Squeeze Play

High prices and odd lot sizes aren't dampening infill housing growth

By Ashley Griffin January 1, 2008 Published in the January 2008 issue of Seattle Met

WHEN ANA AND ROBERT BOWMAN relocated to Seattle with two daughters and a German shepherd in tow, they wanted two things in a home: new construction and a close-in location. The Bowmans previously owned an 84-year-old Tudor, and they were ready to put away their toolbox and weekly fix-it lists and find a more open floor plan.

That’s why the Bowmans bought an infill home in Lake City, just a few blocks from Sand Point Country Club and Lake Washington. “If you want to live in the urban core and you want to live in new construction, infill housing is the only game in town,” says David Neiman, primary architect at Seattle’s custom home builders Urban Infillers.

Infill homes are typically built on undersized lots with steep slopes, unstable soils, or conflicts with adjacent uses, and they’re popping up in Seattle neighborhoods such as Magnolia, Phinney Ridge, and Ballard. The awkward plots keep some buyers away, but developers compensate by creating designs with open spaces and large windows, using high-quality materials, and building green. The goal is to entice buyers put off by irregular, less-than-spectacular plots and to improve a home’s resale potential.

For the Bowmans, the odd plot did little to detract from the lifestyle the house offered them. “You get the upside of moving into a new home in an established neighborhood,” Ana says. And in Seattle new infill homes sell at a premium; on average, they fetch at least $200,000 more than older homes in the same neighborhood. But for some buyers, the benefits are worth the price.




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