Tag Archives: seattle real estate

“Take it or Leave it” – Joys of Home Ownership

I’ll preface this post by saying, yes, I agree, I’ll call the “waaaaambulance”.  There are people really suffering right now with this housing crisis, so by contrast, our problems are quite insignificant.


I have railed in the past about how the real estate market is another bubble and how I wouldn’t make the same mistake I made in 2007 when I bought a house at the last peak of the real estate craze… well obviously I’m full of shit. We bought the worst house in the best neighborhood of Seattle in August 2016. This is the house in the neighborhood that is currently being torn down at a breakneck pace and replaced with a beautiful/modern/million dollar box. It’s small and beat up, but we love it.

When we bought it we didn’t have much leverage. To say it was a seller’s market is a massive understatement (we put 7 offers in before this and lost every single one). Sure the foundation was sloping 8 inches in the front; and in the words of our inspector, it had “the oldest working furnace” he had ever seen (in 40 years of doing business), but the sellers basically said, “take it or leave it” and we took it. They on the other hand took a 160% return in less than 4 years of owning it.

Recently we’ve been doing things to make it either nicer (adding an external dwelling) or routine maintenance that comes with an old house (backed up drains from years of buildup). In both cases we’ve been dealing with a ton of “take it or leave it”. There isn’t an opportunity to “leave it: when it comes to plumbing issues, so I’ll start there.

Fina called a bunch of plumbers and all of them are so busy that they either a) wouldn’t  commit to coming and giving a quote or b) wanted a ton of money just to come out and give us a quote. It was unpleasant to say the least. So she went on the Nextdoor app to see if there were any recommendations from neighbors or amateur plumbers looking to help us out.

Jim’s wife contacted us letting us know that he was a recently retired plumber, doing a little daylighting and he’d like to help us.

Everything started out fine. Jim came and checked out our place and was able to figure out that we were totally screwed, but fine, he could help us. This was after quite a bit of time spent by me trying to plunge the sink-in-question, and I was not about to try any more DIY. Fina is home on maternity leave so she had been dealing with him and there was something a bit off – so she asked that he call me.

“Jim hereereree. The plumber.”

“Hi Jim”

“So, I fsjdlkfsdklfj took a looook. Loooook it’s real bad. It’s gonna be $680. Take it or leave it.”

“Uh, hi Jim. Nice to meet you. Can you explain a bit more about what  you found out.”

“Oh, sure kaj;fjsdfkljsdaklfjsd (incoherent mumbling – sound of a juke box in the background)…. and the pipe is completely backed up. And you gotta lot of problems. So it’s gone be a LOT more than $700.”

“Wait, Jim, you just said it was going to be $680.”

“Fine, I’ll do it for $675. Whaddaya want to do (more incohherent mumbling)?”

I had been out of town on business the week prior and our bathroom sink had been out of commission for over 2 weeks, so I said: “Jim, do you mind coming by so I can meet you in person and you can show me what you plan to do?”

“sdjaflksdjfaklsdjflasdjklfajsdlf (which I took as an affirmation”

Jim and his wife, Sonja showed up reeking of cigarettes and only mildly less incoherent than he had appeared on the phone. For most people, that would have been when conversations ended, but I was feeling desperate and hired him anyway.

Fast forward 3 days, he appears to have done great work and everything is fixed. Sure, he may have left the job site both days by noon to go get drunk, but he fixed it for the price we agreed to, and after a couple of days feeling like I’ve made a huge mistake and endangered my family, it seems resolved. Not pleasant, but resolved.

Next, I’ll tell you about the time we tried to build a sleep shed/guest house, hired a “fixer” to get us the variance so we can keep it when we eventually tear down our house like everyone else, and it ended up costing 3 x as much and taking 5 x as long as our “fixer” said. We are still dealing with it, so those numbers are just preliminary estimates and will probably take waaaay longer. Again, I realize this is some first world problems.

Can I Get a Witness? We are in Another Real Estate Bubble

I’ll tell you what NOT to do when you are thinking about buying your first/next house; DO NOT read The Big Short. “Who reads a book after the phenomenal movie comes out?” may be your first question, and look, I get it and completely agree, books are for nerds, but my wife and I are seriously considering buying our first house together.

