Summer Bounty

And just like that, we’re mid-July, already half a year gone by. Not sure if it’s my old age, a pandemic haze or simply busy days that has swept the time away, but I’m left reeling from the fact that life keeps moving by. In stepping aside and observing the constant flow, I’m reminded how much we can learn, build and grow each day and how much that can accumulate over time. Planting seeds, nourishing roots and tending to stems along the way can result in untold bounties.

I hope this finds you healthy, hopeful and thriving!

Impressions of Home: Oklahoma to California

When I was a junior in high school (circa 1987), my parents decided it was an opportune time for a move. The oil-dependent economy in Tulsa was suffering and the opportunity to get closer to family in southern California came-a-callin’. So, just like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, we pulled up our bootstraps (err leg-warmers), loaded up the mini-van with plants and animals, and embarked upon an uncertain yet wildly adventurous drive westward.

After kicks and laughs along Route 66, we settled in Rancho Peñasquitos, a suburban community in northeast San Diego. Like any wise and discerning parent, my mom sought out the best school district in the area. My father, who had moved out ahead of us, found a rental home to better acquaint us with the new city. Turns out that no matter how good a school is, an unrealistic work commute or a job change will often outshine any academic standards, and we ended up moving yet again just seven months later. Landing this time in the bustling beach town of Encinitas in North County San Diego, I was able to finish out high school in surfing bliss.

While family moves can be incredibly daunting and disruptive, especially for young children, I like to think our parents were resolute in their decision to build a better life for me and my siblings. As challenging as it was to leave our childhood home (of ten years) and dear friends behind, the opportunity to experience new places and nurture new friendships has helped instill an adaptability and openness that I carry with me to this day. If anything, I look upon our family moves as a widening of our greater circle(s). We still keep in touch with many of those we’ve met along the way and have impressionable memories of every dwelling. All of which helps to inform the people we have become.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Had my parents purchased either of these first two homes back in the late 1980’s, they would have made a killing. Estimated cost to purchase in 1990: $125-150,000.00

11058 Carlota St. San Diego, CA 92129. 4 bd / 2 ba / 1551 sqft. 2021 estimate: $888,300.00.


1553 Avenida De Las Lilas, Encinitas, CA 92024. 4 bd / 2.5 ba / 2175 sqft. 2021 estimate: $1,307,000.00


If you’re looking to avoid a case of the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s and start investing in your future now, I’m ready and willing to walk the walk with you.

Market Update: July 2021

Historically, summer real estate tends to mellow out as people take off for vacations and all-around downtime. 2021 is anything but a typical summer. As we emerge from our pandemic cocoons and the economy begins to churn in full, the real estate market continues to stir. Buyers remain persistent to finally stake ground, and sellers still have sway.

But there are promising signs of some leveling-off from the prolonged imbalance. While inventory is still considerably lower than previous summers, from the graph below we can see a distinct rebound. More homes on the market equates to more options for buyers and more competition for sellers. Experts agree that interest rates will increase in the coming months, which will influence purchasing power. All of which means there may not be a better time to sell than right now. Sellers can be assured that a well-positioned, accurately priced home will sell quickly, on average within 17 days (nationally); there will be qualified buyers willing to compete for your home, an average of five offers (nationally); and new found equity allows for larger or more adequately fitting purchases.



The above graph represents the average and median sale price for all homes sold in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area (courtesy of the RMLS). Clearly prices are still on the rise. Any murmurs of a potential bubble have been curbed, and the desire for a home continues to drive prices upwards.

All said, there simply isn’t enough inventory of available homes to meet the demand of today’s buyers. This has been the case for many years and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Do you agree? Disagree? Reach out to discuss or if you would like to see custom reports that affect your real estate goals.

Summer Lovin’

June is National Homeowners Month, and homeowners have much to celebrate. Not only is real estate one of the best investments you can make in your lifetime, owning your home helps strengthen your connection to neighbors and community. It acts as a private safe haven, and, if managed correctly, can provide personal and financial stability.

Today, 65.6% of Americans own their own homes, and as a result of the most recent real estate boom, owners are now sitting on record amounts of home equity. What can you do with that equity? Some of the best ways to leverage your home equity include: financing large home improvement projects that may help raise the overall value; consolidating or paying off high-interest debts like student loans or credit cards; purchasing long-term investments like vacation property; funding college-bound children, a wedding, or even a new business venture.

It is always a good idea to consult with your lender and/or financial advisor to ensure the best course of action. Tapping your home equity in a proper and constructive manner can be a highly effective way to further build your personal wealth.


Market Update: June 2021

It’s hard to believe but the average sales price of Portland homes just keeps spiraling higher and higher, up an astonishing 18.9% from last June. The insatiable buyer appetite is gobbling up well-positioned inventory whenever it appears, in shorter amounts of time, and often for over the asking price which continues to be terrific news for sellers. With historically low interest rates, it’s actually more affordable to buy a home today than at any time in the past eight years. Rates are still above the record lows we saw at the end of 2020, but they are better than the slight spike in February and March of this year. Buying while mortgage rates are this low many help save you money over the course of your home loan.


Local Getaway: Beavercreek

My wife and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary with a weekend in nearby wine country. Located just 20 miles south of Portland in Beavercreek, we found one gem of an AirBnB on a small family farm and vineyard bordering an old growth forest. We were hosted by a very kind family in a beautiful and thoughtfully designed passive solar home complete with a magical garden, cedar hot tub, in-house massages, home-cooked meals, and of course, some fantastic pinot noir. Anyone looking for a tranquil getaway in a gorgeous setting, let me know and I’ll spill the beans on the listing.

If you’re looking for a little more data, reach out for a custom analysis to support your personal real estate goals. I am always available to help answer any home related questions you may have.

Market Optimism

Do you fancy yourself an electrician? Perhaps a plumber? Certainly a painter? If you are anything like me, you may think that the easiest, quickest and most inexpensive solution to your home improvement needs is you, your trusty hammer and a reliable YouTube tutorial. Over the past year the DIY industry has been in full swing as more homeowners have been tackling their own house projects. From the bathroom to the garage and everywhere in between, the yearning to correct that wonky cabinet door, replace a loose shower tile or build a backyard fence is evident and the solution clearly in your hands. Yet, homeowners have reported spending an average of $184.13 to fix their failed DIY house projects, according to a new survey from Cinch Home Services, a home warranty company.

These are the most common DIY fails, according to the survey:


If you are all right in handing over the hammer to a professional, from roofers and landscapers, to chimney and foundation specialists, I’ve amassed an extensive list of reputable (local) vendors for your every home need. Just say the word and I will happily share a contact, or several. It’s always a good practice to consult more than one vendor for ideas and pricing and never hurts to get a second opinion, aside from that of your loyal pet or significant other.

