Our first outing with our agent.

On Saturday morning Girl Ninja and I spent a couple of hours gallivanting around northern Seattle with our Realtor. We weren’t shopping for houses, as much as we were being educated on Seattle real estate. It was time for us to learn what $400,000 buys in Seattle. We walked through 5 homes that day.

I’d like to take you on a tour of a few of the homes we looked at, but before I do that I feel like I need to clarify something.

Seattle real estate is expensive. It’s not San Fran or NYC, but it aint cheap here. There’s a lot of big business (Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, etc). High paying jobs typically mean higher housing prices. I get that you might live in the middle of nowhere Kansas and be able to buy a McMansion for $150,000. You can’t do that here. Seattle is not Topeka so please don’t compare the two.

We didn’t move to Seattle to move away from it. Some people on here seem to think we should just pack up our bags and move to a state with a lower cost of living. These people must not be aware we already did that when we left San Diego last year. We moved to Seattle to put down roots and live close to family.

I’ll make ya a deal. If you go to move to the Philippines for a lower cost of living, I’ll move to Texas for a lower cost of living. I get moving for a job, for a new adventure, for school, etc. But I’m not moving just so I can save a couple hundred bucks a month on a house payment.

Okay now that that is out of the way, let’s get on with the houses shall we?

First let me start by showing you this map that shows the areas we want to live….

Our goal is to live as close to Green Lake as possible (hence the reason for all the yellow in one spot). It’s a-freaking -dorable there. The lake has a three-mile joggers loop around it with a ton of local restaurants, parks, and coffee shops nearby. It’s basically the happening spot for twenty and thirty somethings. It’s also close enough to the University of Washington (about 3 miles) that one could easily rent out their home to a couple of college students if desired.

Alright, enough about geography, let’s see the houses…

House 1: 2 bed, 2 bath, 1,040sqft, $385,000 

The house was charming from the outside. Heck, it was even cute inside. That said, there was some serious concerns. First, the two bedrooms were both located in the basement. Natural light is a “must have” for Girl Ninja and a basement master bedroom is far from ideal. The street also didn’t have sidewalks, which made the whole neighborhood just appear sloppy since cars were parked all over the place. The kitchen, although nice, had a really weird zig-zagged layout. There were some fun features like a bonus room loft space and a sweet one car garage with rooftop patio. You can see more about the house here.

House 2: 4 bed, 1 bath, 1,190sqft, $379,922.

This was the house I showed you pictures of yesterday. It was only 1,190 square feet, but they packed 4 bedrooms in to that space. Needless to say the rooms were very tiny. Although it was located in a desirable neighborhood, the house was anything but. It was built-in the 1950’s and lacks the charm Girl Ninja and I are looking for (we want something built before 1940).

The kitchen was hiddeous and tiny. So tiny the refrigerator is not even located in the kitchen, it’s in the adjacent laundry room. It was our realtors favorite house of the bunch (because of the location and potential) and our least favorite because it was just plain ugly. Haha. Wanna hear something crazy. It went pending yesterday. It’s been on the market for 17 days and got four offers. Our realtor guesses it will sell for $375,000. You can see more here.

House 3: 3 bed, 1 bath, 1,100sqft, $399,950

This was our favorite house that we walked through. It was recently renovated. Had a ton of curb appeal. And the kitchen was pretty great for Seattle standards. Of course there were also some major drawbacks. The living room was only big enough for a two seat couch and there was no space for a TV. The living room was actually smaller than the dining room…who does that? Also, if you look in the top left picture, you’ll notice a monstrous modern home was built next door. It was an eyesore as it contrasted too much with this tiny 1914 home. Lastly, two of the bedrooms were right off the living room, the third was off the kitchen. While it shows great in pictures, the flow of the house was not ideal for entertaining. You can see more here.

As you can see, we will be paying at least $350,000 for about 1,110sqft  of living space if we stick to our target area. It was great to finally get out there and walk through some places. We got to learn a lot about older homes and the pros/cons that come with them. Hopefully over the next few months we’ll find the right place for us 🙂

p.s. Please let me know if you loved (or hated) this post. We’ll be looking at dozens of houses, and if you want to see more posts like this please tell me. Likewise, if you think this stuff is boring be sure to let me know so I don’t waste your time in the future. 

