Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-end real estate thoughts, Portland style

2013 brought us a very active real estate market.  The dearth of homes on the market led to a selling season of multiple offers, offers over list price and a prevalence of cash in the market place. It is estimated 30% of all residential real estate transactions, were cash transactions.  A mere offer from a buyer pre-approved, with 20% down payment on a conventional loan was often not “enough” to win the house.    Most buyers I worked with wrote at least three offers, good offers, before getting an offer accepted. 

 The fall brought us slightly rising interest rates, the government “shut down” and a bit of seasonal slowing.

A few issues we dealt with in 2013; radon is still an issue, for which most every buyer is testing in a transaction.  In general, the installation of a mitigation system isn’t too spendy (under $2000), and in most cases, sellers do pay for radon mitigation.   Though the supply of oil tanks is now limited, and we’ve been working our way through getting them all tested and decommissioned and documenting the decommissions.   If you have an existing buried oil tank I encourage you to consider decommissioning it.  Waiting for the tank to leak, while regulations around clean ups become more stringent is not a wise choice.  If you have a decommissioned oil tank, hang onto that paperwork.  Proof of the completed work is key.

 Next year, we expect a healthy spring selling season; with seasonal slowing in the late summer and late fall.   It is hoped, after the brisk market of 2013, more sellers will put their properties on the market. This will give buyers a bit more to choose from, easing the frenzied bidding wars.   The Portland market saw an increase in value of 15% in 2013. I expect that rate of increase to ease, but remain positive.  Buyers haven’t forgotten the crash, and even in a frenzy, need to see value in what they buy; location, condition, features, something.

 While interest rates have bumped a bit from their low of last spring, they are still well under 5%.  We expect interest rates to slowly rise.  Rising rates are actually a sign of a healthy market, as we move away from rates kept artificially low by government to stimulate the economy.  Remember, interest rates of 5 and 6 percent didn’t put much of a damper on the boom market of the mid 2000’s.

 Mortgage lending has seen some changes.   Good lenders have already instituted the stricter underwriting guidelines that are effective in 2014.  While lending is still tight, there are new products that may make life easier.  For folks who suffered a short sale or foreclosure, there is a program facilitating them getting home loans sooner than later.  And, for folks buying in upper price ranges where loan amounts over $417,000 carried hefty fees and interest rates, we’re seeing some programs with costs competitive to conforming loans.

 I am honored to help folks with some of the biggest decisions in their lives, and am humbled by the trust that is put in me.  My business is based on referrals.   I will always take good care of anyone you send my way.  Be it selling or buying, or just curious, I’m always glad to answer questions and provide information. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Most recent Portland market stats

The November market stats are out from RMLS, with no particular surprises.  What I see as seasonal slowing  is evident in lower pending sales; down 14.0% from October 2013, and but up 5.6% when compared with November 2012.   Closed sales decreased  16.8% from  October 2013, but are up 5.1% over November 2012.

Our market time got a tad longer in November; 80 days vs. 76 days for October 2013.  In the fall, we see houses that didn't sell in the busy time sitting on the market, pushing the days on market higher.

The median home price for the first 11 months of this year up 13.3% over the same period in 2012 to $265,000.

And inventory; measured by how long, at the current rate of sales, it will take to sell all the houses on the market, is at 3.7 months, the same as September 2013, and a tad up from, the 3.4 of October 2013.   November of 2012 had 4.2 months of inventory, and November 2011, 6.2 months.   Remember, a balanced market; neither seller's nor buyer's market, is thought to be about 5 to 6 months of inventory.

I'll be posting my year end review, and 2014 predictions soon. Keep a look out!

Read the full report for the Portland area.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Portland Housing Market Update

The October market stats are out from RMLS, with no particular surprises.  What I see as seasonal slowing  is evident in lower pending sales; down 4.2% from September 2013, and down 2.4% when compared with October 2012.   Closed sales did increase a bit;  1.4% from  September 2013, and 4.1% over October 2012.

Our market time got a tad longer in October; 76 days vs. 72days for September 2013.  In the fall, we see houses that didn't sell in the busy time sitting on the market, pushing the days on market higher.

The median home price for the first nine months of this year up 14.0 over the same period in 2012 to $265,000..

And inventory; measured by how long, at the current rate of sales, it will take to sell all the houses on the market, has decreased slightly from 3.7 months in September  2013 to 3.4 months in October 2013.   Remember, a balanced market; neither seller's nor buyer's market, is thought to be about 5 to 6 months of inventory.

I do believe  the government shut down in October slowed our market a bit.  The processing of some loans was hampered, and certainly folks who were furloughed weren't buying.

Call or email me if you have questions about your own real estate situation.  leslievjones@gmail.com  503-312-8038.

Read the full report for the Portland area.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Realtor protections of gender identity and sexual orientation

Yay!  As reported by Realtor Magazine, the National Association of Realtors' board of directors voted Monday to change our Realtor code of ethics to prohibit Realtor discrimination on the basis of gender identity.  This prohibition applies in situations involving consumers and potential employees.

Two years ago, a similar change added protections regarding sexual orientation to the National Association of Realtors' code of ethics.  Make note,  the Federal Fair Housing Act has yet to add these protections.

And nice that NAR's incoming, 2014 president, Steve Brown, is our organization's first openly gay president.  

Wait. I bet you didn't even know we have a code of ethics!  You can see the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Compact florescents or LED light bulbs?

My husband works in energy efficiency programs for a local power company.  He mentioned the other day that some municipalities are seeing their per household electricity usage drop quicker than projected by energy efficiency experts.  Their numbers are fairly clean, so the addition of solar power so does not account for the discrepancy.

The power companies build in an expectation of how quickly households will move to more efficient products and methods; for example how quickly we'll move from compact florescent light bulbs to LED's  (or in previous years how quickly folks would adopt compact florescent bulbs over old fashioned incandescent light bulbs).

In some municipalities, households have moved more quickly, even by a number of years, to LED bulbs; many doing so for the whole dwelling, not just as bulbs need replacing.

We have moved to a few LED's and they are better suited to lights on dimmers.  Back in the day, we converted our whole house from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents.  This allowed us to accurately gauge the impact on our power bill.  We noticed a 25% reduction in our electricity usage (this was well before we got solar power).  But...our electricity usage is pretty low as it is. We have gas heat, hot water, cooking and clothes drying. Electricity powers our lights, fans, washing machine and electronics.

Have you started moving to LED bulbs ?  The whole house, or "as you go"?  A lot of people don't like the clod harsh light of some compact florescent bulbs.  Are you finding LED's preferable?