Market Update: May 2021

The strong sellers market continues to loom large. Interest rates remain at historic lows, multiple offers are the norm on well positioned homes and the average sales price ($557,900 in Portland Metro) is still on the rise. For those considering a home sale, it behooves you to take advantage of exceedingly high buyer demand and before you have any added competition in your neighborhood, with all the competition out there it is best to remain positive. Be patient and try to keep emotional decisions to a minimum – we want you to enjoy your home and your investment for years to come.

There is still a ways to go before we see an abundance of homes on the market but there are some promising signs as of late. As the economy continues to improve (along with those flush with newfound equity and aiming for new horizons), and people get vaccinated and feel more comfortable getting out, more inventory is certain to appear.

Fannie Mae reports consumer positivity regarding home-selling conditions matching an all-time high. And a survey concluded that one-in-ten homeowners plan on selling this year, with 63% of those looking to list in the next six months.

Please feel free to reach out if you’d like a custom home analysis or have any questions.

Local Artist Spotlight: Me!

For the past twenty years, I’ve been designing program logos and communication collateral for corporate events. These were created largely for business meetings and incentive campaigns that took savvy travelers to destinations around the globe. Sadly, these elaborate events came to a screeching halt at the onset of the pandemic. As a result, hundreds of thousands of livelihoods have been upturned, including my own; it will be some time before they return in full.

In the spirit of Beeple, the digital artist who recently created and sold the most expensive piece of NFT (non-fungible token) art, I’ve compiled dozens of my own creations, favorite logos from over the years. From Bora Bora to Prague, Japan to South Africa, my aim was to capture the essence of these dreamy locations within a single brand. And now for your armchair-travel-viewing pleasure. If you’ve been looking to jump into the crypto-currency arena and are in the market for an NFT, perhaps I can put my screen-savvy sons to task in getting this onto the EPH blockchain.

I understand most of you are relatively settled in your current homes. But if your friends, family members, neighbors and work colleagues have expressed any interest in seeking greener pastures, your referrals would mean the world to me.

Spring Currents

In surfing, a “hold-down” is a term for when you’re caught in a succession of breaking waves. Three, four, sometimes more waves breaking over you with little room to outmaneuver, much less take a breath. While the glistening surf may be tempting, the cost of admission can sometimes be heavy. Yet the rewards for braving the elements can be life changing.

The relentless real estate market is having a similar effect on many. Rising home prices, low interest rates and the yearning for home have created a whirlpool of anxious buyers. Nominal inventory is being met with multiple offers, cut-throat offer strategies, and over-asking sales prices, making the waters challenging to navigate. Buyers are being led to expect the multiple wave – or in this case – the multiple offer hold-down.

Yet the current swell can’t last forever. As the economy continues to improve, so too will consumer confidence. With pent-up savings and record amounts of equity, the temptation to list current homes in order to purchase larger or more attractive homes increases. It is hoped this will release new inventory, and perhaps even to catch a breath.


Market Update: March 2021

If you are itching to test the proverbial waters and need some feedback and guidance, I’ve got the surf mobile gassed-up and ready! Average sales prices, total market time and shortage of inventory continue to amaze. In comparing 2021 to 2020 through the month of March, the average sale price in the Portland metro area increased 16.6%, from $461,600 to $538,200. Inventory in months (active listings at the end of the month divided by the number of closed sales for that month) decreased to 0.8 months. And total market time (active days on market) decreased from 61 days to 37. In other words, the limited inventory is being swallowed up in less time and for ever-increasing amounts.

Low interest rates, i.e. purchasing power, continue to drive many to the market. But as rates begin to rise, price appreciation should begin to cool, somewhat. Still, it’s good to keep in mind that relative to a year ago, mortgage rates remain at historic lows which is helping to keep housing relatively affordable.


Impressions of Home

When I was seven, my family moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Tulsa, Oklahoma. My father got a job as an art director at an advertising agency so we packed up and braved new territory. We rented a townhome for about a year while my parents purchased a vacant lot, designed and built a custom home. As kids, my sisters and I were thrilled with having our own rooms, but were clueless as to what such a process involves. My father added a typographical address mural on the garage door, hand-built the mail box and designed a moving announcement (photos below). Lots of love and creativity that went into the home.

Years later, we added an indoor swimming pool. What sold my parents on the pool project, aside from the obvious (!), was the purported offset of utilities with a south-facing passive solar “insulator” of space, meaning the room would insulate the home with warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer. I’m sure the water bills negated any savings, but it sure was awesome!

Tragically, after we sold the home in 1987, the entire house burnt to the ground due to an unattended wood-burning stove. What’s left to this day is the same empty lot that my parents started with.

Tulsa, Oklahoma • Gilcrease Hills • 4 bed 2 bath 2250 sq ft.
Empty lot and custom home bought, designed and built for $70,000 in 1978.
Lot only currently valued at $106,000.

Seasonal Real Estate

Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Tulsa, Oklahoma, I developed an affinity for the seasons. Delightfully, here in Portland, we get a wonderful taste of all four seasons, from the *generous* rainy season to some gorgeous spring days, a handful of summer scorchers and even some blustery snow days. The variety is as welcomed as it is vital, to my mental state anyway. Even the recent ice storm was something to behold. While entertaining in its drama, it was certainly disconcerting for many of us. And yet another reminder of how dear it is …our place called home.

As with the weather, the real estate market typically follows a seasonal pattern. With COVID dramatically altering that pattern in the spring of 2020, and confidence now growing with the rollout of vaccines, we suspect that inventory will start to increase as people feel more confident to sell. Sales in 2021 may not follow traditional seasonal patterns and hopefully, buyer demand and consumer confidence will remain aloft.

Even during the financial crisis of 2008 there was still demand for properties that had the right look, the right price, and were in the right location. In 2021, sellers should follow similar behavior, fixing up their property and pricing appropriately to attract the widest range of buyers. Buyers should be prepared to move quickly, possibly use pre-emptive offers (which are becoming more common), and keep an open mind when looking for their home: all purchases require some compromise (yes, even for multi-million dollar properties), so you might need a little more creativity and patience to take a diamond in the rough and make it yours.

Reach out if you want to know how to best prepare for 2021.

Market Update: January 2021

What a year already. Median home prices in the Portland Metro area reached a new high: $460,000, an eye-opening 13.3% increase over the previous year. Homes sold an average of 11.2% over list price in January, in an average of 44 days on market.

There are a large number of sellers getting ready to list sooner than the typical spring selling market, so buyers should be ready to move quickly, and sellers should be ready for a higher level of competition.

Mortgage Update

Interest rates remain at near record lows, with purchase rates in the mid to upper 2’s and refinance rates only marginally higher.  We are seeing day to day volatility the past few weeks resulting in a slight upward trend in rates.  Among economists there is much disagreement, with President Biden’s proposed $1.9 Trillion Relief Plan of greatest concern. The concern is that this plan may overheat the economy, leading to a stock market bubble and increased inflation, this in turn would cause mortgage interest rates to rise.  The general consensus for 2021 is that we will see more rates in the 3’s and less in the 2’s, which is still low enough to continue to support the strong demand for housing.

