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.  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.