Uncategorized February 19, 2012

Good News!

On February 15, 2012, Mathew Gardner, CEO of Gardner Economics, presented market updates to the monthly Windermere Premiere Property Breakfast Meeting, data which is will relatively affect properties in all price levels.  Following are excerpts from Gardner’s report:

Matthew Gardner stated he was 85% certain that there would not be another recession (a double dip) in the next quarter.  There ought to be several months of job increase and home sales; business in general is expanding, not shrinking. However, there will not be an actual unemployment rate of 6% until 2014.  The current unemployment figures do not show the “shadow unemployment” of people who are no longer receiving benefits and are not looking for jobs.  That figure is closer to 15.6% in this state. Washington is not as stagnant as Oregon—the out-migration leader.  More people from Oregon than any other state, move here, and California with a $38 billion debt is the second contributor to in-migration for this area/King County/ State.

The lame duck political situation will tend to maintain the status quo; neither party wants to make big changes that might lose votes; no one wants to take a risk, even if the risk might result in good things. Positively because there has not been income growth or stable employment, we will probably not see any inflation until 2014, keeping interest at the lowest point in many decades. Banks are not lending to small businesses and since banks survive by making money from interest, this situation cannot continue much longer.  There has been a steady withdrawal of funds from “Big Banks” and increased deposits in local banks and credit unions.  There will be a slight negative effect from the current European countries that are bankrupt. (Gardner calls these the PIIGS—Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.)  The only Big US bank that does not have economic exposure in the European markets is Wells Fargo. Other major banks are heavily invested in many of these countries and will not be repaid the money they have loaned. The effect from outside our country will be negligible; this year will be better than last year!

Good news for the Seattle area is the interest of East Coast investors, who foresee this region (and Seattle) as being the most important west coast region/ city for the next decade.  The definite feeling is the potential for growth in jobs and the housing market (new construction) is much greater here than any other western state.  Investors are positioning themselves to back this area. One of the reasons for their thinking are what Gardner refers to as, The Five B’s:

Boeing—an Asian nation ordered two hundred 747’s on Valentines’ Day.

Bytes—this is one of two major centers for technical development in the US.  For example, there are 350 companies in the Seattle area, manufacturing video games!

Bio-tech—a local company is within a year of announcing a cure for one major group of cancers.

Bothell—There are two people in Bothell on the verge of patenting a car that goes fast, for much longer distances on electric power; and the price will be low.  This is not Tesla!

Benefactors—We have the highest concentration of billionaires of any place in the US except the lower East Side of Manhattan (an island that is the same size as Vashon-Maury).  Philanthropists create an environment that fosters human creation, diversity, and intelligence.  Local people are among the greatest givers in the world—setting out to rid the world of polio, malaria, and fixing countless other problems plaguing Earth.   Good people are attracted by this positive energy. This is a good place to be!

Uncategorized February 19, 2012

An Up Market!

I meet with many buyers preparing to list their homes or property, who have expressed the idea that the real estate market in this region/ on the  Island, is very seasonal. The opinion is that potential buyers begin looking in late March; they look for a couple of months, find a house, and move over in early June or thereabouts. There is also a shoulder season between September and November 15th, if we have a clear, crisp fall, rather than a season which is rainy, stormy, and dank. In many past years, this has been a valid concept.

However, during the last three years, the real estate  patterns of the past have changed. There has been little consistency in “buying seasons”— this year being a perfect example. In 2011, there was marginal buying activity during what would usually have been our prime months—May until the end of August. There was activity early in the year, a slight up- tick in September and significant activity—with many properties reaching mutually accepted offers—between September and the end of the year. Seven of the most expensive sales for the entire year, happened between September 15 and January 15th!

The reason behind this sudden spurt of activity in the coldest, usually darkest part of the year, might be due to the fact that interest rates are low, inventory of homes for sale is low, economic risk factors are lower than they have been in three years, and pent up buyer demand is high; people have been waiting for the market to bottom, and there are some indicators that this has, in fact, happened.

If you are thinking of selling your home this year, the time to prepare and list is now! There is significant buying activity, for whatever reason, so consider the concept that people have been waiting to buy a house for years, and they have turned that corner.

Uncategorized February 16, 2012

Vashon Island in “Sunset”

The February, 2012 issue of “Sunset” Magazine adds another complimentary article to Vashon-Maury Islands’ collection of accolades, as a place that is fun, beautiful,and an excellent location to make a life.