For now, rates are at record lows and it’s still a great time to refinance or get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you have any questions, please contact Martin Matsumura at Academy Mortgage via or 503.536.9385.


Unlocking Trapped Equity

Did you know that your home can be an excellent source of funds? Tapping your home equity can be a low-cost way to borrow large sums at favorable interest rates in order to pay for home projects or debt consolidation. Home equity debt is not a good way to fund recreational expenses or routine monthly bills.

You’ll want to choose wisely how you utilize these funds, but given the incredibly low interest rates, now would be a perfect time to consider this option. Here are some of the most common ways to access the equity in your home: a Second Mortgage or Home Equity Loan, a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), and a Cash-Out Refinance. Here’s a link to the differences between these options. The best option for you will depend on your financial situation and future plans.   

The smartest strategy for accessing your home equity really depends on what you want to do with the money. Some examples are: lump-sum expenses or debt consolidation; home improvements or starting a business; pay-off high interest loans or credit cards. These options can be extremely helpful for anyone saddled with unexpected financial challenges. Home equity debt can also be a good way to invest in the future. The key is to make sure that you are borrowing at the lowest possible interest rate. Rates are now at historic lows.  

A Cash-Out Refinance was a personal option for my wife and myself. As interest rates started to decline, we opted to refinance our first home, which we still own. We were able to pay off some credit card debt, and more importantly, we were able to use some as a down payment toward the purchase of a second home.  

If you’d like to learn more about what your current home value is and how to make it work for you, I’d love to be a resource for information or to connect you with a mortgage advisor to help you unlock some of the equity in your home.

Impressions of Home

Perhaps some of my fondest childhood memories are from our family home in La Cienega, a rural community just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The home itself was a traditional adobe with a maze-like floor plan, flag-stone floors, creative built-ins and seven fireplaces! None of the fireplaces had dampers (= bad energy score!) and there was a cracked viga (traditional wooden beam) that worried us all … gotta tend to those home repairs! But what captured me most was the surrounding 2.5 acres and beyond. Running alongside the home was an irrigation canal filled with pollywogs and wild spearmint. Next to the canal an enormous cottonwood tree and treehouse with a perilous entry over a cliff. We had endless dirt hills for forts and Big Wheels and a creek where we’d build dams and go fishing. It was a truly magical place to grow up.

La Cienega, New Mexico • 3 bed 2 bath 7 fireplaces 3658 sq. ft. 2.5 acres.
This house was purchased for $43,500 in 1975. Now valued at $471,000.
The purported interest rate back then was near 9%.

My father once arranged for my sister and I to play Zoolander and model some clothes for a Japanese children’s fashion magazine called SESAME. The photographers chose our home as a backdrop for many of the photos. Below you can see the sketchy treehouse above the cliff and irrigation canal and an old claw-foot bathtub my parents eventually installed in another home. I don’t recall receiving any dough or threads for my hard work, and I can guarantee you I haven’t dressed this well since. Just glad they captured my happy mug!


Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about what your home equity can do for you.

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!

Busting the Myths About Winter Home Sales

There was a time (okay fine, until a few weeks ago) when I thought that narwhals were fictional creatures. As a busy mom, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I stumbled into a garage sale and found a basically brand new baby Halloween costume for my son. It was perfect, warm, and sized just right. Done deal. My son will be a narwhal for Halloween. 

It wasn’t until I started telling friends that he will be “ya know, one of those pretend unicorn whales,” that I realized I know nothing about narwhals and was stunned when I googled that narwhals are not only real, but apparently it’s a very common misconception that narwhals are fictional! 

You know what else is a total misconception? The idea that you must wait until spring to sell your home. Baffled? Trust me, I know how you feel and you are going to be okay…read on.


When more homes are on the market in the springtime, it means buyers may get to be choosier. In turn, fewer homes for buyers to choose from in the winter plays in your favor.


Decorating a house for the holidays can be an incredibly cost-effective way to improve curb appeal and home staging. It can also instigate daydreams about being settled into a new home in time to host holiday get togethers.

Buyers are also understanding that winter holidays may mean they need to be a bit flexible on when they can view your home. Not to mention that if you head out of town for the holidays, your agent can be trusted to keep showing your house in your absence.


Winter buyers are serious. 

Portland gets chilly in the winter, so buyers who are out on the hunt are motivated about purchasing a home. 

Winter home buyers may also be motivated to capture the tax benefits of buying a home before the year-end. If you are selling your home to buy another, these tax breaks apply to you too! Think: mortgage interest, private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums and real estate taxes. Check with your local tax expert to learn more. 

January is also known as one of the most popular months for corporate transfers. Buyers who transfer for work are on a set timeframe and motivated to find their home quickly.

Closing Thoughts

Yes, homes in the spring are on the market for fewer days and have more curb appeal. reports the median days on the market for houses that sold last February was 83 days, while May saw a median of just 55 days on market (both with a decrease in days compared to the same time periods in 2017).

However, if you do decide to list your home this winter, it’s important that you keep your driveway clear, keep outside porch lights on, and take care of any roofing issues or potential leaks asap (nothing freaks a buyer out more than walking up to a house with ice dams). 

Let some light in by keeping blinds and curtains open and keep it warm inside. Highlight rooms and features that make potential buyers wanna hang out. A lil’ festive wreath on the door and comfortable-looking blanket on the couch never hurt anybody either. Crank up the cozy!

And with that, I will leave you with a narwhal fact. The prominent horn is actually an ivory tooth that grows into a swordlike, spiral tusk up to 8.8 feet long. 

Consider yourself mythbusted.

A Mississippi Charmer You Don’t Want to Miss!

With the charm of a 105-year old house, but with the all the right upgrades – roof, furnace and sewer all just a few years old – this home will impress the most discerning buyer. Sure, you can still put some finishing touches on the kitchen and the yard, but once that is done, you’ll have a house that checks all the boxes: A+ curb appeal, incredible location, full-width front porch, dental molding, original woodwork, 4 bedrooms + loft spaces, 2 bathrooms, partially finished basement, large yard, deep driveway and detached garage. And charm, did I mention the charm?

To learn more about this home, click here or call me at (503) 593-3326. I’m happy to show you this beauty!

Calle Holmgren

Finding Love on Love Street

It has been said that one has to “kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince”. In this case, the frogs my client Keith kissed were homes in Woodstock, and the prince he finally found was the home at 4026 SE Liebe Street.

Having initially lost Liebe Street, meaning “Love Street” in German, during a bidding war, she came back to Keith when the first buyer decided they were not a good match.
Keith, having patiently waited for his turn, embraced her with open arms. Between the huge, light-filled living room with views of downtown, the retro kitchen, the office space and the basement perfect for Keith’s pottery, it truly was a match made in heaven!

Congratulations on your purchase Keith, and thank you for entrusting me with your investment!

