You've got real estate questions, we've got answers!

I thought I’d try something new and open this thread up to your real estate questions…

Do you have a question about the Seattle market? Real estate technology? Legal issues? Loan issues? Photography? Neighborhoods? Do you worry about Hanan? πŸ˜‰ While there’s no guarantee we’ll know the answer, it is pretty rare that a good question goes unanswered on Rain City Guide.

Our current crop of real estate agents, mortgage brokers, real estate lawyers, real estate photographers, and real estate technology consultants are all motived to de-mystify the real estate industry, so hit us with some good questions and we’ll likely provide some interesting answers!

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16 thoughts on “You've got real estate questions, we've got answers!

  1. Is there any land left to buy? A few months ago I was excited as can be that my family and I were going to buy some land and build our first house. Of course reality set in, and we could not find anything anywhere near the area we wanted to live.

    Is it hopeless to even think that it’s a possibility that there is buildable land left in the Mill Creek/Snohomish area? Seems that anything that was remotely usable has been dried up by developers. Are there any secrets/hidden gems out there? Any insider tips that might open our hopes back up?

  2. Jason,

    You’ve definitely touched upon an interesting topic. What is the best way to buy a developable piece of land? I’m definitely looking forward to seeing if some people have some good ideas for you…

  3. Last year I found a vacant lot for someone in the Green Lake/Licton Springs area…virtually impossible, but not totally impossible. A found a house on a street that had a vacant lot behind it that faced the opposite street. He was able to buy both lots, but the rear lot would have been sufficient for your purposes.

    Drive the area where you want to be and look for “double lots” or ones that can do a short plat. Walk around and drive around. Getting plat maps is not as effective as seeing that someone has a whole lot next to or behind their house. Then order the plat map for that specific area and approach the owner direct.

    For instance an agent in our office has a house on a very large lot and did a short plat in front for three houses (Kenmore, currently for sale as lots or finished products – not in mls yet) and has three more behind her house to do afterward.

    Shortplatting is common in the Seattle area. I haven’t done a lot of work in Mill Creek, but look in the older neighborhoods where the splits are that back up to the Creek. Seems to me I say some there about a year and a half ago.

    These opportunities are usually not in the mls, so you have to do the “leg” work.

  4. BTW financing vacant land is not all that easy. Check that out before you do the “leg” work. You need more cash than if you are buying a house. At least 10% down normall, sometimes more. And not all lenders will have any part of financing vacant land. The lenders here can clue you in better on that one. DR? Grier? Anyone?

  5. Ardell, what about construction loans? Don’t they factor in the logistics of buying land and building a home? I was looking to using Reality Homes, and they seemed (and their recommended lendors) to have programs that catered to this type of thing.

    Thanks for the advice.

  6. Jason, it depends on the lot and how you come by it. Reality is not the norm…but doable, but not necessarily with the lot scenario I gave earlier.

    Apply it hypothetically to mls #25161141 a 1/2 acre lot in Snohomish on 212th priced at $215,000, or give me the numbers you were thinking regarding lot price and size What size house at what cost for house. What size lot at what cost of lot.

  7. OK, I need help in deciding on neighborhoods. I’m moving to Seattle from NYC. I’m late 30’s, professional, single, social, outdoorsy (ugh, now I sound like a posting on!) and am used to the hustle and bustle of downtown life. As a point of reference, I live(d) in the E/W Village and Gramercy Park in Manhattan. I had been directed towards Belltown, but when was recently in your fair city, found the streets to be rather quiet. I like being out and about and seeing people on the streets, in cafes, etc. Let’s assume that I have between $350 and $450K to spend and that cool neighborhood trumps space and investment value in terms of priorities. Did I get the wrong impression of Belltown? Where’s the best place for me to live?

  8. Claire,

    It sounds like you should be looking for a home in NY! πŸ˜‰

    For better or worse, Seattle doesn’t have a neighborhood that has the same hussle and bussle of Downtown life as NY. In many ways, I’m sure that people were recommending Belltown because of its promise (there is a lot of new construction both planned and being built). On a random, but related note, I spent the day working with some people from the City trying to help them figure out how to configure Westlake Avenue to handle this growth!

    In Seattle, you will likely have to settle for a more subtle city-life, but there is definitely life out there! Consider the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Other great spots to consider Fremont and Downtown Ballard. Both offer night-life opportunities, but in a laid-back Seattle-style.

    Does this help? I’m sure some others will give some (better?) advice here in the near future!

  9. Thanks, Dustin, for your input. Quite helpful! I’m well aware that SEA isn’t NYC, and frankly, am THRILLED at the prospect of the change. And, the more I think about it, the more I think that moving somewhere that’s supposed to somehow “seem” like Manhattan will just be a let-down. Better possibly to focus on what would be relatively lively, walkable Seattle neighboroods that aren’t complete bedroom communities. I also clicked on your link above and also found the “Walkable Neighborhoods” piece. Definitely food for thought. πŸ™‚

  10. One other thing just occurred to me… I kind of glossed over your price range because you should have no problem finding a really nice condo for that price in just about any neighborhood in Seattle.

    If you want help finding a good real estate agent, I should also let you know that Anna is more than happy to recommend one to you. She’s currently taking care of our 5-week old boy, so she’s not ready to show condos, but she’s finding people moving to Seattle have really appreciated her ability to hook them up with an agent that is suited to their needs!


  11. Claire, having spent a lot of time in NYC in my “youth”, I would recommend the Pike Place Market area or Fremont. I am personally partial to the Green Lake area, but that may not be busy enough for you, but very nice none-the-less.

    Over here in Kirkland you can get a three month rental, then month to month. Expect there are such arrangements in Seattle. Anna may know of some on that side of the Lake. This gives you three months to check out areas before you make a large investment. I often recommend this to those new to the area. It takes the pressure off.

  12. In reading Ardell’s comment, I was reminded that Craig had wonderful things to say about living near Pike Place Market. Definitely a good option!

    Before Anna and I moved up to Seattle, we did a short-term rental (month-to-month) that worked out well. Claire, if you’re interested, I’d be more than happy to pass some contacts along to you of people who offer this service!

    And assuming living on the Eastside is an option, Downtown Kirkland is another place that might work out well!

  13. Great info all around. I’ll be FAT if I move to near Pike Place, though it certainly is tempting, particularly as I am a serious foodie! Wonder if I’d be able to find somethng in my range there…..A veritable embarassment of riches when one considers that I need at least 800K to buy a 1 br apt I would want here in Manhattan.

    In any event, the move’s happening, but I’ve still got to line up the actual job, so no real house-hunting yet. Just laying the groundwork. I assume, however, that whatever deal I work with my new employer will include some sort of relo package and, perhaps, a short-term rental while I house-hunt. I will most definitely take you all up on your offers of contacts, but don’t want this cart TOO far before this horse. If Seattle people are all this helpful, I am definitely moving to the right city!!

  14. Absolutely yes, Claire. Plenty of condos in your price range in the Pike Place Market area. When the sun comes out and it gets a little warmer, the new listings will begin peeking their noses out.

  15. Question. I recently ran across a piece of property that has potential under the current zoning codes and in terms of logistics to subdivide into 3 pieces of land leaving a house on one lot and two buildable vacant lots. My question is how far along in the process can you usually get before the first mortgage company will want you to refinance. I’m sure they won’t let you go all the way to subdividing because that creates new deeds and what not? I’m trying to figure out what type of money will be needed and how far I can get with a large first mortage on the piece of property as it stands now.

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