New Stadium apartments won’t open for 6 months — and there’s already a wait list

It’s at least six months from opening, but the trendy, eight-story apartment building in Tacoma’s Stadium District already has a wait list.

Wait lists for housing are becoming routine. Tacoma’s vacancy rate was tight this summer — regularly below 5 percent — with many seeking housing coming up short in online searches.

More than 100 of the 172 units at Stadium Apartments will cost between $1,400 and $1,900 a month, said Scott Carino, co-owner of the project at 102 N. G St.

“We focused on keeping most of the units more affordable compared to other similar properties in the downtown area,” he said via email.

The largest units, with two bedrooms and bathrooms, will cost up to $2,875. Still, people are already lining up, and Stadium Apartments won’t open a leasing office until early next year.

The apartment building will feature a pet park, community room, open-air lounge and a workout room. It expects to open in July, weather permitting.

Despite a record year of apartment building throughout Pierce County, wait lists, along with rising rents, are yet another symptom of the South Sound’s hot housing market.

In the last five years, home prices in the Tacoma-Lakewood area have surged 67 percent, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

A rising economy, low interest rates and low housing inventory add up to higher prices, said Andrew Leventis, deputy chief economist with the finance agency in Washington, D.C.

In the last year, the agency said, Tacoma-Lakewood home prices have jumped nearly 13 percent — the second highest in the nation and surpassed only by Seattle’s 14.6 percent year-over-year increase. The figures compared the third quarter of 2017 to last year.

Rents here aren’t much better, with the median price for a two-bedroom flat increasing 5.6 percent over the year to $1,530 a month, according to Apartment List.

Leventis noted he’s not in the forecasting business, but said higher interest rates would “put the brakes on the house price appreciation.”

“There are headwinds in Seattle and Tacoma and other parts of the country,” he said. Namely, “lack of affordability and reduced availability” of homes for sale.

As of November, there was about 1.3 months worth of housing inventory in Pierce County, placing the area firmly in the seller’s market, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

A market balanced between buyers and sellers would have between four and six months of inventory available.

In November, both inventory of homes and pending sales dropped to their lowest levels since April, while prices increased by double digits in most of the counties served by Northwest MLS.

These low inventory levels might be the new normal, said George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties in Bellevue.

“Until we see a balanced rate of four to five months of supply, instead of hovering around one month, we’re not likely to see much change,” Moorhead said.

People priced out of Seattle’s market continue to move to Pierce County. Earlier this year, apartment managers on the Thea Foss Waterway said a quarter of their residents commute to the Emerald City.

Perhaps they can’t find a home for sale in King County, even if they have the money. King County has less than a month’s worth of homes on the market, down nearly 29 percent compared to a year ago.

Northwest MLS noted “significant decreases in inventory” in even outlying counties compared to last year: Down 31 percent in Thurston County, down more than 26 percent in Mason County and down nearly 29 percent in Cowlitz County.

In Pierce County, according to the Northwest MLS, the median single-family home sold for $310,000 in November — down $5,000 from a month ago but up more than 7 percent from a year ago.

King County home prices jumped double digits in November compared to last year, to a median of $630,750.

Large builders are taking advantage of the hot market, filing more than 1,700 home starts in unincorporated Pierce County, said Dennis Hanberg, director of the county’s Planning and Public Works Department.

Multifamily unit construction — buildings with three or more units — is up substantially, from an average of about 250 a year to more than 700 in 2016.

The leap in permits for multifamily units is “a change we expect to continue” into 2018, Hanberg said.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports