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Old 03-20-2008, 05:15 AM
 
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We are planning a move from New Zealand for an MS job. We are down to earth Kiwi's and while the great outdoors in Washington State sounds wonderful, we were quite flummoxed by the kinds of houses that keep coming up when we search the Eastside. Everything looks very suburbia and a lot of it is so new and polished, and the emphasis seems to be on the finish of the house rather than the surroundings. I think we would be happier on an average house with a nice garden/lawn. We are also used to having nature walks and beaches quite close by so would like to be able to walk and commune with nature.

Was wondering if any of you can help. What we are looking for is:
- something close to Redmond campus, that we can bike to
- natural surroundings (trees, parks, trails ...)

Can anyone suggest areas?

A couple of other questions:
- is it more desirable to have a new house rather than one that was built years ago? In NZ there is a great love for turn of the century villas so I'm wondering if there is some other trend there in terms of style of houses? What's popular at the moment?
- what kinds of features of a house are essential for a house in that climate? Central heating? Insulation? Anything else?

I'm sure I'll think of more questions ... Thanks in anticipation!
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Old 03-20-2008, 08:26 AM
 
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Hello,

We share many of your interestests/concerns and I would suggest that you consider Woodinville. There is an area of horse "acres" and little development. It is close to the Sammamish River trail and the Tolt.
Good luck
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Old 03-20-2008, 08:52 AM
 
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In Seattle, in certain areas, homes built in the 1920's that are in good shape are considered highly desirable. I prefer older homes myself, but on the Eastside( Bellevue, Redmond,etc) the vast majority of the housing stock is newer. Bellevue has a fair amount of 1950's homes that have their "midcentury" charm, and Issaquah, being older, has a bit more older homes .
Issaquah also has a lot of nearby hiking, mountains...
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Old 03-20-2008, 12:23 PM
 
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
3,871 posts, read 16,267,381 times
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Hi, Chenebe. Welcome to your move to the Pacific Northwest!

Do you know this resource, the most complete listing of houses for sale in a huge area around Seattle, including the areas you are interested in? The Seattle MSLOnline. No registering. No emails:
Seattle Real Estate, Top Seattle Real Estate Search, TheMLSonline.com

Less complete, but useful for comparisons, are
Realtor.com: http://www.realtor.com/Default.aspx
Homes.com: http://www.homes.com/index.cfm
for condos, Condocompare.com: http://condocompare.com/

Also: you have a relocation assistant at Microsoft. That person is there to help you find a place you will enjoy living in. You can find out whom to contact through the H.R. person who walked you through your contract.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Chenebe View Post
... the Eastside. Everything looks very suburbia and a lot of it is so new and polished, and the emphasis seems to be on the finish of the house rather than the surroundings.
I think we would be happier on an average house with a nice garden/lawn. We are also used to having nature walks and beaches quite close by so would like to be able to walk and commune with nature.
I'm sure you're using a map of western Washington. Not so long ago, the area east of Lake Washington was forests, and then contained scattered farms. Residential "development" didn't really start until the 1970s, and as the economy of the area prospered quickly, it became necessary to build more and more houses somewhere. That's why you are seeing so many newer homes.

I don't know what you mean by "emphasis on the finish of the house" -- the exterior? Not at all. The emphasis is on building houses that families can be comfortable living in. If you mean you're finding what you consider to be a small plot of land that each house is on, the area Microsoft is located in is suburbia, where land is needed, and putting one house on a large piece of land would make that property prohibitively expensive.

For your desire for "green" and "nature", the suggestions already made are excellent: Woodinville, Issaquah. You might also consider Duvall, Fall City, Preston and North Bend. However, the farther away from the MS campus you get, the longer the commute will be twice a day.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Chenebe View Post
... something close to Redmond campus, that we can bike to
- natural surroundings (trees, parks, trails ...)
Biking to the MS campus is a different matter. Things are quite some distance from each other here, which is why everyone has a car. Location would depend on how long you want to spend biking twice a day. You might consider the east, north and northeast portions of Redmond, where there are some trees and beautiful Lake Sammamish would be close.

