Friday, October 25, 2019

Gresham is a hot spot these days

I started my real estate career with a local company, who's office was in downtown Gresham...thirty years ago.  Gresham had a sleepy, small downtown, a few restaurants and businesses, and some vacant storefronts.  This was before the MAX light-rail, and back when G.I. Joes was still selling us our camping and sporting equipment.

These days, Gresham has a bustling downtown with plenty of shops and restaurants, including a farmer's market and brew pub.  Some old favorites are still around too; M & M Cafe, and The Glass Butterfly, to name a few.

As folks have been priced out of closer in neighborhoods, Gresham, Troutdale and Fairview have caught the attention of buyers and real estate agents alike.  With established neighborhoods and good housing stock, buyers are liking all that, plus larger lots, the downtown area, and better access to Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.

As some of our market is slowing a bit, as seen in lower increases in the average sale price, Gresham/Troutdale, along with a few other outlying or suburban areas, has seen a pretty good increase in the average sale price.  While overall, the Portland area has seen a 1.9% increase in the average sale price in the last twelve months,  Gresham/Troutdale saw 4.3%,  Beaverton/Aloha 5% and Columbia County's average sale price increased 4.5% in the last twelve months.

Similarly, Gresham/Troutdale's average days on market 45, as compared to the overall Portland area's 55 days on market.

And, as you might imagine, I've just listed a great house in Gresham.

2916 NE 26th St, is a three bedroom, two and a half bath split level house on a HUGE lot.  Priced at $359,950, its pretty affordable.  With newer double paned vinyl windows and a high efficiency heat pump/furnace combo it stays pretty cozy.  The .27 of an acre yard has room for all sort of stuff; dog run, garden beds, RV parking, sand box, hot tub hook up etc.

I'll be there for an open house on Saturday, October 26 from 1:00 - 3:00pm.  Come check it out!  And if you have questions about Gresham and east Multnomah County, give me a holler.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What's the deal with Opendoor and Zillow Offers?

These companies are referred to in the industry as ibuyers; instant buyer, internet buyer or investor buyer.   They will make a cash offer on a house, site unseen.  Usually, a homeowner or their agent will request an offer through a website or app.  The offer is then sent to the buyer within 24-48 hours.

While their advertising touts no real estate commissions, Opendoor’s average service fee, in the Portland market has been 7.1%.  Realtor’s aren’t allowed to discuss specific commission rates per the FTC, but trust me, many folks charge fees less than this.  Zillow Offer’s fee is also around 7%.  Once an offer is accepted, the ibuyer will have an inspection done by an employee, not a licensed, third party inspector.  Similar to a “regular” transaction, repairs may be asked for and negotiated.  Close dates are usually set by the seller and can be as soon as 10 days, or up to 60 days.

These quick to close, cash offers can certainly have a place in our market.  While the seller may not get top dollar for their property, they can get certainty, convenience and control.  You’ll know the amount of your proceeds pretty quickly, can control the close date to your needs, and don’t have to be inconvenienced by multiple showings and open houses.  Have a busy family where keeping the house show ready and accommodating showings is hard?  This type of transaction might work for you.  Similarly, if you need to sell your home to buy your next home, working with an ibuyer can make that process easier and less stressful.   Or maybe you’re relocating out of the area on short notice; an ibuyer make things quicker and easier.  

If the idea of possibly leaving money on the table will drive you crazy, an ibuyer may not be for you. 

A few things to know.  Currently, in the Portland market, Opendoor is buying in the area from Forest Grove to Sandy, and the Columbia River to Newberg (they are not yet in Washington).  They’ll only buy homes that were built in 1960 or later, priced from $150,000 - $550,000.  They won’t buy anything behind a locked, shared entry; think condominium or gated community, and they won’t buy anything with a pool.

Once a sale closes, the house will be re-listed for sale through their proprietary systems.  You might see Opendoor’s signs of the 24/7 open house.  Buyer’s can access the house themselves, without an agent, using their app.  Some have security concerns about the public going in houses unaccompanied, and worry about squatters are assault crimes . As far as I know, we haven’t had any of those issues here, but in the Phoenix market (where Opendoor has been for several years), there have been such issues.   

Also to know, when Opendoor buys a property, while they do their own inspection, they usually do not test for radon, do sewer scopes nor oil tank searches.  Buyers should be sure to have these inspections done as part of their purchase.  

In general, the ibuyer model is meant to make money on the transaction fees (that 7% noted on the Portland market).  They are not considered flipper.  That is, the business model isn’t necessarily about buying low and selling high; though I’m sure they endeavor NOT to lose money on the buy/sell. Ibuyers are seen as technology companies, not real estate companies, and have LOTS of financial backing. 

Lastly, in selling to Opendoor, unless you have pre-arranged to engage and pay a Realtor, you will not have your own representation.  Opendoor will, understandably, be acting in their own interests.  Similarly, if you choose to buy an Opendoor property directly from them, you will not have your own representation and counsel through the offer, inspection and closing process.  Buyers can choose to be represented by their own agent.  

