Sunday, July 12, 2009

Looking and finding

The house hunting roller coaster ride of hopes and disappointments appears to be complete. Yesterday, at the end of our sixth day of searching, we signed a contract to buy the house at 1067 Cedar Hills Avenue in Bellingham. We spent the week climbing in and out of our realtor Ken's leather seated BMW. The process seemed like walking down the beach turning over every stone, asking "Is this the one?"

The prime neighborhoods in Bellingham, quiet blocks of Craftsman bungalows peppered with a few Victorian houses and some 1960s low budget construction are out of our price range. These neighborhoods are easy bike riding distance to Bellingham Bay and all the cool stores downtown (the coop, good restaurants, lots of coffee shops). Ken tried, but everything in our price range would require even more work than we would tackle, or was impossibly small.

We tried the suburbs next, looking at 1980's ramblers (ranches) on quiet streets with views of the Bay or Mt. Baker or the Canadian mountains, and had we acted a day sooner, we would have gotten one of those at a good price. The thrill of chasing that house was immediately followed by disappointment. Another bid had gone through the morning that we were going to write our own. Back into Ken's BMW. Ken has lived here for 30+ years and was very helpful in pointing out the good aspects of every house, while steering us away from bad neighborhoods and 0verpriced houses. He also (with our prompting) regaled us with stories about his house overlooking Chuckanut Bay where he lives with his partner and their nine golden retrievers. We now know more about breeding and owning Goldens than I thought there was to know. Someday when we are sitting on a porch overlooking a spectacular NW landscape, you can ask us how his champion dog, Andy, has managed to impregnant 400 girl dogs. Or you might not want to know...

We looked at about 25 houses in person, and numerous others online. By mid afternoon of our first full day of looking, we had found only one promising house but had rejected it because it was on a busy street. I was feeling very discouraged. To get to the very last house on our list, we drove east beyond the city limits into the lower levels of Galbraith Mountain above Whatcom Lake. Tears came to my eyes when we got out of the car. To the left of the house is a
creek on the edge of the forest (owned by the city of Bellingham) that covers the top of Galbraith Mountain. Two huge western red cedar trees tower over the edge of the property, and beyond them, a trail leads off into the woods. The lot is almost 1/2 an acre. The first thing that I heard was the song of several Swainsen's thrushes, which you normally hear only in deep tall NW woods. What I didn't hear is any traffic noise; I am swayed as much by the quietness up there as by the house. Yesterday when we were back for our second look, a deer walked across the back yard.

When you see the house at 1067 Cedar Hills Avenue, you will say, "That's perfect for Sky and Lynne". Its a split level with a cabin feeling, cedar posts at the base of the stairs, a high window over the entryway, a skylight in the bathroom, a peaceful deck off the dining room, 3 (smallish) bedrooms (including a guest room for our visitors), a large basement "family room" and an attached two car garage with lots of storage. After about 5 minutes, Lynne and I looked at each other and said, "We are interested." We made a 90% offer on Tuesday. Two anxious days later, the owners turned us down and countered with too high a price, so we were back in the BMW the next day. I'm leaving out the emotions of the whole process--arguments over whether to go with the high price, tears over whether we will ever find a house, discouragement over coming all this way and not finding the perfect house...I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.

We've seen lots of high priced houses, bad houses, noisy houses, small yards and houses painted entirely white with the popcorn look on the ceiling for a quick flip. It was looking like a long summer in the camper when we got the surprising call from Ken on Friday night that the owners of the Cedar Hills Avenue house agreed to our original offer. This news is something to celebrate, because the amount that we are paying for this house is less than our proceeds from selling Raintree. We will be able to buy the house outright, and still have some money to do some upgrades. So here we are on Sunday morning, lolling around and feeling like we've worked hard and we can go back on vacation. Our closing date is August 11th.

I'm also leaving off that every day this week started with a long walk along Birch Bay with Winnie (at our campground), that the high of 77 degrees (a heat wave) and cool breeze under completely sunny skies is spoiling us, that we are enjoying being around Kay and Leslie and Kay's 20 month old (perpetually moving) grandson.
This brings us to the subject of employment--the next task on the list. We will enjoy the Pride parade and celebration today, and tomorrow, get down to work looking for work.

We think of you all often. We found a great restaurant down on the boat docks last night that we hope to take you all to, and we love hearing from you.

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