68 thoughts on “Our first outing with our agent.

  1. I loved this post! The most juiciest post ever! I’m shocked that you guys are not on House Hunters because of your model looks and interesting house hunt. Seriously, get on that show!

    It does pain me to see what you can get for that kind of money. On the other hand, it makes me appreciate how much I will be getting for that kind of money here 🙂

    I can see why that ugly house went to pending sale, the lot and garage is choice stuff.

    I’m really surprised that these tiny homes will satisfy your needs. Cannot imagine life in a one bathroom home…

    • Haha. I figured you would like it.

      We could get a new construction 2,100sqft, 4bd 2.5bth home in the suburbs (30min away) for similar prices, but then we would have to live 30min away from happiness.

      We are use to small spaces (600sqft apt) and old houses just didn’t come with more than 1 bath unfortunatley. I’ve actually seen a six bed 1 bath home listed in Seattle. It’s definitely not Vegas. 🙂

  2. Love this post. For me, only one toilet is a dealbreaker. I don’t need more than one shower/bath, but a bath and a half at minimum is more important to me than closet space.

    Some of those houses are super cute!

    My only piece of advice is don’t lock yourself into using the rooms as they are labeled. So, it’s called a dining room, use it as a bedroom or an office or a living room or a game room or whatever suits your family’s needs. Once my flatmate moves out, I am turning her room into the living/dining, my smallish sized room into a office/closet/guestroom and the massive living dining area with beautiful mantel and balcony into my bedroom. It’s such a beautiful room that hardly gets used (no one is home much in my house) that I would rather spend my time in there than in my current bedroom.

    House 3 is just fantastic! What is the average size of the lots and do they all have off street parking?

  3. Loved this post! The prices are high but do similar to the where I’ll eventually be looking (Boston suburbia). I hope to read more about your search!!

  4. Loved the post — as someone who in the near future will be in the same situation, I like hearing about your experiences. Good luck with the search!

  5. I love reading about your search! We decided to go with building a home and break ground next month. We live in Ohio so we will only be paying about $175,000 for a 4 br 2.5 ba. For once I can finally say I’m glad I live in Ohio 🙂 Best of luck to you guys!

  6. If it’s important to you, post it. Who cares whether or not I like it. You know this, Ninja- just be yourself.
    And for the record, the topic is great- it’s neat to watch the process. Go get ’em!

  7. Love the post! Can’t wait to see more pics of potential Ninja dwellings. I like the 3rd house best, though 1 bathroom wouldn’t fly with me and Hubby. Our townhouse’s living room is long and narrow with a beautiful gas fireplace, but we can’t fit a 3 seat sofa in the space unless we put it against the back wall, and the TV at the other end. We ended up buying 2 loveseats to make the space more cozy.

    Good luck with your search! 🙂

  8. Love the post, it’s like HGTV gone internet.
    All I have to say is keep looking and don’t settle. The right house will come along.

  9. I like reading about your home search, although I live in the midwest, it’s very interesting to see what other housing markets are like.

  10. I loved this post! Please do more like it. There is something fun about seeing what houses are like clear across the country. I am in SC, and it’s like Kansas – you can get a McMansion for cheap!

  11. Love it! Very interesting to see real estate and what you can get for your money in different geographic areas. Please continue to update on your housing travels. Cute houses (other than the ugly one) I wouldn’t buy that either!

  12. Love these posts. I can’t go house shopping right now, so I’m living vicariously through you and GN. Besides, since there is always a chance my husband’s career could take us to Seattle sometime in the future, this is great insight and preparation for me so I don’t suffer the sticker shock I’ve dealt with ever since moving to Maryland.

  13. Loved the post and looking forward to many more like it. I liked House 3 as well.

    I understand the area is important to you but, I would not mind living in suburbia in a newly cosntructed house. Some old houses may become money pits quickly.

    Never been to Seattle but I hear it’s really pretty.