Just about everywhere on the east side of Lake Washington has trees, parks and trails.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Chenebe View Post
... is it more desirable to have a new house rather than one that was built years ago?
What's popular at the moment?
Here it is "more desirable" to have what you want and/or can afford. You don't really want to follow some fashion trend, do you? Especially with something as financially illiquid as a house, right?
Comfortable housing is "what's popular" here, at any time.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Chenebe View Post
... what kinds of features of a house are essential for a house in that climate? Central heating? Insulation? Anything else?
This is a temperate climate, with gentle summers and gentle winters, and in between there are gentle springs and gentle autumns. The air currents from the Pacific Ocean cause the gentle climate.

All houses where you will be looking have central heating, insulation, plumbing and electric power.
Air conditioning is very rare, since it would be needed for only a few days in the middle of summer.
My requirements include a fireplace, since in November and December (colder weather here) windstorms can often interrupt other sources of heat.

Happy searching!
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Old 03-20-2008, 12:52 PM
 
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Hi there everyone, thanks for the suggestions. And thanks for the welcome!

Yeah, I did look at some of the places mentioned and thought they were lovely - but I am concerned about the commute for my husband. And reading about the traffic problems in the area is scary! He spends a max of 20mins per journey to work at the moment, and none of it in grid-lock traffic. On the other hand, he says MS is opening new campuses and he may be moved about anyway, so maybe we shouldn't worry too much about being within cycling distance as it might all change anyway! It's just we like to consume as little as possible (but we were told we would need two cars anyway, and you have confirmed that as well). How are the buses within the Eastside?

What about Bridle Trails or is that too expensive (I suppose that is a relative term)?

allforcats: No, definately I don't care what is popular at all! I'm just trying to get a feel for the things that other people are willing to pay for. For eg, in NZ, wooden villas are the rage (even if they are freezing and expensive to maintain), so you can get bigger brick homes for the same money, if you are willing to forgo the wooden house! That's why I think it is useful to know trends. When I talked about polish, I meant the interior details, like the kitchens look amazing! I think my current kitchen would be considered a shack. I was just wondering again if that was a pre-requisite .... are "do-ups" common at all, or is renovation too prohibitive? It's so hard to get a feel for the market without having been there for a while.
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Old 03-20-2008, 01:47 PM
 
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
3,871 posts, read 16,267,381 times
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Hi! You bring up an interesting point about cycling to work: that your MSer might be moved around. I also thought of something else: up here in the winter the sun sets at 4:00-4:30 in the afternoon and rises at 8:30-9:00 AM, so bicycling to and from work would probably be done in darkness. Not a wonderful prospect, especially on roads he doesn't know...

ALSO, there are many main roads (called arterials) which are the fastest way to get from A to B but are the most dangerous for bikers as they're full of cars, trucks and busses...

The public transport busses, Metro by name, do a nice job of connecting most locations on the east side of Lake Washington. But they don't connect all places. However, service is constantly increasing with an aim to do that.

Microsoft has its own comfortable shuttle bus service, connecting certain locations. I believe at present the service connects their own many locations, which as you note are expanding. But in future that might expand (Microsoft's services to its own employees never seems to stop expanding) to pick up employees at certain larger public transport stops, called Park & Ride places. You should contact the H.R. person at Microsoft who is handling your contract and/or move.


Bridle Trails is the neighborhood in which I've lived for almost 20 years. It's probably the most expensive area in Bellevue (I bought long, long before prices flew skyward!). It's close (within safe cycling distance) to the main Microsoft campus, and pretty much equidistant from 3 shopping center with excellent supermarkets, pharmacies, and varied shops. It's crowded with trees and a state park forest (Bridle Trails State Park), and is home to many horses, one of whom is a friend of mine who talks with me a lot! :-)

But most other areas on the entire "east side" (of Lake Washington) have trees, parks, trails, quiet, squirrels, all kinds of birds, and a sense of peacefulness.


