Despite Record Number Of Units, Rents Are Still Rising

rentIf it seems like construction cranes are sprouting like spring tulips in the Seattle skyline, there is good reason: 56 new residential buildings are under construction, planned, or recently completed in Downtown Seattle, which will add 12,392 new residential housing units to the market by then end of 2015. That number will break the record for number of units built in one year, which now stands at 10,056 units built in 1989. Normally, when inventory increases the market sees vacancy rates increase and rents level off, but with Seattle’s booming job market and continued influx of people wanting to call the Northwest home, that has not been the case. Average rent in King Country has climbed to $1,341 per month, with downtown Seattle and Bellevue topping that at $2,084 and $1,961 respectively.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the average rent in King and Snohomish counties is up $28, or 2 percent, over the first quarter of this year, and the vacancy rate for existing buildings is 4.46 percent, which is down slightly since the end of last year. Newly built properties are posting vacancy rates of 4.3 percent. MyNorthwest.com quotes a report from the CoStar Group, a real estate data and information company, that states in order for “vacancies and rents to remain at healthy levels, developers need to dial back new construction after 2015.”

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

Proposed Bill: 90 Days Notice For Some Rent Increases

housing-marketMost renters have probably experienced it – opening your mailbox to find a notice that your rent is going up. Often, increases come in $50 or $100 increments, but in Seattle’s booming rental market, some are seeing their rents rise by $1,000 or more at a time. Most renters can’t absorb these exorbitant hikes, and Washington State’s Landlord Tenant Law only requires landlords to give 30 days notice for rent changes (60 days in the City of Seattle), giving tenants a short window to find a new home. But according to Crosscut, Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) is planning to introduce legislation that would require landlords across the board to give 90 days notice if they raise rents by more than 10 percent. The notification period for increases of 10 percent or less would remain at 30 days. For renters who don’t have much cushion in their savings account, this would give them more time to save up enough cash for move-in fees such as first and last months’ rent and a security deposit. According to King-5, the Rental Housing Association of Washington will fight the bill.

Kohl-Welles will also introduce legislation to prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of their participation in a government assistance program such as Section 8, which provides rent vouchers for households making 30 percent or less of the area’s median income. The bill would be aimed at landlords who either prohibit those in such a program from applying for housing altogether, or who don’t give them equal consideration with those not enrolled in an assistance program.

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

 

Renting Half As Affordable As Buying In the U.S.

eastlakecdIf you’re a renter, think about the amount you write on that check every month. Is it inching toward 30 percent of your monthly income? According to a new report by Zillow, gone are the days when mortgage rates made home ownership prohibitively expensive and renting was the affordable option. They report that the average renter in the U.S. is spending 30 percent of their monthly earnings on housing, and Seattle renters spend a little more than 30 percent, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. Owning a home can cut that percentage in half, as homeowners pay only about 15 percent of their monthly income on their mortgage. Historically, renters have paid about 25 percent of their income toward rent.

Rents in Seattle are up a staggering 21.5 percent over the past five years, and with incomes only having grown 10.4 percent over that same span, renters are increasingly burdened with monthly housing costs. With mortgage interest rates hovering around 4 percent, first-time buyers in the U.S. are only spending an average of 17.5 percent on housing, even with many only paying a 5 percent down payment. Zillow says that even if interest rates rose to 7 percent, buying a home would be more affordable than it has been historically.

So, if you are looking to save on monthly housing costs, start saving those pennies for a down payment! If you are interested in real estate in the Seattle area, contact your local agent today.

MatchPad App To Help Find Your Ideal Roommate

rentThe dating world has OkCupid, Match.com, and a host of other websites that claim to connect you with your soulmate. New service MatchPad has applied those same principles to connecting potential roommates, using criteria such as desired budget and location, as well as matching up compatible personality traits. According to an article on mynorthwest.com, the service launched in September as a website, and the app for both iOS and Android users will be available in January. Renters in Seattle won’t be able to take advantage of the service just yet, as it currently only operates in New York City, but once it does reach the Northwest it could help take some of the guesswork out of finding that elusive perfect roommate.

Renter Or Rental Owner? Now Is The Time For Winter Maintenance

Madrona rentalEven if you live in a rental, the cold, wet weather of winter should prompt you to do some preventative maintenance on your home, both to limit your liability for any potential damage from the elements and to keep your home as comfortable as possible during the winter. Talk with your landlord, both to make sure they are performing their share of required maintenance, and also to find out what tasks are your responsibility.

The Rental Housing Association of Washington has several tips regarding what you can do as a renter to minimize damage to your unit this winter. If your lease requires you to perform yard maintenance, make sure you’re keeping the area around your foundation clear so excess moisture doesn’t build up and seep into the home (check with your landlord before you do anything beyond basic yard cleanup). Bag up fallen leaves and trim shrubs around the perimeter of your house. But don’t pull out that ladder just yet, as it should be the owner or landlord’s responsibility to make sure roofs are sound and gutters are draining correctly.

