Portland Real Estate Blog

A Portland Real Estate Blog written from the perspective of a top Portland Real Estate Agent, Stephen FitzMaurice, REALTOR®. Visit these categories: Home Selling Tips in Portland, Home Buying Tips in Portland, Portland Short Sale and Foreclosure News, Portland Real Estate Market News, and Articles on Portland Realtors. I think you’ll find this to be one of the very best Portland real estate blogs.
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Portland Real Estate Market Review of 2014, Projections for 2015

2015 Portland real estate market projection

It’s time to take a look back at 2014 and ask the big question: What kind of a year was it for the Portland real estate market, home buyers and sellers, and real estate agents? If you guessed “great”, you’re right. Home prices went up and so did the number of new listings, and Portland continued to build its reputation as one of the most desirable cities in the country to move to!

The Portland RMLS report gives the most reliable data, although reports abound from Case Schiller, Zillow and Truila as well. Starting with the RMLS, we see in this month’s report that the median home price rose 7.7% in 2014, with the average just behind at 7.2%. In terms of real home prices, in Portland the median for 2014 was $285,500. (A quick refresher: “Average” adds the prices of all the homes sold in the year together and then divides them by the number of homes sold; “median” lists all the prices from lowest to highest and then takes the one in the middle.)

The Case Schiller Index, according to the Oregonian, firmly establishes the Portland housing market as one of the strongest in the nation. The year-over-year price gain for the metro area was 6.6%, while nationally prices rose only 4.7%.

Zillow adds an interesting dimension to the year-end Portland market analysis. The online real estate platform’s data analysts say home prices at the bottom of the Portland real estate market rose 11% over the past 12 months. That means a home worth $100,000 at the beginning of 2014 could now be worth $111,000, while a home worth $1 million would have added value more slowly.

This effect has a broader market impact. Looking forward to 2015, a Zillow economist noted, ”More lower-end home sellers will help meet demand from entry-level buyers, and these sellers in turn will re-enter the market in search of a slightly pricier home, which will entice more middle- and upper-tier sellers to list their homes,” as quoted in the Oregonian.

Finally, we look at Trulia’s year-end market analysis for the Portland metro area. They add that “Sales prices have appreciated 23.6% over the last 5 years in Portland.” and that the “average price per square foot for Portland OR was $224, an increase of 12.6% compared to the same period last year. Popular neighborhoods in Portland include Southwest Hills, Centennial, Brentwood – Darlington, Pearl, Powellhurst – Gilbert, and Downtown.”

If it’s sounding like 2015 will be the year for you to sell or buy a Portland home, let’s talk! Most analyists expect a 3-5% increase in Portland area homes. Typically most of that appreciation is gained in the spring and early summer months, then it stays steady during the mid to late summer, finally falls a tiny bit in the fall an winter months. I offer a superior listing package to other local Portland real estate agents, a lower commission rate and top-quality customer service. See my listing package here. See our buyer’s services here. Don’t miss this opportunity to capitalize on strong prices and great selection on Portland homes!

A Home Buyer’s Guide to Portland Schools

January 22nd, 2015

Search homes by Portland School

How do you pick a Portland neighborhood to live in? You might want proximity to work, family, or recreational opportunities, but if you’re a parent, chances are schools top the list.

There are many ways to figure out which Portland schools are right for your kids. Greatschools.org is a website that offers basic stats as well as user-generated info on schools and is geared toward the home buyer with quick links to real estate available near every school it lists. The school reviews are a little hit-and-miss (that’s what happens when students review their own schools) but the school details are helpful. Check out how many students are enrolled in the school and what kind of special programs it offers.

Another way to get Portland school information is by looking at the data on SchoolDigger.com, which ranks schools according to standardized test scores. Looking here, we find that 7 of the 10 best-performing elementary schools in Oregon are in Portland and Lake Oswego!

The Oregon Department of Education also publishes yearly report cards on all schools in the state. According to their website, “These reports were mandated by the 1999 state legislature and provide educators with an opportunity to communicate directly with parents and community members about how local schools are performing.”
They are available here: http://www.ode.state.or.us/data/reportcard/reports.aspx

The best way to choose a Portland area school, however, is to go in person! Meet the principal and some teachers and get a feel for the culture there. Talk to other parents about their kids’ experience. Portland’s schools very much reflect their neighborhoods and the communities that support them. Test scores only tell part of the story, and they don’t predict whether your student will thrive or flounder in a particular school.

