Rental Tech: Outdoor Living, Soundproofing the Floor, & Apartment Key Kiosks Rental Tech

Wall Street Journal: Outoors–the new indoors!

The Concourse by Sunland (Interior & Patio)

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice–the increasing number of friends and relations developing, and furnishing, their backyards and outdoor spaces to become full-fledged extensions of their indoor living space–and according to the WSJ, the trend is here to stay. We’ve all seen the full-size outdoor couches, kitchens and amenities that homeowners have built into their plein-aire spaces…and with the current trends in smaller rental units with more outdoor and shared space, it’s only a matter of time before the trend comes full-force to the apartment industry. Current innovations include outdoor heating and cooling, as well as our favorite: automatic mosquito control.  Read more.

Apartment Therapy: Soundproofing upper floors is easier than you think.

Healthier Choice Pad: Ready for Carpet

If you own a multi-floor apartment building, you know: renters on upper floors can create quite the headache for those renting down below. If their headaches have become yours, you may want to think about installing soundproofing in the floors–and this article from Apartment Therapy lays out the easiest options. Most of the options involve a layer installed under carpeting, and won’t work in units with hardwood flooring; but if you do decide to use carpet, the choices for what to put under it are numerous, including “a dense cellulose fiberboard” called  440 Homasote. Read more.

Greentech: Multifamily energy use has dropped nearly 40% since 1980.

Look for this logo when considering your new r...

Good news for renters and landlords who are keen to be green–according to a new article from Greentech, households in multifamily buildings with 5 or more units use dramatically less energy than single-family homes. And that’s not all–since 1980, energy use in apartments has dropped by 38%, even with the split-incentive factor (where landlords shoulder part of the energy burden and reward, while tenants shoulder the other part). Energy use for heating has dropped even more drastically in the past thirty years–it’s down 50%! While multifamily units are understandably easier to heat and cool than single-family homes, which tend to be larger and have more windows and surfaces exposed to the outdoors, the fact that energy use has dropped so much within apartment households is encouraging–and much of the thanks is owed to more efficient technologies that have been installed as they have become available. See, technology’s not just fun–it saves the world! Read more.

Refinery 29: Locked out again? Go visit the kiosk!

Awhile back, we reported on a new smartphone lock in development–and now we’ve got more news on the “how will I ever get into my apartment?” front. This time, the news hails from New York City, where company KeyMe has installed the first of five locksmith kiosks (keyosks?) that allow people 24-hour access to a digital locksmith. Customers store a digital copy of their key for free, and can order a copy made while they wait, utilizing fingerprint security, for $19.99. No word yet on how, and if, this technology could figure into the rental market…could we see Concierge kiosks in our future? For now, we’ll see how KeyMe’s pilot program goes. Read more.


Seattle Centric: Historic Jobless Rate, Urban Gen-Y Renters, & Investing in Multifamily

Happy summer! Now that it’s officially apartment-hunting season, how will you celebrate? With a good power-washing, perhaps? Or maybe something more fun–it’s supposed to get into the eighties this weekend…Seattle CentricIt’s the first day of summer–and Seattle’s is the longest in the contiguous US!

Okay, so this story doesn’t have much to do with the rental market–but we’re just plain excited. Say what you will about Seattle weather, but we can pat ourselves on the back when it comes to the Summer Solstice. According to the Seattle PI, on June 21st, Seattle “has more daylight than any other major metro in the contiguous United States.” 15.59 hours of daylight, in fact. Take that, California! So how will you spend the longest day of the year? Is it time to spruce up the outside of a property, or will you take the day off? Rest assured that whatever you’re up to, you’ll have plenty of daylight to do it in. Read more.

