Officially Ours

We did it! We closed on the property today!! Joel and I went into the escrow offices yesterday and signed all of the papers and it was recorded with the County today. We are officially owners of our dream property…5 acres in Redmond in a beautiful neighborhood!

This marks the end of our “search” and the beginning of our future endeavors of building a home. We’re in it for the long haul now…let the fun begin!

Here’s some quick facts:
– Redmond, WA
– 5 acres
– 1 Class 1 Wetland
– Lake Washington School District
– 2 neighborhood beaver ponds
– acres of neighborhood trails
– quiet neighborhood of custom homes
– 10 minutes to Peets, Target & Whole Foods
– 2 minutes to grocery & gas


Coasting to Closing

Finally on Tuesday we received the Open Space Continuance from escrow. It took escrow 7 days to fill out the form and get it back to us! Joel and I signed 4 copies of it for King County on Tuesday night and first thing in on Wednesday morning, our realtor, Lance, drove it to King County for their approval. And by Wednesday afternoon, King County had approved the continuance! I’ve heard that it normally takes a few days for King County to review the continuance, do the necessary research, and finally approve it. We were very lucky that it only took a few hours and that’s because we were able to talk with King County about our continuance ahead of time. Ultimately, this means that we get to have lower taxes for the area of our property that contains wetland + wetland buffers. Score!

Wednesday was full of great news, not only did we get the open space continuance, but we heard from our lender that our loan paperwork was approved by their underwriters and ready to be sent to escrow! We have until June 10th to close on the lot, but I want to close early on May 31st, to ensure that no funny-business happens with the seller since it’s bank-owned. May 31st also marks the end of our feasibility study period, and since we don’t have a financing contingency if something completely unforeseen were to happen with our loan we could still get our money back using the feasibility study as an excuse.

I also heard back from King County Records Department yesterday that the files we requested were in. When we went a few weeks ago into King County they told us that the wetland information and the site grading permit that the previous owners had submitted back in 2005 had been archived. They needed to pull the archive box from downtown Seattle and bring it to their office for us to look through. Today, I went to King County’s office in Snoqualmie to check out what they found. It was great – not only did they have the site grading permit which discussed the clearing area and the buffer requirements, but they also had the FULL wetland report! It’s a fairly extensive document and I’ve yet to read through all of it, but it was definitely a bonus to find that there. While there, I was able to photocopy all of the documents that I wanted (40 some-odd pages) and it only cost me $2! Getting a full wetland report for only $2 seems like a good deal to me! Hopefully in the future when we submit permits the report will only need to be updated for any information that has changed. That will really save us a lot of time and money in the future.

So, for the next week, we should have a smooth sailing into closing!

Open Space Continuation

Two days ago we received our title report. There was a lot of information in the title report – easements, covenants, you name it! The major thing we found in the title report is that the property has a special valuation which dedicates a portion of the property as open space.

When this lot, along with 3 others around it, was subdivided from one larger lot (totaling 20.32 acres), the owners decided to keep a portion of each property as open space, 13.15 acres in total. This means that our lot (5.08 acres total) has approximately 1.79 buildable acres and the other 3.29 acres is to remain in its native vegetated state. Our property really only has about 1.3 acres that could be built on anyhow because of the sensitive areas (wetland + wetland buffers) that are located on the property. So ultimately we’re not even dedicating any space that we feasibly could build on anyhow.

Open Space

The reason that having the special valuation is so fantastic is that it lowers the taxes on the portion of the property that is dedicated to 30% of what they could have been. For our property, King County’s Tax records show that for the tax year 2013 the appraised land value is $245,000, but the Taxable Land Value is only $134,148. So basically we’re getting taxed less because we aren’t going to use the 3.29 acres that have been dedicated as open space. That’s fantastic!!

Ok, so why is this extremely important at this point in the process? The special valuation does not transfer between owners at the sale of the property, and furthermore, if we aren’t to continue with the open space dedication we would have to pay all the taxes on it that would have been owed for the past two years! Yikes. And in order for us to continue with the open space valuation, we need to have a “Notice of Compliance” on the Excise Tax Affidavit completed and submitted to King County’s Assessor’s Office before the record of conveyance (our closing date). And of course, this all takes extra time to do.

Of course, Joel and I have never done this so we ask our realtor, Lance Woodruff, what to do. And as usual, Lance knows exactly what all this means and what to do. In fact, he’s done four Open Space Continuances this year alone! He knew exactly what we needed and who to talk to at King County about getting it done. Thank God! It really is so fantastic having him working with us.

So, a new process begins in order for us to close (mind you that our preferred closing date is May 31st…two weeks from today). There are two documents that need to be signed and given to King County in order for them to approve the Open Space Continuation: 1) Letter of Continuance for Open Space Classification and 2) Excise Tax Affidavit. The first is pretty easy – just a document for us to sign (King County needs the original), and the second is a little trickier because escrow needs to prepare this (who knows how long that will take) and then we need to sign four copies of it for King County. Then it’s pretty simple, Lance will take it to King County and give it directly to the approver, King County will call us to discuss the continuation and make sure that we understand what exactly the designation means and that we plan on living up to the regulations. And within a week we should have an approved continuation.

What does this mean when we’re in construction? Well, there’s a compliance component to the program during construction. It’s likely that we’ll need to prove to King County that we will still be in compliance with our proposed home site and the construction work before construction commences. In addition, a representative from King County will pay us a site visit to ensure that we’re meeting all of our commitments. Seems good to me!

