Smith Tower: Seattle’s Original Skyscraper

After nearly two years of renovations the newly branded Smith Tower Observatory has reopened and now the view comes with cocktails.
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Then and now: Smith Tower 1929 and 2016

On August 25 a new “speak-easy” will open at the top of the Smith Tower. Formerly known as the Chinese Room, the 35th floor observation deck has been renamed “the Smith Tower Observatory,” and within it is the Smith Tower Temperance cafe and bar.

The new 35th-floor bar is inspired by the Prohibition era as a nod to the origins of the building, which opened 102 years ago in Pioneer Square as Seattle’s first skyscraper and the fourth tallest building in the world. Light bites inspired by the Roaring Twenties and the tower’s Asian influence include banh mi sandwiches, Chinese dumplings, a raw oyster bar, and craft cocktails.

To get to the observation deck and bar, you have two options: Pay for a 40-minute, self-guided “Legends of Smith Tower” tour or simply pay for a “Straight Up” ticket for an elevator ride to the 35th floor.

It’s lovely to see such a grand Seattle landmark be restored and reinvented as a fun destination stop but make sure you get there early – the observatory and bar closes each day at 6pm.

#YourStoryIsOurStory: The Little Blue House

Originally posted August 15 2016, on the Windermere Blog by Shelley Rossi

It’s tough being a first time home buyer, especially in a fiercely competitive market like Seattle where multiple offers are the norm. Windermere clients Haley and Yash experienced this first hand when they started shopping for a home. With the help of their agent Elsa Nunes-Ueno, they found and fell in love with “the little blue house”. It had everything they were looking for, including the potential for them to fix it up and make it their own. But other bidders and a steep price increase threatened to get in their way. Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, Elsa went to bat for her clients and came up with a creative approach to make Haley and Yash’s dream of the little blue house a reality.

Throughout the year Windermere will be posting some of our favorite #YourStoryIsOurStory videos, photos, and blog posts. Please take a minute to share your experiences, and follow #YourStoryIsOurStory on our blogFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Pinterest pages.

Free Family Event: Summer Splash at Green Lake

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School starts soon but the fun isn’t over just yet!

The weatherman says it’s going to be a HOT one this weekend so if you’re looking for a way to keep the kids cool, come on down to Green Lake on Saturday, August 20 for the third annual Windermere Summer Splash! This free, daylong event will celebrate summer fun and active lifestyles for young families with a variety of free activities – both in the water and out.

Among the numerous things you can do, some of the highlights include:

  • Canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and rowing for children and adults
  • Robotics demonstrations
  • Yoga, dance fitness and CrossFit trainers for kids and teens
  • Skate Like a Girl: skateboarding demonstrations
  • Interactive learning opportunities for juggling, soccer, piano, Legos© and more
  • Corporate Cup Rowing Regatta: watch local businesses battle it out on the water

Is your child more of a rocker than a swimmer? That’s cool too because there will be four youth bands competing throughout the day in the Battle of The Bands.

There will also be a variety of food trucks serving delicious snacks and drinks, including one for dogs!

For more information about the Windermere Summer Splash event and a schedule of activities and list of participating vendors, please visit: www.WindermereSummerSplash.com.

We hope to see you all there!

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The Birdies – and Bogeys – of Buying a Golf Course Home

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Living on a golf course has obvious appeal to anyone who enjoys teeing up on a regular basis. In addition to having your next round of golf right outside your door, living on a golf course often affords you a view of a sprawling green vista. Many golf communities also feature newer homes and offer extra amenities such as spas, planned activities and more.

Yet for all their upsides, there are aspects of living on a golf course that might give you pause. They include:

Stray golf balls: The possibility of an airborne golf ball landing on you, your car or your home is a definite possibility when you’re living on a golf course. If you’re especially concerned about this, search for a home further away from the fairways. Also make sure you have the right insurance in place.

Noise from golf carts: You’ll want to check where the path for golf carts runs. If you’re close to a path, you’ll likely be subject to the noise of carts and people zipping by for a good part of each day.

Noise from the golf course: Things can get noisy if you’re very close to the course. This is especially true if your house borders a tee box. Another thing to consider is noise from groundskeepers. Courses are typically mowed very early in the morning. If your master bedroom faces out to the course, it’s likely your sleep could be interrupted by noise and headlights.

Deed restrictions: It’s common for golf communities to be regulated by a homeowners’ association in addition to having recorded CC&R’s that were designated upon the development of the community. A thorough review of the HOA Bylaws and the CC&R’s is very important.  If the either set of regulations will seriously hinder your quiet enjoyment of your own home, or place too much demand/control on structural improvements, paint colors, yard maintenance, etc. then you may want to just stick with your membership and live elsewhere.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Greenwood

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Situated just north of Phinney Ridge, Greenwood remains one of the iconic Seattle neighborhoods. The area immediately around North 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue North grew up around the streetcar that formerly ran up Greenwood Avenue. It still has the charm of the storefronts that went up in the early 1900s. Now converted into restaurants, bars and other businesses, the neighborhood is still a buzz with activity. Head over in the summer to see Seattle’s largest free car show, and while you’re there, stop by Gorditos for one of the best burritos in town.

