Knife-Catcher: How did The Tim Pick Everett?

One of the questions I’ve seen a few people ask about my home search is something to the effect of “how did you decide to buy in Everett?” In today’s post I’ll answer the question a little more broadly by describing our general method for deciding what was important to us, what wasn’t, and how we analyzed all of the various neighborhood options, eventually narrowing it down to the area around downtown Everett.

When we first started our search we were focused almost exclusively on rural homes with modest acreage. The first home we toured when we reactivated our serious search in February 2010 was on 1.3 acres out in Clearview. We came close to buying that one in October, but after we called it off and we weren’t finding many other good rural acrage prospects, we decided to spend some more time analyzing our priorities to see if there might be other types of properties that would satisfy us just as much as a rural home on acreage.

To kick off this process, we basically made a big wish list, based on how we live our lives today and how we’d like to live our lives in the future. This list included things like acreage and garden space, but also things like being walkable to shops and having interesting architecture in the neighborhood—things that rural acreage was unlikely to have but that we enjoyed in our existing rental neighborhood.

[Edit]
Since a number of people have brought this up, I would like to clarify a step that was implicit in the above description. Before we even got to the “wish list” stage, we considered certain “deal breakers” that would cause a neighborhood to be eliminated from our list without even making it into consideration. Examples of such deal breakers for us include a commute in excess of an hour by bus or more than twenty minutes (in traffic) by car, a level of crime above a certain threshold, or areas that were more than twenty to thirty minutes from where all our friends live. Any area that failed any of those types of tests was eliminated right from the start.
[End of Edit]

The next step was to assign a priority to each item on the wish list. We used a simple 1 to 3 scale, where 3 is most important and 1 is more of a “it would be nice, but we could easily live without it.” Then it was table time. We originally wrote it all out on a whiteboard, starting out by just comparing generic “rural acreage” with a generic “city neighborhood.” As it turned out, the resulting scores were a dead tie.

We had mathematically proven (based on the information available to us at that time) that we would be just as satisfied living in a city neighborhood as we would be living on rural acreage. Once we had established that notion, we opened up the competition to specific neighborhoods for comparison. As you can probably guess, we eventually ended up in Excel. Here’s a peek at what the comparision looked like after a few revisions (note that the “<5 mi” in column M is five miles not five minutes):

The Tim's Neighborhood Comparison Spreadsheet

Since we weren’t comparing specific properties at this point, an “x” in a given column doesn’t indicate that every home in the listed region has that attribute, but rather that it’s likely that a home in that region could have that attribute. As you can see, Downtown Everett came out on top, so while we didn’t stop looking in other areas, we focused our most of our intensive efforts on Everett.

You may notice a few things that aren’t on our table that many other home searchers have near the top of of their lists. One is “good schools.” Frankly, based on my personal experience in Washington’s public school system, I feel like even the “good” public schools are mostly a joke (I hope to send my kids to a private school), and good parenting is many times more important than good schools anyway. The other missing item is “few sex offenders,” but I have a lot to say about that subject, so let’s save our discussion on that one for a later post I’m planning where we can dive into that conversation exclusively. [Update: Here is that post – The Sex Offender Bogeyman]

So how do you narrow your home search? Or did you—maybe you prefer the shotgun method, looking at homes all across the greater Seattle area? Let’s hear it!

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About 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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.

142 comments:

  1. 1

    What I like about your approach is you didn’t limit yourself to a particular area. I once had someone who started out wanting an area less than a square mile! I do find your not in King County being a benefit to be odd, but I had the same for not in Seattle.

    Our area was limited to King County because the MIL was moving in with us and needed Access service for her medical. We could have probably figured something out in Snohomish, but that would have complicated things. Because of her we wanted one bedroom on a different level than the master bedroom, preferably on the ground floor, which proved to really limit us. We didn’t want anything south of Kent, but other than that and Seattle proper, any of King County would have worked. Like you, we didn’t care about schools (which I know will make Ardell squirm).

    We wanted a larger yard, the larger the better, and when we were narrowing it down the last two were a roughly 10,000 square foot lot on a golf course facing woods (what I call a virtual large lot) and a half acre plus wooded lot. Both were very close to each other in Fairwood. In the end the deciding factor between the two was our neighbors. When we were making one last look at both properties our neighbors here were having a fire pit in the cul de sac, drinking wine, etc. We spent about a half hour with them. At the other place one neighbor didn’t seem to friendly at all and one had a motor home.

  2. 2

    Tim I Like Your Totally Detailed Approach to House Hunting

    You are an engineer….LOL….

    In the end though, after the choice was in ink, wasn’t there a moment or two when you still thought, “Good gawd, I made a big mistake!”…..BTW, that’s normal on all big decisions, eventually you dive into the pool or just keep checking the water for the optimum time to dive in….

    When I bought in I thought in 1999, I need an inexpensive unit that would sell in a recession, even with big per capita pay cuts….I could see the bubble coming even back then, as population density chronically increased….albeit, I predicted it would pop around 2004, I was off about 3 years…I had no idea Greenspan would make savings interest about 0% to lower mortgage interest.

  3. 3
    calvis says:

    So you wanted a kid friendly yard but the school system and neighborhood crime rate was not on your criteria list? I gather you have a house stockpiled with weapons and you are going to send your kids to a private school, both of which I have no problems with.

  4. 4
    The Tim says:

    RE: calvis @ 3 – Crime rate was certainly a consideration but realistically virtually all of the Seattle area has an acceptably low rate so it wasn’t really a distinguishing attribute between various neighborhoods. As for the schools question, try actually reading the post.

  5. 5
    GreenAcres says:

    I know the Clearview property well… it’s less than 1/4 mi from where I was. My house was acquired by WSDOT for the Hwy 9 expansion (a 2 yr very painful saga) early this year.

    Given the amount of road construction planned for Hwy 9 and the Broadway arterial, you’re lucky to be in Everett. I know my former neighbors are being impacted by construction traffic, noise, and just the ugliness that comes from wiping out a 50 ft corridor of 100 ft evergreens and native plant buffer.

    I’ve lived in Everett and it’s a great town… the recession has closed a few great restaurants (Alligator Soul!!) but there is still plenty to eat, see and do within walking distance. I really enjoyed walking to Comcast for events (hockey, concerts, etc.) when I lived there.

    I agree that buying for school district is dumb. WA public schools are so bad that you are probably better off buying less house in a bad district and going private or living off one income and homeschooling.

  6. 6
    Ethan says:

    Why was “not in King county” on the list?

  7. 7
    ray pepper says:

    Those all match Gig Harbor except for commute. You could have been my neighbor in the 98332!

    Would be a monster commute for you but hey once in the 98332 YOU NEVER LEAVE!

  8. 8
    The Tim says:

    RE: Ethan @ 6 – In short, because we don’t like the politics and bureaucracy around home ownership in King County. It wasn’t a total deal-killer, but if all else was equal, we’d rather not own a home in King County.

  9. 9

    By ray pepper @ 7:

    Would be a monster commute for you but hey once in the 98332 YOU NEVER LEAVE!

    Does that mean if they tolled the other direction, you’d never get there? ;-)

  10. 10
    Lurker says:

    I like your score chart.

  11. 11
    GreenAcres says:

    By The Tim @ 8:

    RE: Ethan @ 6 – In short, because we don’t like the politics and bureaucracy around home ownership in King County. It wasn’t a total deal-killer, but if all else was equal, we’d rather not own a home in King County.

    Can I get an ‘AMEN’?!

    My husband is a contractor and charges a huge uplift to work on homes in King County… too much of a headache to deal with, even just temporarily.

  12. 12
    dogbreath says:

    Can anyone speak to the “politics and bureaucracy” of owning a home in King County? I’m a prospective buyer of a home in King and I was wondering what I was sticking my feet into?

  13. 13
    S-Crow says:

    Very interesting way to do it Tim. I was much more emotionally driven than anything else I suppose. Never had the criteria like yours but I did have three kids to add to the mix.

    I’ve purchased nothing but property that needed heavy improvement and Mrs. S-Crow was able to find something that met that criteria (and then some). What was not in our wish list was the commute to Everett from Snohomish to take our kids to Northshore Christian Academy near Boeing every day, past the now completed downtown Everett freeway improvements (a lovely 3-4 year project). The other item not in the criteria that Mrs S-Crow created out of thin air was converting the property to a semi-farm/horse property. I found a horse in my yard one day and all Mrs. S-Crow did was just smile at me. (beware of spouses that just show up with stuff—of the 1000 lb kind with four legs). Now I wake up to my neighbors Rooster calls at 5am and participate in the ritual to go down to pick up poop daily.

    We purchased directly from the original owner so it is a property that never hit the market in a traditional sense and is probably the only reason why we were able to get it. Our offer was presented directly to the owner which was very awkward and both Lynn and I were present. I don’t know that I’d do that again.

  14. 14
    kfhoz says:

    King County library system is arguably the best in the world. No kidding! I can’t imagine life without it, so have a strong preference to live in King County.

  15. 15
    YetAnotherTim says:

    My wife and I have been looking for a while now. I work downtown, want a short bus commute, reasonably walkable neighborhood but still quiet, non-arterial, “good” public schools (after my son’s first year of kindergarten in public school, we are seriously considering private school now), solid house, not poorly remodeled, something of a yard for the kid and the dog, and low violent crime. This has led us to focus on N Seattle, roughly below 85th. And we want all this for $450k or less. Basically, I’m looking for the GEM in a pink pony neighborhood. Made a low-ball offer on a sweet place in View Ridge a few weeks ago but couldn’t get the seller to face reality. When we DO see something we think may be priced “right” in one of these neighborhoods, it’s gone in a day, sometimes with multiple bids.Maybe it’s time to take it to Excel and expand our search area. I relocated here in October and am losing patience. Tired of having half of our stuff piled into an inaccessible storage unit… and living in a 1500 sq ft townhome, of which 400 ft is staircase. I really haven’t explored that many neghborhoods outside the areas I mentioned. Edmonds bowl is nice but seems so far out. Where else should I be looking?

  16. 16
    random guy says:

    I’m a little confused about the easy commute list. It takes forever to get anywhere from Ballard, and both Lynnwood and Eastside Subdivision are closer to Seattle than Everett, with Lynnwood having nearly identical or better busing options.Just asking because that would be a heavily weighted factor for me.

  17. 18
    Blake says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 2
    From another engineer: I had a similar spreadsheet to aid in my decision! LOL

    I ended up buying acreage on Vashon: 3+ acres with a creek, ravine and giant old trees. I commute via the walkon ferry to downtown and it’s an hour each way, but when I get home… very nice! (I can also work from home some days.) I can’t complain… It’s wonderful being close to a great city like Seattle… and yet not so close as well!

    (Tim: Thanks again to your blog, data and info for convincing me not to buy the last 2-3 years!)

  18. 19
    The Tim says:

    RE: random guy @ 16 – For the areas further out I was looking mostly at express buses. Most of Lynnwood is quite a ways from I-5 so it would be a pain to get to any good express bus stops. Eastside subdivisions are mostly affairs where you have to drive to some park and ride, and I prefer to walk to the bus.

    For the closer neighborhoods like Ballard and Capitol Hill I considered them to be a relatively easy commute since they were close enough to just bicycle in.

    Keep in mind that this is just the personal priorities of my wife and I, and how we analyzed them. Your priorities and how you determine whether a given neighborhood fits each item will obviously be different.

  19. 20
    Xizor says:

    Tim:

    What ever floats your boat. Your criteria is idiosyncratic, as it should be.

    Personally, I wouldn’t use most of these factors to decide what home to buy. For me it is about location, price and the property/house.

    And I think your weighting is a little odd. Where is Redfin located? Is the commute from Everett any thing close to some of the other locales. And why is the Ballard “view” or the “travel time to stores” not checked? You skewed the results from the gitgo with “not in King County” factor.

