Issaquah Real Estate and Community News

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Sept. 9, 2015

Where Are the New Houses Being Built in King County?


new home sales
Fifteen years ago, if you wanted a new Seattle area starter home, you would have explored large plats of starter homes in remote locations like Monroe. No longer.

Commutes are too difficult from remote locations. Infill and redevelopment has taken the front seat today.

We took a look at the location of pending and sold homes that were built this year, 2015. What we found was interesting.

New homes in outlying area like Auburn and Maple Valley make sense under the old model of building on previously vacant land.

However, you might be surprised to see that in 2015, 589 newly constructed single-family homes were sold in Seattle proper.

These new homes are becoming more typical in today’s world governed by the Growth Management Act. Since there is little vacant land remaining for urban sprawl, space for these Seattle area homes is largely created by increasing density.

Remove 1 house and build 4. Remove 3 houses and build 10. Not only are lots smaller but the nature of the single family home is changing too: vertically oriented, attached single family homes, row housing, etc.

home styles

Farther from Seattle, the “sustainable construction” methods still allow for new homes that were typical for large plats of the last decade, such as Talus or Issaquah Highlands. These are 2+ story homes on small lots.

In areas like the East Renton Highlands or Kenmore, you can find today’s “larger” plats that have sold 10-15 homes this year. Generally these are sites that convert previously rural uses to homes.

You can also find smaller plats that have sold 2-3 homes. You could characterize these sites as “infill plats” where the aerial photography hasn’t kept up with construction.

rural and infill Smaller plats of homes are being built on sites that were formerly rural uses and on infill locations with development all around.

I grew up thinking that 0.25 acre lots (about 11,000 square feet) were typical – and they were, for the time. As we run out of land, lots have become much smaller. The largest modern lots are 6,000-7,000 square feet. Some are as small as 1,500 square feet.

I titled the article with the question, "Where Are the New Houses Being Built in King County?" Today's answer isn't as much about a place, the answer is more like "here, there and everywhere."

These trends will continue.



If you would you like to see more of the newly constructed homes that sold this year, then click here.

If you plan to buy a newly constructed home in the next two years, click here.

Posted in Newsletter
Aug. 19, 2015

Why was the Growth Management Act Passed?


The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) governs most of the decisions made that favor growth and development in Washington State.

The impact of that legislation was massive — and it will continue to shape our Washington communities forever.

Today, many see substantial growth and wonder why governments want to allow so much growth and density.

It’s hard to return us to the environment of the late 1980s and early 1990s that drove the state legislature in 1990 and 1991 to enact such state wide growth management requirements.

But I’m going to make an attempt to do so.

Growth Tidal Wave

“There was kind of a flush of development in the late 1960s—there wasn’t much growth during the early 1980s—we didn’t do anything. But in the late 1980s and the early 1990s the state hummed”, said Booth Gardner, then Washington’s Governor.

Already bothered by the 1960s development, but lulled by the slow pace of the 1970s and early 1980s, rapid change of the late 1980s was just too much for Washington residents. Washingtonians awoke with fear and a desire for action in their hearts.

The drive for the legislation came “in the late 1980s, early 1990s, as a result of tremendous increase in growth in the late 1980s in the state of Washington. The state was growing faster, physically and population wise, than at any time in its history”, continued Gardener.

“Everybody was interested in doing something about growth management because they wanted to stop the tidal wave that was coming in—and that included people in the Legislature, it included environmentalists, it included the business community. And it included party officials, a whole variety of people.”

The tidal wave Gardener spoke about was happening across the state.

Mega-developments Absorbing Rural Areas

Mega-developments in rural areas had been built and many more were proposed. Because these developments were purposely built outside the cities to avoid city controls, they had to be large enough to pay for adding utility services such as water, sewer, etc. just for their own development.

Issaquah’s Klahanie was such a development. It had taken a large rural area and built relatively densely in a self-supporting complex. Even today, Klahanie remains in unincorporated King County. But Klahanie was small compared to many of the proposed projects.

Quadrant was planning what became Snoqualmie Ridge and Redmond Ridge, both of which were rural.

Port Blakely Tree Farms and Ken Behring jointly acquired four sites for massive residential developments in rural areas of King County.

  • 640 acres on Squak Mountain, south of Issaquah.
  • The 280-acre Glacier Ridge property on the north side of Cougar Mountain between Bellevue and Issaquah.
  • 82 acres on Novelty Hill, adjacent to the Quadrant Corp.’s proposed 3,200-home project overlooking the Snoqualmie Valley northeast of Redmond.
  • Lake Desire Estates, 525 acres overlooking the Renton-Maple Valley Highway, where low-density residential development already has been proposed.

This is just a taste of developers’ appetites of the time.

