Top 8: PDX Home Buying Hacks

portland home buyer hacks

Portland is a tech hub, so naturally those who live here – as well as those who hope to move here – are no strangers to the idea that there’s a hack for just about everything. Whether it’s your first time buying a home or you just want it to go more smoothly this time around, here are our top eight home buying hacks:

1. Feel the Oregon love. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average first-time homebuyer is just 33 years old. This isn’t much time to build a career or a large amount of savings, but there are advantages to buying while you’re young. Each month’s rent is a potential mortgage payment lost, and the sooner you get into this hot Portland real estate market, the better! Luckily, Oregon is one of the best states in the country for home-buyer assistance and education. Potential homebuyers can hack the low-on-funds dilemma by checking out Oregon.gov’s Homeownership page. There are programs to help with down payments, closing costs, mortgage payments and more. One we’re particularly excited about is the DreamSavers program for low-income homebuyers, which matches your funds 3 to 1 when you save up for a down payment on a home.

2. Ignore the hipsters. We know, it’s Portland, and they’re everywhere. Or are they? Conventional wisdom says that one of the ways to tell an up-and-coming neighborhood is to look for coffee shops, micropubs, and those who inevitably hang out there. But according to Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries in an interview with The Daily Beast, the “halo” around gentrifying neighborhoods is where to look for the best deal on a home. In Portland, I can think of a dozen neighborhoods that have seen huge home value appreciation in the past five years, and each has a ring of neighborhoods around it that are probably going to be next. Buying low and selling high is the age-old real estate hack, and even if you plan to live in your home a long time, the more valuable your neighborhood becomes, generally, the better off you are.

3. Get a local expert. Go online and you can find market data for any given Portland neighborhood, see the prices of homes as you cruise by them, and instantly contact the listing agent. So why are buyers’ agents still so popular? Think of them as the expert real estate hackers. Humphries, of Zillow, puts it this way: “Now that the consumer has access to the same information [as the professional real estate agent], the role of the professional is to interpret it, to be a transaction consultant, to be a local expert, and to coach them through this complicated and infrequent transaction.”

4. Keep it real time. In this fast-paced Portland real estate market, knowing about a listing 24-48 hours after it comes on the market may not be good enough. Unfortunately, that’s what you’re getting if you get property updates through Zillow or Truila. My website, portlandhomesforsale.com, is constantly updated (hourly) through the MLS, which is where all Realtor-listed properties are listed first. Last month, the average number of days Portland homes spent on the market was 51 (this includes distressed properties), which should give you an idea of how fast properties are being snatched up by hungry buyers! In some neighborhoods that average is closer to 2 or 3 days. On my website you can subscribe to alerts to get instant email notifications when a new listing pops up. When you “heart” a home my buyer’s team is instantly notified and we are staffed in such a way that we can tell our clients, “we’ll show any home, any day.” Now that’s a pro buyer move.

5. Look for hidden costs. Hint: Every home has them! Sellers are aware that homes are moving in this market, so it’s not a top priority for them to take care of every item of deferred home maintenance, update the appliances, and do other things to compete with other sellers. Your home inspection will turn up most hidden costs for you, the buyer, and be sure to get as detailed as you can about how much each item will set you back after closing. A good buyer’s real estate agent will negotiate on your behalf to be sure that the home you thought you could afford stays that way a year down the road! There are no silly questions so be alert, be thorough, and be your own best advocate throughout the home buying process.

6. Get your credit score sorted out early. You are entitled to a free credit score once a year from one of the major credit reporting agencies, and it’s always good to know what the bank knows when they’re assessing your mortgage eligibility. If there are outstanding issues with your credit, clear them up now! Your financial advisor should be the one to help you decide whether you’re in a position to buy a home, but my advice as a real estate agent is to be as informed as possible about your credit history before you start mortgage shopping.

7. Shop around for your mortgage. As we’ve explored on this real estate blog, there are many options for mortgages, with more being created it seems like every day. Mortgage brokers offer an increasingly popular service because, like professional real estate agents, they can help you compare products and tailor-fit a deal that’s right for you. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t settle for a higher rate without doing the research. According to Trent Hamm for lifehacker.com, “Saving just a half a percentage point on an average-priced home could lead to tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the years.” Ask us for our current local lender recommendations.

8. Move smart. Hamm has another great piece of advice for new home buyers. Once the deal is closed and you’re ready to move, cash in on all of those times you helped your buddies move. (You haven’t? Time to start!) Schedule the time they spend with you wisely, though. Says Hamm, “Don’t have everyone come and help you at once. Ask two friends to come one day and two friends to come another day instead of having them all come at once-you’ll be far more productive that way.”

Need more hacks? Contact your Portland real estate buyers’ team today!

May 2, 2016
AUTHOR

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. and a top 1% agent in the Portland Metro. Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales in the Portland Metro area. Call him direct: 503-714-1111.

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