Home Improvement Decorating & Renovations

Published on Thu, Mar 4, 2004 by Jack Kintner

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Home Improvement Decorating & Renovations

By Jack Kintner

A House of Your Own

Thinking about a house but don�t want to spend too much? There are new houses on the market in Blaine, three bedroom homes for $165,000 and up, but they sell fast.

�If you�re thinking about buying, buy it now!� said Ferndale contractor Ben Reiter, who recently built five homes on D Street a block east of the truck route. Most sold for between $155,000 and $160,000 before they were finished, and all have appreciated about 15 percent since being finished last year. All are between 1,500 and 1,600 square feet.

The houses sell fast because they meet the needs of a large segment of the buying public and offer good value, Reiter said. �If you bought five of these houses last year for $150,00 and one house somewhere near here for $750,000, there�s no question but that the five houses would appreciate faster and be a better value,� Reiter said, �and when the time came, they�d sell much more quickly than the expensive one.�

Good resale potential is becoming important as people move around more, Reiter said. �Nobody builds a new house with less than three bedrooms or two bathrooms,� he said, �because there�s no market for them. You want to buy a house you know you�ll be able to sell easily when the time comes.�

Here come the U-Hauls

The housing market in Blaine is being driven up by several different factors that have increased demand. Among them are the number of people moving into the area, factors in other nearby areas that limit growth and the occasional large-scale tourist attraction such as Expo 86 and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Dan Washburn, owner of Windermere Real Estate, likes to offer the following breakdown to illustrate what�s happening in Whatcom County in general and in Blaine specifically.

Roughly 39,000 people moved in Whatcom County in the last ten years, which includes people moving one block to those moving into the area from anywhere else. That�s the U-Haul brigade.

Of those people, 23 percent are moving into the county from outside the state, and another 14 percent are moving into the county from somewhere else in Washington. That�s 37 percent moving into the county.

In the next ten years, Washburn guessed that there would be 44,000 people moving in the county in the next ten years, which means 4,400 moving every year. Half of those move into Bellingham and the other half moves into the county.

With the average price of a house in Bellingham now over $300,000, according to Reiter, a house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage 20 minutes away on the freeway selling for half that begins to look pretty good.

Does it come with a roof?

And what do you get for your money? Plenty, according to new owner Jane Woods. The recently retired 12-year member of Blaine school board and her husband Woody moved seven blocks east last year into their new house at 1624 D Street.

�We really like it,� Woods said. �We bought it early enough in the building process to make our own choices about colors and options.� The Woods� 1,639 square foot house includes a front porch that wraps the front of the house from the attached garage past the living room picture window, giving the small structure some interesting detail and human scale. The front door opens directly into the living room, and beyond that the whole left side of the inside of the house is open except for a partition that divides a part of the kitchen from the living room.

Even so, Woods said that she and her husband can watch two completely different television sets in the space, each without hearing the other. The kitchen floor is vinyl tile but can be ordered with stone tile or a hardwood floor.

The kitchen itself comes with a gas (propane) stove, microwave and the other standard kitchen appliances. It has two walls, and the other two sides are counters, one open to the family room in the back of the house and the other to the dining area immediately past the living room.

The family room has a sliding glass door leading to a rear deck and also has a gas-fired fireplace. To the right when entering the front door is a short hallway that leads to the garage access, then turns 90 degrees to go to the back of the house. In the hallway there are two doors on the right leading to two of the bedrooms and one door on the right for one of the two bathrooms. The bathroom comes with a �light tube� skylight, a mirrored tube that can put an amazing amount of light in the dark interior room even on a cloudy day. The hallway leads directly into the master bedroom, which has its own full bath. The Woods added a second sliding glass door in the rear of their bedroom, replacing what was to have been a window.

Reiter specifically designed the house to capture the late afternoon sun so that when the Woods came home from work there would be light inside. It pours through the many west-facing windows and when it hits the Woods� dark wooden table or the cabinetry in the kitchen it gives the whole place a warm, rosy glow.

�Probably the biggest change in the years I�ve been building and selling real estate,� Reiter said, �is that now there�s much higher quality components available. In a house like this, though, too many options can quickly push the price higher than most would want.�

�Blaine�s great, a little jewel of a town waiting to be discovered,� Reiter said. �But actually I think it already has been, because prices for things like building lots are going up fast. The days of Blaine being a place where you could count on things being 20 percent cheaper are probably over.