The Numbers: Economic Impacts of the Rental Industry

The Numbers

In last week’s Rental Techwe reported on a new website put together by the NMHC and the NAA that details some of the many positive economic impacts of the apartment rental industry. The site is actually the infographic for an in-depth report from the two entities–and in today’s column, we’ve got some of the more interesting numbers from that report. Time for The Numbers! 

apartments in Washington and apartments in Seattle

34 percent of residential housing in Washington consists of apartment homes

three billion dollars contributed to Seattles economy by the rental industry

apartment homes by cityFor even more fun facts and stats, check out the full report from the NAHB and NAA here.


Rental Tech: Parking Planning Calculators, Washington Apartment Stats, and…Microsoft Office for IOS?

Welcome to Rental Tech, the occasional column where we’ll report on the snazzy tech developments that are changing the ways that we live and work. Whether it’s tools for the landlord or technologies that affect us all, you’ll find it here. After all, tech touches just about everyone, from the apartment hunter to the property manager, (hopefully) making our jobs easier even as it makes apartment living that much more fun.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 9.52.41 PMNot sure how many parking spots to plan into your latest apartment project? There’s an app–er, website–for that.

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Cities surrounding Seattle are also included on the site; here’s the coverage area.

So, you’re planning your next apartment building, to be built right here in Seattle. You’ve poured over the zoning rules, planned the units, decided on whether to include commercial space…but what about parking?

How many parking spots you need can differ greatly depending on what area you’re building in. To take some of the guesswork out of parking planning, King County has released, home of the aptly-named Right Size Parking Calculator. Just find your area of Seattle, select your parcel, and “create your scenario” (entering the types and quantities of units you plan to include), and presto: you can view your parking per unit ratio, parking impacts, and more. Check it out here.

FCC considers faster Wi-Fi–yes, please!

Wi-fi: it’s everywhere. Ease of use makes it perhaps the most popular way of connecting to the internet–many new devices come equipped with wi-fi, but not with an ethernet port. But the lingering problem with wi-fi? It’s often much, much slower than plugging in.

That could all change soon, however. The New York Times is reporting that the FCC is moving towards the opening of high-frequency airwaves to “unlicensed devices–” and that means the privately-owned wi-fi routers found in residences, hotels, and public places. Still awaiting final approval, if these airwaves are made available, wi-fi speeds could increase to up to 1 gigabit per second–over 95 times faster than the average speed of current residential wi-fi. Sounds good to us! Read more here.

Want quick access to nationwide apartment market numbers? Check out the new info site from the NAA and NMHC.

Utilizing information from the Census Bureau, the NAA and NMHC have released a comprehensive report on the state of the nation’s apartment market–all in the form of handy infographics at the new website

The site’s homepage shows some quick facts about the apartment market as a whole, with a clickable map of the United States. Clicking on Washington State showed us that there are 0.8 million apartment residents, with $28.7 billion contributed to the state economy–and you can view the data sheet for each state to learn even more. The site is designed to illustrate the positive role the apartment market plays in the nation’s economy–and in the lives of apartment residents. Learn more here.

Microsoft Office is a standard for PCs…but could Office for iPad be in our future?

As the owner of an iPad, there are a lot of times I try to make it work in place of a real laptop (most of this takes place, of course, in coffee shops). When I snap it into its keyboard case, it very nearly does the trick–but let’s face it: there are some essential elements that will have to be added before iPads can really start to compete with PCs. One of those elements, of course, is the ever-vital Microsoft Office.

While Apple has released its word processor, Pages, for the iPad and iPhone, Microsoft has yet to speak on whether it will release a version of Office for IOS any time soon; but at least one analyst thinks it’s on its way. That would be Adam Holt, of Morgan Stanley–and he’s stating that Microsoft may release Office for IOS in 2014, selling it for about $60 for the whole suite. Sweet! This just leads to the question: will the iPad still be as fun when we can access spreadsheets on it? Read more here.

And from the too cool not to share department…this is what we call a booklight!

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.58.04 PMOkay, so this isn’t strictly apartment-market tech news–but it is from one of our favorite blogs for renters, The Lumio looks like a book, feels like a book, even opens like a book…but in fact, it’s a versatile LED light source perfect for any room.