Most of this piece focuses on Opendoor as Zillow Offers is quite new to our market and less information is available.  Offer Pad and Redfin Now are active ibuyers in other markets, but  have yet to come to the Portland area. 

If you have more questions on ibuyers, I’d be glad to chat. 503-312-8038.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Historic research in Portland

I had a listing recently,  with two houses on one city lot in an older, close-in neighborhood.  In the buyer's due diligence, she discovered the city did not show building permits for the two structures.  Both were built somewhere between 1895 and 1900, so its not surprising that records might be sketchy.  And, it can be tricky to attach building permits for two address to one property.

This was a concern to the buyer as she would be rehabbing these old houses, and would need permits. If the city didn't recognize the existence of the houses, she would be unable to pull permits for her work.  The Bureau of Development Services did say, if we could prove the houses existed prior to 1928 (when certain zoning and building regulations were codified), we could go through a process to, in a sense, grandfather the houses in.  They provided a list of acceptable evidence:

Utility bills
Income tax records
Business license
Listings in telephone, business or Polk directories
Advertisements in dated publications
Building, land use or development permits
Insurance polices
Dated aerial photos
Insurance maps that identify use or development (Sanborn maps)
Land use and development inventories prepared by a government agency.

Mind you, the zoning allows two houses, so the issue was not about zoning.  And the seller had been paying taxes on two houses. The issue was whether or not these particular houses were allowed to exist.

As the buyer had already been unable to find the permits at the Bureau of Development Services,  I knew we had to look elsewhere.  I plotted a whole day, if necessary, to this project, and set off for downtown; City of Portland Archives and the Oregon Historical Society were to be my first two stops.

Basing my starting point on which office closed sooner than the others, I started at the City of Portland Archives, located at 1800 SW 6th Ave #550 .  I read their policies; no pens, be prepared to put your purse or bag in a locker, no flash for photos, no food or drink.  I found my way to the 5th floor office atop a Portland State University building and was greeted by a locked door. I was let in by a staff member and then buzzed in to the public room; imagine a small library room, with glass windows looking in on the actual archives.  The staff person was super welcoming, helped me get signed in and to stash my bag in a locker.

The staff person who helped me was so helpful, and enthusiastic about her job.  As I described what I was looking for she thought of the various ways we could get at the data.  We ended up finding a variety of data to show they houses both existed prior to 1928.  We found a card catalogue index card of permits for both houses, dated appropriately.  The Multnomah County Library has, on line old maps, which the archivist accessed for me.

There are beautiful old books of hand drawn maps for each tiny section of a neighbourhood.  In these, I found the name of the owner of the subject properties, with which we could then cross reference.  And remember, many of Portland's streets are renamed when the cities of Portland and East Portland were combined.  Luckily, I new the historic name of the street on which the properties are located.  Looking at the old maps can be disorienting; SE Powell wasn't very big. and dead ended in the Brooklyn neighborhood Ross Island Bridge ( it opened in 1926).

From here, there is a process whereby we submit they evidence I found (in the city's own archives), and pay a $1100ish fee for the city to review their own documents and "approve" the two houses.  As part of our negotiations with the buyer, the seller will do this before closing.  Mind you, I'm thankful for the archives and how extremely helpful the staff there were.  I am a bit perplexed at paying a fee for the city to look at their documents I rounded up, so they can, in a sense, correct their own error.  The alternative would have been a huge reduction in the sale price, or losing that buyer.

If you've been in a similar position, or have run into road blocks on property information, remember, the Bureau of Development Services has incomplete files, and, while super helpful and convenient, has limited historic information.  

I'm not an expert (at all) on property research, but if you have questions, I'm glad to help.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Trends in Portland's multi-family housing market

CoStar, a real estate analytics and etc company recently released an article showing a pretty significant drop in out of state investment in our mutli-family housing market.  This decrease is attributed to Oregon's recent rules restricting rent increases, the City of Portland's tenant protection laws and the City of Portland's inclusionary zoning (requiring a percent of larger projects to have affordable units etc).

Given that much of the increase in our rents was driven by out of state investment here, I'm not so sure this is a bad thing.  I'd wager that rental housing owned and managed by folks in our community may better serve our community.

We do though, need investment in rental housing; especially affordable rental housing.  The City of Portland, and Metro both have passed housing bonds in recent years, and we are starting to see housing projects planned and built using those funds.  Some funding requires matching funds from private resources. This can include charitable foundations and trusts, along with money raised from donors.  And, like it or not, actual investors look for a return (profit) on their investment.

Though housing is a human right, it does cost money.  Money, which needs to come from somewhere.  Our current, capitalist system, doesn't provide, in a big way, for housing resources.  Instead, in addition to public/government resources, real estate investors play a role in building and developing housing.