    And by the way, most of the private schools have problems too (religious extremists or affluenza sufferers) and are often run by mediocrities. There will just be less private school choices in Everett I bet.

    I would consider some other factors that relate to future pricing. If Boeing has its way in South Carolina, good luck with Everett real estate. Did you analyze that?

  20. 21
    Matt the Engineer says:

    I find it strange that you value “relative easy commute” the same as you do “easy parking for parties.” Commute should be a really big deal for people, since we potentially spend a huge chunk of our lives doing it, and it could cost us a fortune. For example, if you had chosen the exurbs (basically, far enough not to have good bus service) and work in the city you would have lost around 24% of your waking non-working life and it would have cost you about half of a million dollars over the life of a mortgage. Yet people make these choices all the time for reasons that are alien to me (easy parking for parties ranks about 58 on my list of how to choose a house).

  21. 22
    The Tim says:

    By Xizor @ 20:

    And I think your weighting is a little odd. Where is Redfin located? Is the commute from Everett any thing close to some of the other locales. And why is the Ballard “view” or the “travel time to stores” not checked? You skewed the results from the gitgo with “not in King County” factor.

    Redfin HQ is in downtown Seattle. Note however that the item is not “short commute” but “relatively easy commute.” I’d rather sit on a bus for an hour where I can work, read, or do whatever I want than spend 20 minutes driving.

    As for the “travel time to stores” that was for a specific list of stores that included our preferred grocery stores and places like Target and Costco. Ballard has lots of cool shops (hence the “walkable to shops” item) but not a lot of the stores where we buy our necessities.

  22. 23
    The Tim says:

    RE: Matt the Engineer @ 21 – What I didn’t detail was that there were some underlying assumptions that aren’t explicitly called out on the table. Basically total deal-killers are not part of the table since any neighborhood with a deal-killer wouldn’t even enter consideration.

    Super-long commute (over an hour by bus or anything more than about 20 minutes by car) was a total deal-killer, for exactly the reasons you mention. So the neighborhoods we considered were only those that at least passed that test.

    FWIW, my current bus ride from Everett to downtown Seattle is only about 40 minutes.

  23. 24

    By Matt the Engineer @ 21:

    I find it strange that you value “relative easy commute” the same as you do “easy parking for parties.”

    The Tim’s parties have been compared favorably (by some) to Charlie Sheen’s parties. ;-)

    https://seattlebubble.com/blog/2011/05/28/id-like-to-thank-the-academy/comment-page-1/#comment-132998

  24. 25
    Matt the Engineer says:

    @23 That’s good to hear. I think walking distance to major bus route fixes much of the problem of commute.

    @24 Well that’s different. As long as he invites us.

    Regarding the original question about how I would choose a home, it would be a less formal version of exactly what you did. But my criteria would look a lot different. In Seattle, dense walkable community (NOT to places like Target – to interesting grocery stores and restaurants etc.), easy access to transit, good public schools (WA schools aren’t great, but we aren’t going to fix them by pulling out all but poor kids), and quick public transit to work downtown.

  25. 26
    The Tim says:

    By Matt the Engineer @ 25:

    But my criteria would look a lot different. In Seattle, dense walkable community (NOT to places like Target – to interesting grocery stores and restaurants etc.)

    Note that walkable to interesting shops/restaurants was a separate item and weighted higher than being close (<5mi) to Target/Costco. We assumed that we’d be driving to the big stores (good luck walking home with the purchases from a typical Costco trip), and had a slight preference that it not be a long drive.

  26. 27
    Tim McB says:

    RE: YetAnotherTim @ 15

    Tim,

    Have you checked out south of downtown?The Alki/Admiral area in West Seattle is a pretty nice area (I’m impartial though, I was born there.) Columbia City neighborhood is also pretty nice too but a bit pricey I hear these days. As for the north end of Seattle, I can sympathize. My wife and I looked for almost 3 years until we spotted something in the Maple Leaf neighborhood. Keep looking, something will bound to pop up, but realize that there’s a lot of other people watching this area as well.

    Oh and PS if its larger yards you’re after look north of 85th. Since 85th is the old boundary of Seattle north of that area was unincorporated King County at one point and has larger lots (6000sf+).

  27. 28
    Tim McB says:

    RE: The Tim @ 26

    Living 5 minutes from Target can be a blessing and a curse. ;) You might end up with more than you bargained for; literally and figuratively. I speak from experience.

  28. 29
    The Tim says:

    RE: Tim McB @ 28 – Oops I just realized that my abbreviation is ambiguous. The criteria was “less than 5 miles” not “less than 5 minutes.” Big difference :^)

  29. 30
    Urban Artist says:

    “In short, because we don’t like the politics and bureaucracy around home ownership in King County. It wasn’t a total deal-killer, but if all else was equal, we’d rather not own a home in King County.”
    Tim we plan on buying in King County (North Seattle). What did you mean by the comment? Is there something I should know about buying in King County?

  30. 31
    redmondjp says:

    Well, I’ll share on some of the criteria I used to find my house in Redmond (besides the obvious like # of baths/BR, a real TWO-CAR garage, affordability, etc):

    1. Was 3 miles from work so I was able to bike to work on city streets (big bummer that I got laid off 5 years later and every single job I’ve had since has been about 20 miles away!).

    2. Is on the Eastside where the (older) streets are nice and wide, have sidewalks, and you can actually park on the street and still maintain 2-way traffic. I grew up in a small town with lots of wide open space, so living in-city was just not an option for me (although have any of you seen Redmond Ridge or some neighborhoods up on the Sammamish Plateau? – Holy cow, who wants to live right on top of each other out in the middle of the woods?).

    3. EASY access to my driveway and neighborhood with signalized access to major arterials. I cringe at many homes along busy roads on the Eastside where people have streams of backed-up traffic across their driveway or neighborhood entries one direction in the morning, and then the opposite way at night. I have enough rush-hour traffic stress getting to and from work, so I don’t need more trying to get in/out of my own driveway and neighborhood.

    4. Easy freeway access. I can be on 520 in 5 minutes and 405 in about 8, at any time of day.

    5. Is a one-story rambler over a crawl space (NO slab!!!). I can do all the maintenance myself, and the roof is low enough that it is not scary to work on (which is often around here, blasting off the moss and keeping the gutters clean). Because of easy access to above all ceilings and to below all floors, any cat-5 cable routing or what have you is a cinch (although with wireless routers, who needs that any more?).

    Big bonus that I wasn’t looking for at the time: a block away from a terrific park. Didn’t ever go there for over a decade, but now that I have kids, we go there at least every other day when it’s not raining outside. Really nice to be able to walk there, and to be able to quickly get home when the kids are tired (wet, dirty, hungry, etc). Totally lucked out on this one!

    Second big bonus is that from my location, I can get virtually anywhere in the Seattle area in the morning in around 30 minutes including Everett, Monroe, Issaquah, Renton/Tukwila (where I’m at now), even Kent. Now coming home in the evening, well that can be a different story! And my wife’s commute to Carnation is an easy-peasy reverse commute as well. And I’m right along bus lines that I can use to quickly get into Seattle on those rare occasions (jury duty, conventions, work seminars, etc) when I need to, also in about 30 minutes to downtown.

    Third bonus: great neighbors, with the exception of one MAJOR a-hole couple that calls the police and city code enforcement every chance they get (I kid you not, they will call the police if they think there are “too many cars” coming/going to a neighbor’s house). Nothing will make these people happy (we’ve all tried and have given up, we’re waiting for them to move or die at this point). So, lucked out here pretty much too.

    HUGE minus (seen in 20-20 hindsight): Living in a private cul-de-sac. We get to pay the same property taxes, same city taxes and sewer and stormwater fees as everybody around us, but we have to maintain our own sewers and pump system (don’t even ask), stormwater drain system, street surface, and sidewalks. All I can tell you on this one is: don’t do it. Maybe The Tim will let me rant uh-I mean discuss this topic further in a guest-posting at a later date. It really does warrant a completely separate discussion.

    Like Tim says, you need to figure out the criteria most important to you, and go with that. Forget what anybody else says, YOU have to live there. And +1 on all of the comments already posted about King County, although Snohomish County from what I can tell is becoming more like it every day.

  31. 32
    Brandon Adams says:

    I live in Lake Hills, and it looks like your spreadsheet may be a little off unless Bellevue is being excluded from “Eastside subdivision.”

    I live within walking distance of two lakes (Larsen and Phantom), a creek, Crossroads Mall, the Lake Hills library, a Korean grocer, the best wonton place in the city, and several bus stops that connect to the biggest park and ride in the state.

    I’ve heard that the public schools are top notch, too.

    I don’t have a lake view, but there are plenty of houses within a mile of mine that do have one, though that’ll cost a bit more.

    Admittedly, the houses in my neighborhood almost all date back to the 60’s. It’s not the most interesting architecture.

  32. 33
    Dave0 says:

    RE: YetAnotherTim @ 15 – How about Bainbridge Island? They’ve got great public schools and a relatively rural, small community atmosphere. You might be able to find something within walking distance to the ferry (30 minutes to Downtown Seattle) and the neighborhood businesses surrounding the ferry.

  33. 34
    The Tim says:

    RE: Urban Artist @ 30 – See Kary’s comment above @ 17. Also this is just one specific example (and part of it has since been overturned by the courts), but the Critical Areas Ordinance junk back in 2004 is a good example of the kind of nonsense I’d rather just avoid all together.

    This one from 2009 is specific to the city of Bellevue, but is another example of the kind of junk that sadly isn’t all that uncommon in King County: Bellevue blocks attorney from occupying his new home.

  34. 35
    Matt the Engineer says:

    @30 Don’t listen to @17. Seattle politics is fun. The suburban newspaper (the Seattle Times) likes to make fun of our politicians, but they’re generally working toward our interests.

    Though I’ve never lived anyplace where I’d want to clear my land for new construction, that part’s true enough. King County is trying to stop clearcutting all of our trees, and we’re trying to get people to build up instead of out. So I guess if you’d rather live in a county where they’re fine with clearcutting their trees, then it would be better to find somewhere else.

  35. 36
    JimN says:

    Tim.

    Your process appeals to the scientist in me. However, over the years I’ve come to realize the folly of such a process for myself. The decision is only as good as the “subjective” data.

    For example, when I bought my last laptop, I wanted something light enough to carry around but with a good sized screen.

    So I wound up with one that is too heavy for such a smallish screen.

    Thanks again for sharing your thought process.

  36. 37
    Tim McB says:

    RE: The Tim @ 29

    That’s a little better. It stops most of the impulse buys from happening. Though if Mrs. The Tim is as disciplined in her shopping as you guys were in home shopping you should be okay.

  37. 38

    RE: GreenAcres @ 5

    Let the Kids Attend the Crummy Public Schools Anyway

    The memories of highschool, making life-long friends and such will be worth the lack of math/science. Switch to Everett CC during highschool for math/science courses, the kids will get a teacher with real degrees and actually will be taught math/science. The public schools will let you do that before graduation too [tuition is about $500 a quarter at a CC= one math/science class for a year at public school]….

    Another route [I did this], let your kid do computer based learning on math/science while they’re in public school [its free] and you check/do the work too to get them straight As and a diploma. Then have them take like COMPASS tests for math/science proficiency when they get to a CC, almost all the HS graduates had to retake 9th grade math on, even with As and Bs [the communal public schools math/science grades are 90% homework, even computer based].

