Monday, November 24, 2014

Buyers: why I care about your loan pre-approval Part 1

One of the first steps in a shopping for a home is for buyers to get pre-approved for a loan.  This pre-approval starts the lending process, lets the buyer know how much they can afford and helps buyers decide about the price range in which they want to shop. Make note, many buyers are pre-approved for more than they are comfortable spending.  Often buyers, once they get a pre-approval, figure they'll actually shop for a loan and commit to a lender once they find a house, using the first pre-approval to submit with an offer.

Ack!  Equipped with that pre-approval letter, we, as buyers' agents, write an offer to purchase based on that pre-approval.   In the offer, it states the buyer will get financing, and if there are changes ; new lender or switching to a different program, the seller must be told promptly. In certain cases, the seller must agree to the changes (to a new loan program).  In any case, failure to tell the seller of the change can be seen as a breach of the contract, which could in turn lose the buyer the house and their earnest money.  It really does matter and I really do care.

New, stringent loan processes make a 30 day close difficult.  Part of the purpose of the pre-approval is,  the loan process is actually started BEFORE the offer is accepted.  Credit reports are run, employment  verified, assets and liabilities verified.

Changing lenders after the offer is accepted makes for a longer closing, makes the buyer look flakey for not having completed their research before making an offer, and can look as though the buyers agent is not doing a good job of managing the transaction.

So, dear buyers, the time to shop around is BEFORE you make an offer. If I seem less than thrilled when you switch lenders part way through a transaction without asking me, its because you have just jeopardized your ability to buy the house.

I care where you get your loan because the success of your purchase, which is seen as my responsibility, rests largely on your lender.  Many real estate companies, RE/MAX equity group included, have in house lenders.  This is not some nefarious scheme to somehow trick you, and my commission on your purchase is the same no matter what lender you use.  But, I know how our in house lender works.  I know when a pre-approval letter is written that the file has actually been through underwriting.  That pre-approval letter you get after talking on the phone to a lender, and submitting zero paperwork,  has definitely not been through underwriting and isn't worth the email it is sent in.  I know the rhythm of our in house lender's loan processing and best of all, if push comes to shove, we may have the ability to get certain conditions waived, or fulfilled in a more expedient way.

There are several lenders in town, either in house lenders in other companies, or merely reputable lenders who do a high quality of business, with whom I am happy to work, know they'll do a good job and have confidence in the process.  If it feels like I'm steering you to certain lenders, its because I am.  No, all lenders are not the same.  The  benefits I get when you work with a lender I suggest are same benefits you enjoy; a smooth escrow period and  the successful purchase of your new home.

I maintain a list of several lenders in the area with whom I have had successful transactions.  I'm more than glad to provide this list to you before you start shopping.  Just ask :)

In the next post, I'll tell a few stories of lenders and transactions gone bad.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

October 2014 Portland Market Statistics

Statistics are out, showing Portland area real estate activity for October.  We're still in that active, but kind of flat market in which we have been.  Yes, the increase in closed sales reflects the predicted increase in activity in September, (once kids went back to school and folks got back to conducting real estate business).

 At our current rate of sales, it will take 2.8 months to sell all the properties on the market.  This is a slight decrease from September (3.1 months), and a drop from October 2013's  3.4 months.  So yes, the market is still moving quickly, with not many properties to sell.   Make note, 2.8 months of inventory has been, here and there our low.  We haven't seen less in recent memory.

Pending sales were down a bit from September, by 2.8%  but were up 16.7% from October 2013.  Closed sales also rose 13.6%  from October 2013, and 4.6% from September  2014.

Oddly, our market time got a tad longer, 65 days in October 2014 vs. 60 days in September 2014.  October 2013 had a market time of 76 days. .

The median year to date sales price is $285,000 up 7.5% from the median year to date sales price in October  2013 of  $265,000.

Typically, we see the market slow around Thanksgiving, until just after the first of the year.  I'm not sure how much slowing we'll see this year as the market still feels pretty brisk.  Our office, the NE Broadway branch of RE/MAX equity group, is on track to pass November 2013 in the dollar volume of sales, and in the number of transactions.

I have buyer clients in the market right now, and a listing (close in SE) hitting the market next week.  Fall is the time serious buyers and sellers get it done.

Call me if you want to jump in.  503-312-8038

Read the full Portland area report here.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lipstick on a pig, or attention to detail?

In this continued market of high demand properties and multiple offers,  little things can play a large roll in the success or failure of a transaction.

Here are a few "little things":

When an agent arranges to show my listing, they are good communicators about when they'll be there.  They show up on time and leave the property as they found it; lights on or off, doors locked.  Extra points if something is out of place and they call to let me know.

When an agent says they are writing an offer, they do and send it to me when they say they will. The offer is complete., They have merged the various pdf's into one pdf. The offer is accompanied by a pre-approval letter, a letter from the buyers to the seller and a note from the agent about the buyer and their process.  If I have indicated a specific escrow company in the listing , that same company is named in the offer.  If we're looking at seven offers, and we often are, and they are similar, and they often are, the little things in the offer can make all the difference in its getting accepted. 

And once accepted; the promissory note for earnest money is redeemed within the required timeline, and I am provided a receipt or proof. I don't have to ask or go hunting for it.  Inspections are scheduled promptly and I am informed in a timely manner.  So when we get the repair addendum in which the buyer is making certain repair requests of the seller, we still feel good about the buyer and their agent.  If the inspection process has been a shitstorm of bad communication (and it can be), the seller isn't super pre-disposed to satisfying buyer requests.

