Demand from tech workers and foreign buyers is pushing Seattle real estate prices to new heights. Pending home sales in the Seattle area rose 16 percent in June to their highest level in almost a decade. Residential inventory is at its lowest level since 2007. Median single-family home prices reached a record $575,000, more than double the national average, and up at least 13 percent from a year earlier in each of the last five months, according to a report in Bloomberg Business. While still far short of the $1 million median in San Francisco, Seattle seems in some ways to be following in that city’s development path. Prices are being driven in large part by workers at companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Seattle-based Zillow, and by Chinese and other foreign buyers seeking investment properties and homes for their expat children.
The suburbs north of Chicago are experiencing a buying boom as young families and first-time homebuyers seek smaller, more affordable homes. While million-dollar homes closer to Lake Michigan are seeing weak demand and price reductions, there’s a surge of interest in towns like Morton Grove, Niles and parts of Skokie and Wilmette. One broker called it “a new suburban wave,” Chicago Magazine reported. Average sales prices in those towns rose nearly 12 percent in the first quarter compared with last year, on top of double-digit gains from 2012 to 2013. Average time on the market for the mostly mid-20th-century split-level and ranch homes dropped by half from 2012 to 2014. These changes strike a contrast with national trends for housing demand in city centers, but reflect rising interest in smaller, more affordable family homes.
Office parks north of Washington D.C. in Montgomery County, Maryland, are facing dire times. A county Planning Department study found a dozen empty office buildings and major tenants downsizing their leases at the county’s office parks, amid a national trend toward urban, walkable, mixed-use office space, the Washington Post reported. The federal government, the largest tenant in the county, could reduce its leased office space by 1.1 million square feet over the next five years. Federal leases expire for 2.4 million square feet this year alone, and while some leases were extended, it was generally for 10 to 25 percent less space. The county includes the suburbs of Bethesda and Silver Spring, but the worst hit areas are further afield, outside the D.C. beltway. Office parks in those areas, accessible only by car, fail to meet the needs of employees seeking smaller spaces with modern amenities and access to public transportation.
The fastest growth in rental prices nationwide is in the unlikely real estate hot spot of Jackson, Mississippi, a recent survey found. Homes there are renting for $1,169 per month on average, 23 percent higher than last year. Another off-the-radar market, Portland, Maine, was No. 2, with prices up 17 percent. Nationally, rents rose by a seasonally adjusted 4.3 percent over last year, the survey by Zillow found. The robust price growth alarmed some analysts, the Associated Press reported. Wages are growing only half as quickly. The survey found 73 percent of renters must make financial trade-offs like taking a second job or taking on credit card debt to pay the rent. And while the industry recorded a 5.1 percent national increase in home sales in May, 61 percent of Americans say the U.S. is still in the grip of a housing crisis.
Playwright, actor and all-around entertainment mogul Tyler Perry listed his palatial 34,688-square-foot Atlanta home. The seven-bedroom, 11.5-bathroom house features a double-height foyer, reception area and family room, massive swimming pool, underground ballroom with catering kitchen, fitness center and spa, home theatre, “presidential-level security system” and much more. It’s listed at $25 million.
Supermodel Elle Macpherson listed her seven-bedroom, 10-bathroom house on 66 gated acres in Aspen for $35 million. The mansion, built in 2004 and once owned by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, features an indoor pool, French limestone floors, commercial kitchen, gym with steam room and hot tub, juice bar and two elevators.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“Partridge Family” actor, singer and former teen idol David Cassidy, who woke up in debt earlier this year and after being forced to declare bankruptcy, will auction his six-bedroom, six-bathroom, 6,400-square-foot home on Fort Lauderdale’s Harbor Beach. The house, which Cassidy bought for $1.1 million in 2001, features 130 feet of private beachfront, a chef’s kitchen, pool and gazebo.