  38. 39
    MichaelB says:

    Very interesting that “good schools” were not on your list and your justification. Your assumptions as to the importance of good public schools to a community is simply wrong. As you are not a parent, you most likely have done very little analysis of public/private schools. I doubt you have visited the local public school. Painting all public schools with a broad brush is a mistake. You do not seem extremely confident you will be able to afford private schools – possibly you are just being humble. If not, you are in for a rude awakening Tim. There are actually good public schools and school districts in the areas you looked at. For example, Terrace Park School in Mountlake Terrace is an excellent school with high parent involvement and fantastic teachers. Bellevue school district is one of the best in the nation and has schools equal to or superior to Seattle’s top private schools (although not in your area of interest). The quality of public schools is the single best indicator of the health of a community – that’s why there is a long term correlation between home prices and public school quality. However, you are correct that parenting is the single most important factor in school success. Neighborhoods with poor schools tend to be full of kids from families who do not value education. They’re not into statistical analysis Tim, but they may be into gangs… These may be your next door neighbors and the people on your street Tim.In my experience, people tend to make big decisions for emotional reasons – like the wood trim inside the house, and then justify their decisions after the fact…i.e. “public schools are not important to us”. Unfortunately Tim, public schools are very important to the majority of buyers for the above mentioned reasons and will drive the valuation of the asset you recently purchased – hopefully the public schools in your community will be improved through the hard work of involved parents and you will reap some financial and quality of life gains from their commitment to your community.

  39. 40
    Tim McB says:

    RE: Matt the Engineer @ 35

    Agreed. Though one thing I’m sure The Tim isn’t missing in King County is the property taxes. Ours went up 11% in one year. Ouch.

  40. 41
    The Tim says:

    By MichaelB @ 39:

    Neighborhoods with poor schools tend to be full of kids from families who do not value education. They’re not into statistical analysis Tim, but they may be into gangs… These may be your next door neighbors and the people on your street Tim.

    Wow, over-exaggerate much? The elementary school I went to has a “GreatSchools” rating of 3 out of 10. I guess I grew up in the slums! Give me a break.

    In my experience, people tend to make big decisions for emotional reasons – like the wood trim inside the house, and then justify their decisions after the fact…

    …public schools are very important to the majority of buyers…

    So wait, people make their decisions emotionally, but when they put a huge weight on the rating of the school that’s an unassailable, logical decision free of emotion? You contradict yourself.

  41. 42
    Matt the Engineer says:

    @40 I’m sure most couties’ property taxes went up – county governments are having a hard time right now. I’d argue that you get what you pay for. King County has some great services, as does Seattle.

    I actually welcome more taxes, if they are well spent (my current priority list: schools, transit, community centers, parks). WA has less than average real estate taxes, which combined with our lack of an income tax gives us fairly poor services compared to most states.

  42. 43

    By Matt the Engineer @ 42:

    @40 I’m sure most couties’ property taxes went up – county governments are having a hard time right now. I’d argue that you get what you pay for. King County has some great services, as does Seattle.

    They are limited as to what they can go up each year–at the total receipts level, not the individual taxpayer level. If someone’s taxes went up 11%, it’s because their assessment went up more than others went up, or went down less than what others went down. The other possibility is a change in school levy. Other than those two things, you’re unlikely to see an 11% change.

  43. 44
    ARDELL says:

    RE: YetAnotherTim @ 15

    So many people draw that line at 85th. So much so that 88th often sells at a discount. Try pushing that to 90th or even 95th. Works better in some areas than others. but know that 85th is done so much that it puts more pressure on prices just below 85th.

    Why do so many “draw the line” at 85th?

  44. 45

    RE: ARDELL @ 44 – Walking distance to Green Lake?????

  45. 46
    MichaelB says:

    By The Tim @ 41:

    So wait, people make their decisions emotionally, but when they put a huge weight on the rating of the school that’s an unassailable, logical decision free of emotion? You contradict yourself.

    Hey Tim,

    Point taken on the gangs comment – slight exaggeration!

    Not sure how you rated the school in your neighborhood – possibly a visit with the principal? Or an assumption that you will be able to send your child to a private school? Fact is, schools are a key indicator of the health of a community and the general commitment to education of the parents in the neighborhood. Are the parents in your neighborhood committed and involved? If so – great! If not…well a 3 rating and a high % of the kids on the school lunch program is not really that big of a deal, is it?

    I just find it interesting how people who consider themselves logical, methodical, statistics oriented, and fact-based with “mathmatically proven” analysis make emotional decisions – (possibly the home or neighborhood reminds one of his or her childhood…) and then justify the decision after the fact by saying things like, “public schools ratings aren’t important” – They are important in the marketplace which determines the value of the asset you just purchased.

    By the way – love your justification of the hour long commute! Classic!

  46. 47
    David Losh says:

    Everett seems very far removed to me. I understand a lot has been done to improve infrastructure around Everett. There is a set of streets in North Everett that are very attractive.

    What I have always had a hard time with is the economic viablility. I feel the same way about Tacoma. There are nice neighborhoods with a surrounding area of desperation. Everett especially seems very transient. I can also equate this feeling I have to Bremerton.

  47. 48

    RE: David Losh @ 47 – Bremerton’s economy is based almost entirely on the military. PSNS and Bangor (or whatever they’re called now), and a couple of smaller ones (Manchester and Keyport). I think almost every other facility on the west coast has been shut down by now, so they’re probably pretty secure in having those facilities staying open.

  48. 49
    The Tim says:

    By MichaelB @ 46:

    I just find it interesting how people who consider themselves logical, methodical, statistics oriented, and fact-based with “mathmatically proven” analysis make emotional decisions – (possibly the home or neighborhood reminds one of his or her childhood…) and then justify the decision after the fact by saying things like, “public schools ratings aren’t important” – They are important in the marketplace which determines the value of the asset you just purchased.

    By the way – love your justification of the hour long commute! Classic!

    In this post I described the process we went through while we were searching for a home. The only thing that’s “after the fact” is this post. I’m not trying to provide “justification,” for our choice to put very little weight on schools or ride the bus to work, I’m sharing how we made our decision during the process.

    Obviously you have different priorities than I do, and that’s okay. If highly-rated schools are super-important to you and you wouldn’t enjoy riding the bus to work, great. Put that in your spreadsheet. I don’t really get this apparent desire to pass judgement on my preferences or somehow prove that I didn’t consider these things during the process.

  49. 50
    No Name Guy says:

    RE: David Losh @ 47 -747, 767, 777, 787Those represent the economic viability of Everett (and Marysville and Lake Stevens).The last 2 are selling well. 777 production rates are going up. One of these years, BCA will start delivering new 747’s and 787’s. 767 Tankers will be in production for the next 15-30 years.

  50. 51
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 45

    The lake comes in at 78th at the top. It’s almost 3 miles around the lake, which is an easy walk, so 1 mile from it shouldn’t be hard for the average person. I just turned 57 and make the walk from 92nd to, around, and back, fairly often without breaking a sweat. :)

    So no, I don’t think it’s distance to lake, but I do hear “up to 85th” quite often.

  51. 52
    David Losh says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 51

    As the comment said 85th used to be the city limits. Lot size, and style changes beyond 85th ot to 145th, the new city limits.

  52. 53
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 48RE: No Name Guy @ 50

    Even though I understand the employment of Boeing, and the Everett Home Port, it feels as though Everett has always been a transient labor location.

    There again I have seen, witnessed, open gang warfare on Casino Road(?). Two groups squared off, and ran at each other with base ball bats. I admit that was years ago, but it left an impression.

    More recently I worked with a few restaurant owners who were really struggling. One was closed because they couldn’t control the clientèle. Drug activity took over the place.

    I’ve just always had the feeling that Everett was a rough and tumble kind of place.

    Ballard also has had one of the highest crime rates in Seattle, but Ballard feels different, better, safer, to me.

  53. 54
    ARDELL says:

    Generally my clients do choose by school and safety issues, but that’s more likely because it is my niche and I tend to choose my “service area” that way. That has been true for all of my 21 years in the biz no matter where I have worked around the Country.

    But one thing I can’t get over is the inordinate number of “offenders” within one mile of the house. Crime I get. I watch the news. But how can a house have 59 to 66 “offenders” within one mile, and how does that not make the “spreadsheet”?

    It could be an error in Homefacts data, but since they list the names and addresses and have a picture of each and every offender, that doesn’t seem likely. If it is an error, I’d like to know. The day of your post there were 66 “offenders” and that reduced to 59 shortly thereafter and holds steady at 59 since then.

    Is there a placement program of some kind? I don’t know Everett. I generally don’t go further north than Edmonds. But I’ve checked it against some high crime areas in South Seattle and other points south, and the general high is usually just under 20.

    59 to 66 seems way out of the normal range for a 1 mile radius from a house.

    http://www.homefacts.com/realestatearea/offenders/Washington/Snohomish-County/Everett/3601%20Wetmore%20Ave.html

    What am I missing?

  54. 55
    The Tim says:

    By ARDELL @ 54:

    What am I missing?

    Apparently my request in the post that we “save our discussion on that one for a later post I’m planning where we can dive into that conversation exclusively.”

  55. 56
    MichaelB says:

    Tim,

    Good point. As long as you are happy that’s the main thing. Not that familiar with the neighborhood myself – but can’t imagine spending over $200K to live in Everett?…Maybe it’s an up and coming area and you are ahead of the curve. I think in addition to good schools and a short commute, I will also put proximity to criminal elements and gangs on my spreadsheet:

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20080614/NEWS01/511755093&news01ad=1

  56. 57
    S. Marty Pantz says:

    By kfhoz @ 14:

    King County library system is arguably the best in the world. No kidding! I can’t imagine life without it, so have a strong preference to live in King County.

    As a Snohomish County resident with a Sno-Isle library card, I can also get a KCLS card–as they reciprocate (http://www.kcls.org/usingthelibrary/librarycards/). So, you don’t necessarily need to be a King County resident to borrow items and to use their on-line databases (such as the NYT backfile, which is one of my favorite resources).

    BTW: I live in south Snohomish County, so the Shoreline, Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park branches are no more than a 15-minute drive away, and I often find myself in one of those areas anyways, running some errand or doing something.

    I agree: the KCLS is fantastic.

  57. 58
    David Losh says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 54

    That must be a half way house, or two, in the area, and I agree that’s a scary bunch, whole bunch of guys.

  58. 59
    S. Marty Pantz says:

    RE: David Losh @ 47
    You should see photos of Everett as it looked in the 1910s and 20s, the Little Pittsburgh of the West–full of ugly smokestacks. As a young kid in the 1960s, I remember the Everett pulp mill stench, when there were but a handful of those old mills still around. Virtually all of those mills are now gone.

    To me, although I moved out in 1972, but live nearby in Edmonds, there are some nice neighborhoods in Everett. Such as the more “upper-end” north Bayside places such as where Senator Scoop Jackson lived. Or the tree-lined “Leave It to Beaver” streets of the Riverside area, such as just east of the old North Junior High School around Baker Street, and so forth. There are a few others. I still have friends and family there, and often go back to the old home town to visit.

    BTW: Everett today still has the old China Doll, on Broadway by the Comcast Center–a great little eating place my family has been going to since the mid-1960s. Nowadays it appears a bit tired and skanky from the street, but it’s ‘old school’ inside. Their sweet-n-sour sauce is a tasty, dark honey color, not that phony red or orange food coloring: which, for me, because of the China Doll, has become a litmus test of sorts for the quality of American-style Chinese food I find at other restaurants.

  59. 60
    S. Marty Pantz says:

    RE: S. Marty Pantz @ 57
    And the downtown Everett Public Library, near The Tim’s new home, ain’t too shabby either. Its historical items and Northwest Room are my particular favorites: http://www.epls.org/nw/digital.asp.

  60. 61
    ESS says:

    We went through everything that The Tim went through when we bought our first house in Mountlake Terrace many years ago. This was a very small house that we bought, which we turned into a rental three years later after we moved in. We bought another house in MLT which we lived in for many years, before moving to another house we owned in Edmonds some four plus years ago. As a result of cheaper prices and taxes – we were able to hold on to our old houses, turn them into rentals, and reside in our new houses, rather than having to sell. We couldn’t have afforded to do that in Seattle.

    Why live in South Snohomish County?

