Sign Posts of the Times

Over the past few years, those companies that plant the 4x4x8 signposts in yards for real estate signs have had quite a bustling business. But even that little cottage industry isn’t immune to a little regulation.

Apparently, they are now required by law to call utility companies and have them locate all services before the post can be dug and set. Ostensibly, a few too many sprinkler lines and cable TV services got nicked over the past few years by aggressive posthole diggers.

Their advice? Plant a flag where the signpost will likely go, so that the utility companies won’t locate and mark EVERY utility path in your yard with day-glo orange, like what happened to the poor sap below:

Locates marked for sign placement

Puts a damper on curb appeal, doesn’t it?

Picture and advisory courtesy of Classic Real Estate Services.

PDX RE Blogger Recap

PDX RE Blogger meetingSome of the Portland real estate blogging community met Friday night for a little chat, note sharing, and some brewskis. Nice people, nice time. Thanks to Joel Burslem for organizing and all of you that attended.

Here’s an (incomplete) list of attendees. I know I didn’t get to meet everyone, so please forgive me if I overlooked you :o

Jeff Bernheisel, Western Title,
Chris Ramos, LandAmerica
Joshua Klein, Mobile Marketing,
Matt Firman, Plug My Listing,
Ben Ficker, Keller Williams,
Bob Broad, Keller Williams,
Dianne Gregoire, Advanced Real Estate Services,
Joe Gregoire, JW Gregoire Contracting, a budding blogger!
Rick Vazquez, AXIA Financial
Betty Jung, RE/Max,
Tony & Libby Kelly, Keller Williams,
Adam DuVander, Sperling’s Best Places,
Nick Bostic, Chicago Title,
Linda Trotta, Advanced Real Estate Services,
Nick Krautter, Keller Williams,
Ron Ares, Advanced Real Estate Services,
Joel Burslem, Inman News,

A few notable absences: PDX RE blogging pioneers Charles & Jenny Turner (on vacation), plus Jeff Kempe and some of the bubble blogger crowd. I was looking forward to the Cage Match. Oh well, maybe next time.

A few pics from the evening:

Larger slideshow here.

Portland Real Estate Blogger Meetup Reminder

Portland Real Estate Blogger Meetup logoA quick reminder that the first ever Portland Real Estate Blogger Meetup is this Friday, March 28 from 6 to 8 pm.

Expected attendees: tech-centric real estate agents, mortgage and title professionals, some bubble bloggers and who knows?

Location is at Touche on NW 14th & Glisan (map and details)

Sign up here
and let Joel Burslem know you’re coming.

[tags] Portland, real estate, blogger, meetup, meeting, blogs [/tags]

Portland Prices Run in the Red

Altos Research March 2008 chart for PortlandJanuary results of the Case-Shiller home price index report reveal the perhaps inevitable news about the Portland real estate market.

In Case-Shiller’s estimation, Portland can no longer claim to be an appreciating market. From January 2007 to January 2008, it’s year-over-year pricing change was -0.5%. It’s just the second smallest decrease nationally (behind just Charlotte, NC), but the the rate of price declines is accelerating.

Tom Cusack over at the Oregon Housing Blog reads into the data a little deeper and finds it to be the first time ever for a year-to-year decrease in Portland’s index. He also notes the January results to be the largest monthly decline in the study’s history and the sixth straight month of declines since the market’s peak in July 2007 (down 4.1% total).

Some believe that our downcycle is timed about 1 year later than other national markets.

Note that the Case-Shiller index lags the current market by 2 months. So, what do more current indexes of asking prices suggest? Altos Research sees a 1.3% decrease in pricing over past 3 months (see chart above).

If there is a nugget of good news in this, perhaps the affordability gap is closing. I will run preliminary sales figures for March around April 5 and we’ll see if the news is any more encouraging.

What Portlanders Think About Their Neighborhoods

City of Portland Neighborhood SurveyMany out-of-towners that contact me to talk about the Portland real estate market often ask about the ‘best neighborhoods’ — for resale values, for education, and most often for a general sense of community or livability.

These questions can create a slippery slope for a licensee (i.e. Realtor(R)). Due to Fair Housing laws (and good common sense) we can’t steer clients away from certain neighborhoods because of racial mix, or draw conclusions for a client based on crime rates, demographic profiles, etc.

It’s one reason why I appreciate the City of Portland biannual Resident Survey about issues of neighborhoods and livability. It can fill in blanks for some of the questions that I can’t ethically or legally speak about.

I talked about it a couple years ago, but now the 2007 Survey is available.

The survey measures Portlander’s livability views on city services, development, traffic, infrastructure, and government oversight. There’s plenty of detail — sorted by neighborhood or by survey question.

