Thursday, June 25, 2015

Q: We’ve been looking for a home on Vashon for over two years and we’re getting very discouraged.

There just never seems to be anything that really fits our criteria.  You’ve been very patient with us and we appreciate it, but do you think we will ever have a home on the Island?

A:  Maybe, or maybe not.  It’s really up to you.  I tell all of my clients that with such a small inventory of homes for sale each year, they just can’t be that choosy.  The goal is to live here in this wonderful community and have at least a few of the things you were hoping to find in a home.  We sell, on average, about 165 homes a year here.  That’s everything from unlivable shacks to glorious mansions. In each price range and category we have maybe five or six homes a year. So that means if you can afford up to $500,000 and you want a nice home on acreage, you may have three to five homes a year to look at in all locations on the Island.  That requires that you reduce your list of the 10 things you want in a new home down to maybe two.  Add to that the fact that it’s a fast, sellers market and you can see that taking your time to consider a place and having unrealistic expectations will keep you out of our market.  I’m sorry to sound so blunt and unfeeling.  I know it’s hard to make such a big decision in a hurry.  My partner and I went through some similar soul searching when we were looking to buy our “dream home” here.  We finally got the picture and narrowed down our “must haves” to two things; sunny acreage with some forest buffer.  It also had to be in our price range, of course. We didn’t care about the house. It was a fixer and the property needed work. We worked hard and turned it around. We’ve been on that property for over 25 years now and still absolutely love it. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Q: We keep seeing these tiny waterfront cabins priced really cheaply and we want to start looking at them.

We hadn’t thought about waterfront but at these prices, why not? We can always enlarge it later; maybe even do some of the work ourselves.

A: Not really. These tiny cabins have many drawbacks, thus the low price. It is not likely you could add to them at all. I would say virtually impossible. Most are on steep slopes. You could not build those same homes today, due to flood and landslide hazards. In almost every case, the Critical Areas Ordinance of King County would not allow major additions or tearing down and rebuilding. You also need to be very careful about the septic situation. Many of these places have little or no approved septic system and you may be stuck paying for a very expensive septic system installation in order to live in the cabin. Often they have such poor access that any new system must be installed using a barge since there is no way to get heavy machinery to the site from the land. Very expensive.

The other issue to consider is that most lenders will not loan on these cabins and you may also be faced with challenges getting insurance. Certainly FEMA flood insurance will be required as it is for most waterfront property now. That really adds to the monthly cost. Living on the water is a dream shared by many people, and in general, our waterfront prices are very attractive compared with the rest of the greater Seattle area. But I’m talking about substantial homes, primarily less than 50 years old, that have been upgraded and well cared for. You won’t see those in the bargain category of pricing.

I always tell people that one of the advantages to living on an island is that we all live five minutes or less from waterfront. We can walk to one of the marvelous waterfront parks on Vashon as well as see the water every day driving around the Island. That’s not too shabby.