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.

49 responses to “Poll: You want to buy a home but can’t afford one around Seattle, so you…”

  1. Matt the Engineer

    Definitely not B. Here’s a cost comparison I ran years ago for someone that lived very far from his work. It’s an extreme example, leading to $500k wasted over a 30 year mortgage along with 24% of his waking, non-working life. Which leads me to:

    Option E: Rent a home so close to work you can walk and sell the car. Save enough money that over time you’ll be able to buy a small home there, then later your dream home. This home is expensive, but only when you ignore the money and life you saved by not commuting. And when it’s time to retire and move to a smaller place you can get much of that money back.

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  2. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Matt the Engineer @ 1 – Yes that is an extreme example (living 100 miles away from work). I remember when gas prices were peaking a news story of someone commuting from the Bellingham area. That’s just crazy, IMHO.

    Living outside the city does have benefits though, and you fortunately in the Seattle area can get still those benefits in places much closer than 100 miles. Stated differently, you could have two identical houses, one in Seattle and one maybe outside Fall City, and some people would be willing to pay more for the one near Fall City.

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  3. Ira Sacharoff

    You don’t need to go to Sultan or Puyallup to find houses that are considerably less expensive.
    A lot of us live in our own little worlds, so, because we live in Ravenna or Bellevue, we think that houses around Seattle cost 600,000 dollars. But the fact remains that you can buy a house within 20 minutes of downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue for half of what it costs to buy a house in Ravenna or Bellevue.
    Yes, these are neighborhoods/towns that are perceived as ghettos, and indeed there are no Whole Foods or gluten free bakeries nearby, sidewalks may be lacking, nearby homes may be on the run down side, the schools may absolutely suck, and the Microsoft Connector may have no stops nearby,but these places do exist.
    So, if you want to buy a home but can’t afford to buy one around Seattle, including places like Skyway or Burien, then maybe a bit of re-examining priorities is in order. Either accept that there’s nothing wrong with renting, or find a different career that pays more money. Slowly saving is a wonderful thing, everybody should save. But home prices tend to appreciate over the long haul. So if you’ve slowly built up a little nest egg over ten years, it may still be the case that you can’t afford to buy a home around Seattle.

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  4. softwarengineer

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 3

    Yes Ira

    I went to a family get together with cousins from the midwest last Saturday and one of my cousins works in Seattle [he lives in a Seattle home] in insurance. I brought up the fact that longterm health care insurance [an acceptable nursing home] at about $3000/yr purchased 30 years before you needed it [about age 40] would fund just “1″ year at a good $100K/yr nursing home and the best possible hope is “die fast” [or mass up a lot more than just a Seattle home that might sell]. He totally agreed with me.

    I also told him that if you’re married you’ll need $200K/yr [two people] for acceptable nursing home access. He agreed with me on that point too.

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  5. Scotsman

    Whine, whine! Gee, Tim- you didn’t include MY option or the choice of “other.” I’d buy a boat and live on it on Lake Union. Forty foot Cruise-A-Home, older tri-cabin cruiser, etc. (about 800 square feet including the decks) for $10K, moorage at $500/mo or less, get either a view of downtown or a funky ship canal neighborhood with interesting people. And on weekends you can untie and cruise the lakes or Puget Sound. Plus you’ll end up owning the boat in a few years and the moorage is less than property taxes….

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  6. Tim Deerhawke

    In poker, they say raise or fold but never chase. If you did not buy during the downturn, you will probably be scrimping and saving as hard as you can but still end up going backwards in this market.

    On the other hand, if you give up on Ravenna or Capitol Hill, North Delridge is 10 minutes from downtown, has great parks and is 5 minutes from a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and everything you could want at the Junction. If you want hipper and a bit grungier and more industrial, look at Georgetown. These two neighborhoods are going to be the next ones to go. Kind of like the CD in 2001. Cheap now, but in a few years, you will wish you had bought there.

