For Sale Cheap

“Sellers sell houses,” I tell my buyers (in the kitchen when possible). “But buyers buy homes.”

Neither statement is exclusively true or untrue, of course. But there is a difference between a house and a home—a wholly emotional one. Both buildings have front doors, a roof, a bathroom and the afore-mentioned kitchen. Some have bowling alleys and wine cellars, but not most.

In fact, houses with indoor shooting ranges and heliports are generally viewed as less inviting than those without. It doesn’t make them bad. Just not as homey.

Tom Waits sang “… if there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure.”  And it’s true. Even if a place is stone vacant. If you think there’s not a discernable difference between hospice, divorce or foreclosure– and a house where a family sang and read and ate dinner together, then you probably haven’t looked at very many real estate houses.

At the end of the day, is it just a commodity, though? Is a house just lumber and shingles and asbestos and glass—or is it something more? Can a home have a pedigree, a legacy—a spirit? Is a family home more than a street address and some photos on Zillow?

I guess I’m going to find out. For your kind consideration, I offer you 2123 Niagara Drive.

Patti & I bought this home in the year 2000, when Bill Clinton was president. I had a cellphone, but there was no social media and the Bellingham Herald

mod, angular ceilings and real hardwoods

was still three sections. We didn’t even have jetpacks back then! Everything inside and out of the house was white: white walls, white siding, white carpet, white counters. Systematically, over the course of the next 17 years, we remodeled

350sqft view deck in private, fenced yard

the white out of the house literally as well as figuratively.

It’s still a 1969 tri-level, but it’s our 1969 tri-level and we’ve loved that house.

Edie wasn’t even walking we moved in, and she’ll be an adult in five weeks.

very usable, sunny walkout basement

But the getting’s good and the time is right. We moved out two years ago after accidentally buying our dream home in Sunnyland and we were blessed with a king hell champion renter. But she left and we can’t bear to roll the dice on a successor. College tuitions are looming and the market needs the inventory. So—you know– For Sale

  • 4 bedrooms 2.25 baths
  • 2158 sqft
  • extensive kitchen & bath remodels, yo
  • all new windows
  • new roof 2014
  • the kills..
  • $497,0000
  • open Sunday 3-7 before Vincent’s set at Green’s Corner
  • pick a song, any song…



Remodeled kitchen w/ custom horizontal bamboo cabinets from DeWils, quartz counters and stainless Jenn Air appliances
8,000sqft fenced lot is level & private
Remodeled guest bath w/ new tub, sink, light tube, vanity, lighting and luxurious Italian tile surround
Master bed with Bay view and ridiculous custom closet from California Closets










Deep in the heart of Columbia

Orange-faced, baggy-suited baboons notwithstanding, it’s true that most people on Earth secretly or otherwise want to live in the United States. True also, that all Americans would prefer to live on the West Coast. Well-documented that everyone on the West Coast wishes to come in Bellingham. And we all know that everyone in Bellingham wants to live in Columbia.

So that means that everyone on the planet wants to live in Columbia.

They all can’t. There just isn’t the inventory…

Oh, we get it alright: The picturesque tree-lined streets. Melancholy Elizabeth Park with its Saturday Evening Post  brocade. The eclectic yet inclusive mix of 20th century architecture, from the registered American Foursquare mansions of the city’s founders along Eldridge to the modest Tudors on the bigger northend lots and the angular mid-century trapezoids backing the creek along Lynn Street. Columbia Elementary, for heaven’s sake! Zoinks!

It’s a proud neighborhood to be sure: active neighborhood association, high walking score, abundant lending libraries, chickens all over the place. Small urban blissdown. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Well, now you can. But you’ll have to act fast.

Inventory has been an issue city-wide for as far back as any of us can recall. In reality, it’s only been 18 months– but real estate’s memory is generally pretty short. The point is that at the moment, inventory is a genuine concern– and its shortage is creating a bonafide housing crisis that threatens to strip the character right out of this community by pricing out our creatives and working families.