Seattle jobless rate hits 4.7%

We know, we started out the last edition of Seattle Centric talking about the state jobless rate; but that was a whole month ago, and now we’ve got great news for Seattle unemployment. That’s right–while a year ago, we were looking at 7.3%, now, for the first time since 2008, the Seattle jobless rate has fallen below 5%. So what (or who) is to credit for this recovery? According to economist Paul Turek, it’s “the Boeing factor.” Also noted is the jump in construction. And the cherry on top? According to Maria Ramirez, an economist with MFR, a jobless rate of 5% or less can be defined as “full employment.” Congratulations, Seattle! Read more.

Seattle apartment market shaped by Gen-Y employees

And speaking of jobs, the Puget Sound Business Journal just featured an article about the current demand for smaller, more urban apartments–and how that demand is shaped by the jobs available in our city. Seattle-based companies like Nordstrom, Starbucks,, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are attracting young professionals who view the city as a land of opportunity; and these Gen-Y employees, who don’t yet have families, prefer smaller, more versatile apartments, located in walkable neighborhoods that are easily accessible from the office. Read more.

In a tough investment market, expert looks to rentals

Yikes: “This year’s stock market surge has stalled and the market is too choppy to provide any sort of reassurance,” journalist Christina Rexrode writes in a new AP article. So what’s a smart investor to do? The article polled five experts in the field to see what their suggestions were, and according to Mickey Segal, a managing partner at an investment firm in LA, the time is ripe for investing in the apartment market. Segal cites conditions which describe the Seattle rental market: the high demand and low supply in the current market, combined with the very tight supply on homes for sale–which, in some areas, is due to investor groups buying houses to turn into rental properties. Finally, development of new apartments in 2013 is scheduled to fall short of 2012 development, meaning multifamily will continue to be strong going into next year. Read more.

Ten Days of Buzz: June 9-18, 2013

Ten Days of Buzz

“Renting out your property is a business venture and, with most business ventures, there may be significant tax consequences…There may also be tax deductions available, including interest from a mortgage payment, depreciation, repairs, and travel to the property, along with possible home office space deductions.”

Victoria Dalton, Elder law attorney. Your Legal Corner: Becoming a landlord,, 6/9/13.

“Annualizing this year’s [apartment sales] volume suggests total 2013 sales activity will be close to $2.1 billion. Last year started out slower, but ended up with almost $2.7 billion of sales activity.” 

Dupre and Scott of Apartment Advisor: Investment in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties,, 6/10/13.

“As the inventory is shrinking a lot of the private rentals owners are choosing to actually sell instead of continuing to lease out the property. So that’s also taking away from the inventory.”

Ashley Hayes of Seattle Rental Group. Seattle rental market increasingly competitive and expensive,, 6/11/13.

“Higher prices are reducing returns on investment, and investors are responding by cutting back on their purchasing plans until conditions sort out.”

Chris Clothier of Premier Property Management Group. Investors Backing Out of ‘REO-to-Rent’ Market, AOL Real Estate, 6/12/13.

“We’re told it took two years to transform this space from a shell to a showplace, featuring the most exquisite materials from around the world (the flooring, for instance, is mahogany, teak and onyx, depending on which district you’re in.)”

Josh Green of On the Market. At $15k Per Month, Behold Atlanta’s Priciest Rental,, 6/13/13.

“Sales volume has been climbing steadily for three years. There still are not as many sales each month as there were a dozen years ago, but investor activity is getting closer. And it shows a tremendous spike in sales last December, driven by capital gains tax changes taking effect in 2013.”

Mike Scott of Firewalking is Easier, Dupre + Scott’s Weekly Video Updates, 6/14/13.

“I don’t think we’ve solved the problem as a whole, but what we’ve done is send a very strong message to the real estate industry that this is still a tenant city.”

Sarah Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. S.F. tenants win a battle over rental conversions, Los Angeles Times, 6/15/13.

“[Back in the 1930s,] there were my grandparents upstairs, my aunt Elsie on the front veranda, which was closed in, and my parents, Florence and Alfred, in the front room.”

Norma, an 80 year old who has lived in the same rented apartment all her life. Family rents home for 85 years, PerthNow Real Estate, 6/17/13.

