When Big Tech Takes Our Culture…


By Ron Upshaw
Licensed Broker
National Association of Realtors
Windermere | Lakeview











“We need some drumsticks. I can’t find my drumsticks!” said the drummer for Ben Harper. I was working in cable access television at the time, and was setting up lights and tripods to interview Harper. (If you’re unfamiliar, search for him online – he’s an amazing slide guitar player and singer.)

So I volunteered to run down to the Guitar Center right by Mercer and Westlake and pick up some sticks. The band was grateful, and I got a great interview and an even better show.

I’m sad to announce that the downtown Guitar Center is now a hole in the ground. I’ve heard that Google wants to gobble up that space and I’ve also heard that Apple would like a create a toehold in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Either way, it’s another casualty to Seattleites of a certain mindset.

Now I am not one overly prone to nostalgia, and Guitar Center is certainly not a mom and pop Pacific Northwest tradition. But there is a part of me that is sad to see it come down.

It was not uncommon back in the day to spot a member of Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Tad, or Mudhoney picking up some strings or poking around the used amp area while pimple faced kids butchered Led Zeppelin riffs on guitars they couldn’t afford.

I stumbled upon a few members of Pearl Jam discussing the finer points of bass strings one day myself. It was a bit of thrill and I did my best to play it cool.

I would venture a wager that many of the biggest hits of the Grunge Era had some kind of connection to the Seattle Guitar Center. Be it strings, instruments, amps, microphones or cables, I guarantee you that there is gear from this store on virtually every big album recorded in the city.

In my opinion, Seattle has done a dismal job in celebrating its musical heritage. Right now I can drive down Edgar Martinez Drive, Royal Brougham Way, or visit the Fred Hutch Cancer Center. I’m as big a Seattle sports fan as the next guy, but I would argue that the musicians of Seattle have had a greater impact on the culture than its athletes.

I’m not suggesting that a corporate guitar store was hallowed ground. But I would like to see a more overt effort from the city to memorialize the magic that happened here. Even if it’s just some kind of identifiable music plaque placed in important spots. “Jimi Hendrix played an important show here,” or “On this spot, Nirvana played their first gig in Seattle…”

If done correctly, this could become a hugely popular cultural touchstone for tourists and locals alike. Link them together on an app, or hey Google, make a special overlay on your maps for people. Maybe even *cough* chip in and do it yourself. I think you have few extra dollars laying around last time I checked.

I think it’s important to remember a time when you’d lace up your Doc Martins and be looking over your shoulder as you walked the dark and seedy streets of South Lake Union to wait in line at Rock Candy. Seattle became the epicenter of the musical universe, and you would never know that now.

I’m not opposed to shiny new buildings. I’m not even opposed to putting up a free banana stand next to the food trucks, but is it too much to ask for there to be a pause to commemorate the truly historic musical heritage of this city?

So long Seattle Guitar Center, you had a good run.


Posted on November 14, 2019 at 9:09 pm
Ron Upshaw | Posted in Real Estate, Seattle, Technology |

The ‘R’-Word Has People Panic Stricken!

By Ron Upshaw
Licensed Broker
National Association of Realtors
Windermere | Lakeview

Matthew Gardner & Ron Upshaw

I’ve been seeing the word “Recession” a lot in the news and I have several people ask me about it in terms of buying or selling a house. So I took the opportunity to call up Matthew Gardner, the Chief Economist for Windermere. Side note: Windermere is the only Real Estate company in the region that has their own economist, so it was a nice resource to have at my disposal.

Now as a non-economist going in, I was actually more nervous about what could happen in the Pacific Northwest before I had our conversation.


Here’s a link to listen to our two part interview on Anchor.fm – or you can find it on all the major podcast platforms – just search for Ron and Don Radio.

• We cover the basic concepts of a recession.

• Is this the same thing as in 2008?

• What does this mean for the big tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon?

• How will this effect real estate in the PNW?

• Should you tap the brakes if you were thinking about buying a house?

• Here’s a link to Gardner’s blog if you want more info from him.

