The Power of a Letter by Kerry Hastings

When I moved to Port Townsend in 2017 I arrived with a decade of experience working on affordable housing issues in Southern California. While I always maintained a personal and professional commitment to work on housing concerns, I unwisely assumed that moving to a small rural community would not have a need for that kind of work. I quickly learned otherwise and I eventually was able to use my knowledge and passion for housing issues when I was hired by the Housing Solutions Network (HSN) as the Network Coordinator.

Before coming here though, my husband and I had sold our home in California, and happily met through a friend a young couple who was excited to own first home.  We wanted to sell directly to someone who was struggling to get on their feet, and for whom the home would make as big a difference in their lives as it had in ours. We felt great about this buyer. 

We were also were excited to find a home here in Port Townsend that we could afford to buy, being already very aware that young people our age generally had trouble accessing home ownership in Port Townsend.  Unlike so many who move here from CA and other cities, we certainly could never have paid cash for a home we wanted to buy. Luckily, we had a down payment from our previous sale and had been pre-approved for a bank loan, making us competitive in the housing market.

After a couple of years living here, we realized we needed to move to Bellingham for my husband’s job.  Once again, we were selling our home, but this time felt even more informed by the work I’d done with HSN.  This time we were quite clear we preferred selling our home to members of our local community work force, if we could.

The market was a seller’s market and we had a deadline to meet for being up in Bellingham.  Luckily though, my husband and I had clarified with each other what type of person we wanted to sell to.   We told our realtor of our values around strengthening our community.  We wanted to sell to someone who might be able to live in the house “permanently,” and contribute stability to an already stable neighborhood.

Friends of friends of ours approached us early on about buying our home.  They each had been hired for workforce jobs in Port Townsend that were important, stable positions.  They were ready to invest in our community.  They wrote us a letter about how they felt about moving to PT…telling us about themselves, and mentioned they were first time home owners, eager for the experience. They were just the sort of folks to whom we had hoped to sell our home.

We got a handful of other offers at our full price and one of them was even a cash offer.  The two individuals who were friends of friends went above the asking price.  The cash offer then matched that.  The realtor “heard us” about our values, and while one could be tempted to go with the “easier” cash offer, since getting a bank loan seemed more risky, the values that we placed ahead of a secure cash offer mattered more.  The realtor’s having heard us helped us hold fast to our stated values, and that made a big difference to us. We have no regrets letting our values be something bigger than getting the best price.  That mattered to us, a lot.  We felt so fulfilled that the young couple we sold our home to was going to buy their first home and we know that they love it. It was a wonderful experience to hand over keys to people who were going to contribute so much to this community.

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