Buying a house in Seattle

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we bought a house here in Seattle – which is the biggest commitment I’ve made since getting married. Or maybe since having kids… but we may be in this house longer than our kids live with us! (OK, that’s probably not true, I can’t imagine living in one place that long!)

The housing market in Seattle, especially when we bought the house a few months ago, is crazy. It was actually the hottest housing market in the country for many, many months (years?).

What to expect when you're looking to buy a house in Seattle or a similarly hot housing market

Let me give you a brief synopsis of what you can expect if you’re buying a house here (or in a similarly hot market):

Waived Contingencies

To make a competitive offer, most prospective buyers in Seattle waive all contingencies: finance, inspection, and title.

Pre-Inspections

Of course you don’t want to buy a house without having an inspection done, so you can expect to schedule pre-inspections for every house you want to make a bid on. These run you a few hundred dollars, and you may need to do quite a few during your house search. Sometimes buyers also have inspection reports available for prospective buyers to peruse, but of course, you probably want to have your own inspection done.

Quick Decisions

Houses here are usually on the market for less than a week, and sometimes they’re only listed a few hours before the sellers accept an offer.  This means that as soon as a house is listed on Redfin, Zillow, or a comparable site, prospective buyers need to figure out that day how to see it. This allows enough time for one visit to the house, a pre-inspection, and an offer within a few days.

We visited one house the day it came on the market, and there were quite a few other people walking through it. It had an inspection already done by the buyers, and we knew it would go quickly (and for way over asking price) so we decided to draft an offer. Our realtor got a call later that day saying that the sellers were reviewing offers in two days (originally they said they would be reviewing offers five days from when the house went on the market). Then, as we were trying to decide whether we really wanted to make an aggressive offer, the realtor called back and said they were actually reviewing offers the next morning because they had received such a strong offer. Bottom line: We decided not to make an offer, but if we would have wanted to get the house, we would have had to offer $100k over the asking price with all contingencies waived.

Bidding Wars

I have friends who put offers on 5-10 houses (that’s a lot of money in pre-inspections!) before they finally got a house. There are just that many people out there bidding on good properties! Or even not-so-good properties! This means that no one offers asking price on a property unless it’s  been on the market for quite a while. Prospective buyers always include escalations in their offer to go well above the asking price. It wasn’t unusual, for a while, (I’m not sure if it’s still the case) for houses to go $100-200k over asking price.

A Time Intensive Process

We were only on the hunt for a house for 3 weeks, and then we basically decided we needed to buy a house ASAP before we went completely crazy. I would look at houses with our realtor at least 2-3 days during the week, and we’d always go at least one day on the weekend. Since we don’t have family living nearby, we had to drag our 2 & 3 year olds with us to practically every showing. I would go see a house during the day, and if I loved it, we’d all go back with Tim in the evening. Basically, this schedule was not sustainable for us… who has this much time to search for housing?! Not us! Not anyone! Plus, we cast a wide net of neighborhoods we’d consider, which meant that we were driving all over north Seattle and I was trying to research a bunch of different schools/school districts/crime reports in my ‘free time’… if you have bought a house recently with the intention of raising kids there, you know how it goes. It all takes a ton of time.

Stress

All of this makes buying houses a super-stressful process. Needing to make a quick decision about something so major is difficult, plus, with waived contingencies, it really makes it hard to back out of the offer if you change your mind. For instance, if the bank comes back and says the house is worth $1M instead of the $1.2M you paid for it, guess who needs to pay the $200k difference in cash?! The buyer, of course. Hopefully a good realtor will be able to tell a potential buyer what the bank will probably appraise the property at, but the idea of paying much more for a property than it’s worth (and needing to cover the difference), is stressful. And then there’s the risk of buying a property without an inspection contingency… it’s all a lot to consider.

