Larger Homes Selling Closer to List Price in 2014

It’s time for one of our infrequent updates on the Mercer Island Real Estate market. Our handy database of home sales shows that year to date, median home price is $952,500– the highest in six years.

Annual-trends-mercer-island-real-estate

Even more indicative of a hot market, the average sale-to-list price for this year is 100%, meaning that sellers are getting the price they are asking for the first time in years. In 2009, average sale-to-list price was 87%!

Price per square foot hasn’t quite recovered to 2008 levels, so people are getting a little more for the money they are spending. And sales are up– more than 400 homes sold in 2013, and 328 have sold year to date in 2014.

Below are the same stats, monthly. Click to get to an interactive view.
Monthly-Trends-mercer-island-real-estate

Mercer-Island-home-sales

Analysis done in Tableau Public. Data collected over a period of years from Redfin.

Mercer Island Farmers Market: Which Vendor is Your Favorite?

The Mercer Island Farmers Market is back! Has been for several weeks, in fact. Note to readers: if you’re following this blog for timely news, you shouldn’t be. I recommend The Mercer Island Reporter for news.

There are a lot of new vendors, including a yogurt stand. The yogurt is sweet. I couldn’t figure out if it was supposed to be lunch or dessert but I liked it.

The music is always my favorite. Last week Joe Ross had the kids going:
Music-farmers market

And a couple of weeks ago, swamp soul was pretty good too.
Music-swamp soul

Other changes: there’s a guy who sells edible plants. We got some basil to round out our garden. This year they had crafts in June. There were some cool aprons and bird art. Crafts will come back for the Harvest Market, which has a nice enough selection that you can do a bit of Christmas shopping there.
Aprons and birds

Good returners are the pizza place, lots of the veggie places, and the Master Gardeners, who will patiently look at the cuts from your garden and tell you what they are. Once I saw them look at a cut and say to the presenter, Get out while you still can! Just kidding.

The organizers have done a great job of creating a community gathering place. There’s lunch, there’s ice cream, there’s music, and it’s right next to Mercerdale Park which offers a grassy field and playground. If you have little ones, the nearness of the firehouse and fire engines is an attraction too.

Who’s your favorite vendor at the market? Leave a note in the comments, we’ll do this the unscientific way.

Best Pizza on Mercer Island

The tip came from a Bellevue friend a few months ago. “Oh you’re in Mercer Island? I’m so jealous! My favorite pizza place just moved there!” It’s Tuscan Stone Pizza, the one that used to be on the corner of Bellevue way and NE 4th St. Now it’s parked at 2885 78th Ave SE, just west of the QFC in North Island.
Mercer-island-pizza-truck-side-sm

Since moving to the Island, my husband and I have lamented the absence of a few things on Mercer Island: Trader Joe’s. An Indian restaurant. Great pizza. for me, this ranks up there with the opening of Freshy’s, and almost as high as the farmers’ market.
Pizza-shot-sm

My criteria? Just the pizza. It’s good. Not to knock Moe’s or Sahara, but their pizza is good post-game pizza, perfect when volume is required. Zaw is nice, but you still gotta cook it. Tuscan Stone is the best. Call ‘em from work, pick it up and eat when you get home.

It’s also fun to go into the pizza tent. The folks are quite nice, and it’s warm.
Pizza-shot-sm

Stop by and check it out. We got the cheese and a veggie pesto. Mmmmmmm…. might see you there tomorrow.

Disturbing Plans for The Mercer Island Library

Thanks to commenter Barbara Halliday, who let me know about a project to renovate our library and the response by a group of concerned citizens. Before I get into any specifics, why don’t you judge for yourself. Here’s the Library today:

MI_Library_Today

And this is the Library tomorrow?

MI_Library_annotated

Source: Presentation from public meeting on 1/7/2104. 

A few of the major differences:

  • The skylight is gone. Why would you ever take out a skylight?
  • There are many fewer books. Libraries serve many functions, but the serendipity of walking around and browsing books is an important one, especially for younger readers.
  • The Library may be closed for up to a year to complete the project.
  • The new design is marked by the loss of a feeling of warmth.