    You get much more house for the money and taxes just a few miles away. As much as I loved Seattle, I had no interest in paying a premium mortgage (with interest rates at over 12% at that time), or double the property taxes. Savings on property taxes alone have financed vacations to Europe. Furthermore, one can obtain a larger lot in South Snohomish County, which has become an important factor for the gardener in the family. Many houses in Seattle are very close together, with little room for creative gardening. And even though I like my neighbors – I don’t want to live right on top of them. And don’t forget the shopping – every box store, chain, as well as independents are within 5 miles from our house. Furthermore, access to Interstate Five is relatively easy, and in Mountlake Terrace, being less than a mile from the freeway entrance ensured a quick trip to Seattle. As a matter of fact, we could get to points south in Seattle faster than many people living in Seattle. Try going from one point in Seattle to another on the other side of town, and see what a hassle that is. With no traffic, I could get to my house in MLT within 20 minutes of leaving downtown Seattle. And the bus service from Mountlake Terrace isn’t bad. Although Community Transit has had to cut back service due to declining tax revenues, there is a brand new flyer station at Mountlake Terrace. Presently Sound Transit buses don’t have to get off of the freeway to stop and pickup commuters and travelers from Mountlake Terrace. Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds both have lots of parks, and I like the feeling of openness one gets. With all the building of townhouses in Seattle – the landscape has been so altered over the years, that the Seattle we would have purchased into years ago has dramatically changed, and as far as I am concerned, not for the better.

    Someone mentioned the King County Library system. As a resident of Edmonds, not only do I get to use Sno-Isle Regional Library, a fine system, but I was also able to get a library card for the King County system. I carry two library cards at all time, and use both systems!

    Thus I feel I have the best of both worlds. I live less than ten miles from the north Seattle border, and I can access Seattle for many activities any time I wish to. On the other hand, I have paid much less in principal and interest and taxes on the homes we own.

  61. 62
    David Losh says:

    Now I’m really curious about the sex offenders. It’s never been much of a consideration to me until today. When will that topic be coming?

  62. 63
    LocalYokel says:

    By Matt the Engineer @ 35:

    @30 Don’t listen to @17. Seattle politics is fun. The suburban newspaper (the Seattle Times) likes to make fun of our politicians, but they’re generally working toward our interests.

    Though I’ve never lived anyplace where I’d want to clear my land for new construction, that part’s true enough. King County is trying to stop clearcutting all of our trees, and we’re trying to get people to build up instead of out. So I guess if you’d rather live in a county where they’re fine with clearcutting their trees, then it would be better to find somewhere else.

    OT: But….
    Stick to being an engineer. Seattle is an old, dirty city with lots of bones buried everywhere.
    Seattle Times, “Working towards our interests.”? LOL.
    Frank A. Blethen works for Frank A. Blethen. Ok, back OT.

  63. 64
    BillE says:

    I’ve made similar scoring systems for different areas I’m considering, although not as nice as yours. Mine have just been with pen and paper. When I’ve told people about it they thought it was weird!
    I’ve made them up with emphasis on different attributes and still get the same couple of areas on top.
    I really like seeing that you went about it this way too.

  64. 65
    Cheap South says:

    RE: MichaelB @ 39

    Very nice chart and analysis; but I have to agree with MichaelB’s post. WA schools might not be the best in the country; but there are many great schools in King County.

    You turned out OK out of a low scoring school? Good for you. But as a data driven guy, you should realize you were the exception, not the rule. Someone in your school was getting the shitty scores.

    Home is important? Absolutely. But don’t give yourself the Father of the Year medal, just yet (I had to return mine). Parenting can not be explained. You know that crying baby on the plane and in the restaurant? The one you and your wife keep on saying “will never be our child”? Just wait, it will be your child. Or the parent yelling in the store while you and your wife say “that won’t be us”? Hmmm, my friend, it will be you. Guess how I know. And those are just two examples. Watch ABC on Wednesday’s (The middle, and Modern Family), you can’t imagine how many parents have told me ‘that’s me”.

    Yes, public schools teach for standardized testing. But private schools teach for the shareholders; mission statement: fill the classrooms, and grow revenue, period. Translation: do as parents want so that they don’t pull the kids out (and most parents do not know the academic level their child should be on); and increase tuition every year. Not to mention that 3 years in private school will erase any “good deal” you got in the home.

    Anyway, congrats and healthy living in the new home. Really beautiful house.

  65. 66

    By ARDELL @ 51:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 45

    The lake comes in at 78th at the top. It’s almost 3 miles around the lake, which is an easy walk, so 1 mile from it shouldn’t be hard for the average person. I just turned 57 and make the walk from 92nd to, around, and back, fairly often without breaking a sweat. :)

    So no, I don’t think it’s distance to lake, but I do hear “up to 85th” quite often.

    People are funny. I’ll see them drive up to a very large store (e.g. a Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer) and spend a long time trying to get a parking spot close to the building. If walking was that much trouble for them, you would think they would go to a smaller store.

    So, yes, I can see being within 3 blocks of their 3 mile walk would be important to some. In any case, it was just a guess, but when I made that guess that’s what I was thinking.

  66. 67
    ray pepper says:

    RE: David Losh @ 62

    We have 9 sex offenders in my area with half living a couple miles away in the KPN.

    You do not have to worry Dave..Your not in their predatory demographic so you can sleep well.

    But, just in case get a dog. I read somewhere that having a dog decreases crime nearly 75% in your home. It didn’t specify what type so I guess your good to go with any one of these:

    http://ngiley.com/2010/03/23/worlds-ugliest-dog/

  67. 68

    RE: ray pepper @ 67 – Worrying about sex offenders in a neighborhood reminds me a bit of the state’s policy on alcohol in Pioneer Square. It assumes these people (sex offenders generally or alcoholics in Pioneer Square) are not mobile. Not having a single sex offender living within two miles of your house is not some sort of guarantee that your children will be safe.

  68. 69
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 68RE: ray pepper @ 67

    Ardell’s right, that’s a lot, in a short radius. Tim also mentions it specifically in the post.

    I do agree that checking for sex offenders is a pretty low priority, everybody has to live somewhere. Let’s see where the topic goes from here, and what that reaction is.

    We have two dogs.

  69. 70
    ray pepper says:

    RE: David Losh @ 69

    but David can they protect you like the pics of the ones above?

    I truly believe that if anyone came to your home, with predatory instincts, and they saw those dogs their level of AROUSAL would be greatly diminished.

    I think you need a 3rd dog.

  70. 71
    corncob says:

    Tim -Like many here, I am curious about your school decision for your eventual child(ren). I have investigated this myself and a decent private school at full tuition is going to be at least $1000-1500/month per child, generally more in Seattle or for the top schools. Assuming 4.5% interest, that would gain you $200k more in “house”. If you have two kids, that is $400k more house. Could you potentially buy a much better house than you wanted in a location with a top-rated public school for $400k more than your purchase price? Considering how long most people stay in their homes (especially first homes) and how long your kids are in school, I am not sure how this makes any objective sense unless you specifically want the religious aspects of private schooling. I feel like some of the other commenters this is kind of backwards justification. BTW, the fact your elementary is 3/10 now just shows the state of it today, unless you have historical data showing it was also low performing back when you were a child that stat is meaningless. Though I am sure you knew that…

  71. 72

    RE: corncob @ 71 – I assume you’re not saying give up your children’s education and get a better house, right? ;-)

    I assume that you’re saying he could buy a more expensive house, that might be comparable to the existing house, in a better school district. The problem I see with that is I’m not sure Tim has kids at this point, but in any case schools can change over time, as you noted at the end of your post. So he’d be paying for something he wasn’t needing at all until the first child was school age, and by then he might not like the school district.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think both private and public schools can be a legitimate choice. I’m just not sure your calculations make a lot of sense, at least as for being a significant reason to locate somewhere.

  72. 73
    The Tim says:

    By Cheap South @ 65:

    You turned out OK out of a low scoring school? Good for you. But as a data driven guy, you should realize you were the exception, not the rule.

    …Parenting can not be explained.

    Hey, you believe whatever you want, but all I know is that it is easy to tell what kids have involved, engaged parents and what kids have parents that ignore their responsibilities or pass them off to daycares, schools, and nannies. You think my parents might have had a little something to do with me (and both of my brothers too, by the way) turning out so well despite going to “low-scoring” schools? Hmm…

    By corncob @ 71:

    Could you potentially buy a much better house than you wanted in a location with a top-rated public school for $400k more than your purchase price?

    You apparently missed the part of my post where I said “I feel like even the ‘good’ public schools are mostly a joke” and good parenting is far more important than “good schools.” Why would I pay $X00,000 more for a home in a “nicer” school boundary when the far more important factor is my parenting and overall involvement in my kids’ lives?

  73. 74

    RE: The Tim @ 73
    One thing I hear from clients without children is that they want to buy a home in a good school district because of ” resale value”. It’s not something I put much stock into. If you’re thinking about “resale value” then you should probably be renting, and it’s not that homes in “lesser” school districts don’t sell ( see: Seattle, Washington). It’s more like schools in “lesser” school districts sell for less money, and if you paid less money in the first place, why should it matter?
    Also, way too many people just look at test scores to determine whether a school is “good” or not.
    Not whether the opportunities to learn are there, or whether there is a large level of parental involvement. In fact, some districts have the reputation of ” teaching to the test” to make sure that they look good.

  74. 75

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 74 – I would also question the criteria/accuracy of many of the school ratings. Maybe their weightings are different than yours, or maybe their information is just completely inaccurate (e.g. the Zillow of school rating services).

  75. 76
    ray pepper says:

    I will say this as the Father of 3 and Coach of hundreds of youth over the years in basketball and soccer:

    Schools are critically important and I find the school rankings pretty spot on. Our kids went public but only in the 9-10 scoring system. The parents are incredibly active and my wife is one of them. There is ALOT of drama/politics with the parents but so much of it is because of their desire to see whats best for THEIR own kids. In fact we just got a huge email chain yesterday from nearly 40 parents wanting everyone to contact each other when the teacher assignments are handed out so we can all discuss.

    So many of the kids parents I coach constantly, and I repeat constantly , complain about the schools in their proximity and I have known of 4 that have said enough was enough and went the route of home schooling. Others used friends to alter their addresses to get kids in the higher ranking schools.

    However, nobody can disagree that it all starts at home and excellent parenting is #1. I have a great many parents I dislike because they simply drop off the kids at practice and never engage in the activity or watch. But, I also understand this is the real world and we all have huge commitments.

    As parents we educate and guide our kids through life the best we can and always look for safety and security to the best of our ability.

  76. 77
    ARDELL says:

    RE: David Losh @ 69

    I don’t think you can separate school ranking, crime statistics, and # of offenders. They kind of go hand in hand. Not always, but often. So maybe all 3 of these should be the subject of another post. The school ranking is almost never about the quality of the school or its teachers…it is an indication of the priorities of the neighbors, and lack thereof.

    Why not continue to rent in a safer area much closer to work until? For a blog that hails renting over buying, this seems to be a better example of Rent vs Buy falling on the side of why not continue to rent? But as Tim said…that’s the subject of another post.

  77. 78
    Chris says:

    I agree with Ray. Our family has experience with Homeschooling, Private, and Public schools – all have their merits but I’m most happy with the public school situation we have now.

    Volunteering ~100 hrs/year in and out of the public school classroom has been a great use of time for a school we already pay for, compared with 500+ hours/year to homeschool or thousands of dollars/year for private school. The kids are taking advantage of honors math and english – and school based sports are much easier in terms of transportation and logistics. The almost daily, online grade posts are also a huge help, I’m not sure how prevalent that is in private schools.

    (The kids mostly prefer homeschooling because of how they can control their own time and schedule – but I think they get more now out of a third party teacher cracking the whip than they do with a parent, and it’s easier on everyone’s nerves).

