A Guide to Buying a Condo in Seattle, Plus a 2016 Market Update

Are you thinking of buying a condo in Seattle, Washington? You’re not alone. The condominium market in Seattle is hot right now, with a lot of demand from competing buyers. Here are some things you should know about buying a condo in this highly competitive real estate market.

Benefits of Buying a Condo vs. a House

Have you considered the pros and cons of buying a condo in Seattle? If not, that’s always a good place to start. How does a condominium unit stack up to a “regular” detached home, from an ownership standpoint? Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Possible advantages of buying a condo in Seattle:

  • Less maintenance. When you buy a condo in Seattle, you’ll probably have a lot less maintenance to do compared to a regular detached home. Landscaping, building upkeep, and other exterior maintenance chores are typically included with the association dues. And there’s a lot to be said for having more free time on the weekends.
  • It might cost less. The cost of a Seattle condo versus a house depends on the size of the home, neighborhood popularity, and other factors. But in many cases, buyers will spend less when buying a condominium unit. This makes condos an attractive alternative to higher-priced single-family homes in Seattle. (Of course, luxury high-rise condos and penthouse suites are a different story.)
  • Proximity to downtown. If you want to live in or near the heart of downtown Seattle, buying a condo might be the best option for you. There are plenty of condominium units available downtown, but few detached homes. You won’t find “regular” subdivisions with detached homes until you get farther from downtown. The same is true for many city centers. Many of the condos in downtown Seattle are located within walking distance of restaurants, shops, etc.
  • Amenities. Some condominium projects offer attractive amenities, such as fitness centers and gated parking. Some of the higher-end luxury condos in downtown Seattle even have on-site spas and swimming pools. It’s hard to complain about that.

Potential downside to condo ownership:

  • Adjoined units. Unlike a detached home, homeowners who live in condos typically share at least one common wall with a neighbor. Some units have neighbors above, below and beside. This is all well and good if you have quiet neighbors who keep the same hours as you. But if your neighbors are noisy and/or active when you’re trying to sleep, it could become a quality-of-life issue.
  • Association dues. This could be viewed as both a pro and a con. When buying a condo in Seattle, you’ll likely end up paying association dues each month. This could add hundreds of dollars to your monthly housing expense. The upside, as mentioned earlier, is that these dues could reduce or eliminate the maintenance you have to do. But it’s an added cost you have to consider.
  • Rules and restrictions. When you own a home, you have more flexibility when it comes to home improvements, additions, remodeling and the like. But when you buy into a condo project, you’ll likely encounter more restrictions. Some people would view this as a disadvantage to buying a Seattle condo.

Many of these pros and cons are a matter of lifestyle. If you’re a busy urbanite who eschews property maintenance and prefers to live within walking distance of downtown attractions, a condominium might be the best option for you. If you like a little more space around you and don’t mind some occasional yardwork, you might be better off buying a detached home in an outlying neighborhood or subdivision.

Seattle Condo Market Is Hot Right Now

The Seattle condo market is hot right now. Red hot. Over the summer, The Seattle Times did a story about potential buyers camping out (literally) to reserve condo units in the Belltown neighborhood. The market has cooled a bit since then, according to recent reports, but it’s still highly competitive.

New condominium projects are opening in downtown Seattle, but the units are being gobbled up. Insignia Towers, for example, has sold an average of 20 units per month since opening.

The median sales price for Seattle condos rose 10.76% in August 2016, compared to the same time last year, landing at $437,000. This is based on a recent report by seattlepi.com. But despite this annual double-digit price gain, condo prices in August were actually a bit lower than the all-time high that was set in July. So maybe the red-hot condominium market in Seattle is beginning to cool, as some have predicted.

Forecasts for the broader Seattle metro-area housing market also suggest that a cooling trend is in store. While home prices are expected to continue rising in 2017, the gains might be smaller than what we’ve seen over the last year or so.

Whether the market will cool significantly over the coming months remains to be seen. As of right now, the Seattle condo market is still very competitive. Strong demand and limited inventory have increased competition among buyers. Buyers should be prepared to move quickly when they find the right unit.

Get Pre-Approved to Increase Your Chance for Success

When shopping for a home in a hot real estate market like Seattle, it helps to have your financing lined up ahead of time. In fact, the seller will probably ask about it up front, when you present your offer. This is true whether you’re buying a house or a condo.

This is where mortgage pre-approval comes into the picture. It’s wise for buyers to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan, before entering the market (unless, of course, you’re paying cash). Pre-approval shows the seller that you’re a serious, financially qualified buyer.

If you need a loan for buying a condo in Seattle, please let us know. We’ve been serving home buyers across the Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years. We offer a full range of mortgage products and programs, including FHA, VA and conventional loans. Contact our staff today to get started, or use the rate quote tool in the main menu above.