Hunting the Elusive Condo

For the past month, I have been sporadically looking at condominiums and cottages in the Seattle area.


Why? I need to get away from the stress of owning a big home and yard that I can’t take care of by myself, with my work and travel schedule. And I really need to be closer to my office than the current exhausting 1.5 hr one way commute, now that my kids are done with school. And finally, it really is time for those kids to fly the nest, perhaps with a little help, but definitely find their wings.

My wish list isn’t really huge, but it’s not simple either. Close-to-downtown Seattle real estate in good neighborhoods can be ridiculously expensive.

  • 2-3 bdrm, 2 bath condo/townhouse/cottage w/ full groundskeeping

  • Sunny, well lit, open, prefer architecturally interesting to apartment-bland
  • Usable kitchen for cooking/entertaining
  • Hardwood or other non-carpet material floors
  • Fireplace
  • Deck or patio
  • Covered parking or garage
  • Laundry room on same floor as bedrooms
  • Reasonably quiet location – not end of runway or on major highway
  • Within 30 min of downtown

A townhouse is a plus, as is a soaking or jetted tub, a garage, and a view of a slice of green, mountains, or sound. High HOA fees are a minus, as are huge hive-like facilities with long hallways – not very dog-friendly.

I’ve found two I’ve loved but haven’t worked out:

The Bainbridge Condo is lovely. Totally lovely. It’s my gold standard. But, in the recession, not a single unit has sold and they’re all being rented out. This puts any single buyer at significant legal risk both from a underlying land perspective (owned by the developer) and from a HOA/assessment perspective.

Ballard Condo

The Ballard condo/cottage is a tiny, light, bright jewel. I also loved it. Apparently, though, contravening all customs re: condo ownership, there will be no community maintenance of grounds or building exteriors. Groundskeeping and the relative lack of headache is precisely why I’m looking at condos, so that is strike 2.

Bainbridge Condo

I’ve also found many I’ve really disliked, some for rather comical reasons.

The Capitol Hill condo had fabulous photography – and was, indeed, light and bright. It also had amateurishly installed Ikea cabinetry and closets, horrible kludged together bathrooms, and in a supreme triumph of idiocy, no *refrigerator* in the kitchen. Check the photo. There is no space for a fridge. Apparently the previous owner installed 18′ of cabinets and made do w/ under-counter wine chiller units in lieu of a fridge.

Capitol Hill Condo

The Lake Union condo was in a style I really like – sort of the Dwell design/style, dark bamboo floors, re-engineered stone countertops, window seat, lots of light. Still, it was four stories. Count them. And the first bathroom was on the third floor. The shared kitchen/living room was about 12′x14′, and had about five cabinets; apparently residents have to choose between storing dishes or food.

Lake Union Condo

Then there was the Fremont condo, which was also new and modern, but the copious back windows all overlooked a really seedy 7-11 and its filthy parking lot, and beyond that a head shop.

The inexpensive Normandy park townhouse condos were new and pretty and spacious, and conveniently positioned at the end of one of the SeaTac runways. How thoughtful for my travel schedule! And sleep schedule.

Anyway, I think I’ll take a break for a while, and only look when I see something stellar, avoiding any further emotional investment.

Note: I have a real estate agent. One on each side of the Sound, actually. I am perfectly happy with them, thank you.

Note 2: I am being heavily comment spammed lately. While I do review my comment moderation queue, if your comment disappears into the spam queue, I probably won’t see it to retrieve it, sorry – email me!

5 Responses to “Hunting the Elusive Condo”

  1. Vince Says:

    Best of luck in your continued search. You’re being smart. You know what you want, where you are and are not will to compromise, and willing to be patient in order to insure you’re as happy as possible with your purchase.

  2. Holy Says:

    Love the Bainbridge condo – that’s my vote – make them an offer they can’t refuse.

    Or do you still want to do away with ferries altogether and be on this side of the water?

  3. Jeri Says:

    The Bainbridge condo is spectacular and life on Bainbridge is really very nice – quiet, no traffic, great quality. Still, it’s an hour from work if I walk, 45 min if I drive to the terminal – and my job, my family and all my friends are on the Seattle side.

  4. Rebecca Says:

    I really like the Bainbridge condo! I wonder if the legalities could be worked out in your favor if you made them an offer? Take all this from a renter who is now looking here in the Hillsboro area!

  5. Eric Says:

    Fingers crossed for you!