Author: Jill Varvell

Real Estate Broker in Washington State serving Sequim, Port Angeles and neighboring communities

My Top 10 Pet Peeves About Small Town Living

My blog entries have mostly highlighted what is wonderful about living on the Olympic Peninsula. But I’ve shared very little about my pet peeves. This has a lot to do with the fact that there are so many attributes and so few disadvantages.

It’s taken me just over 2 years to realize that Sequim isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. But it comes really close! So in the spirit of full disclosure, I present my 10 biggest “adjustments” from a big city past to a small town present.

 

  • Since people who’ve never heard of Sequim rarely pronounce it correctly,  unless it’s a known local, I no longer say I live in “Squim” I say “See-quim.” This way I don’t have to repeat Sequim’s spelling.  If I simply mispronounce Sequim the first time I utter it, magically the common person will get the spelling right. I hate to mispronounce my city to a customer service phone rep back East whose never heard of Sequim; but I hate even more to repeat its spelling.

 

  • Boots, an umbrella, a raincoat and a hat must travel in my car at all times. This means less room for other stuff like my dog’s bed, real estate signs and groceries. It doesn’t matter if sunny skies are predicted. This brings me to my next point.

 

  • The weather forecast is almost always wrong. The only time I can accurately predict rain is if I’ve washed my car.

 

  • My car’s exterior is almost always dirty (see above bullet-point.)

 

  • Though premiumly located and easy to access, the local Costco doesn’t feature the abundance of larger Costcos in more populated areas. Which is great because it means the absence of parking wars. And though I’d much rather have a smaller Costco than no Costco, how I miss those single serving  pre-packaged organic salads.

 

  • Mailing a birthday card to California a few days before a birthday? Better make it a belated birthday card because that card may take up to a week to arrive.

 

  • Target, Sephora and Trader Joes have become idealized and exotic destinations. One must plan, make shopping lists, and in some instances; bring along a cooler. I stock up on Smashbox BrowTech to Go like I stock up on Trader Joes O’s and Speculoos Cookie Butter.

 

  • Animal owners who find solace in leaving their small indoor pets at home with a doggie-door need a new game plan. We have coyotes and eagles here!

 

  • The ubiquitous CA taqueria is hard to find in these parts. So are doughnut shops, acai cafes and poke bars. We have at least 20 coffee stands but I can’t find a pearl tea to save my life.

 

  • Expect to travel for mainstream live entertainment. McStadiums are nonexistent here. Instead you may find some tribute bands performing at the casino like U253 performing on St. Patty’s Day. I’ve also seen advertisements for Heart to Heart and Petty Fever.

 

These “complaints” (that really are more like mild annoyances) can easily be perceived as attributes, not disadvantages. For example, I may not like to prepare for rain with a sunny day forecast but it’s not like preparation is a bad idea. My muck boots have saved my faux fur heels from irreparable harm. And not having an abundance of chain store shopping options has a way of reducing impulse purchases. Making a shopping list usually means spending less money. Long car rides to Seatac ensures time for introspection, quality conversation or even enjoying a good podcast. Of course I can’t think of any advantage to not being able to get my street taco fix but I’m sure I can find a great  how-to foodie podcast somewhere between Sequim and the Hood Canal Bridge.

Advertisements

September 2017 Housing Stats for Sequim, WA (98382)

Click the link below for September 2017 residential housing stats for Sequim, WA from the Northwest MLS.

Statistics from the NWMLS

Of note is the $65,394 average sold price increase from Sept 2017 to last September along with 15 fewer days on market until sale compared to last year.

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about Sequim real estate, please contact me.

 

Ten Observations About Living in Sequim

Two years ago today after a lifetime in the San Francisco Bay Area we sold our home, left our jobs and relocated to the Pacific Northwest. While I continue to discover new experiences and nuances about the area, I have 10 observations worth noting:

