Monday, December 28, 2015

That year end real estate report

Well, boy were my projections for 2015 off.  Last year I said, “For 2015 I predict an amount of the same, but with a few more houses on the market.  So, slightly increasing values (I’d love something like 5%), slightly increasing interest rates (to 5%?), and slightly increasing inventory.  I think we’ll see a larger variety of loan products as lending eases a bit.”

Instead,   We saw the average sale prices increase as much as 13.5% in North Portland, and 8.3% and 7.7% in Southeast and Northeast respectively.  Our inventory shrunk to less than two month’s worth, for most of the year. Interest rates remained low, and sometimes dipped even lower.  We saw more multiple offer situations and prices driven quite high by emotional, “gotta have it” buyers.  We did see a larger variety of loan products available, giving buyers more choice.

But the big story this year is with regard to our rental market.  Often, pre-crash, an active ownership market (people buying and selling to owner occupy) meant a soft rental market.  Instead of renting, folks are buying.  This year, we have had both, with a vengeance.  The rental market is so tight, rents have escalated sky high, and the prices on multiple unit properties have increased accordingly. Long time landlords are selling off their rentals and getting good prices.  Many out of town investors, attracted to our rising rents and tight market, are jumping in.

Wholesale evictions and exponential rent increases led the City of Portland to declare a housing state of emergency.  Through this, required notice times for no cause evictions and rent increases over 5% were extended to ninety days.  This is a small piece, slowing rapid fire eviction and rent increases to give beleaguered tenants a chance to catch their breath.

The CFPB Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued new rules that took effect on October 3rd, furthering borrower protections with regard to loan costs and fees.  These rules, commonly called “Know Before You Owe” assure borrowers ample notice and disclosure when the terms of their loan changes beyond certain thresholds. This is a good thing.

As for my 2016 prediction:     
Seriously though. We’ll see more of the same; tight inventory, with not enough houses to satisfy demand, slightly rising interest rates if the FED makes their move and slightly longer close times to accommodate the new CFPB regulations.

We’re seeing some rumblings and action being taken by county tax collectors in efforts to include in the tax rolls, “omitted property”.  That is, improvements that have been made to a property, but not included in their assessed value, such that taxes aren’t being collected on the improvement.  For instance, you remodeled your kitchen and baths, and finished your basement into a family room.  But your tax assessment is on the house, without those improvements.
When assessors find omitted property, they notify the owner and add the property to tax rolls. The law allows them to assess the property in previous years as well: up to five years in Oregon.  Oh joy.  

Some of you took me up on my offer of radon test kits.  I hope you all got low results.  I do have a few more kits available should anyone else want to test.

I remain honored to help folks with some of the biggest decisions in their lives, and 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.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Energy, money and the sun

Great news!   We finally have a definitive study showing the market value of solar photo-voltaic installations in Portland!  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a study in conjunction with appraisers to establish the value of  PV installations in these market areas:  San Diego Metro area; Gulf Coast of Florida;Raleigh metro area (NC), Portland and Bend metro areas (OR) and the southeast portion of Pennsylvania.

From the study, the average premium paid for a house with a photo-voltaic solar installation was $10,600,   Interestingly, houses with solar were seen as taking longer to sell, and it was noted that " the market might be inflating prices based on green cachet, which would occur when additional value is placed on green energy items that are scarce in the market".  This study was looking at sales from 2011 - 2013.  I'd guess if they looked at sales in 2014 and 2015, we'd see a higher premium and quicker sales.

We've long struggled with valuing houses with solar installations, and appraisers were hesitant and or unwilling to assign any value to solar installations in the absence of good data.  Now we know.

read more about the study here

Friday, October 23, 2015

Portland's upcoming rental rules and real estate transactions

I think most of you know by now, that the City of Portland declared a housing state of emergency, allowing for temporary rules with regard to no cause evictions and rent increases.  Portland has been focusing, for awhile, on homeless issues.  Instituting rules with regard to landlord/tenant issues is a new direction.

Portland's rental market is so tight, that renters, given only thirty days notice to vacate, are challenged to find a new rental.  And some landlords have been using aggressive rent increases as a way to "encourage" tenants to move.

