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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bigger = Better?

When it comes to houses, it seems most people have the American sentiment of "bigger = better = I want" ingrained into their subconscious. The Seattle P-I takes a look at how this mentality is shaping the Seattle residential landscape:

During the past 10 years, about 2,400 single-family homes have been razed to make way for apartments, condos and larger homes. With strong demand for in-city housing and few vacant lots, older homes are now disappearing three times faster than they did a decade ago -- with 368 demolished last year.

Some neighborhood activists -- who support increasing density and building affordable housing in urban villages -- see little public benefit in replacing modest homes with expensive single-family behemoths.
Builders say the trend is fueled by simple economics and a healthy demand for larger homes inside Seattle. As traffic gets worse, some people want to return to the city, but not to a two-bedroom bungalow with tiny closets and bad wiring.

"If there wasn't a market for these houses, nobody would be building them," said Greg McGar, a contractor who paid $492,000 for a Ballard home last year, according to property records. He knocked it down and is building two four-bedroom homes on the oversized lot.
Of course there's a market right now, but will there be in 5 years? How likely are these homes to retain their value when a leveling off in real estate comes? I've always thought that one of the sacrifices of living in or near a big city was having a smaller home. I guess some people have enough money to have it both ways though. Either that or they have a "great" zero-down interest-only loan so they can "afford" it. I'd be curious to see if this trend continues when today's easier-than-breathing financing dries up.
Some neighbors are happy to see eyesores torn down and replaced with nicer homes that boost property values, said Jim Morse, a contractor who recently tore down a small rental on 28th Avenue Northwest and is building a three-story home there.

Others hate change, he said.

"You can give people hundred-dollar bills all day long, and some people aren't going to like it," he said.

"In reality, we're improving the neighborhood by getting rid of old, dilapidated housing."
Congratulations Jim Morse, you win the prize for stupidest analogy of the week!

(Jennifer Langston, Seattle P-I, 10.24.2005)

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