Stuff You Don’t Know Until You Get There


Oh, horrors. Have you ever moved into a new place and had it turn out differently than you expected?

I visited my mother-in-law’s new place over the weekend. It’s a cute little place, set peacefully on the end of a cul-de-sac where we figured it would be quiet and restful–no traffic, pedestrians, and no noise. Admittedly, I helped her choose the place, making sure that the place would be neat, tidy, and a good place to rest and rejuvenate. I thought I did a great job, as the neighborhood was quiet and the views out each and every window made for peace, privacy and quiet enjoyment. In fact, that’s what really sold us on this place. All the windows and the yard look out serenely out over a charming, little pond. It was a great view, no neighbors, no retaining walls–just pure nature at it’s best. What a great place to rest, relax, and recooperate for sure, and certainly the crowning jewel of this home!

Well, come Saturday night as twilight crept up on the tiny cottage, the setting seemed even more appealing as nature began her evening serenade…the faint sounds of frogs and crickets chirping quietly in the distance. But then, it hit us–not like a ton of bricks, but stealthier than that–like the peaceful trickle of water which somehow turns into a raging flood! One frog, two frogs, three frogs–pretty soon there were like 600 frogs all croaking away endlessly, in their deep, husky voices! Argh!!!

I’m sure you’ve had something like this happen to you. Despite all the housing inspectors you hire or the number of walk-throughs you make, there are things about any home that you just won’t find out about until you get there. Things like:

  1. The house you pick is underneath Seatac Airport’s flight paths. Don’t think that you’re safe if you don’t live anywhere near the airport. I tell you, wherever I live, it’s under a major flight path! Ok, I get it. It was at least foreseeable when I lived in San Diego, not too terribly far away from Miramar Airforce Base. Our condo turned out to be directly under the area where the Blue Angels practice their maneuvers for air shows, which I guess was reasonably foreseeable! So you would think that when we relocated to Woodinville, we shouldn’t have to think about this. But n-o-o-o-o! How is it that our tiny corner of Woodinville is in the flight path??!!
  2. Your house is the elementary school bus stop. Ha! Luckily I haven’t been a victim of the bus stop thus far, but each day as I contribute to the havoc of the morning wait, I feel very, very sorry for the homeowner whose yard we stand in front of. Being the meeting place of like 20 moms, kids, and dogs (who incidentally poop whenever they are near marked street corners) at 8:10 a.m. each and every morning can have its downsides.
  3. Your house is at the bottom of a gentle, rolling slope. Beautiful to look at and easy to picture yourself on, reading a novel on a warm summer afternoon. Well folks, water flows downhill, and if your home is at the bottom of that gentle, rolling slope, guess where the water ends up!
  4.  You get to experience nature firsthand. If your house is on a greenbelt or within close proximity to nature in some way, you may get to know the local fauna up close and personal, be it croaking frogs, biting mosquitos, or nightly visits from furry neighbors. 
  5. Your house is a premium parking spot for special events. You think that you live far enough away from the local elementary school or park to enjoy the proximity and still avoid the cars and traffic, however, during Back to School Night or Saturday morning soccer games, you might find that the front of your  home is a convenient place to park!

Sometimes, the only thing you can do to prevent this sort of thing from happening is keep a critical eye about you and anticipate what each characterstic of a house, yard, or location might mean. Listen to others tell you their tales and tuck it away in the back of your mind, until such time it’s needed. Sometimes, that’s ll you can do…

Have you been a victim of something you didn’t know until you got there? If so, leave a comment and tell us what it was! (Maybe, just maybe, your tale will save some other poor sucker down the road…)

  • Rhonda Porter CMPS

    Katrina, that’s an amusing story…maybe you mother in law will learn to love the husky croaking! :)

    I bought a house about 10 years ago before I was in lending…and let’s just say it was a disaster. I was upset with my boyfriend (now husband) and made the decision very quickly–this ticky tacky house on a lake was going to be my bachelorette house! Oh boy.