In short, the City Council's new rules require landlords to give tenants 90 days notice when raising their rents 5% or more, and in the case of "no cause" evictions.  Landlords will still have the ability to evict tenants for "cause, if the terms of the lease or rental agreement have been violated, and may raise rents once annually with a less than 5% increase.  These rules take effect November 14th, 2015.  I believe they will be in place for one year, unless extended by the City Council.
In general, I'm quite supportive of these rules.  There are few instances in which a landlord NEEDS to raise rents more than 5% on short notice, or to move a tenant, in good standing, out.  But...these rules may put us in some sticky spots with regard to real estate transactions.  First though, I'll agree, this won't be the first time rules to curb egregious actions will end up compromising those behaving more reasonably. 
The particular sticky spot will be when a tenant occupied property is being purchased by buyers who will be owner occupying.  Keep in mind, often the buyers of tenant occupied property are first time or low income buyers.  Properties financed with owner occupied loans must be owner occupied within 60 days of closing, and our normal closing/escrow time is 30 - 45 days.   We'll most likely be asking a landlord/owner to give tenants the 90 day notice when an offer is accepted, and before a buyer is through inspection or finance contingencies.  This instance will only work if the buyer is willing to have a tenant in their new home for up to 60 days, and is confident and comfortable that the tenant will vacate on time, and leaving the property in reasonable condition.  I'm not sure that scenario is really the best for first time buyers who might be inexperienced with landlord/tenant dynamics.
 As a broker representing first time buyers, I'm most comfortable showing them properties that are vacant, or owner occupied.   Real estate transactions have enough foibles and pitfalls, I'm hesitant to build in any further hurdles.  Admittedly, even before the 90 day rule, I have advised my landlords who are selling, it may be best to move tenants out.  With the 90 day rule, I'll probably put a bit more emphasis on the benefits of moving tenants out prior to marketing a property.  

Tenant occupied rentals being sold to owner occupants are but a small slice of tenant occupied properties in Portland.  With careful and informed navigation, the real estate community should be able to avoid the above referenced pitfalls, while closing transactions.  An extremely volatile rental or real estate market does not benefit the overall stability or livability of our city.

If you have questions about these rules, from the tenant, landlord or real estate point of view, please do get in touch.  503-312-8038.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why I care which lender you use...

There are all sorts of folks and businesses who say they can handle your home purchase loan; your credit union, a huge mega bank, a mortgage broker and so on.  Gone are the days when most anyone could get a home loan.  The underwriting guidelines and meticulous paper trail needed for a loan are incredible.    Yes, your lender does need to know what that $150 deposit was into your account last month - even if it was birthday money from your parents.  No, don't get pissy about it, these are the lenders who overlooked all that stuff in the past and got stung by it.

There are a huge variety of loan programs, for different down payments amounts, credit scores, interest rates and so on. And all  have slightly different underwriting requirements.  A good loan officer knows these specifics and stays on top of changes to programs.  A not so good loan officer looses track.

So why does that matter?  It can be the difference between you getting your loan or not, or missing the close date or not and being at the grace of the seller to extend the close date.  It can cost your more money in fees and points.  It can be the difference in you being able to buy your house, or not.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of issues we see come up in the lending on real estate purchases.

 I had a buyer client withdrawing money from an IRA and receiving gift funds for her down payment and closing costs.  She and I both asked the loan officer ahead of time if there was any special way the money needed to be handled.  No, no special anything.  This was communicated in writing an d by phone.  So imagine our dismay when THE DAY BEFORE SHE WAS TO HAVE CLOSED ON HER NEW HOME, we were told underwriting didn't like how the funds had been co-mingled.  She needed to withdraw even more money from the IRA and handle it a certain way.  Thankfully she had the additional money, and thankfully the seller was willing to delay closing by the two necessary weeks, at no charge to the buyer.  It could easily have happened that a seller would demand an increase in the sale price to extend closing, or the buyer could have lost  the lock on an interest rate, forcing a higher interest rate, or the seller could have refuse to grant the extension; losing the buyer the house and the money she had spent on inspections and appraisal.   The loan officer, in this case, either should have known there was a special way the funds needed to be handled, or should have known to ask.  I knew to ask, and even my asking should have prompted her to check with the underwriters before answering our query back at the beginning of the transaction.

