There have been a lot of real estate articles in the local dead tree outlets the last few days. It's time for another link roundup before I get too far behind and forget to mention some of them.
First up, it's Mark Trahant of the P-I with yet another thoughtful, well-reasoned take on Seattle's housing market.
What if housing prices decline by 20 percent? That would solve Seattle's affordability problem, right? Most folks would say this is impossible. The data from last week show that house prices keep increasing no matter what. Our boom continues, just slower and steadier. But both our region and our country have boom and bust cycles as predictable as weather. It's as much of our history as innovation, military might or baseball. One minute we're panning gold, the next we're trying to recoup our investment in those nifty machines that pluck gold dust from stream beds.On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Seattle Times encouraging first-time homebuyers to "learn the fine art of compromise."
Just think about what those higher credit standards will require: A significant down payment, good credit and, in Seattle, a high income.
More than likely, what it will really mean is that the supply of homes will grow — and prices, sooner or later, will fall.
Rolf Johnson and Kerrie Cooley had different jobs, different priorities and different resources, but on their brave hunt for a $250,000 home in the Seattle area they both learned it came down to what they were willing to give up.Also worth noting is a pair of articles from the P-I and Times reporting on the recent blatherings of Senator Patty Murray. From the P-I:
Cooley let go of any notion of buying a house or living in downtown Seattle to find the modern, two-bedroom condo she wanted.
Johnson spent more than a year, bumped up his budget and moved farther from work to find the house, property and studio space he craved.
Compromise is definitely the name of the house-hunting game in the Seattle area, especially for first-time buyers who often can't come close to the $450,000 or so that it costs for a typical single-family house in Seattle and are looking more realistically at prices around $250,000.
The lack of affordable housing in Seattle and other places is a "silent epidemic," U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told representatives of housing agencies, developers, labor and environmental groups Friday.Here's what the Times had to say about it:
"We all need to work together, whatever hats we wear, to start to address this crisis," Murray, who chairs the Transportation and housing and urban development subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said during a housing forum at Seattle's Opportunity Place.
Some at Friday's forum want more federal money, while others support incentives or requirements aimed at local developers. Cities and counties need to allow more homes through zoning, some said.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who was visiting Seattle on Friday during a congressional recess, convened the roundtable with representatives of housing agencies, business, Sound Transit, the Puget Sound Educational Service District and social-service agencies to see what she can do at the federal level to help people with low and moderate incomes find affordable housing.As we all know, you're less of a person if you rent, so it makes sense that Ms. Murray et. al. would focus only on buying homes when stating that Seattle is in the midst of a "silent epidemic" when it comes to "affordable housing."
Adrienne Quinn, director of Seattle's Office of Housing, said a recent study by her office reveals that 51 percent of Seattle workers do not live in the city. Households earning between $60,000 and $100,000 a year are the least likely to live within the city limits, she said.
"People are able to buy someplace, but not in the city of Seattle," Quinn said.
Lastly, here's the latest paid advertisement masquerading as an opinion piece from a "guest columnist." Steve Francks just so happens to be the CEO of the Washington Realtors. His editorial is quite transparently nothing more than the latest volley in the Washington Realtors' It's A Priority campaign.
Transportation experts are tearing their hair out trying to figure out how to fix Puget Sound gridlock. But if they really want to improve transportation, they should focus on housing.If I can make some time in the next week or so, I'd like to write essentially a counter-point editorial of my own in response to Mr. Francks' drivel.
There are just too many people trying to drive between home and their jobs each day. There isn't enough tax money in the world to pave our way out of this problem, especially with our population growing by a million each decade.
Instead of trying to deal with the symptoms, I suggest we address the cause: too few affordable home choices near where people work. That's something that we can fix — with a little help from the Legislature.
Home prices throughout our state continue to rise month after month. Wages, however, do not. The result is a huge gap between typical home prices and what typical families can afford. The Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University, which tracks the gap with its "Housing Affordability Index," shows home affordability in Washington at a 15-year low. The gap is particularly wide for first-time home buyers, who, according to the index, could afford the local median-price standard only if they were living in Benton or Adams counties.
What's a middle-wage family to do? Hit the highway and drive to find an acceptable home you can afford. Between 2000 and 2005, 67,000 people moved from King County to Pierce County. Another 14,720 Pierce residents moved south to Thurston County during the same period.
So what other recent local real estate articles have I missed?
(Mark Trahant, Seattle P-I, 04.06.2007)
(Heather Rae Darval, Seattle Times, 04.07.2007)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 04.06.2007)
(Stuart Eskenazi, Seattle Times, 04.07.2007)
(Steve Francks, Seattle Times, 04.10.2007)