Ultimately, it’s up for you to decide – does a school make or break a neighborhood? Are you willing to shuttle your student to a school that may be better but lies farther away? (Don’t forget about Safe Routes to School!) Keep these questions in mind as you and your real estate agent check out potential homes to buy in the Portland area.

Did you know you can search for a home by school district? You can here.

Five Questions to Ask a Portland Listing Agent – Before Signing

Listing Agent

January 16th, 2015
Putting your home on the market is a big decision, one that reverberates through your life and relationships. When the time comes to sell, however, the most important thing is the kind of relationship you have with your Portland real estate agent. After all, they’re earning their commission on your home, and you’re passing along your most valuable – and complicated – asset. Communication is essential!

Get started early, make a list of desirable traits you want your real estate agent to have, and let him or her know what your expectations are as well. Most importantly, get the answers to the following questions:

1. Is he or she a REALTOR®? The title of REALTOR® is reserved for members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). A real estate license doesn’t necessarily make the agent a member of the NAR – he or she must go through additional training and pay a fee to be part of the Association. The benefits for you, the seller, are knowing that the REALTOR® you choose has the legal protection of the nation’s largest trade organization, adheres to the NAR Code of Ethics, and participates in continuing education to meet the REALTOR® standards. (We’ll go back to referring to REALTORs® as real estate agents, now that you know the difference!)

2. What kind of experience does the real estate agent have in the Portland real estate market? Your cousin might have had a good experience with an agent in Beaverton, but if you want to sell a home in Northeast Portland and that agent doesn’t have any experience there, you might want to keep looking. Just as important, does the real estate agent in question sell many homes in your price range? Look for someone who can prove their sales record, either online or through designations.

3. How will the agent market your home? Online is more important than you think – 92% – 96% of buyers look for homes that way (depending on the report you read). Before you call, check out your potential real estate agent’s website – is it user-friendly? Do they use Zillow, Trulia, and other home-search tools to advertise? Do they spend money to advertise your home online, as in featuring the home so it shows up before other similar properties? When you interview your agent, find out how many online views they get on each home they sell. They should be able to tell you their average views per listing per area, and hopefully even – per day. Online views sell. This typically needs to be in combination with professional photos (the listing agent should pay for that) and either staging recommendations and or experienced consultation.

4. How does their commission compare? Real estate agent commissions are not set by any law, just tradition! Most agents charge 5-6%. Check out my real estate commissions page to learn how I can halve that!

5. How does the agent communicate? Everyone has their own preference for how and how often they want to be contacted by their real estate agent, so be sure to discuss it before you list your home with anyone! Your agent should be able to be flexible, giving you just the information you need or all of the fun details of offers, counter-offers, and market updates. Ask them what their communication policy is. I have a once a week (phone call or personal visit) minimum communication policy.

Don’t settle for less than the best when it comes to selling your home: A great listing package, clear and consistent communication, and the experience to sell your Portland home for what it’s worth. See my full listing package here.

2015 Spring Buying Season Starts Now in Portland

when to sell Portland Home

Jan. 13th, 2015.

Here is (in summary form) everything you need to know about the Portland real estate market in 2015. Best time of the year to sell, best time to buy!

The real estate season is a bit like Christmas – it seems to start a little earlier every year. Traditionally, homes sell the best in summer time. Buyers like summer weather for viewing homes and they have a little more time to dedicate to their home search.

But with inventory tightening up in the last couple of years, especially in Portland, buyers and sellers are getting smart and getting out there ahead of the summer sun. Inventory is low, homes are selling fast, and prices start increasing rapidly. Sellers can benefit by selling their home in the spring because the offers they do receive are more likely to be serious (or desperate) ones, and homes close faster than in the summer without the backlog of work in the offices of appraisers, real estate agents and lending officers.

New data by real estate website Redfin indicates that homes are actually selling for more in the late winter (think early spring) and spring than they do in the summer. According to Inman news, which covered the report,
“From 2010 to 2013, the average share of homes that sold above list price during January, February and March ranged from 11 to 13 percent.
That range ticked up to between 12 and 14 percent during April, May and June, and then slumped for the summer and fall.” That is typical nationwide. Prices increase the most in the spring months, starting as early as Janurary, with low inventory and a lot of buyers, then flatline at top prices in the summer, but homes take longer to sell (more inventory). Fall and early winter (think holidays) see small decreases in price, longer market times, and fewer buyers.