A few years ago, my husband, yes, my husband, refinanced our house through Wells Fargo.  Their refinance office was in Florida, and the whole thing was done primarily by email.  The folks in Florida, a state littered with subdivisions, kept asking for the C, C & R's for the subdivision in which we live.  There's no such thing at SE 26th and Clinton.  In the absence of C, C & R's, they then required a survey of the property, because, if we didn't live in a subdivision, then clearly we must be out in the country.  Round and round we went, convincing them neither case applied.  This, in the day and age of google earth and all.

The whole loan process is a series of data requests and performance requirements.  This we know.  And if those requirements and requests are timely, that is, well in advance of closing, they are reasonable and a part of the process.  Arriving in the eleventh hour, and delaying closing can be what makes them seem unreasonable.  Many lenders collect all the data, and only submit the file to underwriting at the end of the transaction, in advance of preparing the loan documents for closing.  The files of a loan officer inexperienced and unknowledgeable about  the idiosyncrasies of particular loan products are often kicked out of underwriting, right before closing, with a myriad of requests that can take days, or even weeks to fulfill.

A "good" lender is one who is familiar with our local properties and customs (see above about subdivisions), who knows the different loan programs and stays on top of changes, and who communicates well, and promptly.  While I prefer loan officers who don't work for the large banks as they tend to be a bit more nimble and less encumbered by a behemoth process, I have seen a few very good lenders from large, national banks.  But 1-800- get-loan, or some such, scares me.  All parties in the transaction need to be able to talk to a specific person, who's job it is to work on your loan.  A loan number, and a phone or email answered by a general staff person at the institution doesn't bode well for getting your loan done on time, and to the terms to which you think you have agreed.

I'm glad to give suggestions for lenders, whether you are purchasing or even just re-financing.  Get in touch: or 503-312-8038

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fast and Decisive

Last year, we were quite busy, and having a banner year. Somehow, this year, we put 23.8% more transactions together in August 2015 than in 2014.  How did we do that?  Primarily, I think with more decisive buyers and sellers.

More decisive buyers and sellers also contributed to our still low inventory (1.9 months as compared to 3.0 months in August 2014) and to our quicker market time; 41 days as compared to 63 days in August 2014.

Though not a scientific sample, the great majority of my buyer clients this year, actually looked at fewer than ten houses before making their purchase.   And some as few as four.  But...before you jump to conclusions, they all did TONS of online research in advance of and during our in person shopping.  So that is the other part of what has and research.

And, of course, prices are up.  The year to date median price is $305,000, compared with $285,000 year to date in August 2014.

We are though, seeing some seasonal slowing, and even priced reductions.  Some of the sales with prices driven high by emotional multiple offers are now closing.  I'm not sure those houses would have sold at those high prices, had we actually priced them there to begin with.

So for fall, the market will continue at a fast pace, with more decisive buyers and sellers (fall is NOT a time for looky loos).  While interest rate increases may occur, I doubt we'll see anything drastic. Remember, we had a boom market with interest rates at five and six percent.

Let me know if you have questions, or are feeling decisive :) 503-312-8038

See the full RMLS report

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Songwriting with Soldiers

Not a real estate post.  I'm just back from a great trip with Roots on the Rails. Sort of a moving concert to amazing places with a bunch of best friends you've never met before.

As always, there were incredible musicians on this trip.  One musician, in particular,  has been working on a project that really grabbed me.  Mary Gauthier, along with several other noted song writers, has been working with soldiers, talking with them about their experiences and putting their word into song.

The Songwriting with Soldiers  website's description of the project,  " The words of our participants, put to melody and rhyme, tell of combat, loss, joy and pride.  The songs convey a deep sense of what it means to serve, and the struggles our veterans face upon returning home. The soldiers talk, The songwriters listen. Together they create the songs."

Mary Gauthier played a few of these songs on the trip, and shared the stories of the soldiers with whom she had written.  The songs and stories were beyond touching, and had the group of us wiping away our tears.

I'm hoping you'll check out Songwriting for Soldiers, and consider supporting their work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Is Fall the time to buy (and sell)?