Calle Holmgren

Understanding Radon


 The map areas correspond to zip codes. Click on each for a summary of information about radon in the area. The map areas correspond to zip codes. Click on each for a summary of information about radon in the area.

Radon is dangerous. I think just about everyone knows that. But how dangerous is it? That’s where things start to get a little fuzzy. A friend and colleague recently endured a few months of radon poisoning with almost deadly results. This can happen to anyone that lives in a home with exposure risk. It’s important to understand this deadly gas, why you should be aware of it, and how to mitigate the risk to you and your family.

The State of Oregon publishes an interactive map of indoor radon risk levels that was recently updated. This is a useful tool, but be aware that no matter the risk level in your area, you can still encounter a radon problem.


You can’t smell it, see it, or taste it. It’s literally radioactive. It is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. But what in the world is this stuff and why does it want to kill us? Let’s go into geek-speak for just a second.

 Not the best illustration, but it Not the best illustration, but it’s colorful!

Radon is a colorless, chemically-unreactive, inert gas discovered in 1899 partly by Ernest Rutherford and in 1900 partly by Friedrich Ernst Dorn. It is 9 times denser than air, which is an important factoid to remember. It easily penetrates almost any material in a building, including sheetrock, concrete block, wood paneling, and most insulations.

Radon is naturally occurring in the ground and is the result of the breakdown of uranium present in soil, rock, and water. It occurs in several isotopic forms, of which radon-222 occurs most frequently. When this gas is released into the environment, it results in the formation of decay products that are radioisotopes (a chemical element that has an unstable nucleus and emits radiation during its decay to a stable form) of heavy metals (polonium, lead, and bismuth). These decay products can easily be inhaled because they rapidly attach to other airborne materials (like dust). It also may be ingested if it is highly concentrated in groundwater (well water), but the inhalation of radon is of higher concern.


Respiratory problems are the most common signs of radon-related distress. These problems can include: a persistent cough that doesn’t get better, difficulty breathing, chest pains, the coughing up of blood, wheezing, hoarseness and recurring respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Radon exposure can lead to lung cancer.

A lesser known symptom of radon exposure is neurologic issues. Anxiety, memory loss, and depression could be a sign of radon exposure. However, brain health and function issues have many, many other possible causes, so this is not a symptom often mentioned.

Serious effects from high radon levels are cumulative over a long period of time. It’s important to periodically test for radon, but the presence of high radon levels in your home or a home you are thinking about buying is not a reason to panic.


Radon is found in every state in the country. If you take a look at the map and find that you are in an area that is considered low-risk, you still may encounter a radon problem. It often enters the home through cracks in floors, cracks in walls, gaps around service pipes, joints between floor and walls, gaps around drains/pipes, etc. You may have no problem at all with radon while your immediate neighbor is dealing with extremely high radon levels.


 Okay, so this vat is 100% more like the stuff the Joker falls into than it is like radon, but I Okay, so this vat is 100% more like the stuff the Joker falls into than it is like radon, but I’m running out of visuals, here.

Short term, long term, and continuous tests are available for radon. Tests should be conducted in the lowest livable area of your home (remember how radon is denser than air?). If you are considering selling your home, I highly recommend conducting a short term radon test before listing the home on the market. It doesn’t cost much and is very much worth knowing the results before you’re in the middle of a transaction!

Most people start with a short term test to determine whether or not further testing is necessary. The test takes between 2-7 days and are then mailed to a lab to determine the results. These are available at most home improvement stores and online.

Long term tests measure radon levels between 90 days and a year. They are more accurate than short term tests because radon levels can vary significantly from day to day and month to month. These tests are usually available through state agencies and online retailers.

Continuous radon testing devices plug into an outlet and can be used for both short and long term testing. They will give you a running average radon level. These are available from online retailers such as Amazon.

Home buyers: It’s important to note that if you purchase a home in summer and conduct a radon test, you should conduct another test in winter when radon levels are more likely to be an issue.


One out of every 15 homes in the U.S. have radon levels that should be lowered. Fortunately, reliable techniques exist to reduce radon levels in homes so that almost any home with high radon levels can be fixed. If you have a radon problem, you can hire an experienced radon contractor or accomplish the repairs yourself.

The EPA recommends doing a second test if an initial short-term test registers 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. A long term test is ideal, but you can perform a second short term test if you need results quickly. If the second test results in levels higher than 4 pCi/L, consider taking action to mitigate radon levels in the home.


 Ventilation = good Ventilation = good

It does take more than just sealing cracks in the foundation to mitigate radon risk and/or exposure. Active soil depressurization or fan and exhaust systems have proven to be cost-effective and reliable.

Radon that escapes out into the air is not a problem as it quickly becomes diluted. Therefore, ventilation is key. Ventilation can be increased through opening doors, windows, and vents. Many people like to block their crawlspace vents in winter and/or install additional insulation in their crawlspace. Blocking crawlspace vents provides very minimal energy savings so unplugging these vents and possibly moving some insulation around may be all it takes to mitigate a mild to moderate radon problem. A heat recovery ventilator (air-to-air heat exchanger) can also be installed to increase ventilation.

All information above is provided for educational purposes. It is always recommended to consult a radon professional if you have any concerns about radon in your home.

Brandi Whitaker

Oregon Tenant Protection Bill

This seems to be a subject much talked about amongst real estate agents, property managers, landlords, tenants, and homeowners (i.e. everyone). Yet, if you Google “Oregon tenant protection bill” or “Portland tenant rights bill”, all you’ll get is a few cut and dry articles from the Oregonian and other local news blogs and not much else. Most of what you’ll see will be about other legislation that has already passed.

What are we afraid to talk about? I’m a Portland area real estate agent and I eat complicated, controversial topics for breakfast. Okay, no, I usually eat eggs for breakfast. Sometimes cereal. Occasionally a snack bar…

But that’s beside the point. Let’s boldly go where few have gone before.

The original version of this article can be found here.

 Boldly blogging where no one has blogged before. Boldly blogging where no one has blogged before.

The housing shortage is driving legislation.

People are passionate about this subject because Portland is in a housing shortage. We need approximately 24,000 units to meet demand (read my blog about all the people moving here). Barring economic catastrophe, a housing shortage will always cause home values to rise and rents to increase. This places undo pressure on tenants and home buyers, while current homeowners get to watch their net worth rise and landlords have the opportunity to raise rents.

The only real solution to a housing shortage is to build more housing but of course we only have so much space available. But, hey, we’re Portlanders, and if we can find a weird way to help solve this problem, by golly, we’re gonna leap down that rabbit hole.

Multnomah County and Enhabit (no relation to Inhabit) are launching a pilot project called “A Place For You”. It aims to build ADUs (accessory dwelling units or “tiny homes”) in Portland resident’s backyards. These will be used to house homeless families rent-free for 5 years in exchange for a tax abatement to the property owner. After 5 years, the homeowner gets to keep the ADU to be used as they see fit. The pilot project is starting with just 4 units but over a 1,000 homeowners have expressed interest.