So what should you do to prepare your home to sell before spring is over, leaving you free to play in the beautiful Oregon summer?
Start by finding a Portland real estate agent to help you get to know the market in your Portland neighborhood. You’ll have the advantage over other sellers if your home is not only priced right for your market, but is ready to show with no glaring repair issues. With your real estate agent, go over the home-improvement options that would provide the biggest bang for your buck in terms of increasing your home value. Then, have your home professionally staged and photographed – trust me, it makes all the difference! Especially in early winter when the landscaping around your home may not look as stunning, what’s on the inside counts.

Home buyers, get to know your Realtor now and be the first to know when those spring homes come on the market. Be prepared to act fast! Have your loan pre-approved and keep your boots handy – home shopping this time of year might be a little more work than it is in the summer, but it’s definitely worth it to find a home before the peak of home prices in early summer.

Sell your Portland Home Fast in 2015

sell house fast Portland

January 8th, 2015.

In 2014 I sold 54 Portland area homes as their listing agent in less than 30 days. In about 3 weeks from now, I’ll be releasing a little e-book titled, “5 Secrets to Selling your Home in Less than 30 Days.” It will be available on Amazon.com and other sources. I thought I would write an important tip here that I did not include in the e-book as it is more locally specific to the Portland real estate market and may not apply to other markets across the country.

In order to sell your Portland home fast in 2015 you have to time the Portland market right, or at least know the market you are getting into. Spring comes early in the Portland real estate market as it starts to heat up in February. February through May is the spring real estate market season and is characterized by low inventory and strong price increases. Since 2012, the steepest price increases in the Portland real estate market occurred in this spring selling season. 2014 saw incredible price increases during this time, and while market analysts are not predicting as steep of increases this year, Feb. through May will likely hold the strongest price increases of the year in 2015. Combine these price increases with low inventory and you have a definite seller’s market. So if you are listing in the spring, you can be a little more aggressive with your listing price, knowing that the market is rising fast.

Summer typically retains all of the spring’s price increases in Portland, but inventory drastically increases so the playing field is more leveled out between buyers and sellers. Usually these spring price increases stay the same until the end of August or September, even as late as October. Prices since 2012 have always fallen in the fall and winter months (though never as much as they increased in the spring months). In 2014 there was a huge surge of inventory in August as a lot of home owners in Portland realized how high prices were and felt comfortable to sell their home for the first time in many years. So fall came early in 2014 and prices started dipping in mid-August. So if you are listing in the summer months, go for a balanced starting price, realize the market is good, but there is a lot of competition. Pay very close attention to your local competition in selling your home.

You can sell in the fall or winter in Portland (despite all the clouds and rain), but it is best to start as early as possible. Once you get close to Thanksgiving, the market can be very tough. The few weeks around Christmas is the slowest time in the real estate market, hardest time to sell your home. If you have to wait until the fall or winter months to sell, be sure to enter the market at a “hot” price because there are not a lot of buyers around, you have to get their attention. Even though inventory can also be quite low in the fall and winter, the number of available buyers is even lower. So in the spring in Portland we have low inventory and a lot of buyers, but in the fall and winter we have low inventory and an even lower number of buyers.

Need to sell your Portland home fast? Work with an expert. Top 5% agent in the U.S. in sales. Let me know if I can be of service.

Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act Has an Uncertain Future

Homeowners Debt Relief Act

January 6th, 2015

A few good things came out of the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007/08. It drew attention to irresponsible banking practices, launched the tiny house movement in Portland and across the nation, and prompted congress to step up for those who were about to lose their homes. The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act was part of congress’ attempt to help homeowners in distress.

What did this piece of legislation do? In a nutshell, it eliminated extra taxes placed on homeowners who sold their home through a short sale. It was intended to help the housing market get back on its feet by making it easier for people to sell their homes even if they were underwater on their mortgage. And it worked. Even though banks were losing money on homes they had financed, the houses were able to re-enter the market and homeowners walked away debt-free after a successful short sale.

The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act was created in 2007. It has been renewed twice since, then in early December 2014 (when it was due to expire) it was extended to cover homeowners until the end of the year. That means that all short sales made in the year 2014 are exempt from taxation on the amount forgiven from the loan.