And sellers; agents and home inspectors very quickly form an opinion if your house has been well cared for, or neglected.   We notice all sorts of things, but here are a few that jump out at me.  There is a bathroom fan that works and is used.  There is a service record of the furnace on, or by the furnace.  All the doors are opened with one key, and they do open. The swing of the screen/storm door is on the same side as the actual door, there are no burnt out light bulbs leaving us wondering if its a bad light bulb or a bad receptacle, and hand rails are solid.

Oh yes, staging, de-cluttering and judicious painting work wonders.  But those cosmetics can be lipstick on a poorly cared for pig.  If you're thinking of selling and want some tips on putting your house in shape.  I'll be glad to help.  503-312-8038

Saturday, October 25, 2014

So, you're a landlord...

Some of us have intentionally set out to become landlords and consider rental property to be a hobby AND part of a retirement plan.  Others have ended up landlords through a variety of life changes and real estate market fluctuations.  What we share is the desire to keep our real estate investments in good shape, providing a return on our investment, and to avoid untoward catastrophes.

I suggest owners of rental property put some thought into why you have the property, what your goals are for the investment and think about if you have any values or personal priorities you want embodied in your management style.  For example:  One might say, I own a rental house because I couldn't sell it in the downturn, I'm doing okay now, so I want to keep the property with the goal of paying it off and having the rental income.  I'm an organic gardener and have had the property certified as a neighborhood wildlife habitat and want it kept that way.  Or I'm really just flipping it, so I want to maximize the value today and sell it now. and so on.  My husband and I believe in the value of companion animals and are active in animal rescue. We allow, or even encourage animals in our properties.

And then, its super important to be aware of the various local, state and federal laws effecting your ownership.   This includes fair housing laws, habitability standards and the like.  Oh, and don't forget the IRS.  I talked to a gal recently who had been renting her house out for a year (she's out of state for a few years for work).  She hadn't realized she was supposed to be reporting that rent as income.  There are also some good tax benefits of owning investment property, so the IRS isn't all bad.

A good place to start on all this is at the City of Portland's Landlord training class.  This class is a joint project between The Bureau of Development Services, Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Fire and Rescue.  Its a full day class, free unless you choose to purchase the $20 manual.  Per the city's brochure on the class, it aims to accomplish two important goals:

1) That effective property management and maintenance can have a positive impact on the health and safety of communities.

2) That there are accessible, legitimate techniques that can be used to stop the spread of illegal activity and property damage on rental property.

Upcoming classes are Monday November 3, Saturday November 15, Monday November 17 and Saturday, November 22.  Locations vary, but are all in central locations.  Classes run from 8:30 - 5:00 with an hour for lunch (on your own).  There is no free lunch ;)  You can register here.  This class won't give you everything, but sure is a good place to start.

There is also a private class coming up on December 18th, being put on by Sterling Education Services.  Also, a one day class, it focuses more on key elements of Landlord-Tenant law. the cost is $339, with some additional fees for optional materials.  visit  for more information, and to register.

 Another good tip; it is important to use good forms that are in line with the current Oregon statutes of landlord tenant law.  I see way too many self written leases.  The Metro Multi-Family Housing Council suggests using forms from Tenant Technologies.  There are on line versions, or real paper ones you can purchase.   If you do nothing else, using the right forms is a must. 

And one more tip.  We've been using SmartMove for our tenant screening. It is an online service with no cumbersome process for establishing an account.  The portal allows you to send an invitation to a prospective tenant, from which the tenant enters their identifying information ( social security number, date of birth etc).  Since you, the landlord, never see the personal information of the tenant, you are freed of the secure record keeping requirements necessary to safeguard such information.  The system can provide credit, criminal background and eviction reports.  And, the prospective tenant can easily pay they screening fee on line. 

If you've been thinking of buying rental property, or have a rental you'd like to sell, give me a call.  503-312-8038  I'd be glad to talk with you.  I am not a property manager and can't advise on property management issues.  I can suggest a few property managers if you'd like to go  that route.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

That seasonal slowing, kinda

Statistics are out, showing Portland area real estate activity for September.

 At our current rate of sales, it will take 3.1 months to sell all the properties on the market.  This is a slight increase form August (3 months), but a drop from last September's 3.7 months.

Pending sales were up 15.0% from September 2013,  and fell 5.7% from August 2014.   Closed sales rose 10.2% from September 2013, but are down 8.0%  from  August  2014.

Our market time got a tad shorter; 60 days in September 2014 vs. 63 days in August 2014.  September 2013 had a market time of 72 days. .

The median year to date sales price is $281,000, up 9.8% from the median year to date sales price in September 2013 of  $256,000.

So, prices continue to increase, we've had a slight increase in the number of houses on the market, but the pace of sales and number of active buyers make for a busy real estate industry.  There is still a lot of cash in the market, making it harder for first time buyers, with low down payments, to compete.

We are seeing the predicted flurry in September and October as both buyers and sellers rush to finalize real estate transactions before the holidays.  While our market slows over the holidays, plenty of real estate business is conducted, primarily by serious buyers and sellers looking to get it done.

Call me if you want to jump in.  503-312-8038

read the full Portland area report here

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stagnant but mature?

In my last blog, I wrote about our flat, stagnant, but good market.  This is an extension of that blog.

Part of why this market feels good, is that we, as real estate agents have matured into how we work in such an active real estate arena.  We better prepare our buyer and seller clients for what to expect in this type of market. We know better how to handle multiple offers on a listing and understand why sometimes it can be hard. yes, hard, for a seller to receive  seven offers, above list price within 3 days of their house going on the market.

