How-To: Turn a 1,475 sqft Lot Into a Half-Million-Dollar Home

This was spotted by a user over on Reddit’s /r/Seattle. The images below are of 3941 South Brandon Street on Google Street View.

2008: Empty 1,475 square foot lot.

2008: 3941 S. Brandon St., Seattle, WA 98118

2011: Foundation

2011: 3941 S. Brandon St., Seattle, WA 98118

2014: 1,687 sqft, 3-bed, 2.5-bath modern home

2014: 3941 S. Brandon St., Seattle, WA 98118

The resulting home sold last June for just under half a million dollars. Here’s the listing description:

From this cool modern stand alone home you can walk to all the restaurants, shops & bakery in the heart of Columbia City. Enjoy city views from the floor to ceiling windows and also from the large deck off the m. bedroom. The spacious 2 car garage is wired for your EV vehicle, but you can also enjoy a short walk to the bus line or the Light Rail. Lake Washington is just a few minutes to the east. The kitchen features a large island and Pental quartz countertops. Welcome to your new home.

Smart feature to wire the garage for EVs, even though they redundantly advertised it as “wired for your electric vehicle vehicle.” Can’t say I’d ever spend half a million dollars on a skinny house wedged into such a tiny lot, but it’s probably better than sprawl.

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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.


  1. 1

    Too bad they didn’t order enough concrete to complete the driveway.

    I wonder which is more energy efficient. A modern home built in that shape or a house from the sixties of the same basic square footage, but in a more traditional shape?

  2. 2
    Updog says:

    Don’t count your half million yet. Turns out this wouldn’t pass permitting now after a law change May 2014. You’ll need to find a new loophole. Bummer…

    * New development on lots under 3,200 square feet in area now requires a “special exception.” This process includes public notice and an opportunity to appeal to the City Hearing Examiner.
    * Houses on lots under 3,200 square feet (based on the largest rectangular area within the lot lines) are limited to 18 feet in height, plus five feet for a pitched roof. Additional height is allowed where houses on neighboring lots are taller. An exception is provided for additions to existing homes, of up to 1,000 square feet or the area of one floor, whichever is more.

  3. 3
    Greg says:

    Must be photoshopped. What are the chances of 3 sunny pictures scattered over 3 years…

  4. 4
    Mike says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ :

    Too bad they didn’t order enough concrete to complete the driveway.

    I wonder which is more energy efficient. A modern home built in that shape or a house from the sixties of the same basic square footage, but in a more traditional shape?

    It has more to do with the materials and construction techniques than the shape. 1960’s houses tended not to be built with energy efficiency in mind and they’re difficult to retrofit after the fact. Vaulted ceiling cavities tend to be too small to insulate to R49 and nothing (walls, ceiling, foundation) was built with thermal barriers back then unless it was well ahead of it’s time. Some of these new modern designs are energy poor, but on average they’re many times better than mid-century construction.

    My house was built to be very energy efficient for the mid-1950’s. Now it’s an energy hog that costs $500/mo to heat in the winter and retrofitting it has been a bit of a nightmare. Everything was done with R12 insulation. In some areas I’d have to replace all of the sheet rock just to get the ceiling up to R24 – about half what is recommended in this climate. One could just as easily build something that looks similar to a mid century house with good efficiency, but some of the proportions would be different to add more insulation and remove thermal bridges.

  5. 5

    RE: Mike @ – I would agree with all of that, but an older house would be more roof area, and you could typically upgrade that to current standards (assuming an attic area above). I wasn’t imagining any favorable comparison without that upgrade and at least some insulation in the walls (which is why I specified no older than the 60s).

    There are a lot of things to balance, but my thinking was more that the shape a tall thin house is practically built as a radiator of heat–ignoring the insulation. And this house would have a lot more wall area and less heavily insulated roof area. I really doubt that a modern house of a more traditional shape (either rambler or two story) would use more energy that this type of house, given similar useable square footage).

  6. 6
    Mike says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ – everything I’ve seen on the matter indicates that a smaller roof area is beneficial since that is where heat loss is highest. After that, the floor insulation over unseated space or slab. R values for walls are about 1/3 that of roofs, and 1/2 that of floors- so this design minimizes the size of the largest heat loss zones, and maximizes the lesser ones for the same total square footage. Likewise the 3 story vs 1 story design makes 2/3 of the living space that could suffer heat loss from the top or bottom transfer that heat to other conditioned space- the floor above and below.

    Based on my own experience measuring the heat loss in my house, even the exterior walls with their old r12 insulation do not vary in temperature much on the exterior from top to bottom. They’re not a significant source of heat transfer. The single pane windows on the other hand, those radiate heat like crazy and the top of the pane is often 10 degrees warmer than the bottom creating quite a convection current. Walls, not so much.

    Lastly, the new houses are air tight and air exchange is regulated, the 1960’s houses leak and exchange air everywhere. Even if you eliminated that problem in a new build, you still have the other issue of greater roof and floor surface area.

  7. 7
    nicholas gassaway says:

    That house is a bargain. Skinny wide – looks plenty wide to me. 1600 ft square — how much HUGER is your house Tim? [Insert smiley face here]

  8. 8
    nicholas gassaway says:

    RE: Greg @ – If they happened on July 19 pretty good!

  9. 9
    nicholas gassaway says:

    Notice four yo putting graffiti on the sidewalk! Dam kids these days – I’ll guarantee she never walked 19 miles to school in a shittin blizzard!

  10. 10
    wreckingbull says:

    That siding is going to need to be re-stained every few years if the want to keep it looking decent. I wonder if there is a Genie lift in that garage.

    On an un
    related note, WTF is that dog-walker doing with the water meter?

  11. 11
    Wazzuner says:

    Awesome, my dream is to own a home with an exterior design straight out of tetris!!!!

  12. 12

    By wreckingbull @ :

    On an un-related note, WTF is that dog-walker doing with the water meter?

    My guess is bagging their dog’s feces.

  13. 13
    Blurtman says:

    What rights do the surrounding homes have to access to sunlight?

  14. 14
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ – That is what I thought, but it seems she has pulled the meter cover. Perhaps multi-tasking.

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