The State of Condos in Seattle
May 13, 2015 12:49 PM   Subscribe

So I'm considering purchasing a condo in Seattle (Ballard, specifically), but I'll be moving cross-country in doing so, and I'm unfamiliar with the local market. A friend who lives there suggested that condos aren't popular in the greater Seattle area, and that they're hard to sell once purchased. Is that true? In general, how is the market for condos in Seattle?

I'd be looking to stay for 5-10 years, but probably would want to move into a detached house after that time, so resale value is fairly important to me (with the caveat that no one can really predict the market that far out). I get the impression that the housing market in Seattle is just bonkers right now, but is that true of condos too, or just houses?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our realtor steered us away from condos because the resale value is much lower than townhouses, which again is lower than that for SFHs. (We were looking in Ballard, which is one of the fastest growing and most competitive neighborhoods in Seattle, but ended up buying a SFH in West Seattle, which is growing more slowly.) Our realtor has been in the business in Seattle for over 12 years and spends a lot of time looking at statistics and trends, so I would be inclined to think she knows what she's talking about.

Here's some random background information that may or may not interest you. No one can really say how the market is going to change in the next 10 years, but many think that the hyper-competitive real estate market is not just a bubble but portends structural change. 100,000 new residents are anticipated in the next 10 years. Major tech employers are opening up new campuses, and companies with a presence on the Eastside are planning satellite offices/campuses in the city. Record numbers of people are moving in from out of state, and this will probably continue for some time.

If you want to get totally geeky with statistics to see how awful the market is for buyers right now, check out a blog called Seattle Bubble. You might also be interested in reading the city's proposed growth plans, especially the part about urban centers and urban villages (where the condos will be). There's also this densification map.
posted by matildaben at 1:28 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

It really depends on how the real estate market is doing. For the last few years people had trouble selling units in my building in seattle, but the last couple have sold in a matter of days now that things have picked up.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2015

Buy in a less-desirable area, not in Ballard, and put the difference in a diversified portfolio. The current bubble may last 3 or 5 years, but probably not 10. Remember that skyrocketing house prices are mostly due to low interest rates, and it is a virtual certainty that interest rates will rise in the future. Remember that real estate is a highly leveraged investment so you can lose a ton of money even if prices only decline a small amount.
posted by miyabo at 2:54 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

The market is beyond bonkers. We're talking 12-20 offers at 18 to 20 percent over list price, all contingencies waived.

I don't think this is a bubble for the same reasons matildaben outlined above. I can't speak to whether condos are easier to buy, but I know financing is more difficult to secure. If you do buy, you'll want to use a local lender who understands the market.
posted by purple_bird at 4:23 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, I am not saying that Seattle real estate is a bubble -- in fact, the fundamentals are quite strong. But very smart institutional investors are playing this game (as they are in every major city in the US) and are going to outsmart individual home buyers every time. You wouldn't take out a million dollar loan and put it into one stock, right? So why would you take out a million dollar loan and put it into one piece of real estate?
posted by miyabo at 10:25 PM on May 13, 2015

We just bid farewell to our second set of friends who've ditched San Francisco for Seattle this year. For what it's worth, they both (happily) bought into condos.

Also, everything is relative when it comes to "easy" or "hard" in selling real estate. My sister in semi-rural Arkansas has been trying to sell her house for two years. Our former deadbeat landlord in Santa Monica sold his shit hole of a run down 4-unit apartment building the day after the tenants' right of first refusal passed, to a buyer who didn't even come visit the property. Seattle will always fall on the latter end of that spectrum because it's an urbanized, desirable city, although the exact details will vary in line with the ebb and flow of the market.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:54 AM on May 14, 2015

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