Designed by Max Gunawan, the Lumio’s pages are made out of Tyvek (that crazy-tough paper used in FedEx mailing envelopes), and the light lasts for eight hours before having to be plugged in and charged. Right now, the Lumio is only available on Kickstarter–but they should become more widely available this coming September. Read more here.

Ten Days of Buzz: February 9-19, 2013

Ten Days of Buzz

“In this market, at this point, it’s a sweet spot. You’re getting the market where it’s just starting to rebound, but still at the bottom, with what’s looking to be a great recovery.”

Chris Princis of Brook-Hollow Financial. Got cash, good credit? Experts say owning rental housing can pay off even as market recovers,, 2/9/13.

“Hughes, 79, has purchased about 10,000 properties through his American Homes 4 Rent, making the Malibu, California-based firm the second-biggest owner of single-family rentals after Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group LP.”

Heather Perlberg of Bloomberg News. Billionaire Hughes Chasing Blackstone as U.S. Rental King,, 2/12/13.

“The number of empty rental units shrunk greatly in the last two years according to the Census Bureau’s quarterly Housing Vacancy Survey. Peaking at just over 11 percent, the current measure stands at 8.7 percent as of the end of 2012, comparable to levels seen in early 2002.”

Robert Dietz, NAHB Economist. Multifamily Housing Growth Poised to Continue in 2013,, 2/13/13.

“…The apartment markets with the highest rental rate growth and occupancy also are the areas that have generated above-average employment growth. Northern California’s Bay Area is a perfect example—it consistently shows up as one of the most desirable for apartment acquisitions.”

Jennifer Popovec, of the National Real Estate Investor. Five Signs for Apartment Market Growth,, 2/14/13.

“The Seattle/Puget Sound Industrial market ended the fourth quarter 2012 with a vacancy rate of 6.0%. The vacancy rate was down over the previous quarter, with net absorption totaling positive 501,866 square feet in the fourth quarter.”

Justin Sumner of the Costar Group. Market Trend: Seattle / Puget Sound’s Industrial Vacancy Decreases to 6.0%,, 2/15/13.

“It appears these investors have driven home prices higher within some pricing points of their target cities.  Overall, large scale REO-to-Rental investors are helping accelerate the housing recovery.” 

Timothy Cunneen of Smith Breeden Associates. Large institutional investors emerge in REO-to-rental market,, 2/17/13.

“The next Mayor will be on the hook for whether problems are mitigated, solved or avoided, as well as whether the new infrastructure delivers less congestion, better commutes, greener outcomes, and better livability — as promised.”

Knute Berger of Mossback. The Next Seattle Mayor Needs to be a Puzzlemaster,, 2/18/13.

“Ten years ago, our retirement plan consisted of a pension, stocks, and a 401k. Owning a rental means that we’ve added yet another type of investment to our portfolio which will generate income in our retirement.”

C. Jeanne Heida, Landlord and Yahoo! Contributor. First Person: The Benefits of Owning Rental Property, Yahoo Finance, 2/19/13.

Seattle Centric: Solar in Seattle, the Heights of Cascade, and news from Yesler Terrace

The special day is almost here–that holiday everyone loves, or hates, or loves to hate, depending on their relationship status and their tolerance for prix fixe menus. If you haven’t made plans yet, don’t worry: Seattle has something for everyone, and the Seattle PI’s got you covered with their list of cruises, chocolate tastings, and even 5k runs. And now we’ll stop daydreaming about roses and chocolate and get down to the business at hand: Rental market news from all around our great city! That’s right, time once again for Seattle CentricSeattle Centric

Solar…in Seattle?

Did you know that many areas in Seattle can actually support a solar energy installation? We were surprised, but according to Keith Hughes of West Seattle Natural Energy (as quoted in the Seattle Times), “Seattle gets 80 percent as much sun as San Diego.” So is Seattle really primed for a solar revolution? Seattle City Light and Northwest SEED seem to think so; read more here from the Seattle Times.

South Lake Union may be getting taller, but will Cascade follow suit? Probably not.

