South Park (Seattle) Multi-family Landscape

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With Seattle pricing softening a bit, I’m looking at South Park as an investment area. The crime looks pretty high, and multi-family buildings seem to be concentrated in areas, but wondering if anyone investing there has insight on vacancy rates, what to look out for, and their outlook in this area. Would anyone be willing to share?

Following- I like South Park for the future, currently I own in the High quality neighborhoods surrounding (Admiral, N. beacon Hill). 

There are probably some environmental concerns to look out for with Sodo, the transfer station (dump), and the Duwamish all so close by.

I have a small MF  (triplex)  In SP.   I've owned it since 2006 ;  it was my first multifamily and originally a house hack.

SP is one of seattle's smallest neighborhoods,  and is located along the south edge of seattle.   It is wedged between the Duwamish river and the bluff below highland park / white center to east and west,   and industrial SODO to the north and the northeast corner of Burien to the south.

SP has a lot of comparatively lower income residents vs. seattle at large,  and its a very diverse neighborhood;   If you speak spanish it would be a big advantage if you are looking at managing MF in that area.   (I keep telling myself I need to take classes).   

As far as crime goes,  there have been a few high profile incidents,  the most recent being about 10 years ago when a mentally ill individual who had come up from further south in the state broke into a home and committed a rape/murder against a couple living there, as well as a couple of other incidents of serious violence as well since I have owned in the area.   Mostly though the challenges faced in the area are what you would expect of any growing, gentrifying historically lower income area on the edge of a teeming metropolis. There is some amount of petty theft, and a fair amount of visible homelessness (RVs mostly) and the associated issues. Car prowls happen fairly regularly as reported by people on nextdoor.com, often when stuff left visible, and there are occasional burglaries.   The overall trend in crime however is on definite decline over the time I have owned in the area.   The first couple years I was chasing dealers, pimps, and druggies out of the triplex's yard all the time and cleaning graffiti pretty regularly.    Its probably now been 7 years since the last time my property got tagged,  and the street activity has mostly moved further into the industrial parts or behind closed doors of RV's.   It also helps that several of the worst 'problem' properties in the neighborhood have finally been cleaned out either by city action or new ownership, or by fire in the last few years.   I have never had a break in attempt or any significant criminal event on my property.  (Knock on wood). 

All that said,  SP also has a great, active, engaged community,  several festivals over the course of the year  (its the only neighborhood I've seen people in full tradiitional dress riding horses down side streets for fiestas patrias for example) and neighbors put on an all-out august night out against crime every year.    Residents do not worry about walking their dogs, kids, etc throughout the neighborhood regardless of time of day.  SP punches above its weight as far as political and media visibility.

The "downtown" (14th ave) is improving with several recently opened restaurants occupying recently rehabbed original commercial structures, alongside well established mexican places.   SP is about 15 minutes from downtown via 99, subject to traffic whims of course.   Its also 10-15 minutes from burien, renton, tukwila, southcenter mall,  and minutes to active night life in hipster Georgetown.   its got a good library, community center,  and the only riverfront parks in seattle.  So its in the center of the universe as far as south seattle goes.

As far as MF goes,  there aren't any large complexes in SP proper.   The largest couple of buildings are in the ~20 unit range and there are maybe a dozen properties or so total with 6 units or more.   A couple have been rehabbed,  a couple others are likely good candidates if you could get the price someplace reasonable,  and if you could compete with the townhouse developers.   I think there is a renovated 10 unit that just came on the market on 14th.   There are probably cumulatively a couple dozen 2-4 unit properties in the neighborhood.   Some of them are reasonably well updated and some would be good rehab candidates.  Some of those are converted houses and some are purpose built.   Most of the MF in SP dates from the 50's through the 80's.

Cloverdale is the main east-west drag and has been seeing a lot of townhouse construction, especially a block or two on either side of Hwy 599.   Cloverdale also has most of the larger MF properties, the rest scattered along 8th or 14th.

Everywhere that isn't already L zoned got upzoned via HALA to RSL (residential small lot) - which may or may not make much of a difference in the short term,  but will eventually mean 2 houses on a 5000sf lot,  or 5 per 10000sf if 2 adjacent lots could be assembled.

Due to the comparatively affordable rents in SP,  along with its good commute location,  there will be ZERO problem keeping a decently maintained, respectable property rented.   I would not worry about vacancy rates.   Excepting time spent on renovation,  I've had something better than 99% occupancy rate at my triplex but I was a bit low on rents for most of the time I self managed.   My average tenancy there I would say is 4-5 years.   I'm currently charging a bit over $1400 (rent+util surcharge) for 850sf 2br's in good condition, ample parking, and all appliances including in unit laundry.   The last vacancies were 2 years ago,  if the units were on market today they would go for 1-200 more probably.

I've found that in that neighborhood,  when times are bad you get good people looking for a cheaper place,  and people coming into the area from worse places to start a new job.   When times are good you get good people being priced out of more expensive areas looking for a cheaper place,  and people moving into the area for a job looking for a place.   I also have gotten quite a few roommate situations (some of which worked better than others).   I've had my share of scary applicants (as I am sure anybody has renting in C class) but that is what screening and qualification criteria are for.

As anybody who has read this far can tell I am a bit of a booster for SP.   The only thing that would stop me right now from considering another property in SP in my hunt to replace my recently sold duplex is the hostile regulatory environment and extreme progresssive politics currently in full force in Seattle city council.   Anybody looking at investing in seattle who is not already aware of what is going on needs to go in with open eyes.

As anybody who has read this far can tell I am a bit of a booster for SP. The only thing that would stop me right now from considering another property in SP in my hunt to replace my recently sold duplex is the hostile regulatory environment and extreme progresssive politics currently in full force in Seattle city council. Anybody looking at investing in seattle who is not already aware of what is going on needs to go in with open eyes.

Biggest takeaway for anyone planning to invest in Seattle or continuing to do so. Your business is not welcomed and rent control is just around the corner.