Tag Archives: real-estate

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.

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.

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

Homeaggedon: Mercer Island Real Estate Update, Part 2

In last week’s post, Homeaggedon Part 1, we looked a the declining prices of the Mercer Island real estate market over the last three and a half years. It was grim! This week we take a look at what is selling, and for how much.

Interesting takeaways from looking at sales by # of bedrooms:

  • 4-bedroom home sales are the most common, but they are subject to the most price reductions and negotiation (sale to list price of 85.5%, meaning sellers got only about 86% of what they originally listed for).
  • 6-bedroom homes actually sell for a little less than 5-bedroom homes, on average in this sample.
  • Larger condos (3-bedrooms) also don’t do well from a sale-to-list perspective, perhaps because those buyers are looking for deals in either houses or condos and so have more flexibility than others.

Now let’s take a look by price tiers:

What do price tiers tell us?

  • For houses, the most and least expensive homes have the lowest sale-to-list prices, meaning the sellers get less of what they originally ask for.
  • Not too much to learn from condos. There’s only one high-tier condo sale, so no useful sample there. Other condos sell at about 90% of list.

There’s a lot of stories in this data, and we’ll do at least one more Homeageddon update in the coming weeks, so check back. And leave a comment if you have a perspective on what this data says.

The entire workbook is published and interactive on Tableau Public. You can even get the raw data if you like that kind of thing. As always, data from Redfin.com.

Homeageddon 2011: Mercer Island Real Estate Update, Part 1

Talk of a housing non-recovery or a real recovery has got me thinking about the Mercer Island market again. So in a series of blogs we’ll look at the numbers to get the story: about 3 and 1/2 years of sales data.

Single family homes


The view above shows trends in single family homes:

  • Volume hasn’t changed much, despite the housing implosion.
  • But median home price is down from about $1.08 million in December of 2007 to $865k so far in June 2011. Lest you think it’s just smaller homes selling, the price per square foot has dropped substantially too.

Condos & Townhomes

What’s the story in condos & townhomes?

  • For starters, if you didn’t already know, Mercer Island is primarily a single family home market, with 20-30 home sales in the summer months to 5-10 condo sales, generally. But condo sales have been picking up in the last two years as new downtown condo buildings sell their inventory.
  • The median home price for a condo has taken a hit as well, from about $405k in Dec 2007 to about $321k so far in June.
  • Future Real Estate Infoporn

    Note that the post title says Part 1: in coming weeks we’ll geek out on this same data, looking at it different ways until we’ve got a good picture of where the market stands. So check back.

    All these graphs are interactive and you can find them here. Data courtesy Redfin and visualization courtesy Tableau Public.

    Another Mansion Up For Sale

    There’s another big one up for sale in Mercer Island, this one just off West Mercer Way and going for $28.8 million.

    It comes with a pool. And a lake.

    According to the Redfin listing, if you bought with Redfin you’d get a refund of $432,000. That’s enough to buy another house.

    Ample parking, apparently.

    The Puget Sound Business Journal found out who the owners are. And for less than $30 million, the next owners could be you.

    UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has a story on how the house got built and came to be on the market.

    On the Development of Mercer Island

    Interesting perspective on the development of Mercer Island housing styles from the Greater Seattle Homes blog:

    The first floating bridge to provide a real path to the eastside was built across Lake Washington in 1940, about where I-90 is today, and development of Mercer Island and Bellevue commenced. From a housing point of view, most of the housing on the Seattle side of Lake Washington is at least 50 years old, built in the styles of those times, usually with nice formal rooms like living room and dining room, tending toward pretty utilitarian kitchens and baths, and often with a basement – usually finished out and incorporated into the living space by now.

    Map for showing the housing development waves for the Greater Seattle area
    Development on Mercer Island and Bellevue, including Medina and Clyde Hill, and Kirkland proceeded pretty rapidly during the 50’s and 60’s, and the typical housing style was a rambler, or a ‘daylight rambler’ on a hillside, and basements were uncommon in that era.

    Housing styles changed rapidly in the 70’s with the popularity of natural wood (usually cedar), exposed beams, and big windows – perhaps influenced by the spectacular house in the great 1959 thriller film North by Northwest with Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

    The other major housing style to emerge on the eastside in the 70’s was the tri-level, a new design with the entry at mid-level, and living spaces either a half-flight up or a half flight down. Another common design during this period was the tri-level, a very livable and still popular design for sloping lots.

    North by Northwest house image credit: Dailyicon.net

    Mercer Island Real Estate Market Update

    It’s been a while since we did a market update. So how is Mercer Island holding up amidst foreclosed homes, financial uncertainty, and general malaise?

    Across all home types, sale to the original list price is in the 88-90% range, meaning sellers are taking a lot less than they wanted. That’s not surprising: selling in the last two years really needed to sell or wouldn’t have.

    Also not surprising is the most common home sales is a 4-bedroom house.

    A little surprising: 5-bedroom houses were more expensive that 6-bedroom houses. Let’s look at all the sales by location and price:

    Notice the two very large sales: one was the Mediterranean Mansion and another is an undisclosed address whose neighborhood is listed as East Seattle.

    But the big question is how price are trending over time:

    • Smaller homes are trending up
    • Mid-sized homes are in the middle
    • Larger homes are going down

    It’s like the three bears out there. Smaller homes are just right for many buyers, given tight credit and an uncertain labor market. Big homes are suffering from lack of financing and the aforementioned general malaise.

    On Mercer Island, it’s still a buyers market. Home owners thinking of selling might want to act like the bears in hibernate through the real estate winter.

    Data from Redfin.com.

    Mercer Island Home is WSJ Home of the Day

    Nice slideshow of a “Mercer Island Mid-Century Modern” in the WSJ Home of the Day.

    Now THAT’s landscaping! (Perhaps with a photoshop touchup).

    Mediterranean Mansion Auction Ends– $12m Does It

    That mansion that was up for auction finally went for $12 million. Not a big surprise, as the min bid was reduced to that amount just weeks ago.


    The brochure is now offline, so I’ve posted it here: auction brochure.

    More interesting than the sale itself is the coverage it generated.

    • The Seattle Times led with the $28 million markdown from the original price (that is a staggering amount) and had background on the sellers.
    • Seattle Bubble did a nice analysis using this sale to set a ceiling on Seattle-area real estate prices.
    • BizJournal reached the seller, Chuck Lytle, and got some commentary. They also noted that the place has a stocked trout pool, which is an feature I had never really considered  an amenity before.
    • Sound Politics fell into a rant on liberals and rich people that I found hard to understand, though apparently someone did: the first comment is “Another brilliant post.”

    Best quote on the place, from the Seattle Times article: “It’s like the [Las Vegas] Bellagio without the slot machines.”