Eager to escape the traffic and congestion of
the Seattle area, Nia Collins has her eye on a model home in a new gated
community in Wenatchee, Wash., about 150 miles to the east. She expects the
home will go on the market for around $700,000. But she doesn’t know
exactly—because nobody has returned her calls.
“There’s so much going on they can’t keep
up,” says Ms. Collins, a 58-year-old interior designer.
Houses are not so easy to find in Wenatchee
these days. The real-estate market in this town of 33,000 residents has
been roiled by an infusion of bitcoin miners looking for cheap
electricity to run and cool computers that generate new units of
cryptocurrencies. Located on the Columbia River, Wenatchee is powered by
hydroelectric dams and has some of the lowest rates in the country.
Real-estate agents have been getting calls
for months from prospective home buyers and renters looking for properties with
a detached garage or shed—places where a bitcoin miner could store servers,
says Jamie Wallace, president of the North Central Washington Association of
Realtors. Separately, Wenatchee properties are being advertised to bitcoin
miners in online classifieds and on social media, according to Chelan County
Public Utility District, which serves the county that includes Wenatchee.
In February the Wenatchee City Council
imposed a one-year ban on cryptocurrency mining in residential and mixed-use
zones, citing safety concerns and potential strains on the electrical grid.
Last month, the utility district declared a moratorium on applications for
cryptocurrency and other data-related activities. The commissioners also
directed staff to take all available steps to halt unauthorized crypto
The influx of cryptocurrency mining comes on
top of an uptick in buyers looking for a home in Wenatchee and the surrounding
area. Exiles from Seattle and California, both retirees and younger couples,
have been relocating to the area, which has more affordable homes and extensive
outdoor recreation, such as hiking, water sports and skiing in the nearby
Cascade Mountain Range. Last year, Forbes magazine named Wenatchee one of the
25 best places to retire, another factor fueling demand, real-estate agents say.
Home prices in Wenatchee grew 11% in February
compared with a year earlier, while supply remained tight, with the number of
active listings down 19%, according to Wenatchee-based Pacific Appraisal
Associates, which also says there are currently seven homes on the market
priced at over $1 million.
Home building is also on the rise—there were
26 single-family dwelling permits issued through February, more than double the
12 permits issued in the same period of 2017. But developers say they’re
stymied by limited buildable land and a shortage of construction labor.
Real-estate agents say a two-bedroom rental house that went for $600 a month a
couple of years ago is now getting rates around $1,500 a month.
looked and looked,” says Jim Wonn, a retired tech executive who moved to
Wenatchee after buying a lot and building a house last year for $450,000,
moving in in November. Mr. Wonn says he’s heard about the fires caused by
bitcoin-mining computers overloading electric-service wiring, but all the
people he knows who have moved to Wenatchee in the past few years are retirees
or second-home owners who plan to eventually retire there.
Chris Holt, 50, just finished building a new
2,700-square-foot house for $290,000, which he considers a good deal: He now
rents the 1,000-square-foot house where he was living before for $1,400 a
month. Mr. Holt, an automobile dealer, says he made the decision to build and
rent in part because building costs haven’t gone up as fast as rents. Changes
in Wenatchee are happening at “an alarming rate” he says—especially an increase
Still, Ms. Collins, the interior designer,
says traffic conditions are still better in Wenatchee than in Seattle. When she
started her house hunt, she set a $300,000 price point. But when she couldn’t
find much, she doubled it. Even that may not be enough. A couple weekends ago
she looked at a 10,000-square-foot house in Wenatchee, advertised as a castle,
with a saltwater swimming pool and an acre of landscaped property listed for
$1.7985 million, but decided it was too big and old. So the hunt continues.
“I’m just looking for peace,” she says.
Click here for the original article from The Wall Street