Oh, a few years ago, we did pick up LED lights for our Christmas tree. We liked the quality of the light, and the efficiency as they'd be left on for hours at a time.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It might be hard to see houses this week

Every decade or so, our Multiple Listing Service upgrades the lockboxes we use to access properties currently on the market.

A lock box conversion, as it is called, is rather a big deal.  All  Realtors exchange their existing lock boxes and  keys (in some cases) for new lock boxes.  All boxes on houses currently for sale need to be changed out. 

How each individual agent does this varies; keep the old and new box until the conversion is done (end of next week), allowing the house to be viewed independent of who has or has not completed the conversion.  Pull of the old boxes and put on the new; only those who have completed the conversion will have access.  Put a combination box on for a few days; losing the ability to see who and when a box was opened, but providing sure access. I favor the "double boxing" approach, insuring access and preserving data and security features.   

As you might imagine, technology provides amazing capabilities for Realtors.  The most recent incarnation, before now, has been the ability to use a small fob, along with one's cell phone, to open lock boxes.  I have LOVED this.  Way back when, I had a cell phone, my palm pilot (boy was that slick) and a lock box device.  I have LOVED carrying only one device.

But keeping up with the huge and quickly changing variety of cell phones and platforms has been challenging.  The decision was made to separate lock box "keys" from phones. This does indeed, mean we'll have a new device.  With this new device, we'll get new capabilities.  I just don't know what all they are quite yet.  While I'm never without my phone (unless intentionally), I'll be developing a new habit or two while keeping track of the new device.

So, for the next week or so, please be patient as we make the big switcheroo, and figure out the idiosyncrasies of our new devices.

Oh, and an Oregon footnote. The lock box system in use my entire career (since 1989) have been designed and made by Supra, originally an Oregon company.  Supra was bought by GE several years ago, but the Supra name has lived on.  The new system is a move away from Supra.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Errand Conundrum

Or perhaps it is the errand Catch-22.   

The "right" place to run the particular errand is usually far away or inconvenient; hard to park, has questionable hours, but will most certainly have the item, offer the service or provide the desired quality.

The "easy" place to run the errand is close, convenient, has great parking, generous hours, but may not have that for which you are looking. 

Going both places will clearly more time and effort than either one, and the "right" place will take longer than the "easy" place.  Think Fred Meyer (easy) vs. New Seasons (right).  or Winks Hardware (right) vs. Fred Meyer (easy).  I really don't mean to pick on Fred Meyer; the store offers much, I go there often and it IS easy.

In general,  I think the "easy' is often a big box retailer, and a trip there easy to justify as one can always pick up a few other things.   The "right" is most likely a specialty retailer.  And then, there is quality.  The "right" place usually has a higher quality product or service, unavailable at "easy".

My husband, often a doom and gloom kind of a guy, has some sort of innocent optimism that "this time" Home Depot will have it.   I tend to be a cynic, as I most often choose to put the extra effort into "right".

How do you choose?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Leaking oil tank supply lines?

And now I'm supposed to worry, not only about underground oil tanks, but the material of which the lines connecting them to the furnace are made?

It makes sense.  A property my clients are buying had a search for an underground tank done by the folks at Eco-Tech LLC. As with most every inspection anywhere, I always learn something. 

We know this house had an oil storage tank in the basement as the sellers took it out and provided us pictures.  But I thought it would be prudent (and so did my clients) to be sure  there wasn't another tank buried in the yard somewhere.  We certainly wouldn't want their future buyers, twenty years from now, finding a leaky tank.

Oil tanks were connected to the furnace via fuel lines to carry the oil.  Most often, we see evidence of this; usually copper lines coming up put of the floor, or maybe through the foundation wall.  Professional decommission jobs will leave the fill lines as past evidence that a tank existed.  You aren't supposed to remove ALL evidence of the tank as it is important for future owners to know a tank had been there.

Sometimes, oil lines were made of...galvanized metal.  Which rusts.  And can rust through when in moist conditions, like buried in soil and concrete in Portland, Oregon.

I had never really thought about this before.  And if I had, I'd most likely think of the of copper lines, which didn't have near the risk of rusting through.  But today, we saw the thicker and bigger, obviously galvanized line.  Which led the tech to educate me.  Apparently, Eco-Tech has done a clean up or two of leaks caused by the lines. 

Ack!  None of us have been worrying about lines.  Does this mean samples need to be taken along the buried line?  All the way?  For oil tanks themselves, samples are usually taken at each end of the tank, as failure most often is at the welded seams on the tank ends. 

This new "worry" isn't just new to me.  Eco-Tech is only now starting to learn the extent of this.  I expect we'll see DEQ put out some new rules and procedures to help clarify the issue.  Along with that,  perhaps testing and decommission protocol may now extend also to the supply lines.  In the meantime, we'll be glad most tanks had copper lines.

If you have a question about buried oil tanks, or any thing else related to real estate, give me a call.  503-312-8038

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Slight September Slowing

The September market stats are out from RMLS, with no particular surprises.  What I see as seasonal slowing  is evident in lower pending sales; down 15.1% from August 2013, but still up well over September 2012.   Closed sales are also down,  17.7% from August 2013, but up, with the best September since 2006 (pre-recession).

Our market time got a tad longer in September; 72 days vs. 69 days for August 2013.  In the fall, we see houses that didn't sell in the busy time sitting on the market, pushing the days on market higher.

The median home price for the first nine months of this year up 15.0 over the same period in 2012 to $265,000.

And inventory; measured by how long, at the current rate of sales, it will take to sell all the houses on the market, has increased slightly from 3.1 months in August 2013 to 3.7 months in September 2013.  While the "good" houses (in good shape, priced right and prepped for sale) are still selling quickly, many with multiple offers, buyers do have a tad more houses from which to choose.   Remember, a balanced market; neither seller's nor buyer's market, is thought to be about 5 to 6 months of inventory.

Interest rates have actually come down slightly, and are bumping along between 4.5% and 4.8%.  The government shut down is slowing our market a bit.  FHA and VA loans in process seem to be doing fine, but new loans, and those needing IRS or SSA verifications are seeing delays.  USDA loans, in rural areas are at a standstill.  A prolonged shut down will indeed have a strong affect on the real estate industry as existing loans move through the pipeline and new loans are harder to come by.  Cash is REALLY king now, and makes up a good 25% or more of our market.

Investors, many of whom are cash buyers, always like the fall and see it as a time to scoop up deals as sellers get concerned with the impending year end slow down.  Anecdotally, I am seeing sellers negotiate more on home inspection issues to avoid putting their houses back on the market right now.  Government shutdown + failed sale = ?

Call or email me if you have questions about your own real estate situation.  leslievjones@gmail.com  503-312-8038.

