Can someone sell me on Seattle area?
I was inspired by the great “Two resilient home” thread by jeantheau and I thought I would turn to the PP community for some help.
I have a bit of dilemma. My husband, 20 year old son and I live in Sonoma County, have done so for 27 years. We own a energy efficient home in a rural area, great neighbors, wonderful support group, developed gardens. But my husband has felt under employed for years and wants one last hurrah before “retirement”, if that ever really happens. We are in our late 50s. I guess the good thing is, he has a great skill set and appears to be in demand. He has interviewed for three jobs in the last week and looks to be getting three offers. One in Richmond, CA which would entail a crappy commute (or finding an airbnb near work for 3-4 nights per week), and one close to home where things would not change much, or one in Redmond, WA which would be very exciting for him professionally but would involve relocating.
I work in the cloud, I can be anywhere. I have no intentions of selling our home here. (at least for now) We likely could easily rent it, hopefully to someone who enjoys gardening and would potentially buy a home in the Redmond area if that is the job h(w)e chooses. Rental income plus our salaries would make that possible, especially since I am not interested in owning a McMansion on a lake, but rather a modest home that is moldfree, some yard, and has good infrastructure. Ever since the big fires, I have been thinking maybe California not that sustainable long term. Maybe this is a sign it is time to move somewhere with more water (but few growing days in winter…but again maybe a challenge to learn how to garden furthur north). And the traffic here! Yikes!
Our son was going to be transferring to a state college next year anyway, he is finishing an AA degree at local JC. He has a say in the matter, but has not really decided anything so far.
Part if me is exited for a change: I like adventures and meeting new people. But part of me not sure if I want to leave my safety net given the times we are in. And the idea of recreating what we have here somewhere else is somewhat appealing…but alot of hard work too.
But the safe option also seems kind of boring. I have never lived anywhere this long ever in my life. Its a nice rut, but still a rut. I lived in Portland for 4 years, so know what the weather is like. My husband a couple days looking around Redmond and was impressed with the farms in the Tolt river valley and the friendliness of the people and said their rush hour easy compared to ours. I dont think either of us are interested in Seattle proper, but Carnation, Duvall, etc. looked more our speed. I need land for gardening. The idea of being closer to snow very appealing to both us, as we love snow sports.
So anyone out there from Seattle or nearby who could offer some advice? The Redmond job is yes, one of the three big tech behemoths, and his position related to a big project apparently they have tons of money for. He did not think the job would be obsolete soon. (But he is more positive about BAU than me). Same for the Richmond job: lots of big tech money going into it.
Would love others to weigh in. Thanks in advance.
Everyone must decide for themselves how badly things are going to go sideways over the next year or ten. Which scenario makes sense in your case depends a lot on how you feel about what’s coming.
I already did the big move 13 years ago — from the Maryland suburbs to semi-rural Kentucky — based on the feeling that surely things were about to get crazy. They never really did. I’m still glad I made the move; I got some unwanted things out of my life and some new, good things into my life.
If the (manufactured) crises of the next 10 years are no worse than those of the last ten, you’d be fine going off on a new adventure. (I personally LOVE building new resilience/homesteading infrastructure!) But if, say, the Fed is about to pop the Everything Bubble as a prelude to a monetary-system reset, then it’s “Katie bar the door” — and I think you’d want that door to be in a home that is already resilient, in a place where you already know and trust your neighbors.
Chaos in the economy also poses a threat to jobs. Tenure makes a difference when a company’s profits crash and layoffs start. Picking whichever job would be most resistent to economic chaos might also be important, rather than one that just has a big pile of startup cash.
As for renting out your home from a distance, I advise against that, unless you’re going to use a property manager. Too much can go wrong with rentals if you aren’t around to keep an eye on things. And if you’re trying to do it all yourself, how would you show the house to new people when it’s vacant? I’ve done several variations on rentals. They can be OK, but usually JUST OK. They are not big moneymakers, especially if the place is nice and you are trying to keep it that way. I think if you go to Washington, you probably should be thinking you’ll sell your current house.
As you can infer, I skew towards risk avoidance. But that’s me. In my current question (keep or sell my second resilient home), I did an evaluation matrix: “keep” and “sell” on the Y axis … and “best case,” “middle case,” and “worst case” scearios on the X axis. I then pondered and wrote down what I though each of the six possibilities looked like. You could do something similar.
P.S. Did you say “mold-free home”? The tendency towards mold is bad enough in Kentucky; this page suggests Seattle will be quite a bit worse.
FYI: I live & work on the East coast, but I have friends in the Seattle Area.
Bottom line: Seattle is a very expensive area. Housing is astronomically high because of the Tech industry & Chinese looking to get capital out of China. Its likely that any significant income gains will get eaten away by high housing costs. if you try to find a lower cost out of the city, you have to deal with commuter hell as Seattle has little mass transit and its interstate highways are grossly inaquite for the amount of traffic. I believe to commute into Seattle from an outliner area with OK housing costs is between a 2 hour & 3 hour commute each way (ie 4 to 6 hours commute per day). That said Some companies let worker do swing shifts (start a 10 AM and leave at 8 PM, or start a 5PM and leave a 3PM) My friends works from 5 Am to 3PM and his wife works from 10 AM to 8 PM) They live in Seattle, but both work cross town. I believe it still takes them over an hour each way while commuting off hours, since a lot of people also commute off hours too.