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  7. Erik

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 3
    Thanks for keeping it real. I got a beating when I said the same thing on here and you get applauded…maybe I need to work on how I word things. I have come to a similar conclusion after suffering in a hood (which will remain anonymous) for 6 years. You will not find me in a bad area again unless I am picking up a sweaty rent check. I learned my lesson the hard way. Condos are generally way cheaper than houses. At my last condo, I would hangout with neighbors on weekends, go to happy hour with them, etc. Maybe I just got lucky, but my neighbors were great, and I attribute that to living in a nice area around well adjusted people. I think there is a lot of opportunity in condos if you can find one like that espalande condo you helped your client get. If I get a job in the area, I am gonna try to find a condo with lots of hoa problems for pennies on the dollar.

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  8. wreckingbull

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 2 – There seems to be a common dogma that the attractive qualities of Seattle do not exist in other smaller and less expensive Western Washington cities. Not unlike the classic New Yorker cover art of the view west. I understand this, as I used to think this way until prices drove me elsewhere. Could not be happier.

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  9. BacktoBasic

    If you can’t afford to buy then rent. The only attaction for me to buy is the tax incentive. The actually PE of Seattle housing (PE~30) is much worse than S&P500. If the interest increase to 6 to 7% level, the housing appreciation will be zero.

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  10. Erik

    RE: wreckingbull @ 8
    I am guessing that the quantity of RAM in your computer is more important to you than the quality of the members of your community. This is the only way I can understand how you computer folk are not affected by your surroundings. Your computer shows the same thing no matter where you live. If you like to hangout with members of the community, party and go out, trust me, it makes a huge difference where you live. I moved to Fremont because it is fun. I can tell you Fremont is way better than the place I use to live for fun. My friends visit me to go out. When I lived in the hood, my friends made fun of me and told me they liked hanging out, but didn’t like the city I lived in because it was not as fun.

    If you want to juice prunes, watch tv, garden, then yes, I imagine it really doesn’t matter where you live.

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  11. goblue72

    RE: Matt the Engineer @ 1 – Couldn’t agree more. Which is why forward-thinking public policy experts are moving towards a “Housing + Transportation Costs” ratio to more accurately calculate the fully-loaded cost burden of living in a particular home. An initial example at the regional scale – http://htaindex.cnt.org/

    My personal example is illustrative. I own a SFR in Ravenna/Bryant. Which given the costs of owning in Ravenna, means my cost of ownership is high relative to other neighborhoods in Seattle or the surrounding suburbs. (I could save a lot by moving to Bitter Lake for example.) But, since my wife and I both work downtown, we take an express bus to work, which picks up one block from our house – which also avoids downtown parking costs. Likewise, we can get all our weekly household needs (groceries, drug store, etc.) by walking 10 minutes to the U-Village mall. This has allowed us live without a car at all – supplementing bus use with biking as well as Zipcar (there’s a Zipcar pod 3 blocks away) or with Car2Go (there always a Car2Go a short walk away.) We’ve saved several hundred dollars a month this way, even after Zipcar/Car2Go useage. (no gas, no car insurance, no car repairs, no car loan, etc)

    However, the trend is also true that for many major cities (like Seattle) for a lot of households, its next to impossible to play “catch up.” The Great Hoovering of Wealth by the 1% has meant completely stagnated (or falling in real dollar terms) of the incomes of the average middle class household. Even with renting and scrimping, it can be pretty difficult to save enough month to month to keep up with home price increases, at least within Seattle proper in many neighborhoods. Only way we were able to do it is we moved here from California, where our combined incomes were higher and where our modest homebuying nest egg that wasn’t large enough to buy in the Bay Area was sufficient to buy in Seattle. An equivalent house to our Ravenna home, in a similar type neighborhood would have cost 3 times as much in the Bay Area. (where the median priced home in SF is now nearly $1 million.)

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  12. mike

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 3 – Pshaw, you can find some perfectly nice 70 year old fixers for low $500′s…

    Poll should have had an option “I already got mine, screw the rest of y’all”

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  13. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Erik @ 7
    I think you’re not exactly getting what I intended. Everybody’s got different circumstances. I think a lot of the “bad” neighborhoods in the Seattle area are more boring than they are dangerous, there really aren’t that many places that are unsafe or especially high crime.
    I went to a microbrewery/ taproom in Hillman City the other day, a neighborhood perceived as “The ‘Hood” between Columbia City and Rainier Beach. I wouldn’t want to live there because I like living in the boonies among the fossils( geezers). Just saying that for people who don’t care about school districts ,or hipness ,or finding people just like them, there are other places to look locally. You don’t have to go to Puyallup.

