Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thank You vs. Self-Help

I love seeing different folks' take on the world, and their different theories of "the way', or "the better way" or some such.  So I've recently paid attention to two popular, and I might say, loud voices in business and culture today. 

I was introduced to the first voice at the RE/MAX Convention this past spring; Gary Vaynerchuk.  Gary has written a few marketing books, Crush It and most recently, The Thank You Economy.  Gary is also "the wine library guy", so maybe you have heard of him.  Gary has built his business upon and his marketing theory touts the personalization of business.  He is a champion of reaching out and truly touching the client, and says social media gives us a way to touch clients like we haven't been able to since the corner grocery store disappeared.  For Gary, business and life are about connecting with, recognizing and thanking those around us.  Business will come from that.  "Don't sell like a 19 year old boy".  I love that line.  Establish the relationship first and then earn the business.

I find this in huge contrast to Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and more recently The 4-Hour Body.  Just as Ferriss went out on a limb positing that we should all farm out most tasks to remote personal assistants and basically stop reading news, in The 4-Hour Body he has experimented with and recommends a variety of therapies, working toward the"minimal effective dose". A recent article in The New Yorker by Rebecca Mead says Ferriss's goal, whether it be about the body or business, "is to determine how much can be achieved with how little". 

But while Ferris is in search of the minimal effective dose, he lives a very full and busy life.  Is there a disconnect between his passion and his message?

Both these guys are visionaries.  They both are on the edge of and leading the way in their fields.  I'd bet they know each other, and may even hang out.  Gary, there doing his high touch connecting and appreciating, and Timothy touting his "just getting by" approach, while going all out.  If you have a minute, check out their work.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Those Micro-Houses on SE Division

So I stopped in those micro houses at Southeast 43rd and Division the other day,  as I've been curious.  In general, I have thought the development a good thing, and quite an improvement on the run down houses and such that occupied that space before.  And it is quite interesting that DR Horton, who usually builds larger suburban projects like Sandy Bluff or Windswept Waters, would take on such a different product in a close-in neighborhood.  This is not DR Horton's first close-in project.  They also built the Trolley Barn Condominiums in Sellwood eight or so years ago.

Anyway, back to the Micro-Housing project, and a bit on its marketing.  Division 43, as the project is officially called, consists of 29 units varying in size from 364 sq ft to 687 sq ft, as taken from the DR Horton project website.  Though the same website does not cite prices, a flyer I picked up from the model,  quotes prices from $129,000 for the studios to $179,000 for the two bedroom, two bath units.  The project has appealing community space with locking bike storage and comfortable grounds.  It IS Southeast Portland afterall, and the project is intended for those with a bike/public transportation lifestyle, so there is no on site parking.

Here is the area map from the DR Horton website:

The units are quite aesthetic, with interesting and durable finishes and nice use of light and windows.  There is little, if any space, wasted on entry ways and halls, though some units do have stairs, which eat up a bit of floor space.  The units are certainly energy efficient and I thought I remembered hearing they were seeking a LEED certification, but see nothing of that on the DR Horton website.  Storage, as you might imagine, is at a minimum, or below.  Yes, this is micro-housing, but I think the folks that live here might have a tennis racket or skis, camping equipment, winter clothes and the like.  I get building small, but would at least be marketing these with a small storage unit nearby, prepaid for the first year. 

And a bit more on marketing.  The folks who showed me around were knowledgeable about their product, but came off like they were selling McMansions in a suburb.  Having salespeople a bit more in tune with the neighborhood might be beneficial.

These units do represent some great values (that means I think the prices are good), in a great location with good access to public transportation. In general, I counsel my buyer clients to buy space that allows for a life change; you lose your job and take in a roommate, you meet the person of your dreams and shack up, your out of work sister comes to live with you etc.  I think it risky to buy place, that if your life changes, won't work for you.  If you can fit what you need; both stuff and lifestyle, in one of these units, go for it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Re-Run on the Vaux Swifts at Chapman School

