Thursday, May 03, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I received this 8x10 glossy photo of my home from King County today. I ordered it last week and it made good time. It's not often I get the chance to say nice things about a municipal bureaucracy, so don't blink, or you might miss it! Anyway, this shot was taken in 1937, a good 15 years after it was built, and 8 of those during the Great Depression. It's a fascinating look back in time, considering the poor "Dust Bowl" like condition of the structure and the lack of just about anything in the vicinity. No Westwood Village, no government building, no giant locust tree in back - even my neighbor to the north appears to be missing (but it could just be a very tricky angle, and the lack of a car port can make the space look more expansive than it really is). The roads out here weren't even paved yet, and, while the house had water to it, it had no sewer hookup - occupants used an outhouse in back and the gray water just ran out behind the structure. King County also sent a copy of the appraisal file, containing copies of documents dating back to 1947 with much earlier references.

There is a sign of some sort on the front of the house which reads: H.C. PETERS HOUSE 858 EMPIRE BLDG. In looking at the file, I see that H.C. Peters is listed as the "fee owner" and "contract purchaser" with the dates 5-22-25 and 6-9-25 in parentheses. The name is listed on an improvement document listing upgrades to the property in 1947.

Now here's the fun part...

Guess what the appraised value of the property was in 1938. Combined value, lot and structure.


SOLD! Jeez, I just gotta get that time machine finished! What follows is a pretty interesting timeline of how the neighborhood has ebbed and flowed over the decades.

1948 - $350. Upgraded the same year to $600 after a remodel which included "good foundation + full basement. Plumbing roughed in for 24ft long basement. Also see new Lino." The value would not change for the next 10 years. I'm assuming the 1950s were not good to the Westwood area.

1959 - $760.
1962 - $880.
1965 - $1180. Finally breaks 4 figures!
1967 - $1390.
1971 - $1700.

Then it happened. In 1973, the owner(s) did a major renovation to the place, including landscape and the addition of the car port. They also finished a bedroom in the basement. According to our former neighbor who'd lived in his place since the early '70s, this would have been an elderly woman and her adult alcoholic son (apparently the basement bedroom, paneled in knotty pine, was for him). The County reassessed the value at $6260. Quite a step up from just five years previous.

The woman and her son lived in the house as late as the mid '80s, until her death. It's not clear what happened to the son, but the house sat abandoned for some time, and lack of care took its toll. Finally a husband & wife investment team bought the house in the low $50K range in 1994. They completed the basement into two bedrooms and a bath, with full laundry hookups. They replaced the roof, flooring and painted everything.

Then a young couple with a 10 month old son came along and purchased it for just under $100K in 1995. They doubled the square footage by building off the back of the house, adding a master suite downstairs and a dining room and family room upstairs. They leveled the back yard and fenced it. The value continued to climb between 11% and 13% annually as West Seattle became cleaner and more gentrified, and Westwood Village improved.

Then a flood and fire destroyed the place, and the rebuilt house now sits among vintage comps in the $350K-$425K range. When you factor in the fact that the flooring, wiring, heating, appliances, plumbing and insulation (including windows) is 100% brand new and there's coaxial cable and computer network hookups in all three downstairs bedrooms as well as the office and family room, I won't be surprised if my newly reappraised value comes back close to half a mil. While that ain't hardly nuthin' in, say, California real estate terms, it shows a remarkable history - of a home, a place, a quiet little street in a corner of West Seattle over the course of 85 years. A human lifespan.

Little City Farms, Division 5.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Wow! That is so cool! Getting the provenance on your house is great. :D It really draws the past into the present, connecting everyone who's ever lived there.

Ali said...

Having the history of your house is just great. Your house is a whole year younger than my Mum. Like my Mum, your house has seen some amazing changes - including becoming part of surburbia!

I know the history of the house I live in thanks to the lady across the road who watched it being built in 1964. A banana plantation was here before the house and we're now right in the centre of town.


tbone said...

Yeah, it's really cool getting the history of the place, isn't it? I've lived in this house longer than any other in the past - I really feel connected to the neighborhood and the surrounding area.