Many think spring is the "best" time to transact real estate.   And while spring isn't a bad time, I favor fall for a variety of reasons.  First off, I love an under dog.  Poor maligned fall :)

Both buyers and sellers in the fall market are ready to get down to business,and get it done.  Fall is not a looky loo, real estate as entertainment time of the year. Fall is about efficiency.  Owner occupants or investors; most everyone wants to get it done by the holidays, or the end of the calendar year.

Sellers who did not get their property sold in the busier spring, are often ready to get down to business and may make repairs and concessions they might not have agreed to earlier in the year.

There tend to be fewer buyers in the fall market as many are busy with back to school activities, and even schooling of their own.  So buyers can have more choices in the fall.

Our listing inventory bumped up in the late summer, and I expect we'll see that true for September and October.

AND, interest rates remain reasonable low, even though the financial markets are acting as if the Fed has already raised them sky high.

So, ready and willing sellers, fewer buyers, more houses, and lower interest rates.  What's not to like?

And sellers, don't worry that you missed the mythical busy season.  You don't need, or want 21 offers on your property.  You'll probably still get a few offers, keeping things competitive.  And really, you only need one good offer.

Call, email or text with questions about the fall market. 503-312-8038

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cat Houses - for felines, that is

I've written in the past about catios, those enclosed areas giving cats some outside space, safe from predators, cars and the like.

Catios come in many shapes and sizes. many are owner designed and built. Some contractors have gotten in the game, identifying a niche.  A custom catio can be quite expensive.

 An enterprising builder out of Petaluma, California has put together a series of kits and accessories  for catios  These kits are designed to attach to your house, with the cats accessing through a window.  Free standing units are also available.

My friend, client and pet sitter/dog walker extraordinaire, Renee Stilson, just got one for her cats. Lucky cats, they are.  Here are a few pictures of a catio in action.

the kit

work in progress

the finished product

catio access

While I'm sure there are no statistics yet, I'd think, if properly built and situated, a catio could even add value to your home.  Hmm.

 If you are in need of a fabulous pet sitter, Renee, though her company,  Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting provides professional, caring and compassionate pet sitting and dog walking.

 I've got plenty more pictures and resources about catios, and would be glad to answer questions., 503-312-8038.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Portland Market Stats

The Regional Multiple Listing Service released the numbers for July 2015 last week.  There are a few items to note.

Inventory remains quite low.  At our current rate of sales, it would only take us 1.7 months to sell all the homes currently on the market.  This is for the whole Portland metro area.  In Portland's close-in neighborhoods, inventory continues to be a real challenge.  In the 97214 zip code, there are currently 19 houses on the market, ranging from $389,900 to $825,000, with a median price of $660,000.  And in the 97232 zip code, there are currently 11 houses on the market, ranging from $349,000 to $849,000, at a median price of $669,950.

With short inventory comes shorter market times.  In July, houses that closed had been on the market an average of 45 days, compared to 57 days in 2014. In Portland's east side neighborhoods we are seeing market times of 23 days in North Portland, 25 days in NE Portland and 32 days in SE Portland.  These market times are from the time a listing becomes active in RMLS, until an offer is accepted and the listing status becomes pending.

We're doing a pretty large volume of business. July 2015 had the most closings of any July on record, with 3452 closings, up 28% from July 2014.  Wow.

We're still seeing plenty of buyers entering the market as we head toward fall, and usually see a flurry of activity as the holidays draw near. If you've been thinking of buying or selling, there is still time to get it done before the end of the year.  Get in touch and I'd be glad to outline first steps.  503-312-8038

Read the full Portland report.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Legal Marijuana and Real Estate

Oregon's new marijuana laws have created a bit of a legal quagmire, including the real estate industry.  Pre-existing medical marijuana laws and regulations, marijuana legalization for personal use and federal marijuana laws ( as in marijuana is considering a schedule I substance along with heroin) make navigating legal liabilities and disclosure responsibilities a mine field.

Meanwhile, on the ground, we in the Portland real estate market are approached daily by folks wanting to purchase or lease space to open a dispensary or develop a grow operation.  And, in selling, we often come across properties that have pretty obviously been used as grow operations.

