Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty brokers Eddie Chang, Jason Gibbons, Eleanor Heyrich, Vicki Jackson, and Bob Wold joined the rest of the Washington Realtors in Olympia for Legislative Hill Day, to engage with representatives regarding a number of issues including the Condominium Act, Hirst decision, student loan debt, and the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. They were most excited to share their stories with Washington State Legislators and discuss how their clients are being pinched by the lack of inventory and affordability in King County.
As Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty broker Eddie Chang outlined, there were only 206 condos (new or resale) on the market in King County in December 2017. If no new inventory came on the market, we would run out of available homes in less than a month. “There are more people moving to Washington state than new units being constructed, by more than a 7:1 ratio,” Chang said. “Imagine trying to fit 7 people in every single home, condo, apartment, or townhouse being built.”
Above: Realtors gathered to discuss a range of issues, including housing affordability and the Condominium Act.
Condominium construction hits everyone in the market, regardless of whether or not they are looking to purchase a condo. Not only are condos great for first time buyers, they provide an excellent solution for older folks that need to downsize out of their large homes. When a person downsizes, they active a cycle in the market: they free up a larger home for a buyer looking to move up, which in turn opens up a mid-size home for another buyer to move up to, which in turn creates opportunities for other elderly or first time buyers to secure a condo or small home. But with nothing to buy when you sell, people elect to stay in their homes.
Given our need for condominiums in the market, we have supported two different bills that are going through Olympia right now. First is House Bill 2831, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-41), from the Eastside. It is modeled under Colorado law and shifts the responsibility of the liability lawsuit from the HOA Board to the owners. This will hopefully encourage more mediation and allowing the builder a chance to remedy any issues rather than just wait until the end of the liability period and launch a lawsuit.
The second bill is House Bill 2790, sponsored by Vicki Kraft (R-17), from Vancouver, WA. It would start a pilot program in which the Attorney General’s office would encourage HOAs to attempt to mediate with the developer prior to filing a complaint with the AG’s office. The Attorney General would the investigate the claims and either try to help mediate or determine if there was a violation. Encouraging people to try to work things out is always a good thing. Builders should be responsible for building quality products, and if they fail to do so, they need to fix it and make it right. But great builders should not be afraid of building great buildings. This would not remove the consumer protection, which is just as important as the protection for the developer. The only thing worse than selling no condos, is selling a bad condo. This is our clients, the lifeblood of our business, we lose so much more if we sell them a bad product.
With the help of these two bills, we hope to see more condominium projects. Not just the big high rises, but also the 3-4 story condominium complexes that so many of us have lived in. More condominiums for people to live near their workplace, which would greatly reduce traffic congestion, but also places for people to live near their family.
“You can either build out or you can build up. With everyone from millennials to boomers wanting to live close to the city, building up is the only option. However, the state legislature enacted a law that makes it more affordable for developers to build apartments rather than condos,” said Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty broker Eleanor Heyrich. “This means just one entity has an ownership stake in a building instead of hundreds of people have ownership opportunities. It’s choking our housing inventory and restricting people from building equity that translates into creating net worth for themselves and their families. It’s a failed policy and it needs to change.”
Above: Eleanor Heyrich (left) with Representative Noel Frame (D-WA 36)
Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty broker Jason Gibbons, who was officially seated on the membership committee during the event, spoke about the opportunity he had to sit down with Senator Mark Mullett and four other Realtors from his legislative district in Issaquah to discuss market fundamentals, and the struggles that his clients, friends, and families are having when trying to settle into homeownership on the Eastside.
Gibbons retold a story from New Year’s weekend about a 2-bedroom condo that went on the market for $250,000 in Old Town Issaquah, just a couple of blocks from his home. He pushed it to his sphere, received a ton of interest, and ended up writing an offer on it for an old high school friend. Though they ended up making a strong offer, they couldn’t complete against the other 18 offers, four of which were cash only. In the end, the home sold for almost 30% above its list price. His client didn’t stand a chance, and neither did anyone else in his sphere of Issaquah natives that just want to live near their families where they grew up. The moral of the story, Gibbons says, is that there is a clear need for more new construction and lower-to-mid-range housing opportunities, and legislators that are willing to support laws and bills that accomplish this.
Above: Gibbons sits in on a roundtable discussion of issues related to his district.
“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss a number of important issues impacting our industry, from student loans and the Hirst decision, to affordability and supply,” reflected Vicki Jackson, broker with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty. “I enjoyed celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. As stewards of the right to own and transfer private property, fair housing protects the people of our communities, the neighborhoods themselves, and our livelihood as Realtors.”