Seattle Bubble has moved! Redirecting...

You should be automatically redirected. If not, visit http://seattlebubble.com/blog/and update your bookmarks.

Off-topic comment? Interesting link?
Head over to the forums, or click here for open threads.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

"We're no different in Seattle."

If I didn't know better, I'd think that someone at the P-I was reading Seattle Bubble. That's the feeling I get after reading this opinion column by Mark Trahant, titled Age-old, old-age question: Are we unique? (Links added to back up his numbers.)

You've probably heard something like this before: "Every child is unique and special."

It is a refrain many kids hear repeatedly while growing up. We all have something to contribute to this world, something that only we can add to the mix. This notion is fundamental to the American character, the essence of our individual-based society.

The Lake Wobegon effect is when everybody considers that they are the ones who are above average. (Below average? Well, that's somebody else.)

But everyone can't be that good, that smart or that rich.
...
It's the same for a city's personality. It's just as easy to think of Seattle as special; defying the trends ahead. Our regional narrative continues to insist that we remain a red-hot real estate market, ignoring the cautionary data. The rest of the country might be experiencing a pop in the housing bubble, but the "we're different" idea suits our perception of ourselves.

I would suggest Seattle is riding its wave, too. The real estate numbers reflect the swell in the tsunami ahead: In King County we keep building (a 43 percent increase in housing permits), while home resales are shrinking (down 13.7 percent from a year ago). Our inventory of available homes is huge as we shift into an era when no one wants to be the last person to buy a home at its most expensive price.

On top of that, Seattle is a place where mortgage magic tricks have made the out-of-reach home at least seem affordable.

Unsustainable? Remember, that's somebody else's problem. And one reason why the national savings rate grew to a negative $83.5 billion in July, compared with a negative $67.6 billion a month before.

We're no different in Seattle.
It is both shocking and refreshing to finally be reading this kind of thing in the local papers. A year ago you would have never found an opinion piece like this in your daily dead-tree rag. Listen, I love this area, but to think that we'll chug along just fine while housing and the general economy in the rest of the country falters is just a bit too rose-tinted for me. I don't want bad things to happen, but it seems that they are all but inevitable at this point, and shouldn't people be warned?

(Mark Trahant, Seattle P-I, 09.03.2006)

46 comments:

seattle price drop said...

Mark Trahant is awesome.

A few weeks back he also wrote an editorial on how the housing market is built on crap loans. Period.

Considering WA. is in the top 6 nationally for ARM's and Neg Am's, it was about time somebody mentioned the loan problem in the media.

And yes, he is a voice that is sorely needed in this area to provide a counterbalance to those who are encouraging 20 - somethings to mortgage their futures on overpriced miniscule condos in a stalling/falling market or "buy with friends" etc., still trying to create the "fear that leads to buying at all costs".

Next question: How will the WaMu fiasco be reported around here?

Obscurica said...

I have to laugh as a tiny, TINY but typical Crown Hill house down the street from my small 1br apartment (but larger than the glorified dorm rooms condos by at least 175 sq. feet) is trying to get sold for $495,000. It's barely two stories, the garage is under the living room... it's got charm sure but it's not that charming. I noticed that the first outfit that was selling it changed to another outfit who proceeded to put pots of fake brightly coloured flowers by the door and at other key points in the house.
The first outfit at least had a plastic box with flyers in it so you could see how absurd their mortgage offers were as well as have a good laugh at the selling price of the house.
Oy.

john_law_the_II said...

homes sales are down? I didn't know that. it seems as though SEA is where the nation was about in late 2005. if inventory starts to climb significantly there can be little doubt that SEA would be behind the US slowdown by a year. to think otherwise is absolutely foolish when the US is having a housing meltdown before our eyes.

why would SEA be different? why is SEA more different than areas like SF that are experiencing downturns. more importantly, when did SEA become different? what year?

ignore price history at your own peril. in the last 30 years there have been 2 price declines in seattle.