First, and important to know: the federal government's RICO laws and classification of marijuana as a schedule I substance, make properties involved in manufacture or distribution, vulnerable to forfeiture. And forfeiture is one of these situations where one must prove innocence, rather the usual standard of innocent until proven guilty. AND, transfer of title, (selling the property) does not remove the risk of forfeiture. Ack!

Properties that have been used as grow operations can have certain types of damage and contamination of which one should be careful.  Excessive watering and humidity can lead to mold, fertilizers and pesticides can have lasting contamination effects and often electrical wiring has been added to and illegally altered.  Whether we are representing buyers or sellers, disclosure and discovery of these issues are important.  Of course when disclosed, does the property become vulnerable to federal forfeiture as mentioned above?

Now, in general, if folks are making efforts to comply with state marijuana regulations, the risk of federal repercussions is low.  But it is important as real estate professionals that we inform our clients of the risks, as a part of their decision making process.

Currently 23 states have some sort of legal marijuana laws and regulations.  Is that close to a tipping point where legislation in the remaining states will happen quickly?  Or will the upcoming presidential election bring a conservative backlash as recently threatened by Donald Trump?

Though I can answer some questions on this topic, Marjorie Elken, with Zupancic Rathbone Law Group, P.C. (who gave a great presentations at our office recently) has focused an amount of her practice on these some of these marijuana issues.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tree rules, and trees rule.

Portland, and Portlanders, take great pride in our trees.  Friends of Trees has done a great job making it easy for neighborhoods and groups to coordinate tree plantings.

Unfortunately, much of our aging tree canopy will be dying off from old age and disease.  An amount of the canopy is also threatened by infill, increased density and development. 

To this end, the City of Portland updated the tree ordinance, which took effect the beginning of this year.  Per the website,

Portland's tree code works to:

- Protect trees during development

- Preserve trees as a community asset

- Plant new trees when others are removed, ensuring that the urban forest and its benefits continue to grow

- Educate people about proper tree care and the benefits of trees

- Increase the resiliency of the urban forest in the face of threats such as climate change and tree pests

Along with the updated ordinance came changes to tree removal and pruning permits, along with permits required for planting some trees.    Check here to see about permits.

The code and permit system are long and involved.  Here are a few pointers, but do check the website for information on a specific situation.  You'll most likely need a permit if any of the following conditions exist:

The tree is on a piece of land being developed.

It is a heritage tree.

The area in which the tree grows is in an overlay zone or plan district.
  • Cascade Station/Portland International Center Plan District
  • Columbia South Shore Plan District
  • Johnson Creek Basin Plan District
  • Portland International Airport Plan District
  • Rocky Butte Plan District
  • South Auditorium Plan District

  • The tree is over 12" in diameter at a height of 54" off the ground.

    The tree is in a parking lot.  Think that Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.

    If the tree is a "street tree".

    So yes, the majority of the above instances are trees on private property.  Permit fees for removal and replanting can be as low as $25.00, but go up quickly if you aren't replanting, or it is a street tree, if the property is being developed, and so on. 

    Before you whine about free will, and all those darn rules, keep a few of these facts about trees in mind, courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation;

    The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

    Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase  property values as much as 20 percent.

    The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less run off and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply.  Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.

    Plant a tree, and be careful about and when cutting trees.

    Thursday, May 21, 2015

    Five Sellers?!

    I'm selling a house to a buyer client; seemingly a normal house in a normal, bedroom community type neighborhood.  It should be a fairly simple transaction. seems to be some sort of estate, and has five sellers, with varying percentage interests. 

    This means five folks to reach agreement on every step of the sale, five folks to sign every piece of paper involved with the sale, and five people for the title company to research in order to insure title.

    Wow. I don't know the story of how this came about, but wonder if it isn't a result of poor, or no estate planning. 

    To his credit, agent representing the sellers is doing a great job of wrangling the sellers for signatures, and was sure to have the title company do advanced title work to be sure clear title could be provided.  For this, I am thankful.

