Why Embracing the Motto “Don’t Do it Yourself” Can be a Good Thing

Thanks to home improvements shows like This Old House, the HGTV network and YouTube how to videos, an entire generation of homeowners have grown up believing that they might be able to to DIY many home projects. And in fact they may be able to. But even if you have the skill to pull off a home project that may work, is it worth it? Here are some reasons why you may want to embrace DDIY—Don’t Do it Yourself!—if not all the time, at least for some of your projects.

Your Time is Valuable

The number one reason why folks choose to DIY is the cost of labor. And, I get it, hiring licensed professionals can be expensive. But your time is also worth something. If you aren’t loving spending your nights and weekends building that fence that would have taken a contractor a day and a half to knock out, perhaps you should evaluate what your time is worth to you and calculate it at an hourly rate. Also, think about the time you would be enjoying the finished product if a professional had completed it in a timely manner. Particularly, when you take on a large renovation like a kitchen or bath remodel, a crew is often at your house all day during the work hours. Ask yourself, if you really want to perform someone else’s full time job (or several people’s) in your free time before you dive in. Additionally, do you want to live in a construction zone for much longer than you have to? I’ve heard countless stories of DIY-ers who have lived without a kitchen, cooking on a hot plate for two years while they painstakingly learned how to tile a backsplash. If the idea of that sends shivers up your spine, think twice about taking on a major remodel without hiring a pro.

You are Paying for Experience

When you hire a landscape designer or a kitchen contractor or a plumber, you are paying for much more for than their time and labor—you are paying for their experience. Think about it: how good were you the first time you did something challenging at your job? What about the 30th time? or the 300th? Hiring a professional who can anticipate the pitfalls of a project and navigate any potential headaches is worth a lot. When I decided to completely overhaul my backyard with a big landscaping project, I could have probably come up with a lot of the ideas myself and even executed a lot of the planting. I could have hired the concrete sub contractors on my own and cut out the designer. But, I wanted someone to advise me on how to direct drainage water off of the new pergola so that my foundation isn’t impacted by rain, someone who would anticipate where the light was falling on various parts of the yard, someone who would know exactly which plants will thrive in this climate in a particular space in my yard. All of that guidance and know-how is invaluable. But that also means that when you hire a licensed professional to do a home project or repair for you, you need to spend some time vetting them. Ask for professional referrals, speak with past clients, ask how they might anticipate problems and if they see any unknowns right now that could be planned for.

Mistakes are not cheap

While we are on the subject of experience, if you are motivated by the possible savings that a DIY project may offer, consider the cost of mistakes. General contractors and designers are also often serving as project manager on your renovation—they know the order in which to execute each step, when to order certain parts and materials (something that has become even more important during our current reality of material shortages and inflation), and how to pivot when things don’t go well. When I remodeled my kitchen, my general contractor anticipated that after unearthing the original Doug Fir wood floors from the orange marmoleum that lay on top, they may not be salvageable. He had a plan B to keep me within budget, should this be the case. And when, as he suspected, the original floors were ruined by decades old tar, he proposed two options: one that would keep me within budget and one that would accomplish the look I really desired. But, most importantly, he had sub contractors in place to complete that work. And there were countless other steps along the way, that had they been done incorrectly, could have cost me big time: what if the counter top space had been measured incorrectly and then the slab was cut to the wrong measurements? Would I have eventually chosen the intricately patterned and hard to install mosaic tile floor if I had had to learn a highly skilled trade on the fly in order to install it? Experienced contractors and design professionals anticipate the WHAT IFs because they know that there will be many and that they need to have a solution or back up plan in place. Don’t underestimate the financial value in that.

