Three months ago my husband signed a contract for a waterfront fixer upper on behalf of our business. We were supposed to take possession at the end of May, then mid-June, then the end of June, then mid-July, then the end of July, then early August…you can see where this is going.
It was an incredible home, huge, and with huge potential, and we had great plans for it. But it was bank-owned, and the bank didn’t check that it had clear title before they listed it. We waited for the mortgage liens to be removed and for escrow to go through, for as long as we could. We have 3 fulltime employees that we need to pay, and we need to have work for them, which means a project house, which these days has been our own home.
To hedge our bets, we looked at another waterfront possibility in need of much TLC. That was the last Saturday in July. Two days later, our offer (the first I’ve written myself) was chosen in a multiple bid situation. So long Fox Island project house. Hello, Hood Canal house. It’s a project house, that’s for sure—but it won’t just be an investment that we sell when finished—it will be our next home!
We weren’t thinking of moving. We love where we live now: our fixer-upper that’s beginning to shine, our neighborhood, the view, the convenient access to contractor essentials like Costco and Home Depot, the literary community I’ve connected with. But one look at the amazing views of the Olympic Mountains, the proximity of the house to the water, the garage and basement that have room for all our tools and equipment, the floating dock with sunning seals, and both my husband and I thought--
We want to live here!
It didn’t seem practical—an hour to our current home and the Gig Harbor area where we’ve begun to do repair work for homebuyers and sellers.
And yet, the location on the Hood Canal in the town of Union, though well off the beaten path, is stunning. I took out the kayak to get a view from the water, and within minutes spotted five bald eagles soaring over the neighborhood, and seals eyeing me in the Canal.
The house was built in 1927, remodeled in 1965 and has been a vacation home, so the kitchen cabinets, sinks and showers, carpet and vinyl floors, though very old and out of style, have been gently worn, and are in good shape. (No animal pee on the carpets, unlike every other home we’ve lived in in Washington!) But the repair list is extensive: replace a failed septic system, hookup a well for water, demo lots of concrete that’s funneling water straight to the foundation, rotting the sill plate and leaking into the (moldy) basement.
But why let a few little things stand in the way?
The listing broker is great to work with, and the house should be ours in mid-September. We’ll spend the fall making it watertight and habitable before the rain comes— which averages 90 inches a year! We’ll continue to live in and finish our current house, which we will put on the market next May (owning a primary residence for 2 years avoids capital gains tax).
Here’s to another move—right to the water’s edge!
My husband and I have both loved watching the water from the three homes we’ve live in, as well as our project house, since we moved to Washington. (If he can see the shoreline, he can predict tide levels within a few inches!) Since we arrived in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been one of those “someday dreams” to live in a waterfront house; a dream I never really thought we could afford.
The condition of the house and the rural community of Union population 1,700 (20 minute drive to the nearest supermarket; 45 minutes to Home Depot) have converged to make that dream affordable, and a reality now—while we’re able bodied enough to do the repairs!
Quick, easy, unexpected, it feels like grace to me. I am so grateful for this gift, and for the openness to change and fluidity that my husband and I invite and embrace as we create a vision of life together—“this or something better”—that took root in us five years ago.
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.