By now most of you have probably already seen today's article in the P-I: Homes overvalued by 31.7% in city, report finds. It's pretty much the usual shtick. "Homes are expensive here, but..." followed by lots of quotes from various real estate "analysts" and "professionals" yammering on about how wonderful the "fundamentals" here are, what with all the high tech job growth, etc., etc..
Here are a few obligatory quotes:
The typical house in the Seattle metropolitan area was 31.7 percent overvalued in the last quarter of the year, up 6.4 percent from the prior quarter and 24.3 percent from the end of 2005, according to Monday's joint report from Global Insight...But my favorite quote actually comes from the "Sound Off" comments section attached to the article, posted by a user calling himself ravennaboy:
"You're sort of on the edge," [Global Insight talking head Jim]Diffley said. "We would say you're not in the riskiest group of metro areas."
Seattle's strong economy and the fact that its prices started their recent climb later than many areas further diminish the risk, he said. "We're not forecasting a 31 percent decline by any means."
Local experts question the idea that Seattle houses are overvalued at all.
"Sure, prices have gone up, and they've gone up rapidly," said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University. "But we're still in a situation where the market fundamentals are extraordinarily strong."
Matthew Gardner, a local land-use economist, said Seattle did not see the 100 percent to 150 percent appreciation or the overbuilding that occurred in places such as Southern California.
"We've got high incomes, we've got a job growth rate twice the rate of the country as a whole, we've got growth management," he said. "Will we see a slowdown in appreciation? Absolutely, and that's appropriate."
Randy Bannecker, a consultant housing specialist for the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors, said there just are not enough homes available to cause overvaluing.
"The overwhelming supply shortage is really what's keeping the prices where they are," he said. "It's hard to see where just kind of a run-up for run-up's sake is in play."
Its no longer a matter of "Californians willing to pay premium prices for our houses"....now its a matter of a vibrant high tech economy that has created massive amounts of wealth, drawn talented individuals and families from around the world whose high paying tech jobs allow them to afford high priced houses.How delightful for us to have an economy that has evolved so vibrantly.
In reality, Microsoft and other employers have made Seattle much more of a meritocracy -- where the talented earn much more than those unskilled in high-demand technical knowledge. These higher paid folks see the value in Seattle housing, and are willing to pay high prices for this ideal location.
So, instead of blaming Californians, blame highly skilled microsofties for pulling Seattle out of its historic "boeing dependent manufacturing economy" with its boom and bust cycles.
Getting back to the article itself, I find it interesting that the 31.7% figure is said to be "up 6.4 percent from the prior quarter," when the last report I saw out of Global Insight had Seattle at 33.8% overvalued. Anyone know what's going on there?
Anyway, make of this report what you will. Personally, I don't need some "global leader in economic and financial analysis" to tell me that homes prices in Seattle are seriously out of whack. It seem pretty much self-evident to anyone willing to do half an hour of research.
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 03.19.2007)