I'm hoping, if its true our various housing regulations and restrictions have discourage out of state investing, that we can foster local investment in rental housing.  How do we do that?  I don't know.  I do know the tenant relocation rules, upcoming restrictions on tenant screening and state restrictions on rent increase and tenant relocation have pushed some small time housing providers to get out of the business.  The rules are complicated enough that most housing providers I know will choose to hire an attorney whenever they need to move a tenant out.   This adds cost  through legal fees and delays, to already thin margins.

Is the future of rental housing completely corporate?  Are there enough local corporate investors to make up the loss of out of state investors? How small of a return is an investor in housing willing to make?

Portland's housing non-profits have been doing a good job of getting new projects approved and built.  The funding provided by the housing bonds bring more projects in the coming years.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The suburbs are hopping!

RMLS just released the stats for May 2019,  and boy did we have a busy May.  Our closed sales were up 5.9% over May 2018, and 23.2% over April 2019.  It was our busiest May since 2006. I wonder what that is about.

Pending sales are up a bit, and the year to date median price increased a tad 0.7% over the same time period in 2018.

The most active areas (% increase in pending sales and price increase %) were Southeast Portland (with a lot of that activity in outer Southeast), Gresham/Troutdale, Oregon City/Canby, Beaverton Aloha, Columbia County and Yamhill County.   Notice anything?  These are primarily suburban or rural areas.

We often tell buyers frustrated at prices and competition close-in, to drive until they can afford it.  I think that is what is happening here.  The increased activity, but very slight increase in prices can mean that more buyers are buying reasonably priced properties.

Click here to see the complete RMLS report.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Thinking about an accessory dwelling unit?

ADU's are a big topic these days.  They can be a way to add a rental unit to your property, add a guest house for your own use, or even a unit to be used as a short term rental (Airbnb, Vacasa etc).

Different municipalities have different regulations, so be sure to research your specific location. For instance, in the City of Portland, some system development charges will be waived IF you agree not to use the ADU as a short term rental .

Because, by definition, ADU's are added to an existing property, they are very situational.  The City of Portland has different rules, depending on the existing structure, size,  lot size, orientation on the lot, and so on.   For this reason it is helpful, and important to work with an architect and builder who have experience in designing, permitting and building ADU's.

Kol Petersen wrote Backdoor Revolution, A Definitive Guide to ADU Development, which can be a good place to start.  His website also has a bunch of resources, and he is organizing the upcoming ADU tour, for which you can register here.

And here are a few more resources. Folks who will do consults, plans and such.

Schuler Smith, Polyphon Architecture and Design:  503-208-5678

Aram Irwin  503-544-5971   Their website has a form to fill out, and they’ll schedule a “conversation” with you within three days.

The City of Portland has a nice document about converting attics and basements to living space.  And a bunch of information about ADU's. 

Does an ADU add value to a property?  Yes (unless it eats up the whole yard).  We are seeing lots of multi-generational households, where a separate living space is welcome.  In addition, folks like the ability to supplement their income with either a short or long term rental. 

Adding an ADU should be done mindfully, taking into account the lot, neighborhood and setting.  Projects with site work incorporating the ADU into the property, while giving each dwelling some private outdoor space, are best.

Don and I will be taking the toour on June 22nd.  Are you?  And in the coming months we'll be researching and planning to build an ADU ourselves.  If you've got questions, or ar just ADU curious, get in touch.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Those buried oil tanks...still

It has been years, I mean years, that we've been dealing with the fallout, or seepage, if you will, of buried oil tanks.

At this point, many tanks have been decommissioned, by someone, using some method.  There may, or may not have been some sort of paperwork may have been generated.  And the homeowner may, or may not have kept that paperwork somewhere.

I can't tell you how many houses I have sold (representing the buyer or seller) where the seller is pretty sure the tank was done at some time.  They have no paperwork, but are sure its fine.  Enter the buyer, who wants proof that the tank was decommissioned DEQ standards, and registered with DEQ.

That last step of registration with DEQ can be a lifesaver.  Once its registered with DEQ, even if the paperwork is misplaced, all is good, and proof of decommission can be provided.  Registration is usually done as a part of a decommission, and is handled by the company completing the decommission.  The fee for registering with DEQ has varied over the years, but has generally been below $200. We just did one which was $195.  Don't cheap out!

In the absence of paperwork, the oil tank decommission needs to be verified by searching for the tank and actually looking at it.  This means sampling the soil beneath the tank looking for leakage, digging down and opening the tank to verify the work was done, and done properly.  Allowing for scheduling, lab results, and so on, this process can take a few weeks, adding costs and delays to the transaction. Then the invoice and certification letter (from the company performing the work) will be generated, and the decommission (if it is agreed upon) submitted to DEQ.  It can take weeks to months for DEQ to issue the actual certification.

Not all decommissions involve removal

The cost of such a verification will vary with the conditions.  Where is the tank? Was the soil tested before, or maybe not, in which case there could actually be something to clean up.  Is the tank under a deck, patio or in some other location that will prove challenging?   Who restores the patio, landscape after the work is done?

