It may be hard to believe, but overall, the nation’s real estate market has been slowly on the mend for some time. As Redfin points out in their milestone bottom-calling post:
A year ago we said sales would be up in 2011, and despite the unfair comparison of a 2011 with no tax credits to a 2010 that had the homebuyer tax credit in effect for half the year, 2011 did indeed see about 2% more sales than 2010 in the markets we serve across the country.
In Seattle, realtors are perking up, trading stories of that now-mythical experience, multiple offers above listing. For Seattle, Zillow lists 7,300 homes “recently sold” versus some 3,200 for sale. That’s not to say it hasn’t been a cold winter for home-sellers–all three Case-Schiller price tiers fell in December, points out Seattle Bubble–but a stagnant inventory was helping to push prices down. More recent numbers suggest a “surprise sales spike.”
Redfin currently counts some 530 foreclosed properties in the Seattle area (280 in Seattle proper) that are for sale, but that number is likely to increase in 2012. An AP story on the national foreclosure picture says that a recent $25-billion mortgage settlement is likely to turn the foreclosure faucet on wider:
At the end of January, there were 645,000 bank-owned homes in the U.S. that had yet to be sold, representing a 17-month supply at the current sales pace, Blomquist said. In addition, another 710,000 homes were in some stage of the foreclosure process. Other estimates put the number of homeowners who are either behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure at the end of last year more than 6 million.
Redfin’s (and Seattle Bubble’s) Tim Ellis argues that the stream of foreclosures will act to keep real estate prices from rising for the foreseeable future, but that (barring major external shocks) Seattle’s real estate market won’t continue to lose significant value.
Commercial real estate in Seattle is another thing entirely. If there were a heat index, you’d see warm waves spreading out from Amazon’s South Lake Union headquarters. TechFlash reports that their proposed designs for a 3-million-square-foot expansion in Seattle’s Denny Triangle call for towers up to 37 stories tall. Developer Martin Selig now plans, says the Seattle Times, a 4-story office building by the Sculpture Park. Previously it was to have been an apartment building, but Eric Pryne writes that Selig is concerned about overbuilding: “[m]ore than 6,000 apartments are under construction in King and Snohomish counties, with thousands more planned.”