Looking to buy a house in Seattle? Prepare for battle.
In sought-after neighborhoods, bidding wars are commonplace and have pushed the city’s median home price past its 2007 peak, The Seattle Times reported last week.
Demand is high but inventory is low — and it’s not just because people who already own homes aren’t moving.
Since 2000, as Seattle’s population ballooned by 80,000, the number of single-family homes actually decreased in many areas of the city.
Analysis of census data shows that one out of three census tracts in Seattle experienced a decline in detached houses between 2000 and 2012.* Most of these tracts are located in North Seattle, including in-demand neighborhoods such as Green Lake, Wallingford, Ballard and Ravenna.
Single-family homes can be razed and replaced, where zoning allows for it, with town homes or multiunit buildings. Because of this, nearly every census tract that lost detached homes still saw gains in the total number of housing units.
Despite losses in some areas, North Seattle still experienced a net gain in single-family homes, but it was a small one — fewer than 500 homes.
It’s no mystery why so few houses were built: In older, tightly packed residential neighborhoods, there simply isn’t much room.
But developers have found a way to make room — by building tall, narrow houses on back or side yards of existing homes. While this infill development has helped satisfy some of the demand for new houses, a strong backlash from neighboring homeowners prompted the city council to tighten the rules on this type of development earlier this year.
Outside of North and Central Seattle, there has been more significant growth in the city’s stock of single-family homes. The bulk of this occurred in Rainier Valley and West Seattle, where some large-scale developments have been built, including the NewHolly, High Point, and Rainier Vista communities.
Citywide, Seattle added nearly 5,000 single-family homes between 2000 and 2012, bringing the total close to 140,000.
That may seem like a lot — but not if you’re in the middle of a bidding war.
*2012 Census Bureau estimates for census tracts are an average of five years of data, collected from 2008 to 2012.