  14. I LOVED this post. I’m living vicariously through you. It’s like House Hunters but better! So interesting seeing the real estate from another part of the country. Please keep posting about the search process!

  15. I love this post! I’m over House Hunters because I know it’s all made up. Your commentary is real, and since I love real estate I find that interesting.

    Are you guys willing to do any work on the house or do you want it as close to move-in ready as possible?

  16. Love it. Perhaps you can get some guest posters going thruough the same thing in different parts of the country so we can compare!

    Also I’m surprised house #2 wasn’t significantly less than the others. It seems like a fixer up. You could redo d the kitchen, combine some bedrooms and pow it’s starting to looks more like a dream house

  17. I LOVED this post! I follow your blog anyway because it’s awesome…but I’m looking to start looking for a home in about a year when I save up the $$ so these posts are helpful . Keep it up please!

  18. Loved the post Ninja. I really like house 3, but it seems like it’s at the top end of your budget. I definitely know what you mean about the natural light in house 1, but is there a possibility to enlarge the small basement windows?

    Here are a few other places I found that look like they’re in your budget and location preferences. Keep us updated!!

    http://www.trulia.com/property/3015886405-629-NW-Market-St-Seattle-WA-98107#photo-1
    http://www.trulia.com/property/3056965121-6816-25th-Ave-NE-Seattle-WA-98115#photo-1
    http://www.trulia.com/property/3096662950-7708-9th-Ave-NW-Seattle-WA-98117#photo-1

  19. I love this post and look forward to more like it. It’s kind of like having a tiny episode of house hunters in blog form. Except you don’t pick a house at the end of each episode. But that’s OK. I enjoy seeing how people make the best of small spaces.

  20. thanks for sharing, I like these kind of posts. Are you sure its not better to rent? The cost is outrageous for a tiny house. Those size houses in Tampa, FL would go for about 75K. However, I agree that area of Seattle is great, but you’re probably going to be house poor for your whole career.

  21. Seeing this definitely makes me glad I’m from Texas! I live in the Dallas suburbs in about 2000 sq ft for half the price. Since Texas is obviously very different from where you are, I’m just curious if this house will be long term (like raise your family there and grow old) or if it is more of a starter house?

  22. Thanks for sharing!
    I really enjoy these house hunting posts because we will be house hunting later this year. It’s crazy the difference in prices between Texas and Seattle. But then again you don’t have to live in 100 degree heat almost all year long, and no pretty scenery. Texas is as flat as Kansas. Although I like warmth, not cold. 🙂

  23. This is a fun post and I think it’ll be interesting to see more. I agree — just because a room is CALLED a dining room doesn’t mean it has to be, especially if you have an eat-in kitchen. Our dining room is a playroom right now.

    You guys want kids, right? And anticipate living in the house you buy with those children? I think it would be worth talking to parents of young children (or have your realtor bring that perspective, perhaps) so you can see how a house might work with little ones. I am SO glad I didn’t buy a house before I had kids. It would have been the wrong house.

    Just the layout, size of rooms and storage, and number of bathrooms is such a big deal for kids.

    • I agree with this completely. As the mother of a toddler, I would never buy a house with one bathroom, period. And my daughter is in diapers. I can’t even imagine how much I will agree with that sentiment when she’s potty training and “needs to go,” regardless of who is in the bathroom.

  24. I just like seeing green grass…

    Love the posts. Here in NM you can get some sick deals but that’s because nobody wants to live here :). Good luck!

  25. Oh, and thanks for clarifying why you live in that area. Being close to family is worth it. We moved from Pittsburgh back to Indiana to be close to family once again, and I’m thankful they all live in a cheap area!

    When we were shopping for houses, we thought at first we’d want an older, cuter house. In the end, everything cute in our price range just needed too much work (even the ones that had been renovated). We didn’t think we had the time or money to do that, so we ended up with a newer house (built in 2000) and we’re really happy with that.

  26. Third house all the way! Living room could easily be reconfigured to fit a larger couch. The one seater they have across from the couch can be replaced with your own bigger and comfier chair. End tables are not necessary – get floor lamps only if you really want to – everyone puts their drinks on the coffee table. The tv goes on the wall. The dining room should always be next to the kitchen, since it’s an open plan, I’d keep it as a dining room- up to you. You could also finish the basement into a family room or man cave if you wanted to in the future.