  78. 79
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 74

    School “rankings” have always been a factor with regard to the land value, not the value of the structure. I have done stats on low ranked school area vs highly ranked school areas, the higher appreciation and lesser decrease on a % basis, almost always falls in the area where school rankings are highest. Same for % of foreclosures high or low. It’s a corollary relationship where you can’t necessarily separate the components as to why and to what degree.

    Support as to land value from the school rankings helps compensate for structure depreciation, particularly from new to older to old as to structure.

    Part of the “Kool-Aid” of real estate lingo is that good stuff is great and not so good stuff is of “no-nevermind”. Not suggesting you drank the Kool-Aid, Ira. :) But none of us are immune to the osmosis influence of our belief systems.

  79. 80

    RE: ARDELL @ 79
    Of course school rankings influence home prices. But what I’m saying is:
    If you don’t have kids or homeschool them or send them to private schools, should you reject a house because it’s in a lesser school district, simply because you perceive that you’ll have to sell it for less down the road? And my answer is no, you’re paying less in the first place, so it doesn’t matter.
    Also, sometimes parents dismiss entire school districts based on the school district average. For example: Kent is a pretty mediocre school district overall, but it has a few schools that are on par with Bellevue’s or Kirkland’s schools. But they won’t even be considered because the overall district doesn’t rank highly.
    Yes, if you have kids, by all means it’s worth your while to find the best school possible, and if you live in a place like Gig Harbor or Mercer Island, bad schools don’t even exist.

  80. 81
    mike mcc says:

    Wow. Not one of you have on your list “RESALE”.

    Someday, you will sell. The buyers aren’t as unique as you’d like them to be.

  81. 82
    Scotsman says:

    RE: mike mcc @ 81

    “Someday, you will sell”

    Maybe not. One piece of classic advice was to own seven homes by the time you wanted to retire, six of them rented. Maybe Tim has one down and six to go?

  82. 83
    Xizor says:

    Hey, Ballard has a Fred Meyer. It has everything and is right there –not 5 miles away. There is also a Trader Joe’s now.

  83. 84
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 80

    “…you’re paying less in the first place, so it doesn’t matter.”

    The degree of change is not the same. Same as a busy road/near freeway/electric towers nearby. In a hot market the differential might be only 10%, but in a weak market the differential can be as much as 30%. So you are not buying in and selling out at the same discount factor.

    In a strong market the discount is less for lowest school ranking, busy road and other “weakness” factors that are in the land value vs the structure value. In a weak market the discount is deeper. The spread widens, much like the bond market, and the influences of rate and rating pulling it from “par” value.

    You have more to lose from high to low on a lower ranked school, busy road and other factors not apparent in the structure appeal. The biggest decline would be new home, low school ranking and busy road/near freeway or electric towers. That is currently apparent in the higher % of foreclosures for areas that fit that description.

    By the same token, you may have more to gain on the upswing, but the upswing has to be pretty strong to carry it. In short swings of value, which are more normal, the higher ranked schools get more appreciation and less erosion of value. It takes a major swing to hit the lesser school areas.

    Compare it to the condo market. When someone can’t buy a house for $200,000 to $300,000, the condo market rises at the same rate as the housing market. Sometimes even moreso. But when someone CAN buy a house for $200,000 to $300,000, those condos drop to a much greater degree than the housing market. Same applies to school rankings in a market with 0-3 buyers per house vs 7-10 per house.

    The degree of change is not evenly applied, making the land value supports like school rankings, crime and other weakness factors that are not about the house itself, a consideration at all times.

    A great play may be the lowest ranked Elementary School in an area with a 10 ranked Middle and High School. You see that in Bellevue. If your children are in 5th or 6th grade, you can play the discount of a low Elementary ranking, That gets you into an area you might not otherwise afford, and get the same schools for your children as the people in homes that cost 4X or more the price.

    So always picking the best school is not the point so much as understanding the value relationships and the spread differential in different market conditions. To say “it doesn’t matter” is a personal viewpoint, not one that monitors the change of value in different markets.

  84. 85

    By ARDELL @ 84:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 80

    “…youâ��re paying less in the first place, so it doesnâ��t matter.”

    The degree of change is not the same. Same as a busy road/near freeway/electric towers nearby. In a hot market the differential might be only 10%, but in a weak market the differential can be as much as 30%. So you are not buying in and selling out at the same discount factor.

    In a strong market the discount is less for lowest school ranking, busy road and other “weakness” factors that are in the land value vs the structure value. In a weak market the discount is deeper. The spread widens, much like the bond market, and the influences of rate and rating pulling it from “par” value.

    You have more to lose from high to low on a lower ranked school, busy road and other factors not apparent in the structure appeal. The biggest decline would be new home, low school ranking and busy road/near freeway or electric towers. That is currently apparent in the higher % of foreclosures for areas that fit that description.

    By the same token, you may have more to gain on the upswing, but the upswing has to be pretty strong to carry it. In short swings of value, which are more normal, the higher ranked schools get more appreciation and less erosion of value. It takes a major swing to hit the lesser school areas.

    Compare it to the condo market. When someone can’t buy a house for $200,000 to $300,000, the condo market rises at the same rate as the housing market. Sometimes even moreso. But when someone CAN buy a house for $200,000 to $300,000, those condos drop to a much greater degree than the housing market. Same applies to school rankings in a market with 0-3 buyers per house vs 7-10 per house.

    The degree of change is not evenly applied, making the land value supports like school rankings, crime and other weakness factors that are not about the house itself, a consideration at all times.

    A great play may be the lowest ranked Elementary School in an area with a 10 ranked Middle and High School. You see that in Bellevue. If your children are in 5th or 6th grade, you can play the discount of a low Elementary ranking, That gets you into an area you might not otherwise afford, and get the same schools for your children as the people in homes that cost 4X or more the price.

    So always picking the best school is not the point so much as understanding the value relationships and the spread differential in different market conditions. To say “it doesn’t matter” is a personal viewpoint, not one that monitors the change of value in different markets.

    Again, it depends on how you look at buying a house. How many people buying a house put a lot of weight on how much this house will sell for 10 years down the road versus another house?
    Sure, a neighborhood with great schools is going to fare better than a neighborhood with mediocre or bad schools. But when you’re buying a house, there are many other factors besides schools and resale value. I’ve purchased a few homes. I’ve never once given any thought to one home vs another in terms of whether I thought which one would appreciate the most, it was much more whether the house and the neighborhood were suitable, convenient,likable, safe, and pleasant.
    Also, some people are not going to be able to afford to buy a home in a neighborhood with great schools.
    Should they be condemned to renting because they can only buy a 250,000 house and not a 500,000 dollar house? Places like Renton should only have renters because you shouldn’t buy a home unless you’re rich?

  85. 86
    The Tim says:

    By mike mcc @ 81:

    Wow. Not one of you have on your list “RESALE”.

    Someday, you will sell. The buyers aren’t as unique as you’d like them to be.

    Even if I don’t end up in this home until I retire, I don’t intend to sell it if I move. I’ll keep it and rent it out. Either way, as I’ve said before, I’m interested in home ownership not being a perpetual home debtor.

  86. 87
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 85

    Ira asks: “Should they be condemned to renting because they can only buy a 250,000 house and not a 500,000 dollar house? Places like Renton should only have renters because you shouldn’t buy a home unless you’re rich?”

    1) I don’t think renting is “condemned to”

    2) I don’t know much about Renton, other than at least part of it is in the highly acclaimed Issaquah School District.

    3) I do know between Seattle and Everett you can buy a house for $250,000 to $350,000 in some great schools in Shoreline, Mount Lake Terrace, Brier and Edmonds with good sized lots, low offender numbers and decently low crime stats.

    4) 2 summers ago I helped a client buy a house for $314,000 including all closing costs in Kirkland with school rankings of Elementary 8, Middle 8 and High School 9 only 2 offenders within a mile and an A- Crime Score.

    No, I don’t think you have to be rich or “condemned” to renting or pay $500,000+ for a house. Though I did tell that last couple to wait and rent for a year when they first contacted me in early 2008.

    But really the highest priority is “informed consent”. Often when someone picks a house it is my job to show them what might be better options before they make an offer. Usually they move to the better option from what they picked before knowing the full realm of possibilities. That is true of clients from $250,000 to $2,000,000.

    That is what a service that doesn’t presume to 2nd guess you does not offer, and often the price of service is the same and sometimes more.

  87. 88

    RE: ARDELL @ 87
    So if someone came up to you and said they wanted to buy a house in an area with bad schools and low house prices but big lots because they like to garden, and they had no children and wouldn’t have children, would you say ” No, you don’t want to live in Bryn Mawr, they don’t have good schools, have you considered Mountlake Terrace?”
    I completely agree with you, however, that home buyers ought to have options too, and that includes the option of finding a real estate agent who is a good listener, and willing to share their knowledge and opinions without doing a snow job.

  88. 89
    YetAnotherTim says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions on locations and, as usual, the great discussions on the local market, Seattle history, neighborhoods, etc. As someone new to the area, this site has been a huge help. And if I didn’t already have a very competent and honest agent looking out for my intersts, there are a few posters here I’d want to give a shot. I’ve had mixed experiences with agents in the past (in a different state), but as a Seattle n00b I find the service of a knowledgeable, patient agent to be a great value.

    After many pencil analyses of our options, Tim’s post pushed me to build my own model. This has already helped clarify an inescapably emotional decision. It also helps to run it from both my wife’s and my own perspectives. They’re not that far off, but plugging everything into a quantitative model makes the discussions simpler and compromise easier.

  89. 90
    David Losh says:

    RE: The Tim @ 86

    Resale is always the consideration even if you intend on keeping the property.

    In Real Estate there are assets and liabilities. Just because you can “own” a home for $20K to $40K doesn’t mean that’s what you should do right now.

    I don’t know anything about your purchase. I’m sure it’s very nice. What you have posted so far seems to be a well considered decision. In that decision process the ability to resell the property is kind of an indication of the value removed from the value to you.

    I know people just love the property they own. The own it, rent it, add it to a portfolio of other cared for properties. They get the cash flow, and one day they ask what the property is worth and Real Estate professionals break it to them gently that it’s not worth much.

    This is a discussion really for another time, but to off handedly say resale isn’t a consideration, or shouldn’t be a consideration, is short sighted.

  90. 91
    David Losh says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 85RE: ARDELL @ 84

    Ardell had a set of criteria over on the Rain City Guide that she over laid on an area a buyer might be interested in. It does have crime statistics, and schools.

    The point of the post here was to show a check list of kind of the same thing, but in order of importance for Tim. Each buyer does have a wish list, and this post really helps to set that wish list up in an understandable fashion.

    The other thing is the rankings of the importance. Some people need to have a big yard, that’s fenced, yet removed from the house for the dogs. The couple I met today had a price point, and the fenced yard as the entire wish list. They love their two dogs. As it turned out the house was lovingly cared for, and the basement was a complete remodel, tastefully done, with permits. That was a bonus.

    I can talk about the investment aspects of the home, it’s something that I think I should do. Ardell brings all the family criteria to sort through, as I think she should do. It would be great if we could all bring all things to the buyer, or seller, kind of like Ira does, but we each have our own wish list also.

  91. 92
    patient says:

    I agree with Tim on schools. Buying a home that enables us to comfortably keep our kids in some of the best private schools on the Eastside in regards to distance and mortgage payments is the number one criteria for us. I’m pessimistic on the short term economy and think all public schools will degrade from an already lower level than the better private schools. Paying top dollars to be in the best public schools feels like a riskier alternative for our kids education and safety.

  92. 93
    Matt the Engineer says:

    RE: LocalYokel @ 63 – you interpreted my comment wrong. The politicians are generally working for our interest. The Seattle Times seems to be working for the high bidder.

  93. 94
    MichaelB says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 84

    Great comments Ardell! Very interesting point about a lower ranked elementary school in a high ranked district!