“HUD has taken historic steps in the area of fair housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality. As this study shows, we need to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own.”

Shaun Donovan, HUD Secretary. HUD Study Finds Same-Sex Discrimination in Rental Housing Market,, 6/18/13.


The Green Report: “Cargotecture,” Efficiency Investors, & Solar-Powered Apartments

It may not officially be summer yet, but it’s definitely getting warm and gorgeous outside–and that always inspires us to think green. Let’s check back in with the world of eco-friendly rental housing. And two out of three stories this week are from here in Seattle, which can’t help but make us smile. Enjoy!

The Green Report

Cargotecture comes to Seattle: Could you live in a shipping container?

Okay, so Seattle architect Kai Schwarz’s newly-built single-family homes inside shipping containers are only available for sale–currently. But it’s only a matter of time before one of these stylish dwellings ends up on the rental market. Schwarz and partner Ann Corning co-founded ShelterKraft Werks, and the company has already completed one cargo-contained home, with two more on the way.

Inspired by the containers in the Port of Seattle, the completed model “cargo haus” is a 160 square foot studio selling for $35,000. Transformed with round windows, stainless appliances and a tiled bathroom, the home look stylish and cozy–at least for those of us without claustrophobia. Next up to be built is the two-bedroom, 640 square-foot house, which will utilize two shipping containers and sell for $72,000. Where to plant your cargo home once you buy it is another story–unless you want to try parking it in the Port and see if anyone notices. Read more.

Landlord? No, I’m just the Efficiency Investor.

investorWhen considering upgrades or a major overhaul to your building to make it eco-friendly, the cost can be daunting–even when you factor in the future efficiency and increased marketability. But what if there was a way to green your building without covering the whole cost yourself? If a pilot program launched by Seattle City Light and the Bulitt Foundation is successful, we may see investors helping to pay for eco-friendly improvements–with landlords, investors, and tenants reaping the rewards.

So just what does this pilot program mean for the environment? According to Denis hayes of the Bulitt Foundation, “by separating the efficiency investor from the building owner, just as we separate the wind farm developer from the rancher whose property the turbines are on, we can reduce the energy use in most existing buildings by more than 40%.” All of that, and also making investors money? Apparently so, according to the DJC. The pilot program  will involve just the Bulitt Building, to begin with–but could expand after that. Read more.

Apartments powered by 100% solar energy lure tenants–in sunny San Diego.

photovoltaic panelsUntil now, if you wanted to live your life in a home powered by the sun, chances are you’d have to buy a single-family home and cover it in solar panels–a costly proposition for any homeowner. But now, residents of San Diego can choose to rent their homes, and still enjoy solar power, in a multifamily complex “designed to be fully powered by the sun.

H.G. Fenton has finished building the first of Solterra’s four apartment buildings, which will house 114 units. Currently 80% leased, the apartments will feature other eco-friendly perks, including Nest thermostats and energy monitoring by smartphone for tenants–a feature which was only legalized in California last year. And these apartments don’t come cheap; prices start at $1,495/month for 741 square feet. It looks like tenants may be willing to pay a premium for the novelty of an “ecoluxury” unit. Read more.

Apartment Advisor Recap: The Investment Issue

It’s here, it’s here–the June issue of The Apartment Advisor, from Dupre + Scott! This issue was all about investments in the first five months of 2013; let’s see how it compares to 2012 and years past.Apartment Advisor RecapThese are just some of the most salient points from the new issue; as always, check out for the comprehensive report.

Multifamily sales are currently up over this time last year–but projected sales for the year won’t outperform 2012.

In the first five months of 2012, $645 million in 5-unit or larger apartment buildings sold. Now skip ahead to the first five months of this year, when that number jumped to just under $900 million. When we annualize that number, it puts this year’s total sales activity at about $2.1 billion; in 2012, that number hit $2.7 billion. According to Dupre + Scott, “we don’t expect 2013 o outperform last year,” because 2012 sales were buoyed by capital gains tax changes.