    I actually wrote the the Seattle Times about the house and it the story was featured on the real estate section…my name, the agents name and my lenders name were left out to protect the not so innocent.

    My agent, who knew of my “tender state” told me (single mom of a then 5 year old) that I could fix everything myself (including electrical). Me, wanting to believe I was a powerful woman and was going to own my own waterfront with a dock (even though I don’t swim and you wouldn’t in this organic lake if you could)…I bit. He even said that if I didn’t buy it, he would. (I just love that line).

    I’ll always have a soft spot for that house. My husband hates it to this day…we did stay together and he wound up doing quite a bit of work on it over the weekends. I thought I was going to do minor cosmetic changes to it…I never had the chance as I had to replace a rubber roof within months of owning it (the former owner was a rubber roof sales man so of course, this house had a rubber roof–patched up like a quilt). The inspector suggested a home inspection…the agent didn’t agree.

    I was so niave!

    We did have geese that would seem to land in the lake in the middle of the night honking up a storm. At first it was shocking…I wound up loving it.

  • Rhonda Porter CMPS

    I meant to say, the home inspector recommended a roof inspector since “rubber roofs” were not his specialty.

  • Hair Farmer Joe

    What a well written story! I’m sorry your mom-in-law doesn’t like the frogs … some people tend to like that sort of thing.

    All of the reasons that you state (and more) are why I make sure that my clients all talk to their neighbors once they are under contract and have an inspection period. I’ve actually had cases where the buyers did want to sleep in the house before they purchased it and was able to accommodate their request.

  • Katrina Munsell

    Thanks for the story, Rhonda! What a nightmare, but at least you’re probably a lot handier now than you would’ve been otherwise! ;)

    Really goes to show that buyers have to stay objective about what they and the potential house might need. Also, it’s so important to err on the side of caution and to bring in additional inspectors if there’s even a chance of a potential issue. (I learned that one the hard way too, only my inspector was too proud to advise getting another specialist.) Do you still have the home?

    Joe, I’ve heard about people giving potential homes a test spin over night before…In theory, sounds like a great idea, though I can see some potential worries on the seller side also, particularly if they are still living there. Any idea how common this practice is these days? Also, talking to neighbors is a great thing to do! Absolutely–the more info the better, though there might be some potential for bias there as well. But, in the end, you do everything you can do, and go with what you come up with! :)

  • Redbot

    Lived in May Valley in Issaquah for a decade. The valley has thousands of frogs croaking in the Spring, and I loved it. I also lived on the edge of the forest, and appreciated every forest creature I saw. To each their own.

  • Bev H

    Woodpeckers is another one! They sound like jackhammers on the roof at 5 am in the morning!

  • Andrea

    Another thing to watch out for is street lights and neighbors’ security lights that shine in your bedroom windows at night! Always drive by your prospective dream house at night to check this out – as there’s very little you can do about it if these conditions exist.

  • Terri Hostbjor

    I would much prefer the frogs to waking up on New Year’s or the 4th of July and be transported to downtown Beirut! That happened in both Lynnwood and Marysville and believe me, if there is a way to find out how the next neighborhood treats these events and the use of fireworks; we will ask the questions! On a more positive note; the frogs are my first signal that Spring really is getting close and there should be some warmer weather, and new colors in the gardens!

  • Katrina Munsell

    The 4th of July is exactly like that where I’m at also and I’ve used the same word to describe it–Beirut!! LOL! However, it’s kind of like the frog thing in reverse. Now that it’s been a bit, my MIL has acclimated to the frogs and now they “lull” her to sleep (lucky for me!)–an adjustment for the better.

    The fireworks, on the other hand, I used to think were pretty cool. As a former So Cal girl, fireworks were a complete no-no (let alone the types they have here!) But now, the dog and I suffer from anxiety on the 4th and I spend the night constantly checking for smoldering embers…

  • Vicki

    Bev H – if you have woodpeckers on your roof- you need to have an exterminator take a look at it! I know a lot of people blame woodpeckers for damage, but they are just eating the insects that are the real culprits.