Here’s some analysis from our Windermere | Midtown marketing team.

Kianna Little
Marketing Assistant
Windermere | Midtown

Unless you are an economist, navigating the different things you hear about the economy can be difficult and knowing what types of shocks set off a recession is important so let’s keep this simple. By definition a recession is not some horrific and devastating event, it is simply an economic contraction for two consecutive quarters. This means a contraction in growth of GDP, affecting consumer spending which makes up about 70% of our economy so you can see how this would have noticeable impacts. Recessions are expected to occur about every 5 years and currently we have been in a growth period for 10 years, so it is reasonable to expect an upcoming recession.

“recession” by CreditDebitPro is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This country has overcome 47 recessions in its history, yet even just the word recession ignites fear in many. This is conceivable given the great recession we endured 10 years ago in 2008 and 2009. Though, it is important to understand that not every contractional period will be as intense as it once was before. There are different shocks that can set off a recession, in 2008 it was housing which effects a huge component of our economy. Though those wounds are still fresh, Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner believes that this anticipated upcoming recession will be much less fierce.

Now we should focus on what the shock will be this time that sets off our next recession. In an era of social media and various platforms to utilize to help a topic blow up it is easy to see an acceleration of a subject and a bit of whipsawing that presidential tweets can stir up. Our current position with the ongoing trade war with China is a widely talked about issue that could quite likely be our next shock.

So, let’s break this down- China is patient, their first ever trade war with Russia waged for 200 years. The US on the other hand, works in 4-year increments over the election period. Situations like we are in right now come down to a matter of who is going to blink first? Gardner feels it may very likely be us. Businesses like predictability and certainty and right now, in a trade war with one of our major trading countries and working through tweets- this is something we lack.

So, what does this mean for Seattle?

In the past recessions have had an overly intense impact on Seattle, specifically the .com recession in 2001. However, Gardner highlights that this is going to merely be a general economic slow-down and Seattle won’t be overly affected by this because of its diverse employment base. There will be a decline in consumer spending at large, however Seattle has many home-based companies-Amazon for example that will make up for their loss of local sales globally.

Recession is coming. Is it still a good time to buy a home? Housing is not the driving force behind this recession and is not likely to crash this time around. If you are looking to build your wealth a great way would be investing in Seattle real estate. Believe it or not right now interest rates are low- far below what they have been in the past where we have seen interest rates as high as 20%, currently you can get an interest rate as low as 4.5%.

For Seattle specifically, the robust economy and its geographic features can support higher real estate prices. From various big home-grown companies like Starbucks, Costco and Amazon to its geological characteristics like being surrounded by water and mountains. These attributes appreciate home prices- an attractive trait for potential investors. People pay for location and Seattle has much to offer that drive up prices and continues to bring people in.

If you are debating whether now is the time for you to invest in real estate, Gardner has shared his economic standpoint on the 3 major criteria you should consider which I will share with you: 1. Are you secure in your job? 2. Are you comfortable with the debt you would be taking on and the mortgage payment? And lastly 3. Do you plan to stick around for at-least 7 years? Real estate is still the American dream and investing in it while interest rates are low could be your way of vastly securing wealth.


You can reach out to Ron directly at ron@windermere.com

Posted on September 18, 2019 at 4:35 am
Ron Upshaw | Posted in Affordable Housing, Economy, Investing, Real Estate, Seattle, Technology |

Is the iBuyer a thing now?

By Ron Upshaw
Licensed Broker
National Association of Realtors
Windermere | Lakeview


The latest buzz in the Real Estate world is the concept of the iBuyer. Basically, it’s the idea that when a consumer is thinking about selling their home, they can simply go online and sell it with minimal hassle and fuss.

Just click a version of the “Buy My House” button, provide some personal information, and you just sold your home. Companies like Knock, Offerpad and Zillow are jumping in the game. Zillow will even bring in contractors to make repairs and essentially flip your home for a profit…their profit. In fact, a recent investigation by BuzzFeed News found that nearly half of Zillow’s profits come from the company itself buying and selling homes. It’s moving away from being strictly a technology company into a kind of hybrid tech firm slash real estate wholesaler.

