Thursday, May 26, 2011

It has been a dreary spring, but our solar power is rocking!

This is a periodic follow up on our solar power installation of last summer.  Since the system wasn't up and running until August 19, 2011, we have yet to experience a full "power year" of solar.  We are still learning and being surprised by weather and celestial conditions make for good solar generation.  It is not what you would think.

Solar power is generated from brightness, not heat.  This idea can be counter intuitive, as a hot day isn't necessarily a powerful day.  And a cool or cold day can rock.  Looking at our generation for any given day doesn't necessarily tell the story.  This month's power bill tells a great story!

From April 19, 2011 to May 18, 2011 our net usage for the billing period was 0 kWh and we generated 36kWh back to PGE to be credited to us on a future bill.  So our daily usage was 0.0 kWh.  In the same billing period in 2010, our daily usage was 10.9.  hmm.

The down side is, we are of course still connected to the grid, and need to be.  So even in months were we generate more power than we use, we pay for the grid.  So our power bill was $9.92.  Oddly, how it shows up on the bill is $9.00 for  0 kWh energy and $0.92 in taxes and fees.  Oh yes, and our per day energy cost was $0.31 for 0.0 kWh per day.  New math?

We continue to be thankful to the folks at Imagine Energy and  Solarize Portland for such an easy process and installation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rain Camping

Some hearty folks partake in snow camping; digging snow shelters or pitching the tent on top of the snow.  It is said that snow camping really isn't all that cold (if you have the proper gear) as it can actually be cold enough to be dry.  I have never snow camped, but imagine it is beautiful.

And then there is rain camping.  This may be a uniquely Oregon activity.  People who have warm, dry houses pack up a bunch of gear (and not necessarily the "right" gear) and head to the mountains where it will most surely rain; for example Timothy Lake on Memorial Day weekend.

Activities while rain camping include erecting tarp villages with no ladder (and being sure NOT to get them too close to the fire), lighting and keeping a fire going in the rain, managing puddles and pools that collect in the tarp city and of course, drying shoes and clothes without burning or melting them.  As a parent, an additional activity is trying to keep your kid from getting irretrievably wet, while they she is hanging out with friends not too close to you.

Benefits of rain camping include sparsely populated campgrounds; who in their right mind goes camping in the rain?  Another benefit of rain camping is the exquisite pitter-patter of rain on tent, )as long as you are completely secure that no water is getting in the tent), and the close bond you establish with your co -campers as you endure, err I mean enjoy, the weekend together.

This weekend will mark our family's ninth (and last) Memorial Day weekend camping with the terrific families from Winterhaven School.  There have been drops of rain all none years, and all but two of those years it has poured.  Next year I expect will gather with some of the families we have camped with over the years in a warm, dry, sunny, spot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

So How Is the Market?

You know those bumper stickers, Keep Portland Weird?  Well the real estate market is helping to achieve that mission.The Portland real estate market is just plain weird. 

Anecdotaly, my office and several others close in have been very hectic.  Many of our buyer clients have written offers ending up in multiple offer situations, losing out.  We've seen this both in the lower, first time buyer/investor price range, ($200,000- $300,000) and in the higher move-up range of $500,000 and up.

Then, out comes the RMLS monthly report with the Portland market stats, which gve few if any hints to the market we have been experiencing.  The ony sign of an improving market is that the average sales price came up slightly from March 2011 to April 2011 from $261,100 to $267,300.  The median price also came up from $215,000 to $219,400.

But...both the number of both pending and closed sales are down, and the number of active listings on the market have increased a tad.

We know the housing recovery will be long and slow, but ...

Click here too see the full Portland market report.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oregon in the News

Two items in the Oregonian caught my eye today. 

The first was the hilarious article about Pendleton's relationship to "the Dude" sweater in The Big Lebowski.  They made it!  Per the Oregonian article, the original sweater from The Big Lebowski is to be auctioned for charity later this month.  At auction it is expected to go for somewhere in the $4000 to $6000 range.  In the article, Pendelton says they are bringng back "the Dude" (and yes, calling it that) at a price of $188.  I didn't, though, find "the Dude" on the Pendelton website.