The introductory blurb mentions “slowerpaced, stress free…” “…switch from the daily grind to living in paradise…” (There is some “Sunset” literary license in these statements, in my opinion.) While I do not believe that Vashon is a “fantasy town,” I moved here for aesthetic  reasons and to improve my quality of life, and I know that having a better life, is the big draw for people coming over; people do not come here because they love spending time on ferries. People move to Vashon-Maury because these islands are uniquely open/ free/ rural places of breathtaking beauty near a world class urban hub, while having all the positive aspects of a small town. This is a heady combination, if one is looking for greater human connection while still maintaining  maximum personal freedom.

The article classifies us as “woodsy.” The other “Sunset” woodsy contenders are Boulder, CA, Cowichan Bay, B.C., and Victor, ID. “Sunset” cites a “ tropical town group”(The Big Island, Summerland, CA, Todos Santos, Mexico, and Troncones, Mexico). The magazine also mentions “Wine Country locations..lots of fun! However, I am not objective. I like being close to the airport, theaters, SAM, Ben Aroya Hall, (and we have an opera company!) The west side looks like Lopez Island or wine country to me—rolling, pastoral, w/a spectacular Olympic backdrop.

The last group of great places is the Pacific Rim—Whitsunday Islands in Australia, Fremantle, Australia, Napier NZ, Nelson, NZ, Wanaka, NZ. I would love to spend six months to a year in any or all of these places. I know these are marvelous spots! But I still need to make a living, so having a home there does not work well for me. For those of us who do not live on discretionary income, Vashon is looking pretty good.


Uncategorized November 3, 2011

Vashon Fauna

Vashon is zoned rural, and the island feels a lot like Lopez, as in sparsely populated.

Animals like living on Vashon-Maury.  There are fields, forests, miles of shoreline, several veterinarians, and the Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP). Over the years, I have had feedback from clients who said their dogs were barkers, biters, suffering from separation anxiety—neurotic in various ways—and that after a few months away from people, noise and traffic, their dog’s personality changed for the better.

We are gratefully spared the presence of opossums, poisonous snakes, and large predators, (although there have been two bear sightings in the thirty-five years I have lived here; the bears were relocated to the wild within a few days, and there are 8 coyotes that are being watched). A Vashon pod of orcas patrol the shoreline, see Orcas in the Vashon Beachcomber article, and too many deer and raccoons abound.

Cats love lurking in the shadows, watching for voles, birds, moles, mice, rats, shrews, and other cat fodder.  The Pony Club, Rock Riders, and 4-H are active, long-standing organizations; horses, sheep, cattle, goats, chickens, pigs, geese—a veritable Old MacDonald’s farm (or was it Betty MacDonald’s farm?), thrives in this land mass the same size as the other island—Manhattan.  You might follow the link to the Vashon Park’s equestrian map.

This is a fun place for animals, and if you like animals, this will also be a fun place for you!  Gather your furry and farm yard friends together, board the State of Washington Ark, and prepare for a walk in the wild!


Uncategorized October 22, 2011

Vashon Islanders

I am asked by clients, “Who lives here?  What do they do? Where do they come from?”

Today, the answer is long and involved.  The answer was shorter in the 1960’s.  One of my best friends, a third generation Islander, used to deliver oil for the local oil company, and he said there were a lot of potters here; I mean there were a whole lot of potters because there are still many artists (the art community is huge, holding biannual art tours where fifty to eighty studios are open for two weekends in the holiday season and spring), but in those days there were a hundred potters in a population of 6,000—some on communes “getting back to the land” (a phrase from my generation). Some of the potters’ studios were free form and the women went topless, which perked up the oil delivery day!

As was the case with my friend, many families homesteaded before 1900 and liked it so much they never left.  Farming and all forms of agriculture have dominated Vashon’s economy.  Fruit was big, partly because a local farmer named Mukai, patented the refrigerated truck, so strawberries and other fruit could be shipped from here to New York and beyond.  Mukai’s cold storage is still a historical landmark in the center of Vashon.  Vashon-Maury has been logged and farmed from the beginning by the first non-native residents, although sensitive area management prevents large-scale logging today.  The Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA), has a substantial farmers’ market nearly every Saturday throughout the year.

The Island’s population is diverse.  Many Boeing engineers and others affiliated with Boeing live here because reaching Boeing is easy from the Island.  Many of the residents are smart…or at least have a lot of education because the median educational level is a year beyond a Bachelor’s degree, and we check out more books per capita than any other library in King County’s library system. Many retired people choose to be here because they can come and go at will, not having to pay much attention to the ferry.  Most residents work off Vashon-Maury five days a week and are constantly in transit, which requires energy and organizational skill.

