SPELL IT The annual bee raises funds for scholarships. Page 5
NEWS | Ferry system cancels more sailings.  COMMENTARY | Schools still need financial support.  ARTS | Casper Babypants brings a show for families. 
FEARON AT THE BIKE Musician stays close to his Reggae roots. Page 11
BEACHCOMBER VASHON-MAURY ISLAND
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2014
Vol. 59, No. 06
Buyers, sellers get in on an improving housing market Median sale price on Vashon jumps 18 percent in 2013 By NATALIE MARTIN Staff Writer
Natalie Martin/Staff Photo
An ochre star afflicted with sea star wasting syndrome hangs off a piling at the north-end ferry dock.
Starfish die-off baffles experts Locals join effort to study widespread disease By NATALIE MARTIN Staff Writer
As scientists work to understand what’s killing off millions of starfish up and down the West Coast, a small group of islanders is joining a regional effort to help monitor the mystery epidemic.
On a chilly evening last week, islander Jeff Adams, a marine water quality specialist with Washington Sea Grant and a local beach naturalist, led about a dozen people under the north-end ferry dock at low tide. Adams was training the group to identify starfish affected by what scientists are calling sea star wasting syndrome. While pilings under the north-end dock are normally covered with brightly colored starfish — also SEE STARFISH, 19
VASHON’S 12TH MAN CHEERS HAWKS TO BIG WIN More than 300 Vashon football fans celebrated the Super Bowl in true island style on Sunday — by packing into the Vashon Theatre. For three hours, the movie house roared with the sounds of the big game and the cheers of Hawks fans of all ages as the Seattle team routed the Denver Broncos for their first-ever Super Bowl win. “Everybody had a great time,” said Mike England, who with Aaron Hendon organized the party, complete with tailgating, beer and a potluck. “It helped that the team dominated and won.” England, a mortgage consultant, and Hendon, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, recently began teaching a home buying class together on Vashon and discovered their shared love for the Seahawks. When the Hawks won the NFC Championship, they decided to rent out the Vashon Theatre for the Super Bowl, spreading the word over social media and offering free tickets online. The event sold out and even had a wait list. “I must have had 100 people say thank you while it was going on,” England said. England noted that the updated projection system and sound equipment at the theater made it an especially good venue to catch the big game. “We told them we’ll do it next year,” he said, “when the Seahawks are back for the Super Bowl.” Photo and story by Natalie Martin
After years of sluggish sales and falling prices, Vashon’s real estate market is firmly on the upswing, with an 18 percent jump in home prices in 2013. Last year the median price of a single-family home sold on Vashon hit $413,500, its highest in five years, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS). Last year there were also slightly more sales on the island, as 157 homes changed hands, up from 146 the year before and nearly double the low of 83 sales in 2008. “It’s huge,” said Beth de Groen, who owns the Windermere office on Vashon, noting that a normal market increase is about 5 percent a year. Between 2007, the height of the market, and 2011, the median sale price on Vashon plummeted 42 percent, losing 24 percent in 2009 alone, according to NWMLS data. In 2012 the market began to turn around with a 4 percent increase on Vashon. While homes are finally start-
ing to regain value, fewer short sales and foreclosures in 2013 also contributed to the 18-percent spike, local real estate agents say, as did a slight resurgence in the market for higher-end houses. “We’re actually seeing it become a healthier market, healthier than it’s been,” de Groen said, “and people realize there’s an uptick.” Indeed the increase, which is expected to continue, is bringing out buyers hoping to get in while prices are still somewhat low — the median price of a home sold in the height of the market in 2007 was $535,000. Low interest rates of around 4.5 percent are also currently a big draw. Denise Katz, a real estate agent with Windermere, said that while Vashon hasn’t seen the feeding frenzy that’s happened in some parts of Seattle as the market recovers there, homes on Vashon that are well-maintained, reasonably priced and presented well are generating immediate interest, selling fast and sometimes garnering multiple offers. “A lot of people who were on the fence are buying now,” Katz said. “Interest rates are low, and homes are starting to appreciate, not depreciate.” Colleen Brooks, a retired SEE REAL ESTATE, 20