We counsel our buyer clients from the start on participating in a multiple offer situation, and are no longer incredulous, when a listing agent doesn't get our offer in front of the seller right away.

When our active market first hit back in the 2003 - 2006, the industry wasn't particularly well versed in handling the increased speed and intense emotions of a busy and appreciating market.  We often fed the pressure cooker of emotion and stress, rather than diffusing the situation and helping our clients focus on the matters at hand.

Today, we aren't surprised by multiple offers on a listing, but nor do we expect, or feel we deserve them.  As a listing agent receiving multiple offers on a listing, we have procedures and standards in place for communicating equally and fairly with all parties, methods for helping a seller consider multiple offers, and the experience to help our seller clients set expectations for the eventual closing of the transaction.

So stagnant and flat also speaks to the calm, mature approach today's real estate agents have toward such a busy market.

As we enter the fall, I expect a flurry of activity until Thanksgiving as both buyers and sellers make an effort to wrap up their real estate activity before the holidays or end of the tax year.  We're seeing a slight increase in new listings on the market as we all get re-engaged from the summer.  Give me a call, text or email if you have questions.  503-312-8038

Monday, August 18, 2014

I'm loving this stagnant, flat market!

I've always been a bit puzzled by the mentality that things must always be growing and improving.  Bigger, better, more isn't always best, at least in my mind. 

Portland's real estate market, of the last months, has been a healthy one. Sales have been brisk, inventory low but present, and interest rates low.  So while our numbers haven't changed much month to month, we're in a healthy place.  Its like the Dr. saying your health is stagnant and flat because your cholesterol has stayed low, blood pressure has stayed steady and you've maintained a healthy weight.

Hooray for the stagnant and flat. 

 At our current rate of sales, it will take 2.9 months to sell all the properties on the market, that is after three months with inventory at 2.8 months. 

Pending sales were up 2.3% from July 2013 and fell 5.5% from June 2014.   Closed sales rose 2.3% from June 2014, but are down 3.2%  from  July 2013.  Summer of 2013 was a kickass market.   So being "flat" compared to last year is fine by me.

Our market time got a tad shorter; 57 days in July 2014 vs. 59 days in June.  July 2013 had a market time of 63 days.

The median year to date sales price is $284,900, up 9.2% from the median year to date sales price in July  2013 of  $261,000.

So, prices continue to increase, we've had a slight increase in the number of houses on the market, but the pace of sales and number of active buyers make for a busy real estate industry.  There is still a lot of cash in the market, making it harder for first time buyers, with low down payments, to compete.

We tend to see a bit if a flurry in the market in September and October as both buyers and sellers rush to get transactions completed before the holidays.  Frustrated buyers, I expect to see an increase of new listings in early and mid-September. 

Sellers, there is still time to get your place on the market if you've been thinking of selling. Give me a call. 503-312-8038. 

read the full Portland area report here

Monday, August 11, 2014

What the heck is a diamond in the rough, anyway?

The standards have gone way up on how much spiffing the market expects when a home goes on the market.  Homeowners can work for weeks or even months prepping their home for sale. We aren't talking major remodel. But packing up and storing lots of stuff, moving furniture to a storage unit, tending to small fix it items identified by their realtor, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide monitors, digging up paperwork for past work such as oil tank decommissions and sewer replacements.  Spiffing the yard, touch up painting where needed and so on.

But sometimes, circumstances are such that sellers just don't have that kind of time and money.  A job relocation with a short timeline, divorce and health issues can all contribute to sellers just needing to get it sold.

I had a listing earlier in the summer, where my clients were moving out of state, and on a short timeline. They have two busy boys, two dogs and had lived in the house for 17 years.  In that time, they had done lots of very valuable upgrades to the house; earthquake retro-fitting, Pella double paned argon filled windows, new water and sewer lines, high efficiency furnace, gas hot water heater, wood stove inserts into both fireplaces, whole house water filter and more.  Where necessary, they  had building permits.

The house had many of the features today's buyers are looking for;  it is  a classic Tudor, has hardwood floors, fireplaces, built-ins, leaded glass accents, roomy kitchen floor plan, mature landscape.  But...the kitchen and baths were kinda tired, and the sellers didn't have the time or energy to do a bunch of prepping. So when the house was shown, prospective buyers had to look past the kids' Lego figures all over the fireplace mantle, the dishes in the kitchen sink, the landscape hadn't been trimmed back and the deck hadn't been pressure washed.

That, my friends, was a diamond in the rough.  Its was a great house in a fab location with good systems.  Just needed a tad of vision and some kitchen and bath work.

A diamond in the rough, is NOT a non-descript house with three layers of carpet and linoleum, old leaky windows, electric baseboard heat and an aging sewer line.  That's just rough.  There needs to be some diamond under the rough.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Those May market stats: when flat means busy

The Portland market continues to suffer from low inventory, with only 2.8 months of houses on the market.  At our current rate of sales, it will take 2.8 months to sell all the properties on the market. We haven't seen lower inventory since May of 2013. This, with listings up 15.5% from April 2014.  As market times have decreased, the increased inventory is absorbed.

Pending sales were up 5.8% from April 2014, and just a 0.4% increase from May of 2013.  Closed sales rose 15.9% from April 2014, but are down 7.4% from  May 2013.  Spring of 2013 was a kickass market, maybe even a bit too kickass.  So being "flat" compared to last year is fine by me.

Our market time got a tad shorter in May; 67 days in April 2014 vs. 77days in May.  May 2013 had a market time of 85 days.

