Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When my values and work clash

I'm thankful.  I enjoy my work, and rarely does my work challenge my values, or vice versa.

It happened this week.  I have a new listing in a close-in eastside neighborhood.  In the first days,  I noticed a homeless camper up the street.  This is not news.  Portland's neighborhoods have lots of homeless campers these days.  Even if we are used to it, homeless campers aren't exactly a selling point for a property.  This particular camp was very neat and tidy, self-contained.  I was thankful for the considerate campers, and paid it little mind.

A few days later, I arrived to hold an open house for brokers.  The camper had moved right in front of the listing. This really wouldn't be a selling point.  I have fiduciary duties to my seller, to work in their best interest.  But man, was I really going to ask this camper be moved just because we're selling a property?!  On the other hand, how in the world would I get this listing sold, with a homeless camper right out front?   ugh.

Later that afternoon, a neighbor to my listing called me, as she was upset by the camper. She had contacted the Portland Police, sent me the link to report the camp and contacted other neighbors.  I did submit a report of the camp on line, and notified the seller (he wasn't occupying the property).  The seller is a good guy.  He did report the camp on-line also.  He also spent some time talking with the gal who was camping; learned a bit about her situation and her resources.  It sounded like she was in a queue for transitional housing and had some support and resources.  He gave her a little money for bus fare.

A day or so later, she was gone, as was her stuff.  Word has it she did successfully get into transitional housing.  While this was not an ideal situation for any of us; homeless gal, seller, neighbor, me, I am thankful for what feels like a decent resolution.

I'm guessing most of you run into situations where your work and your values aren't in sync.  Care to share?



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Some finer points of Portland's rent stabilization rules

Portland has had three different iterations of the rent stabilization rules.  The most recent rules are now permanent, and not based on a temporary housing emergency.  Like it or not, effective or not, unintended consequences or not, they are here to stay.

The basics are rent increases of 10% or more per year, or a "no cause" notice to a tenant to vacate, trigger landlord obligations to pay relocation costs to the tenant, should they move.  There are specifics about when the money must be paid, and what tenant obligations are around the money.



Landlords owning only one property are no longer exempt.  Landlords renting out a room in their own residence, or a unit in a multi-unit building in which they reside, are exempt.

Many folks owning one property they are renting out don't think of themselves as landlords, and didn't seek to become landlords.  Often, a life change will have the owner living somewhere else, with the intention of moving back in, or selling in the not so distant future. Think job transfer, or moving in with a partner; temporary job posting abroad, graduate school, sabbatical and so on.  Often, owners like this haven't taken landlord training classes, don't have a go to landlord/tenant attorney, and may or may not have used a property manager.

 In such a cases, a landlord can, at the time a fixed term lease is signed, put in the lease that they will be returning to live in the property, and the tenant is on notice that they'll need to move at that time.  It is required that this be in the original, fixed term lease.  Merely coming back to town and giving tenants notice to vacate as you want to live there, will not provide an exemption from the relocation costs.  In theory, this method also works if you plan to sell, though I've heard differing opinions on this.

 In any case, the relocation assistance fees are as follows:

Studio ...................................................$2,900
One-bedroom....................................... $3,300
Two-bedroom..................................... .$4,200
Three-bedroom (or larger).................. $4,500

These fees must be paid to the tenant 45 days on advance of the move out, or rent increase date.  So,  the required 90 days notice is given, and then 45 days later, the relocation assistance is paid.  This gives the tenant funds with which to place deposits on a new rental.  Since landlords have up to 30 days after a tenant vacates to refund deposit (or provide cost accounting for retained deposits), it can be hard for tenants to pay new deposits without access to funds on deposit with the current landlord.

This is just an overview of the rules, with a focus on the unintentional landlord.  I am not a property manager, nor an attorney.  I have paid attention, taken several classes, and done some reading.  Please consult a property manager or attorney for specific advice about your individual situation.

Late breaking news: the City of Portland is moving toward a registry of rental properties.  Many cities do register rental properties, including Seattle, San Francisco, Eugene and Gresham. I'll write more on this later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mid-year market update

RMLS released the market statistics for June.  This gives us a mid-year glimpse at the market.

I usually keep track of three factors, and feel these can give a pretty good sense of the market; median price (and percentage change), market time, and inventory.

The June's median price was $417,900, with the year to date median price at $400,000.  From June 2017, this is up 7.2%, up 2.2% from May 2018, with the year to date percentage change of 6.7%.    In 2017, the median price was $390,000, and the year to date price was $375,000; year to date change of 10.3% .  Its really that year to date percentage change on which I keep my eye.  When I talk about a slowing market, I'm talking about the speed at which our median price is increasing



Market time can also be seen on the chart above.  There isn't much change here; May and June 2018 had the same market times, 2017 and 2018 year to date are the same at 48 days.