It’s not clear whether Congress will renew the Act again for 2015, we might not find out again until the end of the year. The housing market has been steadily improving, especially in metro areas like Portland where jobs are starting to be generated again. However, there are still many foreclosed properties on the market, and short sales become a less attractive option for these properties when the seller knows that he or she will be paying taxes on the “income” created by the forgiven mortgage value. As an active local Portland Realtor associated with NAR and PMAR (Portland and National Association of Realtors) we are doing what we can to encourage congress to renew.

If Congress determines that the housing market will take too hard of a hit by having these taxes kick back in, it may extend the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act for another year. The Senate Finance Committee has already voted to revive the Act in the new year, and may attempt to push the legislation through as a package with other tax exemptions designed to help Americans get back on their feet.

Over five million homeowners nationwide are still underwater on their mortgages (National Association of Realtors), so a home owner in Portland in need of a short sale is not alone. Sometimes a short sale is the best decision regardless of whether or not you might have tax implications afterwards. These transactions are always complicated – taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. As a Certified Short Sale Agent in Portland, I have not only the experience but also the expertise to see your home sale through to the end. See my short sale services here. Call to find out more.

November Real Estate Market: Low inventory, more pending

Portland real estate market november

December 30th, 2014

The numbers are out for the Portland real estate market this November. How did we do? The RMLS report shows the expected seasonal slowdown, with fewer new listings than in October, as well as a decline in pending and closed sales.

The good news is that these numbers are, for the most part, better than they were a year ago in November 2013. Particularly, closed sales were up 6.4% over last year, and pending sales were 14.4% higher! Inventory remains low, as it has all year, and there was no boost in new listings this November to help — in fact, new listings of Portland homes actually decreased 2.7% from last November.

Usually, we say low inventory in a real estate market is a good thing because buyers are hungry for homes and with more competition, prices can rise. In fact, this has been true — the average and median home price has gone up over the last year with the tight inventory. We can also look at the same figures between just October and November of 2014 and see that when inventory increased (from 2.8 in October to 3.2 in November) the median sales price went down (from 289,000 in October to 287,000 in November).

However, higher prices and fewer homes to choose from is obviously not a good thing for Portland home buyers. If you’re looking for a home in a given price range and there simply isn’t much to look at in the market, you might just put the search on hold until inventory rises again. On the other hand, if you’re selling a home in Portland and your home is priced to sell, this is a good time to be on the real estate market!

Let’s look at those pending sales numbers again. In November alone, 2,091 home sales in Portland were pending, meaning the offer had been accepted by the seller and the sale was in the closing process. For all of Portland, that’s a 14.4% improvement over last year, but there was much sharper improvement in certain suburbs. Gresham-Troutdale and Lake Oswego-West Linn saw pending sales increase by more than 30 percent over the previous year.
Next month we’ll take a closer look at the RMLS numbers for the entire year, and get a sense of what Portland home and neighborhoods are moving the quickest.

Want to be among the first to receive the Portland RMLS report every month? Sign up here. Stay informed to know when the market is right to buy or sell your home, and when you do, be sure to have a top Portland real estate agent working for you!

The Best Websites for Real Estate Agent Reviews

Realtor Reviews in Portland

December 22nd, 2014

One of the best things about the Internet is the way that it allows consumers to provide feedback on the products and services they buy. Had a good experience? Your review will be glowing and drive business to that product or professional. Dissatisfied? Your review will not only prevent the next person from making the same mistake, it’ll give the company responsible a chance to make improvements.

At least, that’s how it should work. Unfortunately, at least when it comes to real estate agent reviews, that’s not always the case – as a recent article in Inman News points out. Many websites host reviews, but they’re not always sorted in a way that’s useful or relevant. The reviewers themselves probably won’t represent an unbiased sample of the agent’s clients, both because they self-select (not every client writes a review) and because websites and real estate agents themselves can cherry-pick the reviews.
That’s not to say that reading some reviews of your potential Portland real estate agent is going to hurt anything. Here’s a quick rundown of where to check for the most helpful and relevant reviews of real estate agents, and what to avoid:

Red light: Yelp. Yikes! Yelp ranks reviews by “top reviewers” closer to the top of the results for any given business on the website. That means that someone who has reviewed a dozen restaurants on Yelp will have their review appear above all the others, while a review by someone who is new to Yelp — even if they have more valuable feedback about their real estate agent than the coffee shop down the road — will appear closer to the bottom or not at all. On the other hand, the reviewer verification process does at least indicate that the reviewers are real people, but their names are not linked to the actual real estate transaction.

