In our latest Backstory series, Seattleite Lou Maxon recounts the thrills and trials of ditching the suburbs, buying property, and designing and building a modern house with Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects. Week Two: The story continues...
I had serious doubts. More than twenty-one forested acres? I’m picturing a super-small rural town, a tractor, a rifle, a hunting dog, a septic system, a pickup truck. Maybe a well? The liquor store in town might also be the hardware store. They took turns being mayor.
Strolling down the logging road about five hundred feet from the farmer’s gate at the entrance, we neared the undeveloped site. We poked our heads around some mangled tree branches and suddenly glimpsed a view to farmland, a winding river and a thriving valley. We were sold. It was, if possible, the polar opposite of where we were now. Open spaces, real nature, no clear cuts, real “green-belts.”
We called a real-estate agent. He passed us on to a land expert. Who passed us on to another land expert. I should have known: the complications of finding someone to show us the land was a sign of what lay ahead.
We made an offer. Then a counter-offer. About two months later, we had two mortgages, 21 acres, a house to sell, a house to build—and no clue how either was going to happen any time soon.
Our land purchase was official in August of 2007 (I’ll cover the whole land-buying experience in next week’s post). We got really lucky and sold our house in suburbia in May of 2008, right at the near-height of the market, before values started sliding the wrong direction. Our first big break came when a family who was looking for a specific floor plan lost out on our neighbor’s house, and was guided to our house (which had the same plan). Our house sold and we were on our way.
Much happened between August and May—again, I’ll revisit this in later posts. For now, I’ll leave you with some parting comments.
When we embarked on this journey we had blinders on. It was all about the house, not about the site. That would soon change. (We were about to get a rude awakening to the true realities and costs of building our “dream home.”) We had no intention of spending as much money on the property as we did, but it later revealed itself to be a brilliant decision. As we packed up the moving van with the plastic SOLD sign plastered on the real-estate sign, we knew it was official. Wheels of change were in motion. We were saying goodbye to home ownership for a while, hello to being renters again. Excitement, anxiousness, fear, joy, uncertainty—but overall hope in the face of the unknown—was in front of us. We all jumped in together, even the kids, and started the next chapter of our life.