The Great House Chase


I've been looking for a house for about a year and a half ago; I was planning on buying one last spring, but then Intel stock tanked and I didn't think I had enough to do what I wanted, so I put it off until this year. In early May, the stock went up enough to let me pay most everything off and still have a 20% down, with some borrowing from my 401K plan, and having been browsing the market for a year, narrowed it down to a half dozen or so houses that were close to what I was looking for:

And the winner is...

On May 11, I spent lunch driving around the latest batch of faxes from my realtor, and ran across 12765 SW Evergreen (Map, Tax and other interesting info [enter R-number R19795])

I could only look around the outside, but backyard immediately struck me as being very close to what I was looking for, just needed a little screening at the edges to keep out nosy neighbors:

On May 13, I went back with my realtor and took some pix inside; despite being 2900 sq ft and 5 bedrooms, the bathrooms are really tiny as is the utility room (I'll get some pix on May 28 during the inspection). And the way the rec area/family room in the lower level is setup, I only have room for a 12' wide theater, which is much narrower than the 15-16' I wanted. One suggestion was to just build it sideways, but that involved wasting most of the whole lower level.

Also: more pictures taken during the inspection

I got prequalification approval from Washington Mutual on May 18, and decided to look at one last batch of houses with my realtor on the afternoon of May 21. The runners up can be found here. We also looked at the Evergreen house once more (taking a couple more pictures of the area where the theater will go), and I decided to go with it. The others were all much smaller, and while they had their charms, I really thought I'd be cramped in them. It was getting late, so we agreed to meet the next morning to do the paperwork for the offer. The house was listed for $192,500, so my realtor and I agreed that $185,000 wasn't an unreasonable offer. Because they're changing the rules on my 401K plan in such a way that would effectively prevent me from borrowing from it for a while (at least a year), we had a deadline of June 1 to get everything negotiated, so the offer had a deadline of Monday, May 24 at 8pm. Over the weekend, I kept hoping they'd reject it, as the Chestnut house was really growing on me, but by Monday I realized that in the Evergreen house, the wall along the deck in back could be turned into a window wall similar in nature to the one in the Ardenwood house, and that completely turned the tide. Monday afternoon, they countered with $189,500 (actually $500 better than the $190,000 I was expecting), and I accepted. When you're talking this much money, a couple thousand isn't worth quibbling over and I had a deadline.

Even though it's not perfect, for the theater, I've decided that I'll just go with a 10' screen for the theater and try acoustically transparent material for it, with the speakers behind, as most movie theaters do. I'll build risers for a couple of 6' sofas, and use the area behind the second one as an equipment/media area. If that doesn't work, I can still try a sideways version or convert part of the oversized garage. I think it'll work great though. In the skinny utility room, I can get a full size stackable washer/dryer combo and rotate it to face the long dimension so that one can actually get in and out of them, and that'll work fine. Ripping out an extraneous storage area in the master bath will make for enough room to breath in there also.

So the end result are the following plans for the place (not necessarily immediately, by any means, but in priority order) include:

Latest Events

I went to the Washington County Land Use Dept. on May 25, and looked up the building permit and subdivision surveys. I was hoping to get more, but that's all they had. In particular, they don't have house plan records for houses that far back (it was built in 1970). I guess they keep them online now or something. I did find out that the property is 70x110 square, and there's a 5' easement along the back for cable and phone (underground). That concerns me, as they may decide they need to dig up my back hedge, but I think it's unlikely.

Also, the seller sent me the property disclosure saying that they don't know if any of the paint has lead in it or not, as was expected. No one I know's going to eat it anyhow. The one thing of interest was that during the floods of 1996, water seeped into the basement somewhere. They had it grouted and sealed, and have had no problems since, but we've never had rains like that again either. I've asked for more information, but it doesn't sound like it was a big problem. That might be why the carpet in the basement seems newer though.

On Friday, May 28, I met with inspector Cory Hay, recommended by Jeff Kondo, and went through the house inspection (pictures). He pointed out a rotten stump that was full of termites and needed to be removed, a small bit of dry rot in a soffet, a crack in the fireplace that just needs sealed, the water heater is starting to rust and is about 15 years old, the furnace needs serviced, the gutters are completely shot (rusted out), the kitchen and bathroom exhaust vents attic tubes had fallen off so they were venting into the attic, and a roof valley support was a 1x1 instead of the 2x4 it was supposed to be, allowing a sag. He didn't check the dishwasher because the house had been vacant for a while, and apparently dishwashers need to be used regularly or the seals dry out and need serviced before they can be used again. It looks original and I plan on replacing it anyhow though. Basically, a bunch of little stuff that one would expect in a house almost 30 years old.

I made the mistake of letting my real estate agent set a $500 limit on what I would have the seller do, so it's basically fix the dry rot, fix the attic support and vent problems and have the furnace serviced. The gutters and other stuff I'll have to do. Oh well, it's all small potatoes compared to the amount I'm spending on the whole thing.

On June 10, we had the re-inspection, and though they did an imperfect job of putting in a new vent (apparently one of the bathroom vents never did go through to the roof, only into the attic, and they had to put in a new one), everything is basically ok. On June 11th, the appraiser went through and said things like "wow this is a big place" and "he got a good deal", so that sounds pretty promising. Washington Mutual wanted the report back by Monday the 14th, so they're hot to trot; after that, it's just the underwriter's blessing at WM, and then my 401K check (where I'm getting some of the down payment) needs to arrive. Closing could happen within a week!

June 22: It's a done deal! Signed yesterday, pick up the keys at 3pm. It's Mine! All Mine! Well, mine and Washington Mutual... Let the money drain begin!