Three times within a few weeks, columnist Nicole Brodeur was asked if she wants to sell her house. The answer is no, she says, but it’s a sign of the times.
Bring me your ghosts and ghouls, your Wonder Women and White Walkers. Bring Pennywise and Eleven, Fake Melania and Harvey Weinstein in a bathrobe.
Nothing this Halloween will scare me as much as The People Who Want My House.
Three times in the last few weeks, someone has asked, point-blank and apropos of nothing, if I was interested in selling the little farmhouse I’ve owned for 12 years.
It started a few weeks ago when friends came for dinner, and I realized that what they were really hungry for were the keys to my crib.
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For most of the meal, they told me of their struggle to buy a house in the Wild West town that the Seattle housing market has become. The money they had scraped together but that didn’t feel like enough. The roaming hordes of buyers they encountered at every Open House. The bidding wars. The disappointment. The starting over.
I nodded sympathetically and kept their wine glasses full.
Then the wife drained her glass, set it down and looked me square in the eye: “Are you interested in selling your house?”
Uh … no, I told her. But can I offer you some dessert?
A week later at Benaroya Hall, I struck up a conversation with a woman who had just moved here from Minnesota. She asked me where I lived, how long I had been in Seattle and then, without missing a beat:
“Are you interested in selling your house?”
Uh … no.
Days later, I received a hand-addressed envelope with no return address. Inside, a letter from a managing broker at Windermere.
“My customer is interested in your specific property,” she said, then laid out the terms: Buyer will pay all commissions. Property to be sold “as is.” All-cash buyer.
I get that it’s bad out there, that people are doing everything short of spending their nascent retirement savings for a two-bedroom house with a patch of grass out front.
Rents are at record highs — $2,000 for the average two-bedroom. Home prices in Seattle are growing twice as fast as in any other U.S. city. One uninhabitable place sold for almost half a million dollars.
But would you mind if I finished living here before you start packing up my books and hanging your flat-screen?
“Tell me about your house,” my colleague, real-estate reporter Mike Rosenberg, asked when I told him about this social phenomena sprouting from Seattle’s short supply of housing.
He’s been writing story after story about the insanity out there, including the record-breaking price increases for three months in a row. He followed the sale of one West Seattle house that showed him what little power home-shoppers have. And his Reddit AMA earlier this month logged 193 comments, with an additional 170 on the Seattle Times website.
“It was,” he said of the response, “overwhelming.”
He called the current market “the New Normal,” and doubts the bubble will burst. People are paying their mortgages on time, they’re putting down big down payments. Prices may dip a bit, but don’t hold your breath.
So I told him about my place. I have a 1,200-square-foot house on a 5,100-square-foot lot. That was all he needed to hear before offering this assessment: I am living on a prime parcel for a developer with a bulldozer and a knack for density.
If I responded to the Windermere letter, my little house — 117 years old! — will likely be leveled and replaced with something high and boxy, covering every inch of land the city will allow.
“People, and especially builders, are desperate for houses,” agreed Theresa Truex, a broker with Windermere Real Estate in Madison Park. She called the letter I got a “blimp drop.”
“They fly over and just drop them out of a blimp, like propaganda during the war,” she said.
But beware, she said: Developers often pay the least for property, since they’re looking to turn a profit on whatever they build.
Everything makes sense, except for the feeling that I’m sitting at a table at a popular restaurant, with people crowded around my table, waiting for me to finish.
“That’s exactly what it is,” Truex said with a laugh. “It shows the demand for housing. It’s kind of the topic. It’s the question that gets asked. ‘Oh, you own a house? You want to sell it?’ It shows the pressure out there for housing.”
Truex went through the same thing a few years back. People kept telling her they were looking for a house in her neighborhood.
“Buy ours,” she finally told someone. Within six months, it was a done deal.
“I still weirded myself out doing it,” Truex said. “And I’m in the business.”
As for me, well, I’m staying put.
But thanks for asking. I think.