Up next on the horizon will be the promise of doing the same thing on the buying side. If you’re a millennial, and you’ve spent your entire life doing just about everything online, why not buy a house virtually? What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, if you ask most traditional Realtors. So what are the risks and what are the rewards of being an iBuyer? Is this the next Zune or the next iPod? With all innovation and tech disruptions, there are going to be winners and losers. What about for the consumer? How do the chips fall right now for iBuyers?

For starters, there is a small percentage of sellers where this is a perfect option. For people that have been transferred out of state or families dealing with the death of a parent, having the option to quickly sell a house can be a dream come true. As long asking price is not the most important factor.

Marketwatch did a study on closed deals and found “transactions involving iBuyers show that their offers would net their customers, on average, 11% less than owners who choose to sell their homes on the open market, when fees and other costs are considered, translating to tens of thousands of dollars lost.

Ouch. But to be fair to the iBuying firms, for some people, not having to bring their house to market is worth the 11% loss. Consider it a convince fee. Sellers don’t have to do much beyond make arrangements to get their possessions out and sign the paperwork. Or so it would appear. And therein lies the rub.

If you’ve ever bought or sold a piece of real estate, you remember that giant stack of papers that needed to be signed. Each one was most likely prepared by lawyers trying to build in protections and contingencies for the parties to the transaction. Is that really something you can automate through a web portal?

Many industries buried their head in the sand when disruptive technology was emerging. Newspapers, record labels, and bookstores notwithstanding, are Realtors up next on the endangered species list?

After extensive research, my definitive answer is “maybe… it depends.” That settles it, right? “Good night everybody, don’t forget to tip your waitress!”

Let me explain. While it’s clear that technology has already dramatically changed the entire home buying experience from the initial research phase all the way to digital signing of documents, is buying a home something that you can remove human beings from entirely? Amazon removed the human from buying books and Craigslist did with the classified ad. In a few years, will we just log on, find a house, and buy it without ever having to deal with a person IRL?

The most obvious thing I keep thinking is that spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home is much different than buying a CD, newspaper, or book. With the average cost of a house on the Eastside rapidly approaching a million dollars, the vast majority of consumers still want an expert to guide them through the process. People are justifiably nervous when they start writing checks in the seven figures.

But more importantly, can an automated system anticipate possible problems better than a human? What happens when something goes wrong? How does the algorithm quantify the way a house smells or the fact that a neighbor has three broken down cars in the front yard? Who is going to supervise letting people into a stranger’s house? How will the website meet the inspector or appraiser at the property? There are so many questions to answer at this stage of the game.

Unlike retail transactions where you simply take an item to the checkout stand and can return it if there’s an issue, that option doesn’t exist in real estate. The stakes are much, much higher. And when something goes sideways, you can find yourself being deposed for a lawsuit.

Talk to any seasoned Broker and they will tell you that there is no such thing as a “standard transaction.” Every single one is bespoke. You need knowledge and experience to know when to include various contingencies or when to waive them. Brokers would tell you that their feel for a neighborhood beats the raw data of an algorithm any day. Agents would argue that there are literally hundreds of details that need to be attended to, and many of them are beyond the scope of an algorithm.

In my opinion, with the current technology as it is, I think that iBuyers will represent a very small fraction of all real estate transactions. Of course there will be people where iBuying will be a great fit, but for most sellers and buyers, this is just too complicated of a transaction to do it with the click of a button. Buying or selling a home has so much emotion wrapped up in it. Emotions have been exceptionally tricky to distill into a computer.

It’s possible that I’m completely wrong and that in a few years we’ll have our driverless flying cars picking us up from our house we bought on our iPhone, but I think we’re still a ways away from that Jetson’s reality.


You can reach out to Ron with your real estate questions at ron@windermere.com

Posted on August 28, 2019 at 6:34 pm
Ron Upshaw | Posted in Economy, Real Estate, Seattle, Technology |