This analysis was completed by Bloomberg using the US Bureau of Economic Analysis data for the 100 largest metropolitan areas in 2014. Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) was clearly much higher in high-tech areas, with San Jose ranking number one nationwide. This reflects an ongoing trend showing that densely populated areas with educated, skilled, workers are compensated at much higher rates than the national averages. Income in these areas is expected to continue to increase, unless housing costs rise too high or the standard of living declines.
Real Estate Business
The proof is in. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently released a report recently that shows that Seattle's incomes are increasing rapidly. In fact they are rising at twice the national average. (see chart)
Of course everyone acknowledges this is affecting the purchase price of real estate, as well as rentals. And that is true. But it also has a compounding effect on other issues. More people with higher skill levels are relocating here in hopes of better income and jobs. Employee benefits are increasing for companies in order to be competitive. And more people are being asked to work longer hours because hiring is expensive for businesses, even if they can find qualified employees.
Don't get me wrong, increased income is good, it's even great! But Seattle and the surrounding area needs to be aware of the unintended consequences that comes with it. And be ready to address them in creative, realistic, and effective ways.
There are several map-driven sites to help people and businesses get informed on current real estate developments in Seattle. And the main information source (City of Seattle DPD) is making it easier to get the most accurate and detailed information available.
The Seattle City Department of Planning and Development now has a website called “Shaping Seattle” that is a dynamic map of all the active developments – from Early Design Guidance, to Completed Construction, and all the steps in between in the Project Timeline. You can link back to the original Design Proposal or See all the project documents if you wish, something that once used to take someone hours of time going to the Seattle DPD Office downtown. You can even get a link to share on a specific project with all this info together on a page.
There is another well-designed dynamic web-based map called SeattleinProgress.com. They offer more analysis through their blog and have a calendar that shows events chronologically. (like Design Review Board meetings). I like there color-coding that lets you know at a glance if a project has been just Applied for, Approved, or Completed. They also offer a paid Pro version. Although they are currently targeting commercial brokerages and the finance side of the industry, not residential brokers like myself.
Both of these sites can be extremely helpful to someone like me, who wants to keep abreast of developments in neighborhoods and how they may impact or benefit my clients. It seems every day as I drive around I see new construction projects starting up that I didn't know about. Now I can quickly pull over, whip out my iPad and set a detailed summary of what it is in a matter of seconds. I'm sure many other individuals and businesses and the same interest and desire to know what's going on when they see a site suddenly turn into a hole with a crane in it!
It's come to my attention through real estate colleagues and the “Agent Remarks” on the NWMLS that several brokers are not allowing pre-inspections on their listings before Buyers offers are being reviewed (presumably in multiple offer situations, and with their Seller's consent). I find this to be an odd approach. Our duty is to encourage Buyers to investigate and gain knowledge of any defects, and to not obstruct that opportunity. That should lead brokers to encourage their sellers to allow any inspections (within reason), as long as they are not intrusive or potentially damage the property in the process.
In a hot market like Seattle's is now, many Buyers will be tempted to remove the inspection contingency in order to improve their odds when competing with multiple offers. Most agents understand this and try to create time and space for a pre-inspection to happen before the offer is presented so that Buyer gets a chance to inspect the property before waiving this condition. And the Seller gets an opportunity to receive stronger offers with the inspection contingency removed, because it has already been performed to the satisfaction of the Buyer. To DISALLOW pre-inspections just doesn't make sense – it's a lose-lose proposition.
I spoke to a MLS attorney about this and he suggested that it may be a way for Sellers who are trying to conceal or obfuscate defects. But if it is being done at the Brokers suggestion, they may be complicit in attempting to create a “Buyer Beware” environment, such as the case of Douglas vs. Visser a few years back. In that case, the Sellers were Real Estate Agents who tried to conceal substantial mold and defects. The Buyer did an inspection before purchasing the home, and the inspector pointed some minor rot and mold issues that these were not structural problems but should be repaired. The Buyer did nothing further and the transaction closed. After closing the Buyers found out the extent of the damage was so severe that the house needed to be torn down. Investigations revealed that the Seller had knowingly concealed the mold and rotting wood. The Buyer sued the Seller for fraudulent concealment and negligent misrepresentation (remember the Sellers WERE REAL ESTATE AGENTS!) Shockingly, the Buyers lost in Appeals Court because the court upheld that the Buyer has a common law duty to investigate. Once the original inspector had pointed it out, they should have asked more questions, requested more testing, or investigated it more thoroughly till they were satisfied, according to the court.
To me, especially when I am representing the Buyer, I want Sellers and Brokers to be even MORE transparent and encourage ANY and ALL investigations that can answer my Buyers concerns. And I am very suspicious when Sellers or Sellers agents hesitate or disallow it. I can only assume they are not experienced, or God forbid, the opposite – they are intentionally trying to conceal something.
BUYERS: If you run up against this in a listing you are thinking of making an offer on you should discuss it with your Broker. Even though it may reduce your chances of getting the home, waiting to have the inspection until after gaining mutual acceptance is always less risky that waiving the inspection altogether and not doing one. Maybe your Broker can have a discussion with the Listing Agent and they might be more flexible.
SELLERS: If your Listing Broker recommends you do this, ask him why?! Since this is not the standard of practice, find out what advantage he/she thinks this gives you. And ask him/her about any liability this may create for you. If you are not satisfied, SPEAK TO A LAWYER!!
Let's hope the Real Estate Division of the Department of Licensing addresses this soon and stops this bad behavior in its tracks! I'm hoping they will see this odd practice as I do – another step backwards for consumers! (less transparency, more buyer-beware environment) Just my two cents. I am not qualified to give legal advice. So do not misconstrue anything in this article as legal advice.
Many people have heard of Walkscore.com, and use it to tout the “Walk-ability” of a neighborhood. It's a bit of a fine line for agents to talk about this. “Walking distance” to or from a property is prohibited in marketing materials by Federal Fair Housing Laws based on non-discrimination requirements about disability. But without being biased, people want to know how close homes are to major amenities. And this is one of the ways people express that. So agents use Walkscore.com to share the information because it is just a statistical reference, not a judgement of value.
What a lot of people don't realize is that there are some other great neighborhood statistics at the same site. You can find about crime rates, public transit options, and the “bike-ability” of a neighborhood, or even a specific address. I imagine this will expand to include even more information as Zillow continues to dominate the real estate web space. There is a site for ParkScores (ParkScores.org) but it just gives macro information about cities as a whole. They don't give specific neighborhood data, but do offer city maps that give you a good idea where parks are located and where there is a lack of them.
The trend is to be want to be closer to major amenities and home values reflect that. A recent article in Better Cities & Towns compares the increase in values in areas of less urban density, and more urban density. It's clear that inner-city home values are escalating faster rate than outlying locations. But outlying areas with close-by amenities doing pretty well too.