    Over time, we run into a variety of scenarios where getting the proper people signing the listing and sale paperwork can be a challenge.  Aging parents, properties held in trust and dissolving marriages are a few of the forces that can make selling a property hard.  Powers of attorney don't always pass the muster of a title officer, divorce decrees usually have to be signed and filed by a judge, and aging parents may be deemed not of sound enough mind to sign selling papers.

    Its best to engage in a bit of pre-sale planning before setting off to sell a property.  Look into who holds title and what might need to occur, well in advance of actually trying to sell the property.  Guardians can be appointed, affidavits signed, powers of attorney clarified and so on.  But really best to do this in advance.

    Its a shame to see buyers spend hard earned money on inspections and appraisals, not to mention the emotional investment, only to find the seller can't actually sell the house. 

    If you think you might have such a scenario on your hands, give me a call, text or email, and I'll refer you to a local real estate attorney to assess the situation.  Occasionally a title officer can even help.  503-312-8038

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Pricing in this crazy market

    I'm hearing from some buyers the thought that real estate agents are under pricing properties in an effort to create bidding wars.  I'm not so sure.  Most of us are pricing properties as we always have; by looking at the recent closed sales of properties similar to the subject property in size, location and amenities.  We might bump the listing price of a property up or down depending on how it compares to the similar properties.  But, in general, we look to recent sales for pricing.

    Indeed, as a listing agent, it is my job to get the best price and terms for my seller client.  So indeed, I do try to market the property to maximize the sellers proceeds.  This means counseling the seller to properly prepare the property for sale.  Many sellers spend weeks, if not months on a lengthy to do list which includes minor projects, painting, de-cluttering, oil tank decommission and so on.  We're sure not to market the property until professional photos have been taken, the sign is installed, and the sellers are ready for showings to begin.  Often, I'll suggest sellers take a weekend away when their home first hits the market, so the property can be easily shown.  And, we want to expose it to the market for a few solid days before looking at offers.

    I work carefully with a seller client to help them understand why waiting too long for offers can be counter-productive and alienate good buyers.

    So the property hits the market well priced (supportable by comps), looking good, and readily available to be seen.  I don't think we've manipulated the market, we're just doing a good job. 

    The scarcity of listings, combined with a desperation on the part of buyers, has panicked buyers offering well over the list price.  Yes, it can be nice to have a few good  offers from which to chose. Different sellers have varying priorities, from price to close date, terms or possession date.  A few good offers increases the seller's chance to getting what they want.  We evaluate offers based on these varying factors, usually accepting one offer and perhaps putting another offer in aback up position should the first sale fall through. A side note, with buyers jumping to make high offers, we are seeing an unusually high number of failed sales as remorseful buyers back out.

    Above that, as a listing agent, I see very little benefit to a large number of offers.  Oregon statutes require every written offer to be presented to the seller, and I believe every buyer who has written an offer deserves to have their offer considered.  I use a spread sheet to organize multiple offers to help my seller client keep track and focus on the components of the offers.  The seller only has one house to sell, so aside from the insurance of a back up offer, the difference between 5 and 20 offers is rarely a benefit to the seller.

    Should I be pricing the house higher then the market data suggests?  That feels reckless, and a bit unethical to me.  And I do know, I could price the property too high, attracting no offers; a real disservice to the seller.  I'd prefer to price a property where I know the comps support the price, and see if the market chooses to take the price higher.  By "the market" I mean see if buyers choose to offer more.

    And, unless the offers are cash, in the back of my mind, I'm considering if the appraiser will be able to support the high price when establishing value for a bank loan.   In this market appraisers are allowed to trend prices up a bit if the available comparable properties closed several months ago and thus don't reflect this recent run up.  But, while appraisers may do this, they aren't required to do so.

    A low appraisal requires further negotiation between buyer and  seller with the possible solutions being the seller coming down in price, the buyer bringing in more cash, or a combination of the two.

    We real estate agents are taking a lot of heat for driving prices up, pricing the working poor out of Portland's neighborhoods, playing pricing games to drive prices up and so on.  Mostly, we're trying to do our jobs by doing right by the seller.  In my most recent multiple offer scenario, I realized, it is the buyers who are driving those prices up, not the supposedly greedy sellers.

