How a Seller’s Past Permits and Easements can Impact Buyers

August 11th, 2016
The real estate market is in full swing and some buyers are choosing to make “as is” offers and waive their right to home inspections, hoping to beat competing offers. There are some obvious downsides to waiving a home inspection, such as not knowing the condition of an aging roof, or a broken down water heater, etc. However there could be additional unexpected issues which would not come up without the help of a trained inspector.

Without an inspection, an outstanding permit issue or an unrecorded easement could be lying dormant until the buyer wants to remodel a room or make some repairs and updates. These unresolved issues could tie up the buyer in financial and legal burdens, it is important to know how a seller’s past permits and easements can impact buyers.

Outstanding Permit

A buyer would have no reason to suspect there would be an outstanding permit on a home they intend to purchase and it isn’t common place for a buyer to request the seller to disclose work done long ago. But if the seller had completed work on the home that is not up to code, the new owner will be required to fix the problem, bring the alteration up to standard and get a final inspection costing them unnecessary time and money.

Unrecorded Easement

An easement is a right to property given to someone other than the owner, allowing them to use part of the property (i,e. a utility company, or a neighbor who shares a driveway). Most easements are recorded in the county’s public records; those will be listed in the title report and covered by the borrower’s title insurance. But some easements can go unnoticed or unrecorded and may impact a buyer and their potential use of their property years later. When these problems arise, borrowers may have to get a lawyer involved to straighten out any issues which can cost a lot of time and money. To prevent future problems, ask to look at the current owners’ survey, which may have been done when they purchased the property because it will reveal if any unrecorded easements exist.

Homebuyers should always seriously weigh the risks of an “as is” offer and hire a certified home inspector to head off any potential issues. This will not only give them financial security, but will also allow them peace of mind knowing there are no hidden dangers or expenses in their new home.

Proactive real estate agents can help clients avoid issues by bringing issues to the attention of their client and lender as soon as possible, such as:

  • Un-permitted work
  • Open permits on a property
  • Obvious building code violations
  • Health and safety hazards
  • Recorded or unrecorded easements

Your Realtor, along with the title company, can help pull any permit history for a potential listing or property clients are looking to purchase. Local permit history searches are also usually available online from your local regulatory building department.


YES, June numbers confirm there IS more housing inventory!

July 25th, 2016
YES, June numbers confirm there IS more housing inventory!

YES, June numbers confirm there IS more housing inventory!

How Portland’s Neighborhoods Got Their Names

July 25th, 2016

Eric D Snider

There are 95 officially recognized neighborhoods in Portland, plus several more areas that people think are neighborhoods but aren’t (hello, Hawthorne!). Many of these started out as separate communities that were later consolidated into Portland, and many of them have their roots in the great land rush of the 1850s, when the Donation Land Claim Act brought thousands of new settlers to Oregon.

Portland Map

We didn’t bother with some neighborhoods whose names are based on topology (Hillside, Hillsdale, Southwest Hills, Sylvan-Highlands), geography (Northwest Industrial, Downtown, Far Southwest, North Tabor, South Tabor), or other obvious things (Old Town, Chinatown). We also omitted some that aren’t commonly used.

Here they are, arranged according to quadrant. Yes, Portland defies the laws of math and language by having five quadrants. It’s a special place.

What You Need to Know About Home Appraisals

July 11th, 2016

By Geoff Williams  

What You Need to Know About Home Appraisals

When you think about buying a house, you think about the plentiful cabinet space you hope to find in the kitchen, or ample bedroom size. You probably aren’t thinking about the home appraisal.

If you’re selling a home, you’re probably daydreaming about the home you plan on moving into next. You’re probably wondering how much you can sell your home for, too.

But whether you’re selling or buying, you probably aren’t thinking much about the home appraisal process. It isn’t one of the most glamorous parts of buying or selling a home, and yet if home appraisals disappeared tomorrow, the real estate market would come crashing down.

So if you’re about to buy or sell a home and know little about appraisals, it’s time to change that.

What are they? A home appraisal is a very educated guess as to how much your property is worth.

Why are home appraisals important? No credible financial institution will lend you money for a house without an appraisal.