The second article cited Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp as ranking second and third in the sale of green power (through voluntary programs) to their customers.  It is no surprise that clean power is important to Oregonians.  We like to think of our hydroelectric power as "clean", and ignore or are unaware of the coal fired power sources in our grid.  Anyway, it was an interesting piece of paying for green power.  We started buying green power years ago.  I hope your household has made that choice also.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Can Pets Really Help Sell Houses?

As you well know by now, I am a borderline crazy animal person.  I have two dogs and two cats, oh yeah, and two foster cats in my guest room.  But, I am well aware that when it comes to selling houses, it is usually best if pets arr not seen, or smelled, especially smelled.
A friend recently sent me a link to a New York Times article on how pets can help sell.   The article talks about a few rare instances where having the right pet coincide with the right buyers can make a very positive and lasting impression.  For some, an animal makes a place feel homey and welcoming.  I’ve had a few of these experiences myself.
Many years ago, I listed a lovely, spacious home in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood.  My clients had two very large, very sweet and friendly male cats.  These cats were ambassadors for the house.  They’d tour with prospective buyers; rolling on the floor here and there to slow folks down and help them really feel the space.  The eventual buyer was moving from Switzerland, and choosing to leave behind her aging cat rather than subject her to the stresses of quarantine.  Was there any way, she asked, that the sellers might actually consider leaving the cats (her realtor was embarrassed to ask)  My clients, as it turned out were moving to the east coast, but would be travelling awhile before settling down.  They had been worried about how to transition “the boys”, and yes, they would consider leaving the cats. Now it is kind of odd that animals are considered belongings, or personal property.  So just as our transaction included the refrigerator, it included the cats.
About ten years later (okay, so animals selling houses doesn’t happen everyday), I was showing a good friend and client several houses in Irvington.  The kind of day when we really saw too many houses and they all blended together.  Somewhere in the middle we say a great house, only two bedrooms, but it had a wonderful, spacious kitchen, sizable living room and other cool features.  It also had a very large, very friendly, very white dog.  The dog was quite energetic, so it wasn’t as if he was just some beautiful poser in the corner.  He was front and center.  And while my client didn’t even have a pet, the dog made a great impression and helped us remember this house distinctly.  This house did NOT blend in with the others.  My client bought that house (it was 1996 as he closed just days after my daughter was born), and to this day we still talk about ” that great dog”.
Never underestimate the power of a friendly, furry face.

Home Improvement, The Feline Way

As the days are getting warmer, and spring is in the air, our 20 pound cat, who was converted to an indoor cat over the winter WANTS OUT.  NOW.   So the idle plans we’d had for some sort of protected outdoor cat enclosure quickly became imperative.
First, some background.  We live on a busy street and have been lucky not to lose any cats to the traffic.  As our cats age, it seems we all have thwarted reality long enough.  Guido, the twenty pounder, has been a neighborhood fixture; holding court on the front sidewalk, walking the dogs with us, going into other people’s houses and beating the crap out of their cats.
He has lived large long enough.  The other bit of background is that my husband, Don, can build anything;   just bring money and time.  He is the champion of scope creep.  More later on this.
It used to be most cats went outside, but for those coddled by little old ladies.  And many never were let inside.  Over time, we’ve all become a bit more indulgent of our pets, and veterinary science has told us loud and clear that indoor cats live longer, healthier lives than their outdoor relatives.
Meet the catio.  The cat lovers’ answer to giving your cat a bit of outside space, safe from predators and the temptation to roam (or go in neighbor’s houses and beat the crap out of their cats).  If you look at the history of home improvement trends, the catio is still in its infancy.  Catios can be small or large, lavish or relatively inexpensive.
In  my mind a catio should be large enough for humans to comfortably enter and interact with the cats; kind of like a patio (go figure).  Below are a few pictures of a friend and client’s catio she had built on the home I sold her last winter.  Truth be told, she chose this house in part for the good catio beginnings. I believe the project cost was several thousand dollars.
Catio; no dogs allowed.
Cats enjoying the catio, furniture and all.
The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary puts a professional spin on their cat enclosures, but then they house hundreds of cats in groups settings spread over a number of buildings and enclosures:
Best Friends Cat Enclosure
Our cat enclosure is not a catio per se.  As yet unfinished,  even will done it will be a cat space, not a people space.  It will be composed of a few modular pieces.  The main part is pictured here on the back deck, and encompasses the “dog” house, which the cats have used exclusively since Don built it seven and a half years ago:
Don working on the cat enclosure.
 When complete, Guido will access this via a 24″ wide and high ramp out one of the dining room windows.  The majority of this is built from steel 2″ by 2″ material of a pretty thick gauge.  The material itself provides the structural strength.  Construction is mostly welding.  Once conceived, Don added a few gates for access to the litter box and such (scope creep).  We expect we’ll build (Don will) more “modules” to go out other windows, though I expect this will be the largest. The budget for this first installation will reach about $400 including saw blades and grinding wheels.
To learn more about catios and see more examples, the New York Times wrote on catios here.  And my friend, Kate Benjamin, of Modern Cat has an ongoing web page on catios here.
When making your next move, don’t forget to consider your animal friends!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Predicting Price Reductions in Portland?

