Meritage Review Part 1: What did I buy and why?

In order to break up the work of writing about my Meritage unit I’m going to do it in parts:

  • Part 1: What did I buy and why?
  • Part 2: Photos
  • Part 3: Defects/annoyances with the unit
  • Part 4: Renovations I want to perform
  • Part 5: Why I tried to fire and then sue my real estate agent

Why I bought it

When I moved to Seattle three years ago it was my intent to buy a place but I was shocked to find out how much real estate cost here compared to Canada (where I grew up and went to school.) So you understand my frame of reference, while in university I owned an 1800 square foot, six bedroom lodging house in Waterloo, Ontario that I purchased for $205,000. It produced about $2,400/month of revenue. I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t buy a place here that I could rent and have the rent cover the mortgage. And so I thought the market, three years ago, was horrendously over priced. In hindsight it was a mistake not to buy something then since real estate appreciated much more quickly here then it did in Waterloo, Ontario. Oh well.

A year ago I realized that the market did not seem to care that the purchase to rent ratio was out of whack and I started to shop around. Wanting to purchase something close to where I lived was a priority and over the last two years I had watched the houses at 124 Bellevue Ave E get torn down and then the site prepped. When the sign went up advertising the Meritage I called up Javila. Unfortunately she quickly dashed my hopes of being able to buy an unfinished unit which is what I really wanted. Apparently the developer might entertain the idea if I was paying cash. I was not. I later learned that while I couldn’t build out the unit I could pick from one of three color schemes! (Most cars come in at least five colors*.)

Closer to the first day of sales I started thinking about unit types and pricing. I originally thought I wanted a studio because they were much cheaper (my budget based on what I was paying in monthly rent was originally $200,000) but my dad, an architect, convinced me a studio was a bad idea. Since my apartment had a killer view I also wanted a killer view and I bought as high up the building as seemed reasonable. They didn’t have sample view shots when I signed the PSA so I really got lucky that I have a good view while my neighbor in #503 does not.

On February 22nd I showed up just as the sales center opened and was the second or third person to grab a unit. I then spent that weekend going and looking at all the sales centers in Seattle to see what else was out there (funny that I didn’t do that first :) ). Seeing that the price at Meritage was reasonable and so not having any regrets I did not cancel my purchase and sale. In hindsight, I should have spent a bit more, got a scooter, and bought a unit at Mosler lofts. It’s more my style but I didn’t like the location.

In hindsight I spent very little time looking at comps and inventory levels. When reserving a unit at Trace I agonized over the numbers and when talking to the people at Trace it is likely I spent more time crunching the numbers then they did (!).

Since the Meritage was not my ‘style’, I’m much more a modernist who enjoys large open spaces, then someone happy with 3 strip hardwood and 9′ ceilings, I continued to shop around for both new construction and old construction. For a long time I looked for an older unit in need of renovating but nothing has been a good candidate over the year I’ve waited for Meritage. On the other hand the projects at South Lake Union and 12th and Madison have caught my eye and it is likely I will sell Meritage very soon to move into either Trace Lofts or Rollin Street. Time will tell.

Alrighty, enough chit chat, what did I buy?

Description of purchase

  • Unit 504, west facing, 747 square feet, no upgrades (upgrades offered), 1 parking spot, no storage
  • Purchase and sale signed February 22nd, 2006 with a 5% deposit
  • Reason for purchase: Fall back in case I couldn’t find something better. If nothing else I knew it’s view and location would be good.
  • Price paid: $345,000 ($475/SqFt)
  • Appraised at: $380,000. Appraisal notes:
    • Under housing trends: Condo shortage
    • Estimated that 4 units rented
    • Comp’d against two units at The Press ($535/SqFt and $567/SqFt), one at The Braeburn ($440/SqFt) and the one above mine ($551/SqFt)
  • Loan: 5% down then a Conf ARM LIBR 5/1 525 F&E10yIO (translation: interest only) at 6% on $276,000 and then $51,120.30 borrowed at 7.9% for the remainder.
  • Home owner association dues: $265/month
  • First move in date scheduled for February 18th
  • Actually moved in March 6th
  • Elevator break downs requiring a reset of the elevator while moving: 1

Developer supplied floor plan

(click to enlarge)

823095 8ef36c57fd m Meritage Review Part 1: What did I buy and why?

Renderings done by KH

(click to enlarge)

823086 bc03a2c2e3 m Meritage Review Part 1: What did I buy and why?

823084 cc02de0d46 m Meritage Review Part 1: What did I buy and why?

If you have Sketchup installed you can download unit 504 and walk through it. I’m sure if you ask nicely (and pay) KH will render units for you if you’re interested.

Why did you buy?

Why did you buy your unit? Let us know in the forums.