Buyers like to see receipts and permits

I can’t tell you how many times I hear a home inspector say “This looks like a homeowner repair” and they don’t mean it in a good way. Womp womp. If you intend to sell any time in the reasonably near future, think about how beneficial it may be to be able to show buyers, all of the work you have had done professionally by licensed contractors along with the permit records. Buyers are also often impressed by the dollar amount that you may have spent. Save the receipts. Track the permits and city records. Especially for the unsexy things: plumbing, electrical, sewer line, foundation work, roof, siding, windows. A lot of buyers do not appreciate these system upgrades until the inspector comes back saying that they are not in great condition. If you are selling and you can show that the home has a brand new electrical panel that is permitted with the city or all new plumbing lines done by a reputable company, that can show the buyer up front that there is a lot of “hidden” value in your home. It also can communicate that you took great care of the home and did not cut corners. It may also influence a buyer who is choosing between your home and another that weekend: Imagine if you had a receipt for the $45,000 of new windows that you installed a few years ago but the competition still has aluminum single paned. Maybe the buyers would not have even recognized the cost of that potential replacement until seeing your records. Save the receipts. I like to advise clients to do so in a Google Drive folder.

*****

Have I convinced you to join me and become at least a partial DDIYer? If you are swayed a bit but still feel the pangs of guilt created by those Home Depot “Doer” commercials, I’ll leave you with one final point: When you hire local tradespeople, contractors, and designers, you are also creating a job and pumping money directly back into your local economy. Maybe that will help you rest well during all the naps you’ll be taking instead of putting that darn fence up.

Inspired to hire a professional and need a referral? I have a whole list of diverse folks who are good at what they do and am happy to connect you. Please contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Coming soon: a more complete directory of my favorite, vetted contractors, designers, and more!

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.

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.

Ways to Support Our Black Community

Silence is Violence. That statement on a protester’s sign really hit home. By sitting on the sidelines and not voicing our collective outrage, we are perpetuating racism. Our greatest tool is our voices — not quietly commiserating, while keeping our mouths shut. We have the power to vote for the right leaders, raise children that celebrate differences, hire the right people and support our community’s Black and minority run businesses (to name just a few). 

I have compiled some of the many resources shared with me. Here are a few of the things we can do right now in our fight for social justice-

  1. Educate yourself on what challenges our Black family members face on a daily basis.  Here are a few resources worth exploring:
  1. Sign a Petition (DontShootPDX.org has also put together a list of other petitions and useful resources):

The Color of Change petition that asks Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to block the involved police officers in the George Floyd case from receiving their pensions and from becoming police officers again.  You can also text “Floyd” to the number 55156.

  1. Donate to organizations like your local Black Lives Matter chapter. Other great organizations are:
  1. Support Black and minority run local businesses:

https://mercatuspdx.com/

https://blackpdx.com/

https://iloveblackfood.com/

 

Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.

Michelle Obama

 

 

Something to Look Forward to this Summer in PDX

This is a blog post I have looked forward to writing!  It’s all about simple pleasures these days.  Sauvie Island, for most Portlanders, evokes a special feeling.  It’s a short 10 miles from downtown, but crossing the Sauvie Island bridge and seeing sprawling farmland crowned by the four cascade mountain view (yes, on clear days you can see the top of Mt. Rainier too)–makes you exhale immediately.  For some it’s biking, beach combing, fishing, kayaking or hiking, but the collective draw is the farms.  Picking berries, stone fruit and flowers, hayrides, summer concerts, sipping wine and beer while dining on food cart delicacies and leaving with food grown by hardworking local farmers.  Summer isn’t complete in Portland without a day on Sauvie Island.

This year I had the ultimate pleasure of helping very dear friends of mine realize their dream of owning a farm on Sauvie Island. It was a complicated and emotional transaction for all, but the end result was relieved and happy clients!  Kruger’s Farm is now owned by an amazing local Sauvie Island family and has been renamed Topaz Farm.  Kat and Jim are two of the smartest, hardworking people I know and their vision for the farm is going to blow your mind.  Think farm-to-plate brunches and dinners, sipping wine, beer, local coffee or strawberry rhubarb lemonade while shopping in the farm store that features their own produce, as well as other Sauvie Island and local products.  They have in-house chefs that create pasta, kale chips, pastries, pies, sandwiches, otter pops, etc., for the farm store using their produce.  They use organic farming practices and plan to be an educational farm.  They’ve partnered with the Sauvie Island Center to create camp and field trip opportunities for our schools.  They are creating a bee wheel garden (the first of its kind on the west coast) and have all kinds of plans for future enrichment programs.  They’ve accomplished all this just since they purchased the farm in January.  Can you imagine what the future holds?!!