So it’s good to see a little inventory breaking loose as the kids ditch the books and the clouds lift. I offer you this:

Deep in the heart of the neighborhood, a short walk from anything Columbian, 2608 Victor Street.

Built in 1920, this 3-bed 2-bath home has been added to and otherwise updated with careful attention to the original intent. At just shy of 1500sqft, it

is the perfect mid-sized sedan with generous bedrooms, a central skylit kitchen and a dining room seasoned by generations of mealtime stories and conversations. A very usable finished basement is perfect for movies, video games, crafting or bookkeeping and also features great storage. Storage galorage!

Step out back and delight in the private flagstone patio ringed by lush

gardens of flowers and food. Continue on into the modern & sunny heated studio w/ 12′ ceilings, cork floors, skylights and French doors. This is a perfect place for the artist, musician or therapist, and the plumbing is roughed in in anticipation of the day it is recognized as an accessory dwelling unit and can do its part by absorbing a digit of our swelling population.

This house is a real honey and will surely attract anxious attention as it steps into the light of the market this weekend. Open Saturday 11-1pm and Sunday 1-3. Won’t you come have a look?


p.s. $499,000




Nouvelle marque sur le marché !

Averses d’avril apportent des fleurs de mai–et nouvel inventaire !

Découvrez cette nouvellement cotées 3 lits 2-salle de baincontemporaine dans quartier familial idéal. Tout près le point de départpour le parc de Northridge, ce 1700sqft propre & ensoleillé maison asurprises à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur…

Mise à jour de cuisine a nouvelles surf-aces et appareils en acierinoxydable. Les chambres de l’étage ont voûtée plafonds et loftsconfortables pour lire ou faire la sieste. Chambre de maître de  niveauinférieur a sa propre terrasse privée pour le café du matin ou     unefumee tard dans la nuit.

Terrain entièrement clôturé a amplement d’espace jardin et le Magnoliaest en fleurs juste comme tout lereste. Grande terrasse arrière acouvert cabana pour

se divertir en toute saison. Beaucoup derange-ment partout, y compris les 2 voitures attaché garage et l’espaced’artisanat/buanderie 150sqft parfaite pour des projets ou la mise enscène.

Marché de Bellingham est chaude et à $ 339 000, c’est une opportunitéà un choix difficile. Appelez dès aujourd’hui pour une visite privée decette maison ensoleillée, moderne….



Saltmarsh Harvest Mouse



Oh, shit– it’s March.

I should have known this would happen. It’s the same thing every year: New Year’s, recovery, resolution, resignation, Super Bowl, February– March!

I loathe March. Nothing good happens this month, ever. The weather in February is always interesting, and March always just sucks. “Spring” begins on the 20th, but we all know what that means or doesn’t mean. No legal holidays. No illegal holidays, unless you’re Irish. College basketball all over the place– GROSS!

I adore April, but it doesn’t start until four weeks from Saturday. I need to figure out a way to get through March…

How about a real estate party?

Normally March is too early for any serious real estate dance parties, but this year could be different. The anticipation in the air is palpable as buyers continue sharpening their nails in preparation for the inventory that seems on the brink, week after late-winter week, of breaking loose like a pinata full of houses and condominiums and airplane bottles of Fireball.

Earth to sellers: buyers are screwing themselves into the ground, psychotically motivated to buy your house as long as it has a roof and a toilet. They’re not particularly interested in your touch-up painting. The guest bath vanity is fine. Don’t worry about spreading new beauty bark. Leave the photos on the fridge– the buyers don’t care. They just want to buy your house, possibly for more than it’s actually “worth”. Who are you to stand between them and the dream of home ownership. Let them buy!

Remember when the wet paper bottom of the housing market fell out and our economy seized up and all the banks turned their pockets inside out and pretended they didn’t have any more money? Remember when the smarmy executives all took off their pants and put on barrel cloaks? Well, that was seven whole years ago! This is like a completely different era: unemployment is down, the stock market up, top hats for all my friends! Two lobsters each!

