Just Moved: Kelly & Harry

Location: Woodinville, Washington
Setup: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms
House Style: Brick Cape Cod
Square Feet: 2,200

How much did they pay for their first home? Find out after the jump...

Price Paid: $545,000
The Deal: $248/sq. ft.

How many places did you look at before finding the right one?
We started keeping track of properties in our area that were listed online, taking notice when a new one came on the market. The challenge in our area is finding a home with charm. There were a few older ones we looked at -- then we found ours. We actually toured just four. 

How long were you looking?
Only for a few months. We weren’t serious about moving, but when we found our house, we had a new and sudden motivation to make it happen! It was...the one.

What was the worst part about house-hunting?
Dealing with real estate agents. Given the changes in the real estate world and that the buyer is now in info hunter-gatherer mode, we just couldn’t see spending the money on a buying agent. We had an amazing inspector, all the real estate forms are standardized, tax record info is readily available online -- we just couldn’t see why anyone would pay an agent a ridiculous sum of money for what amounts to a few hours’ worth of work. Perhaps if it required a PhD in quantum-physics, but alas -- it doesn’t. It’s really pretty simple. Back in the day (my mom’s day), she was once licensed as an agent, and she said that making flyers for a house wasn’t even done. So there was essentially no information easily available to the prospective buyer. Now almost everything is available at the click of a mouse.

Thus, we would call the listing agents directly to have them show us the house. My husband’s job comes with a legal plan benefit, and the lawyers helped us with the paperwork. However, you can pay an attorney relatively little to do the same if you don’t have the legal plan. Most sellers will deduct the price of the buying agent’s commission from the sale price. For us, we saved $15,000 -- that was well worth the little extra effort.

What was the best part?
The best part was pulling up the driveway and thinking, That could be ours?! We began to imagine all the fun memories we would create in any given home. The first thing I did when I went into a house was choose where the Christmas tree should go. Forget working plumbing -- I have my priorities! All joking aside, if I couldn’t find the perfect place for a Christmas tree, then it wasn’t the warm and dreamy home we wanted.

We really appreciate that the house helps us realize our goal of living green. Lots of natural light reduces the need for artificial lights. The heating is super-efficient; we can compost and have our own vegetable garden, and we’re outfitting the house to be as water-efficient as possible. Eventually, all of us will realize that it’s not a choice, but rather a necessity, to do the right thing and live green.

Was it hard to compromise and find a house you both loved?
No -- we have very similar tastes. I think our house is a little more “showy” than Harry would normally choose. He's English, and, well, I think it goes against the British sensibility to have anything that one might show off...or say, submit to a magazine. Those damn Yanks, right?

Do you have any advice for other Nesties who are house-hunting now?
I have three tips for house-hunting Nesties:

1. If you have the luxury of time, have patience. People are always moving out of dream homes. Don’t settle.

2. With that said, don’t be greedy. Buy a house you can afford. Find a traditional mortgage and be conservative. You’ll hate your gigantic home when it’s empty because you can’t afford to furnish it; then you’re stuck in it because you can’t afford to go out or on vacation. Mortgage brokers will almost always try to sell you on what you think you “need” when you purchase a home. Most buyers go in greedy, and then they're sold on an even larger mortgage. Sure we would love one of the million-dollar homes our broker was cajoling us to aim for -- but personally, I like eating more than ramen noodles for dinner. Remember that once you have the house, something else will suddenly seem like an even more important financial need. You want to be able to handle that.

3. Don’t pass up looking at older houses. While new construction can sometimes be appealing since you can choose your cabinets and tile, the eco-friendly option is to buy an existing structure and make it your own. This can be done with surprisingly little effort. Plus, you get the added benefits of mature landscaping and more interesting quirks that make life less...vanilla. Good luck!

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-- Caitlin Losey

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