… And I won’t even go into how expensive houses are here in Seattle. In the past few years the prices have risen about 13% a year, which means houses we could have afforded a year or two ago are no longer in our price range. That’s a hard concept to handle and it puts even more pressure on potential buyers to buy a house quickly, before it, too, drifts over the affordable price range.

A lot of my friends have been buying houses here recently, so it can be done! And then the home renovations start, since almost no houses here are affordable and move-in ready! As I type this, our ‘new’ kitchen is being put in! Work on the bathrooms start next week. Our hardwoods are already down. And at some point painting is going to happen… but I’ll talk more about that later. We’re planning on moving in about 3-4 weeks. Wish us luck!

Do you own your house?! What was your house hunting experience like?!

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A quick word about summer in the PNW

The longer we live in the PNW, the more I realize how different it is here than Chicago. Take the summer season, for example.

In Chicago, the weather is hot and muggy and everyone’s AC is going on full blast. We didn’t have AC in our last Chicago rental, and we thought we may pass out and die on a daily basis. (It didn’t help that I was pregnant/postpartum during that time.)

However, in Seattle the weather is close to perfect. No rain, no mugginess, no mosquitoes, 16 hours of daylight… it’s wonderful. Seriously, perfection. Well, until it gets above 80 degrees in which case we’re all complaining about the ‘heat’ because no one has AC here and it gets HOT in these older houses.

Seattle in the summer (is perfection).

But, there are other differences than just the weather. The perfect conditions in the PNW in the summer cause every single person I know to want to leave the city and head to the mountains or the beaches or somewhere else in the region. Sure, in Chicago people traveled in the summer, but it was maybe one or two weeks during July or August and the rest of the time people stayed in the city. This is simply not the case in Seattle.

Trying to plan anything with anyone in Seattle from June-September is basically impossible. You want to have friends over on a Saturday? Good luck, because everyone is certain to be out of town, doing something outdoorsy (myself included!).

I mean, you may be able to find a family or two around on any given day, but you would be wise to assume that most people will be gone on any given weekend.

Our summer is similarly as busy. So far we’ve had a few long weekends of camping and a trip to Canada. My dad was in town visiting for a weekend. Next weekend we’ll be going camping again, and we have trips three different weekends in August and one or two in September.

There is so much to do around here, and so few weekends in which the weather is trulyperfection. If the blog is a little quieter than usual, it’s because I’m out adventuring!

Do you have any travel / adventure planned for the rest of this summer?!

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Adventuring with toddlers: Camping with young kids? Try it!

As I previously mentioned (multiple times!) I love camping with my (toddler) girls. But I admit, it’s an intimidating thought at first. This post is mainly trying to convince you to go camping with young kids, because it probably won’t be as bad as you think it’s going to be. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.

Intimidated about camping with toddlers? You should do it!


Fear: My kids will never sleep in a tent. Ever. We will all be sleep deprived messes and no one will have any fun.

Reality: OK, it’s true that your kids may not sleep well while camping. BUT, my kids may possibly be some of the worst sleepers ever (at home), and they do much better in a tent. Out of the six families we went camping with, most of us had at least some trouble getting our kids to fall asleep, but usually cuddling them to sleep does the trick! Of course, this process can take an hour (or more!) but it eventually works. Also, bedtime may be pushed back wayyyy later. In Washington it doesn’t get dark until around 9:30pm at this time of year, so 7pm bedtimes definitely weren’t happening among our group. The positive aspect, once the kids fell asleep, they generally stayed asleep! We did have to put Isabelle into our bed every night (because I think she got cold in the middle of the night) but she slept until a decent hour after that, so we couldn’t really complain.


Fear: I have no idea what to pack and I will forget something essential. This seems like a lot of planning…

Reality: Packing for camping is a lot of work in general, and it’s definitely way more work with toddlers. Basically, just pack a ton of snacks, some warm weather layers, and bug spray, and you should be good to go! Of course, sand toys help, because then the toddlers can play in the dirt wherever you are and should be pretty happy. We also brought toddler bikes and balls and bubbles… you know, all of the essentials. *wink* Basically, it does take a lot of prep work, but you will be fine!