  27. LOVE the post. Would love to see updates as they happen.

    Also agree with you and GN that the third choice was the best, but I would hate only having one bathroom. 1 and 1/2 is as low as I could go.

    Interesting to see Seattle pricing. I live in New Jersey, where homes are pricey, but not quite that high. It definitely put a lot into perspective for me.

    Keep up the good work, NINJA, and best of luck on your home hunting.

  28. Cool! Please look for 2 bathrooms, what if you’re having a party and 3 people gotta go poop at the same time? Or when you have babies!? If a little toddler has to go potty, then they have go potty now.

    I live in San Diego, still saving for a down payment. I happened to grow up in the semi-ghetto part of San Diego and my family and friends still live in that area so hopefully I won’t have to drop too much coin to own a place someday. I agree that I want to be close to family and a 20-30 minute commute to work and school is normal to me, I’ve been doing it since I started driving.

    My boss bought a $400k home similar (older/character) but a bit bigger than the ones you viewed. It’s like 3 miles away from San Diego State and your thinking reminds me of his. He grew up in that area and has family a few miles away.

    What happened to buying a home with a granny type flat that will help cover the cost of your mortgage?** Have you ever talked to the owner of your current rental and what to look for?*

    • Our realtor said it would be tough to find a place with Mother In Law potential in our price point since the homes are so small. If we had a $500,000 budget then we would have basement rentals as an option.

  29. Keep posting – makes me feel better about losing 1/3 of the value of our 200k home.

    One thing you need to seriously consider as your planning on having kids grow up in the house is what it will be like to toilet train a child in a one bathroom and have no where for you to go when they are using the facilities. They take forever and are gross. And what it is like to have a family of multiple peoples with the stomach flu and only one receptacle. It’s a HUGE deal. We lived in a 500 sq foot apartment for 6 years with 2 kids and moving to our house the biggest benefit was multiple bathrooms.

    And it is very different to be a working woman in a small space and a SAHM in a tiny apartment. It drove me batty to be in a small space as a SAHM.

  30. I LOVED this post. My husband and I (and now newborn) live in a condo really close to downtown Denver. Eventually, we want to buy a house or another condo and will probably be spending around the same amount as you to get a 3 bedroom, 2 bath (~1,300 sf) in the Denver neighborhoods we want to live in. We could live in a humongous house in one of the Denver suburbs for the price we will pay to stay in the city, but why? We love going out to eat, being close to city attractions, and the diversity of the city (if you can even call Denver diverse). We would gladly give up a bigger house to be close to the things we love. It’s something that most people don’t understand, especially now that we have a child.

  31. Alright kids, enough of the Kansas bashing.Fwiw, it takes a little more them 150k to get a Mcmansion. Although houses that size in the low rent part of kc can go for much less than 50k.

  32. Loved this post! I am always so curious to see what kind of bang people can get for their buck for homes in different places. I live and work just outside of DC and am always pulling up houses that i drive past on my phone to see how much they cost. Sometimes it’s insane the prices people are willing to pay to be in the right zip code!! ie: $600,000 for a ranch with 3 beds and 1.5 baths with property adjacent to a railway yard (think trains constantly going by and being worked on just beyond your yard) and a 4 lane highway on the other side (I kid you not, someone bought a house like that close to where I work)

    Not sure if anyone else mentioned it (i stopped reading the comments after the 5th one) but have you thought about purchasing a fixer-upper? Not even sure if the areas you are looking actually have any properties like that, but maybe it’d be advantageous to you to buy a less expensive (maybe $250,000?) house and then put $100,000-$150,000 in renovations into it?

    • Where does the $100k to $150k come from for rennovations on a $250,000 property? If I bought a $250,000 house we’d have to put $50k down, leaving us with only about $50k left. We’d only be able to do a kitchen and bath reno for that price. I think people sometimes forget a $400,000 dollar house is easier to purchase than a $250,000 house that needs $150,000 worth of work. At least from a liquidity standpoint.

