OK. I’m tired. But trips can do that. During the last few weeks I managed to fit in three business-related road trips. Really, business trips. Honest. OK. So they were all touristy or wild or at least remote; but so many people cover cities and major highways that I decided to visit (or at least drive through) over a thousand miles of two lane roads through about a third of Washington State. Really, it was business – and curiosity and an excuse to get out of the house while real estate is a weird mix of busy and slow.
(Required disclosure: I am a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. on Whidbey Island. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/)
With money this tight (and with a stimulus check lost in the mail) why do such a thing? Because when I can, I like to rely on more than just tweets for a better understanding of what’s going on.
The good news: During these weeks I’m past my vaccinations and the two weeks after, mask mandates have been relaxed, and enough others have been responsible enough to help drive down the infection and transmission rates. (Check out one of my other blogs for an amateur’s synopsis about the pandemic and Whidbey Island. Corona Virus June 3 2021 https://aboutwhidbey.com/2021/06/03/corona-virus-june-3-2021/)
Other good news: Real estate buyers seem to be increasingly interested in moving to Whidbey Island.
Other news that is good for some but not for others: A recent survey we conducted showed that people on Whidbey like Whidbey so much that they don’t want to sell. Good to hear they’ve found a place they like that much. But, that also means demand is up, supply is down, and prices continue to climb. (Whidbey Real Estate During Covid19 – April 4, 2021 https://aboutwhidbey.com/2021/04/04/whidbey-real-estate-during-covid19-april-4-2021/)
That also means people who want to sell might watch their house sell quicker and for more money than they expected. Good for them. That also means buyers might find that they can’t find what they’re searching for. So, I get questions about Whidbey from out-of-state buyers, who also ask about what else is around; as in around the entire state. Hence, road trip.
Road trip? That sounds like weak logic for driving hundreds of miles around the state. Just get online and search that way. Yes, but. We’re returning to the real world, the one where people deal with people with no machines involved. (Yes, it’s true. It’s really true. Not everything happens via social media.) We’re also still in the midst of extreme opinions and stereotypes about people and places. There really is no substitute to knocking on a door, walking into a real estate office, (seeing if anyone is masked), and talking to someone about someplace. After this trip I now have a few more contacts to contact so I can refer buyers to brokers without me having to drive for hours to try to help someone buy property in a place where I am not an expert. Farm and forest lands are great, but I’m not going to claim I understand industrial operations in such places; especially when they cover hundreds of acres.
The islands are remote and only for the rich. The coast is cold and wet. East of the Cascades is hot, high, and dry. Stereotypes should always get failing grades because they are probably rarely right more than 50% of the time. F.
San Juan Islands
Oh, the islands are sweet. Islands equal waterfront. The San Juans are touristy, and remote. Rich folks are flocking there. Nice amenities.
Yes, but. There’s more than just waterfront. Some inland properties are expansive, and maybe with a view of the water. Remote? Well, there aren’t any bridges; but there is more than just the main ferry. There are local water taxis, airports, marinas, and for a bit of personal attention, charter float plane service. The islands tend to be quiet, are visited by various types of whales, have a lot of artists, organic and local food, and can live up to those tourist brochures. I visited the islands first, which may be one reason I saw the most masks there; but they also had to deal with more people from outside their community. Not a surprise the locals were careful. The microclimates range from very dry to deep forests. Take your pick.
Ah, the coast is sweet. And, the mountains are sweet. Magnificent gets mentioned a lot to the point that much of the area is inside Olympic National Park, from sea level through immense rain forests, to some of the tallest non-volcanic peaks in Washington State.
And then there are dry places like Sequim, inland waters like Hood Canal, fishing ports, resort towns, remote towns, and places so remote that there are no towns. Forest and federal lands also mean there are long drives with no homes in sight, but each house is probably a home, not someone’s vacation house number four. There is also a diversity of opinions and cultures. Some recent events led to national coverage about harassment and tensions. Considering some comments I heard, that’s not a surprise, but it’s also not ubiquitous. People are people. Another reason to go meet people rather than rely on stereotypes.
North Central Washington
North central Washington is an enormous region that some think is all treacherous mountain terrain, or that high, hot, and dry mentioned above. It is also typified as too far away to get to.
North Cascades & Lake Roosevelt
Of course, getting to some place far away can be exactly what someone wants. It would be ridiculous for such a large area to fit on image. The east edge is North Cascades National Park, a place that lives up to that treacherous terrain image. Just west of there is Mt. Baker, a volcano that set the snowfall record at over 1,100 inches one year. No surprise that the main pass gets closed for several months, and only opened weeks before this trip. Ah, but then there’s the Methow Valley, a vacation and tourist area for hiking, bicycling, and skiing. Also, occasional wildfires, an irony being that close to that much snowfall. Then, out to the Okanogan Valley which is drier yet, except for the irrigated orchards and such, unless you climb out of the valley to cooler lands. Keep going east and the forests return, the land gets wetter, and the homes spread out again. Farther east and the mountains rise up, again. Remote? Yes. Also very independent. Also the site of a super-spreader event that made the headlines, but that seems to be controlled. My route headed south along Lake Roosevelt / Roosevelt Lake (some signs thought their spelling was better), a long sometimes windy road shouldering the lake. Breezy, a welcome relief from 100F. Then east through rolling farms where one home could barely see the next. Dust devils swirled across the road. I lost track of the microclimates. Pick one. It might be there.
Every region was identifiably unique; and they all have things in common. Every broker I talked to had far more buyers than sellers. Wood prices are up everywhere so building on vacant land isn’t an obvious solution. Affordability for locals can be tough, especially when competing with well-funded buyers. Artists and others with less certain income are looking farther out, possibly creating new creative communities. If you want to be remote, be remote; and also be within a few hours of cities like Seattle, Portland, Wenatchee, Omak, Chelan, Spokane, etc. Or, take advantage of the same reason others can now consider such places: high-speed internet. Remote workers are moving into places that mainly attracted retirees before. If a place has enough water and utilities and acceptable regulations, they might also get an exclusive neighborhood if it doesn’t already have one. Some entrepreneurs are going to get there first. It turns out water may be less available than broadband. It also turns out that solar power makes places that were too remote, not as remote as before. Rural and country is definitely not urban or suburban. The local government may be a smaller bureaucracy, but they’re also more likely to be overwhelmed with the sudden interest. Another good reason to be a person who gets to know people.
And in every place, remember there were entire nations here for thousands of years, and the people are still here. Respect.
My trip was going to be grander and broader but was changed for one of the very reasons I took it. As I came out of the mountains and into Republic a call finally connected. Someone wanted to make an offer on a house within miles of my house. The deadline to submit the offer was less than 24 hours away. It could seem like forever and I was hundreds of miles away, but with a push I could’ve driven home by sunset. Because high-speed internet is so widely available, I drove partway, found a well-equipped hotel in Leavenworth, and got to work. The next morning I finished up the paperwork after talking to my client, submitted it, and was home just after lunch.
Stereotypes about people and places persist, and they are becoming increasingly inaccurate. They’ve always been inappropriate. There’s usually that kernel of truth that’s mentioned frequently, but that’s never the complete picture. The other thing I look for is what we all have in common. The regions may be diverse, but the people usually know how they want to live. Diverse places. Diverse places. That hasn’t changed, and thanks to infrastructure, that’s also becoming easier to attain.