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So far Bret Johnson has created 298 blog entries.

Loan or Line of Credit

There’s a reason the English language’s greatest playwright was called “The Bard of Avon” and not “The Bard of Portland.” In Hamlet, for instance, despite the fact that Shakespeare’s Polonius character is supposed to be a wise counselor, he gets at least one piece of advice wrong when he tells his son, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

This is flat-out terrible advice—at least for many northwest homeowners.  

The thing about borrowing is that if done prudently, borrowing can free some of the value a given local residence represents. There are two different ways that happens:

First off, there is the property’s stored value (the equity). As each monthly mortgage payment whittles down the amount owed to the lender, that equity builds—more so if the value of Portland Metro real estate happens to be growing in general, which has been true lately. Unlike the other daily living expenses a family incurs, the dollars […]

2016-05-28T21:22:30+00:00

Spring Selling Season Moves into Summer

As the northwest’s spring selling season edges toward summer, the allure of vacation houses is more likely to emerge as a front burner issue. The practical rewards of having a second home as a vacation retreat—sometimes one which can also be rented out part-time—is more likely to become an action item as the summer months near.

Earlier this month, we learned about some national trends in a report that detailed the numbers from last year. The NAR® released the summary which went into detail about 2015’s vacation house purchases and the buyers who claimed them.

Prices across the nation were up significantly, which explained why the volume of year-to-year sales had slightly contracted. Even so, they were still the second strongest since 2006, with more than 900,000 changing hands. More than a third of vacation house buyers intended to use their property for vacations or as a family retreat—roughly twice as many as planned to use it for retirement. The lion’s share were single-family residences, with a quarter […]

2016-05-23T20:36:01+00:00

A Real Estate Gimmick That Might Save the Planet

The headline had to stop everyone who even glanced at Bloomberg’s Technology section: Town readers (even those who are relatively gimmick-immune) would have been hard pressed to pass up last Wednesday’s Bloomberg Technology headline: “Can This Real Estate Gimmick Save the World?”

Whether the subject of the article really is a gimmick or “the greatest real estate amenity since running water” is yet to be determined—but it’s certainly, at the very least, an intriguing idea. Steve Wynn is tearing up the golf course behind his Las Vegas Strip hotels to replace it with an installation. And with 60 of them already in place (and 250 on the drawing board), if it’s a gimmick, it’s one that’s making a large splash beyond the real estate world.

The core of the idea is the creation of gigantic artificial clear-water lakes (“lagoons” is the preferred word). It is hoped that real estate promoters will see the innovation as adding an attraction that turns otherwise […]

2016-05-18T01:32:41+00:00

Swings and Bridges

They’re called “swings” or “bridges”—but they don’t belong on a kindergarten playground. They’re the specialized loans that can help Potland home buyers get past the kind of cash crunch that can snag an otherwise perfectly achievable purchase.

This is a timing situation that happens quite frequently; it’s in the nature of residential real estate transactions. Suppose you are selling your Portland Metro area home to an out-of-state buyer. The deal is well on its way to being finalized on the agreed schedule. Meanwhile, you have found a new, bigger place that’s perfect for your family (it’s in Portland, too—also in a great neighborhood). The problem is that you need to close on the new home before the sale of your current one is finalized. That’s the cash crunch.

The solution can be a bridge loan (AKA, a swing loan). It’s a loan for the short period of time that will allow a home buyer to close on the new home purchase as the other sale […]

2016-05-11T19:49:51+00:00

What’s the Best Time to Sell a House?

The Huffington Post (“Huffpo” to its friends) has an entire section devoted to real estate doings. Although the vast majority of those dispatches are tidbits about awesomely expensive celebrity condos in Manhattan, sometimes the Huffpo editors’ attention wanders momentarily to other matters. Last month they uncovered a study which delved into a topic of interest to any local homeowner who’s been thinking about when to enter the northwest listings.

The best time to sell a house, according to the study, is, specifically, RIGHT NOW!!!!

That is, between May 1 and May 15!

Or maybe not.

