Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

42 responses to “Poll: If I had to choose one, I’d rather have…”

  1. sniffy

    Screw the lot, I spend 98% of my time indoors. :)

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  2. Racket

    Really shouldn’t the question be a new house with a small lot vs an old house with a big lot?

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  3. ARDELL

    The comments look more spot on than the poll results so far.

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  4. Ira Sacharoff

    I’d prefer to have a big lot because I like to garden, but I’d also like a house on the lot. I live in a small house on a large lot. There are many things to like about it, but if I were doing it all over again, a slightly smaller lot would be lots easier.

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  5. Blurtman

    We had a house on 10 acres in Michigan. It had a trail in the back of the house that began through stacked cording and meandered through the trees. That was kind of neat. All of the surrounding homes were on 10 acres and we knew all of our neighbors. Michigan is like that. You can be looking at oranges in the produce section and a total stranger can come up to you and begin telling you their life story. One of our neighbors had a tree stand that he would shoot deer from as they licked salt that he had placed on a tree stump in his back yard. That is illegal, BTW. I like privacy and so a large lot is nice. But around here, it is expensive.

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  6. CM

    I live on a 5+ acre lot and now look on disbelief at “normal” city lots… I wish I had 100+ acres!

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  7. ray pepper

    5 Acres and 2000 Sq feet in the 98332..Just doesn’t get any better ANYWHERE!

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  8. Conor MacEvilly

    Was a Bothell listing yesterday with a 11,000 sq ft lot. Looked massive compared to my humble Ballard 3800 lot. If I had to choose…. small house on a big lot.

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  9. Howard

    1800 sqft 3 car garage (we only own one car) on a 3000sqft lot within 3 blocks of downtown Kirkland

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  10. Kary L. Krismer

    By Racket @ 2:

    Really shouldn’t the question be a new house with a small lot vs an old house with a big lot?

    Those do tend to go together, although a lot of old houses are also on small lots.

    One other alternative which doesn’t necessarily cost you the same price increase as a larger lot would be a small lot next to a green space (golf course, etc.). You can have separation from your neighbors without paying taxes on the land which separates you.

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  11. Dave0

    Land goes up in value over the long-term. Improvements go down in value; they require a steady stream of money in maintenance to hold their value, or upgrades to improve their value. So, having a big lot with a small house makes the best sense if you want real estate that actually appreciates over time, with minimal maintenance costs.

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  12. Robroy

    RE: CM @ 6
    ———–I live on a 5+ acre lot and now look on disbelief at “normal” city lots… I wish I had 100+ acres! ————–

    I’m completely with you. I bought a finger of a plateau (12 acres) with the house on it in the photo at the link below. We’ve added a large shed, chicken coop, and will begin construction of our 35×40 garage shop in the next month. Totally secluded. We are living the phrase “I gave up a high standard of living for a high quality of life.

    http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp176/robbbb4/Home.jpg

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  13. Robroy

    By sniffy @ 1:

    Screw the lot, I spend 98% of my time indoors. :)

    That may be because you live in the Seattle area. ;-) Don’t get me wrong, I bicycle commuted there for a couple of decades, but still. Since I moved to Kentucky I constantly kick myself that I stayed around Seattle for so long. I was working in the yard and garden yesterday. I was in mid-January too.

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  14. Blurtman

    When I walk around the synthetic developments with peachy sounding names, and stroll through the McMansions with zero front yard and minimal back yard (advertised as monster backyards), and see absolutely no one outside, a few thoughts come to mind:

    1.) Pod people
    2.) Neutron bomb

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  15. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Blurtman @ 14
    I was showing homes in one of those developments a few months ago. To me, all the houses looked exactly the same. Soaring ceilings! Granite! Bathrooms so large you could sleep a family of five! When we went into another house nearby in the same development (named something like ” Twin Creeks” because there used to be two creeks there before they filled them in to build these monstrosities), my client asked me which one I preferred, and to point out how they were different. As a real estate professional, I have learned that’s it’s not my place to judge other’s preferences. While I find these places absolutely Stepford Wives ghastly( I’d never live in one, unless there were a loaded gun pointed at my head), I pointed out that one kitchen was painted beige and the other grey.
    It was perfectly good farmland and forest not that long ago.

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  16. redmondjp

    By Blurtman @ 14:

    When I walk around the synthetic developments with peachy sounding names, and stroll through the McMansions with zero front yard and minimal back yard (advertised as monster backyards), and see absolutely no one outside, a few thoughts come to mind:

    1.) Pod people
    2.) Neutron bomb

    Even stranger in mid-summer, on a PERFECT, low-humidity 75 degree, bug-free evening, when the McMansions have nice front porch swings and street-side decks off of the upstairs master bedroom. I want to start banging on doors and yelling at the occupants to get the bleep outside (yes, you can take your tablet with you)!

