What To Know When Buying an Older Home in Seattle

Oh the charm of Downtown Ballard! The allure of Phinney Ridge! The dramatic views of the Greenlake neighborhood! There are so many amazing older homes in this city and you may be craving a Craftsman or beholding a bungalow. However, before you fall in love with an older home, there are a few things to keep in mind before you become the new steward of an older home in Seward Park:

Wiring – Wiring has got to be one of the biggest challenges when dealing with an older home. Some of the house may be rewired, some of it may still be knob-and-tube, and some may be in dangerous disrepair. I say dangerous because house fires are something to be concerned about when we are looking at a home with older wiring. If you are considering a home and aren’t sure about the status of the wiring, it might be a good idea to call in a separate electrical inspector so you can make a plan for repairs or rest assured.

Plumbing – If wiring is #1 then plumbing is #2. Plumbing may be even more problematic because it is more difficult to replace and repair than electrical in many cases. Older pipes may not be up to code, may be corroded, and can leak. Furthermore, some older pipes may contain lead. Again, it is a good idea to call in a separate plumbing inspector to learn more about your plumbing systems.

Sewer Pipes – Speaking of plumbing, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sewer pipe from their home to the sewer pipe in the street. Many pipes have issues, cracks, and roots sneaking in disrupting the flow. This can be a very expensive repair and I recommend a sewer scope for many would-be homeowners.

Insulation – Houses of the past were not insulated well – if at all – making heating bills downright terrifying! However, innovations in energy efficiency may help ward off those drafts. Blow-in insulation and insulating in crawlspaces and attics may be an option. This may be an extra expense to incur but well worth it when the power or gas bill comes!

Windows – Many homes these days have had the single-pane/storm windows replaced with modern windows, but not all homes. According to energy.gov, having a storm window on a single-pane window can reduce heat loss up to 50%, but many older homes are missing storm windows or they no longer fit in the allotted space. Older wood single-pane windows do have charm, so depending on whether or not you want to keep them, I suggest being aware of your heat loss prevention options.

Chimney – If you plan on having a fire in your wood-burning fireplace, I also suggest having the chimney inspected. Years of creosote, rain, and earthquakes are not kind to chimneys and chimney fires are something to watch out for.

Permits – Have improvements been done to the home? Were all the correct permits obtained and final inspections done? This is something to be on top of because you don’t want to buy a home, love the back patio addition, and then learn it was not permitted, finally inspected and does not meet code.

Oil Tanks – Many homes in Seattle used to utilize oil as a heating source. There may be remnants of that oil system today on your property.

Lead Paint – Before the 1970s lead was used in some types of paint. Of course now we know the dangers, but we didn’t then. However, lead paint may be lurking in an older home, so before you begin any renovation work, you need to know how to deal with it. Additionally, if you have flaking paint you need to seal it up. It is not unusual to have leaded paint in a home, but it is important to know how to safely work with it if you do.

Older homes in Seattle can be full of character and charm. Getting to know the home and having multiple inspections is key to eliminating as many surprises as you can so you can thoroughly enjoy it! If you would like to learn more, give me a call at (206) 226-5300 or send an email to sold@windermere.com!

Light Rail and It’s Impact on Seattle Real Estate

In the last few years, you may have noticed an increase in the number of listings and rentals that are touting the benefit of being in close proximity to a Sound Transit station. With demand in the city center driving real estate and rental prices up, buyers and renters are being forced to find housing further away from the city core. However, light rail is leading the charge in bringing people in from the outskirts into Seattle and people are expected to flock to areas surrounding the planned new stations in the coming years.

For example, when Sound Transit came to Tukwila a few years ago and the station near the airport opened, there was an uptick in real estate interest in the area surrounding it. Commuting via light rail from Tukwila only takes a little more than a half an hour according to the Seattle Times. In Tukwila the median sales price in April, 2014 was $205,000. In Seattle, the median sales price for the same period is $415,000*. It is much more affordable to live in outlying areas and simply commute in!

Developers, potential homeowners, and landlords are watching light rail plans very closely and are investing in areas where Light Rail will be connected. Here are just a few of the light rail projects in various planning stages which are targeted over the next several years according to www.soundtransit.org:

  • East Link Extension: There will be 10 stations along this route which will include Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Bel-Red, and Overlake in Redmond. This is expected to be completed in 2023.

  • Lynnwood Link Extension: This will link Lynnwood to Northgate. This is targeted for completion in 2023.

  • Northgate Link Extension: This will link Northgate, Roosevelt, and U District Neighborhoods to downtown Seattle and the airport. Ride time will be 14 minutes from Northgate to Downtown. It is expected to be completed in 2021.

  • University Link Extension: This will link the University of Washington and Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle and the airport. There will be two stations at UW and Capitol Hill. This project is expected to be complete in 2016.

So what does this mean for housing? Here is an example of how our market is impacted by Sound Transit’s transportation projects: University Manor Apartments near UW were recently snapped up by an investor who was very interested in the property due to its proximity to future Light Rail. The 80 unit apartment/commercial building received an amazing 14 offers. The new owner indicated that due to the amount of increased traffic in the area may call for converting the ground floor apartments back to retail. Rentals around Light Rail in the Puget Sound can command higher rent. Opportunities abound!

In addition to commuting via Light Rail for work, people are also opting to use Light Rail for traveling for recreation and events in Seattle. This helps avoid the headaches associated with battling traffic, and finding and paying for parking.

Homeowners, potential buyers, and investors should keep a close eye on opportunities surrounding planned Light Rail stations. For additional information on how our area’s transportation plans impact you, please contact me: (206) 226-5300 or sold@windermere.com.