In a recent transaction, we lucked out, with the tank being under a fairly high deck, so we weren't disturbing the deck. We got clean soil samples, and when they opened the tank, they could see it had been properly decommissioned!  Hooray!  The cost was $1290 to the seller, and we delayed our normal close date by ten days.

If you are thinking of selling, and think you had a tank at one time, but can't find the paperwork,  get in touch,  If I represented you on the purchase, I'll most likely have the information in my files.  If there was an actual leak, and clean up/decommission, I can usually find that information on one of the DEQ databases.  And if the decommission was registered with DEQ I can track that down.  Sometimes I can track down the company that did the work and get paperwork that way.  And maybe you'll have the paperwork in an old email or in the cloud.  If not...its best to get the decommission verification done before marketing the property.  This avoids delays in closing, getting the buyer involved in the process and we'll have that invoice and cost.  In some cases, the cost can be paid from your proceeds at closing, so you don't have to write the big check now.

If you are in the City of Portland, Portland Maps may show a permit for an oil tank; buried in the yard, or in the basement.  The lack of a permit doesn't mean there is no tank, it just means there is no permit.  And yes, plenty of properties had not one, but two buried tanks. Double bonus points for that (not really).

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has some good information for home buyers and sellers.    If I represented you in your purchase, and you have questions, I'm glad to see what I have in my files.  If you bouhgt trough someone else, I'm glad to see what I can find in the various databases. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Like a Broken Record

We've got to talk about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Really.  Almost to a T, every property we sell needs updated alarms/detectors.  And almost to a T, the sellers truly believe their property has up to date devices.  If this is the case for folks who are paying attention (or think they're paying attention),  imagine the state of detectors in properties where folks aren't thinking of selling.

Please, please, please check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  These devices are relatively inexpensive, and save lives.  If you are in a rental either check, or ask the property owner/manager to check and provide proof of up to date devices.

Here are the State of Oregon requirements.  The City of Portland has more rigorous requirements (I believe Eugene may have the same requirements as the City of Portland).

Carbon monoxide detectors are required if: there is a combustion device in the property, or an attached garage.  Think of combustion devices as anything that burns, or has a flame; gas appliances (including gas clothes dryers), gas hot water heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves etc.  Properties that are all electric, without attached garages, do not need carbon monoxide detectors.  

The smoke detector/alarm rules are too specific for me to summarize.  But here are a few tips.  If your home has devices that are hard wired, meaning they draw electricity from your electric service, not from a battery, replacements should also be hard wired.  And hard wired devices should have a battery back-up in case your electricity is off. Non-hard wired detectors/alarms must have a 10 year battery.  All smoke alarms/detectors should be replaced at least every 10 years.  All of them. They have a life span, and can be ineffective after ten years.  

I know you think yours are in order.  I know you are sure you just replaced those a few years ago.  Humor me.  Please check.  And get in touch with me if you have questions.  I won't know all the answers, but I can sure help find them!

Friday, April 5, 2019

A different kind of landscape wall

I've been watching this wall come together while on our daily dog walks.  The workers have been filling these bags with soil, and carefully placing them.  What the heck?  I've seen walls I think were made this way on highways and freeways (maybe those were just bags of concrete?), but hadn't seen a smaller scale wall up close.

These bags are called earthbags.  They are used for a variety of construction projects, from retaining walls, to houses.  Depending on the use, and height of the structure, the filling of the bags can vary; rocks, gravel, soil etc.  In general, the structure is then coated with a think layer of a plaster-like substance to protect the earthbags from damaging ultra-violet light.

In doing a bit of research (thank you google), I found a whole building method and community, reminiscent of the earth ships of yesteryear.  Earthbag construction is kind of like cob construction.

These folks in my neighborhood don't plan to coat the wall; its not that high, and while doing some retaining, isn't bearing a lot of weight.

The earth bag system, while kind of cool in the city, is a great idea for remote projects, where delivery of other building materials could be tricky and expensive.  Filling earth bags with material found near or produced at a remote site, is far more sustainable than trucking materials in.

The California Institute of Earth Architecture seems to be an authority on this type of construction, and does sell materials, along with books, online classes and workshops.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Instant offers! The easy button has a price.

You may have seen some buzz around a few real estate "disruptors", offering instant, or easy sales.  There are a few different business models out there.  But basically, they are offering to save you the hassles (and expense) of marketing your home.  Instead, they'll "bring" you an offer to purchase.

Some companies will actually buy your house, and then take on the hassle of preparing and marketing the home. And they'll pocket the difference.  Others have a posse of investors set to buy houses.  Or, maybe you're getting the old fashioned letters in the mail from folks who either have a buyer, or offering to buy your home, in an easy, quick, no hassles transaction.