    If you have questions about this crazy market, from the buying or selling side, I'd be glad to talk with you.  503-312-8038

    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    Exactly what does "low inventory" mean?

    RMLS released the March numbers earlier this week, showing a fast paced market with very low inventory.  At our current rate of sales, it would only take 1.9 months to sell the current inventory.  That's quick!  2013 and 2014 were very healthy markets, with inventory never dipping below 2 months, and often over 3 months.

    These numbers are for the Portland metro region, which includes not only the City of Portland, but the tri-county area, Columbia and Yamhill counties.

    In general, the close-in market tends to be hottest, so I took a specific look at inventory in the close in zip codes.  These numbers are for 9:45 am today, April 16th, detached, houses listed on the RMLS.  Here is what I found.

    Zip Code
    # of houses
    Avg. price
    Willamette River to SE 42nd and Portland’s southern boundary to SE Division
    Willamette River to SE 42nd and SE Division to E. Burnside
    SE 42nd to SE 82nd and SE Division to E, Burnside
    N Williams to NE 42nd and E Burnside to NE Broadway
    N Williams to NE 42nd and NE Broadway to NE Mason

    For some perspective;  in those same zip codes, a three bedroom, two bath home would cost and average of $574,200 and would have 2483 total square feet, with only 1620 of those square feet being above ground. 

    So, where are the more affordable areas these days?  If you get out of the urban core, and outside the City of Portland, some lower prices and better selection can be found.  The more flexible you are about age and style of home, the better values you'll find.  Buyers willing to compromise where others may not, will have better luck finding a house.

    Getting an offer accepted is a whole different beast.  A good agent, strong pre-approval letter from a reputable local lender, strong down payment, flexible closing and possession dates are some of the aspects that can help your offer get accepted. 

    Clearly, if you've been thinking if selling, NOW is the time.  If you're in the market to buy, be patient, keep your chin up and work closely with your agent.  Either way, get in touch and I'll be glad to help you consider your options and map a plan.

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Those Urban Coyotes and your pets

    I live in one of Portland's closer, urban neighborhoods - not downtown urban- neighborhoody urban.  We've long known, sometimes a bit too well, about the healthy rat population.  But is has only been of late that I'm realizing exactly how populace coyotes are in our neighborhood. 

    On our dog walks, we see a few too many signs about missing cats.  Ugh.  And now, thanks to the neighborhood social networking site, nextdoor, I'm hearing of actual sightings.  Lots of sightings right around SE Brooklyn and Woodward between SE 37th and SE 35th. 

    A few years ago we converted our cats to indoor cats.  We live on a busy street, and Guido,

    who cut a wide swath on our neighborhood kept coming home limping - the vet called it an athletic injury.  I diverge to tell a Guido story.  This is the cat who thought nothing of going in other people's houses.  One of the last straws was, went he went in a neighbor's house and beat the crap out of their cat.  How embarrassing.

    It can be hard to convert cats to indoor cats.  We (meaning my husband) built a catio so our cats could still get out in the fresh air. The cats go out the dining room window; it extends along the house, leading to the enclosed dog house (the dogs never really used it anyway). We hope to build another soon.

    The Audubon Society and the Geography Department at Portland State University are working on an urban coyote project.    Part of the project has  map showing actual sightings that have been reported. You can submit sighting data and photos.  Take a look at your neighborhood, you might be surprised.

    Oh, and maybe those coyotes will do something about the rat population.  One can hope.

    Saturday, February 7, 2015

    Is that a bedroom?

    This has become a hot topic in my office, so I thought I'd share.

    We often see properties listed in the multiple listing service, that somewhere in the public or private (viewable only by brokers) remarks say something like, "third bedroom is non-conforming" or "basement bedroom is non-conforming".  And usually that house will be listed as a three bedroom, and come up in searches as a three bedroom, even if only two are "conforming".  Conforming to what?

    Much of Portland's housing stock is old, and has had a variety of work done to it over the years.  Much of that work was done without permits.  For instance, consider a house that at one point had an unfinished attic. The real living space of the house was on the main floor. Somewhere along the way, someone slapped some wall board on the wall, installed a few outlets, maybe some heat and maybe walled off some rooms.  Over time, someone else installed carpet and built a closet or two.  Thirty years, and a few owners later, the property is sold with the attic considered finished and with bedrooms up there. 