The median year to date sales price is $278,500, up 10.1% from the median year to date sales price in May 2013 of  $253,000.

So, prices continue to increase, we've had a slight increase in the number of houses on the market, but the pace of sales and number of active buyers make for a busy real estate industry.  There is still a lot of cash in the market, making it harder for first time buyers, with low down payments, to compete.

There is still time to get your place on the market if you've been thinking of selling. Give me a call. 503-312-8038.  Buyers, there is hope, with 2483  closed sales in Portland last month, clearly some folks are getting their offers accepted.

read the full Portland area report here

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Earthquake retrofitting 101

I grew up in California,  where earthquakes are reasonably common place; earthquake drills in school de rigeur. California had the reputation for being earthquake country.  And California started addressing earthquake issues in building codes back in my childhood. 

In Oregon, building codes started requiring houses be bolted in foundations in 1976, but it was not until 1994 that Portland adopted a seismic section of the city building code.  Note the difference between bolting foundations and a complete seismic code which addresses  things like sheer walls and securing water heaters.

So here we are in 2014 and not much has changed.  Portland's old houses sit mostly on concrete foundations of varying condition and quality.  Very few, aside from homes constructed after 1976, have been bolted to their foundations.  What has changed is the available knowledge of an impending earthquake; a big one. 

We're also seeing a slowly growing awareness among home inspectors, home owners and home buyers of the value of earthquake retrofitting. 

 This blog is the first in what I'm sure will turn out to be a series of bogs on earthquake retrofitting. Here are a few basics to start you off. 

These are the general requirements for earthquake insurance for single family homes:  1) Bolting of the sill plate and/or floor joists of the structure to the cement foundation.  2) Adding plywood to brace sub-floor wall areas of homes with cripple-wall construction. 3) Attaching the floor joist walls to the first-floor framing of homes with cripple wall construction. and 4) Strapping/anchoring water heaters to resist horizontal displacement.

Given a concrete foundation in reasonable condition can be bolted to the framing for somewhere between $3000 - $7000.  Brick, block, or houses with crumbling foundations can cost much more, between $50,000 to $200,000. Ack!

In the next earthquake blog, I'll talk about precautions one can take, other than retrofitting the structure of the house, to lessen the impact of an earthquake.  Stay tuned.

Oh, and some of the information for this posting came from Steve Gemmell and his company, Earthquake-Tech.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When your house is no longer your home

Life changes, such as a  new job, graduate school, divorce or marriage, often cause folks to rent out their home, while moving to another.  Sometimes, when you move out, you think you'll be moving back in, so it doesn't seem like a big deal. 

But to the IRS,  "big deals" may be happening.  I'm not an accountant, and I don't know the tax code.  But here are a few things I have seen. 

In general, when you sell a personal residence, even if you sell for a gain, there is an exemption so you don't pay taxes on the gain; something like $250,000 of gain for a single person and $500,000 of gain for a couple.  So, most likely, if you sell your home, make a bunch of money and don't reinvest it in another home,  you're okay.  But...when you move out of your house and rent it out, you are functionally, converting your residence to investment property.  There are intricate rules (this is the IRS after all), but depending on how long you lived there and rented it out, when you sell, any gain will most likely be taxed as regular income.  That means, whatever your tax rate is, will be applied to the gain when you sell.  Ack!

And, that rent you've been getting?   That rent is income, and should probably be claimed on your taxes as such.  Now, with investment property there are several nice tax deductions that help lessen the tax hit of the rental income.  And, you may well depreciate the property.  But, you'll need to be claiming the income.

Rental property is often the threshold beyond which folks choose to have their taxes prepared by an accountant.  Especially if you are a new landlord, a professional guide through that part of the IRS code can be a good idea. So if you kinda ended up as a landlord unintentionally, think about getting some help.

ps.  Many people intend on becoming landlords, purchaser property with that specific intent and embrace tax strategies around investment property.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Still busy

The Portland market continues to suffer from low inventory, with only 2.8 months of houses on the market.  At our current rate of sales, it will take 2.8 months to sell all the properties on the market. We haven't seen lower inventory since May of 2013. This, with listings up 17.4% from March 2014.  As market times have decreased, the increased inventory is absorbed.

Pending sales were up 11.5% from March 2014, but down 4.0% from April of 2013.  Closed sales rose 15.4% from March 2014, and showed a slight increase of 0.8% from  April 2013.  Spring of 2013 was a kickass market, maybe even a bit too kickass.  So being "flat" compared to last year is fine by me.

Our market time got a tad shorter in April; 77 days vs. 85 days in March.  April 2013 had a market time of 91 days.

The median year to date sales price is $275,000, up 10.0% from the median year to date sales price in April 2013 of  $250,000.

So, prices continue to increase, we've had a slight increase in the number of houses on the market, but the pace of sales and number of active buyers make for a busy real estate industry.  There is still a lot of cash in the market, making it harder for first time buyers, with low down payments, to compete.

There is still time to get your place on the market if you've been thinking of selling. Give me a call. 503-312-8038.  Buyers, there is hope, with 2143 closed sales in Portland last month, clearly some folks are getting their offers accepted.

Read the full report for the Portland Metro Area

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why zillow "can't get no respect"

Zillow is a mega huge website with a bunch of real estate data. The site has some fun tools.  It pulls data from a variety of places, the risk of which is a crappy quality of data.  I do take a peek at zillow when I'm working on pricing a property, not because I value the "zestimate", but because I know my client will have looked there.