Read the full report for the Portland area.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Update regarding the government shut down and real estate

Now that the "shutdown" is here, we are starting to see how things are playing out with real estate transactions and government agencies.  This information comes to me courtesy of the National Association of Realtors, who, as you might imagine, is monitoring this all rather closely.

"The IRS is closed and has suspended the processing of all forms, including requests for tax return transcripts."    In my experience, many lenders do not necessarily  require this, but tax return transcripts can be an easy way of documenting financial status.    It sounds as though some lenders are looking at temporarily revising some underwriting policies, and some may be looking at simply delaying the requirement for the forms, even until after closing.  I'm not quite sure how that would play out.

The Social Security Administration is also closed and isn't tending to most customer requests.  " According to the SSA Contingency Plan, verifying Social Security numbers through the Consent Based SSN Verification Service will also be suspended during the shutdown."  Similar to the IRS issue, this will pose a problem for loan processors.  Some lenders may be instituting policies to provide for Social Security Number verification after closing.

Indications are that FHA will continue to process and endorse new single family loans, but that multifamily (think duplexes and such) will not receive new commitments.  Delays in FHA loans, even single family loans are likely.

VA loans and the National Flood Insurance program shouldn't be effected by the shut down.

USDA loans in process, that have already received loan commitment, will not be affected.  No new loan commitments will be issued.  In general, USDA loan commitments are good for something like 90 days.

Programs intended at stabilizing existing homeowners through the Making Home Affordable program (HAFA and HAMP) will not be affected.

The above information was released by the National Association of Realtors on October 3rd.  I expect to see similar updates if the shutdown drags on much longer.  If you are in the middle of a purchase and have specific questions, I'd suggest talking with your mortgage broker.

Anecdotally, I have three clients with purchases in escrow right now. One, a cash offer, will feel no affect.  The two others are not FHA or VA loans, and have already been through the documentation and underwriting process, so we're optimistic they'll close on time.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A government shutdown and your real estate transaction

They say the economy of the United States lives and dies with housing.  So one might wonder how a government shutdown would effect the real estate industry.

Loan programs guaranteed, or administered by a branch of the federal government will clearly be hit the hardest.

 FHA loans, which have been lauded as the backbone of the housing recovery, won't be made during a shut down.  Use of these loans has been easing as the economy improves, and some of the more generous portions of the program have been trimmed back.  FHA loans still make up a significant portion of first time buyer loans.

Similarly,  Federal VA loans and USDA loan programs will grind to a halt.  As you might imagine, Federal VA loans are a GI benefit, and help provide housing for veterans.  USDA loans encourage home ownership in rural and small town communities. 

Even non-"government" loans will be affected.  There are several interactions loan processors have with the federal government merely to underwrite loans and complete home purchases;  tax return transcripts and social security number verification, to name a few.  These steps must be completed for many home loans to be funded.

Loans underwritten by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac  may be able to fund, as long as they don't  need any information from the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration.

If you are in the middle of a home purchase or refinance, check with your lender to see how a government shut down might affect your transaction.

Certainly, a government shut down will have a broad reach into many parts or our lives, and well beyond real estate. This blog is a mere glimpse...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When I google myself...

I make it a practice to google myself every so often.  I know my clients, and folks referred to me by clients, often google me.  I like to take a peek at what they might see.

There is a hilarious African American gal, a comedienne, by the name of Leslie Jones.  Google really likes her stuff, so she dominates the majority of the first page.  Leslie is rather raunchy, quite energetic and I find her quite funny.  Sometimes when I google myself, I end up watching her clips:


Eventually I make it back see where I rank.  I usually do show up on the first page. Results are better if I google Leslie Jones Portland or Leslie Jones Realtor (though that Realtor, Leslie Jones in Florida has pretty good SEO also).
My sister works in computer security at an academic level. She travels a bunch giving talks and briefing important people like the senate and those folks that hang out in The Hague.  She has lots of publications and videos, and a unique last name. A specific google search of her name shows 20,800 results.  And they are pretty much all her.
What do you find when you google yourself?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The August market stats are out from RMLS, with no particular surprises.  What I see as seasonal slowing  is evident in lower pending sales; down 4.5% from July 2013, but still up 9.5% over August 2012, and lower closed sales; down 5.2% from July 2013, but up 13.5% from August 2012

Our market time got a tad longer in August; 69 days vs. 63 days for July 2013.  I attribute that slight slow down to...VACATION.  At any given time, at least half my clients were out of town, so everything took longer.   Yes, many houses are selling in their first few days on the market; houses that have it all - condition, price, location and preparation.  But with 69 days being the average, you know plenty of houses are still taking months to sell.

The median home price for the first eight months of this year up 15.2 over the same period in 2012 to $265,000..

And inventory; measured by how long, at the current rate of sales, it will take to sell all the houses on the market, has bumped along, from 2.5 months in May 2013 to 2.9 months in June 2013, 2.8 months in July 2013 and now to 3.1 months in August 2013.  Contrast this to July of 2012 with 4.6 months of inventory and July of 2011 with 7 months on inventory.

I do believe we are starting to see the increasing interest rates effect the market.  Buyers who may have started looking with rates in the high 3 percents, are now locking in rates as high as 4.99%.  That much of a jump makes a clear impact.  My trusted lender, Julee Felsman, with Equity Home Mortgage, thinks we'll be up in the fives for 2014 and that we should expect, in the long term to see rates increase about 1% per year, and level off around 7 or 8 %.  None of us have a crystal ball, but Julee is one smart gal.

If you're thinking of making a move, you might talk to a lender to see how increasing rates might play into your plans.  You can contact Julee at juleef@equityhome.com  or 503-288-9284.

Read the full report for the Portland area.

Friday, August 30, 2013

cheating the goals?

I am a believer in goal setting; measureable, achievable with some effort, and including a deadline.  It is said, that measured goals, over which you have control, will be achieved.  So measuring rain fall and hoping for more (or less) doesn't fit that scenario. Measuring weight loss or income (if you are self employed) or square feet gardened, do fit.

For me, the accountability, or measurement is key, really key.  Daily measurement is best as the goal is kept top of mind. I have a weight loss goal, set in early June, to be achieved by August 31 (tomorrow).  Yesterday, I was within four ounces of my goal.  Mind you, I weigh myself on the same scale at the same time in my daily routine.  Four ounces in two days seemed reasonable.  But...I knew I'd be watching foot ball at a sports bar last night (not usually a low calorie place).

So this morning, I hop out of bed and promptly weigh myself; not my usual weighing time.  ta da!  I weigh a whole eight ounces below my goal!!!  Wowie, hooray!  Not really.  Because, even though the number on the scale said what I wanted it to, I cheated.  I know I cheated.  The real reckoning will be when weigh myself at the proper time.  I'll let you know...

