How to win the battle of bugs and weeds around your home and garden with all natural products

It’s the battle of people versus the bugs and weeds as both try to take over our homes and gardens. Take heart, for the most part we can co-exist with most bugs without damaging the environment or killing off the good bugs. Personally I have no love for the weeds, so weeds be gone is my motto as long as I can do it without chemicals and too much work on hot summer days. 

Bugs
Did you know that most bugs have a sense of smell and there are some common household items that bugs do not like the smell of?
1. Vinegar – very few bugs will tolerate and spend time around an area sprayed with vinegar, so feel free to use it liberally to deter pests. This is especially helpful to drive ants out of your house. Personally I wipe down kitchen counters almost daily with vinegar. It works.
2. Essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, tea tree, citrus or neem oils have spiders literally taking their spider webwebs elsewhere. They smell through their feet, so you don’t have to actually spray the spiders, just their webs, and they won’t even walk on them. You can make up a spray bottle with any of a combination of several of these oils, add a few drop of dish detergent, find your target and spray. Keep this on hand because the effects are not forever, so you will have to repeat as needed to keep walkways etc free of spider webs. This works equally well indoors and outside too. By the way, to keep spiders outside, trim plants about a foot away from your foundation.


3. Coffee grounds are great to keep slugs out of your garden beds. If you’re a coffee drinker you probably have plenty around to surround your veggies or favorite young plants with the used coffee grounds. Slugs don’t like that coffee grounds stick to their bellies so they move on. If you don’t drink coffee, try going to the nearest Starbucks or other cafes. They are usually thrilled to have you take coffee grounds away for them, and the plus is that coffee grounds actually nourish the soil. This is so much better than dumping slimy trays of dead slugs that have gone after your good beer in a bowl. Yes slugs love beer, but it’s a nasty mess to clean up.

Weeds
weeds

Is this how big weeds look in your garden?

Weeds are a never ending battle but one that is easily won if you keep on top of it. While some people swear by Round up,  it’s highly toxic and pollutes the ground, gets into ground water, and really does not kill weeds any better than a simple mix of:
1 gallon regular 5% household vinegar
1 cup table salt
1 teaspoon dish detergent
Mix the above in a sprayer and wait for a sunny day to tackle the weeds. It’s best if you can catch the weeds before they flower and set seeds, but if not, just go at it, and repeat as necessary. You should see most weeds die off within hours and certainly within a few days. 
IMPORTANT note here though is that this mix is so effective that you need to be careful to not spray on any plants you care about directly. It will kill your plants as quickly as the weeds you were after. 
If you have weeds growing around the roots of favorite plants, sorry but your best best is to just dig them up.

If weeds have already set seed they’re ready to sprout up somewhere else, so keep vigilant and keep your garden not only looking better but healthier too. Remember those weeds compete with your plants for nutrients in the soil. 

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Average Portland home prices soar to $423,700 while mortgage rates dip slightly

houses make you moneyNationwide, housing inventories have reached crisis proportions. There is a severe lack of available homes for sale everywhere. Home values are increasing an average of 5+% throughout the country. But here in the Pacific NW, home prices are surging faster than anywhere else in the country. Average prices in Seattle are up about 12% per year, while Portland in the #2 position is seeing average value increases of 10.7%.

Remember, these are average price and value increases. There are some neighborhoods with lower inflation rates, but there are also many with much higher rates. Currently zip code 97233 (Centennial, Rockwood and Mill Park) is leading the metro area seeing prices and values up 19.7% for 2016 and early 2017! This means that if you are currently a home owner in 97233, you’ve watched your home value increase about $2500 – $5000 every month for the last year and a half – depending on size and condition of your home and immediate neighborhood. Still closer in areas such as Tualatin, Tigard, West Hills, Hawthorne, Rose City, Alberta and more are also seeing inflation between 10-15% annually so you’re not being left behind. 

Spring and early summer months are the busiest months of the year for home purchases. 

Buyers are out in droves, so homes are selling as quickly as they hit the market; often with multiple offers and often selling for considerably more than list price.

According to RMLS, new listings for May hit their highest level in May 2017 since May 2008 but demand was so strong that inventory levels actually dropped .2 months (down from 1.7 months to 1.5 months once again.)

What does this mean for buyers?

If you are a prospective home buyer, once you make up your mind that you’re ready to get out and start looking at homes, there are a few things that you should get in order before you proceed. First and foremost, whether you’re paying cash or financing the purchase, get your finances in order.

  1. If you are going to be financing the purchase, get your pre-approval. This means you will need to get your paperwork together for that lender. 
  2. If you’re a cash buyer, be sure your funds are free to use (if you need to sell stocks or move funds from a retirement account, that shouldn’t be left until the last minute.
  3. If you need to sell a home, get it on the market. I know this could put you in a difficult position of needing to move in with friends or stay in a hotel if your house sells too quickly, but sellers need to know that you’re serious and you will need to present proof of your ability to go through with the purchase if your offer is accepted.

Many sellers won’t even allow you to view a home or consider an offer from you without the above business details being in order.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out and take a look at a few homes just to see what’s available in your price range. But, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to just go out looking at lots of homes until you’re a serious buyer because prices and values are moving so quickly. The home you’re viewing today at $300,000 will cost and be worth considerably more in 6 months. Still some looking around in advance will help you understand better what your dollars will buy in different neighborhoods, and that’s a good thing to know as you begin this process. 

Strike while the iron’s hot

Boom markets never last forever. The markets ebb and wane all the time. But the old adage to “strike while the iron’s hot” has never made more sense.

strike while the iron's hotMost buyers are not looking for their forever house. They just want a home of their own and the stability of knowing that their monthly payments are locked in (other than tax and insurance increases). Of course obvious. Your purchase starts making you money in the form of equity often before the transaction even closes, and of course the tax advantages can’t be overlooked either. Mortgage interest, property taxes and even mortgage insurance are all tax deductible, so your monthly income rises once you become a property owner.  

 

You might like to read 15 fastest selling neighborhoods in Portland as of June 13, 2017

 

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Did you know that money really does grow on trees?

Most people who live in the northwest visit parks often and appreciate the trees for their appearance, the shade they provide and the ambiance they create. We love our parks. But did you know that trees on your property really do add value to your home? Actually, most buyers are aware of the value of trees, perhaps somewhat intuitively, since homes with trees and attractive landscaping appear more inviting. Realtors know how much buyers appreciate beautiful landscaping which is why you will often see information about the landscaping, trees, etc in a property description. Now there is real scientific data to support what we all knew.