There are times, and situations, where prepping and marketing a property is indeed too much of a hassle, and for extenuating reasons, owners just need to get the house sold and move on.  I had a client a few years back, who, through a job transfer, had two weeks to show up in another state, at work.  They'd found a place to buy in their destination city.  But here in Portland, had a VERY busy household, with a few boys, several pets and lots of unfinished projects.   Getting the place sold quickly was the goal.  Once I educated them to how much they might be leaving on the table, and was sure they wanted to for go the hassle, I was able to connect them to a cash buyer, and get their home sold, as is (without all that prep work) and quickly.  You don't have to forgo representation to have a quick, easy transaction.

Of course most sellers want top dollar for their property,  but that does come at a cost.  Getting and keeping your home show ready, scheduling showings around your family coming and goings, and not having a date certain, nor an amount certain for an offer can be stressful.  There is nothing wrong with prioritizing quick, easy and known dollar amounts and timeliness over the most long as you have an idea of how much money you are forgoing.  And as long as the "easy button" really is as easy as it sounds.

In general, folks making these instant offers are very astute buyers.  Many have access to lots of capital, and big data to help them make their buying decisions.  No offense, but most certainly, they know way more than you do.  And, most of these instant offers don't provide for you, the homeowner, having your own representation in the transaction.  Don't worry your pretty little head, they'll take care of everything.

But sometimes, these offers are crazy low, as in criminally low.  We just got one on our house.  The sender obviously doesn't know I am a real estate agent.  The offer to buy is for $300,000, all cash at closing or the proceeds from private financing.  Note.  This is not an actual cash offer. They don't have the cash on hand, and will be getting some kind of financing, it just may not involve an appraisal on the property.  But back to the price.  Zillow thinks our house is worth $655,998, and Multnomah County shows the market value at $609,440.  This offer is WAY off.  Other terms of the offer include a 60 day closing, and no realtor fees.  No realtor fees also means the seller would be selling to very astute buyers, with no representation themselves.

This "offer" came with a letter of intent, which if signed, commits the seller to working with these folks for 60 days.  That is that the seller, " will not directly or indirectly, solicit, entertain, discuss or accept any offers in connection with or enter into any agreements with respect to the sale, or other conveyance of any interest in the Property with any person or entity other than buyer".  Wow.  So if I got all excited and signed this letter, to "see where it goes", I'd be stuck with these folks for 60 days.  Oh, and the paperwork also says..."we hope you consider us as a trustworthy resource to obtain fair and flexible terms for a clean and straightforward transaction,"  I'm not sure offering 50% of value is fair or trustworthy.

Please please please, if you are wanting to avoid the hassle of selling and just want a quick easy deal, don't sign this stuff right away.  Take time to do some research, ask a realtor.  For heavens sake, at least look at County's opinion of market value and zillow.  I don't love zillow, but they're at least an independent data point!

Yes, I get the attraction of an easy sale, but sure don't think its worth $300,000!  I worry about less astute owners, especially the elderly, who could really lose out.  Oh, and when I do some digging on with the Construction Contractor's Board of the underlying developer, I do find some complaints filed.  hmm

If you are approached about an instant offer, and want a reality check, please get in touch.  I'd be glad to give you a market analysis so you can compare.  But, get in touch before signing anything!  503-312-8038

Monday, March 11, 2019

Portland's Ladd's Addition

Way back when, Portland was actually three separate cities; Portland, East Portland and Albina.  In 1891 the three cities aware combined into a single city, and that same year, the Madison Street Bridge (now Hawthorne Bridge) opened.  These two events led to an eastside boom.

Also in 1891 , William Ladd and his wife Caroline Ladd filed the plat of Ladd's Addition, dividing the land into 32 blocks with 716 lots.    Bounded by SE Hawthorne and SE Division, SE 20th and SE 12th, Ladd's Addition remains one of Portland's closest neighborhoods to downtown and the central east side.

Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society.
Circa 1915
The neighborhood is distinct for its street layout, which was Ladd's own idea (against the advice of his surveyor).  Some say it was based on the layout of Washington DC, though there is no real evidence of that.  Aside from the layout, Ladd's Addition is unique for its five parks that interrupt the street layout, and for the service alleys.  The neighborhood is considered a monument to the City Beautiful movement.

The five parks were part of Portland's 1903 Olmstead Parks Plan (Olmstead, of New York's Central Park fame).  These parks are lushly gardened with roses (Portland is the Rose City after all), rhododendrons and azaleas.

As the neighborhood was built out, street tress were planted, (mostly elms, maples and lindens), making Ladd's Addition one of America's most treed neighborhoods.  Dutch elm disease has hit Ladd's Addition hard.  There is a community based tree inoculation program, and volunteers regularly plant trees to maintain the neighborhood's lush tree canopy.

It was thought the alleys of Ladd's Addition would lend it a tone of affluence.  There are few curb cuts on the main streets of Ladd's Addition, and many houses have garages accessed from the alley.  In addition, most utilities were run down the alleys, giving the streets a clean look.  Today, most residents park their cars in front of their houses, on the street.  The garages are most often used for storage.