Often the meeting of nature and human development puts nature at a disadvantage; such as the case of car meets squirrel.  But every so often we are treated to a nice meeting of the two.  The annual visit from the Vaux's Swifts to Portland's Chapman School is one of these rare, win win meetings.  The Chapman School roost is thought to be the largest known Vaux's Swift roost in the world.
Vaux's Swifts, small migratory birds, visit Oregon in the warm months; from May to late September or early October.  They winter in Mexico.  In years past, Swifts roosted in hollow trunks of old growth trees.  Over time, we have less old growth and more chimneys.  Many folks end up with small nests of them in their chimneys and such.  But in the 1980's, the Swifts started nesting in the large chimney at Chapman School.  At that time the chimney serviced the boiler system at the school, and often, heating of the school was delayed until the Swifts had started on their way south.  About 15 years ago, through a joint project  between Portland Public Schools, The Audubon Society, the Collins Foundation and the Metro Central Enhancement Grant Committee installed a new heating system for Chapman School and reinforced the aging chimney.  The $60,000 project provided a safe roosting spot for the swifts and heat (even in September) for the school.
Most evenings, the Swifts, when returning to their roost,  perform an elaborate "dance", circling the chimney as a large group, flying into the chimney at some seemingly agreed upon moment. Many evenings the folks from Audubon conduct a count.  Last time I was there, they estimated 18,000 swifts entered the chimney that night. To see the Swifts and the show they put on most evenings in September, head to Chapman School in Northwest Portland.  The grassy hill above the school is best.  Aim for Northwest 26th and Pettygrove.  Most evenings over 1000 people gather to watch the show so parking is scarce.  Consider public transportation or bike.  Montgomery Park  also offers parking.  Otherwise, go early and please park courteously.
Bring a picnic, blankets, beach or stadium chairs and binoculars.  Good friends are an asset too.  Remember no alcohol is allowed on school grounds.  It is best to arrive about an hour before sunset and expect to stay about a half an hour after sunset. Click here for sunset times.  .  This is a great family event and aside from the $60,000 community investment some years ago, is cost free.  Some make an adult evening of it and walk down to NW 23rd to stop in at a pub
For more information, check out the Audubon Society about the Vaux's Swifts and their Chapman School layover.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Market Update - new stats out

The Regional Multiple Listing Service just released their stats for August 2011.  I think we are still in that transitional market...moving from the bottom, ever so slowly.

As I predicted last month, we did see some positive growth in August.  Closed sales grew a whopping 30.7% from August 2010 to August 2011.  Pending sales also went up (29.6%)  and new listings dropped (24.8%).  In addition, when we look at July 2011 to August 2011, closed sales increased by 5.6% and pending sales went up 13.4%.

But...we are still seeing a decrease in prices, with the month to month average sales price decreasing 1.2% to $271,800.  Year to date, the average sale price dropped from $284,600 to $264,000.

There are a few forces at play that could make these numbers a bit harder to read.  First, many banks are holding off on foreclosing until inconsistencies in their procedures get cleared up.  So while there may be fewer foreclosed properties hitting the market, this doesn't necessarily mean we have cleared through the backlog of unsold properties.  Secondly,  in an effort to standardize how short sale properties are reported, we have driven, in the last month, lots of short sales from active to pending status.  At least a portion of the increase in pending sales is attributable to this change.

I expect we'll see continued increases in closed sales, and minor increases in pending sale as the short sale standardization efforts have fewer ripple effects.  Fall is traditionally not a time folks put their homes on the market, but an influx of bank owned properties could increase our new listing count.

If you have questions about the Portland area real estate market, or want an market analysis of your property, please get in touch.  You can read the full Portland area report from RMLS here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

St. John's and My Fab New Listing

Actually, the listing is in the Cathedral Park neighborhood, but many folks think of that whole part of North Portland as St. Johns.  Way back when, there was a City of St. John's, annexed in to Portland in 1915.  The Cathedral Park neighborhood, and park were a part of the City of St. John's. 

For years, St. John's was a quiet, working class neighborhood, considered to be too far from downtown to be of much import.  Gentrification, MAX light rail, and bike lanes have all contributed to, in the past ten years or so, St. John's (and Cathedral Park) moving closer, in our minds, to Portland's central neighborhoods.  The tight knit communities of St. John's and Cathedral Park, reasonable real estate values and core commercial area have recently made St. John's a "go to" destination.  Graced by the soaring towers of the St. John's Bridge, the lush green lawns of Cathedral Park and beautiful views to the west, St. John's is one of many unique Portland neighborhoods.

My new listing, at 7034 N Ivanhoe , with a walk score of 74, is well located.  A hop, skip and a jump to Fred Meyer, Kruger's Farm Stand, various coffee shops, and several bus lines.

This 1930 bungalow has been in my client's family for three generations.  Listed at $264,000,  it has three bedrooms, one and one half baths, living room, dining, breakfast room, and den.  The unfinished basement has TONS of storage.  Hard and soft wood floors (some need work), built-ins, beautiful wood work and lots of built-in storage are all part of the package.

