Seattle’s aesthetic is changing at a breakneck pace. The city now averages one house teardown a day, according to a new review of property data by The Seattle Times, and at this point more Seattle houses have been demolished and replaced in the past 18 months than in the four previous years combined.
Often modest bungalows are replaced by three-story box homes, which are altering the overall look of Seattle’s residential neighborhoods. These three-story box homes frequently sell for over $1 million, about three times more than a bungalow would go for. Concerned locals have reported that the larger new buildings can appear out of place in classic neighborhoods such as Wallingford and Ballard.
Conversely, box home proponents, including Sightline Institute, a pro-density affordable housing nonprofit, have pointed out that the new buildings increase the amount of housing available. They also help “help reduce pressure further down the market” by preventing wealthier buyers from bidding up prices for smaller homes.
Affluent cities near Seattle are also being affected by teardowns. In fact, Mercer Island is currently seeing the most in King County, followed by Kirkland, Bellevue and then Seattle. Fewer teardowns are being seen in the relatively lower-income cities of Federal Way, Kent and Auburn.
The average house demolished in King County is a 1,300-square-foot, single-story structure built more than 70 years ago and with a small yard. The Seattle Times describes a scenario that may sound familiar: “[a] small Ravenna home on 17th Avenue Northeast, built in 1929, was bought by developers for $450,000 in April 2015 after the owners died. The building company promptly demolished it, built a boxy modern home three times as large, and sold it to an Amazon executive this June for $1.435 million.”
Whether or not you’re in favor of Seattle’s changing landscape, you should be prepared for it to continue — as real estate agent Jen Harper told The Seattle Times, “[i]f you’ve got a great lot and a great neighborhood, the land value is worth starting over.”