Most of zillow's real estate pricing is based on using comparables, similar to how real estate agents and appraiser consider value.  But zillow hasn't figured out how to account for things like busy streets, unique locations and views (unless all the comparable properties share that feature).

My house, for instance, is on a busier street. So zillow always thinks its worth quite a bit more than I.

I had a recent listing sell, and found the zillow information to be rather amusing.  The house was listed at $307,000. We closed the sale at $320,000 just weeks ago.  Zillow's zestimate lists the value at $299,872.  You'd think, within a certain amount of time, that big daddy data masters, zillow, would take the sales price from an open market listing as the value. The commonly accepted definition of real estate value is" what a buyer will pay and a seller will take, when a property is sold on the open market".

Maybe zillow's definition is different; what a buyer will pay and a seller will take minus 6.25%?

Have you been eyeing your zestimate?  I'm glad to give you  a more informed opinion. Give me a call at 503-312-8038 or email

Monday, April 28, 2014

Can you sell Mom's house?

Several folks in my generation are helping their aging parents relocate to more supportive living situations. This often means selling an existing property and making commitments to lease or purchase in the new digs.

Aging folks are in various states of cognitive ability, physical ability, and cooperate in the process to varying degrees.  Some elderly are thankful to be relieved of the burden of their own house or condominium and look forward to an easier lifestyle with more social and engaging opportunities.  Others feel pushed from their home too soon.

Just as folks are in varying states of ability and cooperation, property is owned a variety of ways; living trust, family trust, with a now deceased partner or spouse.  And often who has authority to sell the property varies; the person on title, a trustee, a co-trustee, durable power of attorney, or a power of attorney specific to the of that property and so on.

Often the elderly and their family think these papers are in order, and are caught by surprise when a real estate agent, escrow company or real estate attorney needs more or different documentation.  Getting such papers in order at the last minute is hard, and can often come with some delays.  I highly suggest revisiting such arrangements even if you think it is all good. A quick consult with a real estate attorney ( I can suggest a few) is well worth avoiding the panic and hassle later.

Here are a few things I have seen, and we have experienced in our family.

 Often property is held in trust. Trusts offer a variety of benefits.  Only trustees of the trust have the authority to sell the property.  Sometimes heirs are successor trustees; and have the authority to sell the property in case of the trustee's death. BUT, successor trustees don't have that authority if the trustee is still around...even if the trustee is incapacitated.  With a trust, there can be co-trustees, who both have authority to sell the property, and only one co-trustee's signatures are needed.  Some trustees will have named someone to act in their place in case they are incapacitated, and even spell out who is empowered to make the judgment about the trustee's capacity to act - sure hope that specific doctor is still practicing when the time comes. Powers of attorney do not work with trusts.

Powers of attorney, when used in selling property, need to be pretty specific.  A smudgy, old power of attorney from 20 years ago, before the owner was even in title to the property probably won't work.    Ideally, a power of attorney should refer to the specific property or transaction.  A durable power of attorney is needed if the person has, since signing it, become incapacitated (because of a physical or mental problem). 

The rise of elder abuse is a sad reality.   Escrow companies, the folks who handle the actual closing of real estate transaction  (in Oregon), and real estate attorneys, are on the look out for folks taking advantage of the elderly. In addition, in closing a real estate transaction, the escrow officer is notarizing the signature of the seller; that the seller has the mental capacity to comprehend the transaction, or that person signing (co-trustee, power of attorney etc) has the authority to sell the property.  I have seen escrow officers refuse to notarize the signature of an elderly person; feeling the seller didn't comprehend what was happening.  This happens at the very end of the transaction, when making alternative arrangements is challenging at best.

If you aren't sure how a property is owned, I can get you a copy of the vesting deed.  If we find the property is owned by a trust, you'll want to locate  a copy of the trust agreement or a certificate from the trustee so that we know whether the person claiming to be the trustee is actually the trustee.   If the property is not owned by a trust, and you have a power of attorney, I'd be glad to run it by an escrow officer and/or their legal counsel to be sure it'll do the job.

I am not an attorney and don't know all the ins and outs of this stuff. I do know, when papers are not in order, there is much frustration and delay. As with many things, a bit of preparation and prevention goes a long way.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Portland Market Update - busy busy

With the recently released stats for March 2014, we see the Portland market continues to suffer from low inventory, with only 3.1 months of houses on the market.  At our current rate of sales, it will take 3.1 months to sell all the properties on the market. We haven't seen lower inventory since July of 2013.  And this, with a 31.3% increase in new listings from the month before. 

Activity, that is the number of pending and closed sales, is down a bit.  Pending sales were up 37.1% from February, but down 3.6 % from March of 2013.  Similarly, closed sales rose 26.6% from February, but were down 4.0% from March 2013.  Remember, February had that snow storm, which slowed our business.

Our market time got a tad shorter in March; 85 days vs. 100 days in February.  March 2013 had a market time of 112 days.  But, looking at pending and closed sales in the Cleveland and Grant High School areas, I see median days on market of seven days for days for houses with pending sales and 12 days for houses with closed sales. Wow.

The median year to date sales price is $271,600, up 9.9% from the median year to date sales price in March 2013 of  $247,100.

Good houses are still in short supply, and potential buyers are out in force.  We are in, what is usually, the peak of our active market time.   By mid-June, we can start to see some summer slowing; school is out and vacations start.  Give me a call if you are planning to sell this year and we can map a plan.  Thinking of buying?  Better get started on that loan pre-approval.

