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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Increase your Portland home value with Short-Term Rentals

portland home value  increase

March 4th, 2015

In July of last year, the city of Portland voted to allow homeowners to offer short-term rentals in their homes or accessory dwellings. Are they the new threat to the sanctity of Portland neighborhoods, or a smart way for first-time home buyers to earn a little money off their investment?

Short-term rentals have been embraced in Portland and the world over. Through sites like Airbnb and VRBO, home owners (or renters, with a landlord’s permission) can open up their homes to guests – the paying kind.

If you’re the kind of person who likes their space and isn’t into sharing, this probably isn’t for you. But if, to you, a stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet, renting out part of your home or a guest house can make the difference in making that monthly mortgage payment. It’s also a great way to finance a vacation — Portland law allows you to rent out up to five bedrooms, so you could rent your whole house while you’re gone.

Airbnb is by far the most popular short-term rental website, with over 1,000 units for rent posted. Right now, a room in a Portland home can be rented for anywhere from $50 and up, while an entire apartment or house starts at $100 per night. (For fun, check out Portland Monthly’s list of the 10 Best Airbnb Rentals.)

This isn’t easy money for home owners — you have to think about cleaning before and after your guests stay, and pay Portland lodging tax. Airbnb and other host sites take a small commission off each rental. There’s also a permit you need to get through the City of Portland, which requires an inspection to check for safety hazards, escape routes and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Because the permitting process is new, many short-term rental holders have not gone through it and are still offering spaces that are not designated “sleeping rooms” for rent (eg. a couch in the living room). To operate legally, your short-term rental must be a bedroom, defined as a space that was permitted as a sleeping room when it was built. Not sure? Permit history and building plans for your home can be found on www.portlandmaps.com (More information on checking your property’s permit history can be found at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bds/54330.)

As Portland’s popularity as a tourist destination grows, short-term rentals are only going to get bigger, especially now that the city has legalized them. If you’ve seen your neighbors doing it, you probably already know that there’s no real danger to the quality of your neighborhood, because the number of renters is low and they are usually more interested in sight-seeing than hanging around at the place they’re renting! However, I’m sure not everyone is having a positive experience. Time will tell.

Selling a Portland home? Your potential buyers may be interested in learning about its potential as a short-term rental. Do the research and let them know.

If you’re buying a home in the Portland area and interested in entering the lodging business at the same time, why not plan ahead? Ask your Portland real estate agent to show you listings that have a guest house or mother-in-law suite, or just a big back yard where you could put up a little cottage. Welcome to the sharing economy!

FHA Offers 3% Down-Payment Loans for First-Time Home Buyers

fha portland home buyer

Starting next month, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the lenders of the Federal Housing Authority — will offer home buyers mortgages with just a 3% down payment through its Home Possible Advantage loan program. On a $300,000 home, that means just $9,000 up front, plus closing costs.

Is this a good idea for Portland home buyers? Most low-down-payment loans have a catch like variable rates or private mortgage insurance for life, but these Home Possible loans are fixed-rate mortgages. They do require mortgage insurance to be paid on top of the regular payment, but only until 20% (a typical home down payment) has been paid in equity on the home.

For those who qualify, this is a great way to get into a home while mortgage rates are at historic lows. Only a small percentage of borrowers will qualify, however, because credit requirements are tighter than they used to be. Borrowers must have a credit score of at least 680 to qualify for the new 3%-down loans. On the other hand, mortgage lenders are still more interested in your ability to may mortgage payments going forward, making some credit dings less of an issue.

Because the down payment is typically such a hurdle for those who are buying their first home, these low-down-payment loans are a great way for the FHA to convince first-time home buyers to take the leap to home ownership. In fact, the loans are only available to first-time homeowners, or those who have not owned a home in at least three years. On the other hand, it can be a drag to only put 3% equity into your home starting out. You have more to pay off down the road, and if you ever need to borrow money against your home, there won’t be much there to start with.

But who knows how long these low mortgage rates will last? Freddie Mac said Thursday the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage was 3.76 percent. Mortgage rates have been creeping up gradually since last spring, but according to the FHA’s Christina Boyle, “in the 1980s, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 12.7 percent interest (and even spiked to a whopping 18.5 percent at one point). Even as recently as November 2008, rates topped 6 percent. So in comparison, rates today remain very affordable.”

The bottom line is, home ownership is an option for more people than it ever has been before, and it’s a great time to invest in a Portland home. Your lender can help you figure out the mortgage that is right for you. Your Portland real estate agent can help you find a home that is affordable — you might not pay much more than you would renting! It doesn’t hurt to find out.