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  17. Blurtman

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 15 – Yes, and not a meant as a personal attack on the profession, but one good thing about the RE crash was a halt in developments. Up where I live, it came a little too late for a few clear cut lots with streets, that became fenced and eerily silent waiting for the recovery. Why clear cut, and then pop in Home Depot trees? Why???

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  18. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Blurtman @ 17
    I would never take an attack on the real estate profession personally, and the fact that the real estate crash slowed development was only one good thing about it. It also resulted in lower house prices, which is also a good thing, unless you bought at the top.

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  19. David Losh

    My first house was small but had a 125 feet of terraced front yard down to the Dead End that lead to Careek Park. It took an enormous amount of time to get it right, and $60K in landscaping.

    My next house was on a 3400 sq foot lot that we immediately graveled, placed stones, and left some garden areas.

    I’ve had a variety of houses since then, but settled on a big house, on a semi private lot. Our backyard is a wetland that in the summer is all foliage. The front of our house has all day Southern exposure and we have one small house to the West of us.

    Light is good, privacy is good, but having the big house, already built, and in place has been great for the kids.

    I will say that we bought this house with a good size lot, and close to outdoor play areas for the kids, and they could really care less. They are the ones that like the video games.

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  20. No Name Guy

    Big lot, small / modest house.

    One can’t grow their own food & fuel without the sunlight – and one needs acres to have enough sunlight.

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  21. David B.

    Neither. Both mean a higher price and more work. I’m just one person and don’t need a mansion or a hobby farm. Give me a cottage or a townhouse on a quiet side street an easy walk or bike ride away from most services and I’ll be happy.

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  22. wreckingbull

    Small home on a big lot. I have not peed indoors for two years now. It is rather liberating.

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  23. Racket

    By Jonness @ 23:

    Is there a better way to go about this?

    Go over and talk to them, and scare the hell out of them about how impossible it will be to build the lot.

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  24. Jonness

    By Racket @ 24:

    By Jonness @ 23:
    Is there a better way to go about this?

    Go over and talk to them, and scare the hell out of them about how impossible it will be to build the lot.

    I thought about that but the well, building site, and septic have already been applied for and approved by the county. Perhaps the next best thing is to hang dead animals around the lot and leave signs of devil worshipping. :)

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  25. ARDELL

    RE: Jonness @ 23

    Make the offer. Show the equity in your home that you will be borrowing from as part of the “proof of funds”. Same as borrowing from 401k isn’t it? and people use 401k account statements as proof of funds all the time. Seriously, you should have first right (practically speaking not legally speaking) so just show how you are gathering the funds.

    Get a preapproval for HELOC, letter from lender that you are qualified for the HELOC.

    Make the offer.

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  26. wreckingbull

    RE: Jonness @ 23 – I would suggest playing Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” at full volume on repeat, whilst playing air guitar in the window, in a naked state. Should lead to a tidy resolution.

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  27. Kary L. Krismer

    By Jonness @ 23:

    I told my RE agent to write an offer for partial cash, and I’ll get the rest through a HELOC (I have more then enough equity in the house). But my agent says writing an offer without proof of funds is next to meaningless, so he doesn’t want to write the offer. So at his advice, I applied for a HELOC last week, and I’m currently waiting for it fund so I can make the offer.

    Last weekend a family came back 3 times and spent a total of about 5 hours on the lot (more than just mildly interested). I feel like I’m risking losing the deal by waiting around for my loan to fund, and my lender is growing tired of me coming in every day and inquiring about the status of the loan.

    Is there a better way to go about this?

    What you’re doing is basically the same as getting an approval letter for a loan, so I would agree with your agent.

    Why is the HELOC taking so long? Have you tried BECU?

    One thing you could do, which I almost hate to mention because it is so risky, is make an offer without a financing contingency. That would show them that you have confidence in your ability to get a loan, and compensate them with your earnest money if you can’t. If you did do that, just make sure the remedy for default is forfeiture of earnest money and not an election of remedies. Again, doing that would be very risky, but I could see that would ease their concerns.

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  28. Kary L. Krismer

    By Jonness @ 25:

    By Racket @ 24:
    By Jonness @ 23:
    Is there a better way to go about this?

    Go over and talk to them, and scare the hell out of them about how impossible it will be to build the lot.