As with many neighborhoods in Portland, Ladd's Addition originally had deed restrictions, excluding racial minorities (except as servants).  As those restrictions expired, some Asian American families moved in to the neighborhood, and in 1939 the Portland Realty Board informally designated Ladd's Addition as suitable for "oriental" families.  Seemingly African Americans and other minorities continued to be excluded by zoning or deed restrictions until the Fair Housing Act of 1968.  Other tactics continued racial discrimination in housing well past 1968.

Referenced above, the City Beautiful movement was an effort to introduce beautification and monumental grandeur in cities.  It was thought such beauty would lead to civic and moral virtue, creating social order through beautification.  Read more about that movement here.

Ladd's Addition was Portland's first residential historic district (1977), and in 1988 the Ladd's Addition Conservation District Guidelines were adopted, with rules and restrictions on changes to the street/garden system, new buildings and exterior rehabilitation of existing buildings.  These guidelines address preservation of sidewalk details and horse rings, park use, front and side yard visibility, parking strips, trees, and many restrictions on remodeling and new construction to keep properties consistent with the historic character of the neighborhood.

Horse ring in a Portland curb

Today, Ladd's Addition remains a very sought after neighborhood.  The combination of architecture, close-in proximity, superior access to public transportation and bike routes, and nearby amenities of the surrounding neighborhoods have Ladd's Addition at the top of many lists.

I'll soon have a listing in this fab neighborhood.  The house I'm listing is shown in the photograph above! Check back in about a week.

Thanks to the Oregon Encyclopedia ( a Project of the Oregon Historical Society) and the American Planning Association for their excellent information).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Thirty Years?!

Wow.  2019 marks my thirtieth year helping clients buy and sell real estate in Portland's varied and unique neighborhoods.  Throughout the year, I'll be looking at how the real estate industry, Portland, and I have evolved over those thirty years.

So, in 1989, I was living in a duplex at SE 14th and Yamhill.  That neighborhood was a bit "different" than it is today. The Kienow's grocery store was where Nostrana now sits.  And there was a video store where Crush Bar is.  We'd walk over to the video store and rent a movie AND a vcr.   Zell's Cafe was, and still is at 1300 SE Morrison.   The Monte Carlo and Lido restaurants were at SE 10th and Belmont.  Closed in 2000, a fire in 2002 left the property in limbo.  The Belmont goats lived there, until construction of the Goat Blocks began.

I was dating my now husband, Don.  We had cats.  Lots of cats.  I drove a Toyota 4x4 pick up truck. I loved camping.  Today, I'm married to Don, we have cats and a dog. I drive an electric car, and I still  love camping. 

Questions about 2019 real estate?  Give me a call.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The thing about using price per square foot

When looking at pricing of houses, many of us revert to the price per square foot to compare homes.  Sites and apps such as zillow and prominently display the price per square foot, and it sure feels like an easy way to gauge pricing.

But here is the thing.  What square footage is being used in the calculation?  Our local RMLS requires we use all square footage, finished or unfinished.  Garages, even attached or tuck under, are not included.

Most likely, we've all seen a HUGE swing in the level of finish in basements and attics.  There are plenty of old houses with funky, slightly damp basements; best for storage, work shop and messy projects.  We've also seen lovely basements with nice stairways, egress windows, waterproofing has been done, concrete floors polished and so on.  Both these basements will show up as basement square footage.

If I'm comparing a home on a crawl space, only the living space shows in the square footage.  A house with the same above ground living space, on a funky basement, will show as much as twice the square footage, and a MUCH lower price per square foot.  Is there value to the basement?  Yes, some.  But that funky basement square footage is not worth anything near what the above ground living space is worth.

What if that house on the crawl space had a nice, attached garage; drive right in.  Laundry in the garage (instead of down those steep basement stairs), and an entry to the kitchen from the garage.  One might argue that garage space is worth more than the funky basement.  Oops.  The garage isn't included in the square footage calculation   The crawl space/garage house still looks smaller and has a higher price per square foot than the house with the funky basement.

Attics play out similarly, though in general, folks value above ground square footage higher than basement square footage.  Attics can have plenty of challenges; steep, narrow staircase, low or limited ceiling height, little or no insulation, limited outlets etc.  Many of these attics weren't meant for occupancy.  But over the years, someone started using it for storage, and then project space, and then a den or study, and then a bedroom.  These attics may not have the necessary clearance for fire safety, and the added outlets, or even bathrooms, probably weren't done with permits, and may not be to code.

So, yes, using price per square foot is an easy, handy tool.  More important though, is how the space feels to you.  How will you and your family use the space?  For some, that funky basement is perfect! Others won't ever use it, and would value that attached garage over the basement.

In any case, buyers should be careful about excluding houses from their search because of what looks like small square footage or a high price per square foot.  You might pass by the right house because of the "easy button".

If price per square foot is really important to you, your real estate agent may be able to eke out a more accurate way to evaluate homes with different basement, attic and garage configurations.  If you have more questions on this, do get in touch, I'd be glad to help.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Have you had a chance to hang out in Montavilla?