Any beating we took in Whatcom County in terms of home values during the whatchamacallit was like a hickey compared to what most of the country absorbed. If we lost 20% between opening day of the 2007 baseball season and Christmas Day 2012, we’ve made it all back since then. Sellers who wished they’d pulled the trigger in 2006 have gotten back to where they were plus some. It’s time to let bygones be bygones and trade some real estate deeds!

Maybe this is the year where March actually does come in like a lion…


(Blogger’s note: Pay no attention to the illiterate orange man behind the curtain. This is actually a subtle re-write of a post from March 1, 2015. Much has happened since then, but the inventory crunch is the same. If you’re selling there’s never been a better time. If you’re buying, there will never be a better time. Call me if you want to talk, I’ll walk over…) 



Those Now Eating Will Soon Be Eaten


It’s true, what you’ve heard: Bellingham’s real estate market is sticky. And maybe no neighborhood’s door is harder to unlock than that of historic South Hill.

Tucked discreetly between heady Western Washington University at the top of the hill, and the too-dear shopping district of Fairhaven at the bottom, South Hill is picturesque in any season. With elm-lined lanes named after the city’s founders, South Hill is is a proud neighborhood steeped in tradition, appointed with significant architecture, and beholden to some of the most breathtaking views in town.

But these advantages don’t come without a pricing premium. Enter this earnest 2-bedroom Cape Cod on private corner lot gazing west and north over the Bay, city and all the way to the Canadian Cascades.


Available for the first time in more than 30 years, this well-kept and un-remuddled beauty is offered for $539,000.

Well of course that’s a lot of money for 1040 square feet. More than $500/sqft to be exact!

$539,000 American…

There are two $450k+ teardowns within two blocks. I’ll be open 12-2pm Sunday– come say hi. Soon the maggots will be as big as Redwoods…









How to Get Balled in Bellingham

There are lots of different ways to organize real estate listings. Price is  a popular and practical measure, of course. But listings can also be grouped according to geography, size, age or even color. Blue houses over there; yellow houses here. That sort of thing.

My favorite way to order real estate houses this week, however, is alphabetically. Because then my new listing is #1, meaning all other listings are #2 or lower.

Introducing 2309 A Street… 


Voguing demurely at the top of A Street, adjacent to Cornwall Avenue and across from picturesque Assumption Church, this little honey has all the charm you’d hope to find intact in a house of its vintage. When this home was built in 1918, White City amusement park was still thrilling locals on the north shore, and the population of Bellingham was less than 25,000. We’ve come a long way, babies.

“Craftsman” is probably the single-most misused word in the real estate business. unspecified-2Some brokers think anything built before 1950 is a “Craftsman.” But with the masculine brick columns staking its long, covered front porch, the symmetrical rooflines, 8-over-1 double-hungunspecified-17 windows, fir floors and endless built-ins, this is a true Craftsman home from the Golden Age of the Pacific Northwest Craftsman boom. Boom!

There’s been some thoughtful updating, but no home-a-cides here. The kitchen has been opened to the rear porch, affording an abundance of natural light funspecified-11rom the transomed back stairwell. A tiled arch frames the cooking nook, flanked by exposed brick and tin tile. Stainless appliances, granite tile counters, and a deep, modern stainless steel farmsink bring the kitchen into the 21st century without betraying its modest roots.

The original clawfoot tub was replaced by one that actually doesn’t leak, and it is angled in the  room’s corner– a luxurious use of space made possible by the unspecified-4displacement of the sink which is now in a private arched enclave in the hall.

Character is very photogenic, but features like central heat, modern gutters and reliable electricity can be sexy in their own, utilitarian way. This house has all that.

But don’t take my word for it– come and see for yourself! I’ll be open 12-2pm on Sunday. This home even has Bellingham pedigree, having once been owned by the mother of renowned trumpeter Joel Ricci.



2309 A Street                2bedrooms 1bath         *         1136sqft         *        $349,000


p.s. I wouldn’t know how to get balled in Bellingham. But I did stage this house with some usable literature. Come see!




When Everybody Wins



Just in time for the holidays, this happened. 

A Papa Murphy’s pizza restaurant in Bellingham, WA partnered with a local job placement service to re-assign and elevate a popular disabled neighborhood panhandler, creating a win-win-win situation for the ages. 

