You deserve (well, I deserve, and you can read along if you want) a longer update about our recent Seattle move.
Background: Last September the house I’d been renting out in Houston became vacant (tenant moved for a new job) and rather than seek out a new tenant, we decided to take advantage of great market conditions and sell. For this I enlisted my awesome friend and Realtor Holly Delmonico, who helped me get the house on the market and sold in a weekend. I never even had to leave Washington.
I started stalking Redfin for open houses in West and South Seattle, and along the way we met our Washington Realtor Moose Math (great name, right?) who picked up right away on what Josh and I were looking for and impressed us with his knowledge of and personal connection to the neighborhood we were interested in. Like any home search, we had a few things going on in our favor and some challenges to overcomes (I’m going to talk about money here, because in general I’m in favor of more financial transparency and demystifying the process):
- Selling the Houston house netted us about $100k, a solid downpayment. It sold for $50k above what I paid for it in 2009, plus I got my initial downpayment back. This plus our two salaries put us in the range of a ~$350k loan approval with a 20% downpayment.
- Our current rental had gone month-to-month, so we were not in a race against a contract renewal. We could afford to take some time to find the right house for us.
- Mortgage interest rates have been pretty good lately — so at the top of our price range, we’d be paying the same amount each month as our rental (but for presumably a much nicer space), and anything less than that would reduce our monthly housing bill.
- Seattle is experiencing record low home inventory. The house we wanted was certainly available in our price range and desired neighborhood, but people aren’t selling. And, we were looking during the winter “off season” which further limited what was on the market.
- In theory, and in most parts of the country, $350k is *more than enough* for a starter home, a nice one even. On the other hand, Seattle is growing and so is housing demand. Add in limited inventory and you get high starting prices and little room for negotiation. Many of the houses we really liked were listed at $400k+, others were listed for less but sold for thousands of dollars over asking price.
- Despite our flexible timeline, we started getting antsy in November. Josh wanted to put the search on pause until after a big work project and the wedding. I wanted to speed up our search for those same reasons. We looked at the possibility of a different temporary rental, but were having trouble finding anything cat-friendly.
- Halfway through the process, I decided to leave my job.
We figured surely that last bullet point was a search killer (and were okay with that decision), but just for the hell of it we went back to see what we could get approved for on Josh’s employment alone. They came back with pre-approval for $250k. So, ok, with a 20% downpayment ($50k) that A. still leaves us some money from the Houston house sale as a “Mary buffer” while I’m unemployed and B. cuts our monthly housing expenses by half ($1,100 vs $1,900).
BUT WAIT. Most everything in that range is going to be a townhouse or a condo, and those come with monthly HOA fees ($300-$500 in many cases) that bump the monthly expense back up closer to what we were paying before. But, there is an adorable, tiny house right in the heart of Hillman City, just a few doors down from another house we looked at last fall (and were outbid on) — so we went to take a look and ***fast forward a bunch**** here we are today, thrilled with our new digs.
Ok, enough about finances. And moving was traumatic, I’m not ready to relive that just yet. Instead, let me tell you some things I love about my neighborhood!
- Tin Umbrella — this coffee shop is in walking distance (just like my Houston house!) and roasts their own beans on Fridays. The owner, Joya, has done a lot to promote community in Hillman City including applying and gaining approval for a neighborhood parklet.
- Buy Nothing Group — this is a hyper-local Facebook group where people post offers (things you have to give) and asks (things you need), in an effort to build community and promote a culture of giving. Trades, bartering not allowed, but gratitude and re-gifting encouraged (there’s a jigsaw puzzle making the rounds!). It sounds a bit like something out of Portlandia but I have to say it is SO FUN to give things that you are not using or you do not need to people who can put them to good use. So far I have gifted a vacuum and a turntable and have been gifted wooden pallets and a bookshelf. It is also a great way to meet neighbors.
- Spinnaker Bay Brewery — a woman owned and operated brewery with rotating events and food trucks that park outside. In walking distance. I mean: Come. On.
- Hillman City Collaboratory — this should be #1 really. Founded in 2013, this is a co-working space and “social change incubator” that supports spaces and programs for local children and families, including those in need. Some groups that use the space include Families of Color Seattle, “Chef T” who teaches cooking classes on the weekends, and to my sincere delight, the Rainier Valley Corps (I have a huge non-profit crush on Vu and never miss his weekly blog). While I’m learning to code I’ll likely sign up for the co-working space a few days each week to meet cool people and have a space to go. This is such a great way to stay connected to non-profit and social justice work, even as I change my main career focus. I’m so excited to get involved.
Lest I lead you to believe that all is wine and roses, here are some things that have not been so great about our new space (and a plug for home warranties):
- Our internet DSL service that was supposed to be transferred last Saturday has been indefinitely delayed while we *sign and physically mail in a paper contract* (yes, really)
- Thursday nights are apparently karaoke nights at the dance club next door. Also, there is a dance club… next door. I refuse to be that neighbor who is like “I just moved here everyone cater to meeeeee” so I know this is something we are just going to have to get used to. Also, maybe we can invest in a white noise machine…
- We’re having to make some sacrifices and get creative about living in a smaller space. Our bed doesn’t fit without being pushed into a corner, so one of us gets delegated to the wall spot. (We did get a bonus half bath squeezed into our small space, so I’m happy about that!)
- Random things in the house aren’t working, despite a very thorough inspection process. The dishwasher isn’t draining, and the shower isn’t getting hot water. Tepid water, yes. Hot, no. Luckily, we signed up for a home warranty (and you should too), and they were happy to take care of the dishwasher. The shower, less so, but I think it will work out. It turns out that I’m willing to pay a shockingly large amount of money to have hot showers again.
So there you have it! Come visit and we can go to all these places together. 😀
We now return to your regularly scheduled blog content…