By Meghan Hall
The Puget Sound multifamily industry has, by many accounts, weathered the current COVID-19-based storm better than many other national markets. On the for-sale side, strong fundamentals pre-pandemic translated to relative stability—even if buyers are taking a bit longer to evaluate their options. In what some would classify as difficult timing, The Emerald, a 262-unit high-rise complex was brought to market. However, according to Polaris Pacific, the development’s brokerage firm, interest in the building has been steady, a trend which Polaris Pacific believes will hold.
Across the West Coast, June sales volume continued to lag even as markets like Seattle trended towards recovery. According to a report released in July by Polaris Pacific, Seattle has seen a 52.3 percent reduction in the number of condo closings. 142 condo sales closed in Seattle in June, with a median sale price of $584,000. By comparison, May closings in Seattle were down by 54.4 percent, with 129 closings and a median sale price of $555,998.
Currently, there are 1,927 condominium units under construction in Seattle, including The Emerald’s, which are expected for delivery at the end of this year. An additional 156 condominiums are entitled and could start construction in near future.
“There is no doubt that coronavirus has had an impact on real estate throughout the country, and Seattle, of course, is no different,” explained Polaris Pacific VP Regional Manager Josh Nasvik. “But we still have buyers out there.”
A recent report by Redfin sites Seattle has one of the fastest recovering in the country, with demand for units now up 48 percent. Nasvik believes that demand is the consequence of a number of factors, including the region’s large array of tech jobs, impending IPOs and record low interest rates.
“We benefited from the fact that right before COVID-19 started, we had a pretty good spike [in activity],” said Nasvik. “It was a really strong market in general, and we are trying to get back to where we were.”
Additionally, added Nasvik, work from home flexibility means that for the first time, folks who have been traditionally tied to more suburban markets are thinking seriously about city living.
“With the work from home and the tech companies that we have in the area, we have some buyers who have been living on the Eastside closer to work now have the flexibility to work from home, and they’re wanting to live in Seattle,” sadi Nasvik. “They want that more of an urban lifestyle…and they’re being drawn to The Emerald for that.”
Located just adjacent to downtown Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the 40-story condominium tower intends to offer luxury and hospitality-inspired amenities in an effort to draw buyers. The unit mix is comprised of studios-, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom residences and penthouses. Amenities include a full-rooftop space with indoor-outdoor lounge, an outdoor pet run and state-of-the-art fitness center.
Additionally, in an effort to expand its offerings, The Emerald has partnered with Thompson Seattle to offer residents increased parking and dining options, as well as Envoy Technologies to offer an on-demand car-share program. Columbia Hospitality, which operates TheSalish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie and The State Hotel in Downtown Seattle, will manage the building and deliver other hotel-inspired services.
“It comes to the perception of the buyers and how we’re marketing the building as a true luxury development. It’s a very sleek, glass and steel, new addition to the waterfront,” said Nasvik. “We get a number of people who are just expecting that extra level of class, that extra level of hospitality.”
While Nasvik admitted that generally, there is usually a bit of a release schedule in an effort to create a little scarcity, all units are currently up for grabs. Polaris Pacific believes this will give potential buyers their true pick of units in the building. Thus far, about 30 percent of the units have been sold. And, while buyers are taking more time to make a final decision on whether or not to purchase a new home, interest has remained solid.
“I’d say we’re pretty competitive on the sales absorption,” stated Nasvik. “We have taken our share of the for-sale market…[and] we are pretty happy with our sales velocity at this point.”