You’re Going to Need a Boat: A Modern Island Home in Washington

Henry Island Home

There’s getting away. And then there’s surrounding yourself with water on all sides.

This island escape for sale on Henry Island, WA, is located just off the shore of San Juan Island and surrounded by the blue waters of the bay. The price for a slice of paradise in the Pacific Northwest: $2,895,000.

The home is on an island that’s accessible only by boat and has only a handful of year-round residents. There is no Internet service. “When I first bought it in 2003, it was so remote, it felt like the end of the world,” homeowner Adam Kasper says.

Kasper, a Grammy-winning music producer who’s worked with Foo Fighters and Nirvana, envisioned a modern place where he, his wife, and their daughter could take in the sounds of silence. He hired Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to build the waterfront retreat on 24 acres of land. (The firm designed a Lake Tahoe development we featured earlier this year.)

Open Floor Plan

Kasper was beyond pleased with the results. “It’s a work of art,” he says. The sleek lines, exposed kitchen, and walls of glass open the home to its natural surroundings.

The three-bedroom, 2,700-square-foot space features concrete floors, radiant heat, and water views from every room.The home was featured in Dwell magazine, which called it “the house that Nirvana built.”


The living and dining spaces are connected by a 10-foot-long breezeway to the bedrooms in a separate wing. The setup is ideal for night owls. “It really turned out to be a great idea,” Kasper says. “I’m a late-night guy.”

House Linked by Breezeway

Kasper says he’s not spending as much time at his island getaway as he used to and has decided to part with it—and the privacy it entailed.

That privacy came at a price. Completed in 2008, the home’s construction offered a unique challenge. Namely, all building materials had to be brought in by barge.

In fact, that’s how it works for everything on this tiny island. “It’s not served by a ferry or a bridge,” listing agent Richard Sandmeyer says. The agent is one of a handful of year-round residents on the island.


For groceries, a haircut, or a trip the mail, you’ll need a four-minute boat ride to Roche Harbor, according to the agent. The harbor is served by Kenmore Air, which offers direct flights from Seattle. You can arrive at your dock by boat or floatplane. The drive to Roche Harbor from Seattle takes about three hours.

Bonus: Once you make the journey, don’t expect crowds. It’s a preservation trust property. “There won’t be any development out there,” the agent says. “Which really makes it a private setting.”

We’ve Found the Best of the Best Cities to Live In

Venutra, CA

Venutra, CA

At any given moment, there are at least a half-dozen top 10 lists on my Facebook feed: the best places for school, work, dating, eating, drinking, having kids, and growing old and dying happily of natural causes. (Or, conversely, the crumbling industrial hellscapes that are the best places to get shot, stabbed, and ripped off.)

But how can there be so many spots that are the No. 1 Best Place to Live in America? And how do the list-makers figure that out?

For the most part such places share attributes such as good schools, parks, recreational opportunities, high employment, decent median wages, and lower crime rates.

But the term “best” is not only in the eye of the beholder, it’s also in the eye of the zeitgeist. “In the 1980s, people were looking for the safest place to live,” says Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s Best Places, who’s been pinpointing paradises since 1985.

As the birth rate increased, they cared most about schools. And today? “People are most interested in affordable housing,” he says.

To complicate matters, they also want to live in cities again, making some of the most desirable places unaffordable. The other desirable ingredient: diversity of the ethnic, racial, and economic variety.

That’s pretty hard to come by. The harsh reality is that many of these places marked “best” are also wealthy and conspicuously lack diversity. We peered closely at the cities and towns ranked No. 1 to figure out why each one made the list(s).

Apex, NC

By Emailgb (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia

Apex, NC (

Where’s the best place to live in all of America? Time says it’s this town of 42,150, which has “a charming downtown” and “top-notch schools.” It has tech jobs and affordability, a rare and welcome combination (though we’ve seen plenty of cheaper towns), plus “a close-knit vibe.”

Median income: $88,558

Average listing price: $397,900


Newbury Street, Boston, MA


Newbury Street, Boston

Boston, MA (

It’s one of the most expensive places to live in the United States, but it also has good schools—well, some of them—relatively low unemployment, and “scores of cultural opportunities for the whole family.”

Boston also got so much snow last winter that the towering piles of garbage-laced ice and slush didn’t entirely melt off until the middle of July. It was also recently voted home to the healthiest real estate market. On paper it’s a diverse place—53.9% white, 24.4% black, 8.9% Asian, 17.5% Hispanic—but it isn’t known for being particularly integrated.

Median income: $53,601

Average listing price: $562,500


Chattanooga, TN

Imilious/ Wikimedia

Chattanooga, TN (Outside magazine)

Outside magazine’s readers chose this city of 173,000 along the Tennessee River Gorge as its No. 1 best place to live. Granted, the criteria may be skewed considering the nature-loving constituency, but Chattanooga also offers the prospect of tech jobs, cold-brew coffee, and record stores. Affordability? They’ve got it here, though schools need some work. It scores decently on diversity.

Median income: $38,064

Average listing price: $135,000


Greenwich, CT

Carmine Salvatore/iStock

Greenwich, CT

Greenwich, CT (

Good schools? Yes. Crime? Low. Affordable? Not even close. This New York City suburb of nearly 63,000 is one of the wealthiest and most exclusive areas in America. But it also has “a dynamic culture comprising of a symphony orchestra, a natural history museum, a choral society,” and it tops a “best city in which to raise a family” list. A rich family.

Median income: $132,164

Average listing price: $2.5 million


Overland Park, KS

David Reber/Wikipedia

Overland Park, KS (

WalletHub rates cities on family friendliness, health and safety, education and child care, and affordability. Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb, gets an 80 on the family stuff, but a lowly 8 on affordability.

