Your question is a good one. The dilemma I see is predicting which of the neighborhoods will be "highly rentable" 10 or so years down the road. In your price range, the best places to look would be up and coming neighborhoods. There are several in West Seattle, each offering it's own list of pro's and con's. I think your idea of selecting a Realtor with plenty of experience here in the West Seattle market is a good one as they will be able to sit down with you and educate you on the different markets, vs. just selling you something that fits today's budget but might not meet your goals down the road.
Alki is a tough sale at that price point. Are there other neighborhoods you might consider? Just down California Avenue the prices become much more reasonable. Do you need to be near the water? You may want to consider a neighborhood like Shoreline. Just a thought. You may also want to check out the Sandpoint area. Close to Magnusen Dog Park and the Burke Gillman. Ballard also has an off leash park and access to Shilshole. Prices get better if you move away from Sunset Hill and more toward Carkeek.
In all honnesty it sounds like you may need to adjust your expectations a little. $225 for a townhome is a really difficult thing to find.
Call me if you're interested. mary 206/285-8091
There is a great condominium in Capitol Hill - MODE http://(www.modeseattle.com) that has ground floor units with patios. The water isn't as close as you may want but the prices are very competitive for this area. Another nice thing is that the units are all updated and move-in ready. I think your dogs would love it as there are no restrictions on pets. Good Luck!
I think you are off to a good start in thinking about a place to buy. You should be able to find something decent for $225,000. Alas, it may not be in Alki. The only places I've been seeing in Alki are studios that are less than 500 square feet, and that may not be ideal if you have two large dogs.
If you've been prequalified for $225,000, you may want to set your home search parameters up to $250,000. There are homes/condos that have been on the market a while and so now it wouldn't be unreasonable to make a lower offer on something that hasn't sold at that price. Sellers will either accept/counter or they won't.
When shopping for a condo, please keep in mind the Homeowner's Dues, which, for a 1-bedroom can run from $150.00 per month and up; for two bedrooms, dues usually run between $200 and $300 per month on top of your mortgage, and can even go up to $400. That means your condo purchase would have to be around $200,000, roughly, to stay within your limits.
As for condos w/patios for large dogs - There are a couple on the market...but you must check with the condo association to see if they allow large pets. There's a complex right next to Westwood Village, MLS #28068502, that is listed at $225,000 and is a 2 bed/1 bath. Homeowner's Dues(HOD's) are $179 per month.
I would also try the WestWater, a new condo conversion located at 6960 California Ave SW, right by Caffe Ladro and south of the Morgan Junction. These have been on the market a while, and start in the low 200's. They are hot to get these sold, so I imagine there's bargaining room.
If you like waterfront living, have you considered Des Moines? It's a short 10-15 min drive from W.Seattle, on the "secret" highway 509, and there is a wonderful waterfront community there that is facing some new development and growth. MLS#28088907 is a 1bed/1 bath condo at Whaler's Village, which is right on the water, priced right at $160,000. There are a few other condos available in the downtown Des Moines area, several located in the Spyglass condos at 21937 7th Ave S.
I would also love to plug my area, which is Burien!! We have some good buys over here, and Burien is a very nice place to live. I grew up in W. Seattle but am perfectly happy here in B-town. There are a couple of new condo conversions, one at 615 Ambaum Blvd SW, which is the quiet part of Ambaum just a few blocks from up & coming downtown Burien; and one called City's Edge that's also just past SW 116th ST on Ambaum. Both appear to have grassy common areas, and both have been extensively remodeled and are very nice. But remember to check w/the homeowner's association in regards to the dogs...
Good luck out there! And in answer to your question about realtor referrals, I'm not going to beat around the bush...I would like to refer...myself!:)
Have a great day.
An perusal of the MLS shows no townhomes in that price range.
I found 11 condos, but most have some sort of restriction on pets.
Are there any other areas that you are interested in?
You're smart to try to buy instead of throwing your money away on renting. Now is a great time to buy, as there is more inventory available and many sellers are more motivated to price aggressively than they have been in years past. There are a few condos available in the Alki area that have balconies in that price range, but few with patio space.
My best advice would be to choose a Realtor who works in the Seattle market, and is truly a full-service agent. When I take on a new client like you, I first meet with the buyer to discuss all their needs in a home very specifically. Once I have an idea for the client's needs and tastes, I can search specifically for homes that match their criteria. I preview all homes before showing them to my clients, which not only saves my clients time, it also means that sometimes I can find a home for them they would never have found by searching the internet alone.
If you're looking to buy something as specific as a condo/townhome which will allow 2 large dogs and have patio space, you definitely will be well-served to select a good agent. I've been representing other buyers looking in the Alki and West Seattle markets lately, and would love to meet with you to discuss your needs and begin to help you find a home! Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help!
Things to consider are how many bedrooms will you need (2 will certainly be better to a rental down the road) and how easy will it be to get your dogs outside (top floor unit vs. a main floor with patio access to a lawn).
Best of luck!