Faced with urban sprawl reaching maximum capacity, coupled with a desire to cut down on commute time and greenhouse gas emissions, many Eastsiders are abandoning the white picket fence and tire swing dreams of previous generations, opting instead to purchase condominiums.
The Dictionary of Real Estate Terms describes condominium as “a system of ownership of individual units in a multiunit structure, combined with joint ownership of commonly used property.” These jointly owned areas can include common areas like gyms, pools, laundry rooms, lobbies, and elevators. These collectively owned areas typically are maintained by a property manager.
Historically, condos have been smaller in square footage, appealing to newlyweds and empty nesters, and seen as being vastly more complicated. They often are associated with shared common spaces, boards of directors, rules and restrictions, and association fees.
However, more and more families are seeing the benefits to condo living in urban areas. These advantages include increased security; less maintenance; amenities; affordability over single-family homes; greater proximity to urban life; and, of course, who could resist those high-rise views of Lake Washington?
Research conducted by homebuying site Trulia revealed that condos have been increasing in value at a higher rate than single-family homes coming out of the Great Recession. The market value for condos rose by 38.4 percent between 2012 and 2017, while the value of single-family homes increased by 27.9 percent.
This — coupled with the Washington state condo liability reform legislation that was signed into law earlier this year — may be why the Bellevue skyline and skylines of surrounding cities are seeing a surge of new condo development.
Most notably among these developments is the Avenue Bellevue project, which will include a total of 322 estate homes. The condos will begin on the 12th floor of the south tower, above a luxury hotel from InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, with another 224 residences in the project’s west tower. All the homes will include an authentic Northwest design and sweeping views.
Prospective residents looking to live in downtown Bellevue without committing to a mortgage, have the option to lease an apartment from many available luxury developments such as Two Lincoln Tower. Whether inhabiting a one-bedroom apartment or a two-story penthouse, every luxury home features floor-to-ceiling windows with expensive views. Also available are apartments at nearby TEN20, Soma Towers, and Alley 111.
Outside of the downtown core, similar densely populated townhome developments are becoming more prevalent in Bellevue.
In the Spring District, the Lario Townhome development from Quadrant Homes is expected to come online in February. Located close to Sound Transit’s future light rail station, the 46 two- to four-bedroom townhomes are expected to range between 1,160 and 2,130 square feet with pricing from the $800,000’s.
Elsewhere on the Eastside, Kelkari is a collection of 71 upcoming townhomes, featuring three- and four-bedroom floorplans, located just south of downtown Issaquah. Priced from the $700,000’s, each home will feature multiple decks that will afford owners views of the Issaquah Alps. The first homes are expected to be complete by next summer with total completion estimated for early 2022.
Despite the growth in new condo and townhome construction, the question remains, will these homes continue to appreciate in the way that they have in the years since the recession?
Current numbers from a recent Northwest Multiple Listing Service report actually reflect a dip in new condo listings in September, the most recent period for which data was available.
The real estate listing service shows a 24 percent dip in new condo listings on the Eastside, down to 256 listings from 340 the previous year. This leaves condos markedly trailing September single-family home listings by more than 550.
However, closed condo sales are holding steady for the same period, while pending sales on Eastside condos have increased 9 percent year-over-year.
Alise Roberts of Bellevue-based Maple + Main said the number of Eastside condo sales may be indicative of the changing values of the current home-buying generation.
“Statistics are showing the condo market really isn’t having much of an impact on our residential market,” she said. “(This) reflects that buyers are homing in on single-family, likely because Millennials are all grown up and having babies.”
Jon Hunter, vice president of residential success at Bellevue-based John L. Scott Real Estate, points to a different generation putting single-family homes on the market.
“We have seen many baby boomers on the Eastside sell single-family homes and opt for a luxury condo, so they can downsize but still enjoy a high standard of living,” he said.
Whatever the reason, Hunter believes these high-density developments will continue to spring up across the Eastside and only time will tell if condos will narrow the gap to compete with single-family homes.
“We anticipate that the condo liability reform that was signed into law in late April will encourage developers to increase their investment in condos across the state of Washington,” he said.