  94. 95
    MichaelB says:

    Here are the key mistakes Tim made:
    1. Long commute – time consuming and bad for the environment. When you have children, you will think differently about spending 2 hours a day commuting!
    2. Schools – Ardell says it all – schools = neighborhoods = location, location, location – again, when you have children you will think differently
    3. Crime – Offenders? Are you serious? Gangs? What???? When you have children, you will think differently
    4. Building structure – “this old house?” A newer home generally offers better value – no lead paint, better electrical, plumbing, etc… By the way – kids eat paint and other parts of your house.
    5. Zip Code – yes there is a difference between having an address in Everett and Edmonds, in Renton and Mercer Island, In Ballard and Bellevue – it matters. Like a brand – Toyota versus Lexus… don’t buy a Daihatsu.
    6. The housing bubble is only half over – Tim only got it half right! That house in Everett will be worth $150K soon – adjusted for inflation.

    Housing, like the stock market, is a voting machine in the short term and a weighing machine in the long term. That is, you determine the value of the asset when you buy, but the market determines the value of the asset when you sell. Not considering what drives the market is foolish unless you have some insider information on Boeing’s Everett plant.

    So, remember to consider what is on the market’s (other’s) lists when you buy a house! It’s called statistics… Also, realtors like Ardell can add a lot of value. Tim’s decision brings into question full reliance on a site like Redfin to purchase a house. May be cheaper, but is it really a better value?

  95. 96
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 88

    Ira,

    The specific question you asked me in comment #88 just wouldn’t come up for me and my clients.

    I work North of I-90 on both sides of Lake Washington up into South Snohomish and sometimes into Sammamish. So you are correct. If someone wants to live in Bryn Mawr…that is not in my service area. I would refer them to someone who works South of the I-90 Bridge.

  96. 97
    larecontreimprevue says:

    Belated congrats to The Tim. Been lurking around these parts for almost the entire existence of Seattle Bubble (I think that 2005 Time Magazine cover was a tip-off for many of us that something bad was afoot). A measure of sanity is being forced on the Seattle market, but I can’t help noticing to my profound chagrin (we sold in the late 90s) that my little starter home in Colombia City now Zillows for three times what I paid in 1992, and the Mt. Baker place we bought in 1995 seems to have appreciated by nearly the same amount. Sigh.

    The Tim’s got an extraordinarily charming place on an easy express-bus commute. I think I’d have done what some other commenters have mentioned and looked for the cheapest place in the best neighborhood I could’ve afforded. We’re looking for a place in LA now, and that’s the strategy I’m employing: it’s got to be Topanga Canyon, Bel-Air, or Beverly Glen, and with a maximum price of 600K, it _is_ actually possible to find a few places, albeit all of them dodgy to one degree or another. Still: location, location, location. (We’re using Redfin, natuerlich.)

    Anyway, thanks to The Tim and all the regular posters for making this the finest bubble-cum-housing blog out there, IMHO.

  97. 98
    LocalYokel says:

    By Matt the Engineer @ 93:

    RE: LocalYokel @ 63 – you interpreted my comment wrong. The politicians are generally working for our interest. The Seattle Times seems to be working for the high bidder.

    No worries. I wish I could hold your optimism. :)

  98. 99
    LocalYokel says:

    By MichaelB @ 95:

    Here are the key mistakes Tim made:

    Like I said before, nobody kicks a dead dog.

  99. 100

    By David Losh @ 90:

    RE: The Tim @ 86 – Resale is always the consideration even if you intend on keeping the property..

    Not if you’re lucky enough to die in the property. Then it just becomes your heirs’ problem. ;-)

  100. 101

    By MichaelB @ 95:

    Here are the key mistakes Tim made:
    1. Long commute – time consuming and bad for the environment. When you have children, you will think differently about spending 2 hours a day commuting!
    . . .
    4. Building structure – “this old house?” A newer home generally offers better value – no lead paint, better electrical, plumbing, etc… By the way – kids eat paint and other parts of your house.

    First, you apparently missed the part about it being a 40 minute bus commute. I wouldn’t pick Everett to commute to Seattle either, but I don’t find a 40 minute commute by bus to be particularly long or particularly bad for the environment.

    Second, I really doubt the house has either it’s original electrical system or plumbing. We don’t know when those were redone, but it’s entirely possible that they are just as good (if not better if copper) than a typical house built today.

    Finally, I don’t think you need to have inside information on the Everett Boeing plant. The public information on SC is so bad it really makes me wonder why Boeing is investing more money in that state. Boeing has a severe employee problem, but the problem is at the top, not the bottom.

  101. 102
    David Losh says:

    RE: MichaelB @ 95

    I just going to pick this phrase to tell a story:

    “yes there is a difference between having an address in Everett and Edmonds, in Renton and Mercer Island, In Ballard and Bellevue – it matters.”

    Your neighborhood matters. Tim has pointed out that he lives in North Everett, not South Everett where the crime is.

    In North Seattle there is a neighbor hood named after the schools, Bryant/ Assumption. It’s surrounded by View Ridge, Wedgewood, or Meadowbrook, but people who live in Bryant/ Assumption make this very clear distinction. Bryant is the Public School, and Assumption is the Catholic School.

    The importance is that if your child goes to one of these two schools, they go to Eckstien, Roosevelt, and hopefully on to the University of Washington. Without moving you have access to some great schools. Those homes sell for a premium.

  102. 103
    bd says:

    RE: The Tim @ 73“Why would I pay $X00,000 more for a home in a “nicer” school boundary when the far more important factor is my parenting and overall involvement in my kids’ lives?”Yeah, that’s a good argument if you are sending your kid to public school, but don’t care which public school your kid attends. You said, however, that you hope to send your kid to private school.For me, it seems an odd choice to go through meticulous care designing the criteria for selecting a house on the one hand, and dismiss any thought to finding a house near an acceptable school with the thought that you’ll probably send the kids to some hypothetical private school anyway.In many cases, if not most, sending the kids to private school will cost nearly as much as buying a house.I can’t say I did better in buying my first house, however. I also didn’t give much thought to the schools.We were extraordinarily lucky to have landed in a excellent Seattle public school that is in high demand. My kids are learning things I cannot teach them at home, and we found we love the school community and all our neighbors because they, like us, highly value education. That we save tens of thousands of dollars a year over private or homeschooling is, needless to say, a real boon.

  103. 104

    By MichaelB @ 95:

    Here are the key mistakes Tim made:
    1. Long commute – time consuming and bad for the environment. When you have children, you will think differently about spending 2 hours a day commuting!
    2. Schools – Ardell says it all – schools = neighborhoods = location, location, location – again, when you have children you will think differently
    3. Crime – Offenders? Are you serious? Gangs? What???? When you have children, you will think differently
    4. Building structure – “this old house?” A newer home generally offers better value – no lead paint, better electrical, plumbing, etc… By the way – kids eat paint and other parts of your house.
    5. Zip Code – yes there is a difference between having an address in Everett and Edmonds, in Renton and Mercer Island, In Ballard and Bellevue – it matters. Like a brand – Toyota versus Lexus… don’t buy a Daihatsu.
    6. The housing bubble is only half over – Tim only got it half right! That house in Everett will be worth $150K soon – adjusted for inflation.

    Housing, like the stock market, is a voting machine in the short term and a weighing machine in the long term. That is, you determine the value of the asset when you buy, but the market determines the value of the asset when you sell. Not considering what drives the market is foolish unless you have some insider information on Boeing’s Everett plant.

    So, remember to consider what is on the market’s (other’s) lists when you buy a house! It’s called statistics… Also, realtors like Ardell can add a lot of value. Tim’s decision brings into question full reliance on a site like Redfin to purchase a house. May be cheaper, but is it really a better value?

    I’ll agree with Kary here. Lots of people do a 40 minute commute.
    1. Fergawdsakes, buses from ballard aren’t that much quicker than 40 minutes
    2. Tim is not going to send his kids to public schools. If you’re not sending your kids to the neighborhood public school, doesn’t that free you up to buy a home in a neighborhood that you like for many other reasons?
    3. Do we have any information that the neighborhood Tim’s moving to is infested with gangs and crime? I seriously doubt that it is. Some people here feel that if you’re not in places like Mercer Island or Sammamish, you’re going to get carjacked and stabbed on a daily basis.
    4. Old houses mostly have better initial build quality and are a lot prettier. Sure, they cost more to maintain, but a lot of new houses are completely devoid of character and are big, soulless blobs.
    5. Tim bought a lovely looking house in a seemingly nice neighborhood for 225,000 dollars. Who cares about the prestige of the zip code? Kias and Hyundais are increasingly popular and noted for their good reliability over the last few years.
    6. If the value of Tim’s house goes down, he’s still paying less than what he’d pay if he were renting, and he gets to do with the house what he chooses. Renting is a wonderful thing for those who choose to rent, and according to most, we’re much closer to the bottom than we are to the top. If you don’t agree, fine. Keep renting. I don’t think Tim made a mistake. He’s a smart guy.

  104. 105

    On other thing about the school district situation. We looked at over 80 houses when we were looking for ourselves because of the criteria I mentioned above. If we had put school district on the list, even though we’ll never need the services of the school district, it would have made the search even more difficult.

    And quite frankly, I don’t know how I would have assessed our current property or the one that was also at the top. As someone mentioned above, parts of Renton are in the Issaquah school district. We live in the Kent school district, but with a Renton address in an unincorporated area which tried twice to become it’s own city and which after that Renton tried to annex. I mentioned above that school districts can change over time (improve or get worse), but I live in an area where the school district could actually change.

  105. 106

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 105
    You looked at over 80 houses?
    You must have driven that real estate agent crazy! :)
    One thing about school districts: Even in school districts considered “bad”, not every school is below average. Kent’s, for example, while considered better than Renton’s, is thought of as pretty mediocre. Yet there are a few schools in Kent with lots of parent involvement and very high test scores. Sometimes people are thinking about the quality of education their children are going to get when they buy a house. Others are only thinking about the prestige of the district and the resale value.

  106. 107

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 106:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 105
    You looked at over 80 houses?
    You must have driven that real estate agent crazy! :)

    I told the wife that we needed to fire the clients!

  107. 108
    Jonness says:

    When I was at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I began to walk around and look at Vincent’s paintings. After about 5 minutes, a woman approached me and asked if I would like to take the audio tour. I said sure, and she handed me a portable audio player. I went on my merry way listening to narratives of Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo describing each of his paintings. For instance, he chose a specific red to paint the asylum court yard because it represented a specific emotion he described he felt while living there. He talked in depth about why he chose specific themes and painted things in specific ways. In addition, the paintings were not like cold sterile prints. They had 3D texture and jumped off the canvas at me. You can’t get this experience by simply looking at a 2D print.

    http://www.vggallery.com/painting/f_0779.jpg

    Vincent’s paintings came to life. I felt more in touch with his particular human experience than I ever previously imagined possible. It was a very special moment in my life I will never forget. It became a part of me and affected the way I approached the creation of my own art (music).

    Some years later, I was talking to a young woman who had just graduated from a prestigious art school, when the subject of Vincent came up. She proceeded to tell me his art work was crap, and he wasn’t a real artist. Since he was insane, he thought differently than others, and people over-exaggerated the importance of this trait that was essentially meaningless to the art world. I asked her if perfect self expression captured in a particular medium had any artistic merit, and all she could do was talk about this or that technique and how her goal as an artist was to copy someone else’ creation but change it just a little bit so that it was slightly unique to her.

    Awe, wasn’t that a safe and easy approach? I walked away thinking about how her parents had wasted $150K sending her to one of the best art schools in America.

    Have you ever heard a song that you used to listen to a long time ago, and it brought back the exact feeling you had at the particular time and place you had previously heard the song? It’s like being transported back in time and feeling exactly like you did back then. Your neural networks fire through memory trace in the exact order and pattern as they did back then. The original experience is an absolutely irreplaceable part of your life that has molded your thoughts, feelings, and experiences along the way and is an important component of what makes you an unique and interesting individual.

