What Six Years of Mercer Island Real Estate Says

It’s been an interesting last few years in the Mercer Island real estate market. As it turns out, I’ve tracked it for long enough that I have a nice little database of six years of data, which shows how prices fell through 2011 and 2012 and have only recently began to pick up.
Mercer-Island-REal-estate-Price-Trends-2

The first chart is average price per square foot, which is basically the price taking into account the size of the house. Clearly prices hit a bottom in 2011-2012 and are slowly climbing out.

Also interesting is the second chart, which is the amount that buyers have to pay relative to what sellers ask. Sale-to-list price hit their low at 86% in 2009 and has now rebounded to the mid-90′s. Lower sale-to-list prices signal a weaker market.

And finally, in the last chart above you can see that the number of home sales has also picked up since a low in 2009.

What’s the punchline? The Great Recession seems to be losing its hold on the market, if slowly. Volume, prices and sale-to-list prices are all picking up at the same time.

Let’s look at the last six years another way, by neighborhood:
Mercer-Island-REal-estate-update-median-2

On the left we see all home sales plotted on a map with the size showing sale price. Clearly some of the mansions around the edge of the Island are the big whales, selling for $10 million and up.

What’s most interesting here are neighborhood differences. The median sale price is higher as you go south, but the houses tend to be larger too. The boxplot in the lower right shows that North Island has the most diversity in home size, the median price per square foot is quite similar up and down the island.

These charts are made using Tableau, which is also where I work. You can find interactive versions with all the data here.

Ski Swap at IMS today

It’s the annual ski swap and at 820 there’s already a line. It’s open at 830 til 230. Come get yur ski on!

image

Island Books 40th Anniversary Celebration this Saturday

We have a gem of a bookstore here on the Island. Island Books has been around for 40 years, and this Saturday they’re inviting everyone over from 3 to 5 pm for pie to celebrate:
Island-Books-40th

Pie + books– you really can’t go wrong.

On Our Ballot: City Council

The political signs are up along Island Crest, which can only mean one thing: election season. Here’s a guide to the City Council race. The other local positions are on the School Board, which we’ll get to in the coming weeks.
Signs-on-Island-Crest

As a reminder, in this blog we cover only local news and local races, or larger races that relate to Mercer Island.

So here goes:

Council Position No. 2: Dan Grausz or Kevin Scheid

Dan-Grausz Kevin-Scheid

Now this is an interesting one. Dan Grausz is a longtime veteran of the council. Kevin Scheid is a very involved resident (who celebrated his 38th anniversary at Island Crest Way and 40th on Friday). They both talk about I-90 tolling and a vibrant downtown as major issues. Both are against tolling and for, well, vibrancy in downtown. So what’s the difference?

I-90 Tolls

In I-90 tolling, it seems to be the level of compromise and negotiation. Kevin Scheid has a stark view: agree to no tolling whatsoever. Dan Grausz seems more in favor of negotiating as a way to fight the toll.

The Mercer Island Reported endorsed Grausz, saying “His opponent says that any sort of compromise regarding tolling is wrong. Yet, Mr. Grausz has demonstrated that he knows how and when to negotiate. He weighs what is best for Islanders in the face of change or circumstance that may or may not be welcome, but always inevitable.”

Downtown

On this issue the best I can tell is that Dan favors building a residential and retail community: “I do not want to see only professional offices in our buildings that turn our Town Center into an empty cavern at nights and on weekends.

Kevin wants office buildings that will pay more taxes (“Future development needs to contribute its fair share of infrastructure costs“). Their sites are all in political code though so I may be wrong.

Council Position No. 4: Tana Senn or… someone else

Tana-Senn
Tana Senn is running unopposed for the fourth position. Tana joined the City Council in 2012 and has since been elected by the King County Council to as the 41st District State Representative, replacing Marcie Maxwell after she moved on to state government, according to The Mercer Island Reporter.

Council Position No. 2: Rich Erwin or Benson Wong
Benson-Wong Rich-Erwin

Benson Wong is interesting. He’s got a long history of service on the Island, which counts for a lot. Like all the candidates, he’s against I-90 tolling, for a good downtown and great schools. But he actually points out some things he would do, like push for full implementation of the recommendations of the Sustainability Task Force and support the upcoming school bond. That’s refreshing.

