Political Uncertainty Driving Seattle Real Estate Decisions

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Tobias Nergarden of the Real Estate Marketing Insider comments on news in the Seattle Times that real estate decisions are being made based on uncertainty about the country’s political future, especially regarding the capital gains tax.

Mr. Nergarden offered his observations about news, reported in the Seattle Times, that uncertainty about America’s post-election political landscape is driving decisions by real estate marketing professionals and developers; he stated that this was likely bad for consumers and the market in general, although short-term drives in sales and portfolio diversification could stimulate the recovery of the housing market.

Spurred by an eleven-building sale of a Seattle office complex to Amazon.com, the Seattle Times’ report said that a dominant factor in owner Vulcan Real Estate’s decision to sell was the political climate of the United States. In addition to portfolio diversification, a firm spokeperson said that Vulcan was concerned about the potential rise in capital gains tax come January 1. Earlier in 2012, President Obama and Congress agreed to an ultimatum that sets a series of deep budget cuts and tax hikes if a budgetary deal isn’t reached. Termed the “fiscal cliff,” this hard-and-fast deadline has implications for capital gains reform, and could reportedly cost Vulcan Real Estate upwards of $10 million in new taxes should Congress fail.

The eleven buildings involved in the sale, a total of 1.8 million square feet, have housed Amazon.com Seattle headquarters for some time, but Amazon has been leasing them from Vulcan Real Estate, the complex’s original builders. It has been reported that Amazon will pay Vulcan $1.16 billion for the complex, which went up for sale in August. This deal would mark the largest King County real estate sale this year, surpassing by far the current holder of that title: a $549-million deal for a 55-story residential complex last week.

Vulcan spokespeople, citing uncertainty about the political future as a reason for the sale, also mentioned Vulcan’s desire to diversify its portfolio. Accordingly, it was reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Vulcan plans to reinvest proceeds from the sale into real estate. Vulcan owns about thirty acres in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, and reports suggest its primary intention for funds from the sale is for redevelopment of that property.

Tobias Nergarden of REMI released a statement following news out of Seattle that a billion-dollar sale of an office complex to Amazon.com had been driven by, among other factors, the owner’s concerns about impending rises in capital gains tax. A spokesperson for Vulcan Real Estate, the complex’s original owners, said that among other factors in deciding to sell was uncertainty about Congress’ ability to meet the “fiscal cliff” deadline of January 1; if they fail, it would mean deep budget cuts and tax raises, and capital gains implications for Vulcan could mean tens of millions of dollars in new taxes.

About the Real Estate Marketing Insider: REMI is an online publication that provides real estate professionals with news, marketing ideas and insider analysis. REMI is based in La Jolla, CA.

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