*I have no idea what the average number of colors cars are available in but my point that I’ll beat dead until I have my way is that a $12,000 car is more customizable than even a $800,000 condo.

About Matt

Matt , Urbnlivn's publisher, has a love for lofts, floating homes and mid-century moderns.

For years Matt resisted becoming a real estate agent preferring to be an executive in the startup world but he recently caved in the spring of 2014 and became an agent.

You can also find Matt on Twitter or skiing.

  • Foster

    I feel the EXACT SAME WAY!! Why can’t condos which are uberexpensive be customized like a cheap car can be? And why aren’t there more condos available in “shell” form, where you can create the interior from scratch??

    I also share your sentiment that I should have bought at Mosler Lofts. Though the location was not what I wanted, it offered a great value for a great building. Alas, I still have not made up my mind where I will live.

  • Foster

    I feel the EXACT SAME WAY!! Why can’t condos which are uberexpensive be customized like a cheap car can be? And why aren’t there more condos available in “shell” form, where you can create the interior from scratch??

    I also share your sentiment that I should have bought at Mosler Lofts. Though the location was not what I wanted, it offered a great value for a great building. Alas, I still have not made up my mind where I will live.

  • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

    I believe the reason you can’t buy a shell is because in order to get the mortgage the unit needs to appraise as complete. Which is why you would need to pay cash.

    Of course that doesn’t preclude the developer allowing more customization. I believe the reason they don’t offer customization is because it is more profitable for them to just quickly build and move onto the next development then to squeak every dollar possible out of a development. Sad but that’s probably the nature of the business.

    Hopefully in the future the power of the Internet will allow buyers to come together and hire a developer to build what they want instead of the developers using ads in the paper and the sides of buses to find buyers for the developments they think we want but don’t.

  • http://blog.mattgoyer.com Matt

    I believe the reason you can’t buy a shell is because in order to get the mortgage the unit needs to appraise as complete. Which is why you would need to pay cash.

    Of course that doesn’t preclude the developer allowing more customization. I believe the reason they don’t offer customization is because it is more profitable for them to just quickly build and move onto the next development then to squeak every dollar possible out of a development. Sad but that’s probably the nature of the business.

    Hopefully in the future the power of the Internet will allow buyers to come together and hire a developer to build what they want instead of the developers using ads in the paper and the sides of buses to find buyers for the developments they think we want but don’t.

  • EconE

    Too much builder customization isn’t cost effective. When you consider the number of units…buying in bulk saves quite a bit of money Not to mention…one persons idea of customization can be completely different from another persons.

    From my knowledge…most units that have really ever been sold as shells are extremely high end units such as One Carillon Point and there was a 5 unit building on Alki that was sold as such. Currently there are units available in each building (built out of course) but when you look at the 5M+ price tags you realize that it’s a whole new ballgame.

    Also…from looking at the markups that they wanted for the options you will be patting yourself on the back when you cruise websites like http://www.ifloor.com and diygranite.com. You can really go crazy and get some good deals online if you google hard enough.

    Do you want better kitchen cabinet handles and drawer pulls? Check out myknobs.com (I used the Providence “absolute zero integrity” handles & knobs myself) How are the door knobs? handlesets.com (formerly quicklocks) did me right on my remodel also.

    Laying hardwood floors is a cinch…so is tile work. The free courses at HomeDepot et al show you how easy it really is. Having someone swap out your counters for granite isn’t very expensive also. Just make sure that you order the granite yourself and take good measurements.

    I could go on…but…you probably get the drift ;o)

  • EconE

    Too much builder customization isn’t cost effective. When you consider the number of units…buying in bulk saves quite a bit of money Not to mention…one persons idea of customization can be completely different from another persons.

    From my knowledge…most units that have really ever been sold as shells are extremely high end units such as One Carillon Point and there was a 5 unit building on Alki that was sold as such. Currently there are units available in each building (built out of course) but when you look at the 5M+ price tags you realize that it’s a whole new ballgame.

    Also…from looking at the markups that they wanted for the options you will be patting yourself on the back when you cruise websites like http://www.ifloor.com and diygranite.com. You can really go crazy and get some good deals online if you google hard enough.

    Do you want better kitchen cabinet handles and drawer pulls? Check out myknobs.com (I used the Providence “absolute zero integrity” handles & knobs myself) How are the door knobs? handlesets.com (formerly quicklocks) did me right on my remodel also.

    Laying hardwood floors is a cinch…so is tile work. The free courses at HomeDepot et al show you how easy it really is. Having someone swap out your counters for granite isn’t very expensive also. Just make sure that you order the granite yourself and take good measurements.

    I could go on…but…you probably get the drift ;o)

  • EconE

    p.s. don’t worry about the cable location issue…easily rectifiable.