Of course COVID-19 has changed a few things, but visiting a farm and getting outside isn’t one of them.  Don’t we all need a change of scenery!  There are some things that are on hold right now and Topaz Farm is following a very strict COVID-19 policy to keep their customers and employees safe.  Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to stay up-to-date on berry picking calendars, farm-to-plate dinners and possibly a creative summer concert series.

When you visit Topaz Farm you will likely meet the whole family.  Their daughters Maggie and Odessa work right alongside of their parents.  Kat’s brother, Peter is working tirelessly to build all sorts of new farm features (clever mobile farm store displays, new pens for the animals, etc).  I know they will be pleased to make your acquaintance (tell ‘em we sent ya!)

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the farm on opening day, May 27th.  Enjoy some of the photos from our visit.

       

 

Stay-at-Home Maintenance Ideas from an Expert

For me, it is day 63 of being home. I’ve read 9 novels and seen practically everything on Netflix, I’ve organized the pantry, purged items from several closets and am toying with the idea of wallpapering the dining room myself. And while that’s all fine and dandy, I got to thinking about what other projects I could be doing that would make a bigger difference in and around the house than just prepping a bag of random stuff for Goodwill.

My go-to home inspection company in the Portland-Metro area has always been Crawford Inspections. The owner, Matt Fellman actually wrote the book on home maintenance and all things inspection related. With all of this time at home I thought it would be a good idea to team up with him to share some helpful project ideas that will keep your house functioning well. Because, let’s face it, we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so let’s make sure our homes are as comfortable as can be! 

Thank you Matt, for the following maintenance ideas: 

Trim the branches and vegetation away from your house – This time of year things grow quickly and it’s a good time to take a lap around the house and trim any bushes or branches away from the siding and roof. The moisture from the vegetation damages the building materials and things touching the house act as a bridge for insects and rodents to get in. 

Tighten loose outlets and light switches – Once you have turned off the power at the service panel, remove the plastic cover plates on any loose outlets and there are screws that should tighten the equipment back into place. Aside from being a nuisance, loose outlets and switches can lead to loose wiring connections, which is a safety hazard.

Do some paint and wall touchup – We all have some dings and imperfections on the walls around the house. If you’re like me, you walk by and tell yourself someday when you have time you’ll get around to fixing them. Well…. there probably (and hopefully) won’t be an instance when you have more time than you do now! Go down in the basement or out to the garage and crack open that can of paint you’ve been saving. After all, this is why you saved it right?

Clean your window tracks – Over the years dirt and other debris collects in the tracks of the windows and really makes the moving parts hard to slide. Cleaning the tracks is a really quick and easy task that yields high returns. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to open and close the windows when the tracks are clean. 

Vacuum the coils on your refrigerator – During the course of normal operation, your refrigerator draws air through various parts and a lot of dust collects. When a lot of debris builds up it restricts the air movement and can lead to excess wear and parts failing. Most modern refrigerators have cardboard or plastic panels on the back and/or below that can be removed to expose the dirty spots. Trust me, if it’s been a long time since the last cleaning, it will be obvious what needs it. 

Tighten the hinges on your garage door – Every time an overhead door is opened and closed there is a considerable amount of vibration that occurs. Over time, this vibration causes the fasteners that hold the hinges between panels to work themselves loose. A properly sized socket or open-ended wrench is all you need and it usually just takes a few minutes.

Get organized – how long has it been since you’ve seen the surface of your workbench? Take a few minutes and put things away. It makes doing projects so much easier and more enjoyable when you can find the things you need and have space to work. 

Lubricate door hinges – Sometimes you get so accustomed to something that you don’t even notice it anymore. I’ve found squeaky door hinges are like this. Take a run through your house and identify “the squeakers.” Pulling the pins one at a time and greasing them is super easy (just pound them out upward one at a time with a small screwdriver and hammer). Despite not noticing when they do squeak, you will definitely notice and appreciate the silence when they don’t. 

