Sunday, April 12, 2009

House Hunting

It has been nearly six years since I hunted for a new home. Last time, the market was crazy fast. Houses were going for 20% over their value on the same day that they went on the market. Bidding wars knocked me out of six houses before I was lucky enough to land here. I love this house. It has spoiled me for future houses. The doneness of it has no connection to the constant upgrading and remodeling of my childhood home. I spend my weekends in the garden, not in the crawl space.

It all started with this little 1911 house down the street. It's very pretty, it's on the perfect lot, and none of the infrastructure has been up dated in my life time. Wiring, plumbing, sewer, foundation, bones, roof... they're all needing work to support the 21st century.

In order to see the house, we engaged Wendy, Quincy's amazing realtor. She's fantastic. Wendy brings a kind of honest energy to the search that I wouldn't expect from someone working on commission. Yesterday, she drove from Brier to Normandy Beach to show us a few houses.

Before heading to the deep south, we headed back east to a little bump off I90 named Preston. It's 20 miles outside of downtown (8 from Issaquah). The house blew our mind-- beautifully updated in every way. The lot was odd, with a creek running through it and gently sloped in every angle, but the owners have 10 acres and might be interested in changing the boundaries. But, it was far. And, it up a wash-out prone never-plowed road that would be impossible to traverse in the deep winter. Sigh. Back to the city we drove.

Here's what we saw with Wendy:

This updated house held a lot of promise. The back yard was in bad condition, but with a few grand in retaining wall/drainage we could get a big practice field. The neighbors had a huge garden. But, there were invasive weeds everywhere (think blackberries on steroids), it needed a new roof, it was priced for a view (but it didn't have one), and there was an unfinished bathroom off the bedroom.

This house had substantial yardage. There were flowering trees everywhere, and a few 200' cedars (that maybe should be cut down). No view, and the lot was heavily shaded by all those beautiful trees. The basement was recently remodeled, but they split up the space oddly and left us imagining opening it all back up again. For every interesting plus (outside fireplace) there seemed to be a strange minus (tiny entryway/sitting room).

We drove up some really steep hills into Seola Beach, nearly killing my car (so much for never having seen the overheating predicted by the mechanic). This house was pretty, but no usable yard. We started thinking that a view might not be possible with a yard. Then we remembered that views weren't on either of our lists.

Or maybe it was at this house that we remembered the view thing. Who knows, they all blended together. The concrete block house listing at 559k was incredible -- big lot, hideous unmaintained unupdated house, HUGE view. I mean, HUGE view.

Either way, by the end of the day, we drove out of Burien in my overheated Subaru tired and hungry. We made gluten-free pierogi and steamed broccoli. We watched the fantastic movie "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" and ate popcorn. Next week, less hunting, more house.

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