According to a study conducted by the the Pacific Northwest Research Center of the United States Forest Service planting a tree in front of your house will increase the sales value by approximately $7,130 in the Pacific Northwest. 

“Two recent studies by Geoffrey Donovan, an economist and research forester at the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station, and David Butry, an economist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, yielded specific dollar values for street and neighborhood trees in Portland, Oregon, and for yard trees that provide summer shade in Sacramento, California. This research is important to city governments, communities, and environmental organizations because it helps them make a case for publicly funded “green infrastructure,” that supports many environmental and social amenities.”

These studies have enabled scientists to develop a “benefit-calculation model” to come up with realistic valuations for absence or presence of trees and mature landscaping on a homes value. The algorithm used is similar to the methodology used by appraisers in determining the value of a 3 bedroom house vs a 2 bedroom house in the same neighborhood. 

 

street trees in a neighborhoodFor home owners, trees are a valuable asset, and trees in your own yard, or better yet, street trees throughout a neighborhood make the whole neighborhood appear lush and inviting and raise the values for all home owners nearby. According to a University of Washington research survey:

  • Mature trees in a yard add 2%
    • Mature trees on the street add at least 3% for all home owners on the street
    • Trees in the front yard add 3-5%
    • Mature trees in high-income neighborhoods add 10-15%. Incidentally, it has been found that higher valued neighborhoods have far more tall mature trees than more suburban neighborhoods. 

benefits of treesBut beyond the value of mature trees on the sales price of your home, trees help in many other ways that put real cash in your bank account. You’ve probably heard all this before but here goes the list:

  1. Trees add shade, which keeps your house cooler during the hot summer months. In fact, according to the Forest Service, a tree planted on the west side of your house can reduce air conditioning use by 30% in a single year. 
  2. Trees clean the air of contaminants and if you remember your science classes breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out clean oxygen which decreases your carbon footprint while cleaning the air around you. This in turn cuts down global warming. 
  3. Mature trees are a great wind break and again can help reduce your heating costs up to 30% a year by effectively reducing a 35 mph wind to 10% during the coldest windiest months of the year. 

The city of Portland has been paying attention to how trees add value, not only to a home owner, or a neighborhood, but also to the city. As home values continue to rise, cities benefit by higher property taxes. Portland has been paying attention so as early as 2013 Portland decided to plant 33,000 trees throughout the metro area within 5 years, especially in the 55% of the city where more trees were needed. We are still in the process of competing that plan. This not only adds to the city coffers, but also is part if the city plan to keep Portland green.

Are you ready to start growing your own money trees?

You don’t have to buy fully grown trees which are expensive and much more difficult to plant. You can start with smaller plants, perhaps as small as in 1 gallon pots and watch those trees grow along with the equity in your home.

You might also want to read more about Factors that can increase the value of your home

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Seattle – Portland fastest rising home prices nationwide

sold - sale pending signsAccording to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Schiller home price index, Seattle and Portland are leading the country with the fastest rising home prices in the twenty major metropolitan areas they follow. Seattle has had year over year price increases of 11% annually through September 2016, while Portland follows right on Seattle’s heels at 10.9%. Remember, these are average prices and some neighborhoods within these metro areas have seen prices rise much more dramatically year over year. 

According to Professor Gerard Mildner at Portland State University’s Center for Real Estate, the issue is that developers are just not building enough housing to meet the demand. He added that here in the Portland metro area, “We’re building about 20 percent fewer housing units in the last three years as compared to the years between 1990 to 2007.” At the same time, our rate of growth as been explosive with as many as 150 new residents moving into Portland every single day! That number varies from report to report, but numbers I’ve seen range from as low as 112 daily to as high as 165 people migrating into Portland daily. 

Housing inventory has sat at or below 2 months (the time it would take to sell all listed homes based on current demand if there were no new listings) for the last few years, and demand is on the rise with recent rate increases. 

How much has demand risen?

Lockbox activity 12-4-2016

Just to give you some perspective on demand, check out the chart issued by RMLS that shows the amazing increase in number of home viewings the week ending December 4, 2016!

Since the election, rates have been rising at the fastest pace we’ve seen in years, so buyers are jumping off the fence and getting to work finding that new house. On average rates are up at least 1/2% in the couple weeks! 

 

 

 

Is Portland experiencing a housing bubble?

The general consensus is NO. 

First of all, the population and business influx that we are seeing in this decade did not exist prior to the housing collapse on 2007-2008. Sure we saw people moving to Portland from all over the country, but the jobs increases due to the movement of big industry creating satellite offices here is a relatively new phenomenon. 

We have not seen the wage increases that would support price increases continuing at the rate we’ve seen over the last 3-5 years (up 32.5% in the last 5 years), but the lending guidelines (assuming that they are not over-turned with the new administration) are so much more stringent that current home owners and buyers are not nearly as likely to default as they were during the recession. High risk banking and lending practices and loan products have all but disappeared. 

Home ownership remains an American dream

Most  people interviewed want to be home owners. There is stability in knowing what your housing payment will be from year to year (versus rapidly rising rents); and where else can you see as great a return on your investment as current home owners are seeing?

As mentioned above, until supply catches up to demand, housing prices in Portland will continue to rise. At least that is the forecast until at least 2020. To be sure, the rate of inflation in housing values will slow as supply catches up to demand. There could even be a 10% price reduction in the next 10 years, but if your home value has increased by 30% and more, that’s not devastating, especially if you know your housing payment will not increase. 

Please read more in the article published by Ettro Capital in November 2016.

 

 

 

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Fall and early winter are best seasons for both home buyers and sellers

Fall colors

Fall colorsLate October through the end of December  are always the best months for home buyers and sellers to either get their properties listed or hit the streets in search of the perfect house. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the reason is low inventory and serious buyers.

Relatively speaking few people list their homes during the latter part of the year, especially as we move closer to the holidays. Home owners get involved in home decorating, holiday shopping and of course, all those special holiday activities. They’re busy and don’t want to be bothered with keeping their homes as clean and orderly as possible for potential buyers.

Buyers also get busy, but serious buyers are looking to take advantage of less competition, hoping to avoid bidding wars and perhaps more negotiating power with sellers. Besides, even if they cant close a sale prior to year end, moving into a new home is a great way to start a new year. 

Feds meet again in December

The Feds are scheduled to meet again in December. The elections will finally be behind us, but there has been a lot of talk about raising interest rates one last time this year. Wall Street has seen corporations reporting strong earnings for the 3rd quarter of this year which makes it even more likely that the dreaded rate hikes could be upon us sooner rather than later. 

