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Do prices drive single women out of downtown?

By May 24, 2007

The Seattle Times had an article recently that I never saw since I don’t read the Seattle Times. Maybe some of you also did not see it – Prices driving single women from downtown condo market.

Half of downtown condo buyers are couples, a third are single men and the remaining 17 percent are single women, condo marketer Leslie Williams told a forum on downtown living presented this morning by the Downtown Seattle Association.

A decade ago, single men and single women each were about 25 percent of the market, said Williams, president of Williams Marketing.

“Females just can’t afford the prices downtown,” she said. “The biggest issue is affordability.”

This certainly sounds like an interesting statistic but where did Leslie get that number? Is this a sample of new condo construction buyers? New condo construction residents? Or a sample of all downtown condominium residents?

As for the statement ‘Females just can’t afford the prices downtown’, that may be true, I’m not arguing it isn’t, but it would have been helpful if the author of the article would have given us some evidence supporting the fact that there is a income gap between female and male downtown residents in Seattle. I don’t doubt that Leslie is an expert on condo marketing and sales but I don’t like think she is necessarily an expert on labor statistics (I could be wrong.)

Now whether you are female or male there appears to be a lack of sub $500,000 condos in downtown likely stemming from the fact that developers want to take advantage of recent zoning changes and build bigger and taller concrete and steel structures which result in a price tag of $400,000+ a unit. This forces the cheaper units out to neighborhoods like Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill which have zoning restrictions making the ‘five over two’ wood frame construction much more popular and affordable though likely still not affordable enough.

I have seen a lot of the new condos but I haven’t seen them all so perhaps I’ve missed the ones that aren’t spec’ing slab granite and stainless appliances. But it would be nice to see a developer going out and challenging some of the existing market assumptions that everyone wants those materials and experimenting with the lower end of price spectrum in terms of materials and unit sizes.