I am still working on transferring all my blogs about Japan from my old blogging platform to wordpress, and finishing up the new blog posts about my more recent trips to Japan as well. However, sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming because of the amount I have to do still, and I need a break to talk about something else. So here we go.
To build or not to build, that is the question.
I’ve asked friends for recommendations for realtors and builders, and we started out looking at homes for sale but have transitioned into researching what goes into building a home. Is it an option for us? Hopefully. Our progress hasn’t much surpassed that of research & contacting agents, but I am a planner so I’ll figure it out. It’s a fairly new idea but the more we think about it, the more the idea appeals to us. I decided to see what I could figure out at the Seattle Home Show.
Walking into the Seattle Home Show last weekend was a little bit overwhelming, to be honest. We are brand new to the thought of home building, and I felt like the home show might offer a little bit of information that would help us in the process. One of the issues I noticed immediately was the pictures displayed by some of the custom home builders were of VERY expensive homes that were well out of our budget. It made them unapproachable because I didn’t see anything we would be willing to pay for, which was okay, because I expected some of this. We are unwilling to be “house poor,” meaning that we refuse to have so much mortgage, that we can’t afford much else so we WANT cost to be a factor and don’t want to go overboard. Something else I noticed was that a lot of the vendors offered remodeling services, and only handful offered home building and construction services. If we opt to go ahead and buy, remodeling services could certainly come in handy so I took some business cards and brochures in case we go that route. As I spent a couple hours walking through the Century Link Fields Events Center, drinking my $8 latte (gotta love those stadium prices), I definitely had building on the brain.
Being so inexperienced with all of this, I was reluctant to spend much time chatting with vendors. Being the introvert that I am, I would walk up and grab brochures and business cards from businesses who’s representatives were occupied by other people so I wouldn’t have to listen to a pitch I’m not yet ready for. If I wasn’t able to approach to gather more information, I simply saved the business name into my phone to scope out later. I realize that this isn’t the most efficient way to collect information but I also knew I had no answers to any questions yet.
On an unrelated note, I spent the rest of the day in Pioneer Square, which I always enjoy. Although, the area seems to have more homelessness than I remember? Maybe I just wasn’t as aware. Anyway, that’s a blog for another time.
I always thought I had our buyers agent chosen, and figured this would make it so easy to buy a home! We kept reading not to settle on the first agent you come across or even meet, & Rob read that you should meet with at least three people. I’ve spoken a little with a woman from one company, and met up with a team from another company. There were a couple more who came highly recommended from some friends, which says a lot but these friends didn’t deal directly with the buying or selling, and simply knowing a real estate agent and recommending them to me isn’t enough for us! One gentleman actually was referred to us by two or three people, which is very impressive, so we may still talk to him but I’m not sure. He & I both from the same area and we have quite a few mutual friends and I’m weird about that stuff. Some things are just too close to comfort! The team I met with was recommended to us by a friend who bought his house a couple years back using their services, and will actually be using them again to sell his house soon. This is a friend who has lived the real estate experience, and who is a fairly blunt guy, so I’m confident he would let us know if he wasn’t impressed! I got in touch, and the recommended agent, Carey was prompt to reply to email, and brought her partner, Julie, into it. They were instantly involved and happy to help & so far, any time I’ve reached out to them, they’ve always gotten back to me within a day, usually within the hour! I met with them yesterday at Kimball Coffeehouse in Gig Harbor, my first experience in this coffee shop! I enjoyed it. Anyway, I walked in and was warmly greeted by each of them and we sat down and got right to business. Julie is the land expert and I told them I was pretty clueless about the entire thing, but it didn’t matter because she was well prepared and full of information to give! She asked for the details of what we were looking for, narrowing it down to things/companies that would work, and some that wouldn’t. I’ve read some articles and watched some videos where people chose to cut home building costs by omitting the buyers agent and after talking to them, I believe hiring one will be money well spent, should we choose to go this route. After a single meeting, I felt better than I did beforehand and like maybe we are finally making progress on this. We aren’t 100% committed, we haven’t signed any paperwork or anything, but so far I’m impressed with them. One of the selling points is how well Julie & I connected! She recently built a home on 5 acres, she just planted her seedlings for the garden she is working on, she has chickens and cats, too! I love the idea of working with someone who completely understands my list of priorities because her priorities were the same, and who just build a house on acreage in the area, because she has been through the process first hand and has a great idea of what we’re doing. Plus, she is a professional, after all!
We aren’t poor but we aren’t rich and budget is going to be a real thing through this process. How much we choose to allow ourselves to spend & how we use that money will obviously be determined on which road we take in this process. Our #1 priority is SPACE. Rob has a ton of stuff, including guitars that line the walls, a drum set he wants to set up, football memorabilia that needs a place to go, and so much more. He really is a prime candidate for someone who needs a man cave! Something we’ve noticed is there are a lot of split level homes who have that second living room downstairs. While having that extra living room in nice, especially for someone with dreams of a man cave, the square footage on some of these homes isn’t much more than the other homes on the market. It seems like there are just more rooms in the same number of square feet, making for tiny rooms. I wouldn’t say this is a hard no for us but it’s pretty far from what we want. We would rather wait & continue our search while we save more, and actually end up in the home we want. We’ve watched our friends settle and buy houses that we would never be willing to purchase. We are willing to compromise but we aren’t willing to settle, if that makes sense. In addition the man cave goal, I need room for all of my things! I NEED a decent sized kitchen and am hopeful that I can have a spacious pantry. The majority of our food is made from scratch in our kitchen, because I love to cook & bake, but also, it’s important to me know what’s in our food & where it came from & how it was prepared. I’ve worked in kitchens of all sizes and kitchen counter space is a must for me. I can’t even tell you how many cookbooks I have and I have more kitchen appliances and utensils than I have room for! Property is also high on the list of priorities, which is where buying an already built home gets tricky. In our price range, you can usually find a good house with no yard OR you can find acreage with a very unimpressive house on it. It’s challenging to find both without going way over budget. The more land we can get, the better, within reason, so something like 5 acres would be a dream come true. I can compromise a little on this but I need at least a couple of acres. I told Julie a minimum of 2 acres is a must but more would be great so we’ll see what we can find. I have had a little taste of gardening but I really, really want a large garden, fruit trees and chickens. Rob knows how much this means to me and therefore, it’s important to him also, because he wants me to have the things I want. With that, comes making sure we have a place that gets plenty of sun for our gardens and trees. Additionally, I’m hoping we can have some kind of nook where all of our cat toys and beds can go. We have three cats and they have a ton of stuff, too, so they would benefit from a little space to call their own.