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  14. ray pepper

    RE: Erik @ 7

    Buy a CONDO?…Rule # 1..Never BUY a condo..ONLY rent a Condo…# 2..thinking of buying a Condo?…refer to Rule # 1…………

    I would rather be the tail end of a human centipede then get STUCK in any mutual partnership with vast numbers of people I do NOT know, stuck with ever increasing dues, assessments, rules, noisy owner/neighbors, HOA meetings, etc…It goes on and on. The worst possible investment…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3ScVcD3ExA

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  15. Erik

    RE: ray pepper @ 14
    I remember having this exact conversation with you over 2 years ago and you said the same thing. You are much more successful than me, so I am sure you have a great point. I am going to have to pull out my ace out. I invested about $20k into this condo and walked away with $126k of unadulterated cash in 2 years. I joined the hoa and got them to fix their problems and bounced. Maybe you missed me bragging about my deal repeatedly, so I will post a link again. Ardell got me 5 offers of full price or better in 5 days.

    http://www.redfin.com/WA/Kirkland/12003-100th-Ave-NE-98034/unit-203/home/15329

    I got this place for $92.7k as a foreclosure partially because the condo had a violation with the HOA. I violated more. Ardell was able to get me out of the whole thing. I couldn’t take the offer for $245k, so I took the $233k offer because of those problems.

    You are going from having money to rich or you are going from rich to richer. I am just trying to keep food of the table and pay off my bar tab in a timely manner, so I didn’t have the capital or borrowing power to flip a house. I tried to flip a house in North Everett years ago and failed miserably. I was highly successful on the condo. I had issues with the HOA, but I remained calm and wormed out of them. At the end Ardell was able to deal with those issues and sell because she is a wizard.

    It is hard for me to have an extremely successful experience remodeling a condo and not want to do it again. I have to live in the places I remodel because I cannot afford 2 homes. I asked tim to post my project on here because I have lots of good documentation, but he won’t. Remodeling condos can be a very good idea if you can get the hoa to improve the grounds. Maybe in the future I will have enough money to remodel a house, but if you are strapped for cash, remodeling a condo isn’t such a bad idea.

    I tried to get Tim to post my story on this site, but he wouldn’t maybe because he doesn’t believe in flipping condos. Not really sure why. I also mad him mad a few times. :-/

    So after I multiplied my net worth by 100, you still think fixing up condos and selling them for profit is a poor idea? Maybe you had the opposite experience?

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  16. ray pepper

    You made money GREAT! I still think they are CRAP! I don’t make investments with large numbers of people who all have different aspirations!

    I think buying ANYTHING and selling for a profit is great. My brother owns the Gold and Silver Exchange in Texas and he does that crap everyday…He doesn’t like to deal with homes or cars because of all the people who want a slice of the pie…So I applaud him too…

    Good Luck and Keep Flipping but to me they are ALL CRAP!

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  17. Erik

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 13
    I only trash on people for being old because the old people on this site trashed on me for not being old. I like old most of you old people. Especially if they like to drink beer and have a good time still like yourself.
    I agree that pretty much everywhere in seattle is decent these days. It is expensive though. Once you get outside Seattle, you run into trouble.

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  18. Erik

    RE: ray pepper @ 16
    I also think that buying anything and selling it for a profit is a great. My next one may be a house and I may actually hire people to do the work for me like you do. I want to be at your level, I am just not there yet. Someday I will be though. If I was a pro like you, I imagine I would not want the risk of remodeling a condo either. I have done 2 total. You have done many more, so you have much more exposure and therefore more risk. Not sure flipping condos successfully is a repeatable process. Ira told me I got lucky and I he may be right.

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  19. mike

    RE: Erik @ 17 – People trash on you for your posts showing naivety and arrogance, which is somewhat correlated with youth.

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  20. Christian Wathne

    there needs to be a bunch more options here; one of them being “accept less sq ft”. Thats what I did when my office moved to the financial district of downtown. My home is half the size but I’m twice as happy.

