The Green Report: Population, Population, Population!

Welcome to another issue of the Green Report. This week, there’s a common theme among the stories coming to us about eco smarts and the future of rental housing: population growth.

The Green Report

Population growth is a concern all over the country as we look forward through the next few decades–remember the book we reported on last year that equated Seattle 2040 with modern-day Japan? We’re not there yet, of course…but a smooth transition into a future with a lot more people in it will require plenty of forethought (and housing!). Read on for this week’s stories on eco-friendly rentals and urban planning for a very urban future.

NewGeography.com: Washington State a “center of substantial Western growth.”

Image courtesy of NewGeography.com

Image courtesy of NewGeography.com

This week’s article from Richard Morrill looks at changes in population over the past two years, 2010-2012–years which have afforded us a mild recovery from the recession. There are many factors that contribute to these population changes; while immigration from other countries is not insignificant on the west coast, it is internal (or interstate) migration that more strongly affects the population of states like Washington. In fact, Washington is the second-most preferred destination for those moving to the west coast–after Colorado. When all is said and done, California still leads the pack in absolute growth, although our neighbor to the south also saw the highest rate of out-migration in the west during those two years. Click here for the full report, with plenty of helpful charts.

The ideal micro-apartment: Is it a work of art?

Hailed as the next big thing in high-rent cities like New York and San Francisco, micro-apartments have been rediscovered in a big way. Recall that at the turn of the century, and again around the 1950s, urban housing was very dense, with average square foot counts that rival those found in today’s micro-apartment developments–but those old apartments probably didn’t have murphy bed/sofa combinations quite this seamless. They also don’t have the place of honor that New York’s newest micro-apartment design is currently enjoying–an exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York.

The apartment displayed in the exhibit is just 325 square feet–that’s only a little larger than a one-car garage. It features space-saving features like an ottoman that houses stacking chairs and a tv that slides away to reveal a bar; there’s even room in the kitchenette for a dishwasher. But just how livable is a space that small, especially for couples? Renter Jack Sproule, quoted in the article, points out that the only place to escape to if he argues with his wife…is the restroom. Read more in the New York Times.

ULI and Great City ask: What will denser single-family neighborhoods look like?

As much as we love multifamily housing–and we do love it–not every family prefers to live in an apartment or multifamily building. Single-family housing, both owner- and tenant-occupied, is an important part of Seattle’s many neighborhoods. And as the city population increases, those single-family neighborhoods will have to become somewhat denser to compensate. So just what will that growth look like, and how should it be regulated? ULI and Great City both recently held panels to begin to answer that question. Among the attendees at the ULI panel was City Council member Richard Conlin, who advised that growth in single-family neighborhoods should be “slow and deliberate.” Meanwhile, Smart Growth Seattle, who also attended the panels, is a proponent of the 80 percent rule. Check out their take on the discussion here.

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…And finally, just for fun: Tampa takes on eco-friendly urban housing

This image of the future comes to us from 83degreesmedia.com and Tampa, FL, where a new 28-acre environmentally-friendly housing project is on its way. Could it bring a slightly more…dare we say…Seattle vibe to the state of Florida? As columnist Alexis Quinn Chamberlain describes, the project will bring people together like never before (at least in Tampa):

Think people with tattoos and earrings, dreadlocks and purple mohawks next to the well-coifed fresh off their latest botox injection — all coming together in a popular urban setting.

Check out the full article here.

Ten Days of Buzz: January 5-15, 2013

Could parts of West Seattle be underwater by 2050? If plans to prevent it are not implemented, it could happen–at least according to a new report from Seattle Public Utilities climatologist James Rufo. We’ve got that story, along with plenty of other rental-housing related stories, in this week’s Ten Days of Buzz.

Ten Days of Buzz

“In my role as keeper of the Market’s soul, I wanted to ensure the design solution was appropriate to the Market.” 

Architect Peter Steinbrueck. Market, waterfront link seen in terrace proposal, Seattle Times, 1/5/2013.

“Young people today, they put much higher value on flexibility. … It doesn’t seem like that’s going to change.”

Real Estate Analyst Jeff Donnelly. Apartment Rents Continue to Rise As Vacancies Fall, The Wall Street Journal Online, 1/7/13.

“Homeowners unencumbered by a mortgage may be more flexible than indebted homeowners, and therefore more apt or willing to list their homes or enter the market for a new property. By determining where these homeowners are located, we can also gain insight into potential inventory and demand in those areas as well.”

Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. 21% of area homes fully paid off, SacBee.com, 1/11/13.

“The housing recovery is not affecting apartments at the ground level. Rents are going to keep going up.”