Predicting Price Reductions in Portland?

Trulia, one of the real estate data aggregators,  has  come out with a new, Home Offer Report.  The first report debuted March 31st, 2011;  the end of the first quarter of this year.  The report shows, by area and even zip code, how often prices of listed properties are reduced, what the average percentage of reductions is, and the probability of a second, or ensuing reduction.
Forbes, in conjunction with this report, issued a list of the top ten cities with  the biggest price discounts:
#1 Phoenix, AZ
#2 Mesa, AZ
#3 Minneapolis, MN
#4 Long Beach, CA
#5 Baltimore, MD
#6 Oakland, CA
#7 Las Vegas, NV
#8 Sacramento, CA
#9 San Diego, CA
#10 Tucson, AZ
You can read the full Forbes article here
To access the Trulia interactive map go here.  At a glance, I think the Trulia map looks reasonably accurate.  As this is the first iteration of the report, further reports will speak to accuracy.  Trulia projects this report will help buyers settle on offer prices by anticipating when and by how much a seller might reduce a property price.  I’m not sure the data will be quite  that accurate as every seller’s situation and motivation is different.  I do though, find it an interesting tool.

Solar Power Update in Portland

This past Friday, August 20th marked the completion of the solar panel installation, and the first day the system was up and running.  They say the system was active at about 12:00 noon.  Though we’ve yet to get the web based monitor (more on that later) the Sunny Boy data panel is telling us how much we are and have generated, along with a variety of other data.  We estimate our daily usage is somewhere around 10 kwh per day.  On Friday, 8/20 from 12:00 on, we generated a bit over that.  The slightly cloudy days of the weekend generated slightly over 10 kwh each, and Monday 8/23 was a bit over.  Today, a hot sunny day, we have generated 15.9 kwh by 5:15 pm.
Solar Panel installation
Today we did have our inspection from the city, as scheduled.  I love things happening as scheduled.  Imagine Energy showed up a bit early to place a few required stickers and such – safety stickers letting anyone working on our electric panel know that it is fed both by the standard incoming line AND  solar panels.  Our house is fairly new, built in 2003.  My husband and I both noticed that our electric panel was missing the requisite blue inspection sticker from when the house was built.  In an effort to avoid inspection hassles, I printed the inspection record from 2003, showing complete approval of the electric system.  And indeed, the guy today remarked on the missing sticker, but with the records in hand, put the required blue sticker. on, back dated to 2003.
Yet to be completed are Portland General’s installation of the net meter.  This mechanism accounts for the excess power generated.  Portland General then credits us on the following month’s bill for any overage (or debits us for our usage).  The program is set up such that individuals with larger systems won’t be getting rich off their excess power.  The formula is a bit intricate, but after a year (April to March, I believe) any excess power is given to the low income energy assistance program.  I like this.  We didn’t install solar to have some sort of passive income stream.  We installed solar power to minimize our carbon footprint, because it is the right thing to do, and because my husband is obsessed with it.  That we can contribute a bit to those in need is a great benefit.
Also yet to be completed is the “communictaions” part of the system.  Getting Sunny Boy to feed his data to the ether, and for us to be able to access that data.
Sunny Boy
My husband and I have felt this last detail could be a weak spot in the project.  While I am the tech support in our household, I didn’t sign on to get this thing working.  I can be sure the modem is good, reboot the wireless, troubleshoot the printer, tinker with the on demand netflix to the fancy tv.  I do not know how to hook this thingy up.  I’m told “they” will need to get back into our crawl space to finish this up.  Mind you our crawl space is accessed through the floor of the hall closet.  The hall closet that holds, coats, rain boots, that old pair of crutches, extra toilet paper, the large box of furnace filters, spare rugs and towels for pet bedding, bottles of wine we’ll never drink and keep forgetting to serve our guests, the folding table, packing boxes for any recent electronics purchase should they need to be returned.  Given that “they” will be back any day now, we’ve got those above mentioned treasures “stored” in the living room, awaiting this last step.  Now it is not Imagine Energy’s fault that our crawl space access is so centrally located, but having the stuff scattered about does make me very aware of any extra time this last step takes.