Fear: My kids will be cold at night

Reality: They’ll be cold if you don’t put them in layers! I recommend packing a sleeping bag (or blankets), pillows, footie pajamas (or fleece), wool base layers (for older kids), hats, and socks. Honestly, my kids wore their normal pajamas and slept with normal  blankets, but it wasn’t very cold where we were. When all else fails, move the kiddos into your bed and everyone can cuddle together!


Fear: My kids will get dirty.

Reality: YES. They will! And if that bothers you, I suggest finding a campsite that has running water so you can give them a shower. Or better yet, bring a bin you can fill up with water and give them a camp-style bath.


Fear: It sounds like a lot of work to watch the kids, cook meals, clean up meals, set-up camp… etc.

Reality: It really is a lot of work! It helps to go with friends, family, or a super helpful partner. It’s especially difficult when there’s a fire going and you’re trying to keep your toddlers out of it! Last year my girls wanted to throw things in the fire at any given moment and that was less than ideal. However, if one person can watch the kid(s) while the other does the more ‘campy’ stuff, then you can switch after a while. If you’re going camping with just your immediate family, it can definitely feel like you never have time to relax if you’re at the campsite… so I recommend making sure you leave and go on outings! Hike, swim, explore, go into town, etc!


Fear: I’ve never been camping before and the gear is so expensive… what if we hate it and only go once?

Reality: You don’t need to buy all of your own gear right away! Do you have any friends who camp? Ask to borrow all of their stuff! Our friends have camping bins

OK, that’s all I can think of right now! Basically, a lot of your fears may become reality, but it’s still worth it to go on camp trips and create memories with your little adventurers. I was pretty intimidated initially, but last year I loved it so much that we bought all of our own camp gear (we had been borrowing other people’s), and this year I made reservations in advance so we can go camping a few times over the summer! I can’t wait! My girls truly love sleeping in tents and roasting s’mores and swimming in lakes and every other thing that camping entails. If you’re pondering whether you should go camping with young kids, I highly, highly recommend you give it a shot!

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Group Camping!

Last year we went camping for the first time as a family of four. Or rather, we went camping for the first time ever with kids. (I wrote some camping advice here, if you’d like to try it with your young kids this summer!)

This past weekend we kicked off the summer with our annual camping trip with our church small group (12 adults, 9 kids, 2 dogs, 1 baby on the way), and we had a blast.

Originally I was going to type out that I’m not sure whether the kids or parents had more fun, but let’s be honest, it was definitely the kids!

We drove about three hours southeast to the Brooks Memorial State Park Campground and stayed at the group campsite. Overall, I think it was a pretty good location. It was cold and rainy in the Seattle area, so it was nice to get some sunshine, warm (almost hot!) weather, and clear skies. The only downsides were a lack of trees (so not much shade) in the group campsite, and the wind and bees were a bit overwhelming. However, we still really enjoyed it!

A recap: Our group camping trip with young kids

A recap: Our group camping trip with young kids

Both full days we were there, we drove to nearby Maryhill State Park, which is along the Columbia River in the gorge. The girls had a blast splashing in the shallow water, and it was a great way to cool off! Plus, the scenery was really pretty. I’m always surprised at how dry eastern Washington is!

Other highlights of the trip:

  • S’mores. Obviously.
  • Seeing the gorgeous sunsets and other views.
  • Sitting around the campfire with friends.
  • Watching the girls get filthy in the mud and having a blast.
  • Sipping morning coffee. There is no better start to my day than drinking coffee outdoors.
  • Sleeping in a tent. I actually really enjoy it!

I also loved the drive to the state park. Washington is a gorgeous state and I am still taking it all in!

A recap: Our group camping trip with young kids

I can’t wait for our next camping adventure!