Yellow light: Realtor.com. The official web portal of the National Association of REALTORs provides a directory of real estate agent that is verifiable and not profit-driven. The first step to be included on the site is for the agent to be a REALTOR, meaning they are a member of the National Association of REALTORs and have received additional training and accreditation. All REALTORs have profiles on the newly created Realtor.com agent platform, and from there clients can post reviews. Right now the site is undergoing a major overhaul. It is not the easiest place to search for the best Realtor in Portland, but that should change soon (hopefully). See my profile here.

Green light: Zillow gets the green because its reviews are not only real and verified, but the platform is the easiest to navigate and reviews can be ranked and replied to for a truly interactive experience. For the potential home buyer or seller researching real estate agents in Portland, this would be the best route to go, checking along the way to ensure that the agent being reviewed is in fact a REALTOR and their reviews on other sites line up with what is being said on Zillow.

Check out my Zillow reviews, I think you’ll like what you see! As a Top 5% agent in the country, customer satisfaction is my top priority.

Proud Member of Portland’s Masters Circle of Realtors

Masters Circle Realtors in Portland

PMAR (Portland Metro Association of Realtors) is the largest Realtor association in Oregon (as you might imagine). They give out awards to Realtors in good standing with PMAR corresponding to home sales. In 2014 I earned the highest award the Masters Circle gives out, Diamond-Platinum. I’ve asked them when I should expect to receive my diamonds in the mail, but haven’t gotten a response yet. : ) Either way, I’m proud to accept this designation from the Portland Metro Association of Realtors and appreciate their focus on ethics and consumer relationships.

Here are the purposes of the Masters Circle of Realtors in Portland:

To foster closer relationships among members of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors®.
To foster professionalism and ethics in the real estate industry.
To enhance public relations in the community.
To provide informative programs for the membership.
To share views and knowledge.
To maintain a committee through which salesperson members of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors® may receive recognition for achievement in the areas of listing and selling real property.

According to the Masters Circle, it is important to choose a Masters Circle member for these reasons, “Your Realtor® should be a member of the PMAR Masters Circle. The Masters Circle is a benchmark organization
formed to recognize Realtors® distinguished by their sales accomplishments and dedicated to the highest degree of professional quality service. Membership is earned by Realtors® who annually demonstrate outstanding achievements in the listing and selling of property. For most people, buying real property is their largest single investment. You benefit from working with a Realtor® who has an established record of success.”

Receiving the highest level of Portland’s Masters Circle award means, “Diamond-Platinum members have attained $5 million or more in closed dollar volume during the preceding year and have sold $20 million or more in closed dollar volume during the immediate past four consecutive years.” For many years, I have exceeded their sales standards. Let me know if I can put my experience to work for you.

Find the Perfect Home in Portland

perfect portland home

Portland, Oregon, is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. as of 2014. The city is also one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest area. With over 2 million people living in the Portland Metropolitan Area (which includes Portland itself and the surrounding suburbs) and more moving to the area on a regular basis, there’s a lot of Portland real estate being bought and sold. Finding that perfect home isn’t necessarily going to be easy, but it can be done. Here are a few tips that can help you find your dream house.

Make a List of Must-Haves and Wants. No house is going to be perfect. Portland has some gorgeous homes, but even the ones that check off all of your must-have boxes are going to have a few things you don’t like. That’s why it’s important to make a list of those things your new home absolutely must have and those that you really want. You can give this list to a Realtor in Portland to give them an idea of which homes might be a good fit for you. Just keep your must-have list reasonable—if you want a large home with a fireplace, large backyard, three car garage, and a mortgage under $500 a month and is located in the expensive Raleigh Hills neighborhood, you’re probably not going to find a house.

Make a List of Don’t-Wants. This is something most Portland real estate agents don’t consider, but it can actually be very helpful. Make a reasonable list of things that would simply make you reject a house without even seeing it. Maybe you don’t want to live downtown or in the Maplewood neighborhood for whatever reason. If you’ve got bad knees, a two-story home might be out of the question. This and your Must-Have list will help you cut out homes that you don’t even need to waste time seeing. After using your Must-Have and Don’t-Wants to cut the list, you can use your Want list to narrow down the field even more.

