$900K Showdown

Price Point: Central Townhome vs. Quirky Lakefront Cabin

These homes don't have much in common—but they do both have their own cool fireplace. Which would you choose?

By Sarah Anne Lloyd July 1, 2022

Welcome back to Price Point, our real estate column that sends you on two separate home-buying journeys for the same listing price. This edition, we’re looking at two very different houses, built 45 years apart, in very different settings. With a budget of $900,000, are you going for the rooftop or the dock?

Home 1: A Well-Detailed Madison Valley Townhouse

This three-bedroom home in Madison Valley is on the cusp of the Central District, but still also close enough to the ever-creeping boundary of Capitol Hill. It has all the standard amenities of pretty much any townhouse built in the last 20 years—yes, it has a rooftop deck—but it has some extra details that make it stand out from the pack.

Through an adorable front yard, the standard open-concept living room, dining area, and kitchen—plus a bathroom—are conveniently located on the street level. That alone can be a tall order for any local townhouse, much less one built in the 2000s. One of the focal points is the fireplace, with modern white-brick facing and two deeply recessed shelves, along with a generous mantel on top. A few floor-to-ceiling windows are a nice touch, too, along with new bamboo floors. Up on the second floor are a couple of decently sized bedrooms, a full bath, and even a little laundry room.

The very top floor is just one lofted bedroom, tucked into a slightly vaulted ceiling and boasting direct access to the roof deck, which has both neighborhood and water views. One nifty feature up here is a gas hookup for a grill, fire pit, or any other safe fire needs. 

This is the end unit in its complex, and in this case, it doesn’t just mean only sharing one wall—it’s actually bigger, and that shows in pretty tangible ways. For example, it has a tandem two-car garage, which is currently being used as a one-car garage and a shop. There’s also a large storage closet in the basement, so you can keep your garage free for band practice, studio space, or whatnot. It's also less than a block to two different bus stops and practically across the street from the grocery store, so maybe you don't need to put a car there at all.

In this place, you could just move in and get going: It's roomy, but with no wasted space. Everything is up to date and tidy, and you can walk practically everywhere. The roof deck makes it super easy to get outside without ever having to mow a lawn—and the little low-maintenance front yard adds some extra coziness separating the door and the street.

Listing Fast Facts

List price: $875,000
Location: Madison Valley/124 24th Ave E, Unit D
Size: 1,377 square feet, 3 bedroom/2 bath
Year built: 2008
Listing agents: Jeanine Burke and Jen Butler, Windermere

Home 2: An Eclectic Cabin Home on Ames Lake

Originally built in 1963, this cabin-like home has many identities. Although it technically has a Redmond address, this property is located in the little town of Ames Lake (population 1,524), closer to Carnation than Redmond proper. It has 50 feet of lake shoreline, a quarter acre of land, and a wild interior with fairy-tale elements, midcentury modern artifacts, fixer sections, and tons of little nooks and crannies. Also notable is the truly impressive amount of scalloped wood boards, both interior and exterior, no matter the surrounding aesthetic.

The entrance along the side of the house leads to the main kitchen and a large sunken living room with a towering cathedral ceiling. Reaching up all the way into its half-timbered peak is a whimsical, beautifully kept red-brick fireplace. The hearth is recessed above a low bench, with a decorative brick vent above it—and to the left, a small set of doors that could easily be either firewood or hobbit storage. A carved wooden mantle sits above brick corbels, and even more brick rises above that, with a cute little leaded-glass cabinet recessed inside. Turn around for a large deck with a view of the lake. Climb back up to front-door level and a wood stove leads the way to a kitchen and plenty of exposed brick.

Two open staircases with narrow carved banisters lead above and below. Head down to beach level for a tiny midcentury time capsule, with textured amber cabinets and an original 1960s range, with a yellow sink and hood to match. There’s a large corner stone fireplace here and a little half loft. This room’s banner feature, however, is that it opens right up to a grassy backyard and the lake.

Upwards from the living room, reach a landing leading to the home’s two bedrooms. One has a window facing the lake. In the other, there’s a little shutter that opens to the living room with a better view. With the bedrooms is another 1960s surprise: a full bathroom with original sink, tub, and toilet in a color that manufacturers called T’ang Red.

Outside, find layers of patios, lawns, and gardens, low-bank waterfront, and a dock for all your watercraft needs. It may be down a one-lane forest road, but it’s not too remote; it only takes around 10 minutes to start hitting grocery stores and gas stations.

This house is at a critical juncture. Do you bring it down to the studs—keeping that big fireplace and giving the pristine 1960s finishes and appliances to salvage instead of letting them end up at the dump—and start decorating from the beginning? Or do you repair what you can and riff off the conversation already going on in this house?

Listing Fast Facts

List price: $895,000
Location: Redmond/3829 Ames Lake Ln NE
Size: 2,120 square feet/2,753 square foot lot, 2 bedroom/2.5 bath
Year built: 1963
Listing agent: Garla Allen, Redfin

Final Notes

Is this the biggest contrast we’ve ever had on Price Point? One is a tidy, turnkey modern home in the city. The other is tucked off the beaten path with a basement that will keep you busy with so many DIY projects—on a quarter lakefront acre with a dock. One is a 10-minute drive to the nearest grocery store; the other, a four-minute walk. They do both, notably, have cool (and completely different) fireplaces, but that’s about where it ends.

The townhouse has a leg up on a lot of similar homes, with its enjoyable outdoor space, comfortable layout, and roomy interior. You’re probably not making too much of a mental to-do list while looking at it. It’s sleek, comfortable, and was made according to a more up-to-date building code. Your commute is a breeze. You’re not even too far from a lake—just a long walk or a short bus ride to Madison Beach.

The lake house, on the other hand, has a big personality and plenty of ways for you to make your unique dream projects come true. You have to worry more about critters and the elements here, but that comes with the trade-off of being in a pretty, natural setting. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about your own little beach being crowded on a sunny day.

So are you busting out the grill on the roof or by the lake this summer?

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