How to find your “Dream Home”

Finding your Dream Home starts with determining if you can afford your Dream Home. Let’s say you have decided that you want a two story house, one with at least 3 bedrooms on the 2nd floor. Now add that you work at the main Microsoft Campus and want a home within a reasonable distance to work.

Start by taking out a map and drawing the area within which you would like to live. For the purpose of this example, I drew the map based on where most of my clients who want to live near Microsoft draw these lines. For example, most wouldn’t live on Finn Hill, so Finn Hill is not in this sampling. Most would not live in Bothell. So Bothell is not in this sampling. I can’t use a “radius” of the campus, as most don’t consider the other side of Lake Sammamish to be better than a little “further” in pure distance into Kirkland vs “around” the Lake. So I’m using a polygon, many sided, map area.

Your “mapped area” may vary, but use this as a guide, and apply to your own mapped area.

I’m using a “12 month rolling basis” here to include the most recent data and exclude the oldest data, and yet still have enough sales in the sampling to produce enough relevant data. For the most part it is 2010, but includes the most recent data available in Jan. 2011 to date, and excludes the oldest info from Jan of 2010.

Before you go out looking at houses, you want to begin with some reasonable expectations.

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The Data above tells us that the majority of two story homes in the mapped area sold over the last 12 months existed in zip codes 98052, 98033 and 98004. Now let’s look at price.
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I only used some of the data to produce this post. You can see the rest of the raw data HERE.

By using these simple techniques, you can easily see that you likely need to spend about $650,000 give or take and look in 98052 and 98033 primarily. But what if you want to spend $500,000 and want a home that is not older than 5 years.

Simple…just test that parameter.

98052 2-story built in 2006 or later sold in the last 365 days for $500,000 or less = one house.

98033 there was also only one house sold fitting those parameters, but it was far from being finished new construction. There is also one in pending. Both required cash buyers as the property was not in a condition that could be financed.

So now you have to ask yourself, is “The Dream” a “house” or a “home”? Do you change the “what” and look for an older home of a different style in a great neighborhood with a great school? Or do you up the price in order to get everything you want, if you can afford it, but didn’t “want” to spend more than $500,000?

Point is, you don’t have to go out to “look” for your Dream House before testing your Dream against Reality. Setting a realistic objective saves you time and maybe money as well. By staying home and making this decision, you may opt to keep the price low and change your expectations as to house. If you get too vested in the outcome of “newer 2 story house of not more than 5 years old”, you may start pushing on price to get “it”.

Consider all of the factors of “dream home” including neighborhood and schools, before getting your heart set on one particular style or age of home.

13 thoughts on “How to find your “Dream Home”

  1. A realistic goal for newer (meaning high ceilings and a complete 5 piece master bath vs “age”) in the targeted range with great schools is $550ish for a smallish 2000 to 2200 sf house to $650,000 or above for a larger house from 2,800 to 3,200 sf.

    I recently did a study of the one story home, overlaying the quality of elementary school in the same area and school district, and noted a significant impact on the median. $400,000 median for a house in the best schools and $340,000 median for a house in the same area but with lower ranked elementary school. The median size of the higher median price in the best of schools was larger, but the price per square foot was still higher in the small subset of best elementary school.

    Searching for the answer to “are we REALLY at 2005 pricing?” I found that the lesser ranked school areas were at 2004 pricing and the higher ranked schools were at 2005 pricing, on a price per square foot basis.

  2. When my wife and I went through this process, we did a slight twist on your method that I think is applicable to all families with kids in school. Rather than sorting and looking at price based on ZIP code we sorted based on school reports. Our criteria was “best schools that we could find in neighborhoods that we could afford within easy commute to MSFT.”

    I know your example was only a hypothetical, but surprised you didn’t include Sammamish (98074) in that list so with that in mind… a little shout out for Sammamish!

    Check this out

    • Chris,

      I have a listing in Sammamish right now of a 2 story built in 2003 for $399,950 with Excellent schools.

      but this post is talking about the primary “close in” market which doesn’t stretch that far. Doesn’t mean people don’t choose to go further out to get more for their money. They do. But that decision comes into play when they decide not to buy an older NOT 2 story home closer in.

      In the last paragraph I suggest that people decide before they look at homes to go further out to get the “it” house, or change their type of house “wants” to fit their price range closer in. In my experience (YMMV) going further out is not a first choice decision. It’s a means to get a newer house for less than it would cost closer in, and thus a “secondary” vs primary choice area.

    • Jerry, I’m biased as you can probably tell. I live there. To the point in my previous post, the schools are very good on the whole. I love the community feeling. I live on a small cul-de-sac with the friendliest neighbors I have ever had as compared to Dallas, San Francisco, and Boulder. We pull out our grills on July 4th and do a great pot-luck dinner. It’s that kind of place. As a result it is a great place to raise a family. What gets me down in Sammamish is that it is, as I call it, suburban hell. No walk-ability, very little soul as a town. That may come in time. But it isn’t there yet. If you follow the link I provided you’ll see an article that I contributed research to and was quoted in by the author. As I mention there, it is a great place to raise a family and very welcoming.

      • I think Kirkland and Green Lake are the two best places to live in the area, and I think where Jerry lives is the worst. We all have our “biases”. 🙂

        But for the purpose of this post I’m using the parameters set by buyers I have met over the last 7 years, not personal bias. Generally it’s about 3 miles from Microsoft Campus and closer to the 520 bridge and the 405 than the I-90 bridge. There’s also a lot of talk about “which side of Avondale” and you can get a slight discount to be on the “wrong side” of Avondale by even one street for that reason. Which side of the 405 comes up as well, but the “right” side of 405 is cheaper than the “wrong” side.

        Imaginary lines of real estate. The buyers en masse make the rules, not you or me. That’s what makes home valuation such an interesting field.

        I just had a client who wouldn’t live in Sammamish because of the need to take a bus to Downtown Seattle. You have any info on that Chris? How hard is it to get a bus from where you live into downtown Seattle if you worked there? Apparently the 520 side of the world is easier if you take a bus from Eastside into Downtown Seattle…or so I’m told. I never take a bus.

        • Hi Ardell, just found your blog …

          I live in Sammamish (98075) and commute daily on the bus to DT Seattle (next to the library). On the 228th there is the 216 route which takes me about 1hr door to door (via the I-90). It’s not the quickest route compared to ones from the Issaquah Highlands P&R, but it suffices. There are a couple of P&R sites off the 228th too.

          We live near to the wonderful new library and can walk to Pine Lake park which is beautiful and great for the kids. My kids all walk to school too (elementary, middle and high), and they all have great ratings. No shops nearby though.

          • Thanks Addy. I just put a property into escrow for a seller in that area. I will post it when it closes with some comments related to this thread and your comment. Home Inspection is Wednesday and it closes 4/27. It’s probably near you. 🙂 In Wesley Park. A lot of house for the money.

  3. Mercer Island just feels like Jersey to me, Jerry. A place you drive through to get to someplace else. Except “The Jersey Shore”, of course. 🙂 If it’s not an awesome view home (meaning the view is awesome, not necessarily the house) then it never feels quite worth it. But then I’ve never been an “island” kind of girl. I’m a City kid. I’d rather be near Redmond Town Center or Crossroads or Green Lake or most any other “close in” location.

    My dream is to be a little old lady who can walk to everything…or bike there like Katharine Hepburn. She’s my new role model.

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