Clean fan blades and light globes – This is one of those things that happens so gradually that you hardly notice. As ceiling fans spin they really gather a lot of dust, as do the glass covers on lights. The fans can be cleaned quickly and easily with some Windex or a Swiffer, and the light globes clean right up with a run through the dishwasher. 

Take pictures for Homeowner’s Insurance – Hopefully, you never need it but if you ever go through a fire or a burglary, you’ll be glad you have things documented for your insurance company. I’ve known some people that have gone through losing things in a fire and dealing with the insurance company is a frustrating process to say the least. Having a list and pictures greatly helps. 

 

 

Adventures in DIY Gardening

Every spring, most of us find ourselves taking on projects as we come out of hibernation. This spring, while a bit different, is allowing us more time at home to clean our closets, organize, train for a marathon, or…go a bit crazy in the yard. Let me take a moment to say that Portland has some of the finest gardens in the world. One of my friends from Seattle even called our city’s favorite pastime “competitive gardening”. Personally, I have a list of outside projects to keep the family busy for a long time. In order to re-motivate myself and hopefully inspire others, I am going to share my backyard story from last spring. Keep in mind that each paragraph below is a weekend or 2 of actual labor with 2-4 workers.

On a fine April morning in 2019, I decided to take my coffee outside and hang out in the backyard. To my horror, the months of showers brought a jungle of waist high weeds, growing out of what I had thought to be a mulchy, forest floor under a Doug Fir. One of the reasons my significant other and I had purchased the house was to have awesome outdoor space, and we knew it was going to take some time and effort. Here was our first big project! My sweetie took a quick look at the mess and decided to fast track the project (he’s a bit meticulous and likes to keep very busy). We had been discussing a Japanese garden for months, so he sketched out a design on our son’s graph paper, and I called my parents to let them know we could use their help (they are the true green thumbs. I am a rookie).

Our first stop was The Home Depot, to find something to outline our path through the garden and keep the rocks we would be bringing in out of the mulch. We chose black plastic edging, about 4.5 inches in height. A 60-foot roll of this is about $30, and we would need 3-4 of them. There were other attractive options, but this was the right price. Digging mini trenches for the edging was a bit of a workout. We found that dragging a hammer in the dirt helped “bulldoze” a bit of a path in which we could then partially bury the edging. We also grabbed a few rolls of weed barrier fabric to lay down on the path where the gravel would eventually be. This was a very good move. I cannot imagine how much more we would have to weed if we had not done so.

Now it was time for some of the planting fun! We chose a few beauties to be focal points in the garden, including a Japanese maple, weeping blue cedar, bonsai and a pink hydrangea and rhododendron. Additionally, we planted a handful of ferns and grasses in groups of 3. We are fans of not over planting and giving everything room to grow. These were purchased from multiple Eastside businesses including Portland Nursery, and Tony’s Garden Center. After a bit of deliberation on where to place the plants, the digging commenced.

With the plants in place, it was time to purchase mulch and rock. Lucky for us, fabulous Mount Scott Fuel is right up the street. If you have access to a pick-up truck you can avoid paying for delivery.  They will load the product right into the bed of your truck, saving you quite a bit of money. We did this and found it easy to shovel out of our truck directly into the wheelbarrow that we borrowed from our awesome neighbor. Ultimately, we bought 3 yards of mulch, and had to make multiple trips to do so. (Caution-Do not overload your vehicle. Check weight limits)! Prices range from $32-45/yard if you pick up, and $100-130 if delivered. The following weekend was a similar routine, this time to purchase 2 yards of river rock. There are many different types of rock here, and you can check out samples in the office, and go into their yard to look at the big piles and get a different perspective. We opted for what I would call medium sized for ¼-¾ inch river rock to minimize gravel being tracked into the house. Our choice was very reasonably priced at $40/yard. Delivery would have been $115 for one yard, with discounts for 2 plus yards. Hauling the rock to the backyard was a bit more strenuous than moving the mulch, so it was helpful to have our strong 14-year old son around.

One of our final tasks on the project was to produce our own concrete circles in the path. My partner had a bit of experience working with concrete from his previous house, and he was excited to put his cement mixer to use again. To create the large circles, he constructed molds out of fiberboard and we placed them in the empty path. Then the concrete was mixed and poured in multiple batches. We made the small circles off to the side and simply placed them in the path after they were dry, and then finished filling in the river rock.

