About Bret Johnson

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So far Bret Johnson has created 298 blog entries.

The Rent or Buy Enigma

To rent or buy? question sometimes answers itself—especially when the requisite down payment amount isn’t available. Other Portland Metro area residents have to wrestle with a very important decision that simply doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, any more than does a what car is best? question.

Factors that make it complicated have to do with how predictable many other facets of their future are: how long do they know they will be living in the northwest; how reliable is their income stream; how stable is the size of their family, and—an associated issue—how important will the quality of neighborhood grade, middle, and/or public high school be…and when?

Once you are convinced that there is no simple answer to the rent or buy question, it becomes much easier to dismiss some of the mythology that passes as common sense when it comes to the decision. Chief among the myths is the one that has renting being more economical because of the […]

2016-07-11T19:18:03+00:00

July Maintenance Checklist

In addition to our Independence, the Fourth of July also marks a sort of mid-year pause. Families with kids have by now shuffled them into summertime activities. All graduates have graduated; the gardens have all been started (and some parts of it, even harvested!). This used to be the season for television series reruns, resulting in measurably less TV-watching; but cable programmers have obliterated that notion—and this year, the Rio Olympics will draw much attention back indoors.

But for the most part, the beginning of July marks OTY: the undeniably Outdoor Time of Year. It’s the sunny, healthy time of year; time to get out of the kitchen and see how much outdoor cooking can get done. It just feels healthier—even if there are just as many calories in a burger cooked outdoors as in the kitchen.

For northwest homeowners who have been telling themselves they would get around to the annual home maintenance chores pretty soon, it’s also the time of year when […]

2016-07-05T19:17:07+00:00

House Sitting is a Real Calling

Midway through the Portland Metro area real estate’s busy selling season also finds us at the beginning of many a homeowner’s personal vacation season. For those whose homes are on the market, one of the benefits of having a close working relationship with their Portland real estate agent means that they can take off for their out-of-town holiday without having to worry about losing prospective buyers. If my clients instruct me to continue showings in their absence, it’s no problem; likewise, if they’d prefer to hold off until their return, the showing schedule is juggled accordingly.

When a house sitter is part of the picture, it’s a low-stress showing situation, as well. Good house sitters keep their client’s property in order on a day-to-day basis anyway, so with the agreed-upon advance scheduling, showings can proceed as usual. It’s especially nice when the local homeowner returns to find good news on the real estate front!

There are two truisms about leaving your most valuable […]

2016-07-02T18:05:31+00:00

Brexit Shock Effect on Interest Rates

By the end of last week, homeowners who keep an eye on mortgage rates had a remarkably clear view of what the future is likely to bring. “Brexit” had all but sealed the deal.

Part of the reason for the resurgence in the local real estate market has been the phenomenon of the northwest’s historically low mortgage interest rates. Following 2015’s first rate hike in nine years (and the promise that two or three more were in store for 2016), across the nation, financial commentators foresaw the expected gradual rise in mortgage interest rates to act as a moderating influence on home sales activity. In other words, a market that would slowly grow a bit tighter.

As recently as April, that had been the common wisdom. That changed. Those who factor mortgage interest rates into their own decision about buying and selling Portland property were doubtless pleased when, last month, some bad news about employment rates triggered good news about […]

2016-06-27T20:14:30+00:00

Listing Photo Misfires

One good way our clients get a head start from the word “go!” is the amount of attention their local listing receives. Since that listing is by far the most prominent display piece their property will be presenting to the world of potential buyers, it has to be first-rate. The details must be presented in clear and unambiguous language, laid out with the information buyers consider important right at the top. Most important of all is how the data is illustrated. If there is ever a place where top-notch photography will pay off, this is it!

That’s why it’s astonishing when you come across listings in the northwest where the shots appear to have been taken with casual abandon. You seldom see those when a property is represented by a licensed agent—or if you do, it’s probably the result of a client’s sudden need to sell quickly—in which case the offending specimens are usually swiftly replaced by professional substitutes.