We even recently made an offer on a house we were very excited about that we saw as not a starter home, but a place that we could live forever. It was a fixer (though mostly cosmetic) in a very desirable neighborhood of Seattle, had great bones, and a lot of space to grow into. Sure that house sold for close to 25% more than asking and had 15 offers, but we were pretty disappointed when we didn’t get it. They are not making more land (as they say), but how can we not be repeating some of the same stuff that happened less than a decade ago.

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Is it Getting Hot in Here? Seattle’s Overcrowding Sandwich Metaphor

Seattle is the fastest growing major metropolitan area in the US and we are all feeling the heat from it. Or maybe that’s heat emanating from this global climate change? Regardless of causation, soon Seattle will basically be Houston, and I for one don’t like it.

The population explosion is undeniable — or so says some reputable sources like recent census data and the guy that was complaining about all the recent traffic congestion that was standing next to you having a conversation with no one while you waited in line at Jimmy Johns. I don’t eat Jimmy Johns per se, in fact I think Jimmy Johns is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with America and is a great illustration of why everyone should leave Seattle.

It’s so uniform and sterile, like the high-rise condo complexes that are exploding on South Lake Union, Ballard, and Interbay — and you know exactly what kind of perfectly-manicured-genetically-modified sandwich is coming out of the assembly line of smiling-sandwich-assembling-faceless-bots that are asking you if you want extra cheese for just $1 more – NO I WOULD NOT LIKE EXTRA CHEESE.

This may look like an innocuous sandwich, but I got it the day this place went out of business... I generally avoid going-out-of-business food

This may look like an innocuous sandwich, but I got it the day this small “Mom n’ Pop” place went out of business. As a rule, I generally avoid going-out-of-business food, but I also believe that this sandwich represents what was once right with the world. Yes it made me sick because this was the last of their inventory, but I took one for the American dream.

Give me an old-fashioned $5-footlong from Subway with brown lettuce and green tomatoes any day of the week or an instantly disintegrating meatball marinara sub from TOGOs that I can eat with a spoon in front of the TV. These were sandwiches that you could drive to without being stuck in gridlock, be treated terribly by staff while no one else was waiting with you, and then shame-eat in the comfort of your own desk or dark living room while Die-Hard 3 was playing in the background. You didn’t have to worry about all these other people coming in and demanding higher quality ingredients and timeliness. He’d get to making your sandwich as soon as he was done with his text, k!? Stop being so pushy!

All of the transplants migrating to Seattle for that great tech job are jump-starting the course of sandwich innovation and ruining all of our lives in the process. Don’t get me started on the concept of innovation. There is good evidence that innovation in fact hurts our economy and well-being. The argument being that making things cheaper/faster/easier leads to more consumption.

Let’s all collectively agree to take a deep breath and not worry about the fact that our sandwiches are sloppily made with terrible ingredients. Let’s get back to the simpler times where everyone was getting a  no-interest/no-income mortgage that allowed them to live out their American Dream of moving to the ‘burbs to live in a 4,000 square foot McMansion. They can all work from home making up to millions of dollars per day in their spare time as well. That should cut down on all of this traffic congestion and get us back to the day when a modular condo wasn’t created every 3 seconds!



Commitment Bias is Building Another Real Estate Bubble, Which is Cool.

Take it from someone who has terrible timing, but is pretty good at learning from his mistakes — the real estate market is in another bubble. Prices are back up, with recent reports that some Seattle locations are actually selling for above their pre-bubble/2007 highs.

Yet… wages are more stagnant than ever.

I bought a house in June 2007, which turned out to be the absolute pinnacle of the market. We were trying to live the American Dream to own a home. It seemed brilliant (though not that original) to get in on a starter home, build some quick equity, and then sell it in 5-7 years for a tidy profit. That’s what everyone was doing, and as you know, if everyone is doing it, you should too, stupid.


Something to keep in mind when evaluating features of a new home; the more cars you can fit in the garage, the better human being you are. In 2007 you could have gotten pre-approval on the loan for this, even without proof of income! Photo: d0ug&r0byn

Buy high and sell low – that’s my motto. Continue reading

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