Even in Rainy Portland we Conserve our Water

What is so important about saving water? This is rainy Portland for goodness sake!  Yes, but fresh water is hard to come by, and much of the Pacific Northwest is not as rainy as Portland.
So a quick education on water in the Northwest.  We get our water from two main sources, rain and snow pack.  Rain is a fairly immediate source, with some being stored in reservoirs.  Our reservoir system does not have enough capacity to store these fall rains into late summer.  Our second water source is melt from the winter’s snow pack. So in general, we use rainfall rain as it comes and hope for a healthy snow pack (nature’s water storage system) for our summer water.  Climate change seems to be bringing us wetter winters (less snow) and drier summers (less rain for immediate usage).    In addition, population growth in the Pacific Northwest has put increased demands on our water; farm irrigation, industrial uses, municipal uses and now increased fish protection.  Often these uses have conflicting goals and demands.
While we are doing okay with our water, the future may be a bit different.  You may have seen the article in the Oregonian last week talking about a Federal project to take water from the Columbia River both for irrigation purposes and to help restore the Columbia River Basalt aquifer.  This article by the USGS tells about the variety of effects of declining aquifers,  including
  • drying up of wells
  • reduction of water in streams and lakes
  • deterioration of water quality
  • increased pumping costs
  • land subsidence
There is hope!  There are LOTS of things you can do at home, in your every day life to reduce your usage and reliance on municipal water.  As with many changes, small translates to big.  Small savings on a daily basis add up.  If we can reduce our usage by 10 gallons per day for every person in our household, that becomes a HUGE savings over the year.  And if our neighbors change too, wow!
So here it is.  And many of you may already have done some or all of these.  Yay.  If not, here you go.  The City of Portland (if you are a water customer) has all sorts of tips, tools and devices.  Their top 10 water saving tips for indoor usage are: 
  1. Replace older toilets with WaterSense labeled high efficiency toilets.
  2. Regularly check for and repair leaks
  3. Wash only full loads (my daughter and husband need to read this!)
  4. Let your dishwasher do the work
  5. Check your toilet for leaks(that running sound is your water and $’s going down the drain
  6. Install a high efficiency shower head (available free of charge to Portland Water Bureau customers ) 
  7. Install aerators on your bathroom and kirchen sinks (also available from the Portland Water Burea)
  8. Turn the faucet on only to rinse when brushing teeth, washing hands and shaving
  9. Know where your water water shut off valve is and
  10.  Select an Energy Star-approved clothes washer.
I recently ordered a five minute shower timer from the water bureau and will install in tomorrow.
Shower Timer
 I think I take quick showers, so I’ll be curious to see how quick they really are.  My daughter made it known, loud and clear, that her showers will NOT be timed.  And my husband, while a saver of much, takes pretty long showers. The shower timer even came with a small disclaimer: This device does not “shut off” the water after 5 minutes, although many parents of teen agers have asked for the feature.   It doesn’t look as though it would turn off the water.
The Portland Water Bureau also has tips for cutting down on our door usage, along with lots of other great information on water conservation.  If you aren’t in the City of Portland, your local government may have similar resources.  In addition, the State of Oregon has pretty good resources too.