What are the most common amateur photography slip-ups that can’t help but harm a […]

2016-06-22T19:36:46+00:00

Capitalize on Energy Savings

It’s been a welcome relief for northwest homeowners as the Bad Old Days of the energy crisis recede from memory. $4+-a-gallon gasoline, huge electric, propane and fuel oil bills that were the subject of national outrage have faded from the headlines. We’re now busy attending to the current challenges of daily living—and OPEC’s machinations aren’t front and center!

But for those Portland Metro area homeowners more attuned to what’s likely to be headed our way sooner or later, now is as good a time as any to prepare for the next spate of energy price surprises. And there are many new products—some in development, some already on the market—that soon could put a serious dent in the damage tomorrow’s energy bills might wreak.

Some of the interesting innovations:

  • Bladeless Fans. These are already out there—the weird-looking magnifying-glass-shaped electric fans that suck hot air in through the base and push a steady stream of air out via an impeller. The no-blades design promises to make them safer, […]
2016-06-21T01:58:02+00:00

Homes for Sale? Think Food!

It’s interesting to look into how many ways the universe of food —be it restaurants, markets, cooking, gardening or eating—intersects with the world of real estate. The connections are many and important. That’s true from the moment a future Portland Metro Area homeowner begins to look into the current crop of local homes for sale.

We commonly think about residential real estate predominantly in terms of shelter. The listed homes for sale are vying to become the roof over our head; the place where the family will be blissfully protected from the elements. But since it will also be the place where we prepare our meals, store the groceries, and experience the holiday celebrations and feasts that will be remembered forever as key moments in our family’s life together.

Food is central to all these things—it’s why homes for sale that can claim superior kitchens have a clear advantage over those with cramped layouts or dated appliances. The popularity of formal dining rooms may be waning, but the […]

2016-06-17T15:47:26+00:00

Why People Use a Buyer’s Agent

A mega-proportion of serious Portland house hunters ultimately decide it makes the most sense to team up with a real estate professional to get the job done. Portland buyers may begin the process of finding and buying their next home on their own, checking through the online listings or driving target neighborhoods to check out the “For Sale” signs—but the NAR® reports that 9 out of 10 of U.S. buyers will eventually use a real estate agent in their search process.

The most obvious motivation for that is because the buyer’s agent’s fee is paid from the seller’s proceeds. That alone could explain a 90% level of popularity. When you can benefit from a professional’s services at no cost to yourself, northwest house hunters would have to think long and hard to come up with what the downside could possibly be. To run down the arguments that could explain how 10% might decide to pass up the buyer’s agent service, I looked […]

2016-06-13T19:20:02+00:00

One Tactic for House Flipping Success

Most house flipping veterans can look back on their successful projects and place them in either of two columns. Either they were intended to be quick flips—turnarounds where speed was a prime ingredient because of an original tactical decision—or they were not.

The quick flips depend on speedy, focused action in three of the four phases a house flipping project entails. In the opening phase— lining up the capital—speed is not important. Of course, nothing else will materialize unless financing for the property is obtainable when needed—but there is no timer ticking away. Once it is likely that funding will be obtainable, that’s when the clock starts.

Phase Two—finding, negotiating, and closing on a suitable property—is a real foot race. A quick flip only materializes after a suitable property has been identified. “Suitable” in this context means a home that can be made attractive in the Portland Area market without requiring extensive and time-consuming rehabilitation—cosmetically challenged, but not structurally unsound. If it is already on the market, it’s probable […]

2016-06-09T15:55:58+00:00

The Latest Real Estate Outlook

It wasn’t exactly huge news, but last week, the revised economic numbers showed improvement! When does that ever happen—when the final revisions come in, don’t they always seem to be in a downward direction? Yet Friday’s release from the Associated Press told a different story. Earlier reports of a slowing U.S. economy had been revised to show a year whose beginning “wasn’t quite as bad as first thought.” The reason was housing—which “got a bigger boost” than first reported.

This is all to suggest that the wider economic climate for local real estate—that is, for sellers and buyers midway through this year’s spring/summer selling season—is one that shows improvement (“slight improvement,” according to many—but we’ll take it). Fears of an economic stall seem to have vanished for the moment. Lacking was anything in the economic tidings that would suggest the Portland area’s real estate picture includes any storm clouds on (or […]

2016-06-01T00:06:12+00:00