The survey doesn’t measure ‘vibe’, but for a quick overview, check out the general satisfaction scale for all Portland neighborhoods. As I noted a couple years ago, the dissatisfaction tends to rise as you head east, but you can draw your own conclusions.

Life Expectancy of Housing Components

Furnace RepairPerhaps it’s because my home is going on 20 years old and I’m in the throes of making costly updates (windows, furnace, roof, etc.), but lately I’ve been making particular notes about the age and condition of homes’ costly components when touring with clients.

When viewing a home listing, in addition to the cosmetic aspects of the home, I pay particular attention to items like the furnace, roof, and deck — costly replacement items that may need attention from the new owner in relatively short order.

If you’re in the market, you might want to educate yourself on these issues in advance. To help, The National Association of Homebuilders conducted a study in 2006 on the effective life of many housing components. I chose a handful of areas to display here, particularly considering our NW climate and environs:


  • Gas ranges: 15 years
  • Dryers and refrigerators: 13 years
  • Compactors: 6 years
  • Dishwashers: 9 years
  • Microwave ovens: 9 years


  • 20 years

Faucets and Fixtures:

  • Kitchen sinks (acrylic): 50 years
  • Faucets: 15 years
  • Bathroom shower enclosures: 50 years
  • Shower doors: 20 years
  • Showerheads & toilets: Lifetime
  • Whirlpool tubs: 20 to 50 years


  • All natural wood flooring, and marble, slate and granite: 100 years
  • Vinyl floors: 50 years
  • Linoleum: 25 years
  • Carpet: 8 to 10 years

Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning:

  • Furnaces: 15 to 20 years
  • Heat pumps for 16 years
  • Air conditioning: 10 to 15 years
  • Tankless water heaters: 20 years
  • Electric/gas water heater: 10 years


  • Slate, copper and clay/concrete: 50 years:
  • Asphalt-shingle roofs: 20 years
  • Fiber cement shingles: 25 years
  • Wood shakes: 30 years

Siding and Accessories:

  • Brick, engineered wood, both natural and manufactured stone and fiber cement: Lifetime
  • Copper gutters: 50 years
  • Aluminum gutters: 20 years
  • Copper downspouts: 100 years+
  • Aluminum downspouts: 30 years

Windows and Skylights:

  • Aluminum windows: 15 to 20 years
  • Wood windows: 30 years

Note that these are functional lifetimes. Kitchens, bathrooms, appliances, paint, etc. have much shorter stylistic lifetimes. Obviously, these guidelines are highly dependent on local weather conditions, proper building and design, material quality and adequate maintenance. I can think of a few other exceptions too, like EIFS and LP siding.

Something to keep your eyes open to when touring homes 10+ years or older. You might want contractors to certify roofs, inspect furnaces, provide replacement costs, and give you additional advice during your home inspection timeframe.

The link is broken on the NAHB website, but I’ve got the full, detailed report here.

Portland Market Activity – February 2008

Although sales activity picked up in February throughout the Portland metro area, the fact remains — a bulge of housing inventory continues to pile up.

As I mentioned the other day, only a little over 1,300 properties changed hands in the Portland metro area in February, leaving 10.4 months available inventory on hand — over 14,400 residential listings. For the year, closed sales are down almost 30% from this time in 2007.

The inventory overhang is having an effect on prices. Comparing the year-to-date median price of $280,000 to this time last year, it’s up a little (from $277,000 in 2007), but remember, the market was at $290,000 YTD back in July 2007. However, it isn’t the precipitous double-digit decline some have predicted.

Year-to-date, the average sale price was $342,800, up from $323,800 this time last year. Average time to market a home was 85 days (vs. 66 in Feb. 2007).

North Portland appears to be the darling market area right now. At just 55 days average time on the market and only 17% fewer sales than last year at this point, it’s perking right along. Yamhill County and Lake Oswego / West Linn are off to particularly slow starts with respect to volume (down 46%).

Below are the February 2008 results for average and median sale prices, appreciation, and time on market (or DOM*), sorted by average sale price. (Remember, the appreciation numbers are a 12-month rollup compared to the previous 12 months.)

