COVID-19 Update from Inhabit’s Owner

March 31, 2020

The coronavirus is impacting everyone and every business in some way and the real estate industry is no exception.  In many ways we are lucky because our shift to doing things virtually isn’t as big a leap as some businesses are facing.  As a matter of fact, for many years we’ve been able to handle most of the home buying and selling transactions electronically.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, Inhabit is committed to keeping the health and safety of our clients and agents at the forefront of everything we do.  Even before Governor Brown initiated Oregon’s shelter-in-place order, Inhabit launched our Couch Concierge service that brings the entire home buying and selling process to our clients.  Everything from virtual open houses, live video showings with our agents, to virtual contracts and closings.

Our listing clients shouldn’t worry about canceled open houses.  We will create a digital marketing campaign that brings your house to potential buyers all without risking anyone’s health or safety.  Our agents will tailor a showing plan that you feel the most comfortable with.

For our buyers, we are hosting live video tours.  Our agents will walk you through the property showing you every nook and cranny with honest feedback on quality or construction issues they see.  

In-person tours are still an option in many cases when necessary, but with precautions we take very seriously.  We recommend live video tours for anyone that has cold or flu symptoms or concerned about a possible COVID-19 exposure.  This goes for clients, as well as, agents.  Our agents are following the recommended 6 ft of social distancing and strict hand-washing and disinfecting policies.  Our agents provide our COVID-19 Safe Showing policies to clients for review prior to visiting any property in-person so you can make the best decision for your health and safety.

We are a small business that puts the care of our clients and agents first.  I started this company six years ago because I knew there was a better, more innovative way to serve clients.  This is an industry that one-size definitely does not fit all.  Inhabit has always been forward-looking and our size allows us to be nimble in creating services that address changing needs and goals.  We are here to give you the best real estate advice possible, now and into the future.

Yours in health and prosperity!


How Your Home Can Provide Stability

For those of us invested in the stock market, we’ve all been wondering if the historic run of this bull market was ever going to end.  No one, however, could have predicted the coronavirus or imagine its global impact. The next few months are still unwritten and as we brace ourselves for how far reaching the effects will be.  It’s unsettling for everyone. The stock market volatility is reminiscent of 2008, but the cause is totally different, and it will have different effects. A recent New York Times article titled Buying a Home During a Pandemic reflected on the 2008 market by saying, “Many real estate shoppers were trying to weigh multiple moving pieces back in late 2008. That crisis was different — the S&P 500 would ultimately lose half its value from its peak, and home prices cratered, too. That’s not the case this time (so far, at least). And what has happened since 2008 should provide us some comfort right now.”

The article also reflects on the stability of the housing market versus the instability of the rental market.  There is some piece of mind knowing that you can capitalize on historically low interest rates to lock in a monthly payment that won’t change.  This is making home ownership much more attractive than renting in many cases.  

The news around COVID-19 feels surreal right now with everything seemingly in a holding pattern, but the root cause of what’s driving Portland’s housing demand will not be affected in the long run.  Portland is one of the strongest real estate markets in the country. It’s during times of crisis that people take the time to reflect on what’s really important. The certainty of having a safe place to call home tops most lists.  Also, the push to create a stay-at-home economy makes where you live more important than ever. Companies may realize that having their employees work from home has some financial benefits. This could very well make a shift to more people getting to decide where they want to live.  Lifestyle is a major driver to Portland’s growth. Are we now poised more than ever to see accelerated growth? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would be willing to make a bet that the net effect of what’s happening right now will make people pause and consider what’s really important in life.

We have a unique situation with interest rates at historic lows and Portland housing demand still high.  With all the stock market volatility, finding some stability with a large asset like homeownership should be a consideration.  Whatever is important to you, there are options. You can refinance to lock in a lower monthly payment. You can upgrade your home and with the low interest rates end up paying close to what you are now.  You can downsize to streamline your finances and put money away to safeguard yourself against any future volatility. If you are a renter, you can give yourself more certainty by purchasing a home, locking in a monthly payment and having piece of mind that your dollars are going towards an investment for your future.

Whatever is important to you, please know that my team at Inhabit Real Estate is here to help you navigate your decision-making process.  We pride ourselves on being advisors, not salespeople. Let us help you find a strategy that works in your best interest. We are all in this together!