Do you ever cheat yourself?  How does it feel?

 p.s. I also have some rebel in me.  If I'm not careful, I'll rebel against my own goal.  Who am I to tell me what to do?!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Portland's Summer Housing Market

That bump in interest rates hasn't had much of a slowing effect on the housing market.  We are seeing a wee bit of seasonal slowing, as expected in July and August.  My theory is that in summer, a certain percent of buyers, sellers and agents are on vacation at any given time.  Of course things slow a tad.

Statistically, prices have continued to rise, market times are shorter than previous months, and inventory dropped a bit. The volume of sales has slowed slightly.

The median home price for the first seven months of this year up 13.7% over the same period in 2012 to $261,000.

Closed sales increased 10.2% compared to June 2013. and showed an increase of 40.2% over the closed sales in July of 2012.  Pending sales decreased 2.4% compared to June 2013, but showed an 15.4% increase over July 2012.

The number of days a house is on the market  decreased from 70 days in June 2013 to 63 days in July of 2103.  Yes, many houses are selling in their first few days on the market; houses that have it all - condition, price, location and preparation.  But with 63 days being the average, you know plenty of houses are still taking months to sell.

And inventory; measured by how long, at the current rate of sales, it will take to sell all the houses on the market, has bumped along, from 2.5 months in May 2013 to 2.9 months in June 2013 and now to 2.8 months in July 2013.  Contrast this to July of 2012 with 4.6 months of inventory and July of 2011 with 7 months on inventory.

If you've been thinking of selling, now is a pretty good time.  Rising prices and a shorter market time sound like a seller's dream.

Full Market Report Here

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Yep.  Rats are a reality if you live in Portland's urban neighborhoods.  Yes, even the spendy, prestige neighborhoods. 

Rats are smart, persistent and flexible.  They are attracted to a really wide variety of food sources.  Rats live in a variety of places, but prefer dark areas safe from predators.  Think sewers, crawl spaces, dense bushes or thickets.

Portland's aging sewer system attracts many rats.  A broken sewer line can give rats easy access.  As a matter of fact, rat holes, and a slight depression in the yard are tell take signs of a broken sewer line.  Most often the rat holes will be along the sidewalk:

This is one of many holes I see on my dog walks.  There is a corresponding hole on the other edge of the sidewalk.
I recently saw this huge hole by a pretty busy commercial area:

Holy Cow!  I half expected a nose to poke out while I was taking the picture.

What is to be done?  It is all about making your house and yard less attractive to rats..

 First and foremost, fix your sewer if is broken.  There are many reasons to fix the sewer, rats are a darn good one.  Call me if you want a referral for a good sewer company who can scope the sewer and look for breaks and holes.

Don't put large amounts of food down your garbage disposal,  Or better yet, don't use your garbage disposal.

Don't feed the birds and the squirrels.  Feeding wildlife means all sorts; including rats, possums and raccoons. Stop it.

Don't feed your pets outside.

Pick up dog poo from your yard and keep any dropped fruit to a minimum.

If you are still doing any back yard composting, be sure to do so in those sealed tumbler barrels.

Be sure crawl space accesses are screened over, allowing for air flow, but not animal traffic.

Taking these steps will go a long way toward discouraging the rat family from hanging out at your place. 

And yes, for those of you who have known me awhile, I have some rather hilarious rat stories including "When I had a rat in my car" and " The time Guido brought a rat in the house".  I'll be glad to share those stories if you ask.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Waverly Commons Comes Together

The old Waverly School sat on a nice piece of ground bordered by SE Brooklyn, SE Woodward, SE 36th, and a few houses buffering SE 35th. 

The project is a planned development of larger houses, each with some yard, and a generous common area between the houses.  There are 18 sites, two of which are attached units, making a total of 20 homes being built.

The whole project was pre-sold, meaning none are available on the open market.  Buyers/owners went through a lengthy (about two year) process.  To date, three are complete and occupied, with one being ready any day now.  About half the sites are under construction or finished, some foundation forms waiting for concrete, other homes being completed.

This is one of the attached units.  Public records show a purchase price of $519,335.  Check out that wonderful upper deck.


Owners of these homes are getting a wonderful, quiet neighborhood location (once the construction is complete) with great proximity to all that SE Division and Clinton offer, close to sought after Cleveland High School.  While I'm guessing the process has been long and at times frustrating, this project looks like a gem.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A solution to those spendy jumbo loans

The conforming loan limit in our area is $417,000.  This means, any loan amount above that, independent of how big your down payment is, qualifies as a jumbo loan.  Jumbo loans are expensive with higher interest rates and fees. 

In the boom years, there were a variety of loan "products" available to circumvent the jumbo limit.  As a general class, the second mortgage was the most popular and easiest tool buyers could use to avoid taking out a jumbo loan.   In the downturn, virtually all loan products disappeared but for the most standard of loans; FHA, VA, conventional and jumbo.  As lenders are gaining back some confidence in the market, they have brought back the "second". 

Here is how it works.   The buyer borrows the $417,000 allowed as a conventional loan, and then takes out a second loan to close the gap to their purchase price.  So it would look something like this:

$750,000 purchase price
-$150,000 down payment
$600,000 financed
-$417,000  conventional loan
$183,000 second loan

Now, the interest rate on the second does tend to be higher than that on the conventional loan,  But it is higher only on that $183,000 balance.  Not the whole $600,000, as would be a jumbo loan. 

For some, the jumbo rates and fees were rather prohibitive, such that folks opted not to move, or to use retirement or other savings.  I expect we'll see many "move up" buyers using these loans to facilitate getting them into their next home. 

Is it advisable?  That is, if the jumbo was a financial strain, maybe a move up is reckless.  Or does the second loan, keeping the overall cost lower, make such a move smarter?

Give me a call if you have questions about what loan programs might work for your particular situation.  I'll glad answer what I can, and refer you on to one of the reputable lenders with whom I work.  503-312-8038.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Recent Portland Housing Market Stats

As you may have heard, we're seeing a bit of a bump in interest rates.  Most buyers aren't particularly bothered by the increase, though affordability of houses is sure to be impacted.  Some buyers are even rushing to buy and lock their interest rate .

Statistically, prices have continued to rise, market times are shorter than previous months, but the volume of sales has slowed a tad, and we've seen a miniscule increase in the number of homes available for purchase.

The median price for the first six months of this year up 14.2% over the same period in 2012 to $257,500.

Closed sales decreased 6.4% compared to May 2013. but still showed an increase of 11.9% over the closed sales in June of 2012.  Pending sales decreased 5.8% compared to May 2013, but showed an 11.9% increase over June 2012.