When Can it Make Sense to Spend Money to Sell That House?

The April/May issue of Realtor magazine (the trade magazine for the National Association of Realtors) has some great tips both for Realtors and home buyers and sellers.  One that caught my eye is an excerpt from Home Gain’s 2011 Home Sale Maximizer Survey on “Worth-the-Price Fix-Ups”.
In this market we’ve been saying we’re in a pricing war and a beauty contest.  The market doesn’t seem to reward such big fix ups as kitchen remodels by giving a return on that investment.  And for awhile we’ve been advising sellers not to spend much of  anything on preparing a home for sale.  But smaller projects may have a place. This market has lots of properties in not great shape, combined with buyers expecting the picture perfect, like they see on television, homes.  What to do?
The Realtor article highlights six projects under $1000, and their average expected return.
#1 Cleaning and decluttering; estimated cost: $290, return: $1990.
#2 Brightening (clean windows, replace curtains, update lighting fixtures etc); estimated cost: $375, return: $1550.
 #3 Smart staging (rearrange furniture, new accessories etc);  estimate cost: $550, return: $2194.
#4 Landscaping enhancements (bark mulch, add bushes and plants); estimated cost: $540, return: $1932. 
#5 Repairing electrical or plumbing (ground fault interrupt outlets where needed, under sink leaks etc); estimated cost $535, return $1505.
#6 Replacing or shampooing dirty carpets; estimated cost $647, return: $1739.
In general, buyers are drawn to houses where the seller has put some effort getting their home ready to sell.  Many buyers are turned off by and won’t even consider houses that feel as though they are in disrepair.  Sometimes the difference in doing some work before marketing a home can be the difference in the home selling or not.  Lastly, items that will most certainly be issues in the buyer’s home inspection should be addressed up front.  Some repeat offenders we see in most inspections; working and properly vented bathroom fan, pressure relief valve and earth quake strapping on the hot water heater and improper hand rails (especially on basement stairs).
I’m glad to give your house the once over if you have questions about potential projects. Give me a call.

My Rant about Short Sales, It Isn't What You Think...

