Tacoma was recently featured in a report by KIRO-7 news' Kevin McCarty. McCarty notes,
"Tacoma has always been a beer town… and these days business is booming". "Several independent craft beer makers are reviving the city’s historic brewery district. Craft breweries large and small are popping up in and around the city's historic brewery district along Pacific avenue in roughly the same area that once housed three large brewers a century ago. Heidelberg, Columbia and the original Pacific breweries once operated very close to an area now seeing an explosion of beer makers. From 19th street to south 55, large independent breweries are up and running or in the works with several small micro-brewers also dotting the area. Recently Gig Harbor based Seven Seas has announced they'll open a large scale operation after converting an old warehouse near S. 21st and Jefferson streets."
For those of us that love beer and Tacoma… this is certainly a "win-win."
Tacoma recently ranked as number 10 on Trulia’s top 10 housing markets to watch in 2016, a list that also included cities like Grand Rapids, MI, Charleston, SC and Austin, TX (see the full report here). Trulia’s rankings were based on a number of different criteria including strong job growth, low vacancy rates and high affordability. I think high affordability was probably key to Tacoma’s inclusion on the list. Though some of our buyer clients that are new to the Tacoma housing market have commented that prices here are high compared to where they’re coming from, the Tacoma housing market clearly remains a great value proposition when compared to Seattle where the median home price is more than twice as high. As the tech industry continues to grow in Seattle, Tacoma will continue to represent a very attractive alternative to call home. Not surprisingly, we’re seeing more and more folks from Seattle making the move to T-Town. I think it’s that demand in particular that led to our inclusion on Trulia’s list of hot market’s to watch in the coming year. To be clear though, Tacoma’s appeal isn’t just about being within commuting distance of Seattle. For those of us lucky enough to live and work in Tacoma, it actually represents a preferable alternative. A vibrant, livable small city with a big metropolitan hub nearby to visit when the mood strikes.
Sales data for third quarter 2015 are in, and unlike previous years where we've seen a weaking in third quarter in north end home values, this year we've seen the market remain strong. Inventory levels are a incredibly low levels. We expect a slow down due to seasonality in the fourth quarter but all indications are full steam ahead for home values in north Tacoma for the new year. For sales comparisons by zip code please see the information attached below.
The number of homes in foreclosure has hit its lowest mark since January of 2008 – just another sign that the housing market has fully recovered. Only 1.1% of all houses in Washington State are in active foreclosure. The rate may be a bit higher in Tacoma’s North End, given the fact that Pierce County was hit harder than most by the housing crisis, but there’s no denying the fact that the housing market here is strong. Houses are selling very quickly, often in multiple offers at or above list price. The higher end market remains challenging because the pool of buyers for homes priced above $750,000 is still limited, but the market as a whole shows no signs of slowing as we head into late summer.
According to an article in the Seattle Times, Gene Balk examined recent census data surrounding an emerging trend that points to a shift from King County to more affordable Pierce county.
Gene notes, "It's no secret that newcomers are pouring into King County from around the country and the globe. In fact, we broke a record in 2014 for the number of new arrivals from out of the state, which I wrote about in my last column. But could we also be witnessing the emergence of a countertrend – that of a growing number of folks fleeing pricey King County and heading south to Pierce? New data on U.S. counties, released by the Census Bureau on Thursday, hints that this may be the case." Click here to read Gene's full article.
The reporter's observations certainly support what we as Realtors are seeing here in North Tacoma on a routine basis. Many of our new buyers are people moving to Tacoma from the Seattle area, and our last four North End listings have sold to folks from Seattle. So… what does this trend mean? Well, we're currently seeing an upsurge in prices and a significantly low level of home inventory in North Tacoma. (you can review those trends here). Thats good news if you currently own a home here, but not such good news if you're in the market to buy this spring.
After a very strong spring real estate market, prices for homes in the North End of Tacoma (zip codes 98403, 98406 and 98407) are weakening and inventory is increasing. With interest rates staying low and inventory on the rise the market has created a window of opportunity for buyers this fall. Click here for full details
One of the things I love most about selling real estate in downtown Tacoma is introducing clients to the different condominium buildings there – some shiny and new and others tastefully restored. The Vintage Y at 714 Market Street falls into the tastefully restored category. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was designed by prominent local architect George Bullard and built in 1909 to house the Tacoma chapter of the YMCA. As one of the first chapters in the Pacific Northwest, the Y provided its members with athletic facilities and a robust vocational education program. The YMCA vacated the building on Market Street in 1977, and it was ultimately converted into luxury condominiums dubbed the Vintage Y in 2005. Building amenities include a secure lobby and parking garage, a roof-top deck with barbecue, an outdoor patio, a fitness room and a guest suite.