The number of days a house is on the market  decreased from 85 days in May 2013 to 70 days in June of 2103.  Yes, many houses are selling in their first few days on the market; houses that have it all - condition, price, location and preparation.  But with 70 days being the average, you know plenty of houses are still taking months to sell.

And inventory; measured by how long, at the current rate of sales, it will take to sell all the houses on the market, has bumped ever so slightly from 2.5 months in May 2013 to 2.9 months in June 2013.  Contrast this to June of 2012 with 3.9 months of inventory and June of 2011 with 6 months on inventory.

If you've been thinking of selling, now is a pretty good time.  Rising prices and a shorter market time sound like a seller's dream.

See the full report.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Camp food; at the intersection of yummy and easy

Okay, it is a given that most food tastes better when eaten outdoors.  And eaten next to a lake in the Pacific Northwest with a view of Mt. Hood adds a bit of flavor.  But there is a challenge to the perfect camping food; balancing convenience, durable for either hot car or watery cooler storage, and ease of preparation.

I tend to the side of convenience, perhaps to a fault.  Some of my standbys include bagels, lox and cream cheese, cut fruit, veggies and hummus, cheese and crackers.  I do like this stuff as it is easy for us to eat at different times.  By the time the teenagers get up for breakfast, its about time for my lunch. 

The long and happy hour; pull out some salsa and chips, maybe whip up some guacamole, cheese, crackers, hummus, carrots and olives.  A leisurely graze, grab a beer and wander down by the lake.  This is my favorite non-dinner, dinner.

Perhaps our yummiest camp meal is salmon on a cedar board, over the grill.  yum!  But even that is pretty simple.  We have camped with folks who are very accomplished camp cooks; the gal who does some sort of blackberry pastry thing in a dutch oven in the campfire!  Or folks who labor over a stew all day. 

Okay, I don't want to spend my whole day cooking.  There is a canoe to paddle, trails to hike, Mt. Hood needs to contemplated, conversations to be had, naps to take, dishes to do and beer to drink. 

But maybe I could step it up a bit.  We have a three burner stove, propane grill and of course a campfire. We eat fish, but do cook meat for Emma now and again.

Any suggestions?  What is your favorite camp meal?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Not so secret tips to selling quickly

Even in this robust real estate market, the good houses, those that sell quickly and at a higher price than might be expected, need prep work, care and planning before they hit the market.  Most likely, it took weeks, if not months of prep time getting them ready.  So what kinds of things are sellers doing?   Remember, buyers paying top price have high expectations of the home.  Help buyers see the good parts of your home while allowing them to imagine living in it.  Avoid contentious inspection negotiations by addressing the easy and obvious stuff up front.

Perception is everything.  You may have developed a practical way of living in your home; I keep the garden clogs by the back door, mail on the front stairs and a laundry rack in my bathtub.  No buyer wants to see that. Buyers are buying how they think they'll live in a house, not how you actually do.  I had a client for whom a nice dining room was a MUST in his new house. When asked if he was the kind of person who entertained a lot at home and liked to cook, he responded, " no, but I want to be".  He was buying the house for how he wanted to live.  This is about clutter, its about clean, its about tidy inside and out.

Declutter: Seriously.  You are moving.  It all needs to go soon anyway.  Rent a storage space and box up the majority of your crap, I mean treasures.  Empty closets, drawers and shelves by at least half.  Clear surfaces.  Take out at least half of your chairs, end tables, baskets etc.  Box up your keepsakes, artifacts, collections and photos.  Leave a few nice pictures or pieces of art.  Leave some books on the bookcase, well arranged.  

Life/Safety:  Buyers, inspectors, appraiser, agents and sellers should all be concerned that a house not be a death trap. Install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that meet current installation and other codes.  Our sale agreement calls for these, in accordance with state law.  Put them in ahead of time.   

Strap the hot water heater such that in the case of an earthquake, it won't be come a huge pressurized canister (that is kind of what it is right now).  Don't just attach the straps bought at Home Depot.  Actually secure the hot water heater so it won't move in the case of an earthquake.

Make sure there is a decent, sturdy handrail on stairs to the basement, down the front steps to the yard etc.  While you're at it, make sure stairs aren't too slippery, especially in the rain.

Have an electrician tidy up any scary as hell electric stuff. Really, that hot wire dangling from the basement ceiling?  You may know not to touch it, but others may not.  Get your electrician pal to terminate it in a junction box or some such.  Similarly, there should be no open slots in your electric panel in which folks may stick their fingers.  Easy, cheap and well worth the price.

The front of the house matters:  People want to feel enthusiastic and optimistic when they drive up.  Consider taking off the screen door unless it is a really nice LOOKING screen door. Sweep the stoop, consider pressure washing the stoop/drive/walk.  Weed, mow, trim.  Nice plants in pots help, but don't be too cliché.  Brush away cob webs.  If your front door isn't used by your family regularly, be sure to brush away spider webs on a daily basis.  Ask your realtor to place the lock box in an easy to find and easy to open location.  In the summer water regularly, in the winter, rake, or shovel or whatever you have to do.  Ask your realtor or a friend to point out small things that catch their eye as you are so used to seeing your house, you won't notice those little things.

Professional Photos:  There are many different ways to market different properties. I do believe, no matter the property, that good, professional photographs are a must.  I know, you fancy yourself good with a camera, but folks who do this everyday, and have for years, are better.  Photos you can provide could include before and after pictures, pictures of the yard in bloom if you are marketing in winter and pictures of work done behind now closed up walls.

Paperwork:  Did you have the oil tank decommissioned way back when?  Round up that paperwork as it is good as gold.  Without it, the buyers of your home may well test the soil again, and DEQ has only gotten more strict on detection and action levels. While you are at it, round up the manuals for your appliances, furnace and such.  Receipts for any major work done are good too; sewer replacement, water line etc.  Buyers love seeing an organized seller. It makes them feel the home has been well cared for over the years.  It has, hasn't it?

Behind the scenes: Make sure any crawl space and attic accesses work, so folks can take a peek, and so inspectors can actually get in.  Any bare dirt should be covered with 6 mil black plastic to act as a vapor barrier.  The attic and crawl space should be vented. The bathroom fan should be connected via a duct to a roof vent, not venting hot moist air into the attic. Make sure the electric panel us accessible, not blocked behind a bunch of boxes an what not (for safety reasons it should always be accessible so the power can be quickly shut off in an emergency).  Buyers and agents will notice theses things when they look at your house. No vapor barrier yet?  They'll think of years of ground moisture seeping up into your home.  No reasonable attic access?  They'll imagine no one has looked up there in years - lord only knows what is going on up there (mold? pigeons? slow roof leaks?).