There are even rumors that the Feds will back off on their massive purchases of mortgage bonds low which have been keeping mortgage rates so low since the recovery began in 2012. Remember, even a small increase in mortgage rates will affect your buying power.

So, whether looking to buy or sell, don’t write off the later months in the year. 

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It’s a sellers housing market ~ where are my multiple offers?

As home buyers and sellers know, this is a sellers housing market. In fact, Portland has been consistently one of the hottest markets in the country almost every month for the last several years, and no one is anticipating any slow down in rising home prices. As a result, home sellers have come to expect multiple offers when they list their houses. Unfortunately, many sellers are not finding that to be the case. Why not?

Location, location, location AND price

Buyers know that when it comes to buying a house, their top two requirements are location and price. In some locations, just about any house that is listed, regardless of the condition, will sell with multiple offers IF it is priced properly for the neighborhood. Even fixers sell quickly in these neighborhoods.

So, why do some sellers receive so many offers regardless of location?

Homes that seem to be in the highest demand are often either priced under that buyer sweet spot of $300,000 or less, or are priced below market value.

Unlike the house buying frenzy we experienced in 2012 – 2015, home buyers this year are far more cautious, picky, and savvy. This is likely to continue, in spite of low inventory and high demand. The bottom line is when buyers are spending so much money on a house, they want what they want, and seem willing to wait for that “right house” to come along. This is likely to continue as long as home prices continue to rise. Paying $300,000 for a house, while still relatively low priced in Portland’s current housing market, is still a lot of money.

Houses must be priced right to sell quickly

Almost every home owner thinks their house is worth more than it really is. Part of this is the emotional attachment to the house, but more often, sellers expect to recoup every cent they have spent in upgrading and maintaining their home. This is not the way it works. There are almost no upgrades that will repay you fully for the actual cost. You should reasonably expect about 75% of the actual cost, while some renovations will net you slightly more, and some could actually result in lower offers because they are so personal in nature that buyers will deduct from the price in order to have that upgrade removed or replaced. You may love your renovations and upgrades, but not every buyer shares your taste. You may think it was worth it to pay $5000 for a Bosch cooktop, but your buyer may not even notice or care if cooking isn’t a really big deal. You may have spent a ton of cash on custom cabinetry in your kitchen and bath. Would you believe most buyers won’t even notice that it’s custom?

Items on buyers must have lists that may keep them away from your house

  • Gas ranges – while this is generally not a major factor in price, approximately 90% of all buyers want gas ranges, and some won’t even look at a house without one.
  • Dual sinks in master baths are must haves in master baths, and often in main bathrooms as well, depending on family size and number of baths.
  • Air conditioning is increasingly becoming a must have for many buyers, especially as we see more people moving into Portland from much hotter and/or more humid climates.
  • Attached garages.
  • Hardwood floors.
  • Curb appeal is critical. If buyers won’t even walk into your house, you may have lost a sale. Be sure you’re not advertising a yard full of weeds and at least have some attractive landscaping out front. Paint the front door and even install a new light fixture. Remember, buyers form their first impression of your house in the first 10-15 seconds. Make sure their first impression is a good one. Great curb appeal can net you up to 10% higher offers and sales prices.

What if you price your house too high?

Prior to the housing boom of the early 2000s and this sellers market, it was okay to price a house a little too high. Houses typically were on the market 30-60 days, and most buyers typically offered less than list price anyway. Those days are gone. These days, if a house isn’t under contract within 5-10 days, buyers assume there is something wrong with the house. The old adage that if a house doesn’t sell, we can always lower the price is a bad practice in this market. The longer your house is on the market, the more likely it is that offers you receive will be less than list price. You can forget about multiple offers – they are very unlikely.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, sellers who price their houses a bit below market value are far more likely to sell for more money, AND receive those coveted multiple offers. Buyers are always shopping for deals, and sometimes can’t resist making an offer on a “steal of a deal.”

Price per square foot – this is the most over-used and inaccurate statistic out there

We see this number on multiple websites, or we can compute it ourselves really easily. If you divide the sale price of a house by the square footage of the house, you arrive at what is customarily called price per square foot. While this number makes sense in a homogenous neighborhood, where all lots were purchased by the developer for the same price, it is much less accurate in more custom or older neighborhoods where even lot size and condition of homes can differ widely. This is when price per square foot becomes such a misleading number that few people really understand. The truth is that a proper sales price is determined by multiple variables including:

  • number of bedrooms (each bedroom is given a value, but a master bedroom with a walk in closet is valued higher than one with a small closet, while a master suite is the most desirable).
  • number of baths (this is further refined by whether a bath is a half bath (sink and toilet), 3 piece bath (sink, toilet, shower or tub), 4 piece bath (sink, toilet, tub and separate bath), 5 piece bath (sink, sink, toilet, shower, bathtub). The more plumbing outlets, the higher the value of the bathroom.
  • square footage of house (this should be actual living space but in fact includes unfinished basements and even storage areas) .
  • garage (single car, two car, oversized, oversized with storage, finished (sheet-rocked), attached or detached, etc.)
  • basement (finished, unfinished, partially finished, high ceilings, outside entry, walk out basement or underground basement, etc. While all basements are computed into living space, they shouldn’t be. A basement with only 5 foot ceilings is basically worthless as living space for most families, but is often cited as living space and is calculated into price per square foot. An appraiser won’t give this basement full value though, and he/she shouldn’t).
  • finished attic space versus unfinished (variables include formal stairway to attic, ceiling height, insulation, walls, number of rooms, bath in attic, fully wired, etc)
  • lot size (if your lot is dividable or just over-sized or under-sized for the neighborhood, this will definitely affect the price per square foot)
  • condition of house – don’t overlook the details because buyers won’t.
  • landscaping – and yes this definitely does matter. Buyers are more likely to pay more for a house with both hardscaping and attractive front and back yards. Landscaping, and especially hardscaping is expensive. Do you have an outdoor kitchen? Water feature? Pool? Hot tub? While some of these features add values, others can cost you. What should not be overlooked is making the landscaping attractive, because a yard full of weeds will lessen the value of the house, and some buyers won’t even walk into the front door if the “curb appeal” is missing.
  • energy efficiency of appliances, fixtures, etc. Homes with high energy scores will appraise higher and will sell for more – up to 4-5% more than homes that are not scored and don’t include that 95% efficient furnace, etc.
  • Decks are more attractive to most buyers than patios – for reasons I don’t totally understand. They are much higher maintenance, and if not up high enough off the ground to be easily accessible, can attract all manner of varmints. Stray cats, mice, rats, etc will find that low lying deck a great place to nest and shelter from bad weather.
  • Hardwood floors versus carpeting. Some buyers won’t even look at houses with carpet.