It almost sounds like an episode of Portlandia.

 It It’s okay if you don’t know what this is. What am I saying? No, it’s not okay. It will never be okay. Things will never be the same again!

This is an interesting idea but creativity isn’t going to get us very far in the short term (and that doesn’t get politicians re-elected). The housing shortage is enough of a hot topic that politicians such as Ted Wheeler and Tina Kotek have thrown their weight toward repealing the statewide ban on rent control (although last year Ted Wheeler said he supported this for the state but not in Portland, where he would adopt other measures first, he seems to have now changed his position). In the election last year, Chloe Eudaly upset incumbent Commissioner Steve Novick despite having no political experience. Her grassroots campaign for the Portland City Council was focused entirely on tenants rights.

Now that we’re firmly into 2017 it means that politicians are putting their legislation where their mouth is.

In Portland, new rental ordinance is already in place.

Before we talk about the infamous House Bill 2004, let’s quickly take a look at the tenant protection ordinance that took effect back in February this year. This was an emergency ordinance brought forward by Chloe Eudaly and Ted Wheeler that was passed unanimously by the Portland City Council. It requires landlords to pay moving costs for tenants that are evicted without cause or for tenants that must move because rents have been increased by more than 10 percent in a 12 month period. The one exemption is for landlords that have only one rental unit. Moving costs paid by the landlord range from $2900 to $4500 depending on number of bedrooms.

Attorneys are already dueling in court over the legality of this ordinance but for now it stands.

 Not that kind of duel. Although court cases might be more interesting this way.  Not that kind of duel. Although court cases might be more interesting this way.

This brings us to the Tenant Protection Bill (HB 2004) that was recently passed (31 in favor – 27 opposed) by the Oregon House of Representatives and has now moved along to the state Senate for review. There are a lot of nuances to this bill and several compromises were made to get it this far. Remember, this is NOT law yet.

Here’s a few salient points of the pending bill.

  1. After 6 months, no-cause eviction of tenants renting month-to-month are banned (before 6 months no-cause eviction of tenants renting month-to-month are allowed with 30 days written notice).
  2. After 6 months, evictions are allowed for month-to-month (30 days after the effective date of this legislation) and fixed term tenants (immediately after the effective date) with 90 days written notice for specified reasons, such as renovations, repairs, when the property is scheduled to be demolished, or for the sale of the property. Landlords must pay one months rent to cover relocation expenses in this case. (However, if the reason is repairs/renovations, the landlord must offer a new rental agreement back to the evicted tenant before other potential tenants.)
  3. After 6 months, evictions are allowed for month-to-month and fixed term tenants with 30 days written notice for cause. (Examples of cause: non-payment of rent, violation of drug or alcohol program, pet violation, substantial damage, etc. There are additional provisions that govern “cause” and timelines that a landlord should be fully aware of.)
  4. If the landlord terminates the tenancy in violation of the provisions, the landlord would be required to pay 3 months of rent to the tenant in addition to potential damages. This applies to both month-to-month (30 days after the effective date) and fixed tenancies (immediately after the effective date).
  5. Exceptions to the above exist for landlords that own four or fewer rental units or for landlords that live on the property and own two or fewer rental units.
  6. The bill also allows cities and counties to adopt their own rent control program which effectively abolishes the statewide ban on rent control.
  7. An exemption to rent control is provided for any new residential development for a period of 5 years from the date of issuance of the first certificate of occupancy.
  8. If a city or county passes a rent “stabilization” program, it must provide landlords with a fair rate of return and a process for the the landlord to petition for permission to increase rent in excess of the amount allowed in the program when needed to achieve a fair rate of return.

 The rubics cube of government. Nuff said. The rubics cube of government. Nuff said.

A few of the compromises that allowed this bill to pass include the exemption for landlords that own 4 or fewer units, reducing mandatory relocation assistance down to one month (originally the bill called for three months even when the eviction is for an allowed reason), and the 5 year exemption for new residential developments.

What does this mean?

So, does this bill seem sensible? Why would anyone object to it? Why was it passed on such a slim margin and why is the battle for it in the senate expected to be difficult?

I think the biggest concern is with point 6 – 8. Rent control is only fiercely debated when you don’t talk to economists. Meaning, economists largely have a consensus of opinion that rent control results in a reduced supply of property to the market (which of course drives rents and home prices even higher).

Wait a second, reduces the supply? Didn’t I just say earlier that this problem is a result of a housing shortage?

Based on historical data, most economists viewpoints, and studies that have been conducted on rent control, enacting rent control (or “stabilization”) causes housing shortages to become worse than if no controlling measures were put into place. I don’t like it when legislatures pass bills with provisions that aren’t supported by the data. (Read this article and this one and this one to gain some perspective on what economists think about rent control)

I don’t think the 5 year exemption for new construction or vague “fair rate of return” language is enough to curb the negative side effects of rent control but politicians only have so many tools in their belt when in comes to housing. Those tools tend to be very blunt instruments. Even though a screwdriver might be needed, we’re instead getting a hammer. Or maybe a mallet. Or maybe even a sledgehammer. Except I don’t think Peter Gabriel is the solution here.

 This analogy is too good for a caption. This analogy is too good for a caption.

The merits of points 1 through 5 above really come down to your point of view. I won’t delve into those here other than to say that I see both the positive and negative ramifications to being this restrictive about evictions but I’m open minded about the ideas.

HB 2004 hasn’t passed the senate yet (it was just referred to the Human Services committee). I’ll be following along to see if it passes and is signed by the governor, or if it dies, or if it becomes reborn as something more palatable. This is an interesting time for anyone that is a landlord or tenant!

Do you own a rental property? If so, what are your plans? If this bill passes, much of the legislation will go into effect either immediately or within 30 days. I’m a Portland area realtor and can assist you in deciding what course of action makes sense for your investment. Contact me if you have questions.

Brandi Whitaker

Moving to Portland

Portland is a place known for lush greenery and verdant parks, eco-friendly residents, and a myriad of coffee shops, craft breweries, and eclectic eateries. If you’ve ever had the chance to play tourist here, you’re likely already aware of a few of things that make this city great – proximity to Oregon’s beautiful beaches and mountains, ample opportunities for kayaking, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation, and our thriving arts and music scene. Not to mention there are lots of fun landmarks and attractions to explore, like the Oregon Zoo, the Japanese Garden, the nearby Columbia Gorge, and Washington Park, just to name a few. By vacationer’s standards, this is a great city to visit, but what’s it like to live here?

If you’re contemplating a move to the lovely City of Roses, you’re probably curious to know a bit more about the city than just the travel guide highlights. To give you an inside look at the real nitty-gritty details of what it’s like to live here, our friends at Great Guys Moving Company, in conjunction with Moonraker Marketing, have put together a useful infographic. In this “Moving to Portland” guide, you’ll find helpful information on everything from the most walkable neighborhoods to the climate to the cost of living here.