I've got two listings coming up in the Montavilla neighborhood, and thought I'd start with a bit about the area.

In 2017, Lonely Planet named the Montavilla neighborhood one of the top neighborhoods in the country to visit.  The compact commercial district, including the Country Cat, Academy Theater and my favorite, Redwood, are just a few of the businesses and watering holes that benefit the area.  The farmer's market at SE 76th and Stark makes the place quite active in the summer.   The vibrant Montavilla Business District contributes to the thriving business community.

Officially, the neighborhood boundaries are I-84 to the north and SE Division to the south, I-205 to the east, and SE 76th (with a jog to SE/NE 68th) to the west. NE Glisan Street has a bit of a  commercial district too.

The area was originally farmland, producing vegetables and berries.  Many early settlers were of Japanese descent; farming the land and taking it to Portland to market.  The neighborhood also served as a stopping point for travelers going from Hood River to Portland.  Streetcar service started in 1892.  Originally named Mt. Tabor Village, the streetcar abbreviation was Mt.Ta. Villa, which over time became, Montavilla.  That streetcar service ended in 1948.

The current Milepost 5 artists' community pays homage to the stone milepost marker P5 marking a distance of five miles to the downtown courthouse.  It is a housing community for creative folks and hosts a variety of openings, shows and performances throughout the year.

In addition to the commercial districts, Montavilla also has a fabulous park and community center at  8219 SE Glisan.  The community center houses an outdoor pool, Portland Parks Pre-school, multi-use room rentals and kids party packages.  Its a busy place!

Click here for market details in Montavilla.   I'll be listing a sweet three bedroom, one bath ranch at the end of the week.  This house is graced by an incredible Sequoia tree, originally planted from seed.  The other listing is a newer two bedroom, one bath home that will hit the market in a month or so.

And I'll post details of the listings once they are on the market.  And as always, if you have questions or want real estate advice, please get in touch.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Government shutdown and home loans for government employees

Hmm.  First, some context; most low down payment loans (and other types) require the buyer have some savings, called reserves, in the bank when the loan and purchase close.  This assures the lender, who basically owns the house because of the low down payment, some security should the buyers' circumstances change.  No one wants the low down buyers to lose their home because of a few months of unemployment, or to be thrown into a tailspin if the hot water heater and furnace happen to break at the same time.

Ironically, the government affiliated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans have added in, for loans to government employees, required two months of full mortgage payment reserves, or whatever the automated underwriting program requires ; which ever is greater.  The concern is that the lengthening shutdown may affect buyers' ability to make payments. 

Home buyers with government jobs used to be considered rock solid borrowers as their employment was considered quite secure.

If you are a government employee in the process of buying, or know someone who is, be sure to check in with your lender to see if this change will affect your loan eligibility or closing costs.

If you have questions give me a call. And a shout out to Eric Newman at Guaranteed Rate for this info.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018 Year end market stats

Our multiple listing service just released the market information for 2018.  Here are a few highlights.

The year to date median sale price was $400,000;  a 5.3% increase over 2017.  December's median sale price was $390,000, so that $400,00 clearly had some lift from earlier in the year. 

While the year to date market time for a listing was 48 days, year to date market time for 2017 was 45 days, so not much of a difference.

2018 saw more new listings hit the market, and the number of closed sales decreased by 5.9%.  Consistent with this,  the inventory calculated in months was higher every month in 2018 than the corresponding months in 2017.

This means, buyers have more houses from which to choose.  Houses are staying on the market a bit longer, perhaps giving buyers more than a millisecond to make a buying decision.  Sellers have more competition, with more houses on the market.

Looking at the change in average sale price, there are some suburban areas seeing higher than average increase.  Gresham/Troutdale saw an increase in the average sale price for 2018 of 7.7%.  Oregon City/Canby increased at 7.1% in 2018, and Beaverton/Aloha increased at 8.6%.  Oh, and West Linn/Lake Oswego, increased by 0.6%. 

If you are thinking of making areal estate move, get in touch.  I'd love to help.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Things I learned from animal trainers

Most of you know, I'm quite the animal nut.  Over the years, I've had the opportunity to attend training presentations, watch trainers in action and have used a few trainers with my own dogs.  Dog training can be a bit like parenting, but that is a different blog.

I've been struck, a few times, at how training theories or methods can be used other places in life.  Here are a few.

Train with an open hand.  Keeping a tight leash (or rein) on an animal doesn't allow them the room to grow, nor the space to learn to make their own good choices.  To reward the good choice, there needs to have been a good choice made.  And many animals will react negatively to force, restriction or confinement. 

In human life, I do believe too tight of control (on others, on projects, on goals) will have similar ill effects.  I have a bit of a rebel in me, so try to control me too tightly and I will react strongly against you.

 Living with an open hand can also seen in being giving with kindness and the benefit of the doubt.