So, if you see the house down the street from you is listed for $300 per square foot, you may decide that your house should be priced the same. But what if that house is priced under $300,000, while you want to price your house at $400,000? Suddenly you’re looking at a whole new batch of prospective buyers. Yes, your house may be bigger and have more upgrades than your neighbor’s house, but there are far more people who can and will pay up to $300,000 than up to $400,000, so you’re not competing with the same buying pool. It’s very likely that your neighbor’s house is smaller than yours, and/or may be on a much bigger lot. In any event, more potential buyers will find themselves in a more competitive market for lower priced homes regardless of size or condition.

Statistics show staging your house almost always reaps more offers at higher prices

Believe it or not, only 10-30% of all home buyers can actually visualize how their furnishings will look in your house. This is why most high end homes and almost all big developers stage their homes before they go on the market.

  1. Empty homes look smaller than furnished homes, and this is especially important for bedrooms.
  2. Buyers are better able to visualize themselves in your space.
  3. Rooms with undefined uses (such as dens or bonus rooms) can now be defined.
  4. The entire house looks more finished and higher end. This is really important when prospective buyers are looking at photos online, and of course when they walk into the house.

Yes, staging is expensive, but statistics show that homes that are staged do receive higher offers.

Why do home prices continue to rise in Portland?

  1. Industries continue to move into the Portland area – many of these are industry giants like Google, Airbnb, Amazon, Uber, and more. At the same time, tech start ups find Portland attractive, and of course, it seems that just about everyone wants to at least visit Portland, and once they do, they’re hooked and ready to pack up and move here.
  2. It has been reported that as many as 160 people move into Portland every single day!
  3. Portland has been rated the #1 best city to live in by the National Association of Realtors as of September 2, 2016!
  4. Portland offers much that so many people are seeking:
    • moderate climate,
    • big city atmosphere,
    • it’s a foodie haven,
    • everything you could ask for in terms of outdoors activities all within an hours drive, and often bike riding distance
    • employment
  5. Moderate housing prices relative to most other big cities in the U.S., and especially relative to other urban areas on the west coast
  6. Housing inventory remains below 2 months (the number of months it would take to sell all the houses currently listed at the current pace of sales.
  7. We still have a huge number of institutional investors (think pension funds, banks, unions, insurance companies or real estate investment trusts)buying in Portland to capitalize on the rising housing prices and rising rents.

We could go on and on singing the praises of Portland, but unlike 20 years ago when Portland was known primarily for rain, we are now one of the most popular tourist destinations, and as mentioned above, one of the fastest growing cities in the country. (If only our transportation and housing needs could keep up with our growth.)

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Should Portland home sellers be required to get a home energy score before selling?

energy star logo as seen on most appliancesThe city of Portland is proposing that all Portland city residents be required to have an energy audit and obtain a home energy score prior to listing their homes. There are approximately 160,000 single family homes in the city of Portland, but fewer than 2% of owners have an energy score. Why does this matter?

As shoppers, and we’re all shoppers, we want as much information about what we’re buying as we can get. We look for labels on food, automobiles, energy labels on appliances, etc. But home buyers want more information, and without an energy audit and score, that information is not readily available.

The framework for energy audits for houses in Portland was first established in 2009. By 2013, the training program for certifying energy scoring professionals was underway, and yet, here we are close to the end of 2016, and fewer than 600 Portland houses have had an audit done.

Portland has a Climate Action Plan that proposes that by 2050 Portland will reduce carbon emissions by 80%. But how can we achieve that goal without knowing how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere by each house without audits? We already know that residential buildings account for approximately 50% of the total carbon being released into the atmosphere from buildings. (According to the proposal, “By April 2017, 80 percent of Portland’s commercial building square footage will be reporting energy performance.”)

More about energy audits

Before everyone panics, you should know that an energy audit takes only 45 minutes to an hour to complete, and costs only approximately $150-$250 per house. On the upside, a house with a high energy score will generally sell for up to 4% more than one with a low score, or no score at all. (With average home prices in Portland now around $400,000, you just might net a lot more money when you sell your house.) So, in spite of a lot of opposition, this is really a no brainer for both buyers and sellers alike IF the proposal is drafted property (see below for reasons to opposition). Most home owners are upgrading their homes all the time. So why not pay a little extra for more energy efficient appliances, better insulation, and regular home maintenance to improve your energy score? It makes your home more comfortable to live in and reduces your energy bills to boot.

The other upside to going energy efficient is that there are both state and federal tax credits for many of these purchases, as well as rebates issued by Energy Trust of Oregon, and sometimes even the approved contractors who install these purchases. I’ve even been told by one prior client that installing an electric heat pump instant hot water system was almost a net zero purchase with all the credits he received for the purchase. AND, of course, if you’ve ever looked at your Portland water/sewer bill, you will have noticed that the sewer portion of the bill is usually higher than the water usage portion of the bill. With instant on hot water, you’re not paying for all that water that runs down the drain while you wait for the hot water to get to your kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room.

And one last benefit is that with a good energy score, when you sell your house, you qualify for appraisers who are certified to value your home with your energy upgrades. That is no small bonus these days when all too often homes are appraising lower than actual sales price.

How will this information be passed on to prospective buyers? Home owners can obtain a score at any time and report their scores to the city of Portland via mail, fax or online. The city will make this information available on Portlandmaps.com, and of course, listing agents will enter this information into the RMLS when the house is listed.

Why so much opposition to requiring energy audits?

According to PMAR (Portland Metro Association of Realtors), this proposal is poorly drafted.

  1. There aren’t enough certified auditors yet, and most who are certified are also selling some of the “green” products you might purchase anyway.
  2. There are multiple scoring systems. In any given metro area, the scoring model must be consistent so consumers will understand the reports and scores.
  3. We are already experiencing an appraisal crisis here in the Portland metro area. It’s not unusual for it to take 4-6 weeks and even longer in more outlying areas to get an appraisal done. Are there enough appraisers out there who are certified to value energy efficient homes?
  4. The audit must be completed prior to listing a house. For someone who is ready to list now, this could delay that transaction, perhaps for months. This could potentially be a disaster for someone who has just lost a job or is experiencing some other type of life crisis.
  5. Why are banks exempt from this disclosure?
  6. Why are rental properties exempt from this disclosure?
  7. Finally, why does this proposal apply only to homes within the Portland city limits? Does this mean that home buyers in Washington, Clackamas and Clarke counties don’t care about energy efficiency?