  1. In a small town small business matters.  When possible find myself patronizing local businesses even if it means paying a little more. A small town without a preponderance of thriving small businesses is just another strip center city.
  2.  That barista with an attitude might be your boss’s kid. Better to manage expectations and be kind. If you tip, be generous because in a small town, you’ll be remembered. Additionally, the likelihood of the person helping you being a friend of a friend is alarmingly high. We’re all eeriliy connected here.
  3. Weather forecasts tend to be unreliable here.  If you’re an iPhone user and rely on Apple weather, don’t. Instead, carry a pair of boots, an umbrella, a sweater and a raincoat in the car. Better prepared than cold.
  4. Visitors are easily identified. Tourists can be spotted by one characteristic and it’s not their license plate or their clothing. It’s their driving behavior inside one of the several roundabouts throughout town. This tendency, though wrong is to brake smack in the middle.
  5. There really is more than one auto dealership in the area. But for some reason Sequim is the home of the white Subaru SUV.
  6. If it’s a “must have” article of clothing, it’s likely that others think similarly. Succumbing to an impulse purchase can have an unintended twinning effect with much of the local population. One need only observe the preponderance of gray and purple rain coats sported around town to understand this.

    coats
    Coat rack seen in a home
  7. You can tell whose lived here a while by their speech. Locals refer to coyotes as “kye-yotes” and call Old Olympic Highway “The Old Highway.” The first time I heard people talking about PA I thought they meant Palo Alto. Nope, Port Angeles!
  8.  Independent Coffee Houses Rule! There’s an abundance of locally owned independent coffee houses in Sequim.  In Sequim we have ONE Starbucks and one Starbucks kiosk inside a Safeway. That’s it!  And many of  the Independents feature some uniquely charming offering. Cups of Kindness at Hurricane Coffee? The concept is like “Playing it Forward” but better.

 

cups of kindness

9. Parades are still relevant.  At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I admit that I’ve always avoided parades. Until I attended the Sequim Irrigation Festival Parade (I know, what on earth is an Irrigation Festival?) The parade is a total community effort and is quite wonderful for young and old. irrigation-fest

10. There’s a whole lot of Kirkland going on. As a real estate broker I walk through a lot of homes. I’m amazed by how often I see some trace of Costco inside each home. From the furniture to floor-mats, hallway rugs, clothing, shoes, and lets not forget the gigantic Costco muffins. But it’s fitting right? Costco’s headquarters are in Kirkland, WA.

 

A Washington State Ferry Tale Experience

As a new-ish Washington State resident, I’ve recently discovered that I have options when traveling to the most menial destination. When I learned that I could either drive or take a ferry to Seattle, I was perplexed by this either/or choice. Who wants to sit inside a car when I can shave off 30 minutes and experience travel by ferry? This travel option is both intriguing, in a romantic swashbuckling fairy-tale sort of way, and a little intimidating in an unknown new experience sort of way.

Movement from one body of land to another by way of a large water-bound vessel conjures wonder and excitement, especially when you’re me and your travel amounts to planes, trains and automobiles. But yet many Washington State residents travel to and from work via ferry with the same regularity as people who live on the East Coast commute via the subway.  But we’re not talking leaving your car behind and boarding BART or Light-rail. We’re talking driving a vehicle onto a ferry and driving it off.

View once boarded the ferry parking terminal. Many remain inside their car.

The first time I traveled by ferry was when my husband and I went to Seattle. We drove to the Bainbridge Island terminal in order to take a ferry directly in to Downtown Seattle.  A safety-flag carrying attendant directed us to a line where we  would wait for the next ferry. We then joined hundreds of other vehicles into our designated lane. So seamless is the transition from parking to sailing, if you remain in your vehicle you may not even realize once the ferry has departed.

Since it’s about a 30 minute trip, riders have the option of staying inside their vehicles or vacating them to enter the main deck. After climbing two flights of stairs, I entered the main deck where I was rather taken aback by what I saw.  I was not expecting to see built in Winnebago style tables and plastic benches next to the windows along with a cafeteria complete with two people working cash registers.

 

I love how even the kiosks are adorned with artwork

The cafeteria fare consisted of canned soups heated inside institutional steel containers (the kind with the hole on top of the lid for the ladle), a popcorn and soft pretzel heated unit, an assortment of tea, hot chocolate, coffee and a plethora of overpriced convenience store-looking packaged sandwiches and snacks.

Salt to settle your motion sickness?

The workers are friendly and it’s nice to have a little cafeteria instead of vending machines. After I purchased a cup of soup I walked around the retro strictly functional interior where I observed travelers playing cards, board games brought from home or reading books.They even sell playing cards inside the cafeteria.

How cool is this the concessions store sells playing cards? Go Fish!

Some travelers bring a travel pillow and curl up on a bench to nap.  One family brought  along their lunch to dine at one of the many window booths. Best part is, every seat has a view.