Hype has abounded about proposed South Lake Union rezoning that would allow taller buildings in the area (spearheaded by Vulcan, of course). But some people have been left wondering if the changes would affect the nearby Cascade neighborhood as well. According to a new article from the Daily Journal of Commerce, that’s unlikely. The City is recommending that the Cascade neighborhood (located between Fairview and Eastlake) retain the current 75-foot housing height limit, which is one of the lowest in the city. Read more in the DJC.

Want to check in on single-family housing? The Seattle Home Show opens Saturday.

If you’ve got a little time this weekend and you’d like a peek into the current state of the single-family home market, you’re in luck–the Seattle Home Show opens this weekend. Among the trends exhibited at this year’s show are very small homes (a mini-cabin by Coast Cabins is on display) as well as more luxurious homes that are starting to regain popularity after the recession. One full-size model home will also be on exhibit at the show–a first since 2007. Read more from the Seattle Times.

Seattle rental market beats the South Sound by a longshot in Q4 of 2012

This important bit of news comes from the Puget Sound Business Journal and Tom Caine’s Apartment Insights. According to research from the firm, the rental market in Seattle at the end of last year was booming…while things in the South Sound didn’t go quite as well. The South Sound counties in question, Kitsap, Pierce and Thurston, had an average rent of $852 in the fourth quarter–far below that of urban Seattle. Check out the full numbers from the Business Journal here.

Yesler Terrace: A vision takes shape

New renderings of the Yesler Terrace redevelopment planned for 12th Ave. & Yesler have been released by Spectrum Development Solutions. As it stands currently, the plans are for a six-story, 120-unit apartment with retail space and parking included. While the majority of the apartments will cater to “nurses, teachers, emergency responders, and others employed downtown,” according to Jane McKinstry of Spectrum, 25% of the units will be reserved for those earning less than 80% of the area median income. Interested in the happenings over at Yesler Terrace? There’s a public meeting scheduled for this evening at 8pm, at Seattle University. Find out more from

…And that’s it for today. Oh yeah, one last thing: from all of us at Seattle Rentals, Happy Valentine’s Day!

free hugs

Five Ways to…Prepare Properties for Springtime

Did you hear? Last week on that most important of national holidays, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow–and that means an early spring for all of us across the nation (impending East Coast blizzard notwithstanding). Hurrah for springtime!

In reality, while Punxsutawney Phil is actually wrong more often than he is right, winter is waning, and the flowers will be blooming before you know it–bringing along with them all of those wonderful tasks landlords and property managers have to prepare for. So today on Five Ways, we’ve got tips on how to prepare for the spring season even before it arrives–putting you and your staff ahead of the curve.

Five Ways To

1. Make appointments–with gutter maintenance companies and the other businesses you’ll work with this spring–sooner rather than later.

Calendar_0As soon as warmer weather hits, the companies and contractors you work with during warmer months will get booked–and fast. Stay ahead of the competition by booking appointments for gutter cleaning, pipe inspections, HVAC maintenance and other spring  requirements before March and April are actually upon us–then sit back and relax knowing you’ll have it all taken care of in the months ahead.

2.  Inspect your pipes–every single one of them. 

The colder the winter, the harder it can be on a building’s plumbing. When the autumn hit, you took the time to protect pipes and plumbing from freezing temperatures and snow; now that the worst is over, it’s time to see how you did. While tenants would clearly point out some of the more obvious problems that have occurred over the winter, others won’t make themselves known quite so easily–so be sure to conduct a thorough inspection of all the plumbing in your buildings during the spring months. You’d hate to be paying for extra water or energy because of a problem that occurred during the winter!

3. Create a spring maintenance schedule for yourself and your staff.

ID-10056804Warmer weather and brighter, longer days mark the start of apartment-hunting season in Seattle and other nearby regions; and even though vacancies continue to be low, buildings need to look their best and brightest as summer approaches. That means landscaping that is restored after the winter and well-kept throughout the warmer months. When the rains start to let up and the sun is out more often, some of the focus for you and your staff will change to maintaining attractive landscaping on your properties. Take the time now to schedule tasks and create a rotation; that way, the spring routine can ease seamlessly in to your routine.

