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.

22 comments:

  1. 1
    boster says:

    Enjoy the best of both and live on lake Washington.

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    RE: boster @ 1 – That makes no sense.

  3. 3
    AndySeattle says:

    Lake FTW. Freshwater is so much easier to deal with than salt.

  4. 4

    RE: AndySeattle @ 3

    Especially Property Affected by Rising Puget Sound Water

    Affected by global warming.

  5. 5
    Tim McB says:

    River?

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Erik says:

    Sound. Our bodies need salt to survive.

  8. 8
    Macro Investor says:

    Lake. Tsunamis on sound could be life threatening.

  9. 9
    Scotsman says:

    Tough one, but gotta go with the lake. Fresh water makes all the water related activities easier. The Lake Washington comment above does make sense- access to both fresh and salt for your boat courtesy of the locks. But I’d rather have lakefront in a warmer region, at least the other side of the mountains. Maybe even take a stab a four seasons instead of just two.

  10. 10
    boster says:

    tim it’s clear you’re not a boater. living on lake Washington gives you a freahwater lake tostore your boat in and have fun in while still giving you access to the puget sound via the locks.

  11. 11
    Macro Investor says:

    By boster @ 10:

    tim it’s clear you’re not a boater. living on lake Washington gives you a freahwater lake tostore your boat in and have fun in while still giving you access to the puget sound via the locks.

    Well, I’m sure glad the water is still free. But where the heck is lake tostore?

  12. 12
    David B. says:

    I don’t have aquaphobia, but that’s how I voted because I really don’t care strongly about being on the water, and I’m not willing to pay the price premium that it entails.

    Quite similar to my attitude about coastal California big cities, actually: I don’t much care for a Mediterranean climate and am unwilling to pay the price premium asked for it.

  13. 13
    Jonness says:

    I looked at close to 500 houses before I bought my house on Puget Sound last year. From what I’ve seen, there is absolutely no comparison between a house on a lake and a house on the sound. I have a 20′ tall wall of glass in my living room from which I’ve seen whales, porpoises, fish, seals, otters, eagles, ducks, racoons, deer, and you name it. As if that’s not enough, I can sail my boat from my back yard all the way to Alaska.

    That being said, not just any house on a sound or lake will do. Where I live it’s 1.5 miles to the other side of the water, and I effectively have 1000′ of waterfront beach between neighbors’ houses who have views of their beaches (easy access to private beach). In addition, the house is set back 600′ from the nearest road (quiet and serene). Since it’s new construction, I don’t have to deal with weird mold, strange smells, or pesky ghosts. :)

    OK, it’s not the Taj Mahal, and there are plenty of nicer homes out there. But this place is a major upgrade from the 750 sq ft unfinished cabin I lived in for years while I rode out a period of ill health. More importantly, living in that cabin for years after I regained my health allowed me to save up enough money to buy this place.

    So here comes my buyers’ advice, which is based on my own experience:

    Do not run out and make an impulse buy! If you are thinking of buying a house and can’t comfortably afford the place you really want, live frugally for years while you save up enough to comfortably afford what you want. If you have to, move into your parents basement and save every penny you can. It will be worth it when you finally get the house you deserve.

    As for me, I did 7 years of research and saving prior to buying. By the time I finally purchased a house, I had outgrown every house I had looked at during the first five years of searching. Now I’m ready to stay for at least 15 years, which is about the minimum I deem necessary if you are going to purchase a place. Otherwise, live frugally and keep saving. The less you pay the huge fee associated with trading houses, the better. (Use a discount Realtor. 500 Realty refunded $10K of the buying agent’s fee when I bought the new place.)

  14. 14
    Jay says:

    RE: Jonness @ 13 – Did you tour 500 houses with one agent? Or did you keep changing agents? Also, how many tours did you do with 500 Realty? Thanks.

  15. 15
    Jay says:

    RE: Jonness @ 13 – Did you tour 500 houses with one agent? Or did you keep changing agents? Also, how many tours did you do with 500 Realty? Thanks.

  16. 16
    Erik says:

    RE: Jonness @ 13
    Or you could buy something new and bail on your prior obligations. Then hack the trees down down blocking your view. Voila! Now you have a nice view without any of the pain of saving and counting pennies.

  17. 17
    Erik says:

    RE: boster @ 10
    Good point. Lake Washington is nice.

  18. 18
    Jonness says:

    By Jay @ 15:

    RE: Jonness @ 13 – Did you tour 500 houses with one agent? Or did you keep changing agents? Also, how many tours did you do with 500 Realty? Thanks.

    Jay:

    I looked at 500 or so homes but only looked at a few with an agent. Here’s how I did it:

    For the first three years, I went with traditional agents, and I really didn’t fit that model very well. I would make a list of homes, and the agent would meet me at each place for the showing. I was never comfortable with it as I’m largely self sufficient and didn’t like all the tricks that were constantly played on me by the agents trying to trick me into buying a home. Needless to say, I went through agents like used cars during that period. Despite not really having enough money to buy a home, it provided me a good education in valuing homes and knowing exactly what to look for as well as figuring out what kind of home I actually wanted to buy.

    Well, we were right smack in the middle of a big housing hurricane, and it was very apparent the air would continue to blow out the sails. I needed to buy a house, because my commute was killing me, but I wasn’t keen on losing a couple hundred thousand dollars I didn’t have, so I didn’t feel much pressure to buy. The more my down payment grew, the cheaper the houses got and the lower mortgage rates became. I was in a win-win-win situation that was extremely difficult to step out of, despite all the naysayers telling me I would miss the bottom of the market and be hopelessly priced out of home ownership forever.

