creekside thoughts

I am typing this post on the bank of a rushing creek, which runs through a corner of the Methow Valley that we recently discovered. Of course, there is no internet here, so I won’t post this until I go online, most likely tomorrow when I’m in town to use the wifi at the local bakery. I take that back – if we were like most people today and had smartphones, this post could go live five minutes after I finish composing it, as there is cell phone coverage just a quarter mile down the road. However, being the luddites that we are, there will be a bit of a lag between writing and posting.

We have been camping on this creek for the past four nights… or is it five? It’s easy to lose count when you live in the woods, which is what we have been doing for over a week now, having moved out of our rental on June 2. The moving process was arduous and full of mishaps which will seem funny in retrospect, and are in fact already beginning to recede into the fog of the past, but over the several days of moving and cleaning, we were perpetually exhausted, sweaty, anxious, and feeling like we’re trying to outrun ourselves. We also ended up owing the landlords a bunch of money for inadvertent damage to the house, some of which we did not even realize had occurred. Some of these costs went on a credit card, others our landlords have yet to calculate and bill us for, but, in any case, all are yet to be paid for and they are adding up quickly.

As it happens, we who are always short on savings may for once be able to pay off this debt all in one go. We are “at mutual” (do you like my fancy new real estate slang?) on a house in Twisp, and the seller has agreed to pay $5,000 towards closing costs – which should be all or most of the total needed. Because this was not something that we could count on, obviously, we have been saving towards this amount, and not having to pay rent as of May 1, and utilities as of June 1, is going a long ways to help our bank account balance grow.

But, back to the house. I should probably be a lot more excited than I am now, but I am so reluctant to get my hopes up only to see the deal fall through due to financing, inspection or appraisal findings, or other unforeseen factors that I prefer to remain cautiously optimistic. Sometimes it’s hard not to give in to daydreaming, though. Just the other day, when I shared the news with a friend, I told her that I was not going to start thinking about where I was going to put this or that item in the house or what we would do with the garden, but of course that’s exactly what I was thinking of this morning. The former especially. Even worse, I sat down in a sunny spot near our campsite (the sun had just recently come up above the hillside to the east and it was still chilly, so being out in the sun felt good) and wrote down a list of improvements that we could make to the house, to make it both more usable for us and more appealing to a prospective future buyer. I came up with 15 ideas ranging from “replace old washer/dryer with new, high-efficiency, stacked washer/dryer” to “install sauna in back yard” to “build separate office or guest house with toilet, sink and shower.” Dreaming big here.

Why think about a prospective future buyer at this point, when we are only prospective buyers ourselves? It’s because living in town was really not what we had in mind when hoping to buy a home. We did consider it at one point, or at least I did (I feel like I must have discussed it with P. but I can’t recall that conversation); I even mentioned it on the blog, back when we were still living in Seattle. I came up with that plan because it was readily apparent after even a quick glance at real estate listings that the more affordable homes tended to be located in town, either in Twisp or Winthrop. So the plan, at least for a while, was buy a home in town and see how we like it, and if we still feel drawn to living out in the country after a few years, then sell it and either find another home in a more rural location or buy land and build. Of course, to be able to do this, we’d need to sell the house at a profit, and also save in addition to that. This plan sort of fell by the wayside as we got used to the amazing benefits of our rural rental house such as the opportunity to hike on miles and miles of public land starting right in our back yard, target practice in said back yard or on said public land that did not disturb neighbors (for P.), skiing right up our road and into the national forest (for me), and hearing owls, coyotes, and occasional wolves at night.

So we started out looking at homes out in the country. We made an offer on one rural home we liked, which went to a competing buyer. We then made an offer on another rural home. The seller had lowered the listing price by nearly $100,000 since last summer, but it was still way overpriced and above the maximum loan amount we could qualify for. Our agent suggested making a lowball offer, in the hopes that the seller would counter and we would meet somewhere in the middle (ideally closer to what we offered than to his listing price), but he decided not to respond. We could have made a higher offer at that point, but we chose not to, for a variety of reasons. The house is still listed for sale, and our agent highly doubts that it will sell this summer because the current owner does not appear to have a realistic idea of how much he can get for it. We still wistfully think “what if” and “if only” whenever we drive past it, as we do nearly every day on the way from our campsite to town and back. But, it was just not in the cards for us. Maybe our next home will be something similar but better.

This is how we ended up making an offer on this home in town. It is probably the closest we can come to country living while still living within city limits. It is on a double city lot (nearly half an acre), has a large back yard with a garden and irrigation shares, is at the end of a dead-end street, and is surrounded on roughly three sides by a large piece of land belonging to a logging company that is currently sitting empty, save for some old machinery that can barely be seen behind trees. So, definitely no shooting or skiing here, but a lot more outdoor space and privacy than most in-town homes.

The next time I post, we should have more certainty about how things are shaping up with this house. And, even assuming that this house works out, the earliest we could move in would be the very end of July, so we are still going to be camping out for the next six weeks or so. Our first few days after moving out of the rental, we stayed in a different spot every night, sometimes just the two of us and sometimes with a friend who is also spending much of the summer camping in the area. While the variety has been fun, and our friend introduced us to a few corners of the Methow Valley that are new to us, packing up and moving camp every day quickly became old. Especially with our little Corolla, when cramming our stuff into the car while making sure things that we need to have handy are accessible, nothing breaks or gets crushed, etc., is like a game of Tetris. Staying put in one place for several nights, maybe even a week or more, seems to be working out much better. So, tonight we are sticking by our new favorite creek again, and then we shall see where the little Corolla takes us…

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