The built-ins are lovely.  Don't be fooled by the fireplace though, it is electric and there is not actual chimney.  This could be a great use for one of those direct vent gas fireplaces.

Check out  this sweet corner built-in in the breakfast room.  And I just love the double garage:

The covered patio, garden shed and yard make for comfortable out door living.  The gardens were once lovely, and just need a bit of attention to "bring them back".  This house is a bit of a fixer.  Yes, you can move right in, but I imagine there are several projects one might put on "the list".

To take a peek, give me a call at 503-312-8038.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A New View of Foreclosures

HUD, The Department of Housing and Urban Development has recently released a new interactive map.  This map identifies mortgages that had been under written by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA, that have since been through foreclosure.

These are properties that will eventually come back on the market, but may not yet be.

So what good is this map?  You can't zero in on specific properties (or I haven't been able to).  What I do find informative is looking at a slightly broader look.  For instance, in looking at Multnomah County, in Oregon, I immediately notice the swathe of foreclosures in the southeastern part of the metro area.  Where as the close-in portions of North, Northeast and Southeast Portland are almost devoid of such foreclosures.  And wow, look at all those clustered up in Vancouver. 

Keep in mind, this map just shows forclosures of houses that had these particular loans.  Different loan products, home values and buyer profiles sought out different loan products that may not be reflected in this map.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tina Fey's Rules for Improv

I just finished Tina Fey's book, Bossypants.  And what a book it was.  Lots of good stuff in there, and I highly recommend the book.  One of the many things that stuck with me was her "Rules of Improvisation that Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat"  Not sure about that last part, but some of these rules sure apply to life also. 

1) "Agree and say yes.  Agree with what your partner had created and start from an open minded place." I really like this one.  It can apply to so many parts of our lives from relationships to collaborative work efforts and beyond. 

2) "Yes, and. Agree and then add something of your own."   Tina highlights this one as, don't be afraid to contribute.  Wow this is even better than #1.  For whatever reason it is far easier for folks to tear down what someone else has put forth, than it is to add a complimenting piece, or even add a unique contribution.  I'd even expand on this to say if you can't agree and add, then create something new.  I know, that might not be the best rule of improvisation, but it sure could work in life.  In our house, if you don't like what is planned for dinner, make a suggestion of your own, or be quiet.  I suppose "yes, and" would work like this.Me:   "We're having shrimp tacos for dinner".  Don or Emma, " yes, and let's have grilled salmon burgers too".  Okay, not a good example, as I'm not making both those things on the same night.  So maybe it becomes, No, but"  as in, "No, I don't want shrimp tacos, but how about salmon burgers". 

3) "Make Statements".  As in, don't ask questions all the time.  This could also be a good one for kids. This relates to "yes, and".  Put something out there of your own, questions and questioning can be a form of doubt, and down right lazy.  My daughter asks a lot of questions when she is tired as it is easier than formulating her own complete thoughts.  So make statements, don't be lazy.

And lastly,

4)"There are no mistakes, only opportunities"  Tina Fey extrapolates on this far better than I.  I'll only make this sound like all to motherly and fake.  Read Tina's book!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not so "Smart Money"

My husband has a subscription to Smart Money magazine, a Wall Street Journal publication.  While I'll admit I don't read it cover to cover, I do glance at a few articles now and again.  The September 2011 issue had a little ditty that caught my eye; The Perils of the Feel-Good Job, by Reshma Kapadia.  As you might guess, the article is about baby-boomer corporate types taking jobs with non-profits both as a  transition from working to retirement, and in search of personal fulfillment.

As expected, life of an executive at a  non-profit is very different from that of a CEO in a for profit corporation.  At non-profits consensus building is a norm, potential donors must be considered and the expense account virtually non-existent.  Executives at non-profits often find themselves rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to get things done, even if it involves metering some mail to get a project out on deadline.  It occurs to me that corporate CEO's might consider doing this too. 

But what got me in the article was this, " At many non-profits, progress is measured by squishier metrics."  This said in contrast to corporate folks thinking about profits and shareholders.   Really, squishier?  I think not.  Most non-profits are quite results based, but money isn't necessarily the goal.  A housing non-profit might measure success in the number of families housed, folks working with the homeless look at how many people they get off the streets, animal rescues measure how many animals they place in a certain time period, health clinics measure now many patients served or immunizations given, or lives saved, and so on.

Perhaps this could have been better stated as something like CEOs finding they need to adjust to success measurements other than the bottom line.  But "squishier", I found that a bit offensive.