Seattle has become a hot commodity for investors worldwide, and a new analysis of King County assessor records proves it. According to The Seattle Times, the number of residential homes in the area owned by a limited liability company (LLC) more than tripled from 2002 to 2015.
Being owned by an LLC isn’t a guarantee that a home is an investment property, but it’s reportedly a “strong indicator.” That’s because buying a home through an LLC offers a variety of perks. For example, LLCs limit personal liability for business debts and claims and offer protection from creditors. Another advantage of buying through an LLC is privacy — individual names are kept off property records, a feature that appeals to many foreign buyers.
However, The Seattle Times notes that homes purchased through an LLC are almost always bought all in cash because banks don’t like to give loans to LLCs. They would prefer to lend money to individuals so they can have access to the borrower’s assets in the event that they don’t pay their mortgage.
Overall, some experts estimate that over 90 percent of LLC-owned homes are investment properties. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, if you are even a slightly sophisticated investor in single-family homes, you’ll buy it with an LLC,” Seattle lawyer John Hempelmann told The Seattle Times.
The biggest increase in the number of Seattle area homes owned by LLCs happened just before the 2008 housing bubble burst. Another large jump in LLC ownership came last year, and currently about 10,425 homes in King County (2 percent) are owned by an LLC. In 2015, the average assessed value for LLC-owned single-family home in Seattle was $560,00, while in Bellevue it was $830,000.
The assessor records examined by The Seattle Tines don’t show LLC members’ country of origin, so it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where investor interest in the Seattle area is coming from. That said, since Vancouver implemented a new tax on foreign real estate buyers, the Seattle housing market has seen a surge of interest from China, among other countries.