and experience the food first-hand. Executive Chef Fernando Divina, formerly opening chef for Skamania Lodge near Portland, uses only organic ingredients that are sourced locally whenever possible. In a separate interview with Divina, Pauley quoted him as saying, “Organically grown food is very important to me and collaborating with local farmers is the best way to ensure this.” A relatively local high-end restaurant serving socially-conscious cuisine? Tell me more!

Pauley’s glowing review was based on the following multi-course meal: Quinault Razor Clams, sauteed and presented on a bed of ginger slaw and summer cress; chilled cantaloupe soup topped with Blanc de Blanc and mint slush; pan-roasted black cod and wild King Salmon with shell peas and morel risotto; roasted pear sage sorbet; grilled and braised beef, slow roasted over 36 hours with merlot and aromatic herbs, served with potato puree, Blue Lake beans, ginger glazed carrots and accompanied by the SageCliffe Merlot from the adjacent vineyard. Dessert was a warm fallen chocolate souffle with Chantilly cream and ice wine. Are you hungry yet?

Next, the wine. Far from a connoisseur but certainly an afficionado, I love wines – tasting them, learning about them, experimenting with food pairings. I’ve never tasted anything from Cave B’s Estate Winery, but I’m eager to. Winemaker Rusty Figgins reportedly has years vineyard and cellar experience both here and abroad.

The Front Desk at Cave BFinally, the accommodations. According to Dawn Endean, head of marketing for Cave B, rooms are most scarce during the summer concert and fall harvest seasons. When there are reservations to be had, expect to pay around $200 a night for a king size bed. There are other options available including rooms with sunken tubs and breathtaking views via floor-to-ceiling windows. Other resort amenities include an on-site spa and mountain bike rentals.

Cave B is now definitely on my radar. Whether it’s in conjunction with a concert at the Gorge or a quiet, relaxing getaway all on its own remains to be seen.

photos used with permission