Prices on these buildings are continuing their three-year rise.

So what are these 5-unit or larger buildings selling for, anyway? According to the Advisor, they’re currently averaging $141,389 per unit, up from $136,555 per unit averaged over 2012. That puts the price 3.5% up from last year’s average, which means prices are continuing on their three-year rising streak. Higher rents and lower mortgage rates are fueling the increase.

Cap rates have climbed above interest rates, signifying investors’ “concern about the potential for interest rates to climb in the future.”

Let’s back up a little–the relationship between cap rates and interest rates can be complex. According to Dupre + Scott, cap rates rise and drop due to many reasons, including supply and demand, changes in the cost of capital, and changes in buying pressure. Lately, cap rates have climbed much higher than interest rates. “Investors are taking advantage of today’s low rates, but [the difference] suggests they are concerned about the potential for interest rates to climb in the future.” Incidentally, this is a good place to note that assessed values, which fell over the past few years, are finally starting to catch up with price trends.

…Finally, some quick stats from the report

We’ve bulleted some statistics from the 5-19 unit sale findings below. For numbers on 20-99 and 100+ unit sales, as well as breakdowns by county, check out the latest Apartment Advisor.

Tri-County 5-19 Unit Sales

    • $91 million (in 74 sales) of these buildings have sold thus far this year; that’s up from $75 million (in 65 sales) at this time last year.
    • Average price is $134,023 per unit, up from $130,491 last year (a 2.7% jump).
    • Cap rates on these buildings have remained steady at 5.6%, up from their 4.6% low in 2007.
    • Averaged assessed value on these sales in 2013 is 88% of the sale price, down from 91% of the sale price in 2012.

Events Calendar: June & July 2013

With school letting out and summer officially upon us, let’s check in on the networking and educational events going on this summer for landlords and property managers in the Seattle area. A landlord’s work never stops–but as these local events can remind you, you’re part of a flourishing industry, and friends (and important contacts) can be made everywhere.Events Calendar

June 8th (tomorrow!): The WLA’s 2013 Spring Conference

It’s not too late to register for the Washington Landlord Association’s big spring event! Held at La Quinta Inn in Tacoma, this yearly, all-day event is open to guests and costs $35 if you pre-register online (less for members). The resources available at the conference are numerous and include presentations on rental management, fire alarms & sprinklers, cleaning up moisture damage, tenant screening, and more. Check it out here.

June 13th: The RHA presents New Laws and What You Should Know

Ever feel like you can’t keep up with the changing tides of landlord-tenant law? There’s always more to learn as the laws evolve, and that’s why the RHA is holding this two-hour seminar lead by Julie Johnson. This “quick overview” of changes that have occurred over the past year targets the laws that affect you, your business and your tenants. The seminar is from 5 to 7 pm, and registration is $45.00. Learn more here.

June 20th: City’s Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance Stakeholders Meeting 

Did you know that all rental housing in Seattle will have to be registered with the Department of Planning and Development by December 31st, 2016? That’s the result of the new Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO). Luckily, the community can have a say in how the ordinance is implemented at the city’s monthly Ordinance Stakeholders Meeting. The next one is from 2-4pm at the Seattle Municipal Tower on June 20th, and it’s open to the public. Learn more here.

July 11th: Solving Problems with Tenants, from the RHA

We’ve all had those tenants that require more time and attention than the rest. In this three-hour seminar conducted by Sue Lewis, CPM, you’ll learn new tools for handling tenant hardships, emergencies, and problem behavior. Registration is $45; the event will be held on July 11th from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. By the conclusion of the seminar, you’ll know when to make a call, send a notice, or seek legal advice. Learn more or register.

July 17th: Meeting of the Seattle Public Utilities Water System Advisory Committee

If you like to stay involved in affairs of the city, you may want to stop by this meeting of the Water System Advisory Committee. This meeting is open to the public (and hey, you can always apply to sit on the committee if you’re really serious about it!). Seattle Public Utilities community advisory committees work to provide diverse and representative opinions and analysis on the issues that the utility departments face on a regular basis. Learn more.