    On the weekends when my girlfriend and I felt up to it, we would compile a list of about 20 homes and check out the satellite views in order to get a good feel for the layout of the land. Believe it or not, this was cheap entertainment for us. We both really liked looking at homes and dreaming of someday having a better life. It was fun and always led to having a nice lunch somewhere, even if it meant picking up a couple of Subway sandwiches and having a picnic along the way. :)

    Most of the homes we looked at during that period were unoccupied, and we didn’t look at any waterfront properties because we couldn’t afford them. Sometimes an owner would be around working on the yard and show us the inside, but for the most part, we peered through the windows. Then again, sometimes the REO’s were not locked, so we would go in, look around, turn off the jacuzzi and other stuff that was needlessly running up the bank’s electricity bill, shut the open windows getting rained in, and lock the place up when we left. I figured it to be a fair exchange. :)

    It was fun, but at that point, we were too afraid to buy anything and were no longer working with an agent. We’d just hang out at these places and kind of dream about having a better life, but we weren’t sure if we would ever actually get there. Since we both had the vision of getting a really nice piece of property with a so-so house, we weren’t very fixated on calling an agent and going inside any of the homes.

    But as our down payment grew, we accidentally found a home we thought we wanted to buy. So we called 500 Realty, and Ray Pepper sent over an agent named Nick. Well, I don’t know what it was about Nick, but we had kind of lived through a lot of similar experiences, so we kind of hit if off. And after that, he just started watching our back and trying to get us the best possible home for our money.

    We didn’t like to call Nick, because he’s a discount agent and we didn’t want to burn up his time and resources. So we only called him when we felt we were extremely serious about buying something. This required a lot of self-discipline, but in the long run, it was better for all of us. Sometimes, he’d show us the inside of a home, and we’d realize it completely sucked. Other times, we’d see the inside, and it would greatly exceed our expectations. You really can’t experience a home until you’ve seen the inside, but you can weed out about 95% of them just by walking around the grounds and peering through the windows.

    We probably had Nick provide us with 8 or 9 showings (sometimes multiple homes) over a period that spanned out over several years. Some were occupied and others weren’t. In addition, we hit a lot of open houses mostly for comparative purposes. We made offers on perhaps 5 of the houses Nick showed us.

    We walked on one REO after the inspection turned up some surprises, and the inspector was cool enough to not charge us. The other offers were not ultimately accepted by the sellers, and we chose to keep searching as opposed to raising our offer in the midst of a housing bubble collapse.

    The deal is, if you abuse the opportunity, 500 Realty has the right to tell you to hit the road. You want to always treat these agents fairly, because nobody gives a better deal. I was bordering on abuse asking for that many showing over such a long time span. But I think I helped even things out a little in the end.

    By October 2012, I’d missed out on a couple of real dream houses that sold for dirt cheap. I was telling myself I should have raised my offer, but in both cases, the homes were in the midst of bidding wars, and I didn’t want to get sucked into that trap, so I just let the other buyers have them. At the end of the day, those guys really stole those houses. Both sellers were absolutely capitulating.

    By that time, I only had one more home on my most wanted list, and I had been watching it come down in price for about 5 years. The owners had built it as a vacation home and never ended up actually using it, so it was effectively brand new. Since they kept it heated and hired a maintenance man all those years, it was in pristine condition.

    At any rate, the sellers had reduced the price another $30K, and that hit the sweet spot. I logged onto Seattle Bubble and checked out the affordability chart, and realized it was peaking at an all-time high. So I called up Nick and asked him to show me the inside. By that time, I had already walked the property about 5 times and learned everything I possibly could about the land and home.

    Nick had talked me out of buying several houses in the past, but when he saw this one, he decided if I didn’t want to buy it, he did. We both liked it a lot, and we ended up hanging out there for about four hours and talking about the experiences we had lived through during our lives. I was kind of amazed watching Nick sitting there in the armchair in front of a huge wall of glass with Puget Sound in the background. He was telling me about being hit with shrapnel in Vietnam during the war, and I just kind of looked at him and realized how well he blended in to everything and how comfortable this house made him feel. It was kind of magical.

    I thought it over for a few days and decided to offer $10K less than the asking price, which the seller accepted. Three months later, I decided to buy the empty waterfront lot next door, so I gave Nick another call. That was a quick and painless purchase that doesn’t have much of a story behind it.

    I haven’t seen Nick in about a year, but he and his wife, Crys, are going to stop by for a visit next weekend. :)

  19. 19
    Jay says:

    RE: Jonness @ 18 – Thank you for sharing your experience with us! It is very insightful! I don’t really like agents either. They are so pushy. I hope you have a nice weekend and enjoy your great house!

  20. 20
    Erik says:

    RE: Jonness @ 18
    If things don’t workout with you and your girlfriend, maybe you and nick could work something out. It sounds like you two have chemistry. Just saying.

    Well written story. I liked how you were self sufficient and looked on your own for the most part and only used an agent when necessary. Seems like a good plan.

  21. 21
    Corndogs says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 4 – “Especially Property Affected by Rising Puget Sound Water. Affected by global warming.”

    The mean sea level in Seattle is less than it was 30 years ago because most of the North American land mass from Washington State north is rising due to post glacial lift. The tide gauge at Neah Bay shows that the local mean sea level is lower than it was in 1930.

  22. 22
    Jonness says:

    By Erik @ 20:

    RE: Jonness @ 18
    If things don’t workout with you and your girlfriend, maybe you and nick could work something out. It sounds like you two have chemistry. Just saying.

    Erik: It sounds like you’re still sore about me turning you down when you asked me out for a date last weekend. :)

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