What other cities have passed similar policies?

Several U.S. cities have passed similar disclosure policies for their market, including Austin, Texas; Berkeley, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Boulder, Colorado. Internationally, residential disclosure policies are in effect in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. The reduction in carbon emissions is apparently already noticeable where audits are required.

Please read the full scope of the proposal for more information.

 

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Friends of Trees of Portland

snoozing in you hammock

I know, this sounds like a “tree hugger” article waiting to happen. Well, it is, and it’s not.

If you’re not familiar with Friends of Trees, please allow me to introduce this great non-profit organization whose only mission is to bring people together to plant and care for city trees and green spaces in Pacific Northwest communities; including trees for your own property.

Through their Neighborhood Trees program, homeowners buy trees at a great discount to plant with their neighbors at weekend plantings. For $35-$75, you’ll receive a healthy 8-12′ tree, delivery, hole digging, planting assistance, mulch, stakes, and follow-up maintenance checks: a $200 value! They also offer scholarships to people who can’t afford a tree, and if you need a permit to plant trees in your mowing strip, they’ll even help you with the permitting process (which is free).

 

Through the Green Space Program, trained crew leaders guide volunteers at weekend events to restore green spaces.

Since Friends of Trees was founded by Richard Seidman in 1989, they have planted nearly half a million trees and native plants in the Portland – Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield metro areas. This year they have also expanded into the Salem metro area as well.

Street trees add value to every house in your neighborhood

IF you’ve been thinking about planting a fruit tree in your yard, or a towering Douglas Fir (Oregon’s state tree), Friends of Trees is currently giving away several fruit tree varieties and lots of evergreen trees too. They can even tell you which trees would be best for your mowing strip, if you’d like to get your neighborhood involved in planting great street trees that will not only look great, but will also increase the value of every home in your neighborhood by as much as 8-10%. Sure property values are soaring around here anyway, but who wouldn’t like to see their property value increase another 8-10% as these trees grow and create that inviting ambiance so many of us are drawn to when we drive down tree lined streets.

snoozing in you hammock

OR – you might share your hammock with a bear?

More benefits of planting trees in your front and back yards

  1. Trees help clean the air of pollutants.
  2. Trees provide shade during the hottest weather which will lower your utility bills.
  3. Trees make a great hammock support. Why not plant 2 trees at hammock distance apart in your yard? Can you picture yourself sitting back on a hot day, under the shade of your trees, reading a book, drinking an Oregon craft beer or one of our local wines, and just relaxing? Does it get any better than this?
  4. And in case you missed it, trees add value to your home.

 

If you’re looking for an opportunity to give back to the community, Friends of Trees is always looking for volunteers. You can find more information about volunteer opportunities and needs by visiting their website. Personally I’ve just signed up to pour beer on July 2nd at the  Portland Craft Beer Festival in the Friends of Trees booth. Sounds like fun, a great way to meet new people, and give back while enjoying the day. (And you thought you might have to plant a tree? They could use help with workers who plant trees too and if you’re working with some great people, that can be a lot of fun too). 

Convinced yet? Check out the trees that are currently available in your neighborhood and sign up to get started today.  The selection will vary so you don’t have to actually choose your tree today. In fact, volunteer planting season runs from October – May, so their assistance in getting a tree into your yard is over for the season, but you can always choose a tree to plant yourself.

You might also want to read:

Factors that can increase the value of your home

 

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Portland home prices hit new median highs as of end of 2015

It’s official. Throughout the Portland-Vancouver metro area, home prices have hit new median highs as of the end of 2015. All four counties have surpassed the values and prices last seen prior to the housing crash of 2007.

What’s driving all this growth? I’ll recap some of the reasons covered in the past, and add a couple new reasons that aren’t as common knowledge.

  1. Approximately five hundred new people are taking up residence in this area every week and they need a place to live.
  2. More high paying jobs are being created as technology businesses create outposts and new offices in the Portland area.
  3. The extreme volatility in the stock market has many investors re-thinking the wisdom of investing on Wall Street. Institutional investors are buying up the Portland housing market and are aggressively competing with all cash offers often at premium prices as they consider our market a better investment than Wall Street. Portland is currently the 2nd most desirable area for institutional investors in the country.
  4. Mortgage rates remain low for those still financing their purchases.
  5. Millennials have entered the housing market.
  6. Record low housing inventory has buyers driving up prices with bidding wars as new buyers try to get into the housing market. This is especially true for houses priced at or below $400,000.
  7. Builders have been very much behind the eight ball in catching up to housing demand; though big developers such as DR Horton and Lennar Homes just completed purchases of huge tracts of land. Still it will be a couple years before they are able to sell houses on those parcels because plans must be submitted to cities for approval of developments and of course the infrastructure has to be completed before they can even start building houses.

It seems that every day new articles cross my desk talking about just how hot the market is in Portland, but the prognosis for how long this housing boom will last continues to be extended. Last year the “experts” were saying that we would see a robust market at least through 2016, but now some experts say that with the unprecedented job growth, low housing inventory, and rate of migration to this area, our housing market may very well not slow down until sometime in 2018! 

 

 

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Two tips to net top dollar when you sell your home

Every home seller wants top dollar for their home, but many are going at pricing wrong, and it’s costing them money!

List your house with a realtor®

  1. Sellers think that by trying to sell their home on their own, they are saving the cost of the realtor commission. The truth is that study after study has shown that sellers who list their homes with a professional actually sell for much higher prices than those who try to go it alone.

“The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $210,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $151,900. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $249,000 – nearly $40,000 more for the typical home sale.”

FSBOs vs listed - median sales prices

The truth is that realtors have a lot of tools to market your home that you do not have. Just listing your home on the local MLS (multiple listing service) gives your home thousands of times more exposure than the typical home owner has. 

  • Local realtors may not even know your house is for sale if it’s not listed.
  • Realtors who list a home have the capability of broadcasting your listing via email to all realtors in a given area letting them know there’s a hot new listing to show. 
  • There are more than 5,000 realtors in the Portland metro area working with buyers. How can a single home owner compete with the sheer numbers of possible real estate professionals who might show your home to their buyers?
  • You are free to go on vacation and leave the work to us. 
  • Most buyers prefer the seller NOT be home when they are viewing your home.
  • We know what our buyers are looking for, so know what features to point out that could be just the right selling point for your home.
  • Lock boxes give listing agents the capability of calling the buyers’ agent to follow up and get instant feedback from buyer viewings; and to keep those agents in the know if prices are changed, when offers are received, etc.

