Controversy stirs in Seattle housing market

A loophole in one Seattle law is allowing people in a northern neighborhood to build large three-story homes on a tiny lot, but residents of the area hope the trend will be stopped after seeking out help from City Council member Richard Conklin. Real estate in Seattle is a hot commodity, as August topped off the busiest summer for home sales in King County in the past five years, according to The Seattle Times.

In an area where the streets are lined with crafted bungalows, residents like Peter Krause are unhappy with the towering homes built on lots that could otherwise be used for a child’s play set or garden. This is a trend spreading all over Seattle, as lots created before 1957 are exempt from zoning regulations. The tiny lot homes are going for half the price they normally would, making it affordable for home buyers who don’t wish to have a backyard.

Current residents are unhappy because they believe it is going to drive the middle class out of areas where the trend is booming, explained land broker Gabe Rosenshine. Not only are the large homes an invasion of privacy to those living in neighboring lots, but they are also causing the property value of those homes to go down. Richard Conklin introduced an emergency law to ban the building of these homes.

However, there is a dwindling inventory of homes in Seattle as the region is adding jobs and home prices are rising. Although real estate experts are unsure of when the market will be back to 100 percent, it is looking good. Current homeowners that are underwater on their payments, or owe more money on a house than their home is worth, now have equity in their homes again.

"Our hope is that many homeowners who were underwater can now afford to sell because of the continued appreciation of home prices," OB Jacobi, a real estate expert said in a statement to The Seattle Times.

Home prices are rising, which is caused by a number of things. In August, bank-repossessed homes made up only 6 percent of the sales in King County, down from 17 percent in the same month last year. Also, more people are buying because mortgage rates are the lowest they have been in 60 years. In August, a 30-year loan declined to 3.49 percent, the lowest rate since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.