“The appraisal lets a bank or lender know what the loan collateral will sell for in a worst-case scenario,” says Bart Jackson, an appraiser in Charleston, South Carolina, who is also a real estate agent with Charleston Preferred Properties, a residential real estate brokerage firm.

In other words, to go with an extreme example, the bank doesn’t want to be stuck with a home they lent the borrower a million dollars for but can only sell for $100,000 because that’s all it is worth. The homebuyer shouldn’t want that either, of course.

So appraisals exist for good reason, but what can make them a tense time for all parties is that they’re conducted after you’ve negotiated a price, agreed to buy or sell the house and signed the contract. So it’s in everyone’s best interest that the appraisal is close to the price that both seller and buyer have agreed on.

That said, if it turns out you’re about to buy a house for a wildly inflated price, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re obligated to buy the house. But if you aren’t careful, it could mean just that.

The sales-and-purchase agreement should address the possibility that your appraisal comes in below the purchase price, and allow you to terminate the contract or renegotiate the price, says Robert Pellegrini, a real estate attorney based in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

“If not, you could be obligated to cover the difference for a lowball appraisal, and that could mean you’re on the hook for thousands,” Pellegrini says.

Who pays for the home appraisal? Usually, it’s the seller who pays for it at closing, which can be as high as several hundred dollars. The national average cost for a property appraiser is $309, according to data compiled by

How do home appraisals differ from home inspections? The two often get confused, but they aren’t the same thing. Both an appraiser and inspector will walk around the house and take a good look at it (usually, the inspector comes first), but they’re each at the house for different reasons. The appraiser is looking at the value of the home; the inspector is looking for any defects with the home that may cause you financial grief later.

Of course, if the appraiser notices a problem, she won’t ignore it. If the appraiser spots a leaky sink or some loose wiring, she may request an inspection, says Staci Titsworth, regional manager for PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh.

How long does the appraisal process take? It used to take a couple of days, but in recent years, ever since the recession – when federal guidelines changed the appraisal process – it’s more often a week or two. Underwriters can request more information about the house than they could in past years, and gathering that data and photos can take time for the seller and real estate agent, which can mess up the closing date, putting everyone on edge.

What factors go into deciding the worth of a house? Plenty. “The appraiser is looking at the key characteristics of the property including square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, condition of the home, current recently sold comparables that are close in proximity and health and safety issues,” Titsworth says.

That said, most real estate agents will tell you that it’s the recently sold comparables – that is, houses that are similar to your own – that are the main factors in appraising a home. It’s all about property values.

If you’re a homeowner, what can you do to improve the process? Nothing, once it starts. “You’re powerless during the appraisal process,” Pellegrini says. But before the appraiser comes by, you can take these common-sense steps.

“It’s important to have the property look as good as it possibly can. You want to help the appraiser see your property’s potential so they will possibly reconcile a value closer toward the upper end of the range,” Jackson says.

After all, appraisers are only human. You could have a really cool house easily worth between, say, $300,000 and $325,000, but if it’s junkie, it’s easy to imagine the appraiser coming down closer to $300,000.

To that end, Jackson says the day the appraiser comes, the lawn should be mowed, the landscaping weeded and the bushes trimmed. Clean the house. Get out the air freshener. Turn on the lights and open the blinds, Jackson says.

“It’s also very helpful to sit down the day or night before the appraiser arrives and make a list of repairs and improvements that have been done to the house over the past several years,” he says.

So if you’ve put on a new roof or bought a new hot water heater, let the appraiser know, Jackson says. “Note anything you can think of – the appraiser will decide what is important to the value. It does not have to be formal or detailed. Just thoughtfully note everything so you can give it to the appraiser before he or she leaves.”

But don’t get too excited if you’ve spent a lot on repairs and renovations. Your $30,000 kitchen remodel may help the appraisal, but it won’t automatically mean your house is worth an extra $30,000.

What a good real estate agent will do. If you’re selling the home, your agent will be there to meet the appraiser and share the home improvements you’ve jotted down – and offer other data as well.

“In the past, we would just meet the appraiser to open the door so that they could view the home,” says Josh Muncey, a realtor in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Now, Muncey will come armed with a folder of information on comparable homes that justify the sale price.