Up yet another flight of stairs, the open-air deck offers breathtaking views from every vantage point.

Rows of benches where passengers can enjoy the view

 

An array of idyllic homes on Bainbridge Island

The return trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island cost more than the reverse trip.  But unlike Bainbridge Island, Seattle offered more appealing pre-boarding concessions. Once you pay and park, depending on how much time you have prior to boarding the ferry, you can leave your car and enter a “mini-mall” just for ferry travelers. There’s a wine-bar, an espresso place, a Subway and a taqueria . It’s all so bizarre and funky but yet perfectly appropriate. An announcement alerts travelers when it’s time to board the ferry. Thanks to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) app, I can determine whether this makes sense for me depending on my time frame.  I can view the number of spaces remaining and time it just right so that I can pay and drive on the ferry just before it departs. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/

I imagine my ferry fascination will gradually wane over time just like everything else. The beautiful thing is unless one is traveling to a nearby island like Whidbey, transportation by ferry is not required, it’s an option. Just like taking the bus. But if I have all the time in the world and wish to take in the Washington State vibe, let the wind run through my hair while gazing down below at the chilly and often choppy waters, the ferry can be both therapeutic and enjoyable.

Approaching Seattle!

“Welcome to Sequim,” says everyone!

I recently moved from San Jose, CA; the city I grew up and lived most of my life, to Sequim Washington.

First things first:

1) It’s Sequim, pronounced  “Skwim” not Sek-wim. One syllable, not two.

2) I’ve relocated. Not retired, though Sequim does seem to attract a lot of retirees.

3) I’m finding that Washington State means different things to different people. I live on the Olympic Peninsula, not in Seattle.

Sequim has over 60 small businesses within its six square block area. We have Costco, Walmart, and a few other big-box type stores and a dozen or so restaurants ranging from diners to gourmet fare. The downtown features purple park benches with matching purple trash receptacles, fresh flowers hanging in artful arrangements downtown and purple bike-shaped bike racks.  The Clallam County seat, Port Angeles is about 17 miles away and possesses a cleverly and beautifully stated slogan  “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” The same is true here in Sequim but unlike Port Angeles, we have a smaller population, less rain and more sunny days.

cropped-downtown.jpg
Downtown Sequim

Some observations:

1) Unlike the Bay Area, where there are clearly defined areas of affluence; there seem to be less divisions here in Sequim. Perhaps this boils down to population alone, I’m not sure. But even in what might be regarded as a more pricey area, you can still find moderate housing. For example there are pricey areas near the water but at the same time, you can find a less expensive home. In the 17 months I’ve been here, I’ve yet to come across what appears to be an undesirable area. There are good areas, even great areas, but not sketchy ones.

 2) People go out of their way to smile and say hello. I can’t pump fuel at Costco without someone greeting me and striking up a conversation.  It’s as though the residents of Sequim are more concerned with offending their neighbors by not greeting them. I can’t walk my dog in my neighborhood without a car passing me by and waving. I no longer have to aggressively speed up to change lanes on the highway. I simply turn my signal on and people let me in. It’s not Stepford, it’s Sequim. And it’s refreshing.
costco
Sweet couple shopping at our very uncrowded Costco

3) Here in Sequim I daily witness aesthetic beauty which has provided a contentment I’ve never quite experienced. As a runner, I’m continually mesmerized by the theater of nature as I explore new paths on new roads. Sometimes it’s a wooded forest or sometimes it’s the combination of the vast open sky and the changing colors of the trees. It’s hard to not stop in my winded tracks and gaze toward the snow-capped mountain ranges and not be overtaken by the beauty. I wonder if I will eventually grow bored of all this nature the same way I got bored of the visual appeal of Santana Row or the Winchester Mystery House.  But in talking with people who’ve lived here for years I’ve learned that the natural beauty we experience here is not the sort of thing people tire of. I guess it explains why the Sequim Facebook page is comprised almost entirely of beautiful images that people post of everyday observations. I can’t help but wonder if living among and within this environment actually contributes to a happier populous whose friendly hello’s are nothing more than a natural outflow of their contentment.

dungeness
Dungeness Park trail leading out to the water

4) I’ve heard it a number of times but “Everyone here is from somewhere else.” Translation: This isn’t a cliquey town. Sequim is a place where the residents delight to know where you’re from not so they can judge you, because they too, are from another place. And their response is always the same: Welcome to Sequim.