Some say this is a great time to buy.
Not so fast, I say. It’s an OK time to buy if you do not have to sell first. It’s a good time to buy if you don’t have to sell first and have good credit. It’s a great time to buy if you don’t have to sell, have good credit and have saved up for this very purpose.
If you are young, have a well-paying job and would find another job in greater Seattle with relative ease, this is your day to go house hunting — eh, make that condo hunting.
Know what you want; then make a list.
Condo hunting — that’s just what I did with a young man who fits the above profile. Beginning about a month ago, we started to look around, first online, then in the real world. Shawn had a pretty good idea of what he wanted. He made a list for me:
- Must Have (maximum 25-minute no-transfer bus ride to work),
- Would Like (lots of light, neighborhood feel),
- Don’t Need (amenities like pool, gym) and
- Cannot Have (previous owner with pet — allergic).
Do yourself and your real estate agent a favor and make your own list. In the end, we found a condo that met 3 of the 4 criteria. The seller has a dog but there are no carpets; just hardwood floors and a central vacuum system. We made an offer and, after some back and forth, we arrived at a mutual agreement on price and conditions.
Imagine a day in your life.
What I tell all my buying clients is to imagine how they spent their time. What do you do after work? Cuddle up with a book or go bar hopping? Do you like to have friends over for meals or rather go to a restaurant? What do you do on weekends? In Shawn’s case one such lifestyle consideration was where his friends lived. Some live on the eastside some south of downtown Seattle. The chosen condo put him right in the middle.
Eastside or Seattle?
We started on the eastside at the southern edge of Bothell with lots of condos within walking distance to the Brickyard Park & Ride. Shawn took the bus from work in Seattle to meet me there — the commuting test. We saw about half-a-dozen condos that late afternoon and early evening. In the following week I picked up Shawn with my car after work and we looked at condos in several Seattle neighborhoods — Fremont, Maple Leaf, Sandpoint, Lake City to name a few.
If you are wondering about the number of condos currently on the market, here’s the count from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS).
1-bedroom condos between $150,000 and $200,000
- Seattle (city limits): 67
- Kenmore, Bothell, Mountlake Terrace, Mill Creek: 33
- Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond: 24
2-bedroom condos between $200,000 and $250,000
- Seattle (city limits): 64
- Kenmore, Bothell, Mountlake Terrace, Mill Creek: 48
- Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond: 42
Online real estate is like reading a menu; you can’t “taste the place.”
What Shawn learned from looking at over a dozen condos was that you can’t tell by the pictures what a place is really like. What I learned again is that pricing real estate is at least as much art as it is science. Too much depends on the owner’s motivation to sell. Residential real estate is not entirely rational. The web is full of information but the smell of a place is something else altogether.
What’s your take?
What’s holding you back from owning your own place? What’s your idea of the ideal condo? What’s your preferred neighborhood and why? Have rising gas prices changed your mind as to where you would like to live? Your thoughts and comments are welcome.