It is often the tenant’s responsibility to make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working, and during the season when more people are using their heat and having fires, it’s important to make sure these are operating correctly. Check your lease to determine if this is something you need to keep an eye on.

Especially in damp climates like ours in the Northwest, it’s important to pay attention to moisture levels inside your home, as well as outside. In the winter, when you’re more likely to have all your windows and doors closed, keep indoor air dry and circulating with fans, or occasionally crack a window to let some fresh air in. If you haven’t turned your heaters on yet, make sure they’re free of dust and move any belongings away from vents to minimize fire risk.

These tips should help ensure that you have a warm and uneventful winter in your rental! If you are interested in finding a rental property in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.

Most Expensive Active Seattle Luxury Rentals

Although we usually profile and feature “run of the mill” luxury rentals, today I’d like to feature some of the most expensive active rentals on the market in Seattle and environs. We’re talking like… top 10. Yeah, the big kahunas. Not that the other’s aren’t enviable to say in the least!

10. $8,500

Located in Belltown, this property boasts not only views of downtown, but also Puget Sound and the Space Needle. With a gourmet kitchen, floor to ceiling windows, touch screen sound system, garage parking and two storage units. Listed by Joseph Kelly of Soleil Real Estate of Seattle.

9. $8,500

This contemporary Lake Union home boasts a 270 degree view of the water, heated floors, top of the line kitchen appliances and marble bath. This 1,000 square foot house was built in 2011 and has been on the market for 139 days and is listed by Scott Wasner of Sotheby’s.

8. $9,800

Want a penthouse? Who am I kidding, of course you do. And nowone is up for grabs! For rent at least. This 26th floor, 3,081 square foot residence boats three bedrooms and enormous 290 degrees of skyline, mountains, and water. Oak floors, maple cabinetry, gas fireplace, and a chefs kitchen. On the market for 44 days, this property is listed by Julia Tsurusaki with Pointe3 Real Estate.

7. $10,000

Out next most expensive property calls Mercer Island home. Originally listed at $12,000, this 3,880 square foot gorgeous waterfront home features a newly remodeled kitchen with an ensuite deck and jacuzzi tub (uh, that’s awesome). 85′ of waterfront with moorage and dock, two jets lifts and a boat lift. Nicely settled near some parks, what could get better? Not much, that’s what. Listed by Anthony Yap of TAG Realty.

6. $10,000

Tied at $10,000, this Laurelhurst home has only been on the market for a month. Fully furnished with views of Lake Washington, this 4,660 square foot contemporary northwest home comes with Laurelhurt Beach Club access. Offering five bedrooms and four bathrooms, it’s listed by Timothy Lenihan of Windermere Real Estate.

5. $11,000

Now, this one has me drooling. This unit is within the Four Seasons Private Residences Seattle. Two bedrooms and a den, valet parking, 24 hour security and concierge, mile high views, this 2,082 square foot overlooks the Great Wheel through floor to ceiling windows. With a gas fireplace and an ultra modern kitchen, it’s enough to make anyone go gaga. Listed by Scott Wasner of Sotheby’s.

4. $11,000

Another beauty at $11,000, the stunningly designed Arthur Erickson Highlands home is a looker. Having seen this sumptuous property myself, the views and grounds as well as the guest house, I can say will all certainty that it. is. worth. it. Listed by our own Betsy Terry of Our Distinctive Home Shop in Madison Park, this 7,470 square foot masterpiece is constructed  from polished concrete, with a glass ceiling. Mountain and sound views, and a Pemberley-esque (We got any Jane Austen fans out there? No? Just me? Okay) park off the swimming pool.

3. $12,500

Located in Hunts Point and built in 1995, this home is nestled on prime waterfront with lake, city, and mountain views. Designed by Curtis Gelotte, the house is nestled between manicured landscaping and old growth trees. With moorage and a dock, this 3,710 square foot home is full of natural wood and stone details, evoking the architectural style of the pacific northwest. Listed by Anna Riley of Windermere Real Estate.

2. $18,000

Another jewel of Hunts Point, this residence boasts a stunning Chihuly glass chandelier hanging from a sky-lit ceiling. This 3,000 square foot west-facing residence features rustic timers, posts, and beams embodies pacific northwest architecture and art. Listed by Tere Foster and Moya Skillman of Windermere Real Estate.

1. $20,000

Topping our list is a mansion in Clyde Hill. At 6,000 this european designed six bedroom, eight bathroom masterpiece was custom built in 2007. With a gated entrance and a large pool in the backyard, a large up to date kitchen, and an indoor jacuzzi. Listed by Robert Radulescu with The Force Realty.

Well folks, which one is your favorite??

Make Your Rental’s Bedroom Feel Like A Retreat

GetMedia (1)With customization options at a minimum, apartments often never quite feel like home for many renters. Living with your landlord’s choices for wall colors, flooring materials and finishes can leave renters feeling dissatisfied with their surroundings. But there are some things you can do to make one of the most important rooms in the apartment – the bedroom – feel less like a hotel and more like your own restful and relaxing retreat. Using some inspiration from the designers at Zillow, here are some ideas:

To start with, overhead lighting in apartment buildings is usually not the most flattering, but since you most likely can’t change the main fixture in your rental, invest in table lamps or floor lamps to give your bedroom a nice glow.  Stylish lamps can often be found inexpensively at stores such as Target or TJ Maxx.

