Why wait until a house is finished and listed on the MLS before you start considering it? Savvy Seattle home buyers are turning to a website that is a great tip sheet for new construction.
Check out Blueprint if you want to see some of the new single-family homes or townhouses that will soon hit the market.
The website is a side project for Blueprint Capital, a lender that specializes in loans and development services for smaller-scale construction in Seattle. Mark Knoll, a real-estate lending veteran, launched the business in 2009 as the Great Recession all but wiped out financing for small builders.
“Essentially, the banks stopped lending,” said Knoll. “So we started our own effort.”
Knoll and a partner designed a co-operative business model that pooled capital from local builders and investors. Blueprint then lent that money to builders so they could build single-family homes and townhouses within the city limits. Since 2010, Knoll calculates that Blueprint has made loans worth about $207 million, which will translate to about 400 new homes.
In 2012, Knoll says Blueprint financed 30% of all new single-family homes that sold in Seattle, and 39% of new homes from $400,000 to $1 million, a range the West Seattle-based company specializes in.
As if enabling local builders and making a profit for investors weren’t enough, Knoll and a web programmer created a website that showcases all of the current projects Blueprint is involved with. Once the company closes a loan, the information automatically feeds into the website.
“We’re not trying to be Redfin,” said Knoll. “The idea is just to help our builders sell their homes. It’s also to provide transparency to our investors and bankers.”
Entries generally show the address, size specifications, architect, agent, and often times an illustration of what the home will look like. There is no listing price, however.
“We’re trying to provide a glimpse of what’s ahead,” said Knoll. “It’s kind of like a soft listing.”
Builders appreciate the free marketing. Brad Easton of Coastal Property Group says the site brings additional awareness and lines up serious buyers.
“We’ve seen buyers who show up as soon as the house becomes available because they’ve been watching it for weeks or months,” said Easton.
Currently, the site, which divides the city into six sections, lists 194 homes under construction. Two of those homes are being built by Easton’s company in Madrona.
While the publicity is beneficial, Easton says Blueprint’s main impact is keeping the local housing sector going during a difficult period.
“Many banks completely shut down their spec and custom construction departments,” said Easton. “They came in at an unbelievable time.”