The MOST important reason to list your house is that most buyers prefer to work with a professional realtor. As a home owner, you are not permitted to use our state sanctioned offer forms (10 pages of legalese that protects both buyers and sellers). Most buyers want that protection, and the comfort of knowing that their realtor will watch out for them and guide them through the process.

In short, far more potential buyers will view your house when listed than when for sale by owner. The more people who view your house, the more likely you are to receive more and higher offers.

Price your house slightly below market value

Most sellers think that if they price their houses just above comparable value, they have room to negotiate with buyers. This actually makes some sense in a normal housing market. But NOT in a sellers’ market.

Look how many more people will view your house when it's priced below market value!

Look how many more people will view your house when it’s priced below market value!

The truth is that the secret to making more money on the sale of your home is to get more buyers to view it. In order to do that, we will often price your house just below actual market value so it looks like it’s a bargain.

Home buyers are pretty savvy these days. They do their research and have a pretty good idea what a house should be priced at in any given neighborhood based on size and features. But, everyone wants to pay less for a house than fair value and that will bring hoards of buyers to your home. Who can resist a house on sale?

Because the buyers think they might get a good deal, more of them are likely to “throw their hats into the ring” to try to pick up this bargain. When there are multiple offers for a house, the buyers actually end up competing with each other for your house, rather than haggling with you over the price. This is why in multiple offer situations, so many homes end up selling for considerably more than list price, making you Mr./Ms. Seller “the winner.”

 

You might also like to read:

Factors that can increase the value of your home

Great curb appeal can net sellers up to 10% higher prices

Staging your house for sale nets sellers higher offers

 

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16 signs your home is seriously dated

maintained bodyHomes are a little like people. They require continual maintenance and updating to maintain their integrity, appearance, and safety. Potential buyers to your house will watch for any features that spell money to them after the purchase closes. But beyond that, failure to invest in proper maintenance and updating WILL cost sellers money, and can be dangerous to current residents.

Obvious signs that a home has not been well maintained or upgraded in a long time:

  1. Fuse boxes – especially a fuse box with only four fuses! Fuse boxes haven’t been installed in new construction in decades with good reason. They simply don’t have the safety features that new circuit breaker electrical panels have. Yes, fuses trip or burn out if over loaded, but it was too easy to bypass those safety features and create a fire hazard in doing so. In addition, there are no fuse boxes out there with enough capacity to handle new appliances, big flat screen TVs and sound systems, computers, and all the new gadgets that are being manufactured every day to safeguard your home.
  1. Old electrical panels – especially where additional panels have been wired into the original panel, or where there are signs of cobwebs, frayed wires, etc. inside. Electrical panels need to be replaced to accommodate new technology, or can also be a fire waiting to happen.
  2. No GFCI outlets – especially in any room with water access such as bathrooms and kitchens. Again, these are dangerous and should be upgraded. Electrical shock and potential electrocution are the obvious readily apparent dangers here.
  3. Aluminum wiring According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, homes wired with old technology aluminum wire “are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach Fire Hazard Conditions than is a home wired with copper.” Enough said.
  4. Old furnaces that obviously have not been serviced regularly (if there are dust mites inside, this furnace needs at the very least, a good cleaning and inspection). But buyers are also looking for energy efficiency, and old furnaces were not built nearly as energy efficient as newer models. If you have an old furnace in your home, make sure it is cleaned and serviced prior to listing, and if possible get your servicer to write up a letter stating that the furnace is in good working condition.
  1. moss covered roofMoss covered roofs – If your roof is so covered in moss that you can barely see the roof, most buyers will assume this roof needs replacing. At the very least, have that roof professionally cleaned and inspected.
  2. Carpet in the bathroom – This is a definite replace it now situation. It is not only unsanitary, but mold can be hiding in and under the fibers of the carpet.

 

 

More flags that will cost home sellers in their ultimate sales price

  1. Wall to wall shag carpeting is definitely out, and if stained or has well-worn or bare patches, dollar signs are going off in your buyers’ heads.
  2. White appliances – especially if they are old. White appliances have been out of favor for a decade or more, and especially those older electric stoves with coils rather than flat surface tops. Even worse are appliances in colors such as sage green, gold or beige.
  3. Busy dated wallpaper and bold colored paint. Remove both and go neutral with your color scheme.
  4. Brass fixtures (lighting, drawer pulls and door knobs) really date your home.
  5. Linoleum
  6. Tiled counter-tops – OK – you love that electric blue tile, but it will be the very rare buyer who loves it as much as you do. And the grouting is very hard to keep clean and sanitary.
  7. Formica counter-tops – enough said.
  8. Popcorn ceilings – These are not only dated, but in a huge percentage of homes built prior to 1978 or so, contain asbestos. Popcorn ceilings definitely have to go. But be careful about doing it yourself before you have it tested for asbestos.
  9. Wood paneling – We’re not talking log cabins here or beautiful wood details such as wainscoating. We’re talking about the inexpensive wood paneling that was so in vogue half a century ago. If you can’t afford to tear those out and sheetrock the walls, at least paint them a neutral color.

Remember that home buyers have their eyes on their wallets

If there is anything in your house that seriously needs updating, sellers should always consider making those upgrades before listing. Buyers almost always over-estimate the cost and time to do those upgrades themselves and will low ball sellers to the extreme IF they make offers at all. All too often buyers won’t even want to go see a house with photos showing white appliances, popcorn ceilings, wood paneling and gold fixtures. 90% of buyers out there are looking for move in ready.

If you Mr./Ms. Seller are looking for top dollar for your house, talk to your realtor® about what not upgrading your house could cost you in real dollars and cents. Remember the more potential buyers you can attract, the more money you will make on your sale.

 

 

 

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Great curb appeal can net home sellers up to 10% higher sales prices

Before and after photos of curb appeal
Before and after photos of curb appeal

Hard to believe these photos are of the same house. Yes, the portico over the front door adds dimension to the flat surface of the house, but even without the portico, the paved walkway, plants and mulched garden beds make buyers believe that the AFTER photo shows a house that will be in much better condition indoors as well. Which house would you offer more for?

If you’re thinking about selling your home, don’t overlook your front yard. Buyers form their first impression of your house as they drive up to it, so failure to make a great first impression can cost you a LOT of money. Statistics show that homes with great curb appeal sell for up to 10 percent more than comparable homes without it.

Did you know that you have only about 10 seconds to make a first impression on potential home buyers, and that first impression will last all through the first walk through of your property. Whether your potential buyers love or hate gardening is irrelevant. Everyone wants to impress anyone who visits them and often invite guests to see their new house, so they want their homes to look as good as possible, both inside and out, from the day they move in.