30 years of residential real estate prices

john_law_the_II said...

the part in that one article about the market being in a temporary lull and things will come back is being used by Lereah and others in the US right now.

Anonymous said...

As far as the bubble goes, we are no different in Seattle in that eventually, it will pop. But hell yes, Seattle is special. It is in the 80s today and I can't even stand it. There is no way I'd want to live in Texas. I like the 50-60s cloudy days just fine. Mountain, water, city not too big and not too small, we have it good here.

Peckhammer said...

There is no way I'd want to live in Texas. I like the 50-60s cloudy days just fine. Mountain, water, city not too big and not too small, we have it good here.

And yet, you ignore the fact that we are living in the most dangerous place in the contiguous united states -- with seismic events that make California look like an amusement park ride.

Yeah, we have it good for now... with a magnitude 9.0 quake due five years ago. A real wonderland!

Eleua said...

There is no way I'd want to live in Texas. I like the 50-60s cloudy days just fine. Mountain, water, city not too big and not too small, we have it good here.


I agree, as I have done both.

There is a saying, "If I owned both Texas and Hell, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas."

Tongue-in-cheek aside, Texas isn't THAT bad. The weather just sucks for 80 straight days over the summer. There is no way to sugarcoat that. However, the Spring and Fall are to die for, and the Winter is pretty mild, with occasional Northern blasts.

The living is very easy and affordable. You can live in a town with lower crime than Bainbridge Island, higher income than Mercer Island, better schools than both, easy Interstate access, and live in a 3000-4500sf completely pimped-out house for under $350K, and many under $250K.

If you like sun and hate the marine overcast, it isn't bad. For me, I'm the opposite, as I was in 7th Heaven last December when we had 35 straight days of rain. I grew up here, and I like it. Many of my Texas friends wonder why anyone would live in an area that received 220+ days of rain per year, and 7.5 hours of daylight during the winter.

Also, you can't get Bluebell ice cream around here.

The moral to the story is many places can be appealing, if you want them to be. The bi-Coastal regions will not hold the current premium forever, as many will move to Flyover Country, wonder why they ever thought they were destined to live around the ocean (they only visited once per year)forever, and never look back.

Anonymous said...

Very curious to me that people are so ocean-whacky.

I live 5 blocks from the ocean right now and kind of wish it was a big beautiful lake instead.

Lived in Seattle for 17 years and probably saw the ocean 20 times. Most parts of the city, you don't even know it's there. Can't see it, can't smell it.

Of all the "ocean cities" I've lived in, Seattle is the one that rarely felt "ocean-y".

Anonymous said...

I took a walk around Capitol Hill this afternoon and saw lots of condo units for sale. The prices on their signs said "Just Reduced," and I've noticed before that several of these units have been on the market for months. There certainly seems to be a slow-down in condos being sold in Seattle nowadays....

Anonymous said...

"Texas isn't THAT bad. The weather just sucks for 80 straight days over the summer."

Seattle isn't THAT bad. The weather just sucks for 300 straight days over the winter.

austin bell said...

This ought to be called the I Hate Seattle blog. Incredible how many comments on this blog have nothing to do with RE and just bitch about how awful the weather is, and the people are, and how there is nothing special about Seattle, etc. It's fine if you hate it here -- and if you actually live here and hate it, I feel sorry for you and hope you find a way to move out (in case you hadn't heard, you are free to leave, unless you're in King County jail). But the fact is, a lot of people think this is a great place and that has a lot to do with why it is quite expensive to live here. I know I could buy a cheaper home in Dallas or Omaha but no thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have one word for you, austin bell: waaaah.

I've been reading this blog for a long time, and there have been relatively few negative comments about Seattle. What few there are are usually in response to some bubblehead who thinks that this place is SO special that it can NEVER experience a real estate downturn.

In fact, the problem is usually the opposite of what you describe: Seattle residents are total polyannas. Try to have an adult conversation about the negative aspects of the city, and nine times out of ten, they'll tell you to leave (sound familiar?)