Our look at inventory is calculated by dividing the active residential listings by the number of closed sales for the month.  So far inventory in 2018 has been equal to or greater than the two previous years.  Our market usually sees a summer slow down in July and August, and even into the fall.  It looks like that slow down came early this year.



The rate of increase in prices is slowing, we have more houses in relation to sales, and our market time is holding steady.  I'm glad to see a slowing in that rate of price increases.  6.7% is still a healthy rate, and outpaces the increase in wages in our area.  The price increase, combined with rising interest rates can make it hard for buyers to save as quickly as the cost of buying is going up.

Is it still a good time to buy?  I think so.  But, don't buy thinking you can sell in a year, without doing any work, at a profit. If you're buying today,  plan to stay for three years or more.  Is this a good time to sell?  Yes.  But don't bank on multiple offers and bidding wars.  Yes, we do still see multiple offers and bidding wars.  But we also see overpriced houses sitting, lowering their prices while buyers stay away.  Buyers worry about what is wrong with that hasn't been snapped up.  Sometimes, the only thing wrong is the price.

As always, I'm glad to answer any question you might have, or to talk about your specific situation.  leslievjones@gmail.com  503-312-8038.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Government Camp; summer version

Many of us think of Government Camp, and the surroundings as a winter playground.  Or a place to stop through on your way to or from camping.

We're just back from a lovely few summer days playing in and around Government Camp.

We stayed at the lovely Grand Lodges at Collins Lake.  While in Government Camp, the property is slightly west of the hubhub; all the conveniences a short walk away, but we were in a welcome quieter spot.  All but the top floor units are spacious, 1800+ sq ft, one level units, with three bedrooms and two roomy bathrooms (the top floor units also have a 300+ sq ft loft, and gorgeous soaring ceiling in the living and dining areas).  There is a fab kitchen, large dining area and big sitting area with fireplace.  There is a deck across back. overlooking sweet, little Collins Lake.  The property has covered, secure parking, elevator, pool house with pool, sauna and hot tub.  Oh, and there is electric vehicle charging just across the way at Ski Bowl.  We used the CHAdeMO, fast charger for $7.50 a session; no waiting, no issues.

We were six; three couples, and were quite comfortable in the space.  The kitchen was easy to cook in; and nicely connected to the rest of the unit, so the cook didn't feel left out.  Thankful for the well stocked kitchen, we didn't want for a particular utensil or specific pot.

Our first day, there was indeed a run to the Huckleberry Inn for baked goods, that may or may not have occurred on subsequent days. And then we headed up to Timberline Lodge, for  a hike.  Half our party had not been to the Lodge before, always a treat to be with first timers.

Our hike was to the Zigzag Canyon Overlook, really just a part of the Mt. Hood Loop trail.  As with most hikes from destination resports (Crater Lake felt much the same way) the trail is quite crowded to begin with, and thins out quickly.  It is a 4.4 mile loop, of mostly easy hiking.  There is a fair decent to the overlook, so be sure to save energy (especially if you've got younger kids along), for the return trip.  From the Lodge, head out to the terrace, and go left.  There are a few options, most of which lead to the same place.   There are, of course, great views as you start out, some lovely treed parts of the trail, and also sparse, exposed areas.  The overlook itself is stunning.

Heading out. Mt. Jefferson in the distance.


Zigzag Canyon


Then it was back to our accomodations for lunch and pooltime!  Dinner that night as with our previous night, was in.  There was pie!  The Huckleberry Inn had fabulous apple and huckleberry pie.

Next day, some in our party went back up to Timberline Lodge to ride the magic mile chairlift up to 7000 ft. The ride is quite scenic, with a fee of $54 for a family of four.   Others headed down to hike the Salmon River  out of Welches.  The Old Salmon River Trail is also a nice one, and probably better if you have small kids along.




We splurged our last night, and had dinner in the Cascade Dining Room at Timberline Lodge.  We were pleasantly surprised with a superb meal.  Sometimes, destination resorts have cache, and a beautiful room, but the food can be a bit blah. Not the case at Timberline!  Our party of six all enjoyed the meal; salmon, pasta, rib eye, flat iron steak and mussels.  Plus salads, bread and a succulent lemon creme brulee.  We were interested to learn that the dining room has their own beef program; owning the land, cattle and process.  Those who had steak said it was fabulous.  The service was great, attentive, but not too. The food was delicious, and the ambiance can't be beat.  If you can, treat yourself.