Also, many of its cultural attributes (Royals games, a major art museum, the zoo) are located in Kansas City proper, which is ranked as the 90th best city (out of 150) for families, based largely on poor health and safety rankings.

Median income: $71,094

Average listing price: $322,000


Madison, WI

Richard Hurd/Flickr

Madison, WI

Madison, WI (

Livability names this left-leaning college town of 245,000 the best place to live in America, period. “Madison provides residents with affordable housing, great schools, excellent health care and a wide range of recreational activities and entertainment options.” We hear the nature is plentiful and the food is good, too.

Median income: $53,464

Average listing price: $230,000


Plano, TX

Carlos King/Flickr

Plano, TX

Plano, TX (

This suburb of Dallas was the wealthiest city in the United States a few years back. It has also received numerous “Safest City in America”–type citations, though it gets a B- for “crime and safety.” Access to libraries: C-. But it scores an A+ in education—how Plano does that without libraries is anyone’s guess.

Median income: $82,484

Average listing price: $355,000


Provo, UT

Michael Duersch/Flickr

Provo, UT

Provo, UT (

Provo is a college town (Brigham Young University) of 114,000, with mountain views, outdoor activities, low unemployment, affordable housing, and a high median income. You want wholesome? It’s also home of the Osmond Family. Provo’s population is roughly 98% Mormon, and it has been named one of the most conservative cities in the nation (it has only four bars), making it sort of the anti-Madison. Provo was also ranked as the nation’s “Most Optimistic City.”

Median income: $39,688

Average listing price: $305,000


Rainbow over Lake Sammamish, WA


Rainbow over Lake Sammamish

Sammamish, WA (

This wealthy suburb of Seattle didn’t make it to the overall best places list, but NerdWallet named it the “Best Small City for Families.” It was also ranked a few years ago as “The Friendliest Town in the United States” by CNN Money. Good schools? Sammamish has ’em. Affordability? Um…

Median income: $143,919

Average listing price: $800,000


Ventura Pier, Ventura, CA

Ken Lund/Flickr

Ventura Pier

Ventura, CA (Men’s Journal)

Ventura, a city of nearly 110,000 set between Malibu and Santa Barbara, may seem like a bargain for a California coastal city (well, compared to San Francisco and Silicon Valley). But while Men’s Journal, putting it top on the list of “Best Places to Live Now,” calls it “refreshingly unpolished,” it’s still pricey. There’s year-round sunshine, good public schools, and plentiful outdoor activities—beach, anyone?

Median income: $65,137

Average listing price: $703,985

Pick the Right Mortgage Payment Plan


How you pay back your mortgage is arguably the most important aspect of the home-buying process. When you’re loan shopping, you’ll come across a number of different kinds of loans and payment options. Before you pick one, you should know how some of the most common options work and consider which one best suits your needs.

Payments anyone can do

For most mortgages, you’ll be able to make payments on your loan in three common ways.

1. Amortized payments

This is the most common type of payment. You make a monthly payment covering both the principal and interest due. By the end of the loan’s term, your loan and interest will be paid in full.

This monthly payment can either stay the same, as with fixed-rate mortgages, or fluctuate, as with adjustable-rate mortgages.

2. Biweekly payments

One way to chip away at your principal balance faster is to make biweekly payments. With this method, you pay once every two weeks, which comes to 26 payments a year. This payment schedule can shave a few years off a 30-year FRM and save you thousands of dollars in interest.

3. Extra payments

If you want to pay more toward your principal, it’s your right to do so, and it’s a good idea for those who want to stay put. Sending your lender a check with “for principal only” written on it is one way to do this.

Loan-specific payments

Some repayment options are offered only with certain loans. The following loans are the most common:

1. FRMs

FRM payments are made once a month and are fully amortized. The interest rate is fixed and the monthly payment amount never changes. The typical length of an FRM is 30 years, but it can be as short as five years and as long as 50.

2. ARMs

ARM payments can change each month or each year, depending on the loan’s terms. Some ARM loans have a fixed-rate payment period for several years before changing to an ARM with fluctuating payments. ARMs usually come with a cap on how much your interest rate or monthly payment can rise.

The fluctuating payments of ARMs can be difficult for some home buyers to keep up with. However, ARM interest rates are usually lower than FRM rates. They can be advantageous if you move often or don’t plan to see out the life of the mortgage.

3. Payment-option ARMs

Option or payment-option ARMs give you a choice of how you want to pay on any given month. They include:

  • Interest-only payments
  • Fully amortized payments (you pay both the principal and interest due that month)
  • A limited payment, which might not cover the interest or principal amount

This flexibility can be beneficial or troublesome for borrowers. You should know how each payment change affects the overall amount you owe on your loan.

4. Interest-only loans

Interest-only loans offer an initial payment period in which you pay back only the interest. Also, most interest-only loans are adjustable-rate, so your monthly payment can change.

When the interest-only payment is up, you usually have three options to pay off the principal:

  • Pay it in full
  • Refinance
  • Make monthly payments on the principal

This payment plan is considered risky. The amount due each month decreases with each interest payment, but when the interest-only period ends, the monthly payments on the principal are larger. This can stress your financial situation if you aren’t ready.

5. Balloon mortgages

Some loans, called balloon mortgages, require you to pay off the remaining loan in full after a period (typically five to seven years) of low monthly payments. This type of loan can get you into a lot of trouble if you don’t have a rock-solid financial plan, or can’t refinance, and want to stay in your home.

Balloon mortgages often come with lower interest rates and low down payment requirements. This payment plan may be useful for those who don’t want to stay in the home long term and instead plan to sell.