Buying my first house
In 2014 around the end of my sophomore year at Seattle University, I was living in an apartment in Lynnwood. Thinking if I lived outside the city, even though the commute would be less than ideal, I would save money by living farther out. About 8 months into my lease I went through my expenses and realized I was paying $12,000 a year in rent alone, living in an apartment that was adequate but not really where I really wanted to live. I didn’t like how that felt. I have lived in Seattle my whole life and there was never a question whether or not I wanted to stay. I did, and I still do want to live in Seattle. Being a full time college student and working multiple part time jobs was not the the time of my life, nor the ideal financial situation I wanted to be in looking at this new goal, but I was determined that this really was the best move for me based on these long time goals I had. Time to make the dream a reality.
Turning my idea into action
I found myself researching homes in the parts of Seattle I wanted to live. It was a hot housing market in 2014 and there were articles popping up in the newspaper all the time about how it was impossible to buy. Unless you were a cash buyer willing to pay more than market value, it wasn’t going to happen for you, they prognosticated. Well, I have always liked an opportunity to prove people wrong when I feel a challenge so I pushed forward. Fortunately, one of my long-time family friends, and now business partner, Kathy Moeller is a real estate agent and she started showing me houses right away. The very first home she showed me seemed perfect! It was a sweet two-bedroom, one-bath home in what I would call the Greenwood neighborhood on Palatine and 117th. My mom couldn’t believe I was seriously on the hunt for a house and the very first one could be the one. She ended up being right; it wasn’t the one. I made an offer that was rejected for a higher all-cash offer.
Dealing with rejection
Even though I hated thinking I lost out on my perfect house, I loved exploring different homes. The search continued, leading us to one that was elaborate in its finishes but everything was on a small scale, kind of like a dollhouse. Then we went to one that was only 3 blocks away from where my mom and grandma live, but it was a foreclosure, a total gut job, and I really didn’t know how I was going to manage spending so much money to buy the house (it was close to the top of my budget) and then figure out how to renovate it so it was livable. Nonetheless it was too perfectly located not to throw an offer into the ring.
I didn’t get that house either. Even though the rejection hit hard, I felt an urge of excitement to keep looking. We went to a few more houses that were ok but weren’t exciting enough for one reason or another to make an offer.
Then we came across a house right off 145th just east of Aurora in a cul-de-sac. It was HUGE and about $50,000 under my maximum budget. It was move-in ready, but potential updates could make it sparkle. We went to visit it often and even put in a low-ball offer. The sellers countered, but by that point I realized being so close to 145th street traffic wasn’t a good fit for me no matter how big the house was. The search continued. We had been looking for a few months and I was scheduled for hip surgery soon, so we were planning to take a short break in the search, but Kathy saw a house on Dibble that she thought I really should see. She was so right.
Finding the right fit
Kathy brought me to a sweet rambler on Dibble (how cute is that nameby the way?!). It was a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom home sitting on a lot that was over 8,000 square feet — a rare find in Seattle. It was close to my mom’s and grandma’s houses, as well as close to school, work, and right around the corner from a QFC for groceries. Later I got a job as a cashier there and it was beyond convenient. I loved it! But I had had that feeling before and if I loved this cute find so much, I was sure others would too. Kathy showed it to me the day it became available so we had a few days to figure out a strategy before the sellers were going to look at offers. Our hunch was right on the money as far as the interest the house was generating. Many people were interested and multiple offers were submitted. Fortunately for me the sellers came back to Kathy and asked for our best and final offer which allowed me the opportunity to pool all my resources, making an offer slightly over my initial budget, and using my real-estate savvy great grandfather’s lucky number in the offer. That, combined with a sincere letter that I now know we call a “love letter” to the sellers, and I got the good news. The house would be mine. I could officially say, “I am a homeowner.”
On crutches as I healed from surgery, I celebrated next to the sold sign. It was the perfect house for me. I moved in, did some updates to really make it feel like my own, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Even though I have since moved on from that home, I still think about it often including how much I have been able to do because of getting and taking that opportunity to own my first house. I planned to live there many years and only move out if I found a forever home. I hope you will stay tuned for that story. And maybe you will give me a chance to help you write your story too.