We took the long way home, via Highway 35 and a stop at  Idiot's Grace, Memaloose Winery and Tasting Room  in Mosier.  It had been several years since I've come down Highway 35.  The Hood River valley is lovely.  We were a bit early for fruit picking , aside from cherries.  Idiot's Grace Winery is a small, organic winery.  Their basis of operations used to be across  the river in Lyle, until a few years ago.


I'm not a wine drinker, so can't comment on that.  We were, though, at a private event there, and our wine enthusiast compatriots were impressed.  The vintner gave a variety of interesting talks, and a tour of the spread.

All in all, a fun, easy few days, rather close to home.  The Pacific Northwest is so lovely in summer, it's nice to stick around.  Do you have a favorite easy get away to share?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Weird Home Tour

We did the Weird Home Tour last weekend.  The tour originated in Austin, TX, and has expanded to other cities.    This tour benefited Central City Concern, who provided volunteers to staff the event.

This was the first weird home tour in the Portland area.  Some homes are on the tour by virtue of their unique architecture or form; think the airplane, shipping containers, domes etc.  Others are there based on the unique decorating style.  As a real estate broker, and the least creative person you'll ever meet (I can suck the creativity out of things), I'm drawn to the unique architecture.  Oh, I enjoy seeing weird decor, and there was plenty of that.

The real draw for us was the airplane house.  OPB did a story on it a few years ago, you can hear that story here.  The house is located in the woods, on the south end of Hillsboro.  We set out there first.  It was a lovely morning for a drive, and we really enjoyed getting outside the urban growth boundary on that side of town.  While there was decent signage, there wasn't clear information about parking, so there was a bit of a cluster getting parked on the narrow dirt road among the trees.
Those foundation cribs are doing some work
Doesn't your house have a cockpit?

Open the pod bay doors Hal.
The interior of the plane is primarily hollowed out. The overhead luggage bins have been removed, and a lucite/clear plastic floor put in.  Its cool to see the inner parts of the plane. In places, the "wall covering" on the inside walls has been removed.  Its pretty much a long, one room dwelling, with a somewhat makeshift shower. and the planes small bathroom is indeed, the bathroom.  The dwelling is hooked up to a septic/cesspool system, has running water and electricity.

The second house we went to was named Nautical Moderne, which was a cool, ranch with basement.  Predating mid-century modern, it for shadowed some of that styling, while being anchored a bit in an older style.  The homeowners has fabulous decor that really rounded out the feeling.  It had a great retro kitchen, with what must have been a first generation dishwasher.
Super duper streamlined

And this original banquette




There is a fun gallery of all the houses here

The last house we went to was "Serendipity"; billed as an accessible house.  Which it was, kind of.  It was very much a work in progress.  There were some interesting design features, providing accessibility, but I'd guess the house was a bit rough for most.

There were six houses in all.  We didn't make it to all of them.

For the first year, I thought it a fun tour.  The homeowners were all present, and quite gracious in opening their homes and so willing to talk about their passions and their projects.   I'll look forward to next year's tour.  I'd love to see more "weird" architecture.  I know the Portland area has plenty!  Do you have a wierd home, or know someone who does?  Sign up for next year!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Solar Update

We upgraded our solar "system" in March 2018, to 10.05 KVA system; 30 panels.

Here's the layout of our system. The set to the right is on the east side of the roof, the center set on south (the original solar was only on the south face), and that one little panel is on the west (added only because Don wanted the system to be 10 KVA or more).  



KVA is the non power measure of the voltage multiplied by the amperes.  KVA is not a measure of true power it is a measure of the level of apparent power.

kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of energy. So a 1,000 watt drill needs 1,000 watts (1 kW) of power to make it work, and uses 1 kWh of energy in an hour. That's why, if you leave a TV or computer on standby, it is still using power and creating a kWh cost on your energy bill.

MWh is 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). An MWh is the amount of electricity generated by a onemegawatt (MW) electric generator operating or producing electricity for one hour. On an electric bill, electricity usage is commonly reported in kilowatt-hours.

Since installing our upgraded system in late March, we have generated 6.61 MWh.  That's the equivalent of 257.71 trees planted or 10,231.85 pounds of CO2 emissions saved (or prevented from being created).

Our electric usage from May 20 - June 19, 2018 was 575 kWh.  From 5/18/18 - 6/21/18 (my tracking is easiest looked at by week or month),  our system generated 1276.43 kWh.  So, we generated more than twice our usage.    This ratio has pretty much held true since the system was turned on in late March 2018.

Clearly, winter, with more cloudy days and shorter daylight hours, will have our usage going up, and our generation decreasing.

Our plan, with PGE, provides for them to buy power back from us at the same rate at which we pay them.  Overage from high solar production is banked, to cover those winter months.  But any overage at the end of our contract year (end of March), transfers to those enrolled in low income assistance programs.