4. Spring cleaning applies to landlords and tenants–we’re all in this together. Community events, such as whole-building yard sales, can strengthen the landlord-tenant bond.

While we realize that community yard sales are not going to be appropriate for every building, events that tackle (or acknowledge) spring cleaning tasks while emphasizing community can be great for a building’s sense of belonging. Building-wide yard sales are fairly easy to organize and can facilitate the removal of plenty of junk that would otherwise end up in the dumpster; if a yard sale isn’t your style, consider a used-goods donation drive to benefit a charitable cause.

5. Plan the fun stuff too–now’s the perfect time to start planning those community events that showcase your building while making tenants feel more at home than ever.

7916859-brochette-kebab-chicken-beef-pork-onion-barbecue-bbqDoes your apartment community host a spring potluck or a summer picnic? Is there a Labor Day barbecue or a special week of outreach events over the summer? Whatever your plans to make your building stand out to people who don’t live here yet, while also making tenants feel good about where they do live, now is the perfect time to plan it. Spring and summer are fun-filled times in the Pacific Northwest–while the good weather’s here, there are a lot of events vying for people’s attention. That’s why it’s important to plan events ahead of time, getting them onto community calendars and making sure tenants know they’re coming up–plenty of lead time will allow for events that are both well-attended and well-planned. And hey, enjoy it! Spring is just around the corner.

Ten Days of Buzz: January 25-February 5, 2013

Ten Days of Buzz“We are not saying vacancies will not go up…but there are a lot of ingredients in the apartment development recipe that suggest developers are building a reasonable number of units, [including] the shift toward more rental housing compared to condos and single-family and the surge of 20-somethings.”

Dupre + Scott, publishers of Apartment Advisor. Apartment development is like soup,, 1/25/13.

“Average rent in the area is 74 percent of the cost to own, commercial real estate information company CoStar Group says. That’s up from a historical level of 55 percent.” 

Aubrey Cohen of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Buying a home a better deal than usual, but still costs more,, 1/28/13.

“Renter household formation remains at the strongest level in decades. Roughly 1.32 million new renter households were formed in the past year (including owner conversions), while the number of owner-occupied households declined by 175,000.”

Raymond James Financial, from a report recently quoted on Guess Who’s Driving the Demand for Rental Apartments?, CNBC’s Reality Check, 1/29/13.

“The pace of improvement in the apartment industry is moderating, but the expansion remains solid. New construction…is still playing catch-up with the increase in demand for apartment residences.”

Mark Obrinsky of the NMHC. Apartment Market Picks Up in January,, 1/30/13.

“A couple of years ago, there was very little to do if you’re a single-family homebuilder, and a lot to do in apartments. Since the skill sets are pretty similar, it’s sort of a natural shift.”

Jerry Johnson, a real estate economist out of Portland. Homebuilders, facing new challenges in single-family homes, look to apartments., 1/31/13.

“The economy added 157,000 jobs in January… and construction jobs are growing at a faster pace than the overall market: While payrolls growth in general has been 1.5% since last January, construction jobs are up 1.8%.”

Neil Shah of the Wall Street Journal. Is Housing Recovery Finally Generating Jobs?, WSJ Blogs, 2/1/13.

“Multifamily permits [in 2012] jumped 94%, almost entirely due to substantial activity in the apartment development arena.”

Gardner Economics, in their Seattle Metropolitan Area Economy and Real Estate Market Report., 2/2/13.

“2012 was a strong year for the commercial and multifamily mortgage markets, and 2013 is shaping up to continue the growth. Our forecast anticipates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA, as well as life insurance companies, will all continue to have strong appetites for making loans; the total market will continue to expand.”

Jamie Woodwell of the Mortgage Bankers Association. MBA Forecasts $254 Billion of Commercial/Multifamily Mortgage Originations in 2013, Up 11% From 2012,, 2/3/13.

“After several years of meager deliveries, the sector is finally starting to respond to demand in the marketplace. We’ve got a long way to go before we cross that ‘bubble’ threshold—this pipeline is in no danger of bursting.”