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  21. wreckingbull

    By Erik @ 15:

    RE: ray pepper @ 14

    It is hard for me to have an extremely successful experience remodeling a condo and not want to do it again.

    This is where your lack of smarts really comes shining through. Sort of like the guy that wins big from a scratch-off lotto card, only to piss away the earnings with repeated trips to the 7-11 buying more. Buy hey, don’t let any of the experienced investors here stop you.

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  22. Kary L. Krismer

    By ray pepper @ 14:

    RE: Erik @ 7

    Buy a CONDO?…Rule # 1..Never BUY a condo..ONLY rent a Condo…# 2..thinking of buying a Condo?…refer to Rule # 1…………

    I would rather be the tail end of a human centipede then get STUCK in any mutual partnership with vast numbers of people I do NOT know, stuck with ever increasing dues, assessments, rules, noisy owner/neighbors, HOA meetings, etc

    Condos clearly have more risks, but the advice to never buy a condo makes about as much sense as your advise to back out of an offer once you learn there are multiple offers. Sometimes condos do make sense for people.

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 13:

    RE: Erik @ 7 – I think you’re not exactly getting what I intended. Everybody’s got different circumstances. I think a lot of the “bad” neighborhoods in the Seattle area are more boring than they are dangerous, there really aren’t that many places that are unsafe or especially high crime.

    Skyway is actually rather safe, both for person and property. When I lived there I used to say that the bad people lived in even worse neighborhoods, and went to better neighborhoods to commit crimes. ;-)

    By BacktoBasic @ 9:

    If you can’t afford to buy then rent. The only attaction for me to buy is the tax incentive.

    The tax incentive has to be one of the worst reasons to buy a house–unless you mean the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion on gain when you sell. Being able to deduct interest and taxes isn’t that great of a deal.

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  23. ray pepper

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 22 – no no no Kary, there you go again. Twisting what I said. If an offer is already submitted, and you get asked for highest and best, you do not engage. Buyers, will never be happy if they get the home. They will question if they paid too much and if they dont get it they are upset as well. Walk away from multiple offer scenarios. That is no way to buy a home and your leverage is out the window. Buyers must always “hold the deck” and never let the seller control the transaction. Engaging in multiple offer scenarios is not in the best interest of the Buyer. There will ALWAYS be another home. But, if your offer is already submitted, let it stand. No changes and tell your Agent I could care less if there are other offers. Mine was in first and please remind seller of that fact and Im perfectly comfortable with my offer and my ability to close as outlined in the offer they received. If the Agent wants more to bring to the table other then your offer was 1st, tell Agent to advise seller, your grandmother broke her ankle, child is sick and full of acne, uncle was on flight 370, or you have gout. Virtually any sob story.

    I will say it again. People who buy Condos are fools. You Rent Condos! Never buy. However, Kary you are correct on one point. Yes, I do see a time to buy a condo. Kind of like Eric did. If you can sell it the next day for a profit then Im all in! Other then that pure Crap as an investment.

    Eric. One more gift to you. ADVICE. Trustee Sales. Yes, the MLS has periodic good deals but educate yourself about weekly Trustee Sales. When you learn the game, and become good, you too will get paid to walk-away or may even pick up a GEM or 2 every year or so.

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  24. ray pepper

    oh one more thing Buyers. If you absolutely MUST have a particular home go Directly to the Listing Agent and let them refer you to an Agent in ” their” office. One of the dirty little secrets of real estate and the pressure Brokerages are under for $$$ . This goes without saying for investors but sometime the “little guy” is never told the truth.

    So Buyers in 2014 should you employ no Buyers Agent to help you look for a home and only call the name on the sign? Well, I hope this isnt the first time you heard this but…Hell Yes!!!

    Your Golden Carrot agent is not there for you Buyers. I assure you that. Take away their 3% and offer them 1% and see how much love they have for you!

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  25. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: ray pepper @ 23 – I’m pretty sure you previously said the existing offer should be withdrawn, but it’s not an important enough point to bother looking up.

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  26. Kary L. Krismer

    By ray pepper @ 24:

    oh one more thing Buyers. If you absolutely MUST have a particular home go Directly to the Listing Agent and let them refer you to an Agent in ” their” office. One of the dirty little secrets of real estate and the pressure Brokerages are under for $$$ .