  33. Since you have already posted a few times about baby making…I would avoid the 2 bedroom. It only means you’ll be forced to move sooner than you would if you pop them out quick OR you do not want them to share a room.

    As far as the last one – just b/c that is their dining room and living room choice why does it have to be yours?

  34. There’s some research on happiness suggesting people over estimate the importance of house size (and number of bathrooms), and underestimate the importance of commute time. So I think focusing primarily on location and ignoring the # of bathrooms is smart for long-term optimization of lifestyle. That said, the complex part is the *long* term plans/possibilities.
    I will say this- I’ve got a 3 year old and potty training in a one potty place was not really that big a deal (though there’s never privacy, I think that’s just how it goes- it doesn’t matter how many potties are available with my kid). A bigger question for kids is- are the school districts in the yellow areas all equally lovely?
    I will say though- if you REALLY want to think owning a house “maybe forever” think about what happens when you get old. My Dad is older now, and not in great health. Going upstairs to get to the toilet all the time is hard on him. Pick a house with the bathroom on the same floor as a room you’d want to spend time in, or some arrangement where that can be managed (e.g. be willing to turn a second bedroom into an upstairs living room) and/or you can install one of those chair-stair thingies (it will clash horribly with an old beautiful house. but by that point, you might not care).

    Though I suspect that places with multiple bathrooms near the university are MUCH more attractive for renting out to typical students (although you might prefer renting to a grad student with a family compared to a couple of undergrads anyway- they are likely to take good care of the house and be quieter for the neighbors).

    Personally, I judge houses mostly on the kitchen, and #3 is AWESOME.

  35. I like the post. Cool to see what is out there and how much things cost in different parts of the country, since we are in the Mid – Atlantic. Not to mention some new ideas for the house!

  36. Really enjoyed this post. I”ve been reading your blog for awhile now but this is my first time commenting. I live in Toronto where we paid $590,000 for a 1600 sq ft home downtown ( we as well really valued location and commute time) so it”s nice to follow a PF bloggers journey where the housing prices are more realistic to my situation here. Enjoy the house hunting!

  37. From the perspective of the SF bay area – all those houses look good to me!

    I actually like the ugly house. I don’t think it would take much to give it curb appeal charm and the outdoor space has great kid’s play/entertaining potential. More, but smaller bedrooms allows you to partition activities better than fewer, but larger bedrooms.

  38. Is that a 17mm wide angle?

    The post was okay for me…I’d rather here about contribution limits to 401K and if that 17500 limit is affected by your employers match…

    I’d like to know your strategies for inspecting the homes…did you check in the toilet tanks for rust/calcium? how old was the water heater? How much were the utilities for them last year in a month by month comparison 🙂

    Does AdSense tell you that they recommend I purchase a pair of Marmot Scree pants for $110?

    and have you climbed Mt Rainier yet?

  39. I live in a similar area (Los Angeles) and housing is one of the most expensive in the country. When I bought my first house, I was willing to do some work which saved me about 25%. Something to consider. I sort of like #3, if you care.

  40. I too live in Seattle and I bought a condo last year. It’s worth almost as much as the houses you’re looking at, but it was well within my affordable range. I chose to buy a condo because I don’t plan on having kids in the next five years. It sounds like you guys are planning on having quite a few kids though and could start in the next five years, so are you sure you want to buy a two bedroom house? I would consider renting until you can afford a 3-5 bedroom house instead, especially since your rent is so cheap and you don’t need any more space than you have right now! Personally, I was renting an apartment that cost me more per month than what I’m now paying monthly for my condo including mortgage, HOA dues, and property taxes.

    Does your agent think that your price range is reasonable for your target areas? I don’t really think it is. Are you sure you can’t find other nice places like Green Lake in other areas of the city where you could find more affordable houses? I too hated working with a realtor and had a much better experience working with Redfin since I, like Evan’s wife, was doing 98% of the work myself anyways.

  41. Loved this post because I’m vacillating between buying a smaller home in a high cost state (MA, where I’m from) or buying a frickin’ gorgeous home in a wealthy neighborhood down south (Arkansas, where the husband is from.) While we figure that out, I love drooling over house hunting pictures. Updates, please!