    I thought about that but the well, building site, and septic have already been applied for and approved by the county. Perhaps the next best thing is to hang dead animals around the lot and leave signs of devil worshipping. :)

    You could always become the very messy neighbor, which would deter other bidders. ;-)

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  29. Kary L. Krismer

    By ARDELL @ 26:

    RE: Jonness @ 23 – Make the offer. Show the equity in your home that you will be borrowing from as part of the “proof of funds”. Same as borrowing from 401k isn’t it? and people use 401k account statements as proof of funds all the time. Seriously, you should have first right (practically speaking not legally speaking) so just show how you are gathering the funds.

    The difference is you have a legal right to use a 401k account for certain purposes. You don’t have a legal right to force a HELOC loan from a bank any more than you have a legal right to force a bank to make a conventional loan if you have 20% cash.

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  30. Kary L. Krismer

    By Jonness @ 23:

    Is there a better way to go about this?

    Two more ideas, the both of which is also somewhat risky.

    1. Maybe the seller would carry a contract if the security was the lot and your house?

    2. Check with a portfolio lender, like Washington Federal. They might have a loan program that fits that scenario where both lots would be the collateral.

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  31. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Jonness @ 25
    Hope the other party shows up again. This time make sure there’s some of that yellow crime tape around, and decorate the yard with a few crack pipes and prophylactics.

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  32. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 32 – How about plant some weed on their property, call the sheriff explaining how the owners were just out last weekend doing some gardening, and then buy at the forfeiture sale? ;-)

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  33. David Losh

    RE: Jonness @ 23

    Yeah, forget about it.

    You’ll be ahead of the game no matter what.

    You’re already engaged. Any one, but a bulder, coming along now is behind you.

    Relax.

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  34. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: David Losh @ 34 – You really think this is a first in line situation?

    Until you’re in contract, you’re at risk.

    The better agents right now are having their seller clients sign a withdrawal of counteroffer form, just in case a better offer comes in before the buyer accepts a counter.

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  35. David Losh

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 35

    He might as well relax, and ride it out until he can get in position.

    Sure the agent could get him in position, and I gave that a thought for a half a minute, but then he would be showing his hand.

    What he’s doing is fine, he has a plan, it will either work, or it won’t.

    His only competition, from what I see, will be another all cash offer. The family? Might bid more, but they will also need funding, unless they have cash, right now.

    He’s ahead of the curve by getting his ducks in a row.

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  36. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: David Losh @ 36 – That would be all well and good except one thing. This property is right next door to his. Losing it has more significance than if he were just looking for a piece of waterfront property somewhere.

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  37. Jonness

    OK you guys. Thanks for all the good advice. I planted a bunch of weed on the property today. I’ll give the police a call tomorrow.

    Not really!

    From what you guys are saying, I think I’m going to have to be patient until I can get the proof of funding of the HELOC.

    Kary is right that the land is worth more to me than it is to somebody else. I can take down whatever trees I want to bring sun into my adjacent lot, adjust lot lines if necessary, build to my liking, do a share-well, or whatever else suits me. Not that I’ll overpay for the property. But there is additional value in living next to the lot you want to buy.

    For all you guys curious as to why I have come off the fence and I’m buying RE. I still think it’s a great time to be saving up a down payment as opposed to buying. It’s just that I did that for so long that things eventually became affordable to me. Also I own another piece of land outright that I will sell to pay off the HELOC.

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  38. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Jonness @ 38 – I wasn’t saying it was more valuable to you, although it may be. The word I used was “significance”

    You’re not out looking for land, but there’s land adjacent to what you already own that you would like to own. The property may be more valuable to someone else who wants to build a house and live on the water. But if you and they both make an offer on the property, it will probably bother you more than them to lose out. That’s because you own the adjoining land. Unless the lot on the other side also opens up, you’ll likely not have that same opportunity again. The other buyer though will be able to buy other pieces of waterfront.

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  39. David Losh

    RE: Jonness @ 38

    Why not plege the land now? Why not a contigent offer with the Heloc as a back up if you’re really concerned?

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  40. Kary L. Krismer

    By David Losh @ 40:

    RE: Jonness @ 38

    Why not plege the land now? Why not a contigent offer with the Heloc as a back up if you’re really concerned?

    Why talk in gibberish?

    Stated differently, please translate that into English.

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  41. Robroy

    By wreckingbull @ 22:

    Small home on a big lot. I have not peed indoors for two years now. It is rather liberating.

    Haha! I didn’t want to bring that up, but yes. :-)

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