    Some brokerages are under pressure for $$$, but I really don’t see that being a huge factor for the listing agent. They’re more likely to refer just because they personally like someone in their office.

    I’m surprised you didn’t plug the rebate model. As a listing agent that’s what I typically do if I have a buyer interested in my listing who doesn’t have an agent.

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  27. ray pepper

    Plug the rebate model? nah…The truth eventually finds its way to the masses..Just takes time…Or Chris Nye said it quite well as owner of MLS4Owners ” what we built is not for our generation, its for our kids”…it went something like that.

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  28. Craig Blackmon

    Power to the People, Ray! Viva la Revolucion!

    Kary, keep those referrals coming! ;-)

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  29. ARDELL

    RE: Erik @ 18

    You could get lucky again. South Park all cash if no job. Remodel while the 14th Street bridge project is completing. Possibly stay 2 years again as principal residence. When they finish the bridge I think it will be a 30 min. bike ride to Downtown. Couple that with Ray’s getting one of those at auction. Just saw one go for $92k and re-sell at $207k. Doesn’t fit your “Fremont” lifestyle, but it’s a “play it again Sam” if there is one. But if you tied into a 12 month lease in Fremont, then you’ll have to wait it out.

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  30. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: ARDELL @ 29 – He should probably consult a tax adviser on that. I’m not sure how many times he could repeat that before the IRS might consider it a business and tax it full boat (no capital gains rate either). Maybe the residence exclusion trumps that, but he should make sure.

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  31. Matt the Engineer

    By goblue72 @ 11:

    Even with renting and scrimping, it can be pretty difficult to save enough month to month to keep up with home price increases, at least within Seattle proper in many neighborhoods.

    I’d like to quibble with this point. If there are, say, 300,000 homes in Seattle then 300,000 households can afford to live there, whatever the 1% does. If everyone’s paycheck drops, then home prices go down but generally the same people live in the same houses.

    It’s absolutely true that far more wealth has gone to the 1% recently, and our system is too broken to build up a middle class. But I’m not convinced that affects what type of house the average person can afford.

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  32. ARDELL

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30

    I expect the tax advisor won’t know either as it is a risk and not a certainty either way. Knowing Erik as I do I think he is well aware of the risk involved, since we discussed it many, many times. :)

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  33. whatsmyname

    RE: Matt the Engineer @ 31
    I’d like to build off your post a little bit to also incorporate the demand side effect. Census information indicates that there really were 300,000 housing units in Seattle in 2012 (OK, a little more at 308,000). Also there were about 300,000 households (OK, a little less at 285,000). But there is always going to be some transition, and those are good round numbers.

    In addition, stats show about half of Seattle’s housing units are multifamily, so that brings SFR’s down to about 150,000. Next, Seattle has just slightly fewer homeowners than renters. However, this will be skewed to multifamily, so let’s assume 75% owner occupied for 112,500 possible SFR’s. Still, most folks on the Bubble want to be north of I-90. Again, it’s a swag, but let’s suppose that only a third of Seattle houses are in South Seattle. This leaves about 75,000 potential houses (including that Broadmoor house that I can’t have plus all the houses on busy streets and those other things people here don’t like).

    Now, there are about 1.35MM households in metro Seattle according to wikipedia. “Desirable” Seattle (including houses on busy streets) can house about 6% of that number -in owner occupied SFR’s anyway. There is a fair chunk of that other 94% that would prefer to live in their own north Seattle SFR over other metro choices. And over 50% of them are qualified to own somewhere. Absent a mass panic, that is going to mean continued competitive pressure.

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  34. ARDELL

    RE: whatsmyname @ 33

    The biggest problem in Seattle is they have almost no reasonably affordable housing with at least 3 bedrooms on the same level…and they don’t seem to care. Everything they are building that is $550,000 or less puts two flights of stairs between the parents and their children. It’s as if they really do not want people with children to live in Seattle unless they make $250,000 a year.

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  35. whatsmyname

    RE: ARDELL @ 34 – Try to think of it as they really want people with children in Seattle to make $250,000 a year. Doesn’t that sound more caring and supportive?