With its proximity to nearly everything in north Seattle, and its quiet neighborhood vibe, Greenwood homes have seen strong appreciation in recent years. The median single family home price in Greenwood is currently $595,000.

GREENWOOD

Guide to Seattle Art Walks

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If you like interesting art, visiting with artists, wandering through neighborhoods, museums and cafés, an Art Walk is a great activity, no matter what time of year.

These Art Walks offer a free and easy opportunity to enjoy the arts in neighborhoods across the city, and by bringing the community together, they support both Seattle’s talented artists and small businesses. Interesting Fact: the First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square (started in 1981) was in fact the first in the nation, and set the stage for over a dozen Art Walks now held regularly throughout the city – and nationwide!

 

Ballard (2nd Saturdays)

Belltown (2nd Fridays)

Capitol Hill (2nd Thursdays)

Columbia City (Summer only)

Fremont (1st Fridays)

Georgetown (2nd Saturdays)

Phinney/Greenwood (2nd Fridays)

Seattle Waterfront Fun

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The Seattle waterfront has always been a favorite destination for locals and tourists. Food, art, shopping, and history – the Seattle Waterfront has it all. There is a lot of fun to be had on the waterfront, regardless of the construction so don’t let that stop you this summer! The Downtown Seattle Association is now offering free valet parking for up to three hours.

ACTIVITIES

Seattle Great Wheel was built in less than a year, but its story goes back much further than that. Seattle businessman Hal Griffith had envisioned a Ferris wheel in the city for nearly 30 years, but it wasn’t until he realized he could build one on his own pier that his dream became a reality. The Seattle Great Wheel opened to the public on June 29, 2012. Since then, it has become an icon of the city and a destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Seattle Aquarium gives you the opportunity to see all kinds of creatures from all kinds of points of view. Species that live in the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean are the focus. There are a number of cool exhibits, from the furry funny otters to the silvery school of salmon. Tide pools provide the chance to touch sea stars and anemones. In addition to sea flora and fauna, you can also spend time at interactive exhibits exploring such topics as orcas and ocean science, and check out the cafe and gift shop.

SCENIC CRUISES AND BOAT TOURS

Along with the sailboats and ferries crossing the waters of Elliott Bay, you’ll see the various vessels used for scenic cruises, whale watching, and scenic Puget Sound tours. Scheduled day tours, dinner cruises, and private charters are among your many choices. Here are some of the more popular scenic cruises and boat tour companies operating out of the downtown Seattle waterfront.

Argosy Cruises

Emerald City Charters

Victoria Clipper

PARKS

Olympic Sculpture Park

One of Seattle’s newer attractions, the Olympic Sculpture Park is exactly that – a park filled with large sculptures and art installations of all kinds, provided and managed by Seattle Art Museum. Many are quite fun and funky, making this free park a wonderful way to introduce children to fine art. As you wander the zigzag paths through the park you’ll enjoy fabulous views, east to the Space Needle and west to the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

Myrtle Edwards Park

Located at the north edge of Seattle’s downtown waterfront district, Myrtle Edwards Park is a good old-fashioned city park that happens to enjoy fabulous water and mountain views. There’s a bike and walking trail, benches and picnic tables, verdant lawns and sandy beaches.

SHOPPING

Seattle’s waterfront shops carry everything from high-quality, locally-made gift items to the tackiest of tourist trinkets. Most of these shops are located at the south end of the waterfront on Piers 56 and 57. Seattle’s best souvenir items include Northwest Coast Art, fine art photographs, sports team merchandise, and glass art. Food and drink items always make for thoughtful souvenirs or gifts, including Washington wines, smoked salmon, huckleberry jam, and locally-roasted coffee.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, part museum and part novelty shop, is a must stop. This place is a fascinating piece of Seattle history, first opened on the waterfront in 1899. The walls and ceiling of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop are covered with “curiosities” of all kinds, including a mummy, taxidermy Siamese-twin calves, and a grain of rice engraved with the Lord’s Prayer. The shop sells items from the Northwest and around the world.

Western Washington Gardner Report

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ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State continues to see strong employment growth, outpacing national numbers with an annual rate of more than 3%. Interestingly enough, despite these substantial job gains, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 5.8%. However, I’m not overly concerned about this because it’s largely due to a growing labor force rather than a declining job market. This means that those who are unemployed who had previously stopped looking for work are now resurrecting their job searches because they have confidence in the economy.

I expect to see a modest drop in the unemployment rate through the balance of the year, and believe we will continue to outperform the nation as a whole with above-average job gains.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 22,721 home sales during the second quarter of 2016, up by 4.4% from the same period in 2015. We finally saw a much-needed increase in listings, which rose by 30.1% between first and second quarter. This increase in the number of homes for sale led to an increase in sales, which rose by 4.4% when compared to the same period in 2015.
  • Island County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with sales up by 22.1%. This is a small county which is subject to wild swings, so I take the data at face value. That said, the larger Thurston County saw sales up by an equally impressive 19.7%. Most interesting is that King County saw sales fall modestly compared to the same time period in 2015. Price—and supply—are clearly an issue in the most populous county in our state.
  • Overall listing activity was down by 21.8% compared to the second quarter of 2015, but the good news is that the supply side deficit is actually getting a little less than we have seen over the past few years. The total number of homes for sale was 30.1% higher than seen at the end of the first quarter. While much of this can be attributed to seasonality, it is still nice to see!
  • The region is experiencing positive job growth, and with it, migration to Washington State is running at a very brisk pace. Given these factors—in addition to our lack of new home construction—it is not surprising to see demand substantially usurping supply. As I look forward, I believe inventory levels will continue to rise modestly, but it will remain a solidly seller’s market for the rest of the year.