Many of these developments have now occurred but the GMA allowed municipal control over them. Cities shaped the developments into something much more acceptable to today’s public.

Many more of these developments have been avoided altogether because of the GMA.

Harvey Manning

In 1990, even Harvey Manning, chairman of the board of the Issaquah Alps Trail Club, said planned communities such as those Behring proposed did a better job of providing open space than smaller developments.

Manning didn’t have a great deal of sympathy for those who were fighting to maintain large-lot rural zoning. “What rural means is a bunch of millionaires living on their little five-acre kingdoms.”

The GMA has allowed much more democratic and public-serving development than even Harvey Manning envisioned.

A common concern among the public was that developers operated with the mentality that citizen-led comprehensive plans were mere stumbling blocks that could be moved aside, changed or rearranged to meet the developer’s fancy.

The GMA ended all of that with state legislation that clearly required development to occur inside the growth boundaries and inside cities.

Initiative 547 in 1990 attempted to repeal the Growth Management Act in favor of a different approach to managing growth. It was defeated.

No other statewide support has since been garnered to repeal the GMA.

Now, 25-years later, the social impacts of the GMA are becoming clearer. We have saved the rural, agricultural and forested areas of the state at a cost of increasingly dense development in our cities.


Photo Credit: Larry Cragun

Posted in Newsletter
Aug. 5, 2015

Where Have All the New Condos Gone?


In the early years of this century, developers built thousands of condominium units in King County. Since the housing bust, few have been built.

New construction of single-family homes, town homes and multifamily rentals has rebounded. Why haven't new condominiums rebounded?

Condo developers find challenges at every turn.

  • Condo development has been slammed by tough rules on condo mortgages enacted after the housing bust.
  • For five years, developers of new condos can expect to face extraordinarily expensive lawsuits from homeowner associations for defects in construction of the building envelope, defects that permit water penetration.
  • There has also been stronger demand among young people for rentals.

Construction of new multifamily rentals has rebounded in the absence of condo development.

  • Construction financing for rental properties is readily available.
  • There is strong demand now from investors for apartment buildings
  • On the entry-level end, tepid job growth early in the recovery and the younger generation’s affinity for flexibility have fueled demand for rentals.

Working around the mortgage restrictions, some developers have converted their project to town homes, where each unit comes with its own parcel of land and there are few common components.

At some point, we can expect the tide to turn again in favor of new condo development.

  • Many developers would rather be building condominiums. With condos, the developer is paying down debt with every closing and then putting money in their pocket right away.
  • Condos play a critical role as entry-level housing for young buyers, who use them to start building equity they can use toward later home purchases. Delays in home ownership mean less wealth accumulation for these households, given that housing is the primary source of wealth for most middle-class households.
  • Rising apartment rents provide renters more reason to buy instead of renting.
  • Job growth is improving for young would-be buyers.
  • Real-estate lobbyists say they are making inroads in Washington to build support for easing the FHA restrictions on condo mortgages.

Many of the people I speak with are unaware of the post housing bust status of new condo development. If you have any questions about this, feel free to drop me an email.

Posted in Newsletter
July 20, 2015

Can't We Just Stop All This Growth?

Dreamed Tidal Wave page size

The population of the central Puget Sound region (consisting of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties) passed 3.8 million in 2014.

The most recent one-year increase was 54,550 people or 1.4%. That's the addition of a decent sized city in one year.

This continuing trend has been with us for many decades.

Over the 55 years since 1960, excepting two short recessionary periods, the regional population has increased every year, more than doubling the population.

Where is all this growth coming from? About 45% of that growth is the result of natural increase (births minus deaths) and 55% of it comes from net migration (people moving into an area minus people moving out).

It's going to continue. By 2040, the Puget Sound Regional Council projects that the region will grow by an additional 2 million people.

Adding context, over the coming 25-years, that’s the same as adding to the region three cities the size of today’s Seattle.

In the late 1980s, the residents of the state became very concerned about the impact of developing cities that were causing the loss of farmland, forests, and wildlife habitat.

In response, the Growth Management Act (GMA) was passed by the legislature in 1990-91 with broad public support, support that continues to this day.

That Act circumscribed the urban areas, requiring future development to occur in areas that were already urban. Rural land was no longer available to accommodate growth.

Without more real estate, that means that existing real estate must be used much more intensely.

Many of our children and grandchildren want to remain here and many other people want to migrate here. It is one of our natural freedoms to live in regions of our choosing. No, we cannot stop all this growth, nor would we want the consequences of doing so.

Now, 25-years after the GMA became law, growth challenges our daily lives and will continue to do so.

Posted in Newsletter
July 19, 2015

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July 19, 2015

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July 15, 2015

July 2015 Newsletter

Read our July 2015 newsletter by clicking here.

Posted in Blog