Sell Your Home Fast With Professional Staging and Photography

Stage Home PDX
Home Staging in Portland

February 19th, 2015

Spring buying season is here and Portland home sellers will need to make some big decisions.
Picking a great real estate agent is first. After that, it would be a good idea to start thinking about who will help you stage and photograph your home.

Is staging really that important? It depends. If you have a big vacant home (2200+ Sq. Ft.) I think it is. If you have a small vacant home typically the buyer’s imagination is enough. If you are currently living in your home, think of the stager as an interior designer with a focus not on what you want, but what sells (what the market wants). My recommended stagers do whole house consultations and it is not expensive. Consider this. According to the Real Estate Stagers’ Association, homes that are staged before they’re sold spend on average 73% less time on the market, and they typically sell for more money. When you think about it, you really can’t afford not to have a professional come in and help your home look its very best before you put it on the market.

I actually think that staging and getting photographs taken is one of the most fun parts of selling a home. Much more fun than signing paperwork, anyway! Staging your home is like remodeling, but way less work. A professional home stager comes in with an outsider’s perspective, and sees the areas of your home that are likely to get buyers excited, and where they might need a little help seeing the potential.

If your home has been lived in, the first thing you’ll probably need to do is organize and downsize a bit, or at least move some things out. The buyers will want to see what storage space is available, and they can’t if it’s already full of stuff!

Once your home is cleared out a little, your home stager can recommend how to use the furnishings and accessories you already have to display each room in the most appealing way. Or, your home stager can take the reins for maximum effect — maybe adding a little paint, changing up some rooms, or adding strategic lighting to make a room feel bigger or cozier. I’m always stunned by how the professional home stagers I work with here in Portland transform my clients’ homes from ho-hum to WOW.

Professional photography is an important companion to expert home staging. You know what your home looks like in person, but most buyers will be just glancing at photos online before they decide to view it themselves. Those photos should sell! Maybe not surprisingly, buyers surveyed by NAR (National Association of Realtors) voted photos as more important than price, location, or description!

I’m such a big believer in professional photography I include it as part of my comprehensive listing package. I know that it’s helped me become a Top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. Well staged and photographed homes get more views online, more shares on social media, and more offers!

Give your home the glamour treatment with tasteful staging and eye-grabbing photos. Contact me to get some great referrals to professionals I work with in the Portland area.

Portland’s Housing Market Future – New Downtown Plan 2015

West Quadrant Plan Portland

February 16th, 2015

City planners, business owners, economists – and busy real estate agents! – agree: Portland’s population is growing. The metro area, which encompasses Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Clark, Skamania, Yamhill and Columbia counties, is forecast to reach 2.3 million next year. And that number could hit 3 million or more by 2035.

That’s probably why the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is including plenty of housing in its plan to redesign downtown over the next 20 years. The West Quadrant Plan, which will serve as a guide for future Portland downtown investment and development, covers the western areas of Central Portland and areas along the Willamette River, including the Pearl District, Old Town/Chinatown, Downtown, Goose Hollow, University District and South Waterfront areas.

The headlining aspects of the West Quadrant Plan are public-use: a redesigned waterfront that encourages mixed-use access, a 10-mile walking and biking “Green Loop”, and a new park over the I405 (a trick known as “freeway capping”).

A less flashy, but much more vital goal of the Plan is to increasing housing downtown, and not just those who can afford typical downtown rents and home prices. The West Quadrant Plan actually calls for a mix of housing types, with the goal of increasing diversity in the Central City. It establishes an affordable housing target for 2035 with 20,000 new units added.

To put this in perspective, the entire Portland metro area added about 7,000 new housing units in 2014. It is expected to add 22,000 more in just the next three years (Colliers), to keep up with the population growth mentioned earlier.

The West Quadrant Plan went before the City Council for the first time on February 4th, and the public comment focused mainly on density and building heights in the Goose Hollow and West End neighborhoods. But, according to BPS’ news release on the meeting, “affordable housing took center stage when Commissioner Dan Saltzman co-sponsored the resolution to adopt the plan, along with Mayor Charlie Hales. Commissioner Nick Fish also spoke passionately about the need to keep Portland from becoming like San Francisco and other high-cost cities through regulations and programs that would support affordable and workforce housing on the west side of the Central City.”

No matter how affordable housing is in the inner city, not everyone will want to live there. That’s why Portland will also be looking at expanding its Urban Growth Boundary this year. For those who want to live, work and play in this forward-thinking city by the river, there’s never been a better time to invest in a home. Contact your Portland real estate agent today to establish your housing goals in the midst of this expanding city.

