The New York Times yesterday ran a story about the struggling condo market in many parts of the country, and with as much attention as it received, you just knew the local news couldn't let it go unanswered. Enter Aubrey Cohen of the Seattle P-I with Seattle bucks trend on slumping condos.
Seattle's market was not to blame for a recent decision to change a planned 34-story downtown building from condominiums to apartments.Really? I guess Mr. Ballard hasn't bothered reading Urbnlivn lately, where Matt has been tracking dozens of condos coming (and sometimes sitting around) on the MLS.
Rather, the slumping condo markets in cities such as Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami and Boston affected the national firms that fund such buildings, said John Schwartz, northwest regional director of Keller CMS, which is managing the Terry Avenue Apartments project.
"There was quite a bit of skittishness," he said. "I think the Seattle market clearly has a little different story to tell, but a lot of the big equity players, they take a wider view."
The frenzied condo market in many cities has collapsed since the middle of 2006, dragging down prices and scuttling projects -- or at least forcing them to change, according to a New York Times report Tuesday.
Seattle's housing market has fared better than those in other parts of the country in recent months, with continued year-over-year price increases, despite increasing inventory and falling sales, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The area's condo market, meanwhile, has been stronger than the market for other types of homes.
Seattle real estate professionals and economists agree that the city's job creation, relative lack of speculators and the fact that its boom never rose as high as other places kept its housing market healthy.
A Boston real estate consultant cited about 600 condo projects in the city's metropolitan area, with about 49,000 units in various stages of development, according to the Times story. Seattle has fewer than 9,000 condos in the works, according to Williams Marketing Vice President Warren Ballard.
"We don't have anywhere near the volume of construction that some other markets have," Ballard said. "You cannot go anywhere in Seattle and find a finished, brand-new condo to buy."
Let's see how this article holds up to the standard "our market is magically stronger than all others" type of article. Prominent mention of continued appreciation: check. Citing job growth as keeping housing strong: check. Un-supported claim of fewer speculator purchases than elsewhere: check. Looks like we've got all the makings of the classic Seattle real estate fluff piece.
Plus, as a bonus, Mr. Cohen threw in the odd comparison of the Boston "metropolitan area" (population 4.4 million) with just "Seattle" (population <600,000). So the Boston metro area has seven times the population and five times as many condo projects as the city of Seattle. Go figure. Also, it is made apparent later in the article that the 9,000 condos figure doesn't include apartment conversions, which numbered 7,000 (this time in the entire Seattle metro area) just last year.
In any case, direct numerical comparisons with other markets seems rather pointless to me. What really matters is whether there are more condos coming online in the next few years than there is demand. Maybe demand for condos in Seattle is just a lot lower than other cities, and 9,000 will push us over the edge. Who knows? It's not like we can count on Aubrey Cohen to actually do some serious investigative reporting on condo demand.
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 01.17.2007)
Update: Over at Seattlest, Michael van Baker compares Cohen's reporting to the Titanic's claim of being "unsinkable."
Meanwhile, condo enthusiast Matt Goyer of Urbnlivn says that "this article is just a little too go-go-go, even for me."