Always keep the goal in mind.  This is more subtle than always moving toward the goal (which is  good too).  We adopted a dog who was pretty much feral.  She hadn't been properly socialized with people, and was quite fearful  (some of you will remember Dutchy).  We really couldn't, especially early on, always move toward the goal.  But we could sure keep the goal in mind.  When she first came to us, she was very afraid of Don (men).  The goal was for him to be able to touch her, and approach her.  To get there, we started with him lying down on the floor bed, or couch. So she could safely approach him.  In time she approached him, then he could pet her once she approached him, then he could lean on one arm, later, sit up and so on.  Over time she became quite comfortable with him, and loved to snuggle with him.  But we couldn't have gotten there(I don't think) if we'd just started with him approaching her. 

Sometimes there are steps we must take to prepare, that don't look like the goal at all.  Ground work and preparation often don't feel like you are approaching the goal, and can feel like a waste of time, and even humbling.  But...plenty of people can hide behind "getting ready" forever.  Always keep the goal in mind, even if you aren't moving straight toward it.

Use the power of distraction or re-direction. There are lots of reactive dogs out there; barking at other dogs on the walk, at the door bell, at the mail man and so on.  One method is to distract them from the event, so they don't react. And then, over time, use distraction less and less, so that they are tolerating the stimulus, without overly reacting.  And, for instance, if they get enough treats during the "event", they may even look forward to the event.  I used this method with a food motivated cat too.  Eva wanted to kill Clyde when we first adopted him. So I'd let her be around him for a short while, and would give her treats while he was in her presence.  Over time, she cared less about his presence, even with treats, and as they treats went away, she was still fine with him.  Over the years, she came to like him, would sleep by him and groomed him.

Isn't this kind of like finding something fun to do, that happens to be exercise?  You don't notice you are exercising, because you are having fun.

Do you notice any "life lessons" in other places in your life?

I'm not an animal trainer, and have NO education or training as such.  I've undoubtedly bastardized some tried and true training theories and methods.  These are just my thoughts and musings.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Leslie's 2018 year-end report

 In December 2017, I said we’d see a bit of easing in the market, with the median sale price increasing around 8%.  I said we’d see some agents leaving the business, and some consolidation of real estate companies as the market slows. 

I was right, kinda.  Our market as eased considerably.  We are still seeing some multiple offers; though only on properties that have been very well prepped for sale, priced properly and in desirable locations.  The year to date median price has increased at 5.3%, so I was wrong about the 8%.    That 5.3% is much closer to wage growth of 3.1% (national, local is assumed to be higher).  When housing and wages grow at similar rates, we have a much more sustainable housing market. 

We did see the introduction of the Home Energy Scores, required by the City of Portland, on homes being marketed for sale.  The price of these quickly came down from $300ish to $150 or so.  As often happens with new programs, there have been some bumps and of course, resistance.  Portland’s housing stock is pretty idiosyncratic, making standardized evaluation a challenge.  Nevertheless, buyers do now have more information about the energy efficiency of the homes they are considering.  I expect we’ll see some fine tuning to the program and over time, buyers placing more value on energy efficiency.

Voters approved a hefty housing bond for Metro ($652.8 million), in addition to funds already at play from the 2016 City of Portland housing bond ($258.4 million).  The housing crises continues, especially for those with very low incomes.  Opinions vary greatly on how to best address the houseless population with regard to how resources should be spent and what kind of housing or shelters is best.  It seems we need all the help we can get, from temporary shelters to transitional housing, construction of energy efficient permanent housing, resource centers with support services, laundry and showers and so on. I do hope we can find a path that makes a difference.  An aside, I’ve noticed lots of successful programs in Clackamas County of late…

Interest rates have crept up.  Earlier this fall, rates were over 5%.  Rising rates are a sign of a healthy economy; remember, the government was keeping rates artificially low to stimulate the housing market.  Expect more rate increases; maybe two increases by the FED in 2019.   Rates probably won’t get above 5.5%, and may dip below 5% now and then.  But remember, we had a housing boom with rates over 5%.

Buyers have more power in this market, than they have in a few years.  This might only mean they can actually get an offer accepted.  Or, they’ll be able to negotiate for more inspection repairs than in the recent past.  Along these same lines, we are seeing more “contingent offers”, where a buyer has to sell their home in order to purchase a new home.  If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a bit more buyer friendly market, we may be there.

I am often asked what the “hot” spots are these days.  We’re seeing lots of activity in St. John’s, Gresham, Milwaukie and out by the tech companies on the west side.  These areas have desirable housing stock, and tend to be more affordable.  Certainly, Portland’s close-in neighborhoods remain desirable…if buyers can afford them.

So, for 2019; slightly slower market, with market times closer to 60 days (currently 53).  Buyers will have a bit more power, and more houses from which to choose.  The median home price in the Portland area will rise 5%.  The Portland area will continue to be a desirable place, with folks moving here from out of state.  The volatility in the stock market, and slower growth in the global market will cut reduce the number of cash sales.

I remain honored to help folks with some of the biggest decisions in their lives, and humbles 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, buying, or just curious, I’m always here to help.