Four Tips for More Accurate Real Estate Agent Reviews

Portland Realtor Reviews

February 6th, 2015

Real estate agent reviews can be incredibly helpful. Not only do they give the details you’re not going to find in an agent’s own marketing material, they give concrete information that you can use to compare and contrast agents.

While it’s easy to find volumes of reviews for established agents, it’s not always easy to find helpful ones. A little online-review psychology: Most people are inclined to write them only if they’ve had a strongly positive or strongly negative experience, which widely skews the available information. Also, reviewers tend to be generic. It’s good to hear the glowing adjectives, but to learn what a client’s experience was actually like, you sometimes have to sift through pages and pages of reviews. Can we change this?

Choose the right venue. Real estate agent reviews on major sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com are verified. That means reviews can’t be faked because they must be linked to an actual home sale or purchase in which the person being reviewed acted as the primary real estate agent, representing the buyer, the seller, or both. Zillow and Trulia, which have the most easily searchable website, while Realtor.com has a clunkier interface (currently under development) but has the advantage of being backed by the National Association of Realtors. Avoid Yelp, which does not verify reviews, because they cannot verify sales. You will get a lot of “friends and family” reviews on Yelp and not client reviews.

Be thorough. Put yourself in the your own shoes, pre-real-estate-transaction. What did you want to know about the Portland real estate agent in question? Don’t be afraid to get personal – were they easy to talk to? Did they make you feel confident about the transaction?
Give examples to back up your statements. If your real estate agent was slow to follow up on offers, how slow? If you looked at homes together, what was the experience like? The more details, the more helpful your review. Also, avoid superlatives. Sure, they were great, awesome and amazing. But specifics are always better – he was knowledgeable about the local market, she’s a pro negotiator, etc.

Don’t be a troll. If you had a not-so-great experience with your agent, it’s fine to say so in an online review, but if you’re going through a verified site, keep in mind that those words will have your name on them! A better strategy is to work out any outstanding issues with your agent before heading to the internet to tell the tale. When you do review, give an accurate description of what happened, being as objective as possible.

Remember, your real estate agent review will not only help future home buyers and sellers, it will also give your agent valuable feedback that will help him or her improve their services. Don’t wait too long after you’ve made your real estate transaction – fire up your keyboard while your memory is fresh!

Portland Market Short Sales and Foreclosures 2015 Update

2015 Portland Foreclosure Short Sale

February 3rd, 2015

Portland Foreclosures: So five years ago?

Not quite.

Since the housing bubble burst in 2009, and hundreds of homes went into foreclosure, Portland home buyers and sellers have adapted to a market composed of about 10% bank-owned homes and short sales.

While the number of foreclosures has definitely lessened since the burst of the bubble, there are still quite a few entering the market every month. Oregon-wide, foreclosures actually increased in 2014, according to recent reports by RealtyTrac and the RMLS.

RMLS (Regional Multiple Listing Service) tells the story for Portland. They reported that in the 4th quarter of 2014, 12% of new Portland listings were either bank-owned or short sales. Compared to the same period in 2013, that’s an increase of almost 5%.

According to a recent Oregon Live article, “RealtyTrac says Oregon now ranks 21st nationally in foreclosures per housing units. The worst state by far is Florida, where 1 in every 44 housing units statewide is undergoing foreclosure proceedings. In Oregon, the rate is 1 in every 154 units.”

The RealtyTrac data also indicated that the rate of new foreclosures is actually decreasing now for the Portland area, but there is still a backlog of homes that are bank-owned or eligible for short sale. For the Portland home buyer looking for a good deal on a home right now, there are plenty to choose from. We regularly set up Portland buyers on a foreclosure and short sale only search that will send them listings the moment a new distressed property hits the market.

Buying a bank-owned or short-sale home is different than the standard real estate transaction. The home may have deferred maintenance and it takes the right kind of buyer to see the hidden potential. Your Portland real estate agent can help you make the assessment based on all the available information on the property. My buyers team is certified to work with both foreclosures and short sales. We can help guide you through the process.

Do you own a home that is being threatened with foreclosure? A Portland short sale is usually the best way to recover some of your investment and prevent your home from entering foreclosure limbo. I work with a team of experienced bank negotiators who have closed on hundreds of successful short sales. See the Short Sale Agent page for more information.

Moving into 2015, homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages can rest assured that there are still home buyers out there looking for short sale homes. With these latest numbers from the RMLS, it seems that the market will retain a certain percentage of non-traditional home sales as we work through our Portland foreclosure backlog, a backlog that will take many more years to empty.

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.

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