Most of you by now are familiar with the term short sale; when the market value of a home for sale is less than the indebtedness.  Many realtors have ranted for a few years about the ineptness of the banks holding those loans in processing and responding to and closing short sale transactions.  This is not that rant.
Over time, the lenders holding the loans on short sale properties have figured out how to do them.  They have instituted processes and formulas allowing these transactions to be addressed on a predictable timeline with predictable milestones.  In addition, some government programs, HAFA and HAMP have added layers of steps and protections for sellers in this position.  Generally, and there will always be exceptions, short sales can move more quickly and smoothly than they did a few years ago.
This rant is about the plethora of real estate agents who consider themselves short sale specialists and the wild variety of medieval theories and processes these agents have put into play.  These “experts” see THEIR method as the best, even if it thwarts multiple listing service rules and regulations and may not be in the best interest of their client, the seller.  An aside; being a realtor can take a fair amount of confidence and ego, especially in marketing yourself.  But some of us have a hard time keeping our ego out of other people’s transactions (a whole different rant).
Here is MY short sale method, which of course, is the right one ;)    A buyer writes their offer subject to the approval of the underlying lender.   The seller may counter that offer to achieve what they hope is the best price.  That best price offer is then submitted to the lender for approval.  No other offers are solicited, the house is marked as having  a pending offer.   Once the lender approval is obtained, the transaction becomes “normal” with timelines for inspection and such commencing at that time.
Some of the other schemes out there, that drive me crazy.
1)  Multiple offers are collected and forwarded to the underlying lender at various times, while the listing remains active in RMLS.  My rant: the poor lender is trying to process this file, but keeps having to reset the tasks and such as these offers come in; clogging the system and slowing things down.  In addition, buyers think properties are available when they may well not be.   Who knows?  Our multiple listing service has a spot  to show whether or not any offers have been received which can at least give agents and their buyers a hint that it might not be available.  Many agents decline to use this field.  Another note; sellers needing to do a short sale often have the clock ticking on an impending foreclosure.  Getting a short sale approved quickly is often a huge priority for a seller.  Good buyers who are ready to buy and pre-approved may not wait around for this ongoing process; often leaving lowballers and those of questionable financial ability to ride it out.  Getting approval, with foreclosure looming and having a sale fall apart on the buyer’s financing is not in the seller’s interest either.
Another method: The seller doesn’t sign a buyer’s offer.  One or more unsigned offers are sent to the underlying lender.  Unsigned contracts don’t bind anyone to anything. So the sending multiple offer issues above are compounded by nothing being binding.  Lord knows what the lender is approving or how the buyers may or may not be feeling once they get a response.  This has the same issues as above.
In approving short sales, most lenders limit, usually to zero, the amount of money or assets a seller can take from the transaction.  The lender doesn’t want to take a loss while the seller walks away with $’s.  The lender does, then, look at the seller’s assets and if there is cash lying around,may require the seller to pay some of that (retirement accounts are generally exempted).   Many houses, when they were bought, had personal property as a part of the transaction; that cool stainless steel fridge,  wolf range etc.  Now, when going into a short sale, some agents are suggesting the seller remove or hide these appliances from the lender. The seller can then sell these separately and pocket the money.  This feels a bit like loan fraud; hiding something froma  lender is rarely good.  I don’t wajt any part of one of these transactions.  So in a sense, those houses aren’t really on the market either.
As a managing broker who actively lists and sells real estate I see new versions of short sale “prowess” daily, and long ofor a simpler time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Energy Efficiency Performance Scores in Portland

A few months ago we had that Home Energy Performance Test done by the folks at Imagine Energy.  We ended up with all sorts of valuable information, much of which we are still mulling over and putting to work.  In addition to the analysis of the different facets of our house; insulation, mechanicals, ventilation, I really have valued the energy breakdowns.  Our energy usage was parsed several different ways, including by fuels (natural gas and electricity), on a consumption basis, usage basis (heating, hot water, plugs) and a cost break down.  It costs us $1032 per year to power our house, with heating being our highest expense  at $398 per year, and hot water and plugs being quite close at $235 and $251 respectively.  Note, these numbers aren’t our total utilities, so water, sewer and garbage are in addition to the $1032.  No wonder it seems kind of inexpensive.
Before the housing crisis hit, Oregon, and Portland in particular, was poised to institute some “point of sale” energy efficiency standards; one with regard to the efficiency of furnaces and the second an energy rating system of homes, letting buyers know estimates of future energy use in advance of their purchase.  Our sister “green” city, Austin, Texas has energy conservation audits in place in certain, and most real estate transactions.   Yes, there is a place in the United States that may well be greener than Portland, and it is in Texas!
Homeowners in Oregon, in conjunction with the Earth Advantage Institute  and The Energy Trust of Oregon, have used the Energy Performance Score voluntarily.   The idea of a point of sale standard on home energy performance reporting is coming up again, not so much a result of an improving real estate market, but more I think, a result of increased energy consciousness.  Representative Ben Cannon recently introduced House Bill 3535  which contains a variety of energy efficiency measure beyond just the Energy Performance Score.  It isn’t clear how far the bill will get in this session.
The Home Energy Performance Score may well be linked, through an easy “one stop shopping” center, giving home sellers and home buyers easy to understand information and buying opportunities to improve a house’s energy efficiency.  Many of us think energy efficiency is only driven by expensive upgrades such as new furnaces and replacement windows.  But even small tweaks can bring noticeable efficiencies.  From our Home Performance Test we learned of leaks in the duct work of our heating system ( in our home built in 2003).  Caulk and mastic are not expensive, and can make a huge difference when applied to the right areas by someone who knows what they are doing.  We noticed warmer rooms and less drafts immediately.
As you might imagine, there are many different opinions on a mandated Energy Performance Score. Per a recent article in the Portland Tribune, t he evaluation to arrive at the “score” is estimated to cost anywhere from $200 to $400.  And whether a seller gets the evaluation done prior to marketing the home, or a buyer has it completed as a part of their professional inspections, the cost increase the amount of money it takes to transact a real estate sale. 
Point of sale regulations and standards of practice are an efficient way to catch certain issues and property conditions.  The State of Oregon now requires both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms (starting April 1, 2011) be installed in a property before the title transfers.  These are arguably very valuable tools that should be in place in a home.  And while it isn’t regulated, oil tanks tests in real estate transactions turn up, and cause to be cleaned up, many leaking underground heating oil tanks.  And sewer scopes in the city of Portland cause many “party” sewers to be separated every year (the City of Portland requires party sewers be separated within 180 days of discovery).  The list could go on.  The point being, real estate transactions can be an easy and, in a sense efficient, way to improve both individual properties and the quality of our overall housing stock.

