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2022 - New House!

After several years of living in the Seattle area, I was finally able to get the chance to start looking to buy a house at the start of the year. After spending a couple weeks getting an idea of what was out there that would fit what I was looking for, I found an agent and started going to open houses ahead of getting ready to make offers.

The Seattle market was still pretty fast-paced, with most every house hitting the market in the middle of the week. There would be open houses over the weekend and offers due were usually due on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Pretty much every house would get at least a handful of offers and they’d be marked pending just ahead of the next batch of houses getting listed. With this pacing, you could only make one offer from your short-list of houses and chances were pretty hit-or-miss unless you were able to add a pretty hefty escalation clause or otherwise sweeten your offer by removing contingencies .

After a few weeks of touring, I found a house that I was very interested in, given that it was recently remodeled (and not flipped), large enough to not need to find a new one anytime soon and already had a good size shop that had been set up for a mechanic. I called my agent on my way home from looking at it to get the offer drafted and was warned that there was likely to be a bidding war, as she had talked with the listing agent who had received lots of inquiries.

I received the disappointing news the next day that unless I was willing to amend my offer and escalate quite a bit higher than I was probably going to be able to stretch financially, I was going to lose out on the house. I decided to cut my losses and let it go, since thus far I was able to get between 3-5 houses on my tour list each weekend and figured I had a good shot at finding something in the next round to try again for.

The following week, one of the houses I had eyed previously but decided to pass on due to the price dropped by a large enough amount that it seemed worth taking a look at. The house had a lot of what I was looking for and was in really good shape for being built in the late 40s. It was also on a large lot for being on the edge of the city and the neighborhood was pretty well established so there wasn’t much chance of new construction. Save for the train running through town it was also pretty quiet, but since I had gotten used to it while in Rolla, it didn’t bother me much.

I decided to make an offer and my agent suggested that I could likely avoid the whole bidding war by being willing to increase my base offer a bit above the list price if it was taken before the offer review date. I agreed to the tactic and the seller’s went ahead and accepted my offer. This proved to be a fortuitous decision, as if I hadn’t got the timing on getting the mortgage when it all came together, I would have missed the last chance on a good interest rate before they went up.

The house is brick-veneered, with two stories and a finished basement that included a mother-in-law suite. The lot is just over half an acre and the previous owners had spent a considerable effort into gardening with a large number of well-taken care of and established plants. This included some raspberry bushes, a couple of grape vines, a few rhubarb plants and a still-fruiting apple tree that had been planted shortly after the house was built, making it nearly 80 years old! There are also several 40 plus foot cedar trees, mountain ashes, magnolia trees, Japanese maples, a cherry-blossom, a Kousa dogwood and many rhododendrons.

Nothing in the house was really in need of any major work, the kitchen had been redone about 10 or so years previous and the cabinets are all European beech with full extension drawers. The water heater was barely a year old and the heating for the house was all done by hydronic baseboard and a cast-iron boiler, which means getting air-conditioning retrofitted is going to be either a challenge or just a no-go. The carpets were all replaced a couple years back, the roof was a 50-year shingle that had been put in about 15 years ago, and they had just gotten the house switched off of the on-site septic and attached to the city sewer system. There’s also a well still active on the property, but it’s only attached to the spigots outside, which means that watering the plants only costs the electricity to run the pump.

With the good condition of the house, it afforded me the opportunity to invest in renovating the shop that was part of the garage. It had some power, but I had plans for building out a woodworking shop, plus wanting to make provisions for a future electric car charger. It also became obvious that the only place to put any potential solar panels would be on the garage roof since it faced due south and the house’s roof was facing east-west.

While I was working on planning this all out, I took the time to add some monitoring and extra safety to the utilities. I put in a monitoring device in the electrical panel to be able to keep an eye on the electrical usage of stuff, which wasn’t too difficult. I also got a monitoring device for the water main, which proved to be the more troublesome install, as I hadn’t done much soldering.

After coming back from traveling in the summer, I had enough planned out to begin working on the new electrical service out to the shop. With the brick veneer and concrete foundation, it quickly became a major challenge trying to do the electrical expansion as a sub-panel. My dad suggested hooking up the new panel right to the meter, which turned out to be the best move since it was already set up to have a second set of wires run from it. It took a couple weeks for me to get the trench dug and ready for inspection and then it took me several more days after that to get the wires pulled. By Halloween, the panel was installed and powered and the only things left on the previous circuits were the lights.

While getting ready to start putting in some wallboard to be able to insulate the walls and ceiling, I began calling around to some concrete contractors. The floor had a lot of cracks and chips, it wasn’t flat and it had some wooden beams just laying in it for an expansion joint. After a couple came out to do quotes, they both gave the verdict that it wasn’t worth repairing and it wasn’t possible to do a new layer over the top. Figuring that it was now, before getting fully set up in the shop, or probably never, I went ahead and had them tear out the existing floor and pour a new one. While it set back continuing to finish the renovation, it’s definitely going to be worth it in the long run.

As Christmas neared, and with about 3 months of after-work time into it, the shop renovation project ended the year with good progress, even if it is less than I was ambitiously hoping for:

    New electric service from meter (trench, wire, panel)
    Get concrete floor replaced
    Replace existing rafter ties and fill in missing ones
    Remove existing romex and boxes from the shop area
    Install wallboard
    Run EMT conduit and install receptacles and switches
    Insulate walls and ceiling
    Install mini-split for heating and cooling

Published Dec 28, 2022

Software Engineer and Aspiring Woodworker