Ugly And Uglier

Originally published May 13, 2008

It’s a constant refrain from a certain segment of our buyers — “go find me a fixer!” Maybe there’s some romance to bringing these things back to life, maybe it’s a fun retirement hobby for some people. Or maybe just too many hours spent watching “This Old House” and those get-rich-quick and flipper shows.

We don’t do many of these anymore, but back when we had the time and inclination, we’d scoop up these hammered fixer homes, restore them, and sell or rent them. It seemed like a good side job to our main job of brokering real estate. Here are some of our projects, before pictures only:

6803-weedin-pl-neWeedin Avenue, near Greenlake — This brick tudor had settled about 8″ due to the weight of the masonry and the fact that Weedin and Oswego at 68th are essentially built on fill (it’s an old bog).

2136-frontEast Hamlin — a few steps from MOHAI. Todd Turner, the UW Athletic Director, bought this when the remodel was done. The owner had inherited the house, started letting her kids salvage parts (hardwoods, trim) thinking she’d tear it down and build a new home. Then she got bids for that from her contractor…


img_1170 img_1171

501 NE 65th — This guy had lived in the house for over 70 years, and never discarded a thing. There was a 24″ aisle from entry, to living room, to bedroom. The rest of it was stacked high with “stuff.” You literally couldn’t see the house from the street for the overgrowth.
img_1302This is on North 50th, across from the Zoo. You can actually hear the lions roar (or is it Aurora?). The hardest part of this remodel was that cool window in the dormer over the living room bay was stolen during the project! We had to have glass custom glazed to replace it. 


img_0372Out in Shoreline, this house had been boarded up for years. Really strange. We ended up tearing this one down and are doing townhomes out there (eventually).


img_0021Great house, adjacent to Matthew’s Beach on Lake Washington. The architect who designed all of the north Seattle Windermere offices in the 70’s and 80’s custom built this for himself on a 40′ sliver of waterfront. We dubbed it the “cheese wedge” and it took nearly a year to repair all of the water damage and deferred maintenance.


1231-e-spruce-ne-elevTriplex on First Hill.  Really rough spot across from a juvenile detention center.


It’s worth saying that we never made much money doing this, unless we were doing the work during a time when the market appreciated dramatically — and then we didn’t make the money because we we so brilliant at adding value, we made it because the market bailed us out. 


In my mind it’s just too hard to predict what the remodel will cost, how extensive it will need to be, and what the carrying costs (length) are. I think lots of contractors do this themselves, make $30-$50,000 in the process, and feel good about it. Most of the time they’ve just made the same wage they could have earned working for someone else, without being compensated for the risk of the project.  


But it can be fun, and that’s worth something. And it’s nearly always good for the neighborhood to bring something back to life that was neglected for a long time.


This blog was originally published May 13, 2008 here.


Questions? Reach out in the comments section below.


Gordon Stephenson

Written by Gordon Stephenson

Gordon and Jay Young co-founded Real Property Associates in 1991 in Edmonds, Washington, moving to Seattle in 1996 where their office is today in North Seattle's Roosevelt district. Throughout these decades, the vision has remained consistent: To provide excellent brokerage and property management services to clients throughout the Puget Sound region. Gordon acts as the designated broker for the RPA, overseeing over 70 brokers in their sales activities while continuing to personally represent buyers and sellers. He is also involved with RPA’s commercial real estate division where he provides management and consultation for commercial property owners.

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