    So what makes a bedroom?  Some say it needs an egress window (big enough and positioned so one can get out in case of emergency), a closet, a heat source and a door.  I believe the City of Portland doesn't care if it has a closet.   Appraisers may.  Appraising is a whole different blog.  The stairway leading to the attic can also enter into this discussion. Is it one of those super steep, narrow stairways?  

    Now, lets move that "finished over time" room to the basement.  Same thing right?  It was originally unfinished, and over time growing families eked out extra space by putting in some walls, power and heat.  The work was done without permits.  Many of these rooms do have a window, but its way to high and small for one to get out in an emergency. 

    I find there are a few ways to think about these spaces.  Certainly, having the work done with City permits is the best. While we've all seen things slip past inspectors, if the space is permitted, it probably fulfills the life/safety issues (decent stairs, egress paths, reasonable plumbing and electric etc.).  But permitted space is the gold standard, and going back to permit already finished space can have its challenges.

    So, next best might be non-conforming space that addresses these issues, but wasn't permitted.  I see LOTS of these properties.  They have an egress window in that basement bedroom, that one could get out in an emergency, but may not fit the specific requirements of a permitted egress.  There is either a grade level exit door from the basement, or a decent staircase out. There is no visible scary plumbing or electric work.

    And then there are the non-conforming spaces that really are just a finished room in a basement or attic. No decent egress, maybe no heat, wanky staircase to get there.  These rooms can still be of value to a buyer as many folks don't actually need that space as a bedroom, but want it for office, study, man/woman cave, hobby room, storage etc.  But bedrooms, they are not.

    So when I see a listing that is listed as three bedroom, but in the notes it says the third bedroom is non-conforming, I'm expecting a two bedroom house, with some sort of bonus room. Depending on where that comment is written, my buyer client may not even see the non-conforming remark, and is thus expecting a real three bedroom house.  Brokers list that house as a three bedroom for a few reasons; pressure from the seller, and the desire for the house to come up on searches by buyers who are looking, not necessarily for three bedrooms, but for two bedrooms plus a bonus room.

    So what?  I really think we need to stop calling something we know is not a bedroom, a bedroom.  No matter what.  But what about the gray areas?  That's the hard place.  There is no definitive way for us, as brokers, to know if a bedroom is conforming.  Oh yeah, if there are recent permits on file and the tax documents show it as a bedroom, that is a good bet.  But otherwise, I think we do our best to call the rooms what they are, and use the "third bedroom may be non-conforming" option when we're pretty sure it is a bedroom, but want prospective buyers and other brokers to know it may not be; lack of permits,  no closet, lack of heat.  Of course, those comments need to be visible to all, and if one got so far as an offer, would also be listed in the seller's property disclosure.

    Buyers and sellers out there, what do you think? You are, after all, the customer.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    The year end and December statistics have just been released by our multiple listing service.  Boy are these numbers telling.

    First a look at the December numbers:

     At our current rate of sales, it will take 2.3 months to sell all the properties on the market.  This is a decrease from November, and close to the lowest our inventory has been since we've been keeping track.  Frustrated buyers, you are right, there isn't much out there.

    Pending sales were down a bit from November, by 20.3%  but were up 12.3% from December 2013. Closed sales also rose 25.6%  from November 2013 , and 15.6% from December 2014.

    Our market time got a tad longer, 76 days in December 2014 vs. 69 days in November 2014.  December 2013 had a market time of 87 days.   We expect a slowing in the market between Thanksgiving and New Year's, so this is no surprise.

    The median year to date sales price for the year 2014 ended at $285,500 up 7.7% from the median year to date sales price in 2013 of  $265,000.

    Portland's real estate market typically picks up in January, and not the spring as many people believe.  This is holding true for this year.  Buyers are out in force. Many sellers intend to put their properties on the market, but are behind in the prep work necessary to put a home on the market. 

    Yes, lots of houses are selling right now.  But yes, you still need to put a house in decent order, and I still need to get professional photos before we start marketing.  So sellers, get that to-do list done, there are buyers out there waiting!

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

    See the full report here.