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Escape to Moses Lake: Young family gains a lot in move, home purchase

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | January 16, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — For Joel and Caitlin Graves, moving to Moses Lake was a “no-brainer.”

Part of Microsoft’s global support team helping business clients, Graves said he had been working for the Redmond-based software giant only three months when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, prompting the company to send most of its employees home.

As it turned out, working from home wasn’t that much of a change from working in the office and didn’t really affect their productivity.

“We do all our collaboration using Microsoft technologies, we’d use Microsoft Teams for meetings,” he said. “While we were in the office, often times there were days when I’d be down the hall from a colleague, and we wouldn’t connect. We’d be chatting on teams or have meetings in which we were all in the same building but we’d hop on Teams.”

Suddenly discovering that he could work very well in the family’s small condo in Snoqualmie, Joel and Caitlin decided to move to Moses Lake — where homes are more affordable.

Joel said he got approval from Microsoft to relocate and permanently work from home on Aug. 3. After two weeks of looking, they found a 2,200-square-foot home in a small subdivision just west of Moses Lake Golf Club, made an offer and closed the deal on Sept. 25.

“That’s less than eight weeks,” he said.

Veteran Moses Lake real estate agent April Adams, who helped the Graveses find their new home, said roughly half of the homebuyers she worked with in 2020 came from “out of town.”

Westside buyers, like the Graveses, bring with them both incomes, which is driving up housing prices and expectations about the kinds of things they’d like to find in a place to live.

“There is not enough housing, and that’s indicative of the number of days a home stays on the market and multiple bidding wars for a house,” Adams said.

While the market conditions are toughest on first-time homebuyers like the Graveses, Adams said that also has knock-on effects. The median home price in Moses Lake is a little less than $250,000, according to Zillow, and if homeowners can’t move up to a bigger or nicer home, then the first-tier house they live in can’t be sold, either.

The momentum of housing sales “starts to stall if a homeowner can’t find a home to move up to,” she said.

Joel said it’s around 60% cheaper to live in Moses Lake than in Snoqualmie, which makes it easier to live on one income. That’s important to the Graveses, because Caitlin wants to be a stay-at-home mom, Joel said.

“Our mortgage for a four-bedroom home is $450 less a month than what we were paying for a two-bedroom condo for rent,” he said. “It’s a win-win.”

As a first-time homeowner, Joel said he is learning he’s responsible for a lot of the repair work, and the Graveses are fixing up their back fence and getting ready to replace all the doors and trim inside. He also discovered that it’s good to get his sprinkler system blown out before the freeze hits.

But mostly, the Graveses said things have gone well and there have been few challenges.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Caitlin said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Charles H. Featherstone

Joel Graves at the entrance to his family's Moses Lake home. The Graveses relocated to Moses Lake last September after Joel's employer, Microsoft, sent many of its engineers and client support people home for work following the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Charles H. Featherstone

Joel Graves, at the entrance to his family's new 2,200 square-foot home near Moses Lake.

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Charles H. Featherstone

The Graveses' home west of Moses Lake.

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Charles H. Featherstone

Their kitchen.

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Charles H. Featherstone

Moving from a 1,200 square-foot apartment to a 2,200 square-foot home in Moses Lake means the Graveses don't have a lot of furniture, Joel Graves said. Which leaves room for the toy train that Joy rides. "It was a good investment," Joel said of the train.