Joe Beadles made a decent supplemental living for years working the southeast corner of James and Alabama Streets in Bellingham’s up-and-coming Sunnyland neighborhood with a cardboard sign that read NO DRUGS. In October, thanks in part to the creativity of a forward-thinking caseworker, Joe was handed a W2 and issued a uniform and a foamcore arrow sign advertising Papa’s famous pizza dough (baked fresh daily). Joe’s territory hadn’t changed– but everything else had.

“Before Joe and I began applying to barker jobs, we looked for warehouse work for him,” said Isaac Folkerts, an Employment Specialist at Service Alternatives, a multi-faceted human services agency based in Whatcom County.  “I came across an ad for a different restaurant barker position. I talked to Joe about it and he agreed to apply. “

Joe did not get that job, but the next opportunity was even closer to home. Haven Cole, manager of the Papa’s store in Sunnyland Square hired Joe on the spot, after an hour-long interview.

“Joe had a lot of questions,” explained Haven smiling, suggesting Joe was as much interviewing her as the other way around. If Haven were trying to conceal 

IMG_2324her pride in having Joe on her staff, she was doing a terrible job of it. With deep, expressive eyebrows and a medusa piercing above her top lip, Haven beams when talking about her star barker. “Joe’s got a big heart,” she said, shrugging. “Why wouldn’t you hire him?”


For his part, Joe is very committed to what he’s doing, putting that big heart on display every shift. Throwing himself into his work with seemingly little regard for his rotator cuffs, his curb crackles with energy. Crouching and leaping, Joe cycles through a routine of moves, but favors one he calls steering wheel— a vigorous side-to-side shimmy guaranteed to grab the attention of even the most distracted driver. Sometimes he dances. Often he waves. Occasionally he sings, changing the lyrics of folk songs to IMG_2321incorporate references to pizza, signs, and cars. But mostly, it’s steering wheel for up to four hours at a time.

“As long as it works,” he says, punctuating the statement with a finger in the air.

Originally from Arizona, Joe moved to Washington State ten years ago in search of better healthcare. He is very open in discussing the automobile accident and the resulting brain injury that has stunted his physical and non-physical development. Joe was two years old at the time of the accident. He’s now 35.

Relaxing in the subsidized apartment where he lives alone, Joe indeed has questions. He wonders why people would be interested in reading his story.

IMG_2319The drapes in the apartment are drawn against the late afternoon sun shining over the traffic on I-5 just outside the window. It is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the windchill outside makes it feel like it’s about zero. The heat in the apartment is turned up very high.

To go with his questions, though, Joe has plenty of answers– and he doesn’t mind being asked stuff. His responses generally start out low, then crescendo in the middle as his engagement in the topic builds, before tapering down and concluding where they started, almost in a whisper. His favorite pizza is the 5-meat, which he takes with Diet Pepsi. The s’more dessert pie is pretty good, too, for $5. Plus he gets half-off after his shift, so it’s only $2.50. Even I can easily divide $5 in-half, but Joe is very good with numbers, quickly recounting to-the-minute his last four Papa’s shifts before effortlessly calculating their corresponding gross pay. He also has a deep knowledge of the WTA bus system and can tell you most any stop on most any route.

Joe doesn’t drive. He “tricks” traffic by walking King Street under Alabama. He’s well-known in Sunnyland and can be seen on his way to work or the bank. His previous straight job– before he was with Service Alternatives– was filling soap bottles at Brambleberry Soaps, also in the neighborhood. Joe likes his current position better, saying the soap job was “boring, after all.”

And while he admits the Papa Murphy’s job pays better than panhandling (a term he & Isaac both use freely), he does not look back on it as a negative chapter in his life. In fact, he may actually still keep it as a hobby, though not in Bellingham.

“No one was mean,” Joe said about his days freelancing on the corner. “Maybe a little bit of people might say something, but not rude.” 

“It’s been rewarding to watch this transformation in Joe,” added Isaac. “At first he was reluctant to give up panhandling. He knows he has a presence in the community now, though, and that he can’t have both.”