What are the big takeaways? Portland, the 29th largest city in the country, is a very manageable size. With fewer people and more land mass than other West Coast cities, Portland is also one of the most affordable. While almost everything is more expensive here (except the cost of energy) than compared to the national average, it’s still a lot cheaper than living in Los Angeles or San Francisco. For instance, the average cost of a home in San Francisco is more than double the average home price in Portland. It’s also a great place to live for those looking for a reprieve from California’s insanely high taxes. Though the Oregon income tax, at 9%, is one of the highest in the country, it’s offset by the fact that there is zero sales tax. Portland is also a great place for job-seekers, with unemployment at .6% below the national level and ample career opportunities in everything from farming and fishing to sales and construction. When it comes to weather, Portland is a tad rainier and sees fewer sunny days than the rest of the U.S., but it also has an overall milder climate.

I can help

Whether you’re moving here for a new job or just a change of pace, you’ll find that Portland is a great place to call home. As you plan your move and start the search for a place to live, keep me in mind. Whether it’s a contemporary condo in walkable downtown Portland or a craftsman bungalow in Laurelhurst, I can help you find the perfect property to call home!

-Calle Holmgren

Online Real Estate Scams

Hold onto your money, folks, and verify, verify, verify.

 Online scams nowadays often have more to do with social engineering than serious hacking. But protecting your data is very important, too. Online scams nowadays often have more to do with social engineering than serious hacking. But protecting your data is very important, too.

So this is a super exciting topic, right? I’ve attended enough classes on information security to know how quickly people tune out (about 47.8 seconds). We’re all vulnerable, though, so let’s keep on top of this crazy world.


How it works
This one has been around for a couple of years and there are several different variations. However, the end result to a client during a real estate transaction is virtually the same. You receive an email from what looks to be your title company or realtor (it may have come from a hacked email address or be a “spoofed” email address). It includes wire instructions related to the house that you are purchasing. You go ahead and wire the amount to the account details shown because why wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, that account you just sent your money to was actually an account that the scammer had access to.

 Don Don’t let go of your control! (haha, see what I did there)

Scammer = $, You = 🙁

How to avoid the scam
Always, and I mean always, verify wire instructions via a phone call to someone you trust (the title company if you are familiar with the agent, your realtor, or your loan officer). Don’t use any contact information contained in the email with the wire instructions.

Fictitious Property Scam

This one mostly impacts people that live out of state looking to purchase or rent a property but there are local variations, too. It is especially prevalent in hot markets. I could see this really starting to impact Portland. Take a look at my blog about all the people moving here.

How it works
Scam artists copy photos of previously listed homes and create a fake property profile. They post to websites that allow for basic, unverified user accounts such as FSBO (for sale by owner) websites. Prospective buyers/renters call the information listed and, depending on the variation of the scam, may go so far as to make an offer to purchase/rent the home.

In the case of properties for sale, the interested buyer moves forward in wiring funds or mailing a cashier’s check for earnest money (an amount often sent with an offer to purchase to prove how “earnest” the buyer is in their desire to buy the home). After funds are sent, the online property profile vanishes. In the case of rentals, the scam artist asks for an upfront “application fee” which promptly disappears along with the online listing. This scam can also happen on popular websites like Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist. These sites aggressively crack down on scam accounts but there will always be some that slip through.

 For sale online in southeast Portland for 0,000. Just take my money, already. For sale online in southeast Portland for $450,000. Just take my money, already.

How to avoid the scam
For home buyers, always work with a buyers agent. Attempting to buy a home without representation, especially when you live out of state, can lead to a whole host of problems (we’ll save that for a future blog). Of course, I’m completely biased in this opinion because I’m a realtor but when it comes to the buyer side of things, there’s very little to lose by having someone represent you.

Other things you can do if you’re a renter or you just don’t want to hang out with your friendly neighborhood realtor:

  1. Check the tax records. Most places have some type of online public access to check this (locally that would be PortlandMaps) but if not, lookup the local Tax Assessor’s office and give them a call. If the name on the tax record doesn’t match the property profile, slowly back away before turning around and running. Figuratively speaking, of course. Don’t, like, leave your computer behind in a public place.
  2. Ask for the property address then look it up on your favorite maps program then check the street view. Does it match the picture? No? Methinks I smell a rat.
  3. Contact a local realtor and ask them about it. I am sure that any who respond will be happy to help you find information about the house even though they don’t represent you. Who knows why. I guess realtors are just super friendly that way. Then, if they seem like smart people that you could hang wallpaper with for an hour or two, maybe consider interviewing them…?
  4. Check for odd grammatical and spelling errors along with weird turns of phrase. Evildoers are getting better at this but are rarely perfect. Also, if the listing details clearly don’t match what the pictures of the place look like or the price is entirely too good to be true, it is very likely a scam.

 You knew this post had to include a picture of the ubiquitous hoodie-wearing hacker, right? You knew this post had to include a picture of the ubiquitous hoodie-wearing hacker, right?

So there you are. These scams will now be successfully avoided by everyone I know. But, I feel like there’s more to say about protecting yourself online that goes beyond real estate. Since this post has been relatively short for me, why not keep going? Just a disclaimer: no matter what you do, there is never a way to be completely protected.

Having made that cheery statement, here’s just a few pieces of advice for greatly reducing your online vulnerability that I find myself frequently dispensing and are just as frequently ignored:

  1. Keep ALL of your devices up to date which means update everything as soon as a new release comes out. That means Apple users, too (the days of thinking that Apple products aren’t vulnerable are over). No, do not wait a week or two to see if you like the feel of the update. Vulnerability patches are entirely too important to wait.
  2. Use a random password generator for everything. Store them in a password keeper (check out LastPass and Dashlane). Make sure that the password you use to access the password keeper is really good (like a passphrase). Yes, there are some downsides to using a password keeper and there’s always debate about the safety of keeping all your passwords in one place. However, the alternative most people use is having one, maybe two, passwords for EVERYTHING. To me this is a lot riskier than relying on a very successful company to maintain sophisticated software that protects your data.
  3. If you do not want to use a password keeper then make sure not to use the same password for everything. Please use a different password for all of your financial accounts. At least in this manner, if one of your non-financial passwords gets cracked, they can’t use it to drain your accounts. Make your financial passwords as difficult as possible (which means more complex than a word followed by a digit or two.) If you find yourself copying your passwords onto Notepad or Word then it’s time for a password keeper.
  4. Do not click links in emails unless they are from a trusted source, no matter how interesting they look. Also, be careful of “attachments”. A recent scam involves taking a screen capture of a PDF or other attached document and inserting it into the email. This way it looks like a legitimate document to download but is actually a link to a site that will install malware on your computer.