Obviously, space is key, both indoor and outdoor. In this day & age, we are asking for quite a bit, for not an excessive amount of cost, which is pretty challenging because we live on the West Coast, just outside of Seattle, which is one of the most expensive housing markets in America. It’s possible we are asking for the impossible! Someone told me that they live on the outskirts of the city, and are saving to have their home built, and are anticipating to spend $200-$400 per sq ft. $200… yes, that seems realistic but there is no way we are going to build a home for $400 per sq ft. That doesn’t even begin to interest us.
We understand that with getting the space we want, we will have to compromise elsewhere. Location is open to discussion. Poulsbo, Kingston and the areas a little ways north of us are our first picks, but those areas are also in high demand, have high property taxes and may not be realistic and that’s okay. Olalla appealed to us but the property values have gone up there because you can get acreage and the land is filled with legitimate pre-owned farmhouses, which are all the rage right now. Olalla used to be very affordable but times have changed. While we would still be open to living there if the right opportunity came along, it might be just a tad further South than we were hoping for anyway, much like Gig Harbor. Mason County is an option, assuming it isn’t too far out. Belfair, in Mason County, gets deep and goes on for days and I don’t want to have an excessive commute home every day after work. Belfair is kind of like Olalla used to be, where it’s just far enough out that you can get affordable property, and it’s just close enough to Kitsap County that getting to and from work isn’t a huge hassle. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the heart of Belfair. There’s one main drag with one main grocery store, but it would worth it for the right piece of property. Anyway, back on point, we are flexible on location.
We haven’t ruled out buying an existing home. It was a topic of conversation when I met with Carey and Julie yesterday, and we will be receiving emails for both land and homes. Carey mentioned that some of the things we want could be out of our budget by $100k or more, but Julie mentioned our budget is tight but doable so we’ll see what happens. I shoud receive an email from Julie in the next day or so with links to more information to get a better idea of a direction. Should we decide to buy, we will probably look for something that has land & space, but needs cosmetic work. I know myself, and no matter what we buy, I will want to change it to make it more my style, so I may start with something that’s due for an update anyway and save a few bucks. We’re willing to shell out the money, along with our own time and effort, to work on the house. It’s worth it for the space!
I would love to do as much green building as possible. I know there can be great savings in this at times, but there can also be significant costs added on. This is something I will need to ask about! While at the Seattle Home Show, I watched a 45 seminar about green building from the founder of Lasting Nest Inc., and some of the things these people have done and their knowledge is all pretty awesome!!
Regardless of what we end up doing, our other important priorities are structure. Anything cosmetic can be changed over time, but the structure of the house needs to be solid. Things that would take a lot of work to change would be the top priorities, for example, windows. I want the windows that I want from the start. Floors, while still a big job, are a little more doable down the road. We understand that style & details AND a lot of indoor/outdoor space is just getting ourselves up for a massive mortgage, so patience and prioritizing.
Time. Time is something else we need to consider. First of all, a lot can change over time. For example, mortgage rates are amazing right now, like, super low. We could buy & lock in one of these amazing rates! With time, the rates could increase … is it worth locking in these great rates if we don’t find what we want and love our home? If we build, and roll our loan into a traditional mortgage after construction is complete, we lock ourselves into THOSE future home rates, good or bad. Of course, we could always buy now, build equity, and then sell again in a couple of years and upgrade for our next home. However, we don’t really want to do that. I don’t know if this will be our forever home or not because life is unpredictable but it could be. We plan to put a lot blood, sweat, tears, time, work, effort, thought, research, discussion (I’m aware of the redundancy here), both inside and outside. After all that, I can’t see us wanting to sell it and start over. I also worry about the “buy then sell in a couple years” plan, because I watched some friends buy a home in the early 2000’s and then want to sell it… just in time for the housing crisis. They HAD to keep a house they no longer wanted to live in unless they wanted to take a significant, which no one wants to do. I know the housing crisis was extreme but you never know what’s going to happen. We want to end up in something that makes up happy so that no housing market issues will impact us anymore. At the same time, building could take up to two years. Julie’s guess was the our home would not be move in ready until 2022! That’s so far away, but we estimated a year anyway, so what’s one more year if we get what we want? This allows a tiny bit more flexibility in the budget because there’s a lot of paychecks between now and then to use as things come up or as we work on things ourselves.
The meeting with Carey & Julie was so beneficial and informative, but we still don’t have the answer to our question about building. Rob wasn’t able to go with me for he meeting, since he is still in Japan, so this means I’m having to get this ball rolling on my own, & then relay the information to him so we can go from there. I am so looking forward to him return so he can participate and be hearing the information as I do so we can then go home and discuss it. I’m fully capable of making decisions but I want to be sure he is happy too. I want him to be a part of it alongside me.