Change the furnace filter, wash windows, clean out under sinks

I am not a proponent of remodeling your house just to sell, unless you are actually flipping the house.  But there can be a place for fresh paint, new carpet and carpentry to repair dry rot and other issues.  No, you probably don't have to paint the whole house, but painting the entry way (high traffic and high visibility area) could sure go a long way.

On the flip side, it is fine for the garage and/or basement to have lots of boxes and show signs of moving.  Buyers are reassured to see this.

So yes, you may well be able to draw multiple offers on your house after a few short days on the market.  But you'll have to work for it.  And your agent?  Your agent will be working well ahead of putting your house on the market to position the house optimally for this market.  Each house has its own unique set of pre-market needs and conditions.  Let me know if you want to get started on your house's to do list.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Portland real estate appraisal; a brief primer

In the "go go" years, lenders had staff, or preferred appraisers who worked with the lender in establishing the value of a home.  In a good way, a lender could clue an appraiser in on specific information about a property.  In a bad way, a lender could put pressure on an appraiser to find a certain value or overlook shortcomings in the interest of future work for the appraiser from that lender.  And of course, some lenders were so anxious to make a loan, they did a "desk" appraisal, looking at statistics on a property and the neighborhood, without a property visit.  Think that system might have been abused a bit?

 Monday morning quarterbacking of the housing crisis led to an overhaul of that structure such that appraisers are now affiliated with appraisal management companies, and lenders order appraisals though those companies, with no direct link to specific appraisers.  Oh yay, another layer of middle men!  This restructuring did lead to some good separation between lender and appraiser, but it also lead to a not so good disconnect between appraisers and the areas and properties they appraise.  A lender who often works in the inner city could order an appraisal that ends up being done by an appraiser experience with in new construction subdivisions.  ack.

This history informs what we are seeing today.  Take the potential misinformation, combine it with a quickly appreciating market, where the basis of an appraisal comes from closed sale in the past.  Then, on occasion, add in an appraiser's bias about a certain area, or in one case I had, an appraiser who fancied himself a bit of an economist and was including his opinions about the regional economy when establishing a value for a property. Then, allow for good old human error here and there.

Appraisers have certain rules and regulations they work by in establishing value.  This is a good thing.  But those rules often don't quite match with how a certain marketplace establishes value. It is this disconnect that can also lead to low or "off" appraisals.  It is VERY hard for an appraiser to give much value to below grade square footage, no matter how well done it is and how much the buyer and seller like it.  That hip lofty area that serves as a great office probably doesn't count as a "room".  And the urban location, close to everything, may get a deduction based on a busy street or inconsistent uses (residential, industrial, commercial).  In addition, low housing inventory has buyers bidding up many properties well over their list, and probably over possible appraisal prices.

Don't despair.  As  real estate agents, if a low appraisal comes in, it is our job to take a good hard look at it.  We especially look for any actual errors, especially in square footage calculation.  We also look at the comparable properties used by the appraiser, and try to provide more accurate "comps".  It is possible to have an appraisal reviewed; though usually only in the case of actual errors or blatantly poor comparable properties.  We also help to avoid low appraisals in the first place.  We can provide an appraiser comps we think might be helpful.  We can also provide a list of improvements made to the property, especially those that might not be obvious.   Many appraisers will let us know if they are having trouble finding the value, a hint to provide comps.  And lastly, good old courtesy and respect can go long way toward a decent appraisal process.

Worried about how your place might appraise?  Give me a call and I'd be glad to look at some comps for you.  Contemplating home improvements?  I'd be glad to counsel you with regard to cost vs. value in our market.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Politics of carpooling and other joint ventures

For Emma's elementary and middle school years, we shunned carpools for a variety of reasons; we lived reasonably close to school, I have a flexible schedule and I wasn't about to let someone else make my kid late to school. To our credit, both Emma's and mine, she was NEVER tardy in her nine years at Winterhaven. 

Enter club volleyball with two practices a week across town and tournaments sprinkled across northwestern Oregon.  All of a sudden, a carpool looks pretty darn good.  We're lucky to have a total of four families commuting from our neck of the woods to these events; all reasonable, responsible and on time. 

With four families, we each drive one leg per week; to or from.  And we volunteer for tournament days; especially that early leg to get the girls wherever by 7:30am;  Hillsboro, Salem, McMinnville etc.  All of us have varying pressures on scheduling and varying preferences on which leg to drive when.

 My general approach is to lead the scheduling charge, volunteer early for the shifts I want, and do slightly more than my share.  This gets me the schedule I can do, and with "one up", leaving me comfortable asking someone else to bring my kid home when I can't.  The thin veil of appearing to be helpful when I'm really securing my preference.

This same can apply to many joint ventures, including potlucks, right?   Pipe up early that you'll bring your preferred dish; your are an early bird and helpful  Never mind that you just secured the dish you wanted, preempting other folks.

 And that person who looks like a slacker by volunteering late and "batting clean up" ?  He or she may well be the most selfless person in the group; driving shifts no one else wants, bringing that dish to the potluck that is really needed, but a hassle, and all with a smile.

Who are you?  I seem to be oddly, selfishly controlling, while thinking I'm helpful and eager.  hmm.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Holy Cow! No wonder we're so busy.

Anecdotally, the market has been feeling crazy busy these days.  There are lots of cash buyers in the market, which makes for fast and somewhat loose players.  Rapidly rising prices make cash king, as worries of low appraisals are off the table.  Waived, or minimized inspections are also on the rise.  Buyers, please don't take on a potentially leaking oil tank.  Most any other conditions can be reasonably estimated, but an untested tank could get you your very own superfund site.

So, statistically, more rising prices, with the  median price for the first five months of this year up 15.0% over the same period in 2012 to $253,000.  Fifteen percent. 

We have more pending and closed sales, and inventory remains low with 2.5 months of inventory city wide.  That means, at the current rate of sales it would take 2.5 months to sell the properties currently on the market.  In some of the close-in neighborhoods, we see this well below 30 days.   Pending sales increased 1.2% from April 2013 and 18.1 from May 2012.  Closed sales are up 26.2%  over April 2013 and 27.8 % over May 2012.

And our average market time remains low at 85 days, down from 91 last month.   This is an average, so imagine how quickly the good ones are actually selling.

Interest rates are slowly on the rise, as they should be.  For a 30 year fixed rate, one might expect a 4.125% rate, 3.375 for a 15 year rate.  These are still great rates, probably the lowest we'll see in the coming years.  Rising rates, though, do tend to light a fire under "on the fence" buyers...

If you've been thinking of selling, now is a pretty good time.

