I am sitting here in the kitchen of our Seattle house writing this post. I figured this would be the best place to talk about this decision, as it did not come lightly. Shelley and I have talked about it for a few years, since the spring of 2012, but events over the last 12 months are really what brought us the decision to sell our Seattle house. Last Tuesday, March 3rd, we accepted an offer on it and this week we came back here for one last visit to the house as well as bring home some of the belongings we have here.
Our agent did a great job getting the house ready and playing the market. There is no inventory here in Seattle and so it’s a sellers market right now. So he put it on the market on a Wednesday with a 5-day hold on offers. The open house was the following Sunday. He wanted to hold all offers till after the open house. As you can see, we had a lot of traffic. In the end, we had 6 offers and three were $60k+ over asking. The house was on the market for 6 days. Maybe the house was priced a bit low, but our agent warned us going in he wanted to do that in order to get multiple offers. It worked. We’re not disappointed.
This is a bittersweet moment because of the memories in this house over the last 27 years coupled with the price we accepted.
My parents bought this house in 1988 with the help of my sister, Sylvia and her husband Bruce. My parents, never a wealthy pair and renters for the previous 12 years, couldn’t swing the financing at the time to buy the place for $86k-ish. I was stationed at Fort Polk at the time, so I didn’t grow up here. I didn’t see the house until I came home on leave prior to shipping out to Korea in 1989.
My dad soon turned family barbecues into a regular event here. He usually barbecued a turkey on a rotisserie. He planted some shrubs, built an arbor and planted grapes, planted some fruit trees and started a flower garden in the back yard and along the front of the house. I only have one photo of these flower gardens he planted.
When my dad poured the concrete to have a nice spot for the barbecue in the back, my niece drew out here name in the wet cement. It’s still there.
I came home from the Army in 1990 and moved into the unfinished basement. I spent the next couple years trying to get my act together, go back to school and get out of my parents house. My parents were okay with me staying here. They had no issues and I could have stayed here as long as I wanted. The free rent for me was great too. But when you’re 25, the last place you want to be living is in your parent’s basement.
As I got ready to move out, my dad’s health turned worse and he passed away in August of 1993. He was fortunate enough to be able to choose for himself that he wanted to come home, to this house. He passed away in the master bedroom with my mom at his side. It was the middle of the night. Most of my family was in town, staying with other family and friends, and I made the phone call to my sister to let her know and she in turn called everyone else.
When everyone got here, I was sitting on the couch in the living room holding my mom. Well, we were holding each other. We all gathered here in the living room for the next few hours. There might have been some beers involved.
My dad’s death changed a lot of things. Primarily, it changed my mom’s finances. She was going to lose the house now with half the income gone. So I decided to stay here, in the basement, and help out with the mortgage until she figured things out. That lasted till 1998. I didn’t mind. I just had to tell the girls I met that I lived in my mother’s basement.
I was single for a long time.
In 1998, Bruce’s company consolidated their business and moved their headquarters to Boise, Idaho. They offered my mom the chance to move there with them. She was about 78 and the house was just too much for her and she wanted to sell it. By this time I had my affairs figured out and, with some convincing from my siblings, my mom sold me the house. I didn’t rate the financing, just like my mom and dad didn’t in 1988, but with some “creative financing” we got the deal done and the house was mine.
A few weeks later I met Shelley and I wasn’t living in my mom’s basement anymore. Whew, that was close.
After moving to Boise in 2001 the house was a rental till 2008. I went through some really, really crappy tenants. By 2008, the house was a mess. I had a property management company running things, but still, the house got trashed.
Shelley and I decided to make the house a vacation home for ourselves. We also talked a friend of mine, Robert, into moving in to keep the place lived in while we were gone. All he had to do was pay $600 a month, all the utilities and mow the yard. By 2012 he had screwed that simple, little deal up. I had to evict him in January of 2015.
When the house became a rental in 2001, I had to take out some of the fruit trees my dad planted. The tenants simply didn’t care about them and it was expensive to maintain them from Boise. I couldn’t bring myself to cut them all down, so I left one apple tree. I also left the plum tree, that is really a sucker, but has always been quite nice. You can see it in full bloom in the photo.
I had to take out the flower gardens, of course, but left the front hedge my dad planted. My dad’s grape vines didn’t survive the rental period either.
After Robert moved into the house in July of 2008, Shelley and remodeled the basement to make it a nice, vacation spot for us to come visit Seattle. My mom never got to see it finished as she passed away in July of 2009 and it wasn’t completed until January of 2010.
Shelley and I used the house a lot over the last 5 years. We had first talked about selling in 2012. We were debating whether to remodel the upstairs and patio or sell and buy something finished in Seattle. Ultimately, we chose not to sell and didn’t want to remodel since the house was just a vacation stop for us at the time. You have to understand, the basement is really nicely done. Shelley and I made an agreement in 2008 that if we remodeled the basement we would never turn the house back into a rental only to have more tenants trash the house again.
It has never ceased to amaze me how many people simply don’t care about other people’s property. They didn’t care if their dog peed on the rug and the rug sat on the hardwood floor and ruined the finish. They didn’t care if the sewer backed up and there was human waste on the floor for four days and ruined the hardwoods.
Mow the yard? Why mow the yard?
Grease splatters on the kitchen ceiling? No reason to clean that up.
I could go on and on. Maybe it was just bad luck, I don’t know. I know it’s a small sample size of tenants, but my sample size sucked. Ultimately, we didn’t want to spend that much money on a new basement, or go further with a new kitchen and remodel the upstairs, only to have someone trash it again. I didn’t want to see the house in that condition again.
So here I am, sitting in the kitchen having accepted an offer. The same kitchen where I helped my mom and dad make dinners. Where another one of my nephews celebrated his 1st birthday. This is the house where I kissed Shelley for the first time….okay, she’ll say she kissed me. This is the house where my family celebrated my dad’s life with a turkey I barbecued on the rotisserie…..having learned how do that from the lessons he taught me in this backyard.
Financially, this house was always going to be another form of investment for us. Something for us to hang on to and use as a place to park some money for our retirement. Someday we would need to sell it. If we held on to it for another 15 years, I’d feel the same way then as I do now. I’d just be writing this later than sooner. I’ve tried to look at this transaction like any other transaction I’ve done over the years, but the history and emotions are just inescapable.
Shelley has asked me a dozen times over the last few months, “Are you okay with this?” I’m okay with it.
It sucks, but I’m okay.