Here’s a great guest post from an Urbnlivn reader who dishes the dirt on many downtown condos in her hunt for “the one”. If you’d like to share your story of buying or selling, just drop us a line email@example.com!
Since the first of the year, we’ve been seriously looking to downsize into a condo closer to downtown Seattle where my husband and I both work. Matt’s site has been invaluable, and we’ve been in touch over several subjects so he was nice enough to ask me to share my condo hunt experience.
We live in a perfectly nice house in the Broadview neighborhood with a big yard that we purchased in 2006. We were moving back to Seattle, and I went out looking with our agent and found this house in one day. If I had to live in it for the next ten years I’d survive, but it’s too big for just the two of us and the layout is not ideal for how we live. We’re definitely open concept people. We also can’t walk to much so we’re definitely looking for something in a spot that’s less sleepy with a little more going on. A little more than what we’ve got, but a lot less than gunshots at 2 am. Our budget is around $550,000 depending on HOA’s, etc. To us that feels like a healthy budget, but you’d be surprised. I know the inventory’s tight in all price ranges but there seems to always be a few new listings higher or lower than our target budget.
Here’s the summary of how the search has gone so far:
We’ve gone to at least 23 viewings in 17 properties, from Wallingford to Pioneer Square and over to Capitol Hill. We’re not even being picky about a neighborhood. A month or so back, we got totally crazy and looked at a place on Bainbridge Island. Anyway, these viewings have help us learn what our urban tolerance is (still totally depends on the neighborhood and amenities) and that we really need at least 1100 sq ft. When all is said and done, I’d like to be able to keep both our cars but there are very few buildings in our price range that provide two parking spots. So that’s our crazy wish list: any neighborhood, at least one parking spot, decent size, walkability, we’d like to not get shot running out for milk, and a view of something blue or green would be spectacular.
In a few cases, we looked at units that were about to have their views completely blocked, specifically at Bellora and Olive 8. I became an expert at spotting vacant lots or parking lots that may be under development. That’s a deal breaker for us, but not for everyone.
I had a big love affair with Olive 8 for a while until I had to finally admit that we couldn’t afford enough space there (not to mention the annoying adjacent building and another impending blocked view to the east). We looked at Escala where we were told that with a budget of $550k, we’d never be able to afford a concrete and steel building. Excuse me? (They have a unit for sale right now for $399k) Regardless of their snobby attitude, I’m just not a fan of Escala’s location.
We looked at several promising units in Cristalla, and we like that building for several reasons including the location, amenities, and the above-ground parking. While touring, we met a woman who’d purchased a two-bedroom short sale for a steal and thought maybe we could get so lucky. There’s now a similar unit three stories above hers selling for $300k more than she paid. Our amazing and patient agent even found a unit that had been taken off the market and got us a showing, but it was just too small for us at any price.
Our next favorite building is The Vine where we’ve seen multiple units. In fact, we were ready to write up an offer on one, even though it definitely had its faults. We saw it the first day it was open, around 1 pm, and little did we know that someone had come in at 11 am and was in the middle of writing an offer that was accepted later that afternoon. We didn’t even have time to get out a pen! The seller got $50k more than he bought it for 18 months before, but he had a priceless waterview terrace that was hard to beat.
We really like Bellora but the available water views look out onto the satellite dishes on the roof of Real Networks. We toured The Sanctuary and just couldn’t imagine living without natural light next door to a public park. We didn’t like the design of Mosler or the view, Gallery was too loud (helipad right outside the window), 5th and Madison was too pricey and was in the middle of a lawsuit, Continental Place was too old, Banner Building has no parking, and The Florentine is about to have its views blocked by new construction that will run through 2014. Regatta may still be a contender if my husband can get over the idea of feeling like he’s living in a fishbowl.
We did have the most amazing opportunity to see a penthouse in Wallingford that wasn’t even on the market. Someone told me that the owners had walked out around the holidays and eventually it was going to come up for sale by the bank. Our intrepid agent made two calls to the former owners, one in January and one in May, and they eventually agreed to let us have the keys to see it. They would even think about considering a short sale. This was amazing news. Of course, we were just about to leave on a trip the next day but we moved everything around so we could see it before we left. Unfortunately, it just needed too much work, and, even then, I don’t think it was the right place for us. But how amazing to have the opportunity to see it after wondering about it for five months? It would have made a great story if it had worked out.
In the meantime, I’ve lost my sense of urgency and have developed a Zen-like “Whatever happens is meant to be” attitude. Mostly because there’s zero inventory to get excited about. We continue to work on our house in hopes that one day it will go on the market and sell quickly. I’m sure someone somewhere is currently complaining that there’s just no inventory of early 1950’s homes with a big back yard in a super quiet neighborhood.