It’s great that you’ve got a killer house indoors, but if potential buyers won’t even get out of their car to look indoors, you have lost a potential sale.

Tips on sprucing up the front yard to maximize your sales price

  1. Rent a pressure washer to clean up walkways, the home exterior, driveways, etc.    
  2. Wash all your windows.
  3. If you have a lawn, make sure it is trimmed and edged.
  4. Add some gardening beds if they don’t already exist, and at least put in some foundation plants to add interest and dimension to the front of your home.
  5. Weed the flower beds and apply a fresh layer of mulch to make your plants stand out.
  6. Prune trees and shrubs.
  7. Plant some color in the beds if possible. Annuals are very inexpensive and add instant warmth to the exterior. But flowers are not absolutely necessary, (especially if you list your house during the late fall and winter months). There are many evergreen shrubs and grasses in multiple shades of green that can stand out beautifully against fresh mulch.
  8. Fill some planters with fresh lush plantings, especially near the front door, to welcome visitors into your home.
  9. Get a new welcome mat.
  10. Paint your front door.
  11. Replace torn screens, especially if you live in an area where open windows invite flies and other unwanted bugs indoors. 
  12. Dig up dead or sick looking plants and if necessary fill that space with containers with fresh plants. These are almost always available at nurseries, even during the winter months.
  13. Store excessive yard décor type items. Not everyone likes pink flamingos or gnomes in their yards.
  14. If you have a water feature, be sure to clean it up.
  15. Repair leaking faucets. If your faucet is leaking outdoors, buyers will wonder what other deferred maintenance might be indoors.
  16. If you are planning to dig up any plants or trees to take to your new home, you might consider doing this before you start showing your house.
  17. Touch up any areas on the exterior paint that might make the house look like the entire exterior requires a paint job.
  18. Chain link fences are very out of favor and are most often nothing more than an eyesore. Buyers see this as a big job and expense to remove, so if possible remove or have it removed prior to listing your house. Leaving it there will more often than not result in low offers. 

A well kept front lawn is better than no landscaping or weeds in front of your home. But the front of your house is both the first and last impression of your home as buyers drive away. Remember, no matter how beautiful the interior of your home is, you should always strive to make your home as inviting and warm as possible, and good curb appeal will result in higher offers. Your wallet will thank you for the efforts you make before you list your property. 

More information about increasing the value of your home:

Factors that can increase the value of your home

Tips for sellers in a hot housing market – staging your home results in higher offers

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Factors that can increase the value of your home

street trees in a neighborhood

street trees in a neighborhoodReal estate agents know that valuing a home isn’t rocket science, but determining value is not nearly as cut and dried as the algorithms used by well-known property search sites in their estimated values.

According to House Logic, there are many factors that can influence the price buyers will be willing to pay for your home.

**Millenials cite “walkability” as the number 1 factor that influences their decision about location. In Portland, we are seeing more and more neighborhoods creating small shopping districts that home owners can walk to for groceries, coffee shops, fine dining, and boutique and retail shopping. Homes in walkable areas will see value increases of $4,000 – $34,000, depending on the type of shops and restaurants nearby. Clearly little boutique shops and dining are favored, and result in the higher valuations of neighborhoods. But just being able to walk to a local park is important too.

**Highly rated schools

**County or state parks or golf courses nearby can increase the value of a home more than you might imagine.

  • A public park within walking distance can increase the value 8-20%
  • A natural area can increase the value on average about $10,000
  • A nearby golf course can raise the value approximately $8,000.

**Here’s a surprise – House Logic says a nearby Walmart that stays open 24/7 could increase your home’s value 1-2% and if very nearby another 1%. In Portland, Walmart stores are not all that popular but are gaining traction. But watch for areas where a New Seasons or Trader Joe’s market is either proposed or ready to open. Those are sure signs that the neighborhood is either prospering or is definitely on the rise in desirability and values.

**Additional dwelling spaces (whether a separate building or a basement with a separate entrance) can increase your home’s value 24-34%. These separate units are in high demand but are relatively rare in the Portland metro area.

**Trees are a valuable asset – and trees in your own yard, or better yet, street trees throughout a neighborhood make the whole neighborhood appear lush and inviting and raise the values for all home owners in your neighborhood. According to a University of Washington research survey:

    • Mature trees in a yard add 2%
    • Mature trees on the street add at least 3% for all home owners on the street
    • Trees in the front yard add 3-5%
    • Mature trees in high-income neighborhoods add 10-15%

While all the above factors can influence the value of your home, you can’t move your home to a better location to attract buyers. Still, if you want to add value, something as relatively easy and inexpensive as planting a tree or two in your mowing strip can definitely enhance not only your house, but the looks of your entire neighborhood too. Imagine if everyone on your street planted just one tree today how much more inviting your street would look in just 5 years.

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No more bidding wars in the Portland housing market

Bidding wars! Those words strike terror into the hearts of many would be home buyers during a very active sellers’ market. Believe it or not, sellers don’t like bidding wars much more than buyers do.

With Portland currently experiencing a full on sellers’ market, one would think bidding wars would be rampant, but that isn’t the case this year. 

Currently, when a listing goes live on MLS, the listing agent clearly indicates when offers must be in and when they will be presented to sellers. It is not unusual to see new property listings go live on Thursday, an open house on Saturday or Sunday, and offers due by noon and presented to sellers at 3pm Monday afternoon. 

In this format, it is imperative that buyers make their first offer their “highest and best, because there is no haggling or negotiating at this point, and there is no second chance.

The sellers are able to review all  offers in one sitting and select the winning bid which is almost always the highest price. Occasionally other factors can come into play,  such as closing date, pre-approvals, buyers’ willingness to allow a rent-back period, waiver of inspections, etc.

When the winning offer is selected and mutually accepted by sellers and buyers, the house goes pending (off the market).

Most sellers are seeing all the advantages of the bidding wars days in terms of higher prices without all the drawbacks inherent in a bidding war scenario.

In many areas throughout Portland, homes are selling at premiums of 10% and more above listing price. If you are home shopping your realtor should be familiar with your area and the premiums most buyers are willing to pay so you can write up your best offer when you find your dream home.

Of course, if a house does not sell within the specified offer period,  the house remains on the market where buyers reap the rewards, with more negotiating power.

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Pricing your home for sale

real estate sold sign for newsletterIf you’re thinking about listing your house for sale, you have a pretty good idea what the home is worth. So after doing all your research and comparison shopping, why do sellers sometimes hear a realtor tell them the value of your house might be lower than you anticipated. Everyone always wants to hear their home is worth more. It’s human nature. We all want top dollar.