Rich Erwin seems like a nice guy but it’s hard to figure out what he would actually support. Benson Wong seems the better candidate.

Next up is a review of the School Board candidates on the ballot in November. Watch this space…

 

 

 

Thanks and Good Luck, Kendall Watson

Patch is losing its editor today, which probably means no new posts from that blog. Kendall Watson has covered Mercer Island well for many years at Patch and before.
2013-10-15-Patch

It’s a shame. The failure of Patch was, in my view, a failure of AOL and not of the many excellent journalists who have been trying to cover their communities. AOL’s version of journalism was of great local profits, and by and large the journalists of Patch had a different vision– great local journalism.

There’s plenty to say about a small city like Mercer Island. Kendall covered high school sports and local stories thoroughly and well. I read his posts often. The problem is, nobody has figured out how to make money at it. Some of Seattle’s great local bloggers can make a go of it, but it’s a full time job and more. It’s a labor of love, and AOL’s not in the labor of love business. (Side note: if anyone can figure out what business AOL is in, please leave a comment. I’d love to know.) This blog is run by yours and generates absolutely no profit but also provides the flexibility to take a couple of years off if I need to.

End rant. Good bye and good luck Kendall, and thanks for your coverage of Mercer Island. Hope to see you around these parts soon.

Horse Farm Or Phoenix? New Horse Farm to Go In On Old Stevenson Horse Farm

Have a seat y’all, you’re not going to believe this scoop.

Have you driven by that property on Island Crest Way that used to be a horse farm? You probably have. It sold in Aug 2012 for $5.85 million, and the horses went away.  I fully expected to see a subdivision go up there.
Stevenson-property

We are luckier than that. According to tipper Bill Kratz, the story goes like this:

“After the sale of the Stevenson property to the MI School District was aborted by the voters disapproval of the  Board of Education’s plans for remodeling and expanding schools (oh well, that’s another story), the property was quietly sold to  TAE Real Estate Holdings of Bellevue.  The only public word was that the new owners intended to continue using the property for equestrian purposes.  The existing buildings and “horse shacks” on the property were demolished, and for some time a construction fence has surrounded a large portion of the property.

A little investigation reveals that TAE Real Estate Holdings is owned by Thomas Ellison (or perhaps the Ellison family), also of Bellevue, and heir to Savers Inc., parent of the Value Village empire.  The Ellisons have since switched the ownership of the Island Crest property to a new entity, MI Funny Farm LLC.  As preliminary work on the property has crept along, more and more building permits have been issued for various preparatory stages of work.  From these building permits, we discover the architects involved with the project. The firm is McClellan Architects, a first-rate firm.

Now for the exciting part … on the McClellan website, under “In Construction” we find a nice set of computer renderings of what is to become of the old Stevenson properties.  They are only referenced as “island equestrian”, but there is little doubt that they are for MI.”
Horse-Farm-1

The images in this blog are from that site, and there is a good set of drawings there. I encourage you to check them out there.
Horse-Farm-Topical

Mercer Island Downtown

Seems that one of the new retail spots in the new building by Tully’s is going to be a pediatric dentistry. I like kids, and I like teeth, but this is one more shop in downtown that doesn’t lend itself to a fun, walking retail core. “While it’s a boost to the Town Center any time a vacant space is occupied, we don’t really need more doctors, dentists and real estate brokers occupying what should be prime spots for some creative retail stores,” says resident Bill Kratz.
New-retail-space

Mercer Island’s downtown keeps getting close to greatness. On the plus side, Freshy’s has a fish & chip window and nightly dinners. Moe’s pizza is new. The food trucks are coming.

But on the down side, developers keep favoring staid old business that bring good rent. The real problem here isn’t dentists– it’s banks and real estate offices. But when’s the last time you took a stroll downtown to window shop at HSBC?
banks-225-2 real-estate-offices-225
Map on left is banks. Map on right is real estate offices. Lots of both!

What if we could link together the little spots of wonderful– Bennett’s, Island Books & Stopsky’s, Terra Bella, Freshy’s. Instead they are each islands surrounded by boring but reliable banks and offices.
another-bank
Sigh. Another bank. Anyone want to apply for a loan? It’s a fun night out!