    So when you are out pounding the pavement attempting to figure out which neighborhood to live in and which house to buy, ask yourself, how does it make you feel and is it a worthy investment? While doing so, remain logical so that impulsive emotions of the moment don’t overshadow the true nuances of the way the particular home and neighborhood make you feel over time. You are going to live there for a great portion of your life. Go ahead and use the charts, graphs, and papers in order to help evaluate your decision, but don’t forget to include a healthy dose of personal gut instinct and subtle unique needs and desires that particular communities, neighborhoods, and homes interact with in fulfilling ways that are essentially indescribable to others. In the same way Vincent’s experiences, triumphs, losses, madness, uniqueness, sacrifices, winnings, love affairs, and appreciation of art is captured and reflected in his paintings, your life will be captured and portrayed within the home and neighborhood you choose to live in. And since you must expend a great deal of time and effort in order to gain the money to fund this experience, make certain it is a worthwhile financial investment.

  108. 109

    RE: Jonness @ 108 – Long post, but it got better and better as it went on. Good job!

  109. 110
    ray pepper says:

    RE: Jonness @ 108

    ” but don’t forget to include a healthy dose of personal gut instinct and subtle unique needs and desires that particular communities, neighborhoods, and homes interact with in fulfilling ways that are essentially indescribable to others. ”

    Excellent Post!

  110. 111
    NewHomeOwnerInFremont says:

    Jonness – Impressive and deep. :)

  111. 112
    David North says:

    By Jonness @ 108:

    When I was at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I began to walk around and look at Vincent’s paintings. After about 5 minutes, a woman approached me and asked if I would like to take the audio tour. I said sure, and she handed me a portable audio player. I went on my merry way listening to narratives of Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo describing each of his paintings. For instance, he chose a specific red to paint the asylum court yard because it represented a specific emotion he described he felt while living there. He talked in depth about why he chose specific themes and painted things in specific ways. In addition, the paintings were not like cold sterile prints. They had 3D texture and jumped off the canvas at me. You can’t get this experience by simply looking at a 2D print.

    http://www.vggallery.com/painting/f_0779.jpg

    Vincent’s paintings came to life. I felt more in touch with his particular human experience than I ever previously imagined possible. It was a very special moment in my life I will never forget. It became a part of me and affected the way I approached the creation of my own art (music).

    Some years later, I was talking to a young woman who had just graduated from a prestigious art school, when the subject of Vincent came up. She proceeded to tell me his art work was crap, and he wasn’t a real artist. Since he was insane, he thought differently than others, and people over-exaggerated the importance of this trait that was essentially meaningless to the art world. I asked her if perfect self expression captured in a particular medium had any artistic merit, and all she could do was talk about this or that technique and how her goal as an artist was to copy someone else’ creation but change it just a little bit so that it was slightly unique to her.

    Awe, wasn’t that a safe and easy approach? I walked away thinking about how her parents had wasted $150K sending her to one of the best art schools in America.

    Have you ever heard a song that you used to listen to a long time ago, and it brought back the exact feeling you had at the particular time and place you had previously heard the song? It’s like being transported back in time and feeling exactly like you did back then. Your neural networks fire through memory trace in the exact order and pattern as they did back then. The original experience is an absolutely irreplaceable part of your life that has molded your thoughts, feelings, and experiences along the way and is an important component of what makes you an unique and interesting individual.

    So when you are out pounding the pavement attempting to figure out which neighborhood to live in and which house to buy, ask yourself, how does it make you feel and is it a worthy investment? While doing so, remain logical so that impulsive emotions of the moment don’t overshadow the true nuances of the way the particular home and neighborhood make you feel over time. You are going to live there for a great portion of your life. Go ahead and use the charts, graphs, and papers in order to help evaluate your decision, but don’t forget to include a healthy dose of personal gut instinct and subtle unique needs and desires that particular communities, neighborhoods, and homes interact with in fulfilling ways that are essentially indescribable to others. In the same way Vincent’s experiences, triumphs, losses, madness, uniqueness, sacrifices, winnings, love affairs, and appreciation of art is captured and reflected in his paintings, your life will be captured and portrayed within the home and neighborhood you choose to live in. And since you must expend a great deal of time and effort in order to gain the money to fund this experience, make certain it is a worthwhile financial investment.

    I decided to quote the whole thing because it is so beautifully expressed. In a simpler form, this is advice I give all of my clients and prospective clients: “Feed your mind with as much good information from credible sources as you can, and trust your gut.”

    Excellent post, Jonness.

  112. 113

    RE: Jonness @ 108
    Beautiful post, Jonness.
    I’m tolerant and all that, but how can you not love Van Gogh’s work? Soulful, magical paintings.
    Somehow I highly doubt that the young woman who dissed my man Vincent is making her living painting, unless it’s paint by number.

  113. 114
    The Tim says:

    RE: MichaelB @ 95 – Wow, that’s a really long-winded way of saying “I’ve got different priorities than Tim when it comes to home buying.”

    Do you feel better now that you got that off your chest?

  114. 115
    StillRenting says:

    It might be worthwhile to consider the distance from your home to the private schools you would want your child to attend, and how difficult it is to attend those schools (due to exclusivity, cost, etc.). I have some friends in Capitol Hill who are considering selling and moving to Shoreline to be closer to private school. From their description, It sounds like the application process for some of the better private schools in Seattle is as difficult as the Ivy League, so the Shoreline school might be the closest one their child gets into (I haven’t heard yet, but it sounds like they didn’t make the cut for at least one of the closer ones). They currently live within walking distance to work, but that doesn’t help them much if they have to drive up to Shoreline every day to drop off & pick up kids from school.

    I doubt this would be as much of a problem in Everett as it seems to be in Seattle, but it might be something to think about for some people planning to use private schools.

  115. 117
    Scotsman says:

    RE: StillRenting @ 15

    I drove from Bellevue to Capital Hill for years to get my kids to school. We knew many others who did the same, or more. I don’t recall anyone talking about moving closer- the commitment to getting kids into the school, then paying for it, kind of overwhelmed everything. It’s only a few years of your life, then it’s onto something else. Are you going to move every time they change schools? What happens when the siblings don’t get into an exclusive school? It happens a lot. Or when the school isn’t as good a fit for child #2 as it was for #1?

    Given my experience, it isn’t the exclusiveness that’s the key to success. It’s the attitude of the parents, teachers, and administrators that this experience has to be something more than average. Higher expectations for all leads to better results.

  116. 118
    LocalYokel says:

    .

  117. 119

    RE: LocalYokel @ 18 – Did you delete that lengthy post? It’s showing up in Feedburner, but I’m just seeing a period here.

    As to your comment about those people wanting a Seattle address, there is one good reason to live in Seattle. If you’re running a small business from your home, that has customers come by from time to time (but not necessarily constantly), Seattle is very friendly compared to some areas, and many HOAs.

    As to Tim not wanting to live in King County, that is close to starting to pay off. King County is considering a $20 car tab tax to pay for Metro’s budget deficit. I’m not opposed to that, because I’d rather have people in buses than cars, but it goes to my point of how having the low car tab tax attracts the attention of local politicians, and others, as was the case with the Monorail tax.

  118. 120
    bd says:

    By Scotsman @ 117:

    RE: StillRenting @ 15

    I drove from Bellevue to Capital Hill for years to get my kids to school. We knew many others who did the same, or more. I don’t recall anyone talking about moving closer- the commitment to getting kids into the school, then paying for it, kind of overwhelmed everything. It’s only a few years of your life, then it’s onto something else. Are you going to move every time they change schools? What happens when the siblings don’t get into an exclusive school? It happens a lot. Or when the school isn’t as good a fit for child #2 as it was for #1?

    Driving my kid from one city to the next for school sounds completely dreadful to me. If we’re just talking elementary school and you have more than one kid, you could be looking at something close to ten years of school commute. Yuck!

    It’s a good point, however, that in many cases things are thrown to the wind once you decide to go the private school route. You can’t necessarily buy a house with the expectation that your kid will go to any particular private school. I know more than one family with more than ample means that had a devil of a time finding a seat in private school (as many a six applications in a year with no success!) And as you say, some schools won’t guarantee a seat for a sibling.

    If you really are committed to that sort of future, you might as well buy where you like and deal with details when your kid hits school age.

    To each his own.

  119. 121

    RE: bd @ 120 – Another problem is the kids outgrow their school. The elementary may be no where near the high school. Car pooling with other parents really helps though, but it does limit what you can play on the radio.

  120. 122
    bd says:

    So I’m always curious about the desire for acreage.

    It’s not on my list desirable qualities. I like being elbow to elbow with my neighbors. It promotes neighborliness (with the right neighbors). We trade babysitting, borrow tools, have impromptu barbecues. Very cozy.

    I assume that some of the desire for acreage comes from a desire to avoid that, to not see your neighbors every time you step out the front door. I can understand that.

    Is there something more to it? My parents had some acreage for a bit when I was growing up, lake front, and I can’t say they seemed to actively enjoy it. They were rarely outside, except on the riding lawn mower. They were almost never on the lake.

    Acreage folks, are you out there in the acreage? Do you actively use all that space very often? Doesn’t the weather and lack of sunlight keep you inside half the year? What’s the attraction? Is it just the potential, whether you go out there very often or not? Is it horse riding? Is it just a big space for the kids to play?

  121. 123

    RE: bd @ 122 – For me it’s simply not being that close to other houses. I don’t need acreage, but 10,000 square feet was our minimum and a quarter or half acre was valued more highly. Interestingly, after we bought King County decided that our lot was slightly smaller, and so low it’s listed as just under 10k.

    As I noted earlier though, we have the golf course, so our house has sort of a split personality. From one side I can see about four other houses, and from the other only one or two that are rather far away because across the golf course is woods. And also as I noted, our neighbors have a lot of get-togethers, and are very social, so we get the neighborliness that you mention.

    I would mention though that for some being on acreage could be so they can do whatever activities they want. They can be messy, noisy, etc., with no one to complain.

  122. 124

    RE: bd @ 122
    My house has a lot that’s a little over half an acre. It had nothing to do with the need for isolating from the neighbors, but room to run for the dog, and lots of space for gardening. The dog and I are outside all the time, but maybe less so when it’s more than a drizzle.

  123. 125
    Ross says:

    RE: bd @ 122 – I want acreage, but your speculation on motives is pretty far off. What I want is space to build a home for myself and a second home for my in-laws that are either connected or separated by a covered walkway. I also want a workshop with spaces for both metal and woodworking tools, etc. Finally, my wife and I want space for a big garden and sufficient room for livestock (primarily chickens and rabbits) in a place where it’s legal to raise small livestock. I would LOVE it if several neighbors were within sight and an easy walk of the main house, but don’t want to impose the rest of my family’s pastoral fantasy on them, so acreage allows for some separation, including sound barriers (trees) to block the inevitable sounds of tools and animals.

  124. 126
    The Tim says:

    RE: bd @ 122 – My motivation was always driven by my many fun experiences visiting my grandparents in Port Orchard growing up. They have about 5 acres with a small lawn, a big garden, the rest wooded, and a small creek running the length of the property. We spent a ton of time playing in those woods, rain or shine. I’d love it if my kids could have that right at home, but it looks like we’ll have to buy a vacation property further out for that.

  125. 127
    GreenAcres says:

    By bd @ 122:

    Acreage folks, are you out there in the acreage? Do you actively use all that space very often? Doesn’t the weather and lack of sunlight keep you inside half the year? What’s the attraction? Is it just the potential, whether you go out there very often or not? Is it horse riding? Is it just a big space for the kids to play?

    We are on 8 acres and are outside constantly (weather permitting!). We wanted space for our dogs and kids to play without bothering the neighbors, space for outdoor entertaining, flower and vegetable gardening, fruit trees, and we wanted to maintain a visual/sound buffer between ourselves and our neighbors.