Read the full report for the Portland Metro Area

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A peek inside the mystery of multiple offers

I listed a house recently that drew five offers in as many days.  It was a nice, three bedroom two bath ranch, built in 1974 in a good close in neighborhood.  The systems were all reasonably new and were high quality, when installed in 2009.  It was listed at $307,500.  This was at the upper end of where comparable houses had sold.

This house did not have wood floors, a fireplace, built-in, granite etc.  A nice, but perhaps slightly humble house.  I predicted it would be a classic first time buyer house; drawing buyers with low down payments using first time buyer loans (FHA insured, or even 0% down).

I put the listing live in our multiple listing service at 10:00pm on a Thursday.  By Friday at 5:00pm we had one very nice offer, with conventional financing and over $100,000 down payment.  Wow.

Now, think about this from the seller's perspective for a moment.  The house has been on the market for less than 24 hours. There have been no open houses, the Craig's list ad isn't in yet, no advertising placed.  Do we really expect a seller to accept the first offer, that quickly?  Some do.  But most often, the house is the seller's biggest asset, and a seller would like to at least know the property has been on the open market and had full exposure.  The seller and I agreed that we'd wait to review offers until Tuesday afternoon. That would give us time for a Sunday open house, and a few days for buyers to have a chance to look at the house.

My phone and email were barraged by buyer's agents asking if it was still available.  I communicated to the agent who wrote that first offer, when we'd be reviewing offers.  I told anyone who called, texted or emailed, that we had an offer, and that we'd be reviewing offers Tuesday afternoon.  Over the next few days, four more offers came in. All of them had conventional loans, all of them were subject to the buyers approval of professional inspections and all of them had down payments over $65,000.

As the subsequent offers knew there was an offer on the table, I contacted the agent who wrote the first offer and let him know we had others. This gave his client a chance to re-write his offer knowing there was competition.  Remember, when that first offer was written, there were no competing offers.  Indeed, buyer #1 came back with a higher offer.

Did I create a "bidding war"?  I don't think so.  My intent was to level the playing field for all potential buyers.  The agent for buyer #1 seemed to appreciate the opportunity for his client.  I did not, play offers off each other.  I did not make a series of phone calls telling agents if they raised their offer a tad,it might be the one.  That, is what I think a bidding war looks like.  And that behavior is why many agents won't submit an offer until just before the time offers are being presented.  They don't want their client's offer to be "shopped", or used to get better offers.  By contacting the agent of buyer #1, I did use the existence of other offers to get a higher offer. 

Some would say I didn't do a full job for my seller client if I didn't shop the offers. Maybe so. But in my experience, it is rarely a good idea to push buyers to the tip top when they are in an emotional state.  They'll often regret going that high, and are sure to feel entitled to "make it up" in the home inspection negotiations.

An aside, a risk with these high offers is a seller feeling invincible since they had all those offers, and a buyer feeling like they paid too much. Should any issues need to be negotiated on the inspection, buyer and seller enter those negotiations miles apart. 

In preparation to sit down with my client, I prepared a cover sheet for each offer, focusing on the essentials of each offer.  I printed each offer and all the accompany documents; pre-approval letter, any agent cover letter, any letter written by the buyer to the seller, signed property disclosures etc.  Though I had asked for offers an hour in advance of my appointment with the seller, the last one came in 1/2 an hour before the appointment.  I was racing to get those packets together.

Many of these offers were VERY similar.  But there were differences.  Differences in down payment, in asking the seller to pay buyer closing costs.  Only one buyer wrote a letter to the seller, and boy was it a good letter. The letter made the buyer come alive and gave the seller a mental picture of who would be in the house.  Including the dog's name and some verbal images of how  owner and dog would enjoy the house and neighborhood brought tears to the seller's eyes.  Really.  I've seen some letters that include pictures of the buyers, kids, dogs etc.  Corny? Maybe, but it works.  This buyer letter was SO much more powerful than any agent comments about their buyer client.

In the end, my client carefully considered each offer.  The highest offer was the increased offer made by buyer #1.  This was also the only buyer who had written the letter and who's agent had taken the time to have the buyer sign the property disclosures and included them with the offer (most agents wait to submit disclosures until after an offer has been accepted).

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, I'd love to help you navigate this busy market. Give me a call at 503-312-8038 or email at

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Sunnyside might be the epicenter of the people's republic of Portland. Seriously.  Anchored by SE Belmont, Sunnyside boasts a hip K-8 environmentally focused school, a City Repair Project piazza,

oodles of certified backyard habitats and the highest number of vegan coffee shops per capita (just kidding, but it could well be).

The Sunnyside neighborhood is bounded by SE 28th Avenue, SE Stark, SE 49th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard.  Not quite as densely populated as its neighbor to the west, Buckman, Sunnyside, nevertheless is a dense urban neighborhood. Blessed with creative, innovative and scrumptious businesses on both SE Belmont and SE Hawthorne, living in Sunnyside is a rich and textured existence.   Breakfast at Suzette, work out at the Green Microgym, pick up some groceries at Zupan's Market and meet friends for a pint at the venerable Horse Brass Pub.

Sunnyside's central location means close proximity to buses, bike ways (including the Hawthorne Bridge, I-5 and I-84.  This neighborhood is home to plenty of folks who chose a carless, or nearly carless lifestyle. Bikes, cargo bikes and recumbent bikes are de rigueur.

Kids in the neighborhood may attend Sunnyside Environmental School; a small K-8 school with curriculum focusing on the environment through an integrated, holistic approach.

I have just listed in  house in Sunnyside.  The sellers, smitten with the neighborhood, bought a larger home to house their busy family, but stayed quite close by.  We are now selling their four bedroom, two and a half bath house located at 3231 SE Alder Street.

