Portland Home Hazards

Portland, like any other city, is home to many hazards for home buyers and sellers. We have flood risks, earthquake risks, mold problems, lead poisoning, radon risks, landslide zones, and more. We believe it is part of our job as top Portland real estate agents to inform our clients of potential home hazards, how to test, how to get more information, and how to mitigate these everyday home hazards.

earthquake resistant house design concept

Portland Seismic Retrofit Guide: 2021 Earthquake Readiness

April 7, 2021

Our awareness of the threat of seismic activity in the Portland area increases every year, and with it concerns for both sellers and buyers. Recent studies show that at least one local fault is more active than previously thought. And this discovery increases the likelihood that other faults in the area may put Portland at risk for an earthquake sooner rather than later. But the good news is, with increased knowledge comes increased ability to confront the situation. For example, it seems that each year, better and more comprehensive maps help us understand where the most vulnerable spots are. And then there’s seismic retrofitting, a process that makes homes better equipped to handle an earthquake. Portland is once again ahead...


portland real estate flood map

New Portland Flood Map for 2021

January 4, 2021

Floods don’t just destroy homes and carry away vehicles, they also destroy infrastructure and cut off access to the outside world, sometimes for days at a time. When shopping for a home in Portland, having the right tools at hand to understand flood risk is essential. In some cases, it can be pretty clear that a home is directly in a flood zone where floods happen frequently. But more often, the answer is less clear-cut. First, we’ll explore the traditional way to view flood zones using FEMA and other government maps. Then we’ll get into detail on an exciting new tool that gives address-by-address information about flood risk. How to view flood zones using FEMA and City of Portland Flood...


sewer scope portland home

Portland Sewer Scope Home Test Guide – 2021

October 19, 2020

Having the sewer line checked out before you purchase a home in Portland is a very good idea. Sewer lines can cost thousands of dollars to repair, but a scope costs just $100-$200 in the Portland area. In this article, we’ll go through some of the most frequent questions home owners and buyers ask our real estate agents about sewer scopes.  What is a sewer scope? A sewer scope is a simple home test that checks the sewer lines for blockages, leaks and damage. It will also tell you what kind of material your sewer pipes are made of.  Your sewer inspector will first locate the “clean out”, a capped pipe located on or near your property line which connects...


heating oil tank homes oregon

HOT Homes: Must Know Heating Oil Tanks Facts

October 5, 2020

Heating oil was once a popular way to heat homes and buildings in Portland, but most are now using electricity or natural gas. However, the legacy of heating oil remains in the form of underground tanks that were used to store the oil on site, especially in homes built prior to 1965. Some of these tanks are the source of toxic ground contamination, which can also emit fumes into the air.  According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, there are 27,308 permanently decommissioned Heating Oil Tanks, or HOTs, buried underground across the state. Tens of thousands more are still in operation (both above and below ground), heating homes today. Plus many thousands more are sitting abandoned underground (some leaking...


oregon wood stove removal guide

Portland Home Testing: Wood Stove Removal 2020

August 24, 2020

A 2014 DEQ survey of Portland residents found that more than half of those who burn wood for heat are doing so with uncertified wood stoves. In fact, there may be as many as 80,000 uncertified wood stoves in Oregon!  Why are uncertified wood stoves a problem? They’re one of the biggest sources of air pollution in Portland. According to a Multnomah County report, residential wood smoke accounts for 11% of all cancer-causing air pollutants in the area. In addition to containing particulate matter small enough to enter the body through the lungs, wood smoke can be source of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds.  “Certified” wood stoves control emissions by re-igniting toxic compounds in the smoke before it escapes out...


portland real estate mold home test

How to Test Your Portland Home for Mold: 2020 Update

July 13, 2020

Portland homeowners: Is your home harboring mold?  That was a trick question because mold occurs just about everywhere on the planet, including homes in Portland, Oregon. Invisible, or “ambient” mold spores float on the air waiting for an appropriate place to land and form the green, black and blue colonies we’re all familiar with.  The real question is, not whether there’s mold in your house, but if you have a mold growth problem. If you do, there’s probably an underlying issue that should be addressed. But what about toxic black mold? Thankfully, this strain of mold is not very common, and is rarely found in Portland homes. According to the CDC, “All molds should be treated the same with respect...


portland natural disasters

Portland Natural Disasters: Riskiest Neighborhoods to Buy a Home in 2020

June 5, 2020

We don’t want to scare away potential homebuyers, but mother nature has some potentially powerful disasters to unleash on Portland. Are some neighborhoods safer than others? That depends on which disaster we’re talking about. Before you make a home investment in Portland, get to know what the hazards are, and the best way to be prepared for each.  Risk #1: Portland Landslides Areas to watch out for: West Multnomah County, from downtown Portland to Scappoose as well as parts of Gresham to the east Natural Disaster Risk: Landslides Don’t buy a home here if: The address has a high landslide hazard risk. While there are some mitigation and prevention strategies, rain, mud and gravity can be a deadly mix. Neighborhoods...


radon map portland

Portland Radon Map – 2020 Update, Plus Free Tests (for some)

June 1, 2020

Portland Radon rates change. A perennial hot topic in Portland is the influx of Californians, but it’s really the Montana and Idaho migrants that we should be worried about, according to health officials. Actually, they’re not talking about people, but rocks. “In the Portland metropolitan area, a lot of the rocks and soil underneath the Willamette Valley were carried down from parts of Idaho and Montana,” said an Oregon Health Authority official quoted by OPB. These long-ago geological travelers carry radon, a radioactive gas that is drawn into homes and buildings, leading to cancer and other health issues.  As real estate agents, we do a lot of education about the risks of radon and the importance of testing, and in...


asbestos test portland guide

How to Test for Asbestos – Portland Home Guide

May 11, 2020

Most of us think of our homes a safe space. However, there are multiple toxic hazards that could be present in Portland homes both old and new. These include radon, improperly decommissioned oil tanks, lead and the once-popular fire-resistant building material, asbestos. As Portland real estate agents, we consider it our duty not just to sell homes, but to provide buyers and sellers with accurate and up-to-date information about what hazards they might hold. That’s why we’ve dedicated regular blog posts to discussing how to test for and deal with the hazards common to Portland homes. And asbestos is a big one! Read on for asbestos information and resources before you buy or sell a home in 2020. Asbestos Basics for...


seismic retrofit portland guide

Seismic Retrofit Guide for Portland Homes

April 27, 2020

As more information, scientific warnings and earthquake maps become available to Portland homeowners, more people are asking their real estate agents about seismic retrofitting. Here’s a quick introduction to what it means to seismically retrofit a home, whether your home needs it done, and how to find the right contractor in 2020.  Seismic Retrofit vs Earthquake Preparedness A seismic retrofit is any action taken to prevent structural failure of the home in the event of an earthquake, and it’s recommended (but not yet required) by the City of Portland. Usually, it involves bolting the home to its foundation (more on that in the section below).  It’s important to keep in mind that seismic retrofitting will not “earthquake-proof” your home. There...