Best Option is to look at housing costs & spend several days in the area see what a mess the traffic is like before moving forward. That said really any Tech Job areas are going to very expensive housing costs and excessive traffic Congrestion. Probably the least expensive (housing costs) Tech region is the Raliegh NC area. It does suffer from terrible traffic congestion, but the housing costs aren’t extemely like the West Coast Tech Area. The other alternative is the Northern Virginia area. Housing is more expensive than NC, but is less expensive than the West Coast Tech Areas, Traffic does suck in Northern VA, but there is some rail and the Virginia DOT has made significant improvements.
FWIW: As a fellow Techie, I pretty much focus on Jobs that I can work remotely (ie the Cloud) Thus permitting me to work from just about anywhere. Perhaps this is something your Husband can persue. The only alternative is that your husband rents a shared apartmentCondohome. and commutes home during the weekends. Some companies will let you work four ten hour days so you have a three day weekend. Since I am also located in a rural area, living in a share apartment, this what I would do if I had a job that I needed to work in a Tech area. But I have no wife or kids.
I’ve never commuted the Seattle area, but I’ve done so in Northern Virgina while doing the “beltway bandit” gig. AWFUL traffic/congestion.
About 20 years ago, I saw a chart that listed the 10 worst traffic zones in the country. The D.C. area had three of them, and I was commuting through two of them every day, one in MD (I-270/I-495) and the other in VA (I495/I-66). It’s one of the reasons I threw the hail mary and moved to Kentucky.
There are strategies for dealing with D.C. traffic — HOV lanes, hour shifting. But there would still be plenty of time in your car.
But as I recall, Northern VA wasn’t under consideration anyway….
I lived in Washington State, including Seattle, for a few years as a kid. But, that was 60 years ago. I had a great time in Seattle, but again, that was a long time ago. My understanding is pretty much the way tech guy describes it today.
I also lived north of Seattle near Burlington on my step-grandparents’ farm for a while. That place was pure magic. I’ve never seen gardens and crops grow so easily and lushly. Puget Sound is (or was) wonderful. The Cascades were too. Basically, if I were to start over (and I have lived in many areas of the country) I would choose the Pacific Northwest to settle in. There is a reason that the potlatch and current day permaculture experiments developed in that region. Nature provides an abundance you don’t see almost anywhere else.
Oh yeh, the winds and moisture off the Pacific keeps the winters mild, extending growing seasons. on both ends
… I worked on an ice truck, but the driver pointed out one guy with CB radio, who lived in Weyers Cave south of Harrisonburg, and commuted to a job up in Baltimore every day. That was a commute that I couldn’t imagine, even back then.
If I were in your shoes I’d absolutely be tempted to head off to the Seattle area (or Redmond, Kirkland…) but I would rent for at least the first year.
No questions about that.
The first year would be about actually learning the region and whether that really worked, where the commute points were better or worse, and where the micro-communities I was attracted to were actually located.
Further, the local RE market in Seattle is busy falling apart after a horrendously large bubble run. I’ve been counseling people for the past two years to wait a little longer in Seattle for RE, but that advice seems to be paying off now as two years of gains have now magically disappeared.
There will be much more such losses on the way if/when the recession finally arrives.
Feb 7, 2019
King County’s cooling housing market has turned downright chilly as prices have dropped to their lowest point in two years — with the median home now selling for $116,000 less than last spring.
This is the time of year when home prices typically have a seasonal dip, but not like this: The median single-family house countywide sold for $29,000 less in January compared to the previous month, or three times the normal seasonal decline.
Even on a year-over-year basis, prices declined 3 percent — the first annual drop since the market bottomed out in the housing bust seven years ago, according to data released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The median King County house price of $610,000 was the lowest since March 2017, when prices first reached $600,000. Last May, at the peak of the market, homes were selling for $726,000.
The total 16 percent price drop over the last eight months is the second-biggest decline for any eight-month period on record dating back two decades. During the peak of the housing bubble a decade ago, prices sank 18 percent from July 2008 to March 2009.
The turnaround is even more pronounced when zeroing in just on the city of Seattle. The median home in the city sold for $711,000, a decrease of 6 percent in a year and down $119,000 since last spring’s peak.
I mean, check out this chart from Wolf Richter:
(Source – essential reading for anybody considering buying in Seattle!)
If there’s anything close to a reasonable retracement, the next two to three years will see another 30% to 50% reductions in median home prices. I don’t know what your husband’s earning potential is, but the possibility of losing $150,000 to $300,000 in a few years on the “value” of a home seems a bit steep to me.
Besides, I find that renting is always the best way to end up buying because it takes time to really suss out the best spots.
That’s what I would do.
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the feedback. Looking more and more like Seattle might be it.
