Thursday, January 22, 2015

Q: I’m getting nervous about the rising tides around our place.

Our bulkhead is only about four feet high and can’t be made taller. During normal high tides the water washes over it and comes close to our lower floor door. The "king tides" they are talking about come up even higher and can do some real damage. I’ve read a little about the climate change issues and see that the water level in Puget Sound is predicted to rise significantly in the next couple of decades. We had hoped to leave this place to our kids but now I’m not so sure it will be there for them. If we try to sell it will anyone want to buy a low bank cabin like ours?
A: First let me say that there is a buyer for everything if the price is right. Particularly for those looking for a seasonal getaway, low bank cottages and cabins are still in demand. However, there are many issues with these places, and I must admit, I am less and less enthusiastic about them. First, as you mention, during very high tides and storm events water comes up over the bulkheads and often, into the house or under the crawl space to create a perfect environment for mold, wood destroying pests, and rot. In addition, there are often septic problems because there may be no drainfield or very little drainfield. If there is a complete failure of the system, it will be incredibly expensive to find a solution. As you know, the King County Marine Recovery Act now requires the monitoring of some of these low bank drainfields. It can also be a bit scary to look at the landslide hazard maps of the state and County and realize many of these cabins are in major landslide areas. It can feel like the question is not if, but when the hillside will come roaring down on top of you. The question of selling is up to you, of course, but I believe the "better safe than sorry" idea is a good one.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Q: We’re getting desperate to find a place we can afford on Vashon.

We’ve been looking for awhile now and feel that we won’t ever be able to buy here. I know we’re in a low price range for the Vashon market but is there ever going to be something we can afford?

A: Please don’t despair. It’s never been easy to buy here because we have such a very small inventory of homes for sale at any given time. There were only about 185 homes sold on the Island last year but the good news is that 30 of those were decent, ready to live in places for under $300,000. Even though our prices may get pushed up a bit this year, I feel confident that there will be more choices for you in that price range.

I’ve always used the metaphor of a spider, since I can’t think of anything more appropriate when it comes to Vashon real estate. A spider sits, virtually motionless for a very long time, but when the fly hits the web, he moves very fast to capture his meal. Desirable homes sell here that fast. You have to be ready to pounce! Keep looking at everything and keep your loan pre-approval current.

Also remember that the first "rule" of real estate: "location, location, location," is still the best rule to follow. Vashon is a very desirable place but you still want something without a glaring negative like too much traffic noise or a very dark, wet yard. Everyone has their idea of good and bad features, of course, but you want to be able to sell it someday so be sure the flaws are fixable.

I also want to add another caution. Everybody needs to get away on a break from time to time, but when you are seriously looking to buy it’s not a good time for lengthy vacations. I can’t tell you how often over the years, I’ve had clients miss out on their perfect place because they were away. The good stuff sells fast, remember, and so make yourself available.