Many equestrians and their horses make their homes here.  Becky Bergman, a friend and client, has an eighteen-acre equestrian center—fabulous place with a great covered arena and many professional staff to serve any needs of the horse community—all located a trot from the County horse park.  The ratio of horses and dogs to people is favorable!  The County’s Paradise Ridge Equestrian Park has riding rings, a jump/ event course, temporary stalls and the island has riding trails everywhere.  Years ago, two islanders, Susan Sullivan and John Gerstel wrote a book, detailing the myriad trials that have been maintained for walkers, horses, and non-motorized traffic.  (Aside: Susan Sullivan left Bainbridge to come to Vashon because she said Vashon looked and felt like Bainbridge did forty years ago, before too many people moved there, crossed the top of Bainbridge to get to the big ferry in cars and buses, and too many subdivisions were built!).  Another more recent 250-page book has been authored by Bianca Perla—an island child, all grown up, with a doctorate of ecology and two small children of her own—entitled Family Walks on Vashon Island. Perla also serves as President of the Vashon Land Trust.

The average income of islanders is one of the highest in King County.  In general Vashon-Maury is a pocket of affluence, but there is a significant minority of people who choose to live more simply (have less money and more time), joined by a strong middle to upper-middle class professional group, many of whom are on the foot passenger water taxi to downtown Seattle each morning.  Of course, people have to be here to service the daily needs of the 11,000 permanent residents—doctors, teachers, dentists, attorneys, grocers, etc.  Several thousand tourists visit Vashon each summer weekend.  Many lower income residents choose to live here for the quality of life, or they have lived here all their lives and are now elderly.  We have a superior assisted living/ nursing home—Vashon Island Community Care Center—built by local contributions and the help of the Sisters of Providence.

There are still hundreds of artists.  One of these, who is over ninety and sings in the chorale, has donated more than $6 million for the construction of a new Vashon Allied Arts center for the arts, which will be at the second four-way stop on the Vashon Highway.  The VAA is the most venerable art organization in the State.  Also, a hundred-plus students come to Vashon daily to go to our schools, which are preferential to the schools they have in their communities on the other side of the water.

In short, the community is diverse, fascinating, active in community affairs, looking for peace and quiet, cannot be categorized easily, and if you are talking to someone who says only Hippies live here and everyone wears Birkenstocks, please know they do not have a clue!  Yes, I still wear Mephistoes or Birkenstocks most of the time, and I do eat granola, but then, I am an old hippie, so there you are!

Beth de Groen

Windermere Vashon

Designated Broker, Owner

206-463-9148 ext. 206


Uncategorized October 18, 2011

Vashon-Maury Island is unique

Vashon-Maury is a unique rural environment in an otherwise developed regional landscape. There is nothing similar to this place for fifty miles in any direction: Vashon has pastoral areas similar to Lopez; there are wildly verdant rain forests reminiscent of coastal wilderness; there is little traffic (except when the ferry off loads), and people tend to say, “Hi,” to you, whether they know you or not. There are only two shopping malls (located in the town core) and no places where the houses are exactly like the next door neighbor’s. The reason for this is that the Island petitioned King County to be zoned rural in the early 1970’s, so in many regards, large-scale development froze at that point. Vashon has many happy secrets that are not apparent when you are shopping in stores on the one-block-long main street.

To discover the wonderful hidden qualities that Vashon-Maury Island has to offer, contact me. I am happy to discuss everything from schools and septic systems to opera and metal artists with you. Enjoy the benefits of working with a broker who really knows Vashon and Maury Islands!

Uncategorized October 12, 2011


Vashon-Maury Island is a wildly beautiful place with miles and miles of shoreline. The postcard views around each corner are breathtaking and lead many day-trippers to consider living here on a permanent or part-time basis, the first time they visit. As is the case in any unique environment, if you decide you might want to live here, you need a local guide!

Windermere Vashon is the most venerable office on Vashon. A primary player in the Vashon-Maury Island community, our team has decades of experience assisting you to find your passion in this diversely talented and active community.  I have been the leading listing broker on the Island for the past decade.  I sell all price ranges of vacant land, residential and commercial real property.Whether it’s a move to the Island or simply answering questions about the award-winning school system, ferries/commuting, septic innovations, or the best fishing spots, I know the neighborhood!  Please call me at 206-463-9148, ext.206.