The Birds Have Found Their Nest

This travel blog is going to segue abruptly.  For a while, it will be a home improvement blog.  But still connected to the freedom to travel…details to be revealed in time.

When we hit the Oregon state line, we knew it was time to start looking at our surroundings differently.  We were no longer just travelers, we were potential residents of every community we traveled through.

After much zigging and some zagging across Oregon, we came up empty.  There were a few possibilities, but they each had their drawbacks.  We had been interested in living in or near a national forest, but the tradeoff was usually that we were just too far from basic services like groceries.  In our last neighborhood we had enjoyed being within a quick bike ride or a walk to work (for me) or restaurants and grocery stores, the post office, the bank, et cetera.  I didn’t want to have to drive everywhere in our new location and surely didn’t want to move somewhere we would have to have TWO cars.  Ugh.

On our first night in Washington, after crossing the Columbia River feeling a little defeated and exhausted, we found a hotel and ordered some pizza.  A hotel room and a pizza always makes things better, right?  And we Zillowed.  And Zillowed.  And Zillowed.  We expanded our search to include properties not in or near national forests.

We had come up with a respectable list of favorites.  Next on the agenda was to check out the communities the properties were located in.  My personal favorite house was a MINT condition mid-century modern rambler located in Aberdeen.  Home of Kurt Cobain.  Probably a reasonably nice place to live, but the annual rainfall is off the charts.  We put Aberdeen further down on the list.  Same with the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.

So we zigged and we zagged across Washington, going as far east as the Methow Valley.  Lovely place, but it snows a LOT in winter.

Back on that first night in Washington, Wayne had seen a cute little house listed for sale in a small town called La Conner.  Never heard of it.  Seemed nice from what we could see online.  I wasn’t getting my hopes up.  Sometimes you visit a place and find that the Chamber of Commerce had done a bang-up website to promote it but it’s like most people’s social media feeds:  Doesn’t show the reality.

We based ourselves at a campground in Marysville so we could explore the properties/communities on the list from there up to the Canadian border, which included La Conner.  One rainy and foggy May morning, we drove to La Conner.  We exited I-5 and traveled on two-lane roads through farm fields and past turn-of-the-century farmhouses and barns.  “Isn’t this charming?” we said.  As we approached a roundabout I realized we were getting into town.

The main street leading in was lined with old houses that had been turned into businesses.  There was a postal center, a salon, a restaurant called Seeds, a Thai place, a yoga studio, a little shop called Go Outside, the library, Nasty Jack’s Antiques.  Then we got to a dead end.  This was First Street, which runs along the waterfront.  Driving along First Street we noted lots of restaurants, a yarn shop, the post office, the Museum of Northwest Art(!), and it just seemed like a magical little town and exactly the kind of place we wanted to live.  I could walk everywhere I needed to go!

Then we drove to the house.  As we drove up, I literally clapped my hands and bounced in my seat, as much because the house was cute as because of the fact that it was located in the cutest small town I’d ever seen.

I called the listing agent, Tim, only to be told the house was under contract.  Noooooooo!  He then asked, “Did you see the other one?”  I said I hadn’t seen another one for sale on Zillow.  Tim gave me the address and told us to call if we decided we wanted to see it.  He warned us it was in a busier location and didn’t have as much curb appeal.  We arrived and thought it was cute and had potential, so he showed it to us that afternoon.

Stats:  Built in 1921.  Bungalow.  Some modifications over the years to add square footage.  Living room, front bedroom with large added-on closet (space taken from front porch), kitchen, another small room that used to be the second bedroom, a bath, and then two finished rooms upstairs with those sloping ceilings that make you feel like you’re in a storybook cottage.

The bad (or as I like to say, “design challenges”):  Laminate flooring in living room and dining area.  Carpet in bedroom and upstairs.  Unattractive and badly laid ceramic tile in kitchen and small room.  The side of the house facing the side street has a parking lot vibe and the views out of that window and front window aren’t great.  Big green electric company box on front corner of lot.  Slightly odd floor plan.

The good:  Original clawfoot tub in recently remodeled bathroom.  Original fir floors underneath all the terrible “updated” flooring.  Newish triple-pane windows.  Sturdy kitchen cabinets with lazy Susans.  Big enough upstairs bedroom to fit our king-size bed.  Updated electrical wiring and plumbing.  Large back deck.  Mature walnut tree.  Rhododendron.  The price.  The “just right for us” square footage.

And it meets the old real estate criteria:  Location, location, location.

We went to lunch, but we called Tim before we even got our food and asked him to meet us back at the house in an hour to write an offer.  This house felt like ours.

May I present — drumroll please — the listing photos in all of their “Before Picture” glory:


Look!  We have our own Dr. Seuss “droopy tree.”  It’s a PNW thing.
See how the left side of the porch has been closed in?  That’s the front bedroom closet now.  This house had zero closets in 1921.
North Side Exterior – See what I’m saying about the “parking lot” look?
South Side Exterior
Front Porch
Living Room – note the awkward staging.  Is that a bathmat?!
Living Room – Please note laminate, tile, laminate alternating flooring going through to dining area.  Possible reasoning:  “Defines the spaces” or “Makes it look chopped up and smaller”?  I pick the second thing.
Kitchen – Ugh.  Staging.  “That corner etagere just makes the place, don’t you think?”
Dining/Kitchen – WHY two different flooring materials?  For the love of kittens, WHY?!
Dining Area
Bathroom – We found out later the seller removed the vintage light fixtures and replaced them with these “updated” Home Depot beauts.
Front Bedroom
Upstairs Bedroom – Thank goodness someone covered up the ORIGINAL WOOD FLOORS with this beautiful brown wall-to-wall, amirite?  It crinkles when you walk on it because of the padding.  The upside is you can hear if an intruder is coming.
Upstairs Landing
Side Deck – There was a hot tub on the fenced-in portion of the deck at one time.  If this deck could talk…

After signing the offer, we headed to our base camp.  That night we talked about all the things we would do to make this house ours.  We had a lot of work ahead, but it felt good.  Really, really good.  Fingers crossed.

The next installment of this saga involves THE INSPECTION.  Da-da-dahhhhhhhh.  What will the inspector find?  Will it be a deal breaker?  Will it involve expensive repairs?

Spoiler alert:  The answer to the last question is YES.  Because of course.

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