We spent a lot of time outside last year, and with spring’s arrival we are planning this year’s project: raised beds and vegetables, perfect for homeschooling and saving money on groceries!

For a video tour of the garden, click here!

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!

Eric

2020 PDX Real Estate Outlook from Inhabit’s Owner Eric Hagstette

Settle in as Eric Pulls Back the Curtain on 2020 Portland Real Estate

And just like that, it’s February 2020. If someone asked you when you were a kid what you thought 2020 would look like, did you picture this? I visualized space travel, robots, flying cars, lasers and futuristic stuff…not this everyday adulty life gig.

So where the heck did January go? To be honest, the reason my annual market outlook is so delayed is because this January was super busy for the Portland market. Now that I think about it, we were even selling houses right through the holidays as well. Portland may be experiencing growing pains, but the real estate market is alive and flourishing.

Last Year’s Prediction: Nailed it! 

A year ago, I was calling for our buyers and investor clients to get into the market. It was a year of opportunity for our buyer clients after many years of seller-favored, tight inventory conditions. For the first time in a long while, buyers enjoyed shopping the market without urgency & pressure, having more than one house to choose from, price drops, seller incentives, and contingent offers. How sweet it was! Instead of calling it a buyer’s market or a seller’s market, we called it a “broker’s market” as we could make both sides happy by creating win/win transactions for our clients. We could place our buyers in homes without real estate “whiplash” and our sellers were walking away from the closing table with a smile on their face excited to move on in the market. It was a unique time. Everyone was pretty happy. I hope that you or someone you know took advantage of it. 

2020 Current Conditions

The Portland market has always been nimble and this year is no exception. It changed quickly! Midway through  Q4 of 2019, Portland inventory started to dwindle down. Furthermore, most sellers don’t list during the winter and holiday months, so market inventory continued to fall. Despite the BRUTAL Portland weather this winter, the buyers came out of the holidays with a big appetite and gobbled up what was left on the market. The close in Portland neighborhoods currently sit at 1.3 months of housing inventory (in the 450k-700k range).  So the 2020 cycle begins with a fiery combination of low housing inventory, great interest rates, a seemingly healthy economy (with many new jobs coming to Portland) and a rapid erosion of affordability (this pushes buyers further from town to seek more affordable options). The market is behaving accordingly in response to high demand. Demand is being driven to Portland by a combination of reasons: jobs/economy, lifestyle, climate & natural resources, and an affordable option for many West Coast transplants. 

2020 Outlook

Welp….it’s an election year which has a tendency to slow the market. Buyers and sellers that aren’t being pushed into the market tend to sit tight through election times out of fear of the unknown. However, the upcoming election doesn’t seem to be having an impact on the market…yet.  Portland shows resilience when other markets slow. When things have slowed for us in the past, we bounce back quickly (including the recession). Thanks to our urban growth boundary and natural geographic barriers, we don’t have sprawl which has been a saving grace for our unique market. Portland offers jobs plus lifestyle and attracts a wide demographic spectrum of folks looking to call Portland home.  Pair this with a mild climate and abundant natural resources and you have a winner. Therefore, I predict 2020 will continue its low-inventory trend which favor sellers, drives prices and frustrates buyers. We have to be careful with the “drives prices” part though.  Affordability is a major concern. The chasm between the cost of Portland real estate and our median household income seems to be growing. Jobs are coming but wages haven’t caught up and the cost of living keeps climbing. This pushes buyers to outlier markets (Vancouver, Milwaukie, Beaverton, Oregon City, etc). For the urbanites that don’t want to pay for the high priced houses but want to stay in town, they’ll drive demand in the ‘attached’ market (townhouses/condos) which had a slow 2019. This will stabilize pricing in the attached market. Properly priced, well-presented, detached houses from the $200k to $1m range will continue to fly off the shelf. The $1m-$1.5m market is a ‘move up’ market for many wanting to upgrade from their existing home .  This market presents opportunities for buyers to make a great purchase; however, tapping their “trapped equity” from their existing home in order to make this purchase can present challenges (certainly not insurmountable but can be daunting to the client). In surprising fashion, Portland’s upper end market ($1.5m +) is moving at a pace you may find interesting (fast). Of course, these properties need to deliver the full package to fetch the price, but this market segment seems very confident in Portland as a place to make these big purchases. I find these big numbers surprising as I clearly remember how freaked out I was when I bought my first house in Mt. Tabor for $185k. However, like many other places, we are bursting at the seams. The numbers for incoming population growth are staggering which in real estate economics translates to demand. Portland is in high demand which has all but diminished the lower end of the market and made it feel normal to buy and sell very expensive real estate. 

