5 Things to Look For When Shopping for Affordable Properties in Lake Forest Park, WA

First: Do affordable properties in Lake Forest Park, WA even exist?

Despite the recent up-and-downs in the Lake Forest Park, WA housing market, LFP is still an expensive place to live (As is most of Seattle, it seems!) so everyone is on the lookout for affordable properties.

Although it may seem like no property here is CHEAP, you can still get a good deal on a home for sale and through a combination of finding a motivated seller, negotiating well, and maybe settling for something that doesn’t “show well” at first. If you spend your time putting some sweat-equity into the property, you may find yourself sitting on a valuable asset in a few years’ time.

Though they are scarcer than they were a few short years ago, and despite the fact that we are still considered to be in a seller’s market, affordable homes for sale still exist.

Median Home Prices In Lake Forest Park, WA Have Gone Up and Down Over The Last Few Years

The trick lies in knowing how to shop for something affordable and, especially, what to look for. And, to a certain extent, it depends on your definition of “affordable” – since the median home price in Lake Forest Park is still around a million dollars.

With that in mind, we offer these 5 things to look for when shopping for affordable properties in Lake Forest Park, WA.

What Will Your Seattle, WA House Sell For?
This nice-looking affordable home was actually a duplex-style townhome. Each owner lived in one side of the property and they had a 2-member HOA.
(I remember it well because I broke my arm here when I tripped over some toys while walking backwards filming a video!)

1. Where Are You Willing To Compromise?

One important thing to keep in mind when shopping for affordable properties in Lake Forest Park is that you may need to compromise on the features you’re looking for in a property. When the right home presents itself, it may not come looking cute and pretty. It may be more of a diamond in the rough.

It’s also possible that it will have features that are less desirable for other buyers. Because they are less desirable, properties with such features may sell more slowly and at a lower price. This is something to keep in mind for re-sale, too. Are the undesirable features something you’ll be able to correct? Or is it an inherent problem that you will pass on to the next buyer as well, making your sale of the property less profitable than a “better” house might be?

For example, mobile homes on land are often less expensive to by, but won’t command a high price when you sell them again, either. However, they can represent a cheap place to live, even in the nicer areas of town, like Lake Forest Park, WA.

According to industry pros, features can affect both pricing and competition, especially features that signal old age or poor quality.

Features That Age Your Home:

  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Carpeted bathrooms
  • Shag carpeting
  • Wood paneling, and
  • Outdated window treatments (blinds, awnings, curtains, etc.), single-pane windows, or windows with blown seals.

It can be profitable, then, to go “against trends” and look for properties with features that other buyers don’t want. 

To find good properties that are more affordable because of certain features, your best bet is to work closely with a Lake Forest Park real estate agent. To discover more about this, just call (206) 578-3438.

Affordable home for sale
Affordable Home For Sale? This is a home we sold last year which was smaller and older. Some people got mad at me online for referring to it as “affordable” when it was listed for $600K. It’s hard to find truly “cheap” real estate in the Seattle area.

2. Fixer-Uppers

Looking for fixer-uppers is an effective strategy many buyers use to find affordable properties (or distressed properties). I started out as a real estate investor and this strategy has always been near and dear to my heart. A distressed property usually has something wrong with it that makes it a turn-off for the typical first-time home buyer. However, if you’re willing to overlook or fix those problems, you may be able to get into a house you can live with, for a more reasonable price.

One time, in North Carolina where I went for college, I was able to get a house under contract for just $6,000 – it had been burned in a fire and the owner had already gotten paid off by insurance and moved away. I sold it for $15,000 to a rehabber who was looking for a project. That’s an extreme example, but obviously if the home needs a lot of work, and you’re going to put in the time, energy and effort to do that work, then you should be rewarded for your troubles.

Take a look at this big-time fixer I found in South Seattle:

Could You Handle A Fixer Upper Like This One in South Seattle, WA?
Could you handle a cheap fixer upper like this? Many people would be turned off by the amount of work this home needs. It’s more the time of project you’d expect a professional rehab investor to take on. However, if you’re willing to write the checks, you can get most work done, even if you don’t know how to do it yourself. However: Watch Out! If the home needs TOO much work, you may have to get a REHAB LOAN or HARD MONEY LOAN in order to make the purchase + repairs affordable.

Is A Fixer Upper Right For You?

Fixer-Upper homes are cheaper because they need repairs and renovations, so if you take this route, you’ll also need to make sure a potential fixer-upper will be worth the time and money you’ll have to invest in repairs/renovations. You have to get it for a good price. This often means some hard negotiations if the seller doesn’t have a realistic idea of the home’s value or the extent of the work it needs.

Fixer Upper
Is the house still a good deal after the repair work is factored in to the price?
The bills for repairs may make that deal less affordable, so make sure you get bids on the work that needs doing, before you take action to buy something.

