Home prices continue to climb

The Seabreeze, on Madison Avenue South, is just one of several new condominium developments under construction in downtown Winslow. Realtors agree that growth on the island will continue to pick up as demand increases. - Chad Schuster/Staff Photo
The Seabreeze, on Madison Avenue South, is just one of several new condominium developments under construction in downtown Winslow. Realtors agree that growth on the island will continue to pick up as demand increases.
— image credit: Chad Schuster/Staff Photo

The island’s median price: $551,500.

While specific assessments vary, there is a general consensus among island realtors:

High demand, combined with low inventory and growth management guidelines, continue to spur the Bainbridge real estate market.

“Like it or not, Bainbridge Island has become a western suburb of Seattle,” said Jack Klamm, associate broker at Deschamps Realty. “A lot of people work in the city and like having a condo near the ferry terminal and downtown.”

The island’s year to date median home price – the point at which half of homes cost more and half less – hit $551,500 in March. That’s an increase of $68,000 from the same time last year, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks home sale statistics in several counties across the state.

Susan Felten, of Remax Unlimited, said “extremely low” inventory has led to an increase in buyer competition.

The type of buyers she sees is shifting as well.

“All the new condominium developments are bringing in people who want to downsize,” she said. “A lot of people enjoy the urban lifestyle, but don’t necessarily like the upkeep that comes with owning a house.”

Several new condominium developments are springing up around downtown Winslow as a result of the city’s efforts to increase density in the city.

Local growth management guidelines direct 50 percent of projected growth to the greater Winslow area. Another 5 percent of growth is targeted for Rolling Bay, Island Center and Lynwood Center, with the remaining 45 percent to be allocated to the rest of the island.

“There’s been a lot of grumbling about the restrictions,” Felten said. “But we have to plan for all the expected growth. Land is already tremendously expensive. You can’t buy a lot for less than $200,000 and prices are only going to increase.”

As a result, affordable housing has been of increasing concern to the city, particularly as building costs rise.

According to the 2004 city comprehensive plan, “the per unit (building) cost rose from $77,400 in 1992 to just under $129,000 in 2003.”

With the population projected to swell by 7,000 people over the next 20 years, it’s no wonder that prices are skyrocketing, Felten said.

“I’ve noticed a lot more high-end sales recently,” she said, referring to houses that sold for more than $900,000. “At this rate, our kids won’t be able to move back to the island.”

Klamm said he didn’t see a solution to the problem because land use and zoning laws make it difficult for builders to build affordable housing economically.

Susan Murie Burris, of Windermere Real Estate, said the most desirable homes, those between $600,000 and $800,000, are the scarcest. Meanwhile, she has noticed an influx in inventory for homes over $1 million. Still, Burris said, the market is changing.

“We aren’t seeing the massive price increases that we were over the past few years,” she said. “Today’s buyers are more selective. They do their research and are willing to walk away if they don’t find what they want.”

Georg Syvertson, owner/broker of Deschamps Real Estate, agreed, saying the market remains strong, but is beginning to level out.

“I think we’re back into more of a normal cycle,” he said. “It’s still early, but it looks like it will be a good year.”

Cookie Gaulding, also of Windermere, said it can be difficult to get a read on the market because different agents see different things.

Klamm said the discrepancies are due in part to the lag, often as long as 45 days, between the time homes are sold and the time statistics are recorded.

Still, every agent agreed, continued growth is inevitable.

“It used to be that waterfront property was most desirable,” Klamm said. “Now there’s none left, so buying with a view is the next best alternative.

“People’s desires change based on what’s available.”

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