King County home prices grow $100,000 in a year for first time; West Bellevue jumps 41 percent

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The median King County home price has grown more than $100,000 in just a year.

Following up on a record-breaking spring, the county’s real-estate market had its hottest month of July since such monthly records began in 2000, with prices rising 18.6 percent from a year ago.

The new median price is $658,000, or $103,000 more than last July, according to monthly data released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Just a down payment on the median house costs about $20,000 more than a year ago. So first-time buyers who didn’t save up that much in the past year are further from buying a house today than they were a year ago.

 

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George Moorhead of Bentley Properties in Bothell said his office is working with 60 first-time homebuyers right now — and it’s been a struggle to find something for any of them.

“First-time homebuyers are really feeling the pinch. Some of them have been looking for a home for almost two years,” Moorhead said. “They have to keep going further and further out just to find something that’s worthwhile. It’s just slim pickings out there.”

Trade-up buyers are dealing with a similar crunch. One-third of homes across the region sold for at least $1 million this past month, according to John L. Scott Real Estate.

“Anything between $900,000 and $1.3 million, you’ll still find yourself in a multiple-offer situation — six to 10 offers,” said Lori Holden Scott, a John L. Scott broker who deals with pricier homes.

While prices have been going up for so long that increases might seem inevitable, this month’s surge is actually a bit unusual.

 

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Median prices in Seattle ($749,000) and the Eastside ($860,000) did dip slightly from June’s record highs. Both were still up about 15 percent from a year prior.

West Bellevue had the county’s biggest price jump — up 41 percent from a year ago, to a new median price of $2.3 million, the priciest region in the county. Areas that saw prices zoom up more than 20 percent in the past year include West Seattle, Sodo/Beacon Hill, Central Seattle/Capitol Hill, Shoreline, East Bellevue and Redmond.

Countywide, the annual price increase in July was the largest ever in terms of absolute numbers. But the 18.6 percent growth was a bit slower than in some previous months.

“I don’t think anything is slowing down,” said Laurie Way, a managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.

Both Moorhead and Way think the market has to cool a bit eventually; it’s just unclear how long that will take.

The very-long-running trend of declining inventory continues, as fewer people put homes up for sale while those properties that do hit the market get snatched up in about a week, on average.

And Moorhead said more repeat buyers are choosing to rent out their old homes, banking on getting steady rental income while knowing they could sell the home later — perhaps at an even higher price. He said his last four homebuyers all rented out their old homes.

The number of homes for sale across King County dropped 18 percent from a year ago and is at the lowest point on record for this time of year. Sales were down slightly, as well.

One bright spot for buyers: Condos across the county cost a median 5.7 percent more than a year ago, the second-slowest growth in the past two years.

 

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Downtown Seattle, where condos are the only homebuying option, actually saw prices drop a tick from a year ago. Enumclaw was the only place where single-family-home prices decreased.

Elsewhere, Snohomish County surged to a record median price of $453,000, growing 11.9 percent from a year ago.

Both Pierce and Kitsap counties dipped a bit compared with last month’s record prices, but they still were up significantly from a year ago. Pierce’s median price is $312,000, up 9.6 percent from a year ago, while Kitsap reached $322,000, an extra 11 percent from this past year.

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

Another Record Month for the East Side Market

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It was another month of record-setting home prices in June as the area yet again took the prize for the hottest real estate market in the country. In a bright spot for buyers, the number of new listings added in June was the highest total for any single month since May 2008. While inventory is still low, the pace of sales is slowing and the number of multiple offers are down, suggesting that we may soon see a slight reprieve from the last year of rapid-fire growth.

For the full report see: East Side Market Review

Washington’s Best Cities

Movoto Real Estate released the results of their recent survey of Best Cities in Washington State. Here are the results and the reasons for the rankings.

1. Issaquah
2. Bellevue
3. Kirkland
4. Mercer Island
4. Olympia
6. Redmond
7. Mukilteo
8. Bellingham
9. Seattle
10. Richland

How did Issaquah manage to crest the top of this list? What is Seattle doing at the bottom? Why are there two communities in the No. 4 spot? No, it’s not a typo. Keep reading to find out how we came up with this ranking and where each city excelled.

Finding Washington’s Finest

It is clear that Washington is beautiful—practically the entire state looks like a postcard. We also know that the people in Washington are laid-back and welcoming. For our study, however, we needed some solid, measurable data to determine just which cities were the best. After all, we wanted to take something subjective and settle the score once and for all. So we selected the following 10 criteria:

  • Distance from five-star hiking
  • Number of coffee shops per capita
  • Number of seafood restaurants per capita
  • Total amenities
  • High school diploma attainment rate
  • Commute time to work
  • Average home value
  • Median household income
  • Crime rate
  • Cost of living (100 is the national average)

Just like our other Big Deal Lists, we started our study of Washington with a list of the state’s 50 most populous cities and towns, and then ranked each with a score from one to 50 in each criteria, based on our research—the lower the number, the better.

As far as amenities go, we chose distance to five-star hiking, coffee shops per capita, and seafood restaurants per capita, as these three things are pretty good representations of a happy life in the Evergreen State. Then we used the total number of such amenities as well, just to keep things balanced for those cities with larger populations.

After we rated each city, we averaged the criteria together and gave each city an overall score. The lower the overall score was, the better each city ranked. From a complete list of how each of the 50 cities ranked, hop down to the end of this post. Or, keep reading to take a tour of each of Washington’s finest cities—see where they excelled in our criteria, what else they have going on, and why they really are the 10 best cities in the state.