The Vintage Y is located in the heart of Tacoma's historic theater district. Nearby venues include the Pantages, the Rialto, Theater on the Square and the Tacoma Armory (all managed by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts) Upcoming Broadway Center events include the Heritage Blues Orchestra at the Rialto, Spectrum Dance Theater at the Armory and The Capitol Steps at the Pantages. The theater district is also home to the Grand Cinema, which offers an excellent selection of first run independent films. Corina Bakery conveniently located next to the Grand on Fawcett, is great for a quick bite before or after the movies. Deanna Bender’s Over the Moon Café on Opera Alley is one of my favorites for a casual lunch or special dinner. The service is great, the décor is eclectic and the food’s delicious. When I’m in the market for some new household furnishings, I like Giraffe and Dwelling, both on St. Helens.
Another great thing about the Vintage Y is its proximity to 27-acre Wright Park – a jewel of a green space that includes an arboretum, a playground, a running path and a pond complete with a bridge and waterside benches. If you haven’t checked out the Vintage Y, the Theater District or Wright Park lately, you should. Well worth the visit. For more information about living at the Vintage Y and properties currently available for purchase, visit www.401vintagey.com.
There are a lot of misconceptions about historic homes and historic districts in Tacoma. As a Realtor, a former board member of Historic Tacoma and a current member of the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission, I’m often asked about the potential impact that historic designation might have on a property. Many people worry that historic designation is a negative thing. I believe (and I think the data supports me on this) that just the opposite is true. Inclusion on the historic register has been proven to increase the value of a property and also allows for property tax credits related to home renovations. For me, Tacoma's historic buildings and neighborhoods are a big part of what makes it so special, and I think it’s important to protect that heritage. Below are some common misconceptions about properties included on the historic register and homes that are contributing structures in a designated historic district.
Misconception #1 – I can’t make any changes to the house.
FALSE – Interior changes to a property on the historic register do not require any additional approval above and beyond regular city permitting. If you want to remodel a kitchen or a bathroom or upgrade plumbing, electrical or heating, the permitting and approval process is exactly the same as any non-historic home in Tacoma. Exterior changes to the home do require approval from the Landmark Preservation Commission (a process called design review). For guidelines about the type of exterior changes that require design review, visit the City of Tacoma Historic Preservation website.
Misconception #2 – I can’t replace any windows or doors in the house.
FALSE – While it's true that you can't replace existing wood windows with vinyl or metal windows, you are alowed to replace rotting or deteriorated windows with wood replacements. Existing wood windows can also be repaired. Older windows may be painted shut, sash chords and weights may not be operating properly or windows may be missing putty that holds the glazing in place. These issues can be easily and inexpensively addressed with repairs, saving you thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Of note, the life expectancy of a vinyl window is only about 20 years. Properly maintained wood windows last a lifetime. Studies also show that single pane wood windows with well fitted exterior storm windows provide the same energy efficiency as dual glazed windows. For more information about wood windows versus vinyl, please check out my blog “Why replacing wood windows is a costly mistake.”
Misconception #3 – It’s harder to sell a historic home because of all the restrictions.
FALSE – A number of studies have been done over the years showing that property values increase dramatically when a neighborhood is designated as a historic district. A study conducted in Tucson, AZ showed that home values in a historic district there were 30% higher on average than similar homes in non-historic neighborhoods and that homes in the historic district appreciated at a rate that was 15% greater than their non-historic counterparts. It pays to be historic! For additional findings, visit the American Council on Historic Preservation.
Misconception #4 – The “historic police” will tell me what I can and can’t do to my house.
FALSE – As long as you maintain your home properly, you'll never have to worry about additional scrutiny, and trees and landscaping don't fall within the scope of historic protection. The good news for historic properties located in Tacoma is that there is now a mechanism in place to protect structures on the historic register from neglect and ruin. The purpose is to avoid demolition of the structures. Click here to learn more about Tacoma’s Historic Property Maintenance Code.
Misconception #5 – All old structures are considered historic.
FALSE – There are only about 1,300 structures in Tacoma that are on the local, state, or national historic registers. Only structures individually listed on the Tacoma Historic Register or located within a Tacoma historic district are protected. Designated historic districts in Tacoma include the Wedge, North Slope, Old City Hall and the Union Depot/Warehouse district. Salmon Beach is on the Washington Register, and Stadium District is on the National Register.
I’ve outlined a number of benefits to owning a historic home – from increased property values to the protection of our city's heritage. If you’d like to learn more about how to place your home on the historic register, or would like to learn about the implications associated with buying or selling a historic home, please contact me or visit the City of Tacoma’s Preservation website at http://www.tacomaculture.org/historic/home.asp.
Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes. Jeff is also a former board member of Historic Tacoma, and currently serves on the City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Click here to email Jeff or give him a call at 253-303-1135.