New Portland Area Market Stats

New Portland Area Market Stats

Our multiple listing service just released the most recent market stats for March 2011.  Just as our office has been seeing a marked increase in activity, the region has also been doing more real estate business.
Both closed sales and pending sales are up from February 2011.  Comparing March 2011 to February 2011, closed sales jumped a whopping 50.4% while pending sales rose 26.5%.  Spring is the begining of our busy season and these numbers back that up.   My buyer clients have been bemoaning the lack of new inventory on the market.  It seems like they just don’t have that much to choose from.  They are right. There are fewer houses on the market than there have been since May 2010, with only 7.1 months of inventory.  Since January 2009 we’ve only seen inventory this low twice.  And in January 2009, our inventory was at 19.2 months!
Year to year, the numbers are down.  Closed sales are down 10.2% from March 2010 to March 2011. Pending sales for the same comparison are down 16.2%.  I am not surprised by this as last spring we were staring down the end of the homebuyer tax credit.  This created a bit of an artificial bump in real estate business.
Click here for a link to the Portland area report from RMLS.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Smog Eating Roof Tiles?

A recent ditty in the Journal of Light Construction (yes, I do read scintillating things don’t I?) touched on smog eating roofs being installed by KB Homes.  My curiousity was piqued.
MonierLifetile,  a Boral roofing company, indeed makes such a tile.  Their website explains the technology, ” The BoralPure™ SMOG-EATING Technology works via a catalyst embedded in the upper portion of the roof tile. When exposed to sunlight it speeds up oxidization reducing nitrogen oxide, which can be generated from fossil fuel burning processes resulting from operation of motor vehicles. Working much like a catalytic converter does in a car; SMOG-EATING Tile transforms harmful substances into safe ones, protecting the quality of the air we breathe.”
The claim is that 2000 square feet of the tile eats up nitrogen oxide equivalent to a car driving 10,800 miles.  That is pretty good.  Now, a 2000 sq foot roof is a big roof.  Per the JLC article, KB Homes is intstalling these roofs in California, where I suppose there are more ranch style homes, and hence larger roofs.  A quick search of KB Homes website didn’t turn up anything on these roofs, though I’m guessing it is contained within their Energy Star or Built to Order sections.  As an aside, I did notice that KB Homes is using the Home Energy Performance Guide and provides a performance profile on each of their new homes.  Kudos to KB Homes.

Cycling, Ink and Fitness; Portland and Oregon

Portland has the best bike culture, Oregon is one of  the top five states for physical activity, Portland is the fifth most tatooed city (behind Miami Beach, Las Vegas, Richmond Virginia and Flint Michigan), and Springfield, Oregon has the most strip clubs per capita of any city in the United States.  Oregonians are well rested though, ranking 47th in the number of sleepiest states, and we are the sixth skinniest state.
I was surprised to see that Vermont residents are number one in their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, with three other Northeast states in the top five (Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire). You’d  think number one would have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables year round.  I suppose absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Today’s Parade Magazine (yes, I do read it with the Sunday Oregonian) had some fun numbers about the United States; all 308,745,538 of us, and our 78 million dogs.
Read the full article and see other statistics here.