  42. We toured the last house too. I thought I was going to love it, but there was something about it that turned me off. Did you see the huge steamer chest in the attic? I’m a wuss, but I immediately thought “dead body” and freaked out. Plus our son hated it for some reason. Ghosts, I think. Perfect location though.

    • Haha, that’s awesome! I totally saw the trunk, but as I man I was like “THATS AWESOME” does it come with the house?! I liked the attic space too, although the ceilings were short it could have totally made a playroom since it was so open.

  43. Keep the real estate posts coming! As a Vancouverite it’s very interesting to see – at least your starter houses are under $1,000,000 (unlike ours).

  44. “p.s. Please let me know if you loved (or hated) this post. We’ll be looking at dozens of houses, and if you want to see more posts like this please tell me. Likewise, if you think this stuff is boring be sure to let me know so I don’t waste your time in the future.”

    Looking for real estate is always interesting. We all wonder what’s inside the various houses we see on the street each day, how much they cost, how people found them, etc.

    Reaction seems to be unanimous, so I’ll add one more favorable vote. This is like reading a live version of The Hunt, my favorite page from the Sunday New York Times real estate section, where people describe their search for the perfect property in the greater NYC area. And after numerous setbacks and disappointments, they always find just the right place.

    My only question is this: there are three yellow (actually on my monitor, more a kind of sickly yellow-green) areas around Green Lake (which on my monitor is dark grey). I don’t know Seattle, but is there something wrong with the uncolored areas between yellow-green areas 1 and 2, or 2 and 3? Just wondering, don’t mind me.

  45. Love this post! Been lurking for awhile, but had to comment to say I love realty posts. I feel your pain too! I live in New York City and you could probably rent a McMansion in another state for the cost of my studio apartment. But it’s worth it to live in such a great area, remember that!

  46. My only recommendation, especially considering the fact that you are probably going to have some babies running around at some point in the future, is to only consider homes with 2 bathrooms or homes where you could add a 2nd bathroom.

    Sharing a bathroom with your spouse is one thing. Sharing a bathroom with your spouse and some babies/kids is quite another. Make your life easier and get a 2 bathroom place.

  47. Love this post! What you’re looking for in a home is bang on exactly what I would be looking for when I go to buy in five years or so, even the target price! As such, I’m VERY interested in what kind of houses you end up looking at. Will be checking back!

  48. I own a 1910 house with all sorts of charm. Charm gets old. If you plan on renovating it….then why bother to get an older home? If you want to leave it as is…make sure you know why. We have the original windows, with the rope lifts and wavy glass. Charming…..and drafty.

    We have no closets. And tiny bedrooms.

    You are much better off getting a house that has the structure you need (regardless of age), and if you want charm….build it in yourself. Trust me….charm gets old.

  49. Love the post! Show pics of the bathrooms and closets too. Also take pics of your favorite and least favorite features of each house.

  50. Love this post! I appreciate you sharing your experience. It is very enlightening to me since I’ll be in the same boat next year (searching in LA! yikes!). I love the preparation you and Girl Ninja have put into your home search. Best wishes as you continue along!

  51. OMG I love this post! A-because I know exaclty where you are…not stalking-wise, just because we lived in Seattle and Belleuve since 2002 😉 B-we are house hunting now too, so I love to see what other people are looking at and the prices/specs/etc. C-I hate this post because we are now house hunting in SoCal and your budget is way radder than ours. I do realize we are shopping for a different home (we need space for 6 peeps and want to be here for 20 years!) but prices in the OC are ridic! Especially since I grew up here and homes that used to cost $250 are now $850…boo. Excited that you two are on your way to home ownership!! Congrats!

  52. Come on what does Seattle have that the eastside doesn’t? We have the Sammamish River Trail tons of restaurants, less risk of losing our home with rising sea levels and parks galore. But we love our home on the eastside.
    Ok yes the Pacific Science Center is over in Seattle and of course if you work in Seattle than you’d have the daily toll over 520.

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