1. Issaquah

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Joe Mabel

Coming in at No. 1 is Issaquah, not only for having one of the cooler names on our list, but also for scoring well in almost all of our criteria. Issaquah is one of the best cities in Washington when it comes to hiking—it’s just over two miles away from some of the best trails in the area. It also has a ton of seafood restaurants and coffee shops per capita, making its overall rank in amenities pretty good. Of course, quantity doesn’t always mean quality, but it looks like Issaquah enjoys a lot of both, if seafood places like Jak’s Grill are any indication.

Folks in Issaquah also win when it comes to education, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 96 percent. This stellar education must aid these kids in the workforce later on, because Issaquah has one of the better median household incomes—about $84,001 per year.

2. Bellevue

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Yatharth

No. 2 on our list is Bellevue, which is French for “beautiful view.” If you’ve ever been there, you know this is fitting.

Bellevue scores well in many of our criteria, but where it really shines is in its high median home price of $556,500 and in the total number of amenities. We’re not the only ones to notice how awesome Bellevue is. Over the past few years, it has been named one of the best places to live and launch a business, and the fourth best place to live in the country by CNN.

3. Kirkland

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Flickr user Jason Goecke

Just on the other side of Lake Washington from Seattle lies Kirkland, our No. 3 city. Kirkland won major points when it came to real estate—its median home value is $496,100 and with a median household income of $84,955 it seems like residents can certainly afford it. Kirkland also has a high school diploma attainment rate of 95 percent, which we’re willing to bet has something to do with the 54 coffee shops in the area, keeping the kids alert and studious. Or at least alert.

4. Mercer Island

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Joe Mabel

Our No. 4 city—or, rather, our first No. 4 city—is Mercer Island. Mercer Island is known throughout the country as one of its most affluent cities, with a median household income of over $151,000 and an average home value over $895,800—but that’s probably because the folks in Mercer Island are smart.

Mercer Island came in at No. 1 for education, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 98 percent. To put that into perspective for you, that’s 15 percent higher than Washington’s average.

Folks in the 98040 zip code are more than just wealthy and well-educated, though; they’re also surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature in the area. Parks like the Luther Burbank Park, the Aubrey David Park, Pioneer Park, and, best of all Deane’s Children Park (aka the “Dragon Park”), cover the island, with beautiful mansions (like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s) are dotted throughout.

4. Olympia

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Sundodger

Tying for No. 4 is the Washington state capital of Olympia—a city that couldn’t be more different than our other No. 4. Where Mercer Island has expensive homes and high salaries, Olympia has an average median income of $49,461, but a cost of living even with the national average, rather than Mercer’s 59 points above it. Olympia also ranked much better when it came to total amenities.

Fun fact: Musicians like Macklemore and Kurt Cobain wrote much of their music while living in Olympia, while other artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Hole, Rancid, and Bright Eyes all make references to the capital city in their songs.

6. Redmond

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Chrismiceli

Coming in at No. 6 on our list is Redmond. Just east of Seattle, Redmond may be best known as the home of Microsoft—also the area’s top employer—but it is so much more than computer software. After all, Nintendo of America is based in Redmond, too.

Of course, Redmond had to score well in our criteria to make this list, and where it really excelled was in its median household income of $88,194, its high school diploma attainment rate of 94 percent, and a relatively low commute time of just 23 minutes on average. This may be because companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and AT&T Mobility have offices here, so residents don’t have to go far. Of course if they do, there is always the option of biking to work—after all, Redmond is the Biking Capital of the Northwest.

7. Mukilteo

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Flickr user hj_west

No. 7 on our list is Mukilteo. With a population of just over 20,000, Mukilteo is certainly the smallest on our top 10, but it is by no means lacking in amenities—especially in seafood, where it ranked No. 1 for restaurants per capita. Mukilteo also scored major points in education, with a high school diploma degree attainment rate of 97 percent. That’s 13 percent better than the state’s average. Residents here are also amongst the best paid in the state, with a median income of $91,683.

What do they do with all of that money? Well, parents may be spending it on schools. The city is home to one of the most costly to build high schools in the country, Kamiak High School. It’s no wonder Mukilteo ranked so well in education.

8. Bellingham

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Joe Mabel

Bellingham comes in at No. 8 on our list for scoring well on its short commute time of just 19 minutes, in its number of total amenities, as well as its amenities per capita.

It doesn’t just have a lot of coffee shops and restaurants to choose from; as residents know, it has some of Washington’s finest. Just step into the quaint Caffe Adagio for a cup of joe or the cozy Oyster Creek Inn for some of the best seafood in the area, and Bellingham may just charm you into sticking around.

9. Seattle

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonsSource: Flickr user papalars

Residents of our No. 9 city, Seattle, will not be surprised to find the Rainy City on our list, due to its high ranking in amenities; they just might be surprised to find it toward the bottom. After all, Seattleites are a proud bunch and they sure do love their city (I know many). When it comes to cost of living and crime rate, though, Seattle just doesn’t quite measure up to the others higher up on our list.

The city more than makes up for this when it comes to, you guessed it, lots of coffee shops—and plenty of seafood restaurants (when, really, you could get by with just Mashiko, Etta’s, and Lark). It’s also just about 10 miles away from some great hiking, making it No. 1 when it comes to amenities.

10. Richland

The 10 Best Cities in WashingtonSource: Wikipedia user Umptanum

What Richland lacks in variety of coffee shops and seafood restaurants, it more than makes up for with its relatively short average commute time of 20 minutes and its lower than average cost of living (10 points below the national average).

Richland also scored well with a crime rate three percent below the state’s average, and a pretty solid median household income of over $65,500, to boot.

Bye and Bye, Washington

The Washington state motto, “Al-ki,” means “bye and bye,” but it also means “hope for the future.” Clearly, with cities like those in our top 10, Washington has a lot to look forward to in the years to come. So, Al-ki, Washington—and congratulations, Issaquah, for being so great.

(click to enlarge)

Best Cities in Washington Ranking