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Seattle Condo Expo re-cap

By May 20, 2007


Given how rainy it was today I didn’t feel guilty spending a few hours at the Seattle Condo Expo.

Overall the Expo was a bust but the talks were good. To get a sense of who was all there I uploaded the map of the showroom floor. As you can see there were a lot of downtown condo projects not represented there and for the ones that were there the representation was lacking. Ben summed it up pretty accurately in his blog post about the event:

The expo was billed as the “ultimate urban open house”. If you were a prospective buyer, it was anything but. Very few of the vendors had full sales brochures available, and many, just had single sheet flyers with a PR article printed on the back (e.g articles published in the Seattle Times New Homes & Downtown Living inserts). There were no floor plans, pricing information, scale models, vignettes or sample finishes. If you wanted more information, and if you were serious about purchasing, you then had to go to the individual sales centers scattered through the city.

Personally, I didn’t get much value out of the expo other than to get an update on sales numbers and to catch up with a few sales folks on the latest news.

The talks

What I did get a lot of value out of was the three talks I attended (click through for my full notes on the talks.) However the talks really did seem all about making us customers feel like the market was still strong and that everyone wants to live downtown.

Economist Matthew Gardner from Gardner Johnson on Seattle area economics and forecast – Matthew’s was the best talk. Not only is he a good public speaker but his PowerPoint deck was full of charts and numbers. He was also very adamant that we were not in a bubble situation, that Seattle could absorb the inventory and that we developments were handling investors much differently than other cities. Absolute prices will come down, price per square foot will go up to $750/square foot, unit sizes will come down. HOA prices will peak at $0.60/square foot. It is a shame that Matthew does not blog.

Architect Blaine Weber from Weber+Thompson on high density housing trends – I have to say I was a little disappointed that Blaine’s talk was shorter than the others. I felt he glossed over many points to get the talk done and wasn’t able to dig deep into the issues. What I was hoping for in his talk was a discussion of the design process and the challenges of building in Seattle. What about materials? What are the trends that we are seeing in material selection, green building, interior design (other than that units are getting smaller) integration with the neighborhood and so on. I did get a chance to talk to him later in the afternoon and will write up our conversation on Pine and Belmont later in the week.

Marketer Dean Jones on market trends – Dean shed some insight on condo buyer demographics and put some numbers on the sizes of the segments. 40% are empty nestors moving downtown and the investor segment is getting smaller as more developments enforce a higher percentage of owner occupied units. He then introduced City Scape 2010, a 3d tour of downtown condos, which looked pretty cool. It will be interesting to see what direction they take this tool.

What should they do next year?

It should be run by an association of the major marketing companies and not by one or two.

It should feature talks not just on reassuring us that the market is going to stay strong but be talks of practical value. How do you select a neighborhood? Do you need an agent? How do you find a good agent? What is unique about buying a condo? What are the gotchas? How is financing different? How do I downsize from my suburban home to a condo a third of the size?

It should be free for customers. We should be allowed to take photos.

Other bloggers on the Expo, all real estate agents:

Update: I found one consumer blog post about the Expo, Today:

We went to a Condo Expo in Downtown Seattle thinking it was going to be condos in the greater Seattle area. Well, it was not. It was only condos in downtown. All brand new, some not even built yet. We were there all of 15 minutes when we decided to leave.

I own and manage Urban Living, a boutique Seattle and Bellevue real estate brokerage. I love lofts, floating homes, new construction, and mid-century moderns, but I will help you buy or sell just about anything!

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