Okay, house construction. You and I are talking about two different language cultures, and probable differences in climate. I am an educated and travelled person, and "villas" make me think of Russian dachas or Italian country houses! Wooden villas that are freezing is an American concept that does not compute -- except for 16ft by 16ft log cabins in Alaska.

The vast majority of American housing construction is wood; central heating and insulation, present in any decent house costing more than a dollar, obviate the "freezing" possibility. Also, in this area the temperature in winter doesn't usually get colder than 34F, 1C, and the coldest might be 28F, -2C, which could last for one day!

Brick houses almost do not exist here, except for old ones, because of their annoying tendency to fall down in earthquakes...

American kitchens are, in my experience, far more "furnished" than any European, Canadian or upper-class Hong Kong or Japanese kitchens I've seen. Even older ones (say, 1960s) are loaded with appliances, cabinets and counters. Former owners of older kitchens have often updated (do-upped? done-up?) the refrigerator, range/oven, dishwasher and microwave before selling the house. Newer houses have newer and larger appliances.

Home renovation has become an American hobby! So you can find, say, 1920s, 1950s, even 1990s houses with new wood and/or tile flooring, new carpeting, new bathrooms including some or all fixtures (toilet, sink, tub, shower, counter, cabinets, lights), new kitchen as described above, space taken from somewhere to make a larger closet in the master bedroom, and so on. Interior detail might depend on either the original builder's fancy or that of any owner along the line: how much budget was available matched with how much imagination or whimsy.

Due to the highly competitive market for houses during 2003 to much of 2007 in western Washington, most sellers did some, or a lot of, renovations to get shiny wood floors to shiny new elegant lighting fixtures, and everything in between that marketers touted as desirable (see any American home interior decorating magazine).

In western Washington, you'll find a lot of emphasis (by buyers, sellers and builders) on good-quality siding and roofing (important in a rainy climate), the biggest and latest kitchen and bathroom appliances, fixtures, countertops (often granite or sandstone), and plumbing fixtures (faucets, taps and handles). Lots of glitz, lots of bigness. Also lots of emphasis on as many windows as possible, as large each as possible. Newer (post 1985 or so) window glass here is double-paned and in more expensive homes it's triple-paned, to keep out cold in winter and heat in summer.

So my point is that when you're looking at ads for houses, it's really important to read whatever description is available, and look carefully at whatever photos are available, to get some idea of the details and the "newness" of the renovations.

Have you considered renting for 6 months or more when you first get here? That would give you time to breathe, learn, and choose with a lot more knowledge and "feel" for the area.

I hope this has helped you get a little more "inside" the scene here!
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Old 03-21-2008, 07:12 PM
 
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allfocats, what a comprehensive answer. Thanks for taking the time to type it all out.

Heheh, you sould like someone who absolutely loves where you are living, good for you! Sounds so picturesque, communing with horses ... I should have guessed, with a name like Bridle Trails, it must have lots of horse trails. So, tell me more about Bridle Trails (although it sounds too expensive for me, but I'm still interested). Is there a difference between the west side, the east side, the north side ...

It is REALLY nice to know that most of Eastside has that green tranqil feeling. We live in a part where we can see native greenery out of most our windows, and I would love to have something similar ...

I do agree, the pictures of kitchens have made my eyes pop. Big and heaps of mod cons!

My brother in law who is from Canada said he had never been so cold in his life as he was living in a house in NZ, eventhough the minumum temperature is higher than he was used to. It is because our houses are poorly insulated. I think I read somewhere that the WHO said that most of NZ houses are below the minimum standard required for a warm and healthy house!

Are earthquakes really bad there? Where we are is volcanic areas, but there are still many brick houses ... we do have to pay a levy to the Earthquake Commission with our insurance though ...

