House Looking for a Home

The day before our real estate closing, I stopped by the city building department to take a look at the plans and permits for the house and to find out what the permitting requirements might be to raise part of the carport roof to accommodate our motorhome. In response to my request for the permit file, I was handed a single sheet of paper, a receipt for a $20 plumbing repair from 1970.

“No, no,” said I, “I want to see the building permits and plans for this property; the entire building department file.”

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s all we have on that property. There’s no building there according to our records.”

“WHAT?!? But there’s a house there, and a carport. And I need to modify the carport.”

“Well, you’ll need to get an after-the-fact-permit, but it will be almost impossible to get any permits there because the property is in a nature preserve and it’s an endangered habitat with a protected salmon-bearing creek running through it, but the starting point would be for you to hire a consultant to do a biological survey of the whole property which will cost about $6,000 and take a couple weeks, but you might just be wasting your money [and on and on and on]….”

As you can imagine, this news threw us into high gear checking the legality of everything about the property, only to discover that the place really was too-good-to-be-true. The “well-head” down in the creek was not a well-head after all: water was being drawn directly (and illegally) from the creek. Similarly, there was no permitting or record of the septic system which appeared to be built partially in the public road right-of-way.

Broken hearted, we canceled the contract on the house and continued our search in and around Bellingham, deciding to stay in Bellingham for a few days, rather than commute from Ballard. Right after we checked in, it started to snow – the heaviest snow of the year, about 12″ in 48 hours.

Our search took us out into the country…

…and we did find a log cabin with a big RV barn, a 2-acre pond and soaring cedars, but it just looked like too much maintenance.

After canceling the contract on the Chuckanut Creek house, our house-hunting wasn’t very productive, but we absolutely fell in love with the Bellingham area, so we decided to try a different tack. Dale had researched modular home designer/builders in preparation for our trip to Seattle and had found three of them in the Puget Sound region for us to visit: GreenPod in Port Townsend, Timberland Homes in Auburn (near Tacoma) and Method Homes in Seattle.

So, after several days of house-hunting in Bellingham, we drove back south, this time headed toward Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula to visit GreenPod. To get to Port Townsend, we drove across Deception Pass to Whidbey Island, then took the ferry from Coupeville. Deception Pass Bridge was beautiful, as was all of Whidbey Island.

Modular homes are regular houses, built to normal building codes, but, unlike traditional housing which is built on-site, modular homes are constructed at the builder’s facility in “mods” or “pods,” that is, in sections, which are then transported to the buyer’s property by tractor-trailer and/or ferry where the sections are set on a foundation, sometimes by crane, and then joined together. This type of construction is particularly popular in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound and in Alaska – places where building materials and skilled construction labor is unavailable.

At Timberland Homes, we toured several of the builder’s models, one of which, the Alki, had been sold (for transport to Alaska), but the buyers were unable to obtain financing so the house was back on the market. We bought it the next day, my birthday. Here it is in the builder’s construction yard, a house without a home:

Because this house was Timberland’s model for the Seattle Home Show for several years, it is fully furnished and has all the builder’s options. Here’s the living room.

And the kitchen:

It’s a moderate 1,778 s.f., three bedroom, 2.5 bath, house and, believe it or not, it’s already been moved six times to various home shows around the Northwest. The design suits us perfectly; we’re able to close off the part of the house that has the two guest bedrooms and guest bath, opening it up when we have visitors (hint, hint). Here’s the master bedroom:

We won’t have to buy anything to make the house a home: it’s already fully furnished, decorated and supplied, right down to sheets on the bed, cups in the cabinets and paintings on the walls. Just perfect for us since we don’t plan to sell our home in Florida and we’re not moving anything to Washington except some clothes and personal items.

Oh, I should say: we won’t have to buy anything, EXCEPT the land to put the house on.

So, the day after my birthday we flew back to Florida to pack the motorhome for our return to Washington.

5 thoughts on “House Looking for a Home

  1. Somehow this only showed up in my reader today… anyways, I enjoyed reading it. You should post some updated pictures of the lot!! Love you!

  2. It look very nice!!!
    We wish, it wouldn’t be so far…
    Have a good time and enjoy your house being Set up

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