In my own experience, Seattle is a provinicial, backward town with awful weather, high taxes, poor infrastructure, and chilly people. And while I cannot deny that some people like to live here, I also can't deny that some people like to live north of the arctic circle.

It takes all types to make the world go 'round -- you folks run into trouble when you convince yourselves that they all want to live here.

Anonymous said...

Not incidentally, Lizzie Rhodes is at it again. I've never seen a person waste that many words on a simple logical fallacy ("we've never experienced a significant crash, so we must be immune!" See also: Affirming the consequent)

matt said...

Nice snag anon, I'm sure The Tim will probably end up posting the Liz Rhodes article... its definitely worthy, so I'll safe my comment for that.

I've exchanged emails with her many times and the woman hardly never mentions the exotic loan phenomena, and never ever does any detailed analysis of the subject. She's probably the worst shill we have currently in the local media.

Lake Hills Renter said...

I love the weather here, even in the winter. I spent the first 30 years of my life in Texas and I hope to never see it again. I'll take Seattle winters over Texas summers every time. As far as Seattle proper goes, it seems decent enough but I honestly rarely go there. I'm more interested in the mountains than the city.

austin bell said...

In my own experience, Seattle is a provinicial, backward town with awful weather, high taxes, poor infrastructure, and chilly people. And while I cannot deny that some people like to live here, I also can't deny that some people like to live north of the arctic circle.

I feel sorry for you that you can only see negative things -- and as for "chilly people", I'd have to say you must be a contributor to that problem, judging from the attitude of your post. I've met great people here.
And what, exactly, is wrong with saying to someone who hates where he lives, "why don't you move?" That is the most natural, obvious question. I used to live in Baltimore, where I moved for a job, and I didn't like living there, so I moved. I lived in California for several years after that and decdied it wasn't for me, so I moved here and am very happy and intend to stay put. I certainly don't have hateful things to say about the places I've lived that I didn't like -- they just weren't for me, that's all. And the people on here who hate it in Seattle never seem to be able to explain why they don't move! What on earth is keeping you here?
Whatever. I am going to go out and enjoy the "awful weather" we have here! Anonymous can stay inside and think up some more horrible things about Seattle, and what a jerk I am for liking where I live.

Anonymous said...

"I feel sorry for you that you can only see negative things"

(another trait common to Seattle residents: passive-aggressiveness.)

"as for "chilly people", I'd have to say you must be a contributor to that problem, judging from the attitude of your post"

(another trait common to Seattle residents: smugness.)

"And what, exactly, is wrong with saying to someone who hates where he lives, 'why don't you move?'"

(another trait common to Seattle residents: arrogance.)

Anonymous said...

And name-calling (rather than responding to simple, straight-forward points) appears to be a common trait of the haters who comment on this blog.

synthetik said...

re: Elizabeth Rhodes

I agree - I haven't seen that much pom-pom waving since Bring it on. A quick check of her record shows that she always prints positive news about real estate. Not a big surprise, since most of our media only exists as a forum in which to advertise to us (or be paid for it).

That's why it's important to read things that have almost no advertising such as 'the economist'. When my grandparents were alive, they read "Christian Science Monitor", again, virtually no advertising.

I know reporters don't make that much and based on her shill-like articles one can only assume she's on the take.

The tipping point in Seattle has already passed, which means we'll start to fall in line with the rest of the USA - and prices will start to fall. I predict a series of "soft landing" type articles from her next (after its' obvious the rest of USA is in hard landing mode); and then a few "how did this happen? We were different" type articles.

I doubt she'll ever capitulate. She'l probably move to North Carolina and talk about the booming market there...

Anonymous said...

I know this is a bubble blog so negativity about many things in life comes with the territory. Why should I be surprised some people here hate Seattle? They probably have something negative to say about Labor Day too.

Saying Seattle residents are passive aggressive, smug, arrogant is like saying everyone in San Francisco is gay, all New Yorkers are rude, all Southerners are racist. That anon (Sun Sep 03, 12:05:48 PM PDT) certainly contributes to Seattle's problem if there ever is a problem to begin with.

synthetik said...

