Business

Real estate market looking good, experts say

Bellevue will be one of the hottest real estate markets in the country as the economy continues to rise out of recession, a panel of experts said Wednesday.

Speaking at a Bellevue Downtown Association forum, the group, which included those in commercial, residential and office retail, said Bellevue has fared well throughout the economic downturn, and things continue to look up.

Overall, the experts said, the country is beginning to turn around. Companies are adding jobs and vacancy rates in office towers are dropping.

"2011 signaled a turn in the market and a considerable level of expansion," said Sue Baugh, a director Kushman and Wakefield.

Seattle and Bellevue are poised for growth in future years because of steps the cities have taken to organize development. Many national investors see the area as a combined region that has emphasized residential areas downtown to create a coveted "live, work, play" environment that most cities around the country can only dream of.

Employees want to work in this region, said Richard Leider, principal at Trinity Real Estate, and that is enticing businesses to build in the area. He ranked the Seattle-Bellevue region in the top five of investor focus in the nation. Bellevue in particular has become a popular landing spot for young tech industry employees due to its proximity to job centers, and a burgeoning nightlife downtown.

"It's not a place you leave anymore," said Monica Wallace, a senior vice president at Wallace Properties. "It's a place you're coming to."

Commercially, Wallace said, Bellevue remained strong due to the presence of anchors such as the Bellevue Collection and the Bravern. Commercial vacancy rates are down to about 3 percent, well below the national average of 10.9 percent. New retailers are coming to the area, and established businesses have been looking to trade up to better spaces, with demand continuing to heat up.

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