Be Prepared

We don’t get severe weather very often. Generally, winter in Lake Oswego is mostly rainy with mild temperatures in the 40s. However, it is also pretty common that for a few days each winter we will get temperatures low enough to bring us snow and ice. Last week was one of those occasions. It was severe enough that the mayor of Lake Oswego declared a state of emergency. The unique factor was the snow and ice were accompanied by high winds. This brought down trees and tree limbs. And this led to power outages throughout the Portland metro area. At my house we lost power for 5 days. So here are a few of my take aways about being prepared and what to expect.

It may be cold.

If you can, install a generator. They come in different sizes. Small ones to just power your furnace and large ones for the entire house.

You can purchase indoor-rated propane heaters. This is what we used at my house. Make sure that they are indoor rated! With two heaters going we kept our kitchen at about 55 degrees.

Wear layers. Hats and gloves may feel goofy indoors, but they help a lot.

Drip your faucets. Just a small drip at each faucet can keep your pipes from freezing. Bursting pipes don’t have to be round two of coping with a cold snap if you take precautions.

If you haven’t lost power, you still need to take care of your pipes. Particularly if they are located in exterior walls. Consider leaving cupboard doors open so that the interior of the cupboards are well heated.

Buy things ahead of the weather event. Propane was a rare commodity and the stores around Lake Oswego were completely sold out. My son, who lives in Hillsboro, where they didn’t loose power, brought us propane that he purchased in that part of town. So stock up on things you’ll need before they are sold out: propane, candles, and batteries.

Take care of your trees

Hire an arborist to examine the trees in your yard. If you are considering buying a house, think about adding an arborist to your home inspection. Then do what they recommend. My husband and I have done this in our yard. It has paid for itself many times over. We just don’t have limbs and trees coming down. It’s not a 100% guarantee, but it has been money well spent in our household.

The bottom line is that these weather events happen. Be prepared and make it as smooth as possible. The heat will come back on and the yard will get cleaned up. And don’t forget to enjoy the winter wonderland!


The Urban Growth Boundary

A big part of understanding real estate in Oregon is knowing about the Urban Growth Boundary.

It was put into place in 1973 under the leadership of Republican Governor Tom McCall. What the boundary does is make development choices intentional and public rather than piecemeal.

Every single town in the State of Oregon has a line drawn around it. Within the boundaries of that line urban and suburban development is allowed. Outside of the boundary is reserved for agriculture and forests. Lake Oswego is right on the edge of the UBB. From LO you can drive to the countryside in just minutes. In the countryside you’ll find wineries, farmstands, Christmas tree farms, and the beautiful rolling hills that lead to the Mountains and the Willamette Valley.

It’s controversial because it is forcing density within the boundary. The boundary has been expanded, but it’s a tedious process that requires lots of legal wrangling. The planning departments in towns have to project for population growth and then plan today to accommodate the growth in the future. This means that even if builders want to build on larger lots, they simply can’t get those large lots approved. They are forced to build on smaller lots to accommodate future population projections.

It also means that land within the boundary is super valuable. If houses become run down, they get torn down. In those cases the land is more valuable then the house and the land gets re-built. I think it has helped the Tri-County Metro area to not have slums. Yes, there are parts of town with lower economic demographics, but there are not slums.

The density within our UGB is going to increase now that multi-family units are allowed in residential neighborhoods. That’s a whole other blog post.

For a map of the Portland area UGB, click here.

As always, thank you for reading the blotter.


So, It’s Key Day!

It’s been a long trek to the finish line & now you’re here! What can you expect, and before you get here, how can you plan so that it’s the best experience ever? Well, let’s take a look at a few random things that tend to come up, just for fun.