I think prices and cost of living generally reflect the true value of just about anywhere.

Seattle and Portland get a slight price break from California because the weather isn't percieved to be as nice. Still the whole west cost enjoys mostly cool weather and low humidity year round.

I'm from Florida originally and love the fact that I might hear 5-6 different languages being spoken during the day. The crispness of the air, smell of the trees, character of the neighborhoods, whackiness of the people, beautiful parks, inspiring views, quality of the food AND apparent lack of Dubya stickers & Rebel flags, etc...

Yes, I realize I've only been here for 6 months, however people will always find a reason to complain - but for those who love this lifestyle, Seattle REALLY is different, and in a good way.

If you want to blame S.A.D., the traffic, or Seattle Chill is bringing you down, then that is your reality.

Seattle is NOT different when it comes to real estate unfortunately.

Eleua said...

anon 1246,

Not to split hairs here, but...

The anon 1205 post you refer to did not say that arrogance, smugness, and the chill were universal Seattle traits, only that they were common. Unfortunately, anon 1205 is correct, and anyone that has lived here for any length of time knows it.

Your San Francisco, New York, and Southern references were all universal, which as you know, are false.

I am in a profession that allows me to see the entire USA on a regular basis. As contrary as it might seem, New York is the one place in the country I would rate as the friendliest, with Honolulu as the second (Boston is the rudest - by far), urban areas not located in the Southeast are the most racist (if you include black-on-white/hispanic-on-white racism), and the gayest place in the USA is Miami Beach.

Not including college towns/ski resorts, San Francisco gets the gold medal for smugness (Seattle gets the silver).

Not including college towns/ski resorts, San Francisco again gets the blue ribbon for arrogance, with its little brother, Seattle, nipping on its heels in an almost "ME TOO!! ME TOO" like fashion.

Peckhammer said...

As contrary as it might seem, New York is the one place in the country I would rate as the friendliest, with Honolulu as the second (Boston is the rudest - by far)

I can't vouch for Honolulu, but having lived in the Northeast for most of my life, your take on NYC and Boston is dead-on.

SeattleMoose said...

"Not including college towns/ski resorts, San Francisco again gets the blue ribbon for arrogance, with its little brother, Seattle, nipping on its heels in an almost "ME TOO!! ME TOO" like fashion."

Had a good laugh over that one. Having lived in CA for 10 years and most recently in TX for 10 years I have to say that TX folks are MUCH friendlier than Seattle folks.

And lest ye think me yet another "basher" I have provided a URL that lends some merit to the argument that Seattle folks might need some "charm school" lessons.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/
2005/0213/cover.html

Anyone know how to embed a URL?

The Tim said...

Moose,

See my instructions for linking in the comment I posted here.

SeattleMoose said...

If you read about the Seattle Freeze, you will see what I mean about Seattle being a little less friendly than a lot of places.

Thanx Tim!!

The Tim said...

Almost got it... You have one too few forward slashes after your http:. All links should begin with "http://"

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the "New York is the friendliest".

It's the one thing I really miss about that city.

And it's a big thing cuz it affects your life every waking minute of the day.

SeattleMoose said...

Ok, just like my code it work...it never works the first time.

Read about the Seattle Freeze here.

This experiment is now over....

The Tim said...

Ding!

Anonymous said...

Seattle Freeze is just a term coined by people who are not used to our subdued way of being friendly. They think Seattleites aren't all big smiles and touchy feely so they are mean. Personally, I find people who laugh loudly and hug everyone very annoying.

Anonymous said...

Re: Seattle Freeze

This is partially true and a great topic. You have to understand the history. At one time this place was way cool, lesser Seattle (KBO), the Lazy B, Chuck Knox. This is all long gone though. Everyone (and Ken Behring) came up and ruined it (tongue in cheek). Fairly provincial myself so apologies upfront.

