How Does Zoning Affect Property Value in Seattle?

Nov 6, 2017

If you’ve been following Seattle’s housing market developments at all, you’ve seen the changes that the Emerald City has been going through in regards to real estate. Our city’s population growth is so large that the city is scrambling to find ways to add more affordable housing in a landscape with next-to-no land available for development.

Because the land is so scarce (and expensive), our only other option is to increase housing density; building up instead of out. Because of Seattle’s historic past, this means much of our neighborhoods are in the midst of zoning changes to allow for the immense growth within and around downtown Seattle.

With rezoning happening all around the Puget Sound, homeowners are understandably concerned about how these changes are affecting their property’s value. Let’s take a look at this issue by first understanding zoning and reviewing how it could affect the value of property around Seattle.

Understanding Zoning

According to The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 4th Edition, zoning is defined as “The public regulation of the character and extent of real estate use through police power; accomplished by establishing districts or areas with uniform restrictions relating to improvements; structural height, area, and bulk; density of population; and other aspects of the use and development of private property.”

For this article’s sake, we will focus solely on residential zoning, as commercial zones are a whole other part of the equation. Within the residential zones, Seattle has multiple designations based on the type of building that can sit on a lot and how large the lot is (Sq ft).

Single Family

There are a few different single-family zones that are common around Seattle and the surrounding areas:

  • SF 9,600 – Single-family home with a minimum lot size of 9,600 for each detached structure
  • SF 7,200 – Single-family home with a minimum lot size of 7,200 for each detached structure
  • SF 5000 – Single-family home with a minimum lot size of 5000 for each detached structure
  • RSL – Residential small lot  is a single-family zone which resides within an urban village where smaller detached homes can be built as affordable housing

Multifamily

Just like single-family, no multifamily zone is created equal. The type of structure on a property is designated by one of these labels:

  • Duplex/Triplex (LDT)
  • Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 1
  • Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 2
  • Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 3
  • Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 4
  • Residential, Multifamily, Midrise
  • Residential, Multifamily, Highrise HR
  • Residential-Commercial

Additional information and descriptions of each zoning type can be found here.

Zoning and Property Value

The quick answer to “how does zoning affect property value?” is: it depends largely on the situation. In some cases, a rezone of a lot in a particular neighborhood might raise the prices of homes around it, or it may lower it. Not only does it depend on the situation, but it also depends on the current state of the housing market at the time of appraisal.

With that said, let’s use Seattle’s current housing market status (as of October 2017) – a market that is so hot that our home price growth is nearly double that of any other city in the United States.

At this time, the rate of supply and demand is so unbalanced that home prices continue to rise, no matter the zoning type (for the most part). Because of the lack of housing inventory, upzones are required to increase housing density and provide more affordable housing for Seattle residents.

Let’s look at the effects of zoning in two different case scenarios: one neighborhood in Shoreline (near the future extended light rail stations) and another neighborhood just 15 minutes south of downtown Seattle.

Shoreline Zoning

Recently, the Link Light Rail expansion has been approved to extend from Everett down to Tacoma. Because of this new expansion, various neighborhoods between these cities are going to have new light rail stations added along the route.

According to the city of Shoreline, property values near these areas are expected to increase because of the addition of new stations. To prove their point, they’ve pulled various studies on transit’s effect on property values in the past. In fact, according to a 2014 report from the National Association of Realtors, “transit can increase the development potential of real estate near stations, and as a result, can increase property values.”

Because of the expansion of the light rail, now is a good time to look into selling your home if you’re located near one of the new station locations. Learn more about how Beachworks is helping Shoreline residents get the most value and sell their home in a way that best works for them.

View more case studies and learn more about how the light rail expansion could affect Shoreline homeowners here.

South Seattle Zoning

If there are no major transit additions but an upzoning happens in a south Seattle neighborhood (for example purposes only; this could apply to any neighborhood near and within Seattle city limits), how is the value of the property affected then?

The effect of this largely depends, again, on the situation. For example, if single-family homes are being rezoned to allow for multifamily homes, this helps negate the lack of housing inventory, therefore allowing for more affordable housing and a potentially lower value on your home.

On the same note, the upzones could allow for neighborhood revival; adding density which causes the need for more commercial businesses (i.e. coffee shops, hip restaurants, and more) and a vast improvement on the community overall.

In summary, there’s no one answer to how zoning affects property values in Seattle other than “it depends.” If your neighborhood or lot has recently been rezoned, talk to us. We’ll be able to help you understand how the zoning has affected you and advise on the best next steps for you and your home.