July 17th: The RHA presents Keeping Your Rentals Straight

This one’s for all of you landlords out there who do your own bookkeeping. Julie Johnson will be on hand to introduce you to bookkeeping basics, including cash flow tracking, profit and loss worksheet setup, and creating record management systems. Managing multiple rentals? No problem–this seminar will teach you how to keep them straight. It will run from 5 to 8 pm on the 17th, and costs $45 to register. Check it out here.



Under Construction: Units in South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and Queen Anne

Can you believe it’s June already? Time to pull out that bathing suit…As time marches forward, so does apartment planning and construction across the city. Let’s check out what’s in store for Seattle’s multifamily market with Under Construction!

Multifamily development in Seattle WAPlanned: 8-Story Apartment Building in South Lake Union

  • Who: Development company Wolff is behind this project, which will include market-rate apartments and retail space.
  • What: The mixed-use building will include 210 market-rate apartments, as well as retail space–and while the building will be built at the current location of longstanding Seattle company Glazer’s Camera, Wolff has worked out a deal to allow Glazer’s to continue to operate during and after construction.
  • Where: The building will be located in South Lake Union, at 430 Eighth Avenue North, a corner site which now just houses Glazer’s Camera.
  • When: The project is not yet approved by the city, but both Wolff and Glazer are eager to get the go-ahead; design meetings started in late May.

Under Consideration: 19-Story Residential Tower Downtown

  • Who: Cornish College of the Arts is behind this possible downtown tower; currently, they have housing located in Denny Triangle, which will be displaced with Amazon’s development.
  • What: The 19-story tower would hold 230 units, solely for Cornish students, as well as other college space.
  • Where: The main Cornish campus is at 1000 Lenora Street; the tower would sit just next to it downtown.
  • When: Ankrom Moisan Architects have applied to build the project; in the meantime, Cornish has until 2015 to vacate its other dorm.

Under Construction: The Stream Uptown

  • Who: Stream Real Estate is developing this 118-unit building, with design by Nicholson Kovalchick Architects.
  • What: The building will incorporate 112 apartments and six live-work lofts, as well as parking for 68 vehicles. Billing itself as a “high-end lifestyle with low impact living,” the builders are utilizing green building practices and energy-efficient appliances.
  • Where: The Stream Uptown apartments will be located uptown on Queen Anne, at 6th Avenue North.
  • When: The building is expected to open later this year, and is currently leasing units.

Opening in September: Stadium Place’s West Block

  • Who: NEW Financial and Daniels Real Estate are working together on this mixed-use project.
  • What: West Block will house over 500 apartments and parking for 370 of those tenants, as well as 16,000 feet of retail space. West Block is the first of two blocks to be developed in the Stadium Place project, which has incorporated green building practices.
  • Where: Both blocks of the Stadium Place project will be located in Pioneer Square, just north of Century Link Field.
  • When: The West Block is scheduled to open in September of this year, with completion on the rest of the project to follow.

Completed: Expo Apartments

  • Who: Essex Property Trust has completed this project, which was designed by Runberg Architecture Group.
  • What: The complex includes 275 apartment units, as well as 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Parking for 320 vehicles is included as well.
  • Where: The new building is located uptown, at 118 Republican Street (at the corner of 1st Ave N. and Republican).
  • When: Construction was completed in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Completed: The Lyric Apartments

  • Who: This building was completed by SRM Development, at a cost of $36,000,000.
  • What: The Lyric Apartments hold 235 residential units, 17,400 square feet of retail space, and 5,700 square feet of ground-floor office space. The building also includes parking for 362 vehicles.
  • Where: The mixed-use building is located on Capitol Hill, at 230 Broadway East (at Broadway E and E Thomas Street).
  • When: The seven-story building was completed in the third quarter of last year.