“We even call around to other brokers to ask what other properties that have not closed yet are currently under contract for since they are often slated to sell for a price well above asking, and it’s critical that the appraiser has this information.”

Basically, says Melissa Terzis, a realtor in the District of Columbia: “The more information a seller and their agent can give an appraiser that they can’t find out just from checking the listing and walking through the home, the better.”


March 2016 Portland Market Report

April 14th, 2016

March 2016 Market Report

Total Market Overview March 2016

March 17th, 2016

The Total Market Overview (TMO) report is a report complied with data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service. This report reveals trends in our local market and can help us determine future trends. Inventory in the Greater Portland area is currently at 1.8 months of inventory. For your area statistics view the full TMO report. View the full (TMO) report for March, 2016.


Rent vs. Buying a Home – Is now a good time to rent?

January 28th, 2016

People often ask whether or not now is a good time to buy a home. No one ever asks when a good time to rent is. However, we want to make certain that everyone understands that today is NOT a good time to rent with the median asking rent being at an all time high and could continue to climb.

The Census Bureau just released their second quarter median rent numbers. The graph below shows median rent increases from 1988 until today. 


At the same time, a report by Axiometrics revealed:

“The national apartment market’s annual effective rent growth rate of 5.1% in June 2015 represented a 47-month high, and continued a streak of 5.0%-plus rent growth that is now the longest in at least six years, according to apartment market research. The effective rent growth in June 2014 was 3.7%, putting June 2015’s exceptional performance into perspective. 

This is the highest rate since the 5.3% of July 2011. The metric has reached at least 5.0% for five straight months, the longest such streak since Axiometrics started monthly reporting of annual apartment data in April 2009.” 

Where will rents be headed in the future? 

Stephanie McCleskey, Axiometrics Vice President of Research, commented on the above report in an article by Real Estate Economy Watch

“Rent growth is just shy of the post-recession peak, and the June metrics reflect the continued strength of the apartment market. The demand for apartments is still strong, despite the record number of new units being delivered this year. Tight occupancy is why landlords can push rents higher.” 

What this means for you

If you are ready, willing and of course able to buy, now may be the time to take advantage of low interest rates and buy a home.

Close in wins: Portland’s 25 priciest neighborhoods of 2015

January 16th, 2016

Don’t let your dream of living in inner Portland get away from you. Let us help you secure a great home before you can’t! “Prices in some close-in Portland neighborhoods grew much more quickly than the average 6.5%. For example, home sales in the 97201 ZIP code jumped 16.7 percent. Sales in Hawthorne/North Tabor’s 97215 leapt up 18.9 percent.” Let’s talk! Let’s make some magic for you in 2016~

The 30 Hottest Neighborhoods in the Nation

January 15th, 2016


Booming tech sectors in pockets across the country are driving up home prices. Places like Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Boston in particular are seeing an influx of tech workers with money to spend, and they’re prompting some fierce bidding wars.

Redfin recently highlighted the 30 most competitive neighborhoods of 2015. The rankings below are based on factors like the percentage of homes that sold above asking price, how quickly homes went under contract, and the percentage of offers that saw bidding wars.

For example, landing top on its list was Inman Square – located just outside of Boston in Cambridge – where homes stayed on the market a median of just seven days; 38 percent of homes sold to cash buyers; and 96 percent of the offers written by Redfin real estate agents saw bidding wars.

“It’s incredibly rare for a home in Cambridge not to get multiple offers,” says Katie Gustafson, a Boston real estate professional. “Offering over list price, waiving contingencies – buyers are doing everything they can to compete. My clients recently won a bidding war in Washington Square by agreeing to let the sellers rent their home back for free for two months after closing, giving them a nice cushion to move out of the home and get settled into their new place.”

Below are the 30 most competitive neighborhoods of 2015


Total Market Overview January 2016

January 14th, 2016

The Total Market Overview (TMO) report is a report complied with data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service. This report reveals trends in our local market and can help us determine future trends. Inventory in the Greater Portland area is currently at 1.8 months of inventory. For your area statistics view the full TMO report. View the full (TMO) report for January, 2016.

TMO 1.13.2016