Area YTD Avg. Sale Price YTD Median Sale Price 12-Mo. Apprec. DOM
Lake Oswego / West Linn $576,800 $504,000 8.5% 80
West Portland $503,200 $397,500 4.5% 101
NW Washington County $393,800 $370,000 6.5% 97
Tigard / Tualatin / Sherwood / Wilsonville $376,700 $345,000 3.5% 78
Milwaukie / Clackamas $371,200 $311,700 -6.7% 87
Northeast Portland $311,900 $260,000 6.5% 68
Oregon City / Canby $306,300 $286,000 0.7% 92
Hillsboro / Forest Grove $292,800 $260,000 4.1% 94
Yamhill County $288,600 $222,700 4.3% 114
Southeast Portland $284,300 $249,500 7.2% 68
Beaverton / Aloha $279,700 $255,000 3.5% 78
North Portland $268,300 $250,000 7.6% 55
Gresham / Troutdale $254,400 $242,000 3.9% 91
Columbia County $228,300 $216,000 10.1% 118

Source: RMLS, March 2008.

* Note: DOM or days on market may exhibit reporting inconsistencies and should be used to analyze trends only.

Just What We Need…Another Local Real Estate Blog

I’ve noted before that the Portland metro area real estate blogosphere has blossomed over the past couple years, adding fresh voices to the chorus of brokers and real estate professionals working throughout PDX and surrounding environs each month.

Well, I am pleased to highlight the launch of (yet) another local real estate blog, The Property Blotter.

PropertyBlotter will focus on the Lake Oswego real estate market, a community that is often targeted by relocation candidates and homeowners looking for a close-in Portland suburb with an abundance of natural beauty, good schools, and strong neighborhoods. (The Property Blotter title is a bit of an inside joke to LO residents–back in the day, the local newspaper’s police blotter used to be the highlight of the week for scandal-seeking neighbors.)

I am delighted to be joined in this venture by a couple Lake Oswego real estate specialists (and residents), Linda Trotta and Dianne Gregoire from our group at Advanced Real Estate Services.

They are champing at the bit to write up advice about navigating the Lake Oswego market, helpful neighborhood profiles, frequent market updates, and more. I’ll be supporting with technical advice, market analysis, and the occasional observation on the site.

Besides re:PDX, this is the third real estate blog I’m involved with…please don’t forget our West Linn site, co-authored by Jody McLeod, who also writes the blog.

For any real estate-related practitioners reading, we’ll all be at the PDX RE Meetup at the end of March. Come join us.

Recession News Yields Conflicting Conclusions

Regional economic health is certainly a contributing factor to consumer confidence, and by extension, is a weighty concern for those considering a home sale or purchase. By and large, the national media has viewed the Northwest favorably in terms of housing stability, the job climate, and so on.

But recent reports can be a little confusing. Friday’s USA Today ran an article on recession risks, showing Oregon in an ‘expansion’ mode. Yet the University of Oregon Economic Forum suggests the region is still ripe for recession. So, which is it?

According to USA Today/Moody’s report, based on its key indicators (including employment, production, retail sales), Oregon charted as growing its economy and held top 10 positions for healthy home value increases, an improving agricultural revenue base, and a high percentage of exports. Only the Medford MSA was shown as ‘at risk’; how Bend evaded that tag, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, the University of Oregon’s report on Economic Indicators suggests otherwise, based on its review of unemployment, building permits, production and other index components:

The University of Oregon Index of Economic Indicators rose 0.2 percent in December, to 102.6 (1997=100), with the majority of index components improving during the month. Despite the December gains, the behavior of the index in recent months remains consistent with a substantial risk of recession in the near future.

Both studies are measuring similar (not identical) factors (I encourage you to visit both sites to view their methodologies), but have come to different conclusions. Despite some recent gains in manufacturing, the U of O study cites weakness in labor, housing, and consumer confidence as their main contributors.

So, how do you view these reports? Some will say they are inconclusive; others will claim we are in denial. How does it affect your decision to buy or sell a home? Or are broad economic measures less important than the state of the real estate market specifically?

Early Results for February Market Activity

IrisThe exceedingly slow January results have raised some concern for those those in, about, or around the local real estate market.

Well, early (and unofficial) results for February show more of the same. The sales pace is picking up some, but does not compare well with February 2007 reports.

Just over 1,300 homes sold in the Portland metro area in February (although some stragglers will add a few to that number over the next couple days). In 2007 and 2006, the sales numbers were 1,899 and 2,038 respectively (over 32+% higher).

Additionally, the year-to-year comparison for median (or middlemost) price is just about flat at $279,000 compared to 2007. The monthly average price is around $347,000 (up from $326,700 in 2007). With the lower sales volume, it suggests that higher priced properties are pulling the average up.

Another interesting note, final sale amounts are running about 90% of the original list price on average. Sellers, get realistic about your pricing. This isn’t July 2007 anymore.

Remember, these are not final, official numbers released by the RMLS. But Excel pivot tables make quick work of just 1,300 sales. Come back around March 15 for final numbers and breakdowns by market area.

[tags] RMLS, market, activity, February, home, price, sales, average, median [/tags]