Brandi Whitaker

The Case of the Rapidly Increasing Oregon Population


 “Nancy Drew and the Jewel Stealing Sasquatch That Moved to Oregon”

If this were The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew (I devoured those books as a kid) then I would start this case by hunting for clues. There would inevitably be some type of jewels, paintings, or other objects involved and I would almost certainly get to travel to interesting locations. At some point I would get to ride in a spectacular car, motorcycle, boat, plane, or other oddball method of transport like a Sasquatch or something. In the end, my master sleuthing would uncover the mystery, plus some unexpected twist no one was expecting (or maybe I’m thinking of Scooby Doo).

Figuring out why Oregon is one of the top moving destinations in the United States takes a super sleuth. Some reasons are obvious. People from more expensive areas, like much of California, enjoy moving to Portland because they have a lot more buying power. Their jobs also tend to transfer well to our market. Many companies are opening PDX satellite offices and have found that their employees are jumping at the chance to move up here (I’m looking at you, Google).

There is no denying that you can afford more house in Portland than you can in the heavily populated areas of California. The median home price in San Francisco is north of 1.3M. I’ve seen headhunter after headhunter try to recruit many of my engineer friends to move down there (unsuccessfully). The running “joke” is that a down payment in Silicon Valley could buy you an entire house in most of the rest of the United States.

 This is California. If it were Oregon these people would be wearing Smartwool long johns, Pendleton sweaters, Columbia jackets, and Patagonia puffer coats. And they This is California. If it were Oregon these people would be wearing Smartwool long johns, Pendleton sweaters, Columbia jackets, and Patagonia puffer coats. And they’d still be huddled a lot closer together for warmth.

But, as much as Oregonians love to blame all problems (especially traffic) on Californians and people living in Vancouver, there is a deeper story here.

California’s net gain/loss is actually pretty close to zero (about the same amount of people move in as move out). Oregon, on the other hand, stands at about a 67% gain vs 33% loss rate. It seems that word has traveled far and wide. People from Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, and others are all finding their way to the Pacific Northwest (Seattle is getting them, too).

However, one of the biggest sources of transplants is New York and other northeast states. New York itself is one of the most moved from states at a 63% loss vs 37% gain rate. It’s easy to see why this would happen. All the reasons Californians love to move here make sense for New Yorkers. And unlike Southern Californians, East Coasters aren’t trading year-round mild weather for the privilege of growing webbing between their toes.

 Pro tip(s) for migrators: Only wimps carry umbrellas in Oregon. Never buy a piece of outerwear without a hoodie. Beards are not optional. Pro tip(s) for migrators: Only wimps carry umbrellas in Oregon. Never buy a piece of outerwear without a hoodie. Beards are not optional.

Although, they’ll still have to grow webbing between their toes.

They’re also going to have to deal with an ongoing housing crisis. But that’s another story.

Even though the majority of people move to Oregon for a job (52.75%), there are other reasons. The next most cited response is retirement (19.90%) and people over the age of 65 are actually the largest age group moving to Oregon (24.35%). Although it’s fairly even across the board.

Oregon doesn’t seem like the most likely place to retire but when you factor in Bend, Sisters, Ashland, and the entirety of the coast, it does make sense. Not to mention the fact that we have some kickin’ retirement communities around the Portland metro area.

Family and Lifestyle round out the other major reasons people move to Oregon. Family will always be a good reason to move but not every state offers quite the same lifestyle as Oregon. Whether you want to start a tech company, keep it weird, or follow your outdoor adventure dreams, we’ve got it all.

Weather wasn’t a survey option but I’m sure if it had been, that would have been the top response, right? Or the prevalence of bicycle lanes. That would have been way up there.

 This isn This isn’t a bicycle race. It’s just Portlanders on their normal morning commute.

So, we have a pretty good idea now of why so many people are moving here. The next question would be: Is this a good thing?

I would have to say, “YES!” Many of the people moving here are accepting jobs that sorely need to be filled. Because companies are beginning to realize that Oregon is more than just the end destination of their favorite 80’s computer game, the job market is booming. We’ve been setting records for job growth and we need talent, stat.

Of course, we also need available housing, stat. But, that’s still another story.

Full disclosure: I am not a native Oregonian. I moved here in 2001 from my home state of Georgia. I have an enormous soft spot for anyone from the eastern seaboard because I worked sales for years to New York and the surrounding states. For some reason, my straight-forward, analytical, “get ‘er done” personality jives well with New Yorkers. I sometimes miss traveling back there and being able to visit 6 states in a day (although I don’t miss the tolls).

So if you’re looking to transplant yourself to the Portland area, look me up. We’ll see all kinds of interesting locations, maybe weather a few twists, and eventually uncover a jewel of a home. But no Sasquatches. I promise.

Brandi Whitaker

Portland Zoning Changes


 The joy of understanding zoning. The joy of understanding zoning.

Depending on whether or not you’ve received snail mail concerning zoning changes, and depending on whether or not you read the fine print, your Portland home may undergo a change of zoning next year. This leads to a lot of questions and one very important piece of advice:

  1. Why is the zoning changing?
  2. When does the new zoning take effect and who does it impact?
  3. Where can I go for more information?
  4. Can I stop the change or change my current zoning?
  5. How does zoning work?
  6. What does this mean for home buyers and sellers?
  7. Most Important Advice Ever

1. Why is the zoning changing?
For the past ~8 years the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) has been working on a new Comprehensive Plan for the City of Portland. This is a long range (20 year) planning tool that sets the framework for physical development in the city. Most of the legislative work is done but there are always additional projects in the works that you can comment on and provide testimony for (such as Central City 2035).

2. When does the new zoning take effect and who does it impact?
Approximately 24,000 homes will be affected by the zoning changes (including yours truly!). These changes are going to be effective on January 1st, 2018. However, there is the possibility that it could go into effect later than this date depending on the state acknowledgement process.

3. Where can I go for more information?
To find out whether or not any particular home will undergo a zoning change, you can visit this website. To find out what your current zoning is, visit this website and enter your address. Feel free to contact me for help and any questions you might have.

4. Can I stop the change or change my current zoning?
There’s no way that I know of to stop the zoning change if you are part of this particular update because it was adopted by the City Council in December of 2016. However, zoning changes all the time and there are a lot of factors to consider if you think your property should be zoned differently.

While your current zoning may not allow for the development that you want, your property may be part of future zoning changes (comp plan). If so, you may be able to go through a quasi-judicial process to apply for a zoning change which will have a good chance of success. Otherwise, you can apply for a change of zoning but there is absolutely no guarantee of success. Either of these processes carries a high cost and should be carefully considered. Input from professionals is crucial.

5. How does zoning work? (high level overview)
Your base zone may be something like R2.5 or R5. R means residential and the number corresponds to the number of units that can exist per thousand square feet (2.5 = 1 unit per 2500 square feet). Except when it doesn’t… don’t ask. It can be more complicated than this based on other rules, such as location (for instance a corner lot may allow for more density) and overlay zones (such as design overlay zones that require certain design elements). Specific overlay zones, plan districts, and other regulations will all impact the development potential for your property.