We most definitely would rent the first year. I have been combing zillow for good rentals as well as educating myself to the real estate market for possible future buying. What we would save in state income taxes would pay for 6 months rent alone. But you are correct, prices are bubbly! Woudl not want to buy into that market now.
My husband could not work remotely, as his job is operations manager and he needs to be present to manage operations. We both strongly want good quality of life and for us that is short commute, not living cheek to cheek with neighbors with no yard. And for husband: fly fishing and brew pubs; for me holistic health community and a good yarn store and tribe of creatives. Another draw to the Pacific NW.
I dont think we would consider other areas of country, as we have lived west of the Missouri for 30 plus years and love the west and the climate. The exurbs towns of Duvall, Carnation were small logging towns from the turn of the century with lots of water and good farming and 20-30 minute drive even during commute hours according to Google maps historical data. I would never buy in Seattle proper. Too expensive and crowded! It is incredible to me that the old colleague who recommnded by husband for this potential job, bought a house with her husband in west Seattle and she rents an apartment in Redmond and only goes home on the weekends. Crazy.
And I hear you about managing a rental from afar jeantheau. I am not too worried, our good friend and neighbor is a retired general contractor who does odd jobs and other neighbors would let us know right away if things get wonky here. We also have a 16′ by 20′ tiny house on the property that can be our escape pod back here to live in if things dont work out up north where we coudl wait out a rental tenants lease expiring, We can right that possibility as a clause in our contract. I think holding out for a good tenant is key. And letting go of what you had.
And having lived in the PW Northwest before I am very aware of mold. I say a moldfree home, because good health is key, and woudl not want to move into a rental that is moldy. Lets just say I will be crawling into closets, lookign under sinks, inspecting basements/attics uper thoroughly before signing anything. Basically real estate agents hate me, because I dont care about cosmetic stuff like marble countertops or walkin closets (which they are so keen to point out) but I ask about insulation and age of wiring and plumbing, etc. and average past utility bills.
I have moved alot over my life and found creating community pretty easy because my husband an I show up with our sleeves rolled to contribute with smiles on our faces. People respond to that.
Long story short: even if this ends up not happening, I am grateful that being aware of the three Es, and keeping out of debt and prepping and having a resilient mindset enables us to have options. Life is about change and I dont want to become so inflexible I would never consider taking a risk again in life. And my number one social relationship is with my husband and I can see he really wants to take this opportunity if it makes sense. So I am coming aroudn to the fact this could be life expanding (but have a plan b up our sleeve…its our family motto!)
Life shrinks or expand in proportion to ones courage. ….Anais Nin
One thing worth considering is where your possible housing locations will be relative to nuclear power plants, nuclear wastes sites, other toxic waste sites, etc. — and how the air and water move between you and them.
I have an Army base 15 miles from me that has WWII-era nerve agents that it’s in the process of decommissioning and destroying. An accident is a (very low) possibility, but the prevailing winds almost always blow from me to them, rarely the reverse. With odds of an accident very low to begin with, and the odds of a toxic wind blowing my way even lower, I accepted the risk.
I know California has nuclear plants, as well as some pretty messed up military sites. Don’t know about Washington state, but I think they do, too. If nothing else, there’s the Hanford site up there.
Every place is going to have some issues, so it’s always good to do all of your research before you commit.
One comment on the Seattle real estate chart Chris posted. If you look at the national chart, it has that same double-bump curve, with the current prices far above the frothy top of 2007. Is it breaking now? Maybe; the 2018 turn in sentiment would seem to say so. However, when I was selling in the gogo market of suburban Maryland, I saw the sentiment turn happen in summer 2005. Still, many houses were sold in 2006 and 2007 — it just got tougher. The point is that even if the top is in — or very near — we could easily be on the bumpy plateau for another year or two before the big downturn happens.
I’ve lived here for the better part of twenty years, and Seattle itself is not recognizable, with dramatic changes in the last five years or so. The region is beautiful, plenty of water, and places off the beaten path. But, the commuter region of King and Snohomish counties are a mess traffic wise. It’s bad, really bad, and the construction and density grows seemingly by the day..
The tech sector has made a mess of things as well, mainly Amazon. Lots of “tech bro” like transplants who don’t seem to care about where they are, or preserving the once great quality of life.
The areas of Carnation, Duvall, Fall City and maybe even parts of Snoqualmie are still fairly rural, and not nearly as effected, and homesteading would be possible. This is all assuming that you have to be in commuting distance to Redmond. Else, other areas like up to Bellingham are FAR more attractive, if not even the once stigmatized Tacoma.
Also, in terms of your friend, yes West Seattle is an utter mess to get in and out of, unless you work downtown and can take a water taxi. There is really only one bridge to practically get in and out without going south first. I.e. commuting from Redmond to W. Seattle is a complete mess.
All in all, the outlying areas might be a great choice, but know what you are getting into. It’s hard to say how those areas might get affected in the future. I never thought Seattle would change so much so fast. I once would rave about the area, now I have to advise really doing due diligence, and recognizing that it is a region in dramatic flux.
Best of luck.