Find a Great Realtor in Portland

There are a lot of different real estate agents in Portland, but some will be able to help you more than others. A good Realtor will be able to connect you with local real estate sites (like Portlandmaps.com) and may know of properties about to hit the market before they do. They will be able to recommend fantastic mortgage lenders, the right home inspectors, a good home warranty company, and more. You can see my home search program here or contact me with your questions.

Avoid First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes. First-time homebuyers make a number of mistakes, and you certainly don’t want to do that. For most people, buying a house is something they’ll only do a few times in their lives, so the idea of practicing to get good at it doesn’t really apply. Even those who have bought several homes may still make basic mistakes. Reading articles on buying Portland real estate such as those on this blog can help. Like with anything, you need to do some research and ask questions before you sign your mortgage papers.

Plan for the Future. After getting married, many young couples set out to buy a house. That’s great! They can start earning equity and start mapping out their lives together. Many look at their mortgage timetable and figure they’ll be mortgage-free before retirement. And then they decide to start a family. Suddenly, that perfect home is much too crowded, and in less than five years, it’s back on the market. If you don’t like the idea of a starter home, make sure you plan for the future. No one can take into account everything, of course, but if you’re planning on starting or expanding your family within the next five or even ten years, take that into consideration and buy a larger home now if you can.

What is my Portland Home Value?

Portland Zillow Zestimate
December 10th, 2014

Admit it. You, like many people — whether or not they’re actually interested in buying or selling a home — have typed your address into Zillow to see what homes in your neighborhood are worth. You might have even seen a “Zestimate” on your own home. How accurate is that number? Actually, according to the company itself, Zillow’s Zestimates are accurate to within 5% of the actual value of the home no more than half of the time. If you’d rather not flip a coin when it comes to this life-altering decision, there’s a better way to find out what your Portland home is really worth. And it’s easy — just talk to your Portland real estate agent.

Real estate agents are the home value experts. When I hear from a potential client who wants to know what their home might sell for, the first thing I do is dig into the numbers. Some of these numbers are publicly available, such as the active listings you find on Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia. Others, like closed sales and withdrawn listings, are only available through Portland’s Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS), which REALTORs who are part of the National Association of Realtors have access to.

Data on active, pending and sold listings in your home’s neighborhood give us an idea of what comparable homes are selling for right now on the Portland real estate market. For example, if your home has two bedrooms and one bathroom and a helipad (unlikely, but let’s just pretend), it’s going to be worth more than a home with one bedroom, one bathroom and no helipad, but less than a four-bed, three-bath home, with or without a place to park your airborne vehicle.

A report that compares your home to homes similar to it is called a Comparative Market Analysis, or a Comparative Valuation Report. It’s more than just a number — it’s a treasure trove of information about what your home is worth to the buyers who are looking for homes in Portland right now, and will point you toward the best way to improve your home’s value. If, for example, the only difference between your home and one that’s valued $20,000 more is an upgraded kitchen, you might look into what it would cost to upgrade your own kitchen before putting your home on the Portland real estate market.

The goal of a Comparative Market Analysis is to find the magic price that will both meet your needs as a seller and also make your home attractive to buyers. There’s a difference between the home’s value and the listing price – you’ll want to leave room for negotiation, and your Portland real estate agent can help you figure out how much. If a potential buyer puts in an offer, they will get a third-party appraisal of your home’s value. Usually, it will come in pretty close to what your real estate agent valued it in the first place, as appraisers and real estate agents (for the most part) use the exact same tools to obtain your home’s value. (Keep in mind, an appraiser’s value is official, while a real estate agent’s is an educated opinion of value.)

Whether or not it will match that Zillow Zestimate you looked up late at night when you first considered selling your home – well, that’s a coin toss! Request a real home value estimate here.

Wedding Crowdfunding for Portland Real Estate Downpayments!

crowdfunding portland real estate

Yes, wedding crowdfunding for a home downpayment amount is a real thing. Times can be tough. How is a young couple to save for the down payment on their first home or piece of real estate? Well, if a wedding is in the works, crowdfunding could be an option.