Zoning is (unnecessarily?) complicated so don’t expect to understand everything just from knowing what the code is for your zone. You can consult your realtor for help to better understand your situation.

 This is a zone map of a little piece of Portland. You definitely do not need to understand what all this means. This is a zone map of a little piece of Portland. You definitely do not need to understand what all this means.

6. What does this mean for home buyers and sellers?
For buyers and sellers, zone changes can certainly impact the highest and best use for your property. A change from R1 to R5, R10 to R20, etc. may mean that a property no longer has the development potential it once had. Or the property may be changing to allow for higher density development. For a seller, knowing and understanding the current and planned zoning is crucial.

For buyers, understanding the zoning of both the home that you are interested in, as well as all the neighbors, can make a huge difference in whether or not it makes sense to buy the property. For instance, the home you are wanting to buy might be zoned for lower density residential but the corner lot next to it may be zoned for higher density development. Even if that corner lot only has a single level house on it now, it could be developed into a 3-story complex in the future!

Most Important Advice Ever (well, maybe not ever but it’s still good advice)
There’s a lot more to selling and buying homes than listing on the MLS or placing an offer. Find a real estate agent with the knowledge, smarts, and time that will do the work for you to maximize your dollars! (Along those lines, feel free to contact me anytime.)

Brandi Whitaker

Overcoming Obstacles

I work very hard for my clients to make sure each transaction is as stress free as possible. However, things happen that are out of my control, and that was the case when my fantastic first time buyers purchased their home in SE Portland last month.

A Smooth Start

Things started off smoothly – the earnest money deposit was wired to the title company, inspections were scheduled and disclosures were reviewed. Our home inspector called out the roof and we successfully negotiated a credit from the seller to have the roof replaced. So far so good, right?

The Appraiser Throws a Wrench

Enter the appraiser. An appraisal report is not just an opinion on value, it also includes remarks about the property’s condition. In this case, the report included the following verbiage:

“Roof is nearing the end of its economic life with noted composition loss and patched shingles. An extraordinary assumption has been made that the roof has 3 to 5 years of remaining life. If the client has concerns regarding the condition and remaining life of the subject roof, an inspection by a licensed roofing contractor is recommended.”

This threw a wrench in the works. The underwriter would not approve the loan without a certification from a licensed roofer stating that the roof had at least 5 years of life left. Since we were less than a week away from closing, the buyers and I had to scramble to come up with a plan.

Coming Up With a Plan

The first thing I did was to ask the loan officer to push the roof certification condition from a prior-to-doc condition (a condition that has to be satisfied before loan documents are issued) to a prior-to-funding condition (a condition that has to be satisfied prior to the loan funding, which typically happens on the day of closing) to give us more time to get a roof certification issued.

The second thing the buyers and I did was sit down and call every roofing company in the city to see if anyone could come out the next day to review the roof. Our concern was that the roof would not qualify for a roof certificate so we also scheduled roofers to go out there to bid on having the roof replaced. Being that this was 4 days before closing and this was one of the wettest winters on record, we knew that the chances of finding someone who could go out there, bid the job, and get it done in less than a week were slim to none.

The Solution

My buyers reminded me that they had seen a roofing company truck at the neighbors house and said they would go over there to see what that company’s availability was like. Well, fortune favors the brave, as they say, and them going over there to knock on the door turned out to make all the difference. Not only was the company available to provide a bid right there on the spot, they were also able to move some other appointments around to replace the roof on this home and allow us to close on time.

The weather refused to cooperate but the company was still able to replace the roof in pouring down rain and a wind storm. The completion certification was sent to the lender who funded the loan and the transaction closed!

 New roof being installed New roof being installed  Roof Before Roof Before  New roof being installed New roof being installed  Roof After Roof After

-Calle Holmgren

Adam, Cole, & Will’s Exciting Journey!

When I first met Adam, Cole, and their adorable 10-month old son Will, they told me their exciting story. After having spent a decade living in NYC moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in search of their dream place, the idea that one day they would find a home, a place they could set down roots and raise a family, started to seem like an ever elusive dream. They had to make a difficult decision – leaving NYC. They realized they had to leave; their home was not in the big city.

From there, they spent months on the road, driving from town to town with the hope that one would feel right to them, but it wasn’t until they came to Portland, walking through Mt. Tabor Park, that they finally felt it- they were home.

During their first eighteen months in the City of Roses, Adam, Nicole, their son Will, and their four legged friend Vera spent every day falling more and more in love with the city. The dream of homeownership started to feel more like a reality.

When the charming blue house with the orange door came on the market in Brentwood-Darlington they had a feeling and knew they had to go see it. Their plan was not to look at houses so close to the holidays, but this one had something special. Had they found their perfect niche within the city? From the moment they turned onto the street, spotting the orange door, they knew. They could so easily see themselves walking their little boy to and from Woodmere Elementary, gardening in the beautiful backyard, and taking loops around the neighborhood with their sweet dog.

Once inside the house, the feeling was solidified – this could be their forever home.

The house felt warm and welcoming. Adam & Nicole pictured themselves cooking family meals in the adorable kitchen and eating together with their friends in the backyard around a fire.

Adam and Nicole beat out several other buyers and landed the winning offer on the home. After inspections, repair negotiations and a somewhat stressful loan process, the home was finally theirs! The dream of homeownership was no longer elusive – it was real. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your exciting journey!

Calle Holmgren

Design on a Dime

Many of my home buying clients ask me questions such as “How much will it cost to remodel the kitchen?” or “What do you think it would cost to re-tile this bathroom?”. I always give them same answer – it depends. It depends on a number of different things:

  • Who you hire to oversee the project, if any. Maybe a general contractor is not needed?
  • What finishes you use. Will you purchase a slab of Carrara marble for the bathroom vanity or are you OK with quartz? Maybe a butcher block countertop from IKEA could work perfectly in the kitchen?
  • Who the contractors are that you will use. Sure, companies such as Hammer & Hand are very good at what they do, but they also charge a premium for their services.

Bottom line is, there are ways to cut financial corners without compromising the final outcome of the project. My advice is to pay with sweat equity rather than check equity.

Case in point, the main floor bathroom at my personal home was outdated and not at all suitable for a family of four. There was a pedestal sink that didn’t even have space for a bar of soap. The wainscoting was outdated and there was a laundry chute that was begging for one of our daughters to get stuck in.

With a vision, hard work & a few cuts & bruises we were able to transform the space quickly, and more importantly, on budget.

  • The vanity was purchased on Craig’s List for $200.
  • The quartz surface is a beautiful remnant which cost less than $500 including fabrication and installation.
  • My wife did the plumbing all her myself after a quick lesson from her dad and by watching YouTube videos.
  • At the end of the day, we spent around $3,000 with professional tiling of the shower & wall taking the majority of the expense.

Designing on a budget forces creativity and affords such a sense of accomplishment when the project is complete. We can’t wait for our next design on a dime project!

Calle Holmgren