Today, I received this question in my email inbox from someone who had contacted me via AR. Here is the question and my reply. I'm also going to put a little more commentary on here too since I realized that I may not have answered his question entirely in my first response.
Do you think that real estate values will grow faster over the next year near light rail stations in Rainier Valley as light rail opening gets closer than is the case in hot North Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard and Wallingford that are only served by buses (with some bus improvements coming soon with RapidRide) and with light rail about a decade away?
While there is no guarantee of my personal opinion on the subject it is telling that when major transportation projects are approved in this area there is usually a rush on for development around these zones. Usually it is encouraged by government (local and state) for zoning to meet density requirements around these areas and many of the meetings I've attended as a REALTOR committee member and in our recent opinion panels demonstrates to me the desire by developers to be able to use this favorable attitude to get the needed incentives to build in these areas.
New Holly, Othello and other zones that have been targeted as sites for light rail have seen major changes and improvements. Polygon and Bennett Homes have major stakes in these neighborhoods - one that Bennett homes likely wouldn't have touched without the incentives. The product they make for this area is more economical than their other products around the region, but they are appropriate for the neighborhood and still better built than much of what is there in current housing stock. This has brought in more small developers too such as Martha Rose Construction and those that do small in-fill projects. Price points for these homes from these projects took these areas into home prices they'd never dreamed of seeing even only 5 years ago. I recall selling a mid-century remodel for over $500k about 3 years ago and we'd hit the highest price point that area of south Beacon Hill had ever seen for a home of this type - final selling price was $518,000. New housing quality for the area improved dramatically in Columbia City, Rainier Valley, Hillman City, the MLK corridor - all of these areas are expected to benefit from light rail and you'll see more cultural diversity in these areas than anywhere else in the city.
Anecdotally, from my own client experiences and in speaking to other agents I know, gas prices over the past year also have helped to push homeowners into wanting to be close to alternate forms of transit. Five years ago it wasn't as common for clients to ask me if bus lines, park & rides, and trains were accessible and now it is part of our research on neighborhoods. Example - a client wants acreage in Snohomish, and they want access to Everett for rail lines since the major breadwinner works for Starbucks in SoDo. Many well traveled clients also want to see our area become more like other truly world-class cities where alternate transportation is the norm, not as it is today where it is spotty and not well interconnected. I thank many of the transplants to the area for their open view to these changes as many long time residents think things are just fine as they are and it's a waste to do these transportation projects since it won't make anything better. Heck, we're still playing catch up - we'd have to get very aggressive to be ahead of the game here.
I'm not sure if this is exactly the response you were looking for, but hopefully it gives you a flavor for how many agents see it.
After sending that reply, I realized that I'd missed his specific question comparing value apprecation of Ballard/Wallingford to areas impacted by light rail. My take is that there will be concentrated areas around light rail that will be positively impacted. It's harder to make a general statement because the areas that benefit around mass transit will be those that are within a certain walking distance to the transit and/or on connector routes. I wouldn't blanket statement that all of Beacon Hill will benefit because I don't think it is as realistic to believe that the west side of Beacon Hill residents will make the walk over the ridge and down into Rainier Valley to access the rail system and unless there is a quick transit connection to make it convenient, it likely won't happen. Ease of access to I-5 will probably trump in that instance.
Also, Ballard and Wallingford still have a different cache' as well for some people. I hate to say it, but a lot of people in this town still self-segregate, and it's a shame. My guess is that new home buyers will still flock to the south Seattle areas for the prices, but with the hope that they can someday move up North for a higher valued property.
Ballard also had values rise quickly as zoning changes which allowed for townhomes and condos came into play and a lot of that construction by BC based builders was predicated by the belief that the now defunct Monorail would be built.