The really good thing is that I actually read the title report and all of the underlying documents. Without reading it we would have had no idea about the special valuation. The listing, listing office, nor the seller told us about the classification – which is a huge problem. So, lesson learned – make sure you read all the documents pertaining to what you’re buying. You never know what you could be liable for!

Neighbor & Beaver Ponds

Yesterday, as we were out doing the perc test we met another one of our neighbors. She lives in one of the homes in the neighborhood that has a horse stable and riding arena. She was fabulous to talk to, very friendly and gave us some great information about living there. The homes all back up to large green belts, and throughout those areas are acres of walking trails that the property owners have put in and maintain. Anyone living in the neighborhood is welcome to use the trails and most of them have their own trails connecting into the trail system. That’s something that we’re really looking forward to! The trails meander around the wetland ponds that are in the area as well, which they call the “beaver ponds”. From an aerial photo, it’s pretty apparent that beavers live near the ponds from the amount of trees that are floating. Apparently, other neighbors have even seen little baby beavers in their yards before!

Beaver Ponds

Beaver Ponds 2

She also mentioned that other homeowners besides herself have horses which I know our boys are going to love. We currently live by horses and one of their favorite activities is going to visit the horses and feed them carrots.

Like the other neighbor that we met last weekend, her home was also built by D.K. Martin ( She said that the quality is impeccable and he was fantastic to work with – staying within budget and schedule. It’s sounding more and more like we should definitely look into using him as a builder when we get to that stage.

Perc-ing Up

Today was our Perc Test…when we found out if our soils are adequate for having a septic drainfield design or not. We met Lance (our realtor) and Dave Huard (from Huard Septic Design & Monitoring) out on the property in the afternoon.

For some background information: Dave did the septic design for the previous house that was to be built on the property, and happens to work with Lance quite a bit. Dave is extremely booked right now, but because of the great working relationship that Dave and Lance have, Dave fit us in with only a week’s notice. If I was to call and try to get a perc test done (without Lance) the soonest that Dave’s office could have fit me in would have been a month from now…which would have been after our closing date. I’m so thankful that we are working with Lance!

Initially, I thought today’s meeting was just for discussing the perc test process, property history, and seeing when Dave could fit us in, but Dave showed up with his mini excavator ready to work! It was fantastic, the weather was perfect for us – blue skies and sunny, and we were all there able to get the results we were looking for on the spot. Dave dug five holes around the property in the approximate area that we’d put the drainfield to look for soil depths. I learned that although it’s called a “perc” test, back in the late 1980’s they stopped actually using water measurements to determine if a soil will perc or not. Now, the drainfield designer will dig holes and examine both the soil characteristics/classification as well as the water table elevation (if present).

After digging the five holes, Dave could tell immediately that the soils would be great for a septic system – any system type too. There’s different types of drainfield systems and the more complex the system is, or the worse your soils are, the more expensive the septic system is. We’re lucky because our soils are good enough to have any type of system. The only limit we may have is the amount of space available between our house placement and the wetland buffer area on the property. If we don’t allot the drainfield enough room, then we may have to go with a more expensive system that takes up less space. All that will need to be decided during final design of the system, after we’ve chosen a house plan and developed the site plan. For now, all we needed was the preliminary results that the soils meet perc requirements.

A big “Thank You” to both Lance and of course Dave for fitting us in despite his extremely packed schedule!

Neighbor and Pictures

Today marked the beginning of a beautiful sunny Mother’s Day weekend in Sammamish. In the late afternoon we took a drive to check out the property and show it to Joel’s parents. They loved the great neighborhood and how calm and relaxing the property was. The quiet park-like setting was gorgeous yesterday as the sun was just setting behind the trees to the west. While there, we met the next-door neighbor who was out walking her dog. She was very friendly and nice to talk to, only having nice things to say about the property and the area. She said that she was the first home built on the street and that she’s been watching all of the homes being built for the past few years. She studied as an Architect so I’m sure she loved watching all the different types of homes in the neighborhood be built. I know I would!




She also mentioned that her home was originally built and owned by Dwight K. Martin, who has since moved to build and live on Lake Sammamish. She was raving about the quality of construction and attention to detail of her home and that he was a phenomenal builder. I checked out his website (, and he definitely looks like a very quality builder. I’m sure he’ll be someone that we’ll check out once we’re at that stage.

Wetland Delineation

The next step in our feasibility study was to determine if the wetland has changed since the original wetland delineation in 2007. What that consists of is mapping out the wetland using coordinates to really know the limits of where the wetland lies. In my job, we routinely have bioligists at delineate wetlands. On some projects we’ve worked on wetlands that once were recorded are now obsolete and on other project we’ve had wetlands increase in size from what they were in the past. In particular, at this site, if the wetland encroached any more to the west on the property then we really wouldn’t have a large amount of room to build on. This would limit both the size of house and the size of yard that we would be able to have.

Well, Lance is absolutely amazing! He emailed one of his well known acquantainces, John Altmann from Altmann Oliver Associates inquiring about the lead time to do a wetland delineation for us. John Altmann replied to Lance and said did the study back in 2007 and just a few weeks ago was paid by a different interested buyer to check out the wetland. Score one for us, since we won’t have to pay for him to go back out there…and even better is the news that the wetland delineation done in 2007 still is valid. The wetland hasn’t increased in size! He also confirmed that the wetland buffer is 225′. All of this is very fantastic news for us as our assumptions haven’t changed on the property, and it was free! I guess it pays off to really know the right people!