Jubeen Vaghefi of Jones Lang LaSalle. Apartment Market Not Saturated, NuWire Investor, 2/4/13.

“Mortgage giant Freddie Mac has released its top producing multifamily mortgage lenders of 2012. The top five list includes Bethesda-based Walker & Dunlop LLC, which transacted $2.3 billion in sales through Freddie Mac last year.”

Bryant Ruiz Switzky of Freddie mac names top multifamily lenders of 2012, WBJ Biz Beat, 2/5/13.

Under Construction: Units on their Way in Fremont, South Lake Union, Downtown

Guess what: We did it! We got through the first month of a brand new year. Hopefully by now you’re in that happy zone where you’re remembering to write 2013 on checks, but that resolution to go jogging a few times a week hasn’t slipped by the wayside quite yet.

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As the new year charges ahead, so are multifamily building projects all across the city. That’s right, it’s Under Construction, here to keep you informed on new buildings in the works all across the city. Let’s see what’s cooking, shall we? (Projects listed in red are still in the planning stages; yellow projects are approved or under construction, and green are at or near completion.)

Proposed: 39 Story Apartment Tower at Second and Pine

  • Who: The project has been proposed by Equity Residential; firm Weber Thompson would design.
  • What: 400 units housed in a 39 story building that would also include 2,700 square feet of commercial space, with eight total levels of parking (four underground and four above).
  • Where: Downtown, at the northeast corner of Second Ave. and Pine St.
  • When: The project has not yet been finalized; Equity has just applied for land-use and construction permits for the site, which is currently a parking lot.

Planned: 171 Units in Fremont at 3606 Woodland Avenue N

  • Who: The Carlyle group, partnered with Harbor Urban, has announced plans to develop in Fremont.
  • What: 171 units that will be developed to compliment “the vitality of Fremont street-life.” That will include 11 townhomes, as well as studio and one- and two-bedroom units.
  • Where: The project is planned for 3606 Woodland Avenue North. Because of its proximity to the Burke Gilman Trail, the developers are planning to incorporate bike lockers, as well as bike washing and maintenance stations, to appeal to cyclist-commuters.
  • When: The project is slated to be complete around the fourth quarter of 2014.

In Progress: 283 AvalonBay Units in the U-District

  • Who: AvalonBay Communities is currently constructing the two building complex, which was designed by GGLO.
  • What: These 283 units, christened Ava University District, were designed with Gen Y renters in mind. A courtyard will bridge the gap between the two buildings; flex spaces to be used as art studios, coffee carts, boutique spaces, etc. will line the courtyard’s perimeter. The buildings will include eight live-work units as well.
  • Where: Construction is taking place on 12th Avenue Northeast, just south of 47th Street.
  • When: Project completion has been estimated at five or six months from now, in the summer of 2013.

Conditionally Approved: Amazon Expansion in South Lake Union

  • Who: Amazon, of course–by way of Vulcan Real Estate. The project was designed by ZGF Architects out of Seattle. GLY is serving as contractor.
  • What: This expansion will consist of two buildings standing six stories tall, with a total of 377,000 square feet.
  • Where: These Amazon buildings would stand between Westlake Ave. N. and Ninth Ave. N., in South Lake Union–two blocks west of their current campus.
  • When: The project was conditionally approved just days ago by the Department of Planning and Development. Now, Vulcan must proceed with caution–certain construction impacts could derail the approval.

Completed (and up for sale): GreenHouse, in Columbia City

  • Who: Harbor Urban developed this property, in which nearly all units have now been leased. Cushman & Wakefield Commerce are marketing the building for sale.
  • What: The building, which features irrigated rooftop garden plots (as well as edible landscaping!) is the first market-rate project to be built in Columbia City in 43 years. There are 124 units, twenty percent of which have been designated as affordable housing.
  • Where: GreenHouse is located at 3701 S. Hudson Street.
  • When: The project was completed just about four months ago, at which time half of the units were pre-leased; now, the building has filled to near-capacity. While there is no asking price listed with the building, Harbor Urban recently sold the Landes on First Hill for nearly $28.9 million.