Archive for June, 2008 —

End of Spring Update

Well, it’s been about two months since I decided to back out of a not-quite-perfect property, and in the interim, the market seems to have come to a complete stop. I haven’t seen anything close to a good fit, and although I swung away from the desire to do extensive remodeling or building after the last property, I am now swinging back towards it, considering that 99% of houses that I see come on the market are painfully boring craftsman homes or super-old brick Tudors or Cape Cods.

I’m not feeling too optimistic right now, but on the bright side, window-shopping for houses is a lot of fun and I’d hate to have already picked one out only to find a better one come on the market as the summer selling season kicked in.

Continuing to search and wait…


While puttering around the neighborhood today, I received the following text-message from my agent:

“Off-market opportunity with commanding view. Can u meet in 45 mins?”

I called him back to confirm my availability and get a quick overview of what we were going to be looking at. Apparently, it’s an estate sale, hasn’t been lived in in a couple of years, needs quite a bit of work, but sits on a large lot with a jawdropping view of Puget Sound. It is currently being prepared for market, but the sellers (four beneficiaries) have not signed on with an agent yet or communicated a price.

Upon hanging up with my agent, I turned to my girlfriend and said “I have a good feeling about this.”

Love at first sight

45 minutes later, we met my agent several blocks from the property and drove over in one car. Upon arriving, the first thing that struck me is that the house is only a few steps away from one of the nicest parks in Seattle. I don’t spend a whole lot of time in parks, but it’s certainly a nice amenity to have at your doorstep.

The house itself — from the front — was quaint in its own way but unremarkable. Built in the early ’50s, it was conceived in what I would consider an architectural dead spot: right between the brick Tudors of the ’30s and ’40s and the wonderful mid-century moderns of the late ’50s and ’60s. It has a carport instead of a garage, sits very low to the ground, and is covered in a combination of old-growth wood and period-popular stone siding.

Entering the house exposed right away both the greatest and worst things about it.

On the great side, the view is about as spectacular as I’ve ever seen in Seattle. It’s a full 180 degree Puget Sound view spanning from Alki beach to the south all the way past the north point of Bainbridge Island to the north. Almost as amazing as the view itself is the fact that the backyard drops right off a 300 foot cliff so no one can ever block your view. Additionally, the house is completely separated from its neighboring structures on both sides by beautiful foliage.

The view facing west before sunset. Apparently, bald eagles perch on the tree to the left.

On the bad side, however, the layout of the interior squeezes four levels into two stories, one of which is a daylight basement. Essentially, there is the daylight basement, then two bedrooms a half floor up, then the main floor another half floor up, and then two more bedrooms another half floor up. Because of all the half floors and the staircase that connects them — right down the middle of the house — the great room and other areas are chopped up a lot smaller than they could be. Without that staircase and one of the levels, the great room could be 2-3x as roomy and open. Additionally, although the house is in fine shape, it hasn’t been updated much at all since it was built.

With the above and about 100 other considerations and details in mind, this house is the first house I’ve seen which feels unconditionally like a place I could live in for the rest of my life. Much better than the last house and also the first house.

Meeting the seller

While at the house, I got to meet the seller. He is one of the four beneficiaries of the estate and the one officially handling the sale of the house. He’s an attorney (as were his parents and as are two of his siblings!) and a really down-to-earth guy. I asked him for some historical stories about the house and he told me that he had lived there from age 5 or 6 all the way up until college. He also showed me a great Sony reel-to-reel tape player and phonograph from 1960 which still sits in the living room. I told him if I ended up buying the house, I wanted to showcase that stuff in the new living room.

In talking to the seller, I could tell this had been a special house to a lot of people and it was a tough decision for the family to sell at all.

Not a question of if, but how

After we left the house and my girlfriend and I discussed it for a few minutes, the question wasn’t if I would make a bid, but instead how and for how much. The seller hadn’t signed on with a selling agent yet and was still auditioning several of them, so there was still a possible opportunity to save him some sell-side commission and thus get the house at a lower price.

I’ll be writing up an offer of some sort tomorrow. So psyched.