Natural disaster or other non-natural market forces aside, Portland real estate has a very promising future and has always been well-insulated. With all this said, if our local government doesn’t figure out a way to better manage our addiction/mental health/homelessness crisis, Portland may lose its reputation as the “darling” of the Pacific Northwest and no matter how great this city is, many people will choose different markets to call home. Rainy weather is tolerable but corruption and greed are inexcusable especially with what it costs to live here. 

2020 Buzz Words & New Concepts 

iBuyer: Also known as institutional buyers or residential REIT (real estate investment trust): Have you heard the OpenDoor commercials on the radio? iBuyer or ‘instant offer’ is easily the biggest new disruptor in real estate and Inhabit is all over it. iBuyers have come into the market backed by billions of venture capital funds and are buying up real estate that fits in their “buy box”. Homeowners that qualify for an instant offer (and choose to take it), are typically taking a discounted price for the convenience and avoiding the traditional selling route.  As a student of change, I became very intrigued with iBuyer and became certified as an iRep Professional. Our philosophy with iBuyer is “pro-consumer choice”…what works best for our clients. iBuyers are real in today’s market and we want to share all of the options with our clients so they get the most out of their real estate assets. It works for some clients and we can show you how. 

Trapped equity: Many homeowners who have owned their real estate for 5 + years are sitting on a decent amount of equity that is trapped in their real estate. In a tight market, trapped equity can add challenges to a buyer that wants to move up or move down within the market. We’ve found that many people will simply opt out of moving around in the market simply because of the perceived risks and challenges with using the equity in your home to help achieve the daunting buy/sell or sell/buy. There are more layers, but we manage these all the time. In the end, our clients say that it’s worth the effort. 

Concierge real estate services: It is more important than ever for real estate professionals to be a trusted advisor not only throughout the sale, but on an ongoing basis after the sale. Realtors are on the front line of clients’ needs as a sale closes. Concierge real estate service continues after closing where Realtors continue to provide useful resources, information and advice on an ongoing basis. In today’s demanding and competitive market, we are reinforcing our value by continuing to support our clients on all things real estate. 

Final Words

Even though we’re not living in the Jetson-like society that I envisioned as a kid, 2020 is chock full of new and exciting stuff: self-parking, electric cars, virtual reality, and an impressive (and concerning) amount of technology & connectivity. At the push of a button, you can have almost anything you want delivered to your doorstep within hours.  Heck, you can push a button and order up a random Realtor to open up a house for you (but how dare you do that!). Real estate is no exception to the expectation of today’s “now society”. As professionals, our response time must be faster, our knowledge deeper and our ability to navigate this market must be sharp and focused. One thing that technology can’t change, is the human factor that is necessary to create happy buyers and happy sellers in real estate transactions. This is our wheelhouse. We embrace today’s disruptions & technology and use them as tools to enhance our clients’ position and experience; however, we feel more strongly than ever that real estate is a people business and we are here to stay. 

Thank you for your continued support and trust. Here’s to a prosperous 2020!

Eric

Understanding Radon

AND A COOL INTERACTIVE MAP, TOO!

 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.

SO WHAT IS RADON?

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.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF RADON EXPOSURE?

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.

WHERE DOES RADON OCCUR?

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.

HOW DO I TEST FOR RADON?

 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.

SHOULD I TAKE ACTION?

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.

WHAT CAN I DO TO MITIGATE RADON IN MY HOME OR REDUCE RISK?

 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