Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Search for a House

When I'm searching for houses, I compare them against a set of requirements and preferences that I have in my head. Here is the minimal set of requirements for what a house must have:
  • Good location - I want to be able to bike to work every day, so I need it to be close to downtown. It should be north of I-90, preferably north of Yesler Ave. I don't really like a lot of the areas south of those latitudes. No offense to my south-end friends. It also should be south of Greenlake. Any further north is getting a bit far away from downtown. With that radius in mind, I like the following areas:
    • Ballard
    • Wallingford
    • Fremont
    • Queen Anne
    • Madison Valley
    • Madrona
    • Montlake
    • Arboretum
    • the east side of Leshi
    • some parts of the Central District - the CD is very diverse and each block needs to be assessed separately
  • A garage - one car is fine. I don't want to worry about my car being broken into
  • A nice living area that is good for entertaining guests
  • A good kitchen - I cook and bake a lot, so this is important. I'm also rather finicky about having good ventilation over the cooktop. If the house doesn't have good ventilation, it's big minus points
  • Somewhere to put a home theater/stereo system - this can be the living room if it allows
  • No flipped houses - there's an obvious difference in quality between a real remodel and a flipped house. I've seen very few flipped houses that weren't more than just putting lipstick on a pig.
  • Square footage - between 1500 and 2000.
This list doesn't include what I'd like to have in a house (that's to come later). One would think that, given the massive amount of inventory out there due to the burst housing bubble, I'd be able to find something that fits that criteria, but really, there isn't much out there. Over a year of active searching and touring revealed almost nothing.
  • many houses had no garage
  • many had cramped, nonsensical layouts
  • kitchens were an afterthought with zero or very poor ventilation, or cramped
  • many were flipped, had the above negatives, and only had a fresh coat of paint and new appliances
  • new construction got the closest to meeting my requirements, but was usually in a busy/bad part of town, or again, the kitchen was not up to par
It's not even the case that I was looking in the wrong price range. More expensive houses ended up being too large for what I need, not to mention unaffordable. I was starting to get frustrated. I expanded my search to include houses that were cheap, but eligible for a full remodel. The problem, it turns out, is that this is the same type of house that flippers look for. There were about 2 or 3 I found that were very promising, but ended up getting sold within a day or two to professional flippers - I can't really compete with that.

I did, however, come across two relatively good ones during my hunt. To be continued...

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