Alexander Goldfarb of Sandler O’Neill & Partners. Moving On Up: Stage Set for Rents to Go Higher, The Wall Street Journal Online, 1/12/13.

“This is a cutting-edge issue that plays into several areas of law: medical marijuana, Initiative 502, landlord-tenant law, and privacy matters.” 

Hilary Bricken, attorney for a Mercer Island tenant. Mercer Island landlord tries to ban pot in apartment building, the Seattle Times, 1/12/13.

“We are encouraging property providers to do two things. First, we are asking them to consider adjusting lease terms to help quickly accommodate housing needs. Second, we are urging them to log on to the HRC website to take advantage of this free and easy way to promote their open units.”

Richard Constable III, from the NJ Department of Community Affairs. State website helps Sandy survivors find housing, ShoreNewsToday.com, 1.13.13.

“You can look over my shoulders and see the cranes that represent the economic activity of this maritime and industrial sector that create so many family wage jobs, when you look at the map and you see that most of Harbor Island can be under water in these events, it really causes us concern about future looks like and how we adapt to that.”

Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. Rising sea levels will put Seattle neighborhoods under water, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/14/13.

“The market is still very healthy for landlords, but it’s flattening out, and I’m concerned about the impact of all the new construction in the pipeline.”

Tom Cain of Apartment Insights Washington. Days of big rent increases for apartments may be over, especially on Eastside, the Seattle Times, 1/14/13.

And our final quote for the day is just for fun:

“Portions of roof are missing and there has been a fire. Please use caution when touring this property.”

From the real estate listing on Estately, as quoted on Curbed Seattle. The Fixer-Upper To End All Fixer-Uppers Hits The Market, 1/15/13. (Go on, check out the slideshow–we dare you.)

Seattle Centric: 2012 a Banner Year for Multifamily in Puget Sound

Oh, Seattle, how we love thee! It’s a new year for our fair city–let’s see what 2013 brings in the way of apartment market news.
Seattle Centric

Wall Street Journal: Seattle lead the nation in rent increases last year

spaceneedle_seattle_seaplane_511671_hNow that 2012 has come to a close, experts are crunching the final numbers as we reflect on the year. We all know that last year was great for rents; according to the Wall Street Journal, Seattle actually lead the pack when it came to increased rent amounts. The average monthly rent in Seattle was $1,060 last year–that’s up 5.8% from the previous year. While rents rose in other cities, none had quite such a high percentage of growth; San Francisco came in second, with a 5.7% increase (to $1,970), while Houston trailed with a 5.5% (putting rents at just $787). Check out the full article in the WSJ here.

Net Zero apartments now leasing in Queen Anne

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 8.21.26 PMWorried about your carbon footprint? Maybe it’s time for a move to Lower Queen Anne. Stream Uptown, with 118 units starting at $1,132/month, is billing itself as Seattle’s first net zero apartment community–that’s a building where, as the Seattle PI put it, the developers have “fully mitigated its carbon footprint for construction and ongoing operation.” So just how will they pull that off? The PI reports that the building will utilize green building materials, install solar panels on the roof, and utilize a reverse-cycle chiller; in addition, the carbon footprint of construction will be mitigated by the developer’s planting of 60 trees in Magnuson Park. Check out the story in the Seattle PI. 

Dupre+Scott: 2012 apartment sales “well above average”

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 8.27.58 PMSo we know that rents were up, vacancies down in 2012–but just how well did apartment sales do? Patty and Mike over at Dupre+Scott have the answers for us, as they so often do, in their Apartment Sales Volume Trends recap, released on their website last week. Highlights include the following: Investors purchased nearly $2.7 billion in apartments over the course of 2012; as Dupre+Scott put it, “that’s the third highest volume year ever.” When we compare 2012  to the other high-volume years–2005 and 2006–we see that while the dollar amount kept pace with those years nicely, the number of units sold was actually just average. In 2012, buyers paid an average of $138,000 per unit–that’s up from $96,000 in 2005. Check out those highlights and more here.

Available for rent: Unit in Queen Anne High School

Some say there are two kinds of people in this world: those who hated high school, and those who would go back to high school in a flash because it was the time of their lives. Now, the latter–at least those who live in Seattle–are in luck. A one-bed, 1.5-bath unit is now renting in historic Queen Anne High. The unit is gorgeous (nothing like the high school classrooms we spent four years in), with vaulted ceilings and painted brick interior accents. Check it out over at urbnlvn.com.

201-galer-st-300x225That’s all we’ve got for you today. Is there Seattle-centric news you think we should cover? Let us know in the comments! In the meantime, have a great weekend…and stay warm out there!