    I don’t particularly want to see or hear (or be visible/heard by) my neighbors, but I don’t find our neighborhood “unneighborly”. Within days of moving in, our neighbors showed up on our doorsteps to meet and greet us (some bearing cookies! yay!!). The next month, after learning that my husband had back surgery, these same group of neighbors (that I had met once or twice!) showed up with casseroles, mowed our lawn, offered to watch our house if we needed to return to the hospital for any time. I think this proves, in short, that neighborliness is less a function of how close you live and more a function of WHO you live close to! :-)

    I like being able to have coffee outside on my patio in my bathrobe in the morning without my neighbor having to see me and my morning bedhead. I like being able to entertain friends out on the patio late on Saturday without disturbing any neighbors who are trying to get to sleep. I like being able to let my dogs run, and not be worried that they are running into a neighbors yard or bothering them. I like gardening (or not, depending on the weather) and not worrying that my unweeded flower beds are an eyesore. In addition, my husband is a contractor, and he needs space for equipment and materials. While we have a storage yard and try to make sure our house doesn’t look like Sanford and Son, if I lived in a neighborhood that was offended by the occasional stack of foundation forms appearing, that would be an issue.

    IRT horses or livestock, we do have horses, but are boarding them until we can improve the infrastructure on our property. Most people, unless they have space and $$ (and county permission!) for an indoor arena aren’t going too do much riding on their own property as the rain limits your ability to use an outdoor arena 9 mo out of the year, and you have to do a lot of mud management for that limited use. Even though county code allows 3 horses per acre, It’s difficult to keep a horse healthy on anything less than an acre per horse, and even that would be used mostly for barn and paddock, not riding. Typical acreage around here (5 acre lots) can be successfully set up for horsekeeping but not riding. Even if you have small ponies, it would be difficult to set up a way to safely ride around the yard on less than a few acres, because anything less than about 60×120 ft riding space and you’re putting a lot of stress on the horse’s joints going around in tight circles. Luckily, our property adjoins an equestrian park so when we do get our land improvements done, we will be able to ride off our property.

    Our neighbors raise chickens and while we occassionally hear the rooster, it’s nice to have it 300+ heavily wooded feet away rather than right under my window.

    We started our marriage on 3 acres and the smallest lot we’ve ever lived on was 1.25 ac. 5+ acres feels perfect for us and I can’t imagine living on a small urban lot. Thankfully, it seems there are a lot more people who would like the urban lot than the acreage lot… so price per sf of acreage was in my favor! :-)

  126. 128
    masaba says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 116

    Well, Scotsman, you have a point. However, the only real meat of this post was the way Tim weighted his spreadsheet. I assume 95%+ of the readers of this site know what a cost/benefit analysis is.

    I assume that the goal of this blog is to make posts that stimulate discussion. A simple discussion of the process of doing a cost/benefit analysis doesn’t exactly seem like it would stimulate any conversation. The process is excruciatingly simple; the real interesting part about any cost/benefit analysis is how you do the weightings.

  127. 129
    Peter Witting says:

    In the early 90’s, my spouse drew up non-negotiable criteria for a house, and left the rest to me: less then 10 miles from downtown Seattle, brick, and with a full basement. That gave us West Seattle, Ballard, and View Ridge (among other neighborhoods) that were in our price-range. I still have that wonderful house in View Ridge.

    Re: driving kids to private school – I went to “an exclusive prep school” for Middle and Upper school. Middle School at that time was on Capitol Hill; Upper School is in North Seattle at 145th. My dad drove me to school from Lake Forest Park every single day until I got my license, and I consider that some of the most valuable time we spent together.

  128. 130
    StillRenting says:

    By Scotsman @ 117:

    RE: StillRenting @ 15

    I drove from Bellevue to Capital Hill for years to get my kids to school. We knew many others who did the same, or more. I don’t recall anyone talking about moving closer- the commitment to getting kids into the school, then paying for it, kind of overwhelmed everything. It’s only a few years of your life, then it’s onto something else. Are you going to move every time they change schools? What happens when the siblings don’t get into an exclusive school? It happens a lot. Or when the school isn’t as good a fit for child #2 as it was for #1?

    The relative difficulty of commuting from Bellevue to Capitol Hill for school depends on where you work. If you work in downtown Seattle, it probably isn’t such a big deal to swing by Capitol Hill to drop the kids off on your way. I would wager that at least a few of those parents had a similar commute situation.

    In any case, the point wasn’t to tell people what should be their priority. I only brought up the topic as something to think about when making your decision. As Tim has pointed out, everyone makes decisions based on different priorities. If one priority is optimized morning commute, your score in that column will change if your kids start school in a location far from home and work, either because there are no good private schools near your home or because your children can’t get into a good private school near your home.

    Given my experience, it isn’t the exclusiveness that’s the key to success. It’s the attitude of the parents, teachers, and administrators that this experience has to be something more than average. Higher expectations for all leads to better results.

    My anecdote wasn’t really meant to provide an opinion about the relative benefits of public vs. private or exclusive vs. nonexclusive. I was just pointing out that going the private school route may affect commute time, and that simply having the money to attend isn’t the only barrier to attending the private schools you want. I do agree with you that exclusivity isn’t important (to me personally). I also don’t think exclusivity is important to my friends. They specifically mentioned the types of classes those schools offered when they described them to me. I think those schools are exclusive because everyone in that area has the same idea (live near work and use the good private schools nearby), and there simply aren’t enough spots for all the kids who want to attend.

    I personally believe the definition of a “good” school, public or private, is different for different people and everyone has to make that decision for their own family. I also agree with Tim that the most important factor is parental involvement.

  129. 131
    Frank says:

    Wow, I’ll be reading and re-reading this. We’re going through a home search right now, so it’s extremely interesting to read your process.
    Your comment about public schools froze me. I’d love to hear more about why you think the public schools are a “joke.” That’s pretty much our number one priority!

  130. 132
    BillE says:

    By bd @ 122:

    So I’m always curious about the desire for acreage.

    My biggest reason is privacy. They say good fences make good neighbors. I think good distances makes even better neighbors. It takes the sting out of screaming kids, screaming adults, barking dogs, reving snowmobiles at 1am (just experienced this one recently!). There’s other reasons too, like shop space and a big garden. Testing handloads on your own property is pretty cool.
    I have a good friend who lives on 10 acres and gets all his firewood just from trees that blow over in windstorms. He also has a kickass fire pit that you can’t have when surrounded by houses. One of his neighbors raises beef for a few others as long as they pay for the feed. Another neighbor repairs and plows the road with his tractor. From the few people I’ve known who lived in similar settings, that kind of stuff is pretty common.
    With my budget and location limits it’s unlikely I’ll get something that big, but prices have come down enough that I might end up with more than a postage stamp. I’ve looked at a few homes on half acre lots and even looked at one on 5 acres last week.

  131. 133
    ray pepper says:

    RE: BillE @ 132

    We live on 5 acres in the 98332 but only 3 min from Costco and our GHB YMCA. Our neighbors are in the distance and I love the room. 4 of the 5 acres are wetlands and provide an excellent buffer and the rest is filled with our home, driveway, gate, and LOTS of parking for the toys.

    I had a 1/2 acre in the past (98001) and it was horrible due to the yard work and incessant mowing that I had. Now I just have to deal with our neighbors old dog (Peppie) walking over pooping in various spots. However, I trained our dog Sam to do the same across the path through the trees. Occassional trees falling and power outages are commonplace so the back-up generator is in place. We are hardly in the toolies but when at home it feels like it and there is nothing better.

    However, I also love high rise condos walkable to everything. I do NOT see myself buying one but renting one in the future is a strong possibility. I just haven’t decided where yet.

    Until then, I will continue to just watch Peppie do his daily stroll over.

  132. 134
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Peter Witting @ 129

    “My dad drove me to school from Lake Forest Park every single day until I got my license, and I consider that some of the most valuable time we spent together.”

    I would say the 45-60 minutes my wife or I (we split the driving from Bellevue to SCDS, then back) spent with the kids was as important as the schooling. How many parents get or take the time to discuss current events heard on the news, guide kids through interpersonal issues, teach values, analytical skills, perspectives, etc. or just get to kick back and enjoy songs on the radio? The hour or so each parent got to spend with our kids every day has paid off big time.

  133. 135

    By BillE @ 32:

    My biggest reason is privacy. They say good fences make good neighbors. I think good distances makes even better neighbors. It takes the sting out of screaming kids, screaming adults, barking dogs, reving snowmobiles at 1am (just experienced this one recently!).

    People who live on 4000 square foot lots don’t tend to have that last problem. ;-)

  134. 136
    GreenAcres says:

    By Scotsman @ 134:

    RE: Peter Witting @ 129

    “My dad drove me to school from Lake Forest Park every single day until I got my license, and I consider that some of the most valuable time we spent together.”

    I would say the 45-60 minutes my wife or I (we split the driving from Bellevue to SCDS, then back) spent with the kids was as important as the schooling. How many parents get or take the time to discuss current events heard on the news, guide kids through interpersonal issues, teach values, analytical skills, perspectives, etc. or just get to kick back and enjoy songs on the radio? The hour or so each parent got to spend with our kids every day has paid off big time.

    Exactly why we decided (after several years of public and parochial school) to homeschool. The quality time spent with our kids every day can’t be replicated by teachers. Bonus: it totally freed us from thinking about schools/district when looking at homes.

  135. 137
    Scotsman says:

    RE: GreenAcres @ 136

    Home schooling is the best. We tried it for a year, but it was too hard to make it work with everything else that was going on at the time. I envy your ability to see it through.

  136. 138
    bd says:

    By Scotsman @ 137:

    RE: GreenAcres @ 136

    Home schooling is the best. We tried it for a year, but it was too hard to make it work with everything else that was going on at the time. I envy your ability to see it through.

    As is true with all schooling, it depends on the kid. I have one kid that loves learning from us at home, and one that has serious issues with it and definitely learns best from a teacher at school rather than a parent at home

    I wouldn’t take to home schooling though just because of the sheer cost. I could send six kids a year to Bush for the cost of me or my spouse quitting our jobs to home school.

    I’m sure it can be great, if you are willing to take on the cost and have a kid it works for.

  137. 139
    BillE says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 135:

    By BillE @ 32:

    My biggest reason is privacy. They say good fences make good neighbors. I think good distances makes even better neighbors. It takes the sting out of screaming kids, screaming adults, barking dogs, reving snowmobiles at 1am (just experienced this one recently!).

    People who live on 4000 square foot lots don’t tend to have that last problem. ;-)

    It doesn’t take much room to have a sled sit on a trailer while you rev the the engine. I assume my neighbor had done some work on one of his and was just running it to test things out. The same guy has some kind of building or woodwork project going on so I get to hear all his saws and whatever right on the other side of the fence.

  138. 140
    MichaelB says:

    RE: The Tim @ 114

    I would venture to say that the vast majority of parents have different priorities to you in home buying, especially if they are considering raising a family. Not considering schools, crime and commute to major business centers leads to a poor investment decision. Your priorities are basically meaningless since most of those things are available in parts of all of those areas. For example, woods, creek, view, walk to shops. A poor decision tool leading to a poor decision.

    Tim, when you commit to raising a family, parking for parties is generally no longer a big priority. You’ll see…

    I thought this blog was about not buying in the bubble and making wise investment decisions, but evidently it’s all about fuzzy priorities…

  139. 141

    […] we had narrowed down which neighborhoods we wanted to focus our home search on, we basically started scouring every home on the market up to […]

  140. 142
    dadan says:

    I have been looking at houses in Sammamish for a while and found one interesting house. The only big concern is that it is on corner lot and there is a lamp post besides the house and the master bedroom can see it from the window (of course the lamp light can come inside). I wonder if I can move the lamp post a little bit to the corner. The move won’t affect how the lamp works for the public and it probably works better with the movement. Has someone done something similar?

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