After a period of uncertainty and much deliberation, my family and I have decided that we are going to be staying in the Pacific Northwet for the foreseeable future. We had sold our house in Redmond nearly 2 years ago in anticipation of a move to sunny Naples, Florida. The move to Naples never materialized and we ended up renting a house for almost 2 years.
After helping a friend search for and purchase a home, the seed was planted - it is time to seek a more permanent house for my family.
Searching for a home in an area that you have lived in for the past 15 years is quite different than searching for a home in a new state or country. We already know the area, we know the neighborhoods, we know which commute nightmares to avoid, etc. As a result, the value of the Real State agent is greatly diminished in this case - primarily the agent will provide us access to tour a home, and will assist with the legal paperwork of making an offer. The searching and sorting of homes is left to us.
Naturally, we are resorting to the web to perform the first leg of our house hunting adventure.
We are pretty specific on what we need, and we have our wish list items as well.
Needed: 4 bedrooms + den, 2.5 bathrooms, at least 3,000 sqf, within 10 miles from my children's school, at least quarter acre lot, and a 3 car garage.
Nice to have: < 5 miles from school, 3.5+ bathrooms, bonus room, cul-de-sac, laundry room in the second floor, acre lot, < 20 years old construction.
The tools we are using to perform our search are:
A Multiple Listing Service (MLS) search engine: Coldwell Banker Home Planner provides us with the basic MLS searching abilities and a daily monitoring email for any new homes that match our search criteria.
To obtain estimated home valuation, review previous sales records, and to compare home prices with neighboring houses, we are using Zillow.com (requires firefox on the mac).
Redfin is a service that bypasses the buyers broker completely and enables you, the buyer, to keep 2% of he 3% commission that is payed to the buyers agent. A tempting service, especially since we know the area so well, but we have, for now, decided to use a regular real-estate agent.
I have also spent time with an online lending broker, Lendingtree, to get a better idea of what loans I qualify for, and to get a pre-approval letter.
Our process is only beginning; this past weekend was mostly used up visiting some new construction that we had identified online. In the end, everyone of the new developments within our target price range failed one or more of our selection criteria, so the search continues.
What we have quickly learned though, is that home prices in the Seattle, Redmond, Bellevue area are just out of control: asking price is more than double from just 5 years ago, and there seems to be a lot of people "flipping" properties - houses bought just 12 to 24 months ago are back on the market with a 30 to 40% price hike. I don't know how a family that is just starting out can afford a home in this area.
The adventure continues. Let's see where this search will take us.