  • EconE

    p.s. don’t worry about the cable location issue…easily rectifiable.

  • http://blog.mattgoyer.com Matt

    EconE, agreed. I should be able to do hard woods for less than half of what they quoted as the upgrade price and the tile work should be a tenth.

    My concern is that it seems very wasteful to rip out perfectly good hardwood and carpeting and replace it.

    For instance my neighbor in #503 is ripping out his hardwood and carpet, replacing all the light fixtures, re-tiling the bathroom and putting in a new counter and sink, and re-painting the unit all prior to moving in.

  • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

    EconE, agreed. I should be able to do hard woods for less than half of what they quoted as the upgrade price and the tile work should be a tenth.

    My concern is that it seems very wasteful to rip out perfectly good hardwood and carpeting and replace it.

    For instance my neighbor in #503 is ripping out his hardwood and carpet, replacing all the light fixtures, re-tiling the bathroom and putting in a new counter and sink, and re-painting the unit all prior to moving in.

  • andy

    Sketchup is addictive. This was the first I’d heard of it, and got the hang of it in a couple of hours. Definitely worth the learning curve.

  • andy

    Sketchup is addictive. This was the first I’d heard of it, and got the hang of it in a couple of hours. Definitely worth the learning curve.

  • http://designlines.wordpress.com/ kh

    yeah you can spend hours plugging away on SketchUp. it’s almost becoming an industry standard for the A&D community in the concept phase of design because of it’s so user-friendly and you can quickly adjust and manipulate massing.

    it gets to be a lot more time consuming when doing interiors depending on how much detail you want for your end result. basic massing of cabinetry and importing block/”ready-made” furniture or customizing everything down the cabinet hardware and light fixtures.

    keep in mind that people tend to have a hard time visualizing scale of an unfinished unit so at least put a few things that will help you judge the overall scale of the space you’ve made (a sofa, dining table & queen sized bed).

  • http://designlines.wordpress.com/ kh

    yeah you can spend hours plugging away on SketchUp. it’s almost becoming an industry standard for the A&D community in the concept phase of design because of it’s so user-friendly and you can quickly adjust and manipulate massing.

    it gets to be a lot more time consuming when doing interiors depending on how much detail you want for your end result. basic massing of cabinetry and importing block/”ready-made” furniture or customizing everything down the cabinet hardware and light fixtures.

    keep in mind that people tend to have a hard time visualizing scale of an unfinished unit so at least put a few things that will help you judge the overall scale of the space you’ve made (a sofa, dining table & queen sized bed).

  • EconE

    kh…that SketchUp thing is cool…one thing that would be interesting to see are the dimensions. Maybe a birdseye view that is transposed over some sort of graph paper where each square equals a foot.

    The furniture additions do help…but sometimes…it may be easier for a person to also have the dimensions so that they can measure their own furniture and see how it fits.

    just an idea.

    nice renderings BTW.

  • EconE

    kh…that SketchUp thing is cool…one thing that would be interesting to see are the dimensions. Maybe a birdseye view that is transposed over some sort of graph paper where each square equals a foot.

    The furniture additions do help…but sometimes…it may be easier for a person to also have the dimensions so that they can measure their own furniture and see how it fits.

    just an idea.

    nice renderings BTW.

  • http://designlines.wordpress.com/ kh

    Econ E – you can add dimensions in SketchUp so that area is definitely covered.

    thanks :)

  • http://designlines.wordpress.com/ kh

    Econ E – you can add dimensions in SketchUp so that area is definitely covered.

    thanks :)

  • andy

    I built my first model directly over a screenshot JPG of my reserved unit’s floorplan (set as the ‘floor’). It was a good frame of reference and helped to keep the walls and contents to scale.

    Building out complex interior details can definitely become tedious. I spent way too long trying to model my turntable. I was glad to discover the ready made objects in the 3D warehouse. There’s a surprising amount of detailed commercial stuff in there – GE Profile appliances, IKEA seating, a grand piano, etc. Reminds me of the Sims.

  • andy

    I built my first model directly over a screenshot JPG of my reserved unit’s floorplan (set as the ‘floor’). It was a good frame of reference and helped to keep the walls and contents to scale.

    Building out complex interior details can definitely become tedious. I spent way too long trying to model my turntable. I was glad to discover the ready made objects in the 3D warehouse. There’s a surprising amount of detailed commercial stuff in there – GE Profile appliances, IKEA seating, a grand piano, etc. Reminds me of the Sims.

  • jack

    I saw you mentioned myknobs.com and I thought it might be useful to suggest yourhomesupply.com. They have a lot of the same stuff as myknobs.com but they tend to be cheaper in price. Just a heads up for those of you who are interested. Hope it helps!