Many of you pointed out the latest in a series of paid advertisements masquerading as reporting in yesterday's Seattle Times. The apparent purpose of the "article" was to convince the reader that 2007 is a great year to buy a condo in downtown Seattle, at any cost.
[Condo developer David] Thyer insists that Seattle isn't like other cities, where developers are struggling with an oversupply of new condos. There's a demand for condos in downtown Seattle, he says, drawing a contrast with the speculative buying frenzy that has led to a boom-bust scenario elsewhere in the country.So, a bunch of condo developers, condo marketers, and real estate agents all say that "it's different here." What a shock. And what evidence, pray tell, do they have to support that assertion? Estimates, intentions, efforts, and (I'm just guessing on this one) a sprinkle of pixie dust.
On Friday, political and business leaders met over breakfast at the Westin Hotel for an annual review of downtown Seattle. Real-estate economist Matthew Gardner shared Thyer's optimism, telling an audience of about 700 that demand for new places to live downtown will remain "very positive."
Developers say the new condos will sell, but will they sell at the prices developers want?
In Miami and Las Vegas, developers have had to drop their prices after condos outnumbered buyers.
Part of the problem is that many buyers regarded their new condos as investments and had no intention of living in them.
[Dean] Jones [president of Realogics, a local condo-marketing firm] estimates that speculators accounted for 30 percent or more of all new condo purchases in Miami and Las Vegas, compared with "no more than 15 percent" in Seattle. Now, developers require buyers to disclose if they intend to live in their new condos in an effort to limit speculators, Jones said.
Ada Healey, a vice president at Vulcan Real Estate, said speculators represent a "very modest minority" of its buyers. Thyer, president of R.C. Hedreen, said he tries to limit speculators to no more than 5 percent.
[Seattle real-estate agent Brett] Frosaker counts at least four projects where a significant portion of the condos sell for $1 million or more. Never before, he says, has downtown seen so many ultra-expensive condos come online at the same time.
"A lot of research shows there's a market for them," he said. "But it hasn't been proven yet."
Matt Goyer, proprietor of the local condo enthusiast blog Urbnlivn also had some critical thoughts about this article that are well worth reading. Considering that he is already a condo believer, it is commendable that he takes these cheerleading articles with such a large grain of salt. Kudos, Matt.
(Amy Martinez, Seattle Times, 02.11.2007)
(Matt Goyer, Urbnlivn, 02.11.2007)