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Seattle for sale: Condo buyers camp out, line up for project three years out

Rendering of Nexus, a Seattle condo project slated for groundbreaking in October

SEATTLE -- The line that stretched down First Avenue in Belltown this weekend wasn't for a trendy new restaurant, a hot new gadget, or even Seahawks season tickets.

It was for a condo building -- one that won't break ground until later this year.

"We opened at 11 a.m., but people got here at 11 p.m. the night before," said Dean Jones, president and CEO of Realogics Sotheby's International Realty, which represents the development. "People were wondering if we were giving away iPhones or maybe the Adele concert tickets were returning here. In fact, it was a real estate development."

Some people waited for more than four hours to put down deposits, Jones said, for the new Nexus building, which is scheduled begin construction in October. The 41-story building at 1200 Howell St. will contain 374 condo units, according to plans filed with the city of Seattle.

More than 60 percent of the units were reserved over the weekend by buyers who submitted $5,000 refundable deposits, Jones added.

It may be a sign of a real estate market at a fever pitch -- with little relief for homebuyers. Numbers released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service show more offers were made on homes in the Seattle area in the month of May than there were new listings.

Prices on single-family homes in King County were up more than 16 percent over the same time last year.

"The May housing market was not just hot, it was frenzy hot," said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, in an email.

Scott estimates that 80 percent of homes coming on the market in King and Snohomish counties are selling within the first 30 days.

It's a statistic Deanna Siler knows well.

"Rent was skyrocketing in Seattle at the time and I just wanted a place of my own," Siler said, about wanting to buy her first home in the Seattle area. "I found one I absolutely adored."

The Seattle resident went to see a Green Lake condo the day it went on the market, taking the bus straight from work. She fell in love with the unit and ended up in a bidding war that night, making multiple offers over the listing price.

She lost to an investor.

"They had very deep pockets," she said. "But it wasn't the money. I was so disappointed. So disappointed. And actually I stopped looking after that."

Siler eventually found a one-bedroom condo in West Seattle, but said she wasn't surprised with her experience, given Seattle's tech boom.

"It's not unexpected, because we've got Amazon moving in, Google's there, Microsoft, Expedia," she added. "There's only so many homes, and so many people coming in. it's not surprising at all."

"This is the first time I've seen this activity in the city of Seattle," added Jones. "It's just another suggestion that we are following in the trail of San Francisco and Vancouver."

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