Have you tried camping with young kids? What was your experience?!

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The past two weekends

June has been a fun and crazy month! Every once in a while I think, “Oh I really want to remember to blog about…” but then I completely forget and move on to something else and before I even realize it, it’s been a month and everything I wanted to write about is no longer relevant!

I’ll work on that.

The past few weekends have been fun.

Philly

A little over a week ago I flew out to Philly to celebrate one of my best friends at her bridal shower and bachelorette party. I flew into Philly on Thursday and the rest of the weekend was a blur.

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Highlights included:

  • Eating late night Thai food with just the bride-to-be. I’m so glad I arrived in Philly days before the event so we could catch up. I hadn’t seen her in over two years, which is way, way too long!
  • Getting manicures the day before the bridal shower. I love getting my nails done and almost never spend the time (or money) to get a proper manicure. I really need to make this a part of my routine.
  • Eating at Bar Bombón in Philly. It’s a vegetarian restaurant and everything we ordered was beyond delicious.
  • The bridal shower at La Stalla in Newtown, PA. It was a great venue and we loved the Italian food. Plus, everyone just had a lot of fun! The other bridesmaids and the mothers of the bride & groom did a wonderful job planning all of the details.
  • The bachelorette party! We went (via limo bus) to the Dave Matthews Band concert at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ. I thought the venue was pretty awesome – because we had sunset views of the city and there were so many people all singing along to the songs. It was a fun place to watch some live music.

lisas-bachelorette
lisas-bachelorette-2

House Renovations

Have I mentioned we bought a house? We bought a house. I haven’t actually wrapped my mind around all of it yet, but we closed last week.

The house doesn’t need much work, but we are completely re-doing the kitchen, all of the floors, all of the paint for the walls/ceiling, some of the bathrooms… and whatever else we have the energy/money for. It’s turning into a bigger project that I had anticipated, but we’re moving right along with it! This week we’re making several huge decisions, and I’ll feel so much better once the ball gets rolling and out of the ‘planning’ stage. Demo gets underway next week and we hope to move into the house early August! (Famous last words, right?! Everyone keeps telling us how over-schedule these kinds of projects get.)

(This blog’s focus will probably be more on renovations than on parenting over the next month or so… but on the positive side, at least I’ll be writing about something! Haha!)

Weekend highlights:

  • Picking out the most perfect piece of granite for our kitchen island (and maybe the bathrooms).
  • Painting paint samples on all of the walls so we can pick out colors. (Sidenote: we should not have attempted this with both toddlers in an empty house, while also trying to meet with our contractor simultaneously. It was legit CHAOS for hours and hours.) Also, we learned that it’s very hard to use this method when the walls are already painted crazy colors. How do I pick the perfect color pink when I’m painting samples on a lime green background?! I cannot. So to Pinterest we go for that particular decision…
  • Celebrating a little friend’s second birthday at her adorable party.
  • Enjoying Sunday night dinner with our small group. It was perfect weather here in Seattle, so we grilled burgers and let the toddlers run around… it’s the ideal way for us to all spend time together in this phase of life!
  • Hiking at Denny Creek. Clara and Isabelle both walked over a mile to the natural water slides, and it took (no joke!) around 2 hours. We stopped for a picnic lunch and then carried them back in our hiking packs. The walk back to the car took about 20 minutes! Hiking at a toddler pace is making me a slightly more patient person, that’s for sure! I mean, we can’t go on the big adventures I would normally choose, but it is fun to see everything through their eyes. Plus, they feel such a sense of accomplishment when they can walk by themselves and carry their own backpacks!
  • Watching The Staircase on Netflix. I just watched one episode so far. Have you seen it?! I’m dedicated to watching it because my fav podcast ever (True Crime Obsessed) will be covering it.

I’ll write a post this week about our decision to buy a house and the process in general, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Posted in home, house renovation, travel, weekend fun | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments