News In Brief
- According to Tom Kelly, information about Seattle neighborhoods is part of a new website from the Open Knowledge Foundation that organizes data from a variety of cities in 17 categories, including construction permits, crime report data, property deeds, and restaurant inspections. The new database, the U.S. City Open Data Census, aims to simplify the search for neighborhood information. An overview page provides color-coded bars to answer a variety of questions for each category in each city. All of the information on the overview page is linked, so that visitors can click on a group of bars to get more detail, then compare and contrast the data that's available on listed cities.
- Two Puget Sound communities have been named to a list of the top 10 U.S. neighborhoods that have the largest number of "green" homes, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.Downtown Bellevue was fourth on the list, with 36 percent of its residential home listings having green features, and Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood was No. 8 on the list, with 30 percent of its residential listings having green features.
- A new report by RealtyTrac shows that 96 percent of the counties that the company follows are better off than they were four years ago and low inventory has helped home prices accelerate past pre-recession levels in markets such as Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Oklahoma City. "Those rapid home price gains are causing a concerning drop in affordability rates in some cities, but home builders and homeowners with regained equity should help provide more supply to balance out many of those markets in 2014," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. However, there's a ways to go in the national housing market, with only eight percent of the 410 U.S. counties analyzed faring better than they did during the housing boom eight years ago. RealtyTrac analyzes housing market health by gauging four main categories: home price appreciation, affordability, percentage of bank-owned REO sales, and the unemployment rate.
- Consumer attitudes are reflecting greater optimism in the housing market heading into real estate's traditionally strong spring selling season, according to Fannie Mae's March 2014 National Housing Survey. In the poll of 1,000 people, 38 percent say it's a good time to sell a home, up from 26 percent a year ago. The poll also shows that 69 percent of those surveyed say it's a good time to buy, and 52 percent say it's easier today to get financing for a home. Americans also feel more confident about their personal finances: An all-time survey high of 40 percent say their personal financial situation has improved during the past year. "The housing recovery continues to proceed in fits and starts," said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist. "Rising mortgage rates and a lack of supply have dampened housing market momentum. However, we see several positive signs going into this year's spring home-buying season, compared with last year . . ." However, consumers' home-price expectations softened a bit in the latest survey. Slightly fewer respondents - 48 percent - said they thought home prices would rise in the next 12 months. Duncan added that most consumers continue to say the economy is on the wrong track. He expects to see a pickup in economic growth later in the year, boosting the confidence of prospective buyers and sellers.
- Bellevue has been named one of the Top 10 Best Cities for New College Grads by Livability.com, a national website that ranks quality of life and travel amenities of America's small and mid-sized cities. For this list of cities, editors looked at factors such as the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living in each city, the availability of rental properties, unemployment rates, educational attainment levels, use of public transportation and the types of jobs these places offer. They also sought out cities that cater to a younger demographic by offering lots of recreational activities, hot nightlife and a hip vibe. The top-hiring industries were also taken into account. "Businesses relocate for access to a talented workforce. But, increasingly, those young talents are choosing where to move after college based on livability," says Livability.com editor Matt Carmichael. "These 10 cities are great places for recent grads, which should put them on the radar of employers looking to expand as well." Bellevue was chosen for its lush economy and growing tech and communications industry. The city offers a high number of well-paying jobs that attract college grads, as well as highly affordable housing. The area perfectly balances urban sophistication with rugged natural beauty, giving residents an abundance of cultural and natural amenities, including more than 100 parks, a growing network of paths and bike lanes, and an assortment of entertainment venues.
- The Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Seattle and Bellingham are two of the "healthiest" cities in America. According to the Gallup-Healthways "Well-Being Index," "these high well-being locations tend to exhibit many shared characteristics, including lower chronic disease rates, lower incidence of obesity, more frequent exercise, less smoking, and a more positive outlook on their communities.