 

Events Calendar for January 2013: New Landlords, LLCs & Legislators

Here on the blog, we’re celebrating the New Year all January long. We can’t wait to see what 2013 brings in rental housing trends, vacancy rates and other local and national multifamily news; in the meantime, there’s no time like the present to get prepared for everything the coming year will bring. We’re taking today to tell you about all of the latest and greatest seminars and events coming up in January for landlords, property managers and all you other rental-housing aficionados out there.

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January 9th, 3:00 to 4:30, Seminar – New Landlord Orientation through the RHA

New to this crazy business we call property management? Don’t worry. While landlord-tenant law and other rules and regulations can be daunting at first, the RHA (Rental Housing Association) has got you covered with this free seminar. It’s today, so sign up now on their website!

January 16th, 3:00 to 6:00 – Seattle Landlord Tenant Law

This helpful seminar is also being hosted by the RHA. Landlord-tenant law in Seattle can be challenging, even for seasoned landlords. This seminar seeks to “focus on everything that a Seattle landlord must know to comply with the City’s laws.” These include the Just Cause Eviction and Landlord Prohibited Acts ordinances, among others. The seminar costs $45, but the info is so important–check it out here.

January 24th, 11:30 a.m. – WMFHA’s Day on the Hill

If you’re currently a member of WMFHA, you’ve no doubt heard of their annual Legislative Day and Reception in years past. The event offers the chance to “meet, influence and educate members of the Legislature on critical decisions and policies that will directly affect you.” The daylong event, held in Olympia, includes a lunch and briefing, a Meet your Legislator session, and an evening reception with legislators. Members of WMFHA can find more information–and sign up–here.

January 24th, 7:00 – Seattle Meeting of the Washington Landlord Association

For those of you not familiar with the WLA, they are a membership-based resource for landlords and property managers in the Puget Sound area. Their goal is to “supply the business tools that make landlording fun and profitable.” The Seattle chapter meets monthly in the Bellevue Sheraton; January’s focus is Topics for Real Estate Investors. You must be a member to attend. Check it out here.

Also January 24th, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. – Seattle Planning Commission meets

Seattle is a city–and cities, living, breathing things that they are, tend to change over the years. In the best cities, these changes are carefully crafted by the teamwork of city planners, local business owners, and community members who have the city’s best interests at heart. The Seattle Planning Commission holds bi-monthly meetings to discuss proposed developments and other planning issues. You can check out a full schedule of their meetings, as well as reading up on meeting agendas and minutes, on their website.

January 31st, 4:00 to 6:00 – RHA Presents LLCs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If you’re a private landlord or if you run your own business, you may have wondered about the ins and outs of forming an LLC. Wonder no more after this seminar, presented by Attorney Sean Flynn. The seminar costs $45 and attendance is limited to just 18 people; read more about it–and register–here.

Five Ways to…Be a More Effective Landlord

Five Ways To

Ahh, a fresh new year. There’s definitely something about the appeal of new beginnings that we just can’t resist come January 1st. Even before we finished singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight, we were making resolutions–and more than just a few of us were resolving to be more effective in our careers.

So if you’re a landlord or property manager, what does that look like–and how can it be achieved? We’ve put together our top five ways to be a more effective landlord, from experts across the web. Let’s make 2013 a year to remember!

2013

1. Embrace the three “F words:” Be friendly, fair, and firm.

Any tenant will tell you that an unfriendly landlord is about as fun as a leaky ceiling; at the same time, if you try too hard to be friendly and end up being over-permissive, chaos can ensue. It’s vital that a landlord develop good relationships with tenants, of course—but in the world of property management, the customer isn’t necessarily always right.

Balance is key; and that’s where the three F’s come in: If can maintain a friendly relationship with tenants, while also being firm when necessary—and as fair as you possibly can be—you’ll be well on your way to harmony, both in and out of the building. This tip came from BiggerPockets.com; read the article here.

2. Foster a sense of community in your buildings.

As the housing paradigm in the United States has shifted from owning to renting, many of us have learned to invest more fully in the rental communities we live in. Renters are no longer simply counting the days until they can buy a house; instead, they are looking for a rental community that will feel like home.

As The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Landlords puts it, “Creating a sense of belonging means more tenant referrals, better retention, and fewer complaints.”  That’s why to the best landlords, every building—even those with just a few units—is more than a building: it’s a miniature neighborhood, a coherent group with its own culture and sense of belonging. Ensuring that community spaces are clean, safe and inviting is a good first step; you may also wish to consider community bulletins and get-togethers.