This house has a great blend of original charm:

combined with the convenience of an updated kitchen and baths.

The house has four bedrooms and two and one half baths; Three bedrooms and two baths up, with a bedroom and 1/2bath on the main floor (there was a tub in the 1/2 bath, the plumbing remains available).  There is off street parking, a real asset in this urban neighborhood, and a sweet back yard.  It is listed at $525,000.

Open house Sunday afternoon from 1:00 - 3:00. Stop by! 3231 SE Alder St.   Contact me for more information, if you'd like to see the house, or if you'd like information about buying or selling real estate in Portland.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gotta love South Tabor

I've just listed a sweet little ranch house in South Tabor and was reminded what a great neighborhood it is.  South Tabor is bounded by SE 52nd and SE 82nd, between Division and Powell.    This neighborhood benefits from close proximity to the restaurants and food carts along SE 50th and Division, a long with great access to Mt. Tabor Park. 

The house is at 5827 SE Woodward Street.  Just down the block is Clinton Park, with a great playground and a nice treed area.  Atkinson Elementary School is nearby;  drawing students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. The school is seen as having a strong arts programs and a focus on sustainability with  a native plant garden and ecologically friendly outdoor classroom.  Atkinson also houses a Spanish Immersion program.

Franklin High School is also nearby. Franklin has strong programs in Business Technology, Law and Public Service,  and Industrial technology. 

This house (and the neighborhood) are a quick commute to downtown via bus, car or bike.  The upper part of the Clinton Bikeway goes right past the house on SE Woodward.

About the house; three bedroom, two bath ranch, all on one level.

 This house has a wonderful open kitchen with doors leading to the covered back deck.  The living dining and kitchen areas are very open and have great natural light.


 A master bedroom suite with private bath also has a nice door leading to the backyard. The house had lots done in 2009, including new high efficiency gas furnace, water heater, air conditioning, roof and energy efficient windows.  The fenced yard gets lots of sun, allowing for plenty for plenty of gardening.

This house has an attached double garage and garden shed.  All appliances are included; washer dryer too!  It is listed at $307,500.

The house will be open thius Sunday, 3/16 from 1:00 - 3:00.  Stop by 5827 SE Woodward.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

That listing in Cully

I just picked up a new listing in the Cully neighborhood, which has me paying a bit more attention.  Of late, I have heard Cully referred to as" Cully Arts".  Seriously?  We just put "arts" after a neighborhood and it becomes trendy?

Actually, though, Cully has been quietly becoming popular for years. The large lots and strong community feel draw lots of folks interested in an urban farming lifestyle. There are community farm dinners, the Cully Neighborhood Farm CSA, a potential new park in the neighborhood,  and of course the Old Salt Marketplace has been a great addition to the neighborhood. Willamette Week's recent  dining guide happened to have a review of what I thought was a non-descript neighborhood restaurant, just across the street from my new listing.  Apparently a sous-chef from Bluehour is doing some pretty yummy cooking over there.   Who knew?

So the house is a rehab.  The seller has bought and fixed up houses in Portland as long as I've been in real estate...a longtime.  He goes slowly, doing about one house a year.  In this house, he installed all new hardwood floors, a new furnace, hot water heater, and beautifully updated the kitchen and baths; including custom tile work.

That island in the kitchen is on wheels, so it can move off to the side or stay in the middle of the kitchen.  He's got high end Samsung appliances in there; including washer and dryer.
The house has four bedrooms, one and a half baths. It has 1448 square feet, all on one level. The lot, like many on Cully is big, at 150' x 51'.  $245,000.  Oh yeah, and it has a great garage too, with power and an extra storage room.
The house is located at 5114 NE 60th Avenue. It will be open from 1:00 - 3:00 on Sunday, March 2.  Stop in and check in out.  For more information give me a call at 503-312-8038 or drop me an email at

Friday, February 28, 2014

Yellow means stop?!

Did you catch that article by the Oregonian's commuter reporter, Joseph Rose?  The one about how laws around yellow lights in Oregon are more restrictive than yellow lights in other states?  I truly did not know that!  It has been several years since I took the Oregon driver's test, but I don't think I ever knew that.

So here is the thing: " You see, the vast majority of U.S. states, including Washington, have what are called “permissive” rules, allowing drivers to enter an intersection during an entire yellow interval. (A violation occurs only if a driver enters after the onset of red.) Not Oregon. It’s one of only 12 states with a “restrictive” yellow-light rule, which essentially translates into “a solid circular yellow means stop and red means stay stopped.”"

I drive a bunch; most real estate agents do.  I despise being late, and am a busy gal.  This leads to frequent encounters with yellow lights.  Up until now, when I arrive at a yellow light, the question has been, " can I make it through before the light turns red?".  In actuality, the question should be, "can I stop safely?".

In the week or so since the article, I've REALLY been trying to ask the "right" question; can I stop safely?.  I am amazed how hard it is to switch my thinking.  I suppose I'm making progress, in that at least now I feel a bit guilty about making a run through a yellow light.  The yellow light question is posed so quickly, I am challenged to re-write the question?

What question do you ask at a yellow light?  And does it change as you cross state lines?

Read the full article here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A glimpse of Portland's 2014 housing market

By now, we are a solid year into the housing recovery.  Looking back a year no longer has us looking down into the cavern that was the fall of the housing market.  This time last year, we were busy, slightly shell shocked from the previous five years and a tad bewildered at once again navigating a quick and competitive market.

