Apartment Advisor Recap: The Development Issue, Part 1

Happy Wednesday! As promised last week, it’s time for our recap of the latest issue of Dupre + Scott’s Apartment Advisor–and it’s a big one! The Development Issue, to  be exact, complete with one-hundred years of Seattle apartment history. Don’t worry, no need to go all Rip Van Winkle on me–we’ll keep our two A.I. posts this week relatively short and sweet. For all of the fascinating details (plus some very informative graphs), head over to DupreScott.com to subscribe.

Snapshot 2012

First, some great news: we’re in the middle of a development boom. The eighth development boom, to be exact; Dupre + Scott know their history, and since 1900, we’ve had seven others. This one is projected to peak in 2015, and the apartments that are currently being built aren’t just like the ones we’ve seen before–things are evolving quickly (as, we will soon discover, they always have). In this, the first multifamily development boom of the new millennium, we’re seeing three major changes.

First of all, builders these days are using more exotic materials than they have in the past. Take the 148-unit project that Burnstead Construction began in June, for instance: according to the Advisor, “its exterior will have a combination of Swiss Pearl panels, Ceraclad fiber siding, and brick.” My goodness–doesn’t that sound more luxurious than, say, plywood?

Secondly, developers are paying more attention than ever before to the principles of green building and LEED certification. In fact, Seattle’s building codes are such that most buildings would nearly qualify for silver LEED certification just upon being built to code–neat!

The third major change comes with the rise of the micro-unit. Small units can be built modularly and are more efficient, renters are generally younger these days (with small-to-nonexistent live-in families), and common spaces to stretch out and socialize in are more prevalent.

But to fully understand these recent changes, let’s jump back in history: far, far back, to the early 1900s. We’ve pulled key info from each of the previous development boom eras for you below.

Peak #1: Gold Rush Boomtown

  • Peak year: 1910
  • Units opened this year: 800
  • Amount spent in real estate purchases this year: Developer John Davis wrote of $55 million spent in real estate purchases that year in the Seattle Sunday Times–that would be equivalent to $1.37 billion today. The astounding thing is that $1.37 billion is exactly the amount that investors spent on 5-unit and up properties in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties in 2011.
  • Average density: 135 units per acre
  • Architectural and cultural trademarks: Italianate architecture and high-density buildings, with an average apartment size of less than 500 square feet. It was the era of the Murphy Bed. Automobiles had not yet taken root in our culture, so parking did not have to be accommodated.

Peak #2: Those Roaring Twenties

  • Peak year: 1928
  • Units opened this year: 1,800
  • Average density: 111 units per acre
  • Architectural and cultural trademarks: This was the era of the grand lobby–developers had copied hotels, hoping to lend a sophistication to the idea of renting, and it worked. The average cost of automobiles had dropped and they were subsequently increasing in popularity; developers were now planning for an average of one parking space for every two units.
  • A sharp drop and a sudden stop: The Depression put a quick end to this particular boom in 1929; we wouldn’t see development peak again for another 20 years.

Aren’t you just dying to know what happened next? Tune in on Friday for more fun facts to know and tell, including a recap of the Post-War peak, the peaks of the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and some more breakdowns of our housing needs as they stand today (iHome, anyone?). See you then!

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One thought on “Apartment Advisor Recap: The Development Issue, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Apartment Advisor Recap: The Development Issue, Part 2 | SeattleRentals.com Blog

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