IMHO, there is still a fair amount of long timers who look down upon new arrivals for some reason. Anon 2:53 AM - some of your thoughts sound familiar to my arrival many years ago, although its a much easier transition when your doing keg-stands and running naked through Ravenna-Cowan Park. Basically, you have to put in the time - consider yourself on double secret probation. Combine all of this with some of the area's heritage (substitute Norwegian fishermen for bachelor farmers in Lake Wobegon) and voila.

Might have to consider downsizing to P-town someday - too bad it falls in Oregon though. What we need is a WA equivalent of Bend (mountain town on the east slopes, close to class ski resort, and no this would not include Snoq Summit).

Anonymous said...

"Anon 2:53 AM - some of your thoughts sound familiar to my arrival many years ago....Basically, you have to put in the time - consider yourself on double secret probation."

I've lived here for six years now, so I feel like I've "put in" more than enough time -- yet all of my friends are from the east coast. I no longer care, nor do I plan to stay. Life's too short to live in a place where people don't make eye contact.

On a related note, I stumbled across these archived epsiodes of KUOW's "Conversation," devoted to the subject of the Seattle Freeze. The first episode is almost comical -- the host is clearly skeptical of the phenomenon, starts out his show with some snarky comments about stereotypes, and is almost overwhelmed by the number of people who call in to testify about The Freeze. The second show was added due to the overwhelming response to the first. Both are great:

The first epsiode (6/2005).

The second one (9/2005).

Happy listening, out-of-towners!

Eleua said...

If you are a PNW native, and you want a roll-on-the-floor laugh, try this. I don't know how to do a java popup, but go here, and click on the 300K speed under the song "Californians Leavin'"

Caution: Empty bladder prior to listening.

Lake Hills Renter said...

I've lived here six years as well and I've rarely if ever experienced this Seattle Freeze. Everyone I've met, whether it's at work or play, has been just as friendly as anywhere else I've been. But then, I live here for the scenery and climate, not the people. I'm not the type for dinner parties, vineyards and the like that seem to be the thing right now, so I rarely(and prefer not to) deal with a lot of people on a daily basis. I'm just not wired to need much social contact. Camera, backpack and a trail do me just fine.

Anonymous said...

Eleua - classic Spike

RE: KUOW's "Conversation"

Good stuff - "I moved here to Gold Bar and found it difficult to make friends"

Also, "I think its b/c people are busy kayaking or rock climbing" - yah...

But seriously, pretty dead on. Luckily I am a native. If I was in your shoes and had a choice, I sure wouldn't come here. The one Brit was dead on - "I didn't go to Roosevelt or UW". I would agree but substitute Lakeside for the former.

Great posts - basically, get ready to hunker down for 200-300 days of rain and practice your survival skills. If you don't like it, hit the bricks - Starbucks coffee is for closers only! Not being glib Tom Cruise, just honest.

Anonymous said...

Such a high percentage of people in Seattle are from somewhere else, it seems silly to generalize that people in Seattle are all a certain way. Almost 20% of people in Seattle weren't even born in the US! My friends here are from every part of the country -- some are even from Seattle, and they are perfectly nice.

Anonymous said...

"Such a high percentage of people in Seattle are from somewhere else, it seems silly to generalize that people in Seattle are all a certain way."

Sorry, native...you can't make this go away by pretending that it's an overgeneralization.

Nobody has suggested that all locals are cold, arrogant and anti-social. However, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the many who are cold, arrogant and anti-social negatively color the place for the rest of us....

biliruben said...

11 years here in Seattle, and I've found it the easiest place to make friends I've ever been, including college. I don't have enough time in the day to spend time with all the great people I would like to spend time with.

4 years in NYC - talk about lack of eye contact. Look someone in the eye only at the risk of a beating. Sheesh.

4 years of faux-friendly Charleston. Talk about sugary smiles and knives in the back. Yuck.

2 years of Illinois - hardest place I've ever lived to make friends, hands down. Only place I've truly felt lonely.