Today, we are a year wiser. Buyers entering the market know they'll be challenged to get their offer accepted.  Brokers representing buyers are adept at counseling their clients in the strategies of competitive offers. Sellers are starting to understand the importance of a well presented property to realizing top dollar; it must be prepared for the market; in good repair,clean, attractive and well presented. It must be easily viewable, quickly.

With the recently released stats for January 2014 we see the start to the year with 4.1 months of inventory.  At our current rate of sales, it will take 4.1 months to sell all the properties on the market. 2013 started with 4.7 months of inventory.  hmm

As expected, January 2014 saw an increase in pending sales over December 2103; 36.6% higher, and up 6.3% over January 2013.   Correspondingly, January's slight dip in closed sales is a result of December's lower pending sales.

Our market time got a tad longer in January; 96 days vs. 87 days for December 2013.  January 2013's market time was 114 days.

Our median sales price of  $265,000 in January is up 6.9% from $248,000 in January of 2013.

Good houses are still in short supply, and potential buyers are out in force.  Contrary to popular belief, Winter, as in now, is the best time to put your house on the market.  By mid-June, we can start to see some summer slowing; school is out and vacations start.  Give me a call if you are planning to sell this year and we can map a plan.  Thinking of buying?  Better get started on that loan pre-approval.

Read the full report for the Portland Area.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waverly Commons...again

The Oregonian recently published an article on this development project.   I found the article rather boring, or without much focus.  But it did flirt with the notion of an exclusive development in a very cohesive neighborhood.

Remember, this was the old Waverly School property (SE 36th to SE 35th  and SE Woodward to SE Brooklyn). It has been developed into 19 lots with custom homes, all sharing a spacious common area in the middle of the block. 


I have watched this development as it has been built. Yes, the houses are big, but no more so than  other infill projects in our neighborhood.

 And though the article failed to mention it, most all of the houses have installed photovoltaic solar panels, and many are built with passive solar features.  Several existing houses in the neighborhood also have solar panels; perhaps some common ground?

 But, the article had for me, hinted at an exclusiveness of the development.

 There was a resident who gushed about her daughter and the girl next door (also in the development) being friends.  I sure hope they take time to meet kids in the neighborhood who may not live in Waverly Commons. There is a great little guy whose grandparents live down the block. One morning he was giving away free art on the street corner, and gave us a wonderful explanation of his picture; a picture of a leaf made from looking at a ceramic sculpture of a leaf. It hangs on my fridge.  He's probably about four years old. Waverly Commons folks would be lucky to know him.

The article also purred about the common area/backyard/park.  This will be a great resource and amenity for the homeowners. But a private park, only for the benefit of the 19 homeowners,  may have an odd dynamic in an otherwise egalitarian neighborhood. 

I know the folks living on SE 35th have had a very close knit relationship for years, and didn't need a private park to do so.  The Waverly Commons houses all face out into the neighborhood, with their back yards facing the common area.  The optimist in me says they'll be welcomed into the neighborhood, and will value the existing neighbors.

Sadly, the neighborhood hasn't been so good to the builder and new home owners.  Several of the under construction houses have been broken into, and robbed of the metals in the house; primarily copper wiring. This is expensive and sets back construction.  Currently, there are three houses still under construction, with surveillance cameras, in an attempt to stop the problems.

All this being said. I like Waverly Commons.  I walk by it on my daily walks and have enjoyed watching the construction as the different styles of houses emerge. The builder is hard working and hands on.  We see him there at all hours on all days.  The Waverly School, an old brick building. most likely unreinforced and with plenty of asbestos and lead paint, was well past its useful life. Energy efficient, new construction residential seems a good use of the land.

Questions about this posting or others?  Give me a holler.   503-312-8038

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The owner said the tank had been "taken care of"...

My friends at Eco-Tech LLC do great work, with oil tanks and radon, among other things.  We call on them frequently to search properties for buried and sometimes abandoned heating oil tanks.  I've written and posted about their adorable dog, Terra, who is trained to sniff out oil, so she can find a spill, even if the metal of a tank isn't there to be detected.

We're going on 20 years in the real estate industry since oil tanks became a topic, and a concern to buyers. Early on,mostly, many sellers preferred to "decommission" their own tanks, rather than pay a professional, and get bogged down with Department of Environmental Quality standards.

DEQ does allow for the in-place decommissioning of tanks. The tank is opened and any remaining oil is removed. The tank is then cleaned, and filled with a clean, inert substance such as concrete slurry, sand, or sand and soil. The tank is then closed up, but tell tale markers of the existence of the tank are left so its existence is knowable. 

Tanks are also decommissioned by removal.

This week, Eco-Tech was engaged to do a tank search of  a property for a buyer.  I don't know the particulars, but that a tank was found. It had leaked a minor amount. I don't know the specifics of how it was that Eco-Tech LLC came to open up the tank. Decommissioning, removing, checking on a previous decommission?  But what they found in the tank was shocking. No, not THAT bad but...

They pulled out oil soaked carpet, a tripod, and a barbecue, among other things.  Oh yes, there was sand...contaminated with old oil.  Wow.
So,  should you have a tank search done on that house you are buying?  Yes!  Don't try to save a few bucks up front by skipping the tank search.   And hey, if you are lucky, you might even get Terra on your search.
I know some of you have abandoned oil tanks on your property. You bought long enough ago that we weren't making a big fuss about them.  It may not be a fun way to spend money, but deal with it now, and you'll sleep better at night.  And, when you do eventually sell your house, the scary buried oil tank won't drive good buyers away.
Call or email me if you want to talk tanks.  503-312-8038