Giving walls a fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to personalize your bedroom, but many landlords are not ready to let you wield a paintbrush of your own. Check in with them first, and if you get the go-ahead, a soft grey or classic white will give you a serene space that is also a blank canvas for the rest of your personal touches.

Once you’ve painted, pick up some new bedding in your favorite color palette to add some interest to the room. Along with a nice set of sheets (Target also carries inexpensive sets that feel much more luxurious), you have an opportunity to make a statement with your duvet cover and unique throws and pillows.

Can’t paint your walls? Paint your furniture! Take an old, tired dresser, give it a good sanding and dress it up with whatever color paint you’d like. Paint the whole thing, just the legs, just the top, it’s up to you! Heavy, dark furniture tends to weigh a room down, especially if there is little natural light, so adding some color in the form of furniture can be a major upgrade and is budget friendly.

Now you’ve got some ideas, so get decorating!

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

Deadline Is Here For Registering Rental Properties With 10+ Units

Schack1_bigLast October the City of Seattle passed the Rental Regulation & Inspection Ordinance that aims to establish a standard for cleanliness and healthy living conditions for all rental properties in the city, and the deadline for the first phase – registering properties with 10 or more units in preparation for inspections – is tomorrow, September 30. Inspections are expected to begin early next year, and inspectors will be looking to make sure that all carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors, locks, windows, hot and cold water, and a heat source are working; making sure there are no infestation issues; and that walls, roofs, and ceilings are in good condition.

The ordinance was put in place after a 2009 survey revealed that an estimated 10 percent of the 148,000 rental units in Seattle had “moderate to severe” physical problems. Over the next two years, most rental properties in Seattle will be required to register and subsequently be inspected, with the exception of owner-occupied properties where an individual room is being rented out, and “accessory dwelling units” that are occupied by an immediate family member of an owner. Units that already have inspection reports on file will not need to be re-inspected.

The city is hoping the ordinance will encourage owners to keep rental units up to the same minimum standard and deal with maintenance issues without having to rely on tenant complaints. Units will be inspected at least once every 10 years, and eventually prospective renters will be able view an online database of all registered properties that have passed inspection. Read more about the program here.

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Walkability Score- What is it and why does it matter?

Pioneer Square Pergola

Pioneer Square Pergola

Walkability- it’s a word that some of you may be familiar with already, and one that real estate marketing often uses. But what exactly does it mean?

Used by Walkscore.com, it’s intended definition is to indicate how easily and readily connected a property is to the neighborhood and community around it. For instance, is the nearest grocery store within easy walking distance? Or would it be necessary to drive there?

The higher a property’s Walk Score (or Transit Score or Bike Score) on a scale of 1-100, the more connected the neighborhood is with the property. Take this chart example. But what makes a community walkable?

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

Now, why is this score important? It’s generally known that those who walk more, whether it’s just a few steps or hundreds of steps a day are generally healthier than those who don’t. By walking more, not only do you get outside, but you also use your car less, and thereby reduce your carbon footprint. If you were able to find a property in a highly walkable area, you might be able to forgo the car altogether!

And here’s some great news: Seattle is rated as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S.! With a Walk Score of 71, a Transit Score of 57, and a Bike Score of 64, Seattle is the 8th most walkable city, with it’s most walkable neighborhoods being Downtown, the Denny Triangle, and Pioneer Square.

How important is the walkability of the neighborhood to you when looking for a new property?

Credit Bureaus Now Considering Rent Payment History In Score Criteria

housing-marketYour credit score. That elusive number between 300 and 850 that seems to follow you around wherever you go, determining whether you can buy that new car, rent that apartment, and perhaps most distressing for many Americans – whether you can become a homeowner. For many mortgage lenders, the minimum credit score required to approve a home loan is 640, and until now, on-time rent payments have not been a factor in determining your score. For many long-time renters who have accumulated a perfect track record of on-time payments, that omission has been a lost opportunity to give their credit a boost.

But now, Experian and TransUnion, two of the major national credit scoring bureaus, have begun using rental payment data in their credit-scoring criteria in partnership with a website called RentTrack. The site aims to help renters build credit by allowing them to pay their rent online, and by allowing landlords to report their tenants’ payment records to the bureaus. According to this report, almost 20 percent of renters saw their credit scores increase by 10 points after just a month of their landlord reporting payments. While it costs $1.95 per month for renters to use the site to pay online, they can also use it to track their credit progress, and many landlords will cover the cost.

For someone who hasn’t had much opportunity to build credit, this is a great way to practice good habits by making sure your rent is paid on time while simultaneously raising your credit score and opening the door to a future mortgage and home purchase. For more information on renting in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.