After over a year of talking, researching and visiting for fun, Matt and I are moving on to the next stage of making our dream to move from West Seattle to Vashon Island a reality!
We have been tracking properties on the island for months and month, watching some cute ones pop up, seeing land come up for sale, and many of them selling. Nothing was quite right in the houses we saw, so we started looking more seriously at land.
We have some major “wants” for our dream property (with or without a house):
- Roughly 10 acres, with enough “usable” land for a few cows and other animals
- View (of water preferably…it is on an island after all)
- Pond, creek or stream
- Big trees
- To feel like we are in our own place, not squished up next to a neighbor
- Open to the sky for a garden
- Further north on the island as possible
- If it has a house, we want one with character that needs work, but is not a total tear down
- The house has to have character too…preferably Craftsman style character
So with all that in mind, last week we saw 10 acres pop up for $120,000. Steal! We decided that this was the time we had been waiting for and called up with realtor. From that one phone call we learned a lot. Like the fact that most of the properties currently for sale were only partially usable and flat for building since there is some really intense topography on Vashon (ravines EVERYWHERE!). Hence the cheap price. There was only one possible place to build a house on this lot, and it was right next to the neighbor. So this one was out, but she offered to show us some more places, just to get our feet wet in the actual market and teach us more about the process. So yesterday we went.
We hopped on the 8:30 ferry, and by 9:00 we were in town making our way to try the out local bakery (test #1…it passed). We ordered an awesome cinnamon roll and salmon croissant, then walked to the grocery store to check out the island selection of groceries. We compared prices to things in West Seattle, and they were very comparable! And looked like good quality. (test #2, also passed).
At 10:00 we met up with the realtor and talked through all sorts of information. We learned about zoning on the island, water issues, soil challenges, access agreements, the lending process, loans for land vs. loans for houses (land is almost impossible to get a loan for apparently), what we wanted, why we wanted to move there etc. It was basically a brain bump from us and then she immediately filled ours with tons of new and interesting information. We had a game plan to visit 3 land parcels, and then we cruised by a listing board with houses just in case we wanted to check any of those out too. None really popped out at us, but she suggested a remodeled in 1964 house that had a nice chunk of land. She told us that the house was not really what we were looking for but, we if we wanted to see it just to have some experience seeing houses in the real world, it was close by.
So we went to the house first.
It had a short driveway off a secondary main road, lined with big trees and wetlands. The first thing we saw when we pulled up was a big white box. Character = ZERO. No windows on that side. A big white (that really needed paint) box. Oh well, were here for the experience.
We walked in and were greeted by a fake wood paneled hallway, and a mix of mottled brown carpet, bare subfloor, linoleum floors in the kitchen and lime green carpet. Just oozing craftsman style (can you sense the sarcasm there?).
Then we made it into the living room, and we fell in love. Massive picture windows covered literally every exterior wall, and they looked over an expansive deck, pond, and orchard that sloped down to the Sound. Apparently at one time there was a water view with views of the Olympics, but the trees had grown up. Even better! There was so much natural light that even on that cloudy, drizzly day, the whole room seemed warm and cozy. The big brick fireplace helped too!
We walked into the kitchen from there, and were impressed by how big and open it was. Remodel needed of course, but it just felt so good. Same with the dining room (big glass sliding doors to the deck there too), and laundry room and office. The whole thing just felt special and in need of a family to move in.
Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, all with big windows and another huge deck overlooking the orchard. Matt loved that the master bedroom had a wood burning stove in it. From out outside, the non-driveway side of the house was pretty attractive too! The deck was perfect for hosting by family dinners or parties.
We were both shocked and amazed that we were really loving this house. It seemed to fit us, and all our dreams for what a house could be would so easily fit in these bones.
Then we toured the property. Roughly 9 acres of orchard that gently slopes down towards the ocean, ending with a stunning, fern filled ravine and the water front drop-off with 300 feet of private access. (no beach per se, but beaches do not really exist here except at low tide). It would take work to clear it all out, but it was all overgrown underbrush, not clearing acres of big trees for gardens.
We ventured inside for one last peek before heading out to the next property, extremely surprised that we were so struck by this random, very non-photogenic house.
The next three properties were all land, a 4 acre, 9 acre, and 10 acre parcel. They were all nice in their own way, but all flopped off our radar as soon as we set foot on them. They just were not special. Our minds kept wandering back to the first house with the orchard.
Of course, when you go from an inexpensive piece of land to a 9 acre plot with waterfront and a house, the price jumps a bit. And when I say a bit, I mean a lot. We knew that for this price range, this house would sell for a good deal, it just stinks when even a good deal is expensive. Needless to say, we are pushing forward to see if this place is an option or not. The house is far from perfect, and does need a lot of work, and has been on the market awhile. We are talking to lenders, inspectors, and talking to permit people from King County (the barn would need to be rebuilt) and have an appointment to see it again next week with my parents in tow. This may not end up being the perfect place for us, but we are learning a ton and are excited to keep making progress towards moving to Vashon.