The picture for Portland was a little less definite than the Big Picture claim that “homes that sold in the first half of May…sold, on average, around 1.5 days faster than homes that weren’t listed in that timeframe.” It turns out that the study, which was put together by Zillow, was wishy-washy when it came to specifying individual areas. The […]

2016-05-09T21:49:07+00:00

Top 10 Top 10 Real Estate Lists

Why it is that we’re drawn to “Top 10” lists in general is a matter we can leave to the psychologists. Suffice it to say that the lists are a staple on the supermarket tabloids and they’re all over the web. I admit they get more than their share of my own attention, even when my curiosity about a list’s subject matter is negligible. It’s probably because they’re quick to skim through and agree or disagree with…

Since they are so pervasive, it occurred to me that there might be something to learn if we could determine which ones that deal with real estate topics get the most attention. Northwest real estate didn’t have its own area-focused Top 10 real estate lists—but for the whole country, I guessed there could be hundreds (there were).

There turned out to be a lot of ads mixed in with the ones that were legitimate; but after 15 or so minutes of deep internet research, here’s what registers as—

The Top 10 […]

2016-05-07T00:42:56+00:00

One Key Quality to Seek in a Realtor®

When you find yourself being drawn to the real estate listings, even only to peek, it’s a clue that something big may be on the horizon. Either you’ve begun to think you’ve begun to outgrow your current northwest home, or you’re just curious about what could be available in case you should decide to upsize, or downsize—or to move on because of a professional change that only just might be hanging there as a possibility…

The tipoff is the twinge of curiosity about those other local homes—the ones that are out there on the market this spring. It’s always somewhat interesting to see what’s on the Portland Metro market at any time, but if you find yourself visiting the listings more than every once in a while, it’s probably because you sense that you might find your own future somehow intertwined with one of them. Or that these could become the competition if you […]

2016-05-04T23:31:02+00:00

Navigating the Short Sale Process

Any dedicated bargain hunter who scours the Portland listings is not surprised to find among the most deeply discounted entries one of two notations: foreclosure or short sale.

Everyone knows what the “foreclosure” designation means—it’s been repossessed by the bank. It’s an REO (real estate owned). By discounting the asking price, the lending entity invites buyers to take the property off its books. It is here that the economists’ favorite acronym, “TANSTAAFL” (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch), comes into play. Foreclosed properties have frequently been neglected by their previous owners, who are not happy campers. So the cost of rehabilitation must be factored in before any offer is made. Still, foreclosures can represent real opportunities for buyers with patience and determination.

Slightly different are foreclosures’ first cousins: Portland’s short sale listings. There are any number of unforeseen circumstances that can cause an owner to fall into financial distress, […]

2016-04-29T15:25:47+00:00

Pre-Sale Checklist

Selling your Portland home is the kind of major undertaking that has so many facets just deciding where to start can delay liftoff. Since there is no actual “right” place to begin, like other mammoth projects, just digging in anywhere will do. The happy truth is that when you’re selling a home, once momentum gets going, the rest of the pieces tend to fall into place.

To get the ball rolling, here is a pre-sale checklist of major activities that selling your Portland home will entail. To get started, pick any one:

  • Nagging problem elimination. Very few of us attend to every home maintenance problem as they gradually develop. If there were a reliable poll on the subject, I’d guess that 95% of local homeowners have at least a two or three areas that we’ve learned to live with—but those areas will need to be attended to before we get very far toward selling our home. Identifying them is a pre-sale first step…then […]
2016-04-26T23:30:31+00:00

Accidental Investors

Local real estate investors include a subset that’s more common than you might think: the unplanned ones. The press calls them “accidental investors”—but that’s unfortunate. Let’s face it: when you read “accidental investor,” it conjures up mental images of a car crash. Or falling down stairs. Or failing to smell a gas leak…

The phrase is inappropriate. When you think of accidents waiting to happen, the last thing you think of is west coast real estate. Yet the phrase “accidental real estate investors” continues to pop up to describe individuals made property owners through happenstance—even though that turn of fate does, in fact, turn out to be beneficial. More than anything, that’s a happy accident!

Accidental real estate investors can be created because of any number of common situations. Sometimes, inheritance plays a role. If a family home is willed to children whose careers have taken them far from town, time may need to pass before a clear-headed decision is best made about the disposition of the […]

2016-04-18T23:01:47+00:00