Seattle PI article featuring Sam Konswa on the upcoming neighborhood of South Lake Union

Three big new words in Seattle real estate: ‘South Lake Union’

Look through home listings in Seattle these days and one phrase appears way more than it used to: “South Lake Union.”

It’s not just that the urban neighborhood has a lot more homes than it used to. Residences in adjacent neighborhoods, such as Belltown, Queen Anne and Eastlake, increasingly boast about their proximity to South Lake Union.

So do homes in such further-away places as Magnolia, Phinney Ridge, Wallingford, Fremont and Capitol Hill.

South Lake Union has gained the sort of cachet long associated with Downtown Seattle and other popular neighborhoods, such as Capitol Hill, Fremont and Ballard.

No more than 100 listings a year mentioned South Lake Union until 2013, when mentions exploded to 277, according to Redfin. This year, mentions have surged to 433.

Why? In a word, Amazon, which has established its headquarters in South Lake Union.

“The South Lake Union area is exploding with job growth,” said Windermere Real Estate agent Patrick Corr, who recently mentioned proximity to South Lake Union in a listing on the south side of Wallingford. “I want the incoming buyers to be aware that the north end of Lake Union is very convenient to their jobs.”

Sam Konswa, of Queen Anne Real Estate, reported that Amazon employees make up at least half the people seeking $1 million homes in Queen Anne, three-quarters of those seeking $1.5 million homes and 90 percent of those shopping for homes priced at $2 million and up.

While Amazon is South Lake Union’s biggest catch, the neighborhood also has drawn other employers, such as Group Health, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington Medicine, the architecture firm NBBJ and global health nonprofit PATH.

People searching for homes near the neighborhood include employees of those companies and investors looking to rent to area workers, according to Redfin agent Ben Hitchins, who lives in South Lake Union.

Another big reason so many listings outside of South Lake Union mention the neighborhood is that South Lake Union itself has a limited selection of places to live.

Developers have erected plenty of apartments there in recent years. And a bunch of condo buildings went up before the real estate bust. But supply of both is tight. And forget about a single-family house.

“Many of the homebuyers I represent work in South Lake Union but are searching for single-family homes in city neighborhoods such as Green Lake, Magnolia and Queen Anne,” Hitchins said. “They mostly want a little bit of space, a yard and some sort of neighborhood feel. But they still want to be able to get to South Lake Union.”

Amazon’s growing presence is a “double-edged sword,” Konswa said. “On the positive side you have tremendous buying power, and a huge pool of qualified buyers with very ample resources. On the other side, because they are all concentrated from one company, if Amazon slows down the area will definitely see the effects that may have.”