Last Friday, barely an hour after getting the keys, we started yanking the carpet out of the house we just purchased in Kirkland. Located 8 miles northwest of Microsoft (Redmond), the house was built in the mid-1970’s and is a typical split-level with 4 bitty bedrooms, two small baths, living room, dining room and kitchen upstairs, and large family room and laundry room downstairs.
I was hoping we’d purchase a newer, more hip house with a view of the surrounding area or quite possibly Lake Washington in the distance. However, housing prices are through the roof in the Seattle and surrounding area. If I wanted to live within a reasonable driving distance of Redmond (traffic is horrific), we needed to settle for either a smaller house or a fixer-upper.
We went house-hunting the second weekend that Rich arrived in Washington. We gave our realtor a list of twenty possible houses in Woodinville (north of Redmond), Kirkland (west of Redmond), Kenmore (northwest of Kirkland), and Bellevue (southwest of Redmond). Rich liked the first house in Woodinville, but I found it very dark and dingy with lots of paneling and windows that were obscured by tall pine trees.
Next, we saw five or six houses in Kirkland. Rich gave them all "thumbs down" because of poor construction or obvious problems that would have required lots of money to fix. The next house we saw was the one we ended up purchasing. The brochure listed it as 2,700 square feet, but we later learned that the square footage included the garage. Because we made an offer based on the wrong size, we made them take $5,000 off the price!
At any rate, Rich was thrilled with the house from the moment he walked in the front door. While it featured ghastly lighting from the 70’s, dreadful paint, and rather small rooms, it has a new kitchen with maple cabinets, huge, two-level deck, meticulous backyard, and large family room. In addition, it’s in a good area. And more importantly, the owners were very motivated to sell. The house had been reduced nearly $50,000!
Because an open house was planned for that afternoon, we decided to immediately make an offer. Less than thirty-days later, the house was ours.
As we suspected, the home inspection report revealed few problems aside from average wear-and-tear on the roof, heater, carpeting, and driveway. No huge red flags!
Both of the houses across the street from us have been updated and look fabulous. Visible from our front window and up the street is a house that belongs to Michael Jackson, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks. A woman that I worked with who knows several of the players confirmed that several former Seahawks live in the areas.
The day we took possession of the house, it appeared that the former owners got tired of moving and just left because plugged into the wall and in the middle of the family room was a perfectly good vacuum cleaner. In the garage, along with the instruction manual, was a large boom box along with a trash bag full of unused decorative pillows. Upstairs, in the kitchen, was a fabulous Danish table and two matching chairs. In the dishwasher, I found a set of glasses and a glass plate. On the deck was a barely used, rather elaborate Kenmore barbeque. Also found in the drawers and closets were fabrics and sewing notions, a small electronic piano, brass fixtures on the walls, second refrigerator the garage, 25-foot extension ladder, hoses, tiki torch, and 48 boxes of puzzles and games in the attic (see the picture below).
I’m thrilled with the kitchen, which has oak floors, a bay window, and maple cabinets that have pull-out drawers, a lazy susan, and other neat features. It’s going to be a pleasure to cook in it.
As far as the rest of the upstairs… where’s the hammer, chisel, screwdriver and pliers?
Last weekend, we ripped out all the carpeting (padding, tack strips and staples), baseboards, closet doors, and three areas of tile. Rich brought everything to the dump. It weighed almost a thousand pounds.
This weekend, we’ll be tackling the popcorn ceiling and removal of wallpaper in the dining room and entry hall. Yes, we know that the former can contain asbestos. We have matching disposable bunny suits, high-quality respirators, goggles, and gloves. We intend to complete the task in one day then wrap up and dispose of the goopy mess.
Towards the end of October, we’ll repainting most of the upstairs. The previous owners proudly documented the paints they’d used in the various rooms – dreadful "pina colada" green in the master bedroom, eye-popping "robin egg" blue in the guest bedroom, and Pepto Bismo pink "inkling" in another bedroom, hallway and dining room. To add to the explosion of color, they even painted the baseboards, closet doors and inside the closets to match the wall colors. Yes. Pink and robin egg blue closet doors.
Rich bought industry-sized containers of off-white paint that will be used on the ceilings and all the walls and closets. A single wall in several rooms – master bedroom, Rich’s office, etc. – will be painted with very pale shades of yellow, tea green or blue-gray.
In November, we’re hoping to start laying bamboo flooring in the bedrooms, living room, dining room, hallway, and stairs. We’ll also be placing tile by the front door. And finally, we’ll replace some of the stunning light fixtures from the 70’s, in particular, the three clear globes hanging from chains in the entry hall.
Other home improvement projects that are on the docket for the next few years are replacing the amber windows in the entry hall, installing double-pane windows, replacing the roof, and redoing the laundry room, which features mismatched cupboards, a laundry tub, toilet, ancient washer and dryer, and a large sauna that takes up much of the room. The sauna is very nice, but it’s doubtful we’ll ever use it. It’ll make nice planter boxes or a deck for hot tub.
If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be moving into the house in early December. Meanwhile, Rich is working from home in Mount Vernon and has the cats and birds. And I live a simple live in an apartment within walking distance of Microsoft.