To that latter point, the response of the citizens’ group struck me: “The issue with furniture and finishes is not darker wood, but having a warm, and friendly home-like atmosphere, not a bright, very light atmosphere similar to airport terminals.”  

I moved here about 6 years ago now. I was– and am– pleased at what a comfortable and attractive library we have. It’s got great windows and nice spaces for sitting. It’s not the biggest library, but it’s got stacks of books, like a library should.

I agree with the citizens’ group that this overhaul is not only not necessary, it’s out of character and will leave us with a worse library. The group advocates that we meet current shortcomings, in particular Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, with a reconfiguration that stays in character with Mercer Island. It’s at least worth looking at.

Time to Vote for the School Bond and Levy

Last April voters rejected a school bond to replace buildings and buy new land for a 4th elementary school. There’s a new, scaled-back bond and levy on the ballot.

Mercer Island schools are overcrowded and some of the facilities are outdated. One of this community’s strongest values is education and voting for the bond and levy is a good way to show that. If the need itself doesn’t convince you, consider that federal funds don’t come close to paying for education.

And if you really don’t care about education at all, just vote for your home value. There’s a strong correlation between quality of public schools and home prices. The data shows correlation, not causality, but maybe we shouldn’t test that.

WHAT WOULD THE BOND PAY FOR?

First, a new elementary school to ease overcrowding in the three existing schools. There would be 14 new classrooms and new common space at the middle school. And the high school would get 10 new classrooms and science labs. Here are the proposed classrooms and labs at MIHS:

MIHS-new-classrooms

WHAT WOULD THE LEVY PAY FOR?

General maintenance and 26% of the operating budget of the schools.

WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?

The Fox says get out and vote, already! I mean mail your ballots so that they are postmarked by Feb. 11.

Distinctive Mercer Island Home to Go Under for Subdivision

Most houses don’t have a website. Mine doesn’t. But The Coval House does. It’s an old homestead on 5 acres near Luther Burbank Park. According to the site, “There are four enduring qualities that the Covals held in highest regard: a passion for natural materials, an honesty and excellence in workmanship, a reverence for the past, and a desire for the understated.”
Coval-house-mercer-island-2
Photo from the Coval House website.

The Mercer Island Reporter has reported that the home, orchard, and rest of the grounds will go under for 18 homes after the owners failed to sell it. The Reporter included the plans and did a nice job of being objective.

Luckily, I don’t have to be objective. It’s a damn shame that a beautifully built and maintained house is going to go down. This isn’t about density or affordability. It’s about losing a distinctive piece of Seattle history to mega mansions. Look at the plat plan in the Reporter article– the homes are on top of each other.

If you went to the Mohia’s Celluloid Seattle exhibit, you saw a lot of before-and-after of great theaters in Seattle. Some are heartbreaking, like this one:
Egyptian-then-now
Photo from Mohai’s Celluloid Seattle.

To me this project is our equivalent of knocking down a theater house for a noodle joint in a strip mall.
2014:
Coval-house-mercer-island

2016:
Issaquah Highlands

Unfortunately, right now a rant is all I got. Except an appeal to the planning commission at their Jan 15 meeting: don’t let this happen.

Shop Local Mercer Island

Hope you just enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving at home and not out shopping!. It was bad enough when Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend became about shopping, but staffing shifts on Thanksgiving is pretty low.

End of rant. If you are planning to shop sometime this weekend, think about Mercer Island stores. But I’d encourage you to skip Friday and shop local on Saturday.

Island Books

This is by far the best shopping on Mercer Island, Aside from books, games and kid toys, there are also some jewelry and other craft items. I usually do a bunch of my holiday shopping here.
Island-books

Island-books-goods

Island-books-toys

Terra Bella

Terra Bella has a bunch of candles and home items,
Terra-bella

and they just opened a holiday shop next door:
Terra-Bella-Christmas-shop

Stopsky’s

Stopsky’s has a bunch of tasty food items for the foodie in your life.
Stoskys-dry-goods

As well as pastries:
Stopskys-pastries

And if you do go off-Island, consider where with this handy post on shopping neighborhoods near the MI.

Did I miss any? Add your favorite MI shop in the comments.