Ballard real estate recap: stronger balance of buyers and sellers needed

Long time Ballard resident and local Real Estate Broker Sharon Giampietro shares a regular post on My Ballard to keep readers informed about the local real estate market. 

Can you afford to buy a home in the Greater Ballard area, that sought after Northwest quadrant of our city? If you’re wondering and watching the market, you may be seeing fewer “For Sale” signs lately and hearing stories of rising prices. What is going on? Housing demand is still high. State planners tell us our population is growing and we consistently have one of the best job markets in the country.

The Urban Land Institute refers to Seattle as one of the country’s “18 Hour Cities”, meaning that you can get most of what you want for 18 hours of the day. These cities, with their walkability to entertainment, eateries and shopping, are super attractive to today’s buyers who are flocking to them. Seattle is popular, and for these same reasons, so is the greater Ballard area. When I moved here in the early 80’s I would have characterized Seattle as a 12 hour city – I could never find any place to eat after 9 p.m., and only found out later we could have gone to 13 Coins!

A short look back over the past few years: at the end of 2013 the average sold price for a residential home was $513,000; at the end of 2014, $560,000 and at the end of 2015, $638,000. That is a 10% increase in average home prices in 2014 and about a 13% in 2015. Prices in our area have just recently crept a bit higher than they were at the height of the market in 2007. This is good news as some sellers will no longer be under water and in a better position to make a move. That would be great because this year there were about 170 less listings than last. Buyers this year are looking for a reversal of this trend.

Is the condo market serving up any options? When you look up and see those cranes all over the city, including the Greater Ballard area, it may look like there’s a lot of condos being built. However, they are mostly NOT condos, but apartments. Just 97 new construction condos came on the market in 2015, an average of 8 new units a month. More condos (not new construction condos) were available this year than last (624 to last year’s 608), but average sold prices jumped up over 20 percent ($284,000 t0 $364,000). Condos are still providing an affordable option. It is rare to find 3 bedroom condos, and they are generally an option mainly for those with smaller space requirements.

There are lots of “modernos” (rhymes with bungalows!) especially in the area close to downtown Ballard. I keep scratching my head trying to recall “what did this block look like last year?” There are so many changes, I can’t keep up anymore! These new construction homes are distinguished by their modern look, most often with flat roofs, open floor plans, modern amenities, and small yards. They are sprouting up like spring grass with 339 added to the housing stock this year. However, their median sale price jumped this year from $640,000 to $750,000. These homes are popular but at over $700,000, are not affordable for many.

Interest rates have bumped up a little and it predicted they will go up again in 2016, but they are still historically low. Hope springs eternal for a good real estate market in 2016, with a stronger balance of sellers and buyers.

Greater Balllard is Greenwood, Green Lake, Wallingford and other close by neighborhoods identified as “705” in the Northwest Multiple listing Service. All residential and condo numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand and unless noted do not include new construction. Statistics not compiled or published by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

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