Now that he has steady employment, Joe is considering his next move. He likes to goof around on the internet at home and play video games, Super Nintendo being his favorite. 

“The new games are too modern,” he said, contemplating his multiple computer monitors, not all of which are currently functional. 

But it’s the travel bug that seems to have gotten him more than anything. There’s a grandfather in Indiana who he hasn’t seen in “many years” that he’d like to go visit. Ed, the resident director of the apartment complex has been working with Joe to plan a trip. Indiana’s far, though. Idaho is also in the conversation. 

On my way out of the apartment, Joe proudly shows me a jacket and knit cap he received as a “tip” from a motorist while working for Papa’s. He says people still occasionally give him cash, but he seems to value these pieces– tools for a winter barker— as more precious. 

Smoothing the fabric on the jacket, Joe pauses, looking to the side before adding “I guess good things just happen to me.” 









Sympathy for the Realtor


Blake and Teresa bought a house this summer– a darling little Craftsman in outer Birchwood with a Wolf range for him and a shop for her. And as happy as I am for them, I could not be more furious and disgusted. I’m also a little embarrassed to say this isn’t the first time this has happened.

To be clear, this is the first time these two have purchased a home. The part that’s happened before and which turns my guts is that they’re acquaintances of mine and they didn’t use me as their realtor.

Not that everyone has to. If you’ve lived in this little town more than about 20 minutes you probably know three real estate agents. If you bowl, drink, or have kids in school, that number is probably more than a dozen. There are 588 other agents in town besides me, and many of them are excellent. Continue reading

the Lord taketh away

I don’t know if I’m blessed or just lucky. 

Whichever it is, I’m stoked. Ecstatic even. I’m deeply grateful every day for my precious family and my durable body. I’m humbled to be able to live in this rare community in this ridiculously beautiful & progressive region. I have a killer job. I’m a white American middle class man with bitchin’ metabolism. Most days I don’t feel I’ve earned my position on the foodchain– but I accept it with gratitude just like I would accept a better parking spot than the one I probably deserve. What am I supposed to do? 

But are these “blessings” or just luck? 

I’ve said before that good luck is nothing more than the absence of bad luck. I have been exceedingly lucky my whole life to not ever have had an anvil fall on my head from a 3rd story window. Never got psoriasis. I’ve never spontaneously combusted or even been struck by lightening. The superstitious and the faithful among us have more in-common than they might think. What’s the difference?  Continue reading

oh, don’t worry about Max HE’S FINE


We have been humbled by the outpouring of support & compassion for Max since his potential homelessness was first reported here in January. The longterm security of the spherical black cat who’d lived on Ray & Kathy’s patio since long before they’d lived inside the house had been brought to question as job transfers forced the uprights’ relocation to a feline-free townhouse in lower Snohomish County. As the wicked, animal-hating new owner of the Alabama Hill rambler refused to accept responsibility for Max, we here at the Electric Kool Aid Real Estate leapt into relative action, and within hours, offerings were raining in from the four corners: caviare from France, vodka from Russia, and a case of those boxing Nun puppets from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Max was quite moved.

Well, he was moved emotionally, but not physically. The hard fact remained that no matter how many Polynesian coconut bras or Philly Cheesesteaks he raked in, what Max really needed was a home. And who’d have thought that the warmest & most sincere heart on the planet would open up just a mile away, in a neighborhood known as Roosevelt. A posting on the Neighborhood Power website netted an earnest reply from Charlie who already had a number of cats but who thought Max would fit right in. Whether “fit right in” meant the social dynamic was appropriate, or whether it simply meant “how would anyone even notice one more” is for history to decide. But the for time being, Max and the spoils of his fame– wooden clogs from Holland and a lifetime supply of Kalbi bbq pork from Korea– are safely installed at Charlie’s cozy home down the hill.

And with their load lightened by 18 lbs, Ray & Kathy– exhausted from packing like sellers often are– stood in front of their moving van for a half minute smiling for a snapshot while I shot video. They might still be standing there, I don’t know.

— tMdR