Driving For Dollars: One of the best ways to find potential fixer-uppers is to simply drive or walk around the target neighborhood.

Some of the things to look for are . . . 

  • Lawns that need mowing and maintenance
  • Broken/boarded-over windows
  • Uncollected newspapers and mail
  • Obvious deferred maintenance

As we mentioned, though, a fixer-upper carries some risk. Before making an offer, consult a Lake Forest Park, WA real estate agent at (206) 578-3438.

Living in Snohomish, WA
Fixer-Upper and Foreclosure Homes For Sale Can Come With A Variety Of Problems.
You may not always be aware of the extent of the damages before your purchase.

3. Foreclosures

Another source of affordable properties is foreclosures. When a homeowner fails to make the mortgage payments and falls into default, their lender can reclaim the home and put it on the market as a foreclosure. Such properties are typically sold at auction and are publicly listed through city or county agencies.

Is Buying Foreclosure Homes Even An Option In Lake Forest Park, WA?

We saw a glut of foreclosures around 2006 – 2008 when the real estate market was crashing. However, they have become much less common now since the run-up in home prices of 2020-2022. Even though the real estate market has softened, here in the Lake Forest Park area, the numbers indicate that it is still a seller’s market, and homeowners have record-high amounts of equity, so most experts do not predict another foreclosure boom like we saw before.

The data is telling us that the conditions are not right for a glut of affordable foreclosure properties to hit the market now.

For the most part, there are very few foreclosures in King County, Washington now, and professional investors with all-cash seem to be the ones who are most likely to succeed in buying. It can be tough for the typical home owner or investor without a specialized repair team, to be able to find and by these homes in an affordable manner.

Banks are in the business of lending, not property management, so they are usually quite willing to sell foreclosures at discounted prices. Keep in mind, though, foreclosure can be a lengthy process, so these properties are often in disrepair by the time they are listed. Your best bet may be to find a motivated seller who is willing to sell their home that before the bank takes it. A good Lake Forest Park real estate agent can provide the guidance you need.

4. Taxes and Condition of Major Appliances

It’s not just the sale price that makes affordable properties affordable. You also need to look at what bills you’ll be taking on after you’ve moved in. HOA’s, property taxes, and the condition of the major appliances and systems can all add to the cost of home ownership on a house that initially looks like a good deal.

Appliances & Systems: Many home buyers expect a home to come with all the appliances PLUS a washer-and-dryer. However, some affordable homes, especially those that have been rentals, or have been owned by one person for many decades, will have anachronistic appliances, deferred maintenance, or the appliances may even be missing.

Replacing appliances and major systems like the water heater, furnace or roof can run into thousands of dollars – many thousands of dollars if you have to install a new HVAC system. So don’t neglect to consider this when shopping for affordable properties in Lake Forest Park, WA.

Property Taxes: If you buy in a low-tax area, the property is more affordable regardless of price. For example, the average tax assessment for New Jersey is $7,602, but for Alabama, it’s only $550. If you look at it from this perspective, a home in Alabama would be far more affordable. Here in Lake Forest Park, WA the tax rate is 1.01%, which is lower than the United State’s average of 1.16%. However, if you feel your property taxes are too high or unfair (which can occur when the property is in poor condition, you can petition the county to lower your property taxes.

Hazard Insurance: Property insurance is another expense you’ll have. Some homes may command higher insurance premiums because they are in a flood plain, high crime area, or far from the fire department. Here in Lake Forest Park none of these conditions exist, so your home owners insurance should be relatively reasonable.

Before and after home renovations shoreline washington
Sometimes small repairs can make a big difference in the before – and – after look of your home.

5. An Experienced Lake Forest Park, WA Agent

As I’ve indicated throughout, most buyers looking for affordable properties can benefit from the services of an experienced local real estate agent.

In fact, you probably shouldn’t even begin shopping until you’ve located a good investment-minded realtor to work with who knows how to negotiate with sellers and vendors, and look beyond the current condition of a home to see its future potential.

Many “affordable” properties turn out to be lemons and huge money sinks. I looked at an investor’s property where – unbeknownst to him, the bathtub was falling into the crawl space. He had another property with no insulation in the attic. There was a drop ceiling and nothing between that and the roof. The poor tenant was using her oven to try to provide heat and keep her family warm!

A good agent can help you avoid making a poor purchase. If you’re ready to shop for affordable properties in Lake Forest Park, be sure to contact us today at (206) 578-3438.

Emily Cressey, Lake Forest Park Real Estate Agent
Emily Cressey: Lake Forest Park, WA Real Estate Agent
Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate broker residing in Lake Forest Park, WA who services the Greater Seattle area including Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Lynnwood, Kenmore, Bothell and Edmonds, WA.

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