    I almost forgot; choice “saving for years”, and choice “accept that you’ll just keep renting”, seem like two sides of the same coin – and it’s 74% of the people here.

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  36. mike

    RE: ARDELL @ 34 – Only a small % of the homes in Seattle are new, and finding an older home with 3 on the main is fairly easy. To me this seems like a situation where builders are putting in new homes in popular areas with land constraints – they could choose to build new, wide homes in Delridge and other low land cost areas, but would they sell? Would a couple with 2 kids decide to forgo a more family friendly neighborhood with ‘skinny’ homes just to get 3 on 1? If demand were there, we’d probably see more affordable infill in the lower cost hoods.

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  37. SaffyThePook

    By ARDELL @ 34:

    RE: whatsmyname @ 33

    The biggest problem in Seattle is they have almost no reasonably affordable housing with at least 3 bedrooms on the same level…and they don’t seem to care. Everything they are building that is $550,000 or less puts two flights of stairs between the parents and their children. It’s as if they really do not want people with children to live in Seattle unless they make $250,000 a year.

    This may be a function of the demand for more rooms coming up against the reality of small lot zoning. If the footprint is small, you gotta go up.

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  38. ARDELL

    RE: SaffyThePook @ 37

    The “tall and skinnies” work fairly well even when there are not 3 bedrooms on one level, as they only go up 2 vs 3 stories usually. Those are the ones built on a 2,500 sf “half lot” where they took a 50 x 100 and split it right down the middle as two 25 by 100s. Unfortunately they stopped allowing that in favor of the tiny footprint attached townhomes…and so the “tall and skinnies” became a very limited commodity. :( I say bring back the tall and skinnies.

    They go back deeper as to structure to bring them in at roughly 1,700 sf. with a small yard. But clearly better than the mass of 1,100 to 1,200 sf townhomes with land of 1,800sf or less vs 2,500sf of land space.

    Not everyone can afford a more standard 4,000 to 5,000 sf lot unless the house on it is a money pit. Young families may be able to afford those…but not afford the upkeep and replacement cost of aging pipes and systems.

    It’s not so much an issue of wanting newer as it is not being able to afford the improvements needed on a home built in the 20s.

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  39. Mike2

    Wife and I moved here from Midwest/East Coast backgrounds and we found that the 3br on a single floor was certainly the exception in North Seattle SFR. I would imagine that at best half of the homes with 3br+ have 3 on the same floor, and a shocking number had a br on each of three floors, which I guess means you can drop your gym membership at least. There are some bigger older homes, but it seems Seattle just developed at the unfortunate time when there were a lot of post-war “shacks” that got built with ~900sqft above ground and 2brs up, with maybe another 700sqft and a br in the basement. Other than having a yard, those small houses don’t seem to offer as compelling improvement over renting as 3br on one floor would.

    The second thing that struck us was how the majority (other than Bellevue and parts of Kirkland/Mercer Island really) of the suburbs right around Seattle seem to have been developed in just an awful haphazard way. The lack of sidewalks IN THE CITY is baffling and then as you go further north (Shoreline/Bothel) any sort of coherent zoning/development falls apart entirely and everything is just little stub developments that lack any cohesion. You can drive a long way out and eventually end up in a more typical ex-burban hell, but if you leave the core Seattle neighborhoods you end up in a lot of really odd hillbilly-esq places where cars are parked in the yard (well the strange no-mans land between the road and the yard at least – curbs, ever hear of them?) and the forest canopy is still so dense you’d expect Ewoks to rain down at any moment. I’m sure there are lots of free living/environmental folks who love that, but in much of the rest of the country the first ring or two of suburbs looks a whole lot more like Bellevue or even N. Seattle south of 85th, and so folks who want that have way more options than we do here.

    We’re not particularly recent transplants, but I would expect that many of folks moving in to the area probably go through similar experiences and that the “strangeness” of the non-core Seattle area housing stock in part contributes to the hugely inflated prices of the near-in hoods. It doesn’t seem all that surprising that folks would be willing to pay a bigger premium to be in-city when “suburban” doesn’t match what they expect for a first or second ring suburb (or costs the same or more as being in the city in the case of Bellevue).

