Property Views

Coming to a tipping point in the market

There’s only one way to describe the Seattle real estate market at this moment. 

It’s completely crazy. Not just the pace, where we’re seeing homes sell in hours of hitting the multiple listing service with several offers. Not just the prices, which are climbing higher and higher. This boom has also brought a lot of new agents who just earned their license, so some deals are going sideways for reasons that could be prevented. The Seattle head tax argument adds to the mania.

There’s never been anything like it. We’ve had 36 pending sales in the last 20-plus days, and inventory is still incredibly low.

Where will it end up?
All I can ever answer is what we know right now. It feels like we’re at a tipping point, though, and everyone has an opinion on Seattle real estate. Some are sure the bubble’s got to burst. They point to the head tax as an anti-business move that will cause employers to move out of the city, taking people and jobs with them, leaving a surplus of homes behind. Some buyers are hoping for that scenario, so they can finally afford something.
The other half says this market is never going to stop — it may cool a bit — but it’s always going to go up like San Francisco did. Counter-intuitively, that scenario makes it hard for sellers because, in many cases, those sellers become buyers.

Right now
We’re in a dominant seller’s market, as we have been. However, unless those sellers already have a home here or they’re moving out of town, they’re stuck, because they will also need a home to buy. Going into a rental while you search for your next home is becoming more difficult than it was, because rental vacancies are low. So a part of the market is, oddly, immobile.
I have a handful of active clients looking for the same kind of home in roughly the same neighborhood. They all want a 5,000-square-foot home, on a big lot, with views of Lake Washington. I’ve taken to driving those neighborhoods, looking for homes that fit the bill. Then I’ll reach out to the owners to see if they’d like to sell. What I hear from those owners is, “If I find a place to buy, I’d sell.” I have to create the movement in that market.

Look for experience
Our real estate boom has brought a lot of new agents into the business because there’s undeniable opportunity. Some, though, are unprepared for the pace and lose their heads and advise their clients poorly. If you’re contemplating buying or selling, you need a broker who is:

• An experienced negotiator
• Calm
• Strategic
• Cerebral
• Experienced
• A go-getter
• Calm — I know I mentioned that already, but it’s key

I went on a listing appointment a few weeks ago, in a neighborhood I know very well. The sellers wanted someone with neighborhood knowledge. I can walk there from my office, and I have sold the majority of the homes on that street over the years. Instead, the sellers chose a new agent who cut their commission to get the listing. I wish them all the best. The catch? If someone can’t negotiate for their own pay, how can you be sure they can get you the best final sales price on your home? The savings on that commission may not make up for choosing the junior agent that is not capable of fetching the highest market price.

On the buying side, experience and calm can make even more of a difference. I represented buyers who were looking at a home a block from my office. The sellers were trying too hard to get too much — trying to create a bidding war. I didn’t like the situation, and advised my buyers to hold off submitting an offer. Fortunately for them, there was no bidding war.

In fact, the sellers dropped their price, and we made an offer. So did three other buyers on the same day. Our offer had a hard stop on price — my buyers weren’t going to get into an escalating price situation past a certain point. Our offer was the lowest, but it was the cleanest, with the best terms. The other two parties had missed details in the contract, either because of haste or lack of knowledge. I knew the listing broker, and she trusted me to get my buyers through the process and to the settlement table. Her sellers agreed.

My clients got that house, in this crazy market, even with the lowest offer of the bunch. Experience, attention to detail and knowing who to trust made all the difference.
Feel free to reach out with any questions. Not only do I live in Madison Park, my office is just blocks from my house and I care beyond belief for the integrity of our neighborhood.

Chris Sudore is a Madison Park resident and managing broker at Coldwell Banker Global Luxury. He can be reached at