What is crowdfunding? You’ve heard of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where people with ideas run funding campaigns to get the cash they need to make them happen — whether it’s a documentary, engineering project, humanitarian effort, or other worthwhile cause. They pitch their ideas and set fundraising goals, sometimes even making it an all-or-nothing proposition (if they don’t meet the funding goal, all the money goes back to donors). Some campaigns offer creative rewards to donors, like a batch of homemade cookies or their name on the final product.

The latest trend in crowdfunding is to make it all about raising cash for the new couple’s house – either a down payment or money towards renovations. New websites have cropped up just for this purpose – wedding-registry platforms with the ability to accept payments directly and show everyone how close the couple is to reaching their goal. Popular among them are Feather the Nest and Hatch my House. One site, DownPaymentDreams.com, has even figured out a way to partner with real estate agents, offering freebies to couples who use the cash they raise to purchase a home through an agent affiliated with the site.

All of these websites hinge on the tradition of giving a moderately expensive gift to a couple at their wedding. Instead buying of another toaster oven, the gift-giver can contribute to the new couple’s future in a long-lasting way by seeding the equity they’ll have in their new Portland home. And in today’s up and down economy, every dollar counts toward that down payment.

Will the idea catch on? It remains to be seen. There are no current campaigns on Feather the Nest or Hatch my House for Portland homes, although there are nearly 3,0000 crowdfunding campaigns based in Portland on Kickstarter. It could be that local couples are raising funds the old-fashioned way, without online crowdfunding registries, which have the disadvantage of soaking up a percentage of the money. Or maybe crowdfunding for Portland real estate just hasn’t caught on here yet!

Want to try it? Crowdfunding experts say that the most successful campaigns are run by people with an existing online presence (lots of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc.) with a good “hook” that can help the campaign go viral. Videos help a lot – even though your friends and family know you, they want to hear what you’re saving for in your own words! Keep your goal reasonable. Hatch my House claims that the average couple has the potential to raise $9,000 (assuming 70 guests who would otherwise offer gifts valuing an average of $125 each), but you know your guests best!

If you’re going this route, be sure to include a Portland real estate agent in your plans (no obligation to add one to your guest list). A good Portland real estate agent can help you figure out what your fundraising target should be for a down payment and help you make the most out of every dollar.

Best of luck and congratulations!

Can Portland Real Estate Market keep up with Population Growth?

portland urban growth boundary

It’s hard to say whether Portland’s population is growing because of jobs, the “hip” factor or because this city is really one of the best in the country for people of all generations and backgrounds. In any case, in June of this year Metro planners were estimating that Portland, Oregon will add 750,000 people to its metro area in the next 20 years. And a recent report in Portland Business Journal showed that Portland’s population growth is on track, adding more than 9,000 residents to the city in 2014 alone.
Nearly three-quarters of this growth came from new residents surging to the area, with the rest coming from “natural” population growth — the number of births minus the number of deaths. To accommodate this growth, Portland will need more roads, schools, parks, airports, office space, and much more. First and foremost, however, Portland’s new residents will need housing! Is this good news for the Portland real estate market? You bet.

This month’s RMLS report showed that October was the strongest month for closed sales in Portland since 2006! Are Portland real estate agents simply going out there and closing more deals? Well, perhaps so, but the more likely answer is that these new Portland residents are becoming homeowners.

With only so many homes already in the Portland metro area, the city is also looking at expanding its Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Urban Growth Boundarys are a concept unique to Oregon, where our strict zoning laws attempt to stop urban sprawl by drawing a line between urban and rural areas. Every few years, the UGB comes up for expansion so that cities can accommodate growing populations. 2015 is the year for Portland’s UGB, and the Metro agency will be using its population growth estimates to negotiate a new boundary for the city. A big part of its plan will also be to encourage infill, or the process of adding more live, work and play space within the already existing boundary.

Portland developers have already jumped on that bandwagon, with several building projects announced just this month. REACH Community Development is releasing $18 million in funds to add low-income housing in downtown Portland and Hillsboro, and a developer is building $15 million of office space in the suburbs of Wilsonville and Tualatin.

Yet another sign that Portland’s real estate market is booming? The Portland Bureau of Development Services, which handles permitting of new construction, is adding 29 new jobs this month.

It’s a great time to buy or sell real estate in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about my listing package or buyer’s agent services, give me a call!