Sellers: even in a short inventory “sellers’ market”, it is important to price your home correctly for the market. The Internet has helped  most potential home buyers become very savvy. They have done their research and have a pretty good idea what the competition is going for, so if your home is over-priced, it could sit on the market a long time (unless there are some extraordinary features). Homes that sell quickly will almost always get more offers at better prices than those that have been on the market for more than a month or two.

Generally speaking, buyers tend to think that properties that have been sitting on the market for a while must have something wrong with them or that they must be over priced, so IF they make an offer it will usually be for less than the asking price.

Aside from all this, it’s miserable to have your home listed if you’re still living there. It’s hard to keep a home show ready, especially if you have children or pets. And, most of us worry about our possessions and lack of privacy. The solution is to get the home sold as quickly as possible.

In a very hot sellers market, some realtors believe that pricing your home lower than fair market value will bring in bidding wars. This has worked in many instances, but before you choose this option, think about how you will feel if you don’t receive multiple offers, or if all the offers you receive are lower than you anticipated. To use this strategy effectively, you should consider:

1. location – currently we are seeing the top selling neighborhoods those that are centered around walkable shopping and dining experiences.

2. amount and prices of competing inventory.

3. is your home in “move in ready” condition

4. holding offers for a week or so so more buyers have time to view the home and submit offers.

Many of these properties are listed on Fridays so an open house can be held over the weekend, and offers held until at least Monday evening.

It’s important to remember that no matter the condition of your property, if it is priced right for the location and condition, it will sell.

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Redfin study concludes winter is a great season to sell your property

???????????????????????????????Contrary to much popular opinion, the housing market is alive and well, even during the winter months (December 21 – March 20). In fact, Redfin has just updated a study conducted by the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors (PMAR) in 2013 and concluded that the winter months are the best months to list and sell your home.

Redfin researchers studied nationwide home listings, sales prices, and time-on-market data from 2010 through October 2014.”  The findings suggest that during the winter months, buyers are more focused and serious about purchasing a home than during the busier spring and summer months (when many “buyers” are often just window shopping.)

Redfin’s conclusion was that winter months favor sellers because there is less competition (lower inventory). But read on….

Winter months also tend to favor home buyers

So, if you’re a buyer, should you wait until later in the year? Sure there is more inventory to choose from, but there is also a lot more competition for the same properties which can also favor sellers, especially when they receive multiple offers.

Many realtors® polled disagree that winter is best for sellers and instead have found that sellers are more ready to negotiate with buyers during winter months because every seller wants a quick sale regardless of the season.

Potential buyers often think that homes that sit on the market for extended periods of time must have something wrong with them. Is the property over-priced? Are there structural issues? Is the seller unreasonable? Some potential buyers won’t even view properties that have been on the market for a long time, unless there have been significant price reductions during that time span.

The real estate market never sleeps

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you need to be out there when it is most appropriate for you. There are advantages and disadvantages at any time of year for both buyers and sellers. If you have a great property that offers location, price and amenities that buyers are looking for, your home will sell if it is priced right.

However, as a buyer, you need to actually get out and look at some homes in order to better understand what features are most important to you and even more importantly, what your budget can buy. Please don’t rely solely on online photos. First of all, photos can lie, but even if they are totally honest, a beautiful kitchen is not the whole story and will not necessarily be the feature that sells the house to you. When you find the home that speaks to you, and at least one home will – for many assorted reasons, then make an offer. It could be months before you find another house that you like as well.

Believe it or not, approximately 25% of all home owners fell in love with the very first house they saw but wanted to keep looking. That’s all well and good, but that home you love just might not be there in a week when you decide it was “the one.”

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Tips for sellers in a hot housing market – staging your home results in better offers

During a hot housing market, the homes that sell the most quickly are those that are priced right for the market and are move in ready. In the Portland metro area, this is as true for high end homes as those priced under $300,000. While most buyers will ultimately make changes to their homes, most people want to be able to move right in, and make those changes at their leisure. So, if your carpet needs replacing, your walls are painted wild colors, or your dishwasher doesn’t work; fix anything that obviously needs fixing before you list your house if you can.

The first step in selling your home is to let all emotional attachments to the home go. You have to start looking at your “home” as a marketable commodity. Selling your house should make you money so you can move on. So get ready to take whatever steps are necessary to make the most money you can.

Staging your house – is it really necessary?

staging brings offers

Staging your home for sale DOES matter. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, professionally listed staged properties simply look better; spend 73% less time on the market; typically sell for more money; end up on buyers’ “must see” lists; are viewed as “well-maintained;” and have fewer concessions requested of the seller.

No need to hire a professional home stager to get your home ready to sell.

Here are some no/low cost tips to preparing your house before the first buyer arrives:

1. De-clutter and de-personalize. You don’t want buyers looking at your things rather than your house. Potential buyers should be able to navigate around your house easily and freely. Too much furniture, too many photos, etc will all detract from your home. Place furniture where it will show your house off to its best advantage and make the rooms look as big as you can. Put excess furniture and decor into storage.

2. Paint your front door to accentuate the entry.

3. Have your carpet cleaned if it does not need replacing.

4. Clean your house thoroughly and have a neighbor visit to make sure there are no lingering odors (such as pet odors, cooking odors, etc.) This is a major turn off for potential buyers.

5. Before a showing, put some vanilla in a shallow dish in the oven to make your house smell like cookies are baking.

6. Replace or remove old or dated window coverings. Clean the windows and open all the shades and blinds to allow as much light into the home as possible.

7. Polish furniture – if your furniture looks shabby, some buyers might wonder if you are careless about maintaining your home.

8. Clear out your closets. Show off your storage space. Yes, buyers do open closet doors all over the house.

9. Update lighting fixtures – and turn on the lights, especially on dark winter days.

Houses that sit on the market for prolonged periods of time will usually receive low-ball offers, if any offers at all. Most people tend to wonder why a house is not selling and usually believe there is something really wrong, or that the house is very over-priced.

Some sellers will offer “carpet allowance” or other types of upgrade allowances but it is important to remember that many buyers want to move in immediately, and/or will tend to over-estimate the cost of repairs needed. Better to replace that worn carpet than to offer an allowance. Many carpet businesses will be willing to wait for their money until your transaction closes and be paid directly out of the sales proceeds.

Even better yet is to replace worn carpet with high end laminate floors, bamboo or hardwoods. It seems the majority of buyers out there prefer hardwood floors to carpet, and this will increase the home value more than new carpeting in any event.

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