See the full report.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sometimes scary electric panels

Those old Portland houses I love so much, didn't have electricity way back when.  And then in dribs and drabs, knob and tube wiring, connecting to through fuse boxes, were installed.  Power surges, peaks in demand and such, would cause a fuse to blow - a good thing as it prevented over heating and fires.  To restore electricity, one would replace the fuse. 

In the 1950's (mostly) folks started replacing the fuse box with circuit breakers.  In a power "issue" the breaker would flip, cutting off power to the affected area.  Rather than replacing a fuse, the breaker would merely be flipped back into position to restore electricity. 

For years, twenty four in my case, in selling an old home, we'd be relieved to see any form of circuit breaker box, as opposed to fuses.  But also for years, almost as many, we've heard circuit breaker panels made by Federal Pacific have issues.  To a homeowner, the issue with a breaker would be that it flips to often or unnecessarily.  But you want the circuit breaker to flip when needed.  The Federal Pacific panels have been known not to flip, or trip, when they should.  Ack. This poses a huge fire risk.

In addition, we are hearing that even "good" circuit breaker panels age out, or wear  out.  I've been told the reasonable life expectancy of a circuit breaker panel is about fifty years.  Many of those early circuit breaker panels had a pretty small capacity of 60 or 100 amps.  And as we consume more electricity, many folks have upgraded their panels to accommodate 200 amps of service. Often  circuit breaker panels are upgraded in remodels and additions.

 Other safety features have shown up in the newer boxes, including a "main disconnect" by which one can shut off all the power to the house by flipping one switch. We're also seeing whole house surge protectors (rather than those things you buy at Office Depot to protect your electronics) and whole circuits protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (rather than GFCI's on individual outlets).

I have facilitated real estate sales where a Federal Pacific panel is replaced as part of the buyer's repair request.  I have not yet seen a buyer request a non-Federal Pacific, but old panel be replaced just because of age.  I do wonder if this is on the horizon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Regional Multiple Listing Service released stats for April, and yes, the market is certainly active. 

More rising prices; median price for the first four months of this year is up  is up 15.6% over the same period in 2012 to $250,000.  The median price for April 2013, alone, is $257,000.

We have more pending and closed sales and inventory remains low with 3.1 months of inventory city wide; pending sales increased 11.9% from March 2013 and 24.4% from April 2012.  Closed sales are up 9.8% over March 2013 and 16.1 % over April 2012.

And our average market time remains low at 91 days city wide.  This is an average, so imagine how quickly the good ones are actually selling.

The real estate conversation is all about inventory.  There are plenty of buyers in the marketplace right now, hoping to get in before prices and interest rates rise.  But...there aren't so many houses to choose from, making multiple offers and bidding wars commonplace.    Low appraisals are a risk as prices are driven higher, so cash offers become quite appealing.  We are even seeing multiple cash offers; in some cases buyers needing to buy using financing  need not even submit offers.

The conversation is also about sustainability; can this market continue?  I don't think so. An amount of the pricing increase is being driven up by emotional decisions; winning the bidding war.  As prices rise, and more people can afford to sell, we'll see more houses come on the market, which will ease the inventory shortage.  And while I don't relish a return to the stagnant market of 2008-2011, a bit more balanced market would be welcome. 

So if you've been thinking of selling, now is a pretty good time.  Interest rates remain reasonably low such that more buyers can afford to buy at a certain price range.  As both interest rates and prices rise, the pool of buyers for any given price range will decrease.

See the full report.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Traffic + Construction = Progress

I'm lucky to live in Portland's close-in eastside, between SE Division and SE Powell.  The neighborhood has much to offer, with several new improvements coming soon.  Work on the new light rail line is in full swing, especially as seen from lower Division, SE Powell and SE17th and of course long SE 17th.  In addition, the city is about to undertake the Division Streetscape work; from SE Cesar Chavez to SE 11th. This project combines sewer work with a variety of street improvements including better ADA ramps at intersections, bike boxes at intersections, curbs, sidewalks and so on.  Work on the Division project begins this coming Monday, 5.6.2013.

The City of Portland's Bureau of Transportation some nice webtools, including a project overview and block by block project maps.  Below is the map of SE 21st and Division:

You can get a good look at your favorite intersections, and what all will be involved in the construction.

There is also a nice site tracking the progress and effects of the Portland-Milwaukie light rail project, offering surprisingly up to date route and traffic information.  I'm amazed at the wide swath being cleared through the inner east-side. 

These two projects adjoin each other in the Clinton - 11th - Division - 12th blocks, making for an already congested area.  Monday's start of the Division Streetscape project could make things interesting.  I'll be investigating some alternative commute routes; Powell to 99E?  Staying east and cutting down at Hawthorne?

How about you?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Foster Powell

I've just listed this house in the Foster Powell neighborhood, and thought I'd write a bit about the neighborhood.

The house is located at 3910 SE 67th Avenue; between Powell and Holgate on SE 67th.  This two (plus bonus) bedroom, two bath house  is priced at $229,000. It sits a half block from Kern Park.

Kern Park is small, with a ball field and playground. My clients have loved having the park so close by; with a dog and small child it has been a real asset.

The Foster Powell neighborhood, in general is made up of modest homes. Some were original homesteads dating to the turn of the century.  Others have been filled in over the years.  The neighborhood, bounded by Powell, Foster and SE 82nd Avenue (The Avenue of Roses?).

There are a variety of grassroots efforts taking place in the neighborhood, including a proposed community garden at SE 62nd and Powell.  ODOT, who owns the land, recently approved a proposal for the garden.  Then there is the project to reclaim the neighborhood alleys.  The folks at Foster Green EcoDistrict and working on the alley project.

The neighborhood has some good eats, from Carts on Foster, to the venerable Ichidai Sushi on SE Powell ( a personal favorite).  Foster Burger is popular too, along with Bar Carlo

Give me a call if you'd like to see the little house pictured above, or if you have any real estate questions you'd like answered.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sell your house now or later?

A client asked the other day, for a primer on timing the sale of their Portland home.  They've relocated out of town and, should they move back to Portland, they've realized it wouldn't be to their existing house.

They have great tenants in the property, but the rent doesn't cover their monthly payment, so they are subsidizing the rent by about $300 a month.  Should they sell this year, or wait until 2014?

Here, in a nutshell, was my response:

Our current market, close in on the eastside is moving incredibly quickly. The comparable houses to theirs are getting accepted offers with in days, as in 2-3 days, of going on the market. There is high demand from buyers and a low inventory of good homes for sale, so prices are rising. 

Interest rates are low, and are being kept artificially low by the Fed.  As the economy recovers, (and housing),  we expect the Fed to stop keeping those rates low.  As rates rise, fewer buyers will be able to afford the home.