Five Questions to Ask a Portland Buyers’ Agent

Buyers Agent Questions

Are you in the market to buy a home or property in the Portland, Oregon metro area? Before you start making the list of homes you want to check out, make sure you check out the real estate agent who will be helping you make this life-altering decision.
A buyers’ agent acts on your behalf through the entire home sale process, from the initial search to the handing over of your new keys. I’ve compiled five questions you should ask your Portland real estate agent before you start working with them. Let your expectations be known!

1. What kind of experience does the Portland real estate agent have? How long have they been licensed, and how many sales have they closed on the buyer side and listing side? Are they a member of their local REALTOR association (PMAR, Portland Metro Association of Realtors)? Depending on what area of Portland or the metro area you are looking at, be sure to ask whether your potential buyers’ agent has experience working in that locality or neighborhood.

2. What kind of online services does this real estate agent offer? Portland home buyers need not be limited to Zillow and Trulia to do their home buying research. I offer my clients the best Portland real estate map search tool available anywhere online, which includes neighborhood, crime and school data. I also provide free subscriptions to the digital RMLS market action report, and break it down every other month on this blog.

3. Ask your potential real estate agent how they plan on communicating with you, and how quickly they typically respond to questions. Get on the same page about what works best – whether it’s phone, email, texting, chat, or some other form of communication. Real estate transactions happen quickly. If the real estate agent says “Only call me at my office between 9 and 5”, you might want to move along because there are plenty of us who stay in touch pretty much all of the time! Mostly importantly, ask the buyer’s agent if they have a backup co-worker (or a full blown team) who can help you get into that property asap. Lots of homes in Portland sell fast and you often need a backup agent to open the doors for you.

4. What kind of commission does the real estate agent expect as a buyer’s agent? As I wrote about recently on this blog, the standard Portland-area agent commission is between 5-6%, with 2.5% typically going to the buyers’ agent. You should never pay your buyers’ agent direct. They get their fee from the seller.

5. What does this real estate agent love most about Portland? It’s not critical that your real estate agent be passionate about this city, but it certainly helps. They are your portal to your new neighborhood and your insider’s edge to finding the perfect home before someone else does. Your real estate agent should be someone you don’t mind spending some time with, and feel comfortable asking tough questions of. You’re putting all of your energy into making this move – shouldn’t your real estate agent be right there with you?

I’d be happy to answer these questions for you – and more. Contact me at your convenience.
Check out the rest of my Portland buyers’ agent services here.

Record-setting September for Pending Sales in Portland 2014

Portland Fall real estate market

September brought cooler weather to the Portland area but it didn’t cool down the real estate market! Yes, this is a time of seasonal quieting for home buyers and sellers, but the year overall is proving to be a bright one for Portland real estate agents and their clients. A look at the latest RMLS Market Action Report shows why.

Pending sales were the highlight of the report this month, rising a whopping 15% over last year’s. A pending sale is just that – pending. So what percentage of those sales make it to closing? When you compare the number of pending sales in September 2014, 2,551, to the number of closed sales that month, 2,378, you find that 93% of home buyers were able to successfully make it to closing.

When does a sale become “pending”? As you probably know already, there are many steps to get through from the buyer’s reaching out to their Portland real estate agent, deciding to buy a home, and then actually making the transaction final. Once an offer has been accepted, the buyer must secure financing and draw up a contract with their real estate agent. The buyer’s agent must then present that contract to the seller’s agent and negotiate over the various terms it entails – what is included with the property, what kind of inspections will be performed, and so on. When the contract is accepted, the sale is “pending” until all of the inspections are over and the money is in the seller’s hands.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot that can go wrong here, which is why deals occasionally “fall through” or fail to transition from “pending” to “sold”. So what’s average? Last September (2013) saw fewer pending sales overall (2,219), but 97% of them turned into closed sales. In August this year, we had 2,704 pending sales in Portland, and 95% made it to closing.
It seems that the success rate for Portland real estate agents (and all of the other parties involved) to move a home from “pending” to “sold” is variable, but I think as long as we’re over 90%, we’re doing pretty well.

What can you, the home buyer or seller, do to help encourage the process? Pick a reliable lender who won’t change the terms of the loan at the last minute – your real estate agent can make a few recommendations. Likewise, the title company, home inspectors, etc. you use should be trusted, reliable, and experienced. The most important thing is probably to work with a real estate agent who can help you navigate all of these terms, one who has already closed hundreds of deals in the Portland area. I’d love to help. Call me anytime: 503-975-6853.

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