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  40. ChrisM

    I faced this dilemma, as I was preparing for a move to the Pacific NW. I work from home, so can live anywhere. I decided to relocate to the Portland area, which is significantly cheaper than Seattle, but (IMO) provides the same quality of life.

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  41. Matt the Engineer

    RE: ChrisM @ 40 – Why stop there? I recommend the beaches of Thailand.

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  42. David B.

    I voted “move”, but I’m also very fussy about where I’d be willing to live, which means that any alternative location would be a smaller city or town in the Northwest with limited job opportunities. So in reality I’d stay here, rent, and pinch my pennies until I either found a job somewhere more affordable or I had saved up to the point where I could buy here, whichever occurred first.

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  43. David B.

    RE: ARDELL @ 38 – And not everyone *wants* a 5000 square foot yard; some of us detest yard work and view a smaller yard as a positive attribute.

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  44. David B.

    RE: wreckingbull @ 8 – I think home ownership seldom makes much sense on a purely economic level like that. It makes sense if you personally derive value from other things owning your home gives you, which are primarily greater stability and more personal freedom (with the exception of less freedom to pull up stakes and move, thanks to higher transaction costs).

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  45. Ira Sacharoff

    By David B. @ 43:

    RE: ARDELL @ 38 – And not everyone *wants* a 5000 square foot yard; some of us detest yard work and view a smaller yard as a positive attribute.

    While it’s true that not everyone wants a 5000 sq ft yard, it’s also true that developers and builders are trying to convince you that you’ll be much happier with a postage stamp sized yard. Land prices and building costs are high. Builders gotta build. They’re not going to build small houses on large lots. They’re going to build large houses on small lots, and work hard to convince you that that’s what you really want.
    I moved out of Seattle proper 15 years ago because I wanted more space to garden, and the 5000 sq ft yard was too small. I recognize that I do not share the same preferences with most people.
    But a lot of people actually do prefer small or non existent yards. Maybe just not as many as we’re led to believe.

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  46. Matt the Engineer

    For them there’s the suburbs. But small size leads to density leads to the interesting things that make a city (good transit, walkable neighborhoods, etc.). It’s not a choice of more yard or less yard. It’s a choice of car-dependent lifestyle vs living in a city. Owning a double-size lot in the city necessarily means paying close to double for your house (last time I looked, land value is higher than house value for many/most SF homes). If you can afford that, great. But some find many attributes of city life much more attractive than having a large garden. And if your choice is city life near your work or a large yard (most people don’t have the money for both), the choice is often an easy one.

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  47. Ira Sacharoff

    By Matt the Engineer @ 46:

    For them there’s the suburbs. But small size leads to density leads to the interesting things that make a city (good transit, walkable neighborhoods, etc.). It’s not a choice of more yard or less yard. It’s a choice of car-dependent lifestyle vs living in a city. Owning a double-size lot in the city necessarily means paying close to double for your house (last time I looked, land value is higher than house value for many/most SF homes). If you can afford that, great. But some find many attributes of city life much more attractive than having a large garden. And if your choice is city life near your work or a large yard (most people don’t have the money for both), the choice is often an easy one.

    I completely agree. If you’re going to live in the city, you might as well take advantage of the density and all it offers. But I was thinking of the suburbs, or the further out areas. They too are building much more densely, lots of townhomes and houses with 3000 sq ft lots. If you live in the ‘burbs on a 3000 sq ft lot, you can’t easily walk to live theatre, microbrews, music, etc. You can drive to the strip mall and eat at Applebees. I understand the appeal of suburbs, I know why people like them. I just can’t see living in the suburbs on a tiny lot. It’s like the worst of all worlds.

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  48. ARDELL

    RE: David B. @ 43

    To be clear, a 5,000 sf LOT, which is the normal minimum zoning for both Seattle and Kirkland East of Market, is NOT “a 5,000 sf yard”. In newer housing on The Eastside, a 5,000 sf lot gives you what one of my clients calls “a bacon strip of a yard”. The house takes up most of the 5,000 sf lot.

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  49. wreckingbull

    RE: ARDELL @ 29 – Please, poor Eric has enough headwind in life, investment advice like that is just plain cruel.

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