Connecting to Your Home

The Consumer Electronic Show 2020 recently wrapped up in Las Vegas. There were the usual cast of characters, giant televisions, mini projectors, mobile devices, and more suitcases that follow you around than humanity will ever need. There is one section of the event hall that has been growing and growing over the years and that’s the “Smart Home” section. What used to be a quiet corner of self-cleaning ovens and refrigerators with water filters, has now flooded into a vast expanse across the showroom floor consisting of everything from smart vacuums to motion tracking light bulbs.

This multi-billion-dollar industry has just started to bud into your home life and I’d like to see if I can’t help explain some of the basics that you need to know.

So, what is a smart device? By now we all know Alexa and Siri. Essentially a smart device is all part of The Internet of Things or IoT as it’s known. IoT is the interconnected network of objects like your phone talking with your microwave.

Smart devices can be super futuristic devices like retinal tracking door locks, to the most mundane toothbrush that tells you when to replace it.

Instead of going over every device out there, I want to focus on the basic ecosystems these devices work in and touch on the specific devices you can place in your home today!

Right now, in the Smart Home / Smart Assistant game there are really only 2 players, Google and Amazon. Apple is trying very hard and so is Microsoft, but as of now, they are failing to make a mark. There are also more than a handful of independent providers out there including Samsung’s own Bixby network, but again, those aren’t really considered contenders. 

Today Google’s “Google Assistant” and Amazon’s “Alexa Assistant” work with the lion’s share of smart devices out there. 

Google Home Speaker

One of the most popular devices on the market is the Ring system. If you don’t know, Ring is a doorbell that feeds live video to the IoT. Ring isn’t Google nor Amazon, but rather third-party hardware that works seamlessly with both. Most non-proprietary hardware will work with both Amazon and Google, as well as Apple, in the case of Ring. 

Since these devices are mostly available on both major ecosystems, the real question is “which ecosystem should you want to buy into?” 

Let’s get one thing straight, Google and Amazon make way more money selling your data than they ever will selling you devices or services so understanding what they’re doing with that data is vital. The biggest difference between Amazon and Google is what they do with your data. 

Let’s start with Amazon’s Alexa. Alexa is always listening, always! Amazon then uses AI learning to analyze what you want. Are you talking about needing new shoes or are you issuing a command? Amazon whistleblowers have even admitted that Amazon has live people that will analyze certain recordings that the AI struggled with. Amazon then discards the recordings. Because of this, Alexa is typically extremely responsive and users often comment on its speed and accuracy. 

Amazon Echo Dot Speaker

Google, on the other hand, only records once it hears a “hot word” like OK Google or Hey BooBoo (a little Easter egg for you Google users out there). That is then analyzed and hopefully your device does what you’ve asked. Google is then storing those recordings for now in hopes that once it’s AI has evolved enough it can be unleashed on all these recordings, but for now it sits on server farms in Arizona and Alabama.

If privacy is important to you, and the idea that Papa Bezos is listening to your musings about window coverings bothers you, then go Google. If you just want things to work every time regardless of the privacy you’re giving up, then go Amazon. 

Since it doesn’t really matter if you go Amazon or Google, where should you start? The first step would be getting a smart speaker like the Alexa speaker or the Google Home Speaker. If you are an Android user, you already have Google assistant in your pocket and don’t need a home speaker. There is an Amazon app where you can control your Alexa devices though a mobile device as well. The next step is to see what you’d like connected. Home doorbells, hue lights, and video monitoring are always a great start. Most of these devices are modular and often have a pretty low cost of entry. Remember it’s more about the data for these companies, so these products are usually <$200. Installation is often intuitive and it’s important to these companies and the consumer that these devices can be installed without a contractor or handy person. 

Nest Thermostat

What’s great too is when you’re ready to move, whether you rent or buy, these systems can come with you. Just remember to keep the old hardware.

We are starting to see built in wall/trim sensors and more built-in systems, but this tech geek Realtor would suggest perhaps avoiding those. Some of us remember those built-in intercoms that were all over 60s and 70s homes. It’s not that wall sensors won’t take off, it’s just way too early to embed such a virgin technology into a home. 

So go for it! With a low cost of entry and the fact that most of us already have assistants in our pockets, there’s really no harm to giving these a try, except perhaps to your privacy.

If you are interested in working with someone who understands what to look for in smart home technology for your future home, reach out, I love talking tech!