The fantasy, you know, in my energy nerd of a household, is, if we are really generating a large surplus, as our natural gas appliances age and fail, we'd replace them with electric versions.  Currently, (hah, see what I did there?) we have a gas hot water heater, dryer, stove and fireplace.    The electric versions of the hotwater heater and dryer  less expensive to buy, and could potentially be powered at no charge.  The gas fireplace and gas stove will most likely remain powered by gas, in any case.

And yes, our electric usage is high.  I'm driving an electric car these days, and charging at home.  Your monthly usage should be lower.

Studies continue to be done, looking at the value of solar electricity in a real estate transaction.  Here's a link to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study, Selling into the sun.   There is lots of depth to the study, but here are a few nuggets.  In general, across states, a premium of $15,000 is attached to an average 3.6kw system.  The larger the system, the lower the per panel or kw premium.  And the, there is the idea of "green cachet".  This indicates, potentially, that there is a fixed component of PV home premiums that occurs regardless of system size. This might indicate that a green cachet exists for PV homes in our sample. In other words, buyers might be willing to pay something for having any size of PV system on their homes and then some increment more depending on the size of the system.  If you are selling a home with solar, be sure the lender and appraiser know about this study. Until recently, we did not have a solid study showing the values of solar, and many appraisers work under old, outdated information.

If you're considering putting solar on your house, we really liked working with Imagine Energy

And, as always, I'm glad to talk about solar and energy efficiency, especially in relation to real estate!  leslievjones@gmail.com  503-312-8038.




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Getting a handle on this varied market

Oh man.  This market is so inconsistent, its hard to find any over arching trends.  I'll try.



The market is definitely slowing.  The Portland market often slows in the summer.  Its a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest, and folks are out playing.  We've also become a vacation destination, so we  see lots of out of town folks falling in love with our city.  Do they all want to buy houses right  now?  I don't think so.  We'll see them back on subsequent long weekends.

We are seeing LOTS of price reductions, and some rather steep and rather quick.  If it doesn't sell now, it may not sell until the September/October market flurry we usually see in advance of the holidays.  For builders, flippers and move-up sellers, that fall flurry may be too far away, hence, the price reductions.

So what do I mean by slowing?   May 2018 saw 6.3% more new listings hit the market, than May 2017.  Closed sales fell 3.2% from May 2017, pending sales decreased 6.8% from May 2017, and the median price through May 2018 has risen 8.0% as compared to 10.7% through May of 2017. 

But, that puts our year to date,  median sale price at $399,500 in 2018, as compared to $370,000 in 2017.   So, still going up, but at a slower rate.   And those price reductions?  Some of them aren't due to "dropping values", so much as aspirational pricing by sellers.

 I think Realtors are reluctant to talk about a slowing market (as with many financial markets, does talking about it change it?).  Sellers are often basing their pricing expectations on what they've heard about the market from friends and neighbors.  This anecdotal evidence can be a few months behind reality.  The expectations of every house generating multiple offers, bidding wars and sales prices well above the list price are unrealistic.  Are we still seeing some multiple offers?  Yes.  Are some houses still selling well over list price?  yes.

Here are the frustrating parts:
1) We, the professionals, are having a hard time predicting what houses will sell quickly and which won't. 
2) With such a varied market, buyers might be able to look at houses priced above their top price range, as some sellers are accepting offers below their list price. 
3) Some houses are still going well over list price, so buyers should be shopping below their top price.
4) Though the stats look like a slowing market, May 2018 market time was 37 days, compared to 39 in 2017.

Here are a few things we do know:
1) Interest rates are increasing, and will continue to do so.
2) Portland is still seeing significant in migration from other states.
3) With a slowing market, it can be possible to get an offer accepted, subject to the buyer selling their current home.  These "contingent" offers have long been a favorite approach for move up buyers.
4) In a slower market, buyers can make better buying decisions.  Now, buyers might be able to think about making an offer on a house for as long as they can think about that new pair of shoes, or where to eat dinner this weekend.
5) Houses that are priced too high, and stay on the market, will eventually sell for less than than had they been priced properly at the beginning.  Sellers who say they'll "wait to get the price they want" are misinformed.  Who ever paid more for a house because its been on the market so long?

There you have it.  To buyers, you may have a bit more buying power than you did previously.  This means, you might be the only offer on a house, and might have the luxury of negotiating with the seller, or not.  Sellers, be careful about over pricing.  We have seen very good appreciation in Portland in recent years. Don't get greedy.

If you have questions about your particular property or situation, get in touch.  I'll be glad to help.  and as always, let me know if there are questions I might answer.  Here's the link to the most recent RMLS stats.

leslievjones@gmail.com   503-312-8038