January 14, 2020

Earlier this year I had the chance to photograph my first listing on Lake Sammamish. Still being new to Seattle at the time this was a great opportunity for me. I think most people don’t realize how much work agents do for the sale of a house, I didn’t even realize until I started photographing Real Estate. When I walk into a house I am seeing it at its best but in most cases it has taken months to get the house to that stage. From what I could see about the property online this place was going to be beautiful, a real stunner that I would be proud to add to my portfolio. But when I arrived it wasn’t the house that impressed me the most, it was the agent. He had kept a space in the two car garage open for me. Besides my car, where the realtors car would normally had been, was enough tools for a small construction site. We toured the house to go over all of the important features, of which there were many, and finally made it to the master bedroom. The view was incredible, large windows framed the lake, but the door to the balcony was weathered and the paint was chipping. I told him that it would be best to keep this door closed, to which he replied something to the means of “If you can save this room to the end I can have the door fixed”. Thats when I realized that the tools in the garage were his and much of the work that was done getting the house ready for the market was personally done by him. The Q&A that follows goes into detail about the property and what it took to get the place sold.


Q: Can you give us a quick introduction?

A: I became a licensed Realtor in January of 2017, although I didn’t fully transition to Real Estate until 2018. In my past life, I was involved in construction and remodeling. Through contacts I made in that industry, I became interested in pursuing Real Estate as a career.  GBK had an outstanding reputation, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that firm.

Q: How did you got this listing?

A: This property had been listed previously the year before. It was a different market and a different agent. The property had been vacant for months and there was a lot of deferred maintenance, not to mention a broken tram. The owner was advised by the agent at the time that this property would fly off the market. However, it sat for 8 months. Once the listing expired in the fall, I was contacted by the owner to see about re-listing the property in the spring. We had a previous working relationship and she knew my character and work ethic. And so, we began to hatch a plan in preparation for the spring.

Q: What do you think the main selling points were for the property?

A: The property had a lot to offer. It provided easy access to both Redmond and downtown Bellevue and it was a very big lot on a very desirable lake. We were also well below the average price/sqft for homes on the lake. Also, having a separate lake house with a deck, dock, and boat-lift was a big plus. Lake Sammamish can be enjoyed year-round, but really features as a playground in the warmer months, with wake surfers, water skiers,  and paddle boarders getting after it daily.  

Moving forward, all new construction on the lake has to be setback 35’ from the shoreline, but the lake house was grandfathered in, so someone could potentially remodel it further, adding rooms/levels/square footage, etc, all while maintaining the original footprint on the shoreline. Having both dwellings presented options for creating additional revenue streams by renting out either the lake house or main house.

The biggest selling point was that the owner had agreed to install a brand new inclined elevator, which was included in the asking price.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the property?

A: The architecture, style, layout, and topography really made it stand out. It sat on a large 18,102 sqft lot located on steep terrain traveling all the way down to the lake. The main house above, built in 1978, consisted of 3,420 sqft of living space, 3bds, and 2.25 baths. The main entrance was on the top floor where the bedrooms and 2 bathrooms were located. A spiral staircase granted access to the main level, which consisted of the living room, dining room, kitchen, office, half/bath, etc. Large, exposed timber columns and beams were located throughout the home which added a layer of warmth and comfort, accented by a large lava rock fireplace and sweeping views of the lake. The lake house down at the water’s edge was 800 sqft and included a full kitchen, a lofted bedroom, a 3/4 bath and a washer/dryer. It was remodeled in 2010 and was much more contemporary. It also had a composite deck that extended out over the water, with a short stairway connecting to a swimming dock. Adjacent to that dock was a boat lift. To the north of the lake house was a small rocky beach, also part of the property, great for evening bonfires by the water.  Connecting the upper and lower houses was a long, angling staircase.  But the key feature to fully enjoying the entirety of this property was an inclined elevator, which ran from the south side of the lake house to a landing at the main house and ending at the garage. However, this was broken and had been for some time.

Q: Did you encounter unexpected issues when getting the place ready for the market?

A: There was a large amount of deferred maintenance. First impressions are so incredibly important and this property needed a lot of work. Much of it was cosmetic, but the tram was exponentially larger than any other work done, and there was a lot of other work done.

Dining Room Overlooking Lake Samammish

Q: When I was at the property for the photoshoot you were doing a lot of the fixes yourself, you were working on the roof, painting, refinishing doors, and a lot more. Can you tell us about the work you did personally on the house? And it that something you bring to all of your properties?

A: I personally performed a lot of the work needed to get this property ready to list. There were others working to get it ready, but I definitely went above and beyond. My construction/remodel background afforded me this ability.

I focussed on first impressions. I painted large sections of the house, including the entryway and garage along with interior trim, doors, and decking. I refinished doors and spent a significant amount of days power washing stairs, driveways, decking, and moss…. So. Much. Moss. I scraped sap off skylights and cleaned windows. I fixed gutters, locks, sinks, toilets, etc. I approached the situation as if I was the buyer and asked myself what would stand out to me. I did all this and much more.

I know it won’t be possible to perform this level of work on all my listings/purchases. But my goal remains to go above and beyond with both my buyers and my sellers. A lot of times, clients are unaware of the amount time and energy that goes into buying or selling a home for them. Along with taking advantage of contractual angles when advocating for them, physical labor is just one more way that makes it abundantly clear I have their best interests in mind. I’m not just trying to make a sale, I’m building relationships that will last a lifetime. I want my clients to know that I will always go above and beyond and that they are in good hands.          

Q: Can you tell us about the tram. Was the tram finished when the property was sold? How important was adding the tram?

A: The new tram was critical to the sale of this property. Once you’ve been down to the lake house and begin the trek back up the hillside via the stairs, any momentum created in your head by the possibilities this property offered immediately stalls out by the first stair landing (there are 4). The thought of transporting food, beverages, etc. via the stairs is a non-starter. There is just no way you would want to take those stairs every time you want to enjoy the lake, especially not with a broken tram staring at you.    

We closed on this property back in November. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work. However, the tram install still hasn’t started. Permitting delays have pushed the install into January. It was a complicated transaction with many, many moving parts and players involved. There were many instances where it looked like it may collapse, but I kept bringing it back from the brink even up until the final day. No extension was needed and we closed on time with all parties extremely happy. I’m continuing to work on this deal as we speak, determined to see the install completed and conditions of the holdback addendum met.

Q: What was your approach to marketing?

A: I wanted to sell this property as an experience, enjoying the lake and all it had to offer, as well as capturing it’s unique layout. I decided to achieve this through a marketing video and a 3D Tour. I would take and post photos to social media on days I held an open house, detailing different angles and aspects of the home.

I ran many different ad sets on FB as well as Instagram.  I go into every listing with a target audience. It’s a solid approach to gain a baseline.  But I am quick to pivot if the listing isn’t getting the number of hits I believe it should.

Q: Were there any challenges in marketing this property?

A: The number of tram installation delays made it challenging, but not to the point that I couldn’t eventually overcome it. I held a 3 hour open house almost every Saturday for 4 months during the summer. There were endless questions about the tram. Why the delay? Why was it delayed again? And again? I met every challenge head-on and never lost sight of the goal.

Q: How much did the property sell for?

A: It sold for $2,100,000. I was able to get the buyer to increase their initial offer by $300,000. My seller said she would be happy with anything over $2,000,000. While I strongly feel I could have gotten her closer to $2.35 million if the new tram had been available when we listed during the peak summer months, it was beyond my control.