We expect prices to continue to rise for the rest of this year, perhaps with some seasonal slowing.  But, as prices rise, we will most likely see more sellers entering the market; especially those who previously couldn't get enough for their home to warrant selling.  As so much of the current price increases are a result of high demand and low supply, those increases will likely slow. 

These particularly clients are most likely planning to sell.  The unknowns of waiting, combined with the amount they subsidize the rent each month makes waiting not particularly attractive.  They'll likely wait until their tenant's lease is up, or perhaps offer the tenants some sort of consideration for their cooperation in letting us market the home during their occupancy.

If you have questions about your property and situation, get in touch as I'd be glad to chat and give you answers that take your specific factors into account. leslievjones@gmail.com 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In Portland, it's a seller's market alright

The Regional Multiple Listing Service released stats for February, showing more of the same. 

More rising prices; median price is up 8.5% to $238,500 in the last twelve months. 

We have more pending and closed sales and inventory remains low with 4.5 months of inventory city wide; pending sales increased 11.8% from January 2013.   Some desirable close-in neighborhoods are seeing inventory as low and 1.5 months.  At the current rate if sales it would only take 1.5 months to sell all the houses on the market.

And our average market time remains low at 116 days city wide.  This is an average, so imagine how quickly the good ones are actually selling.

The real estate conversation is all about inventory.  There are plenty of buyers in the marketplace right now hoping to get in before prices and interest rates rise too much more.  But...there aren't so many houses to choose from, making multiple offers and bidding wars commonplace.    We are even seeing multiple cash offers; in some cases buyers needing to buy using financing  need not even submit offers.

So if you've been thinking of selling, now is a pretty good time.  Interest rates remain reasonably low such that more buyers can afford to buy at a certain price range.  As both interest rates and prices rise, the pool of buyers for any given price range will decrease.

See the full report.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Be a Strong Real Estate Buyer

Resume?  Personal letter?  Pre-approval letter and proof of funds? 

As you may have heard, Portland's housing market is in a bit of a crisis.  No, not that housing bubble crisis.  We have WAY more buyers than houses to sell! Multiple offers are common place, as are sales prices well above asking prices.

Buyers are challenged to differentiate themselves from the competition to get their offers accepted.  Obviously price is a big concern, but many sellers like an emotional connection with a buyer and may forgo a higher offer for a financially well qualified buyer with whom they identify.  Here are a few tips:

1) Get pre-approved through a local mortgage lender or mortgage broker; preferably one with a solid reputation in the real estate community.  If a listing agent has worked with your lender and liked them, they'll most likely pass on that positive report to the seller.  With loan underwriting guidelines as strict as they are, we see plenty of loans fail from loan processors not knowing how to correctly verify and document assets and liabilities.  Get a good lender and do the legwork of pre-approval up front. 

2) Be willing to provide proof of your down payment funds.  This can be in the form of a banking or investment statement, with the account numbers blacked out.  It does need to show at least the amount of money required for your loan and your name(s).  Waiting for a payout from your deceased Aunt Tillie's estate does not a down payment make.

3) Put a few kind gestures in your offer.  If the sellers are going on to buy another property, they are stressed out and challenged about selling and buying and moving in a short period of time.  Offer the sellers a few days in the house after closing, at no cost to them, and then be generous in allowing them to rent back for another week or so.  Yes, this will cost you a bit as you'll have ownership costs, but it may well get you the house you want.  If the house is an estate, consider offering to dispose of unwanted household goods and personal effects. This will cost you a bit of time and money, but may be invaluable to the heirs.

4) Work on a generic letter ahead of time, which you'll customize for each offer you write. This is a letter to the seller about you, complimenting the house and talking about the features that draw you to the house.  Clearly the second part is done specific to each house.  This may well be the sappiest thing you ever write.  " The work you've done to the yard is just wonderful;. My partner is an avid gardener we look forward to summer evenings under the gazebo etc."  Or, "our children, ages 4 and 6 are so excited to live so close to the park and to have their own rooms".  Really tell your story and include pictures.

5) If the seller is an investor or a bank, they may be more interested in the price.  But a clean offer; reasonable close date, ample earnest money, respectable price and a strong pre-approval letter should do the trick.  Don't clutter your offer with small one-off requests such as removing the cat door or re-keying the locks.  Less is more.

Email me for more tips on getting your offer accepted at leslievjones@gmail.com

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Neon Boneyard

Rusted metal, broken glass and some hazardous chemicals; yet we paid to see it.

I've been in Las Vegas this week for the RE/MAX Convention.  Though Vegas is not my natural habitat (is it anyone's?), this is a great event. I often get quite caught up in the classes and sessions; not taking time to get out a bit.

A few of my pals helped with that "getting out and about" thing, making advance reservations at The Neon Boneyard, or The Neon Museum , located on the north side of town.  Clearly, saving the fabulous old neon signs has long been a concern.  The Young Electric Sign Company has been creating and servicing neon signs in Las Vegas for generations. The company has played an instrumental part in the museum and neon preservation. This actual museum has only recently opened in early 2013.  The welcome center is in the relocated old La Concha Motel.


The museum offers guided tours only, leaving hourly. Advance reservations are advised.  The tour takes about an hour, with tons of great history, information about the neon industry and plenty of photo opportunities.  Who was the first casino owner to comp drinks to gamblers AND put chairs at the slot machines?  How'd that first racially integrated casino work out?  Who knew the four pointed "stars" on the Stardust Hotel sign signified nuclear "dust" from all this desert tests?
 In addition to pieces at the museum site, the organization has restored several iconic neon signs that can be seen along Las Vegas Blvd and Fremont St. in downtown Las Vegas.

Neon Boneyard or taking a self-guided tour of neon in Las Vegas' downtown; either way, take a look.  Oh, and call me if you want more information or pictures.  503-312-8038.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Those new market stats

The RMLS just released statistics for the month of January.  It is nice to see a few more houses coming on the market, as buyers are out in force.  We also see a consistent trend in slow, steady price increases.

 The median sales price over the previous twelve months increased  7.3%  to $236,000 up from $219,000.  In January, pending sales rose a whopping 37.7% over the previous month.  Closed sales, reflecting seasonal slowing of selling activity over the holidays, dipped to 1344 in January 2013 when compared with 1760 in December 2012

Housing inventory rose to 4.7 months, up from 3.6 months in December 2012.  That is, at the current rate of sales, it will take 4.7 months to sell out the inventory.

If you've been thinking about selling, get in touch and we'll see where the value is on your home.  There are plenty of buyers out there looking to make a move.  If you've been waiting to buy, don't wait too much longer. We don't want you priced out by increasing prices and interest rates - unless your income is also going up.

Leslie Jones 503-312-8038. leslievjones@gmail.com

Read the full RMLS report.