Stupid generalizations are just that.

Anonymous said...

"Life's too short to live in a place where people don't make eye contact".

LOL! Isn't THAT the truth! Too creepy.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, every discussion of the Seattle Freeze follows the same pattern: an initial chorus of agreement, followed by a handful of cranky dissenters, insisting that they have no problem making friends here (with the unspoken, passive-agreesive sentiment hanging in the air like a dying fart: "what's your problem, loser?").

Despite this pattern, every year I find more and more people admitting that the locals are a closed-off, insular bunch. There are newspaper articles, radio shows, and support groups all devoted to the Seattle Freeze. Counselors specialize in it. Classes are taught on how to overcome it. So perhaps the Freeze is a generalization, but at this point, it isn't an incorrect generalization.

As for biliruben, and those of you who would insult the many people who have social difficulty here, I have only one question: what do you gain from being so defiantly self-satisfied?

PepeDaniels said...

I've lived in the NE, South Florida, spent a fair amount of time around Baltimore and now here.

I think some people are saying this right. Not everyone is unfriendly. Not everyone is a native here.

Still there's a chilly tendency that's hard to ignore. People don't object to it being called that if it's said of guys from Maine by the way. People aren't shocked if you say South Florida tends to big on appearances and friendliness and short on educational levels.

Baltimore's nickname for itself is "Charm City", it seems both true as well as tongue in cheek. If I'm remembering this correctly, it was only a few years ago that Baltimore residents voted themselve the worst dressed people in the country in some poll! My point is there's a sense of humility in other places that seems to be a bit absent here. The fact that "The Freeze" is talked about frequently as opposed to say, Seattle charm, Seattle hospitality etc... doesn't mean there aren't any nice people or that no one's ever lent a hand to a stranger here. A trait is just that, not an absolute.

Finally, I think there's a huge difference between being really polite and being friendly. I think it's quite polite around here. Friendly's another story.

You can argue about how many people here are really from somehwere else, but I'm sure that's true of the top 100 cities in the country or more. I've never heard of any place with this rep anywhere else except for maybe Boston.

Ironically, I met a guy the other day while at a public event who was from Boston. Maybe the friendliest person I've met since coming here. He and his family are moving back East....why? The guy from Boston can't stand the Seattle Freeze.....

As it relates to this blog, I think there are positive things in Seattle. It's a socially responsible place, the nature that's around here is amazing. It's a literate city. It's got a creative edge over many places.

I think when people experience the "Freeze" and the rain for weeks on end, they're understandably a bit surprised when the same house they've seen selling elsewhere for 150K going for 500K.

Anonymous said...

Pepedaniels-

Grew up in the NE and always thought of Boston as the snootiest place around, in comparison to the rest of the NE that is, which was all I knew.

Moved to Seattle and became good friends with some natives.

They moved to Boston for teaching jobs at "snooty" colleges there.

Here was their impression of Boston:

"The people here are so warm!!! There are whole extended families living within blocks of each other!!! There's such a sense of community!!!"

Now, having lived in Seattle for a decade or so, I knew exactly what they meant. Living here shed a whole new light on Bostonians.

I guess I'd always compared them to New Yorkers, that other big NE city and they'd come up short on the "howdy scale".

Totally agree that Seattle lacks any sense of humility. It's a total "Self Promoter" city.

Too bad.

Schell's hyterical "This is NOT SEATTLE!!! !!!" During WTO just about summed it up.

Complete denial never solves a thing.

Anonymous said...

every year I find more and more people admitting that the locals are a closed-off, insular bunch.

It seems odd to me that people blame everyone else when they can't make friends, instead of themselves.

Anonymous said...

what do you gain from being so defiantly self-satisfied?

If that's your attitude toward people who disagree with you, it's no wonder you can't make any friends. The problem is in the mirror.

PepeDaniels said...

My only follow up is Puuhhleeze find a name and post with it!!! It definately keeps things more readable and I really do try to follow the thread.
Just my thoughts of course.