Monday, April 3, 2017

Our journey to a new house

What began as casual looking to buy a house turned into us deciding to build a new house. It began in 2015 when after living in our townhouse for 6 years we got the itch to buy a house, as a friend puts it a “walk-around house”. We looked high and low for a house, there were just none to be had, literally there were no houses for sale. As soon as a house would come on the market we made crazy offers, and the houses still needed extensive remodeling.
After being shot down a number of times we decided to try a different approach. Look for vacant land in the Central part of Seattle. You’re probably saying to yourself, that’s crazy, there’s none of that around. Well, in fact there are a couple hundred lots that are greater than 5,000sf between I-90 and 520. Our plan was to send out unsolicited letters of interest to these property owners; we figured someone would finally bite. As we started this, a building lot less than 300 feet from our townhouse went on the market. 2015 East Jefferson, we saw it come online and immediately said to each other “that’s ours!” A week later we closed on the property.
OOOPS! Maybe we closed a little too quickly for the title company. The property had a sordid past, but the title company said they had no problem insuring it. In the not too distant past it was owned by the Zion Church of Something or Other, as a church in Washington they are exempt from paying property taxes. For whatever reason though they showed a balance of about $6,000 in taxes after we closed on it. One of the jobs of the title company is to ensure that all taxes are paid and all liens are removed. Well, after several months of wrangling with the title company, they paid off the taxes. Good thing!
Our initial thought was to wait a year or so to engage with an architect to think long and hard about what we wanted in a new house. Since this is going to be a house that we design and build we wanted it to be ours and not a builder’s special. We were telling our story about buying the lot and thinking about what we wanted to a friends, whom immediately suggested we talk with Velocipede Architects. We made the phone call and hit it off with George and John. This was in April 2016. They fit us into their schedule in May/June. By the end of June we had 50% plans which we sent to 7 builders for bids.
Out of the 7 builders we received 5 bids, two of which were 30% higher than the other three. So, really we had three builders that were all very competitive and their prices were all very similar. After much discussion between the two of us we decided on Sunde Builders. We visited their current project and were quite impressed with their craftsmanship. Also, it helped that a former co-worker and friend is their project manager.
After selecting Sunde Builders the architects finished the design, had it reviewed by a structural engineer, and submitted for permits in mid-October. That’s today. Our official Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection intake date is October 31.

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