It's location, location, location in Leschi

The trees in Leschi are beautiful. Just don't tell them how valuable their soil is.

Were you to do so, the groves of stately maples and madronas that line the graded ravines here might ask the closest real estate agent with an ax to fell them where they stand, treat their timber and build a Tudor cottage with a lake and mountain view worth millions.

In return, their young seedlings would be given a prize spot in a finely manicured flowerbed.

Of course, any such arrangement would depend on the tree's proximity to Lake Washington.

That's because property values in Leschi, as is common in the real estate game, are heavily contingent on location, suicidal trees notwithstanding.

But location is especially important in this neighborhood.

"Right now, we're seeing prices commanding more as you move farther south toward the Mount Baker area," said Susan Stasik of Windermere Real Estate in Madison Park. "They're also increasing in the area adjacent to Madrona by the marina and, of course, anywhere else near Lake Washington."

A diverse market

Leschi's boundaries extend north to East Cherry Street, west to Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., south to South Irving Street and east to Lake Washington. Composed of steep hills with stunning views and usually cramped lots, Leschi is a neighborhood of variety.

Aside from the waterfront, a key selling point of the area is its easy access to downtown, just a few miles to the west.

"People in Leschi enjoy the lake and mountain views, the proximity to the freeways, to downtown and to the numerous small and large parks," said Debra T. Harvey, of The Landmark Group off Arboretum Court. "Due to the diversity of preferences and lifestyles, there can easily be a massive range of prices for homes and condos available in the area."

Harvey's observations are reflected in the real estate listings.

Homes on the lake can soar well into the millions, but there's also nearby properties that accommodate more modestly endowed checkbooks.

A four-bedroom house, built in 2005, with 4,245 square feet and 72 feet of no-bank waterfront, on highly coveted Lakeside Avenue South is currently listed for $5.3 million.

Meanwhile, two blocks north on the same street, a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 524-square-foot lakefront condo built in 1957, is going for $169,000.

As a result of the price disparity, a wide variety of people enjoy the benefits of Leschi living.

"Leschi is a very diverse," said John Brian Losh, chairperson of Ewing & Clark Inc. in Madison Park. "From singles to retired couples and everything in between, this is a multicultural, multiracial community, which makes it a very interesting and exciting neighborhood to live in. There's also quite a variety in terms of architecture, from million-dollar mansions to tidy bungalows."

Losh said a run-of-the-mill home in Leschi with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and no view costs about $500,000.

A smorgasbord of architecture

Harvey, who has an undergraduate degree in architecture, points out that Leschi has a virtual smorgasbord of styles for prospective buyers to choose from.

"Leschi offers a broad spectrum of architectural styles and housing types," she said. "That includes Victorian, bungalow, colonial, Tudor cottage, California Craftsman, ranch, stately mansion, early Northwest regionalism and edgy contemporary."

Stasik said architects see Leschi as an opportunity.

"This area is sort of a mecca for architects with special visions," she said, adding that they "take advantage" of the hillside views to craft unique homes that showcase their creativity. "We're starting to see homes creep up in publications that used to be in sleeper neighborhoods."

She also mentioned that because many of the houses in Leschi were built in the 1940s or earlier, some residents are now remodeling to increase their property's value. "There's not much new construction, though, except out by Leschi Ridge," she said, referring to the area higher on the hill, near the Central Area.

A healthy market

Still, the market here appears to be healthy.

In fact, according to Losh, the Leschi market is getting "stronger and stronger and stronger as commuting and traffic become bigger issues."

Stasik agrees.

"Right now, market time is good," she said, adding that turnaround in the area is occurring fairly quickly. "One month ago, I had people lined up out the door, and recently the phone has been ringing off the hook."

She said that, based on her 15 years of real estate experience in Seattle, July and August tend to be slower homebuying months, but things this year don't seem to be slowing down as much as usual.

"I don't know what it is about those months," she said, "Maybe it's just that Seattle summers are so priceless that people would prefer to enjoy the weather rather than go house-hunting. Whatever it is, there's usually a lull in the mid-summer, and then in September, things get crazy again. Every year I think, 'This is the year that we'll have a great summer,' and it hasn't happened yet."

Maybe this year will be different.

"It seems like there's a lot going on right now," she said.

Just don't inform the trees.

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