3. Respect a tenant’s autonomy–and their space.

This tip comes from a rental blog across the pond—but it’s relevant here as well. There can be times, particularly in smaller buildings and when a landlord or property manager lives on site, when the lines of a tenant’s privacy can blur slightly. Don’t forget that, while you may own or manage the units they live in, tenants do have a right to privacy by law. There are instances in which a landlord may enter an occupied unit after reasonable notice—but most of these instances are when emergency situations occur. Generally, landlords should err on the side of caution, and respect that units are their tenants’ homes. Read more here.

4. Document everything–and we mean EVERYTHING.

This tip comes from tvslandlordblog.com, and we couldn’t agree more. All steps of the rental process—from applications to phone calls to notices—should be documented. As much as it can be a pain at the time, documentation will actually make your job easier in the long run; and of course, some of this documentation is required by law. Luckily, there are tools to help you with this (and other) property management tasks…which brings us to tip number five!

5. Use the tech tools that will make your life easier.

When you add up all the jobs a landlord or property manager really has to do—advertise units, screen applicants, manage staff, respond to and coordinate maintenance and repairs, keep apprised of landlord-tenant law, document interactions with tenants, and more—it’s clear that every landlord wear a lot of hats in any given day.

Luckily, these days there are plenty of tools online to help you tackle many of your tasks. Websites like Reachwerks.com (full disclosure: Reachwerks is Seattle Rental’s sister company) can help you advertise units, archive paperwork electronically, and all measure of other helpful tasks. When used right, technology can be a landlord’s best friend—use it to your advantage!

Ten Days of Buzz: It’s a Whole New Year!

Happy New Year from all of us at Seattle Rentals! It’s a whole new year; you’re no doubt back at work, and we’re back with the latest and greatest news from the past ten days or so: it’s Ten Days of Buzz, 2013 style. Let’s see what rental market news ushered in the New Year while we were clinking our champagne glasses, shall we?

“We are focusing on constructing our new projects in places that are close to transit. They’ll be located in mixed-use neighborhoods that have their needs within walking distance.”

Seattle Mayor Mike MicGinn. Seattle Spends 19.5 Million on 574 Affordable Apartments, the Seattle P.I., 12/20/2012.

“There could be as many as 2.3 million new renters between 2015 and 2020. The result will be an increasingly tighter rental markets and higher rents for many Americans.”

The Center for American Progress. Fiscal Cliff and the Housing Market: What Will Happen With My Rent or Mortgage if We Fall Off the Cliff, PolicyMic.com, 12/21/2012.

“Shipping containers will be used in a luxury multifamily home build. The containers will be converted and stacked to make a 4 story dwelling which will make 20 separate liveable units, each with ducted reverse cycle air and tankless water heating.”

Blogger timiepn. Shipping Containers Used in Multifamily Home Build, JetsonGreen.com, 12/24/2012.

“Smaller landlords are benefiting, too: Amazon employees account for 25 to 30 percent of the condo and house leases Seattle Rental Group has negotiated in close-in neighborhoods over the past five or six months, broker Ashley Hayes says.”

Eric Pryne, Seattle Times Business Reporter. Amazon Puts its Stamp on Downtown Seattle, SeattleTimes.com, 12/26/2012.

“Developers, bankers and investors spent tens of millions of dollars buying existing units and building new ones. …They are banking on sustained strong demand from renters, even as sales of single-family homes gain momentum, breaking a five-year slump.”

Michael DeMasi, Reporter for the Business Review. Rental Market Powers Abound, Bizjournals.com, 12/28/2012.

“Too many of us are trying to evict [bedbugs and cockroaches] with the wrong pesticides, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory, calling the issue an emerging national concern and citing a dramatic increase in the number of bedbug-related inquiries received by agencies.”

Sheila Hagar of the Walla Walla Union Bulletin. Don’t Let the Bedbug (Chemicals) Bite, Seattle Times, 12/29/2012.

“To think that the rental market could keep having record-breaking growth is just not realistic. [And yet] this is not a bubble that is going to burst. That would mean that the numbers we have seen were being propped up by something artificial, but that isn’t true.”

Gary L. Malin, President of Citi Habitats. The New York Rental Tide Subsides, NYTimes.com, 12/30/2012.

“Assuming current trends hold, over the rest of this decade, we will need at least 300,000 new apartments annually, and possibly as many as 400,000, to meet demand.”

Mark Obrinsky, Chief Economist for the National Multi Housing Council. Rental Market Outlook Positive, NuWire Investor, 1/1/2013.

…And that’s the news for today! All through the month, we’ll be reporting on forecasts for the year ahead, along with the things we can learn about the market as we put 2012 in our rearview mirrors. But for now, welcome to 2013. It looks like it could be a pretty great year!