I've just been wondering if there are pitfalls I should be looking out for? Areas to avoid for what ever reason, building issues, soil contamination, planning issues, up coming infrastructural developments? It is yet another thing that only residents would really know about.
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Old 03-21-2008, 10:19 PM
 
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Default issues to look for...

if you live on the Eastside in a new construction, there is just as much 'buyer beware' as you would find in an 80-year-old house in Seattle proper - just different stuff to look for.

-Siding. Lots of condos in the area end up doing massive assessments for re-siding just a decade or so after opening - be sure to check and see if there has already been a remodel
-Mold. Some new houses don't have proper ventilation in the basements, and you can get a real stagnation/mold problem.
-Insurance - Earthquakes are NOT covered by a majority of homeowners insurance, and it might make sense to spring for it if you can.

Best of luck to you - that is a HUGE move and I admire your willingness to do so. We look forward to having some more Kiwi flavor in the area!

Which reminds me - there is a bar in Seattle proper (Greenlake area) called the Kangaroo and Kiwi that is run by expats... no doubt they would welcome a drop in and be extremely helpful.
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Old 03-21-2008, 10:32 PM
 
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I second that you look in Woodinville when you search, add the Reintree neighborhood. When I lived in Woodinville, my house sat on 1.3 acres with our own woods. There are trails and a few even have horses.

I worked at MS and bike commuted 9 months of the year. The really dark and wet months I drove. There is also a bus that goes down Avondale to campus if you want to avoid driving.

As far as essential features, heating is necessary. AC, wood stoves, generators are optional. I can't think of anything that is essential. Some like older houses and some like newer houses. It is pretty much up to you.

Feel free to PM me if you want specific area or MS info.
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Old 03-22-2008, 01:15 AM
 
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
3,871 posts, read 16,267,381 times
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Hi. I have only a bit of time at the moment, so I'll address only two things.

Earthquakes: rare.
-- In 20+ years of living in Seattle and Bellevue, I've actually FELT only maybe four or five, most of them gentle and over in a few seconds.
-- One was considerable, on February 28, 2001; Richter 6.8; called the Nisqually earthquake because of its source location; damage to only older and "looser" structures such as old brick buildings (of which there weren't many left anyway). I was at the office in a 35+-floor building and everything shook but nothing in the office building, nor in my home, was compromised in any way.
-- Small quakes occur in a very wide area around Seattle/Portland OR/Vancouver B.C. maybe every several months, but they are usually deep in the earth or out to sea and are not felt very much. The frequency is encouraging, say scientists, as a lot of little ones is preferable to no little ones and one big one.

Bridle Trails. You really have got an expensive bee in your bonnet!
Here are some info links:

about the Bridle Trails neighborhood:
Bellevue Neighborhoods - Bridle Trails
You can Google "Bridle Trails Bellevue" and find real estate links which I can't post here as they'd be advertising.

about Bridle Trails State Park:
informative link, from the combined site of the two leading newspapers in the area. You're going to love this: under "Restrictions" it says, "Horses have the right-of-way — when encountering a horse, move to the right of the trail and stand quietly." Isn't that delicious?!!!
Bellevue | Bridle Trails State Park | NWsource
and
Bridle Trails State Park (http://www.ci.redmond.wa.us/insidecityhall/parksrec/parks/bridle.asp - broken link)


In Googling for the Park links, I encountered a fascinating parks and trails link for the city of Redmond. (They include Bridle Trails State Park, but that is actually located in Bellevue. Bellevue and Redmond are vitually indistinguishable unless you know where one ends and the other begins.)
The interesting Redmond link:
Parks Information for the City of Redmond (http://www.ci.redmond.wa.us/insidecityhall/parksrec/parks.asp - broken link)

If you click on the photo, it will enlarge.
Attached Thumbnails
Looking for green, Eastside-bt1.jpg  
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