Amina, what do you do?
Real estate—the phrase means different things depending on who you ask. Telling people “I’m in real estate” is not quite the same as saying “I teach middle school math.” I wonder if people have a specific idea of what it means and whether it is different from the ideas of others.
But that’s another story. Let me begin by first sharing the story of how I got into real estate and why it has already become one of my greatest passions…
My first passion, being a mentor to younger kids.
Growing up I took part in many activities: Girl Scouts, dancing, basketball, and 4H to name a few. The commonality between the activities was the opportunity to later mentor younger kids in those same activities. I really enjoyed this because it felt like I was actually able to make their experiences even better and as a child I always admired the older kids and loved interacting with them. To this day I attend the same dance performance I grewup performing in and reminiscing with the kids I used to read to and play with backstage.
Two of the girls who performed in this years performance of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, both of whom I used to read and play backstage with.
The logical path seemed to be to pursue teaching: I enjoy mentoring, why not make it a full time gig? What could be better then helping the younger generations develop and grow? Going into education sounded rewarding and right up my alley. So my senior year of high school I applied to Seattle University and was accepted into their Humanities and Teaching program, which exposed me to teaching kindergarten to 8th grade, with my favorite definitely being 6th grade math. Some days were more difficult than others; figuring out classroom management while getting the lesson across proved to be a trying task for me, but it was rewarding when the students began to engage more and I could see them comprehend difficult concepts. However about half way through my time at SU I discovered while working with kids is a passion of mine, teaching just wasn’t fulfilling my dreams.
Reevaluating my vocation
Back to real estate. How does one go from a four year degree studying to become a teacher to thinking real estate is the way to go? Well, in my Junior year of college I was pretty tired of renting and it felt like I wasn’t doing myself any favors by postponing the inevitable. I love Seattle and I knew I wanted to live here so why not invest in my home? I started looking for houses in 2014 and it was a crazy hot market–there was no way I was going to get anything half-way decent and within my price range (a constant reminder by EVERYONE on my journey to find my house). I ended up putting an offer on the very first house I saw (my mother thought this was insanity). I didn’t get it, got bid out by an all cash offer, and had to continue the hunt with my long time family friend and now business partner, Kathy Moeller. We put it an offer on two more houses and lost both of them. Then we finally lucked out. She showed me a house and I got it by using my great grandfather’s lucky numbers (he loved the number 13 so any numbers that when you combined them added to 13 he found to be lucky). You see real estate actually runs in the family: Great Grandpa Burke invested in real estate in Fremont during the Depression when that was considered a fool’s errand. Our family now owns over triple of what he first owned and I truly believe he was guiding me when we put in that offer for that home.
My first home on Dibble Ave
Family. Another reason to try my hand at real estate. I wanted to try and see if I could bring value to the family business and tap into something I could potentially be good at. But that’s another story for another post 😉
When I say I’m in real estate I mean I help buy and sell residential and commercial properties and help clients find apartments to rent, advise on how much you can rent your space for, do interior design work, staging, tenant communications, 1031 exchanges, investment properties and everything in between that goes into any of these processes. My goal is to help people with this huge financial step and yes, real estate isn’t a guarantee and you can count on the market to fluctuate and go in cycles. That’s just how it works and while it can be scary, it is also exciting. There are times owning a home can be hard-like when you discover you have to replace the roof or the furnace or some other astronomical expense-but ultimately it is still rewarding to know you are investing in yourself: the place you live or work is yours to do what you want with. For me, the greatest excitement is being able to tell my clients that they are getting the keys to their house or that they can tap into the equity they have built and are able to move on to the next chapter in their lives.
I hope you enjoy going on this journey with me. I have a lot of stories to tell about the different facets of real estate, as well as tips and tricks of the trade but I am also very open to feedback about what YOU are most interested in reading about.
Until next time,