Downtown Bellevue bucking national housing trend

Amid a national housing climate that has caused a reduction in housing demand in many areas, Bellevue is bucking the storm.

Amid a national housing climate that has caused a reduction in housing demand in many areas, Bellevue is bucking the storm.

Over the next two years, downtown Bellevue’s residential growth is expected to double and the city is projected to experience the fastest residential growth per capita in the nation in the next 10 years, Matt Terry, Planning and Community Development director told about 300 realtors during a recent symposium.

In response to the national housing market crisis that has caused a stir among Realtors and the buyer community, city and real estate officials held the event to outline how Bellevue is positioned and what the future holds for the financial industry and the effects on housing.

The city is the employment center for an Eastside residential population of about 700,000 and the 18 cranes downtown shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, Terry said.

“But maybe what is a surprise is to recognize that between downtown Bellevue and Microsoft, there are currently 135,000 jobs,” he added, noting that the nature of these high-tech jobs and the income that follows them has been a huge positive to the city. “It’s really that amount of growth that’s driving the residential demand in downtown Bellevue.”

Adding to the housing demand, the city expects there to be about 13,000 new jobs between 2008-2010, 7,500 of which could be created as soon as next year when several new buildings will be completed and occupied.

New employment also will change downtown’s demographic landscape, widening the age distribution and adding more households with small children, he said.

Demographics will drive downtown housing occupancy. As baby boomers reach retirement and senior age in 2011, many will be attracted to the convenience, amenities and services that downtown living holds.

With most of the housing growth occurring downtown, there are many projects in the pipeline or underway that will help support it, including The Bravern that will add 455 residential units, Bellevue Towers that just topped out its first building, Euro Tower and Washington Square.

The city’s biggest concern with all the growth is the national economic environment and the city has been “very attentive to the things we can do to help these projects be successful,” Terry said.

To keep pace with the city’s housing demand and buyer’s financing concerns, Realtors need to equip themselves and understand the positive things that are happening in the market, said Rose Marie David, Seattle district manager for First Horizon Home Loans who has more than 20 years experience in the mortgage banking industry.

“It is amazing how much we hear right now that people think that interest rates are bad,” David said. “Interest rates are excellent right now.”

Many consumers waiting for home prices to hit bottom don’t understand that anything gained by a potential drop in prices could be offset by rising financing costs, David added.

Many buyers also are concerned that there are no more loan programs available, she said. Credit guidelines for the new jumbo and light loans have tightened, but if a client is fully pre-approved, there is no issue, she said.

However, the reform does cause a dilemma to people who bought a home six to 10 months ago and have tried to close the sale in the last few months.

For those clients, she urged Realtors to be pro-active and get their pre-approval updated, “but I wouldn’t be in a fearful place about it.”

The “circle of reform” has led the industry back to ’80s guidelines, she added, but that’s not likely to continue down the road.

Carrie Wood can be reached at or 425-453-4290.