Okay. At the start of these things, you do see the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it's all a learning experience. Is it ever. Behold! In the city of Seattle you can get a 1,700-sq-ft vintage house (built in, say, 1909), which only needs new floors, new windows, a new foundation, a new roof, new paint, new appliances; what the heck, new wiring and plumbing too; new landscaping unless you like weeds; a full clean-and-disinfect to banish that gag-inducing smell permeating the place; oh, and I'd budget for an exorcism too, just in case--the "unfinished" basement with the dusty bathtub and overturned mildewy mattress in the dark corner does have a certain negative aura--yes, my friends, all this can be yours for the low, low price of $279,950!
Only the people from NYC and the S.F. Bay Area didn't blink at that number, I'm guessing.
There have been perfectly charming houses too. They've just tended to be rather tiny, in our most-desired neighborhoods. Fortunately, there are better places with enough room out there, in our price range. We just have to decide whether we want to live in a much farther-distant neighborhood. Got to say, though, West Seattle is looking good right now, longer commute be damned. Saw a couple desirable things there for only around $250,000. Which is still a freaking humongous sum of money, but at least it doesn't go into a black hole where you'll never see it again, like rent money does. The mystical forces of Appreciation are strong at work in a city like this one (brains, beauty, jobs--Seattle has it all; thus the prices, I guess); and since we're not banking the whole economy on Microsoft or Boeing alone anymore, it ought to stay that way for quite some time to come.
But, jeez. Stressful little process, this. Reminder to self: it gets better with every outing. We learn more every time. We get better at eliminating properties without having to see them. The right house is out there. And no one will force us to keep that pink-and-orange contact paper in the kitchen cupboards.