Lessons Learned – Buying Orcas II

Back again! It’s now September of 2001 and I’m off to Orcas Island to hunt for property. Let’s take a moment to talk about a few things I should have thought about before I started looking.

Orcas, as you’ve probably already figured out, is located in the Pacific Northwest. Summer days are long and warm.  As a summer visitor from San Diego one tends to forget the flip side of that benefit, the short, cold days of winter. Orcas is mountainous. During the winter the north sides of Mount Constitution, Pickett, Entrance, Willard, Turtleback, Buck, etc. receive significantly less light than the south sides.

Mount Baker
Mount Baker

There are a large number of tall trees growing on the island. These factors should be considered when planning to purchase a home in which you intend to live during the winter. I’m not suggesting that you eliminate a home on the north side of a mountain. But it could be a consideration if you are trying to decide between two homes.

The economy on Orcas is tourist-based. If you plan to rent out the house when you aren’t vacationing, expect very little income. You might consider turning the property into a vacation rental but there is a down-side to that also. I’ll talk a little more about renting in a future blog post.

Okay, back to Orcas and hunting for property versus sitting on a log at North Beach drinking in the view.

North Beach
North Beach

I’ve found a couple of vacation rental condos available in Eastsound. They have a fabulous view of the water, a live-in property manager to handle all the details of renting and are well within my budget. The market analysis indicates rising values. Everything looks attractive except the limitation on how much I can use the place myself.

While I agonize over my decision it is brought to my attention that a certain family member will be heartbroken if I don’t at least look at the home they have for sale. The price is a smidgen above my comfort price but well within my qualification. I figure it wouldn’t hurt to at least look at the place.

And now we come to my first mistake. I fell in love with the view. I’m certain that I was manipulated into a visit at sunset. The sky was a palette of color ranging from deep blue to gold to bright orange. I could see sail boats off the northwest shore and the Canadian Rockies in the distance. In front of this was a perfect view of one of my favorite places on the island, Madrona Point.

Who wouldn't fall in love with this view?
Who wouldn’t fall in love with this view?

What color was the carpet? Don’t know, wasn’t installed yet. Did the roof leak? Don’t know, wasn’t finished. Decks were in the process of being built. You could not inspect the foundation because the crawl space was filled with junk. Appliances were sitting ready there ready to install. Lesson learned, make sure the work is complete before you close escrow. And have a second inspection to be sure the work is completed properly.

I wrote the offer anyway. I thought that since this was a purchase from a family member I was reasonably assured that the work would be completed with good attention to detail so I skipped the second inspection. Unfortunately the contractor they hired didn’t install a critical flashing. Years later I faced an expensive repair. Oh and maybe you should spend a little time looking at the house instead of the view. Just a thought.

Stay tuned for things I’ve learned about home inspections. Or if you are ready to start your property-hunting adventure call me at 619.224.9015 and we’ll get started.

Lessons Learned – Buying Orcas

This is the first post in a series about the home-buying process on Orcas Island. Falling in love with the island happens to many visitors. If you are a repeated visitor the itch to own can become a burning desire. This is my story.

Let’s start with a little background. I spent part of my childhood on Orcas. Within a month of my eighteenth birthday I fled “Orcastraz” for the mainland. At that time Orcas was a little light on engaging activities. Sailing, boating, and watching door knobs rust were about it. I needed more.

I landed in San Diego where I have spent most of my adult life, the last twenty-five years as a Realtor.

Let’s dial the time machine back to November of 2000. I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot known as “the I-5” staring vacantly at the license plate on the car in front of me, ICURF8. The hot, harsh reality of day-to-day living in southern California has blown away the memories of my idyllic late-summer vacation on Orcas Island. It’s about a hundred and five degrees outside. Oh, how I wish I could just be sitting on a log at North Beach. That’s when I asked myself, “Why not?”.

San Diego’s real estate market was rocketing toward the bubble. I had loads of equity along with a stable income, two of the more important ingredients in the home-buying process. As a licensed agent I have access to like a million loan officers. I call my favorite to learn that I’m pre-qualified for a fairly large loan. Big whoop, right? Pre-qualifying for a loan simply meant that I could fog a mirror and talk to a loan officer.

I am a fairly conservative person and did not want to overextend myself. So I took the next step and completed a loan application with a knowledgable lender familiar with financing on Orcas. After they checked my credit, income and expense reports and tax returns I received conditional loan approval. Conditional? Yes, conditional approval meant that as a borrower I had the income, credit and reserves necessary to finance the purchase of a property. The condition was that I find a property that would qualify for financing. At that time this simply meant that the property actually existed and was still standing.

Time to start hunting for the perfect property. I arranged to spend a little extra time on island my next visit to look at the housing inventory. Stay tuned for my next post when I discuss some of the things I learned about the house-hunting process on Orcas. Or if you have equity or savings, a stable job and are ready to start hunting for your new home call me at 619.224.9015. I’m here to help.

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