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HOME PRICES

  • With demand still exceeding supply, we should not be surprised to see average sale prices continuing to rise, as is certainly the case in our region. Home prices rose by 8.1% between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of this year. This is down from the annual rate of 10.1% that we showed in our last report, but the rate is still far higher than the historic average of 4%.
  • Regular readers of this report will remember that there were several counties where average sale prices in the first quarter were actually lower than seen a year before. I suggested that seasonality was to blame and that was indeed the case, with all counties in this report now showing annualized price gains.
  • When compared to the second quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County and, in total, there were nine counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%.
  • The prevailing supply/demand imbalance continues to push prices higher, and persistently low interest rates are just adding fuel to the flames. If rates stay at current levels, it is unlikely that we will see much in the way of slowing appreciation for the rest of the year.

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DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by 17 days when compared to the second quarter of 2015.
  • It took an average of 67 days to sell a home in the second quarter of this year—down from both the 86 days it took to sell a home in the first quarter of this year, and from the 84 days that it took to sell a home in the second quarter of 2015.
  • The only market where the length of time it took to sell a home rose was in the notoriously fickle San Juan County, where it rose by 30 days to 196 days. In the rest of the region, the average decrease in the time it took to sell a home between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016 was 20 days.

Snohomish County has joined King County as a market that takes less than a month to sell a home. At 18 days, King County is unarguably the hottest market in the region, but sales are slowing due to the lack of inventory. This imbalance is unsustainable over the long term.

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CONCLUSIONS

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This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the second quarter of 2016, I am leaving the needle in the same position as last quarter. Inventory levels have improved, albeit modestly, and price growth has slowed very slightly. However, this is offset by a jump in pending sales, a slightly higher number of closed sales, and a drop in interest rates. As such, the region remains staunchly a seller’s market.

ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

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July Premier Networking Breakfast: Windermere Brokers come together to discuss new trends in Luxury Vacation Homes

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On Wednesday, July 27, over 100 brokers from all over Western Washington gathered at Broadmoor Golf and Country Club for Windermere’s monthly Premier Breakfast.

The breakfast opened with brokers presenting the newest luxury homes from Blaine to Eatonville and throughout the Puget Sound area. Following that, a guest panel including Khue Dang and Richard Blacharski of Union Bank, Cory Brewer and Lori Gill of Windermere Property Management, and Ty Evans of Windermere Bainbridge Island, discussed vacation rentals, second homes and the complexities of financing second homes, with an emphasis on luxury properties.  Ty Evans spoke about dealing with buyers’ expectations with regards to inventory and the cost of owning waterfront property on an island.  Lori Gill shared information of the great success her team has had with Windermere Vacation Rentals in Lake Chelan. Khue Dang and Richard Blacharski offered advice on helping clients understand the different financing options for these homes and how to best set up buyers for success by going through a pre-approval process prior to shopping for homes.

Windermere President, Jill Jacobi Wood, closed out the breakfast talking about the remarkable difference between Mercer and Bainbridge Islands. Jill noted that Mercer Island has never been considered a second home market, unlike Bainbridge Island, but how in recent years, Bainbridge has become more of a bedroom community to Seattle, with 80% of all residences now being primary homes, many of whom commute to Seattle via ferry.

We appreciate all the Windermere brokers who attended this month’s Premier Breakfast, sharing both their listings and extensive knowledge of luxury markets throughout Western Washington.

Seahawks and Windermere Announce Partnership to Benefit Homeless Youth

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To say that Windermere has a lot of Seahawks fans would be an understatement. That’s why we are so excited to announce today that we are now the “Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks”!

At the center of this partnership with the Seahawks is a new #tacklehomelessness campaign in which the Windermere Foundation will donate $100 for every Seahawks tackle at home during the 2016 season. On the receiving end of these donations is YouthCare, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that has been providing services and support to homeless youth from across Puget Sound for more than 40 years. Since 1989, Windermere has donated over $30 million to non-profits that support low-income and homeless families, so partnering with YouthCare and the Seahawks on the #tacklehomelessness campaign is a perfect fit for us.

“We are proud to partner with Windermere, an iconic and locally-based company with a deep commitment to this community,” said Seahawks Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Amy Sprangers. “Windermere’s brand and values align perfectly with our commitment to this region. It is wonderful that this partnership will make a positive impact on homeless youth throughout the Seattle area.”

If you’re not already excited about the upcoming Seahawks season, this video should do it.

Now say it with us . . . Go Hawks!

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