  • Personal Items & Trash – The standard OREF Residential Sale Agreement states: “Prior to Closing, Seller will remove all of Seller’s personal property (including trash).”  Even though this is in the Agreement, people get confused about it all the time. I’ve had to deal with people’s sheds filled with boxes and all kinds of interesting things after Closing. Some people think you want their bags of redeemable cans in the closet, or that you want every can of paint they’ve ever decided to store in the garage “just in case”, or a stack of pallets on the side of the house, etc etc.  Now, there are things people leave that are actually helpful, like a few cans of paint so that you can match or touch up if you want, maybe a lawnmower if the Seller is moving to a condo and you’re a First-Time Home-Buyer, or an unopened bag of lawn fertilizer (handy) or a set of yard tools…you get the picture. The biggest thing to remember here is that this should be addressed up front. These kinds of things can sometimes be talked about during the Inspection Period.  It doesn’t hurt to just mention that you either do or no not want these items (“The Seller is removing everything from the shed & garage, right?”…”Those tires stacked in the back corner of the yard are being removed, right?”), and your Agent reminding the Seller’s Agent prior to Closing that the shed needs to be empty, etc never hurts. I had my own Seller tell me one time “I didn’t know I had to empty the shed!”. You may also write a final walkthrough into your Offer if you want to, but remember that if you’re competing, you may also want to consider leaving anything “extra” like this out of that initial Offer document, perhaps addressing it later on with an Addendum, or your Agent just checking in verbally on any final checklist items.
  • Clean – You expect your new home to be clean on the day you take Possession. The trouble is that, like one mentor-Agent of mine told me when I was new- “People are quirky”.  Different people have different ideas of what clean means.  Be prepared with Plan B as a Buyer if you are not satisfied with the level of clean that you find on Closing Day.  You can line up a house-cleaner to help prior to moving day, or just prepare to give it a once-over yourself, or my favorite idea: Move in and then hire a house-cleaner to help clean AND instill order after the moving and chaos dies down a bit.
  • Possession Timing – That reminds me of the time I found myself on my hands and knees scrubbing a refrigerator at 4:00PM after dumping everything in it into black plastic bags because my Seller was confused about the 5:00PM deadline for move-out.  He apparently thought of it as an easy-going goal to work toward and not as a contractual obligation, so when I showed up a couple hours ahead to help (upon learning he was still moving out) I ended up on my knees with cleaning products in Super-Woman mode. So… Pay attention to the dates & times stipulated in the contract, and as a Buyer, your Agent may want to check in with the Seller’s Agent ahead of time just to make sure everyone is on the same page. It has been a matter of discussion among Realtors recently as to whether a standard 5:00PM Possession in the contract meant anytime that day & 5:00 at the absolute latest, or: 5:00PM. (Yes, you can write in other times, but usually it ends up being 5:00PM….Funding & Recording often finalize around 4:00PM, for one thing.) The contract states “by 5:00PM”. This is generally interpreted to mean 5:00PM : ) unless the parties agree that the Seller is all moved out, Funding and Recording have occurred, and the Buyer is welcome to take possession earlier than 5:00. As with most things, communication and forethought are key.
  • Fixtures, “Smart Home” Features, and Appliances –  This should all be spelled out waaay ahead of Closing day. Fixtures stay with the home unless otherwise specified in writing.  Fixtures are understood to be things permanently affixed to the house or obviously meant to be a functioning part of the home.  So, things like Wall-brackets for TV’s generally stay, BUT, some Sellers may get confused and think that they’re a part of their TV, or you may not have a wall TV and really prefer they take the brackets.  The easy answer to this looming potential issue is to spell it out in writing, preferably in the Offer. The same confusion can arise over home video-monitoring systems, cameras, fancy remote-control tech toys for thermostats etc that may be part of a subscription package. Again, do it in writing so everyone is clear what stays and what goes.  Appliances are always spelled out in the Offer even if they’re included in the Listing just so that everyone is in a good mood on Closing day & not “surprised” by misunderstandings.

All in all, the basic idea is to think ahead & talk through a plan with your Agent so that when you walk into your new home, you’re doing nothing but popping champagne, or jumping up & down, or running from room to room making happy sounds.  It should be your Day of Joy!

One of my favorite overarching rules to live by that applies to so many things is summed up in this quote from Terry Josephson: “The more you prepare, the luckier you appear.”

500 Feet

If you pay attention to the news at all, you likely are aware that there has been a major winter storm crossing the United States for the last couple of days. So, yes, LO got snow. At my house I think I got 3-4 inches. A beautiful dusting but not so much that it lead to power outages or tree fall. Really beautiful.

Some parts of the metro area got much more. In Portland they got 11 inches. My good friend in Hillsboro got 10 inches.

When I am showing houses and people ask me about snow, I always tell them the importance of 500 feet. We don’t get a lot of snow. We get a dusting that doesn’t stick a few times each winter, but snow lasting on the ground does not happen every year. And when it does, it melts after a few days. The difference is when you live higher than 500 feet in elevation. Above 500 feet you will get a lot more snow. the stuff that dusts the valley floor and doesn’t stick will stick above 500 feet. Something to bear in mind when house hunting.

You should also know that even 3-4 inches will shut down the entire metro area. Other parts of the country live with much heavier snowfall with no consequences. Here in the Portland area we have many hills and sloped, even steep, roads. Those are treacherous when it snows. And the snowfall is infrequent enough that people are ill equipped with vehicles and tires that can’t maneuver in the snow.

I drive a Subaru. I will show houses even in heavy snow. It’s very empowering!

Most folks in the Portland area look forward to snow day. It’s a little holiday in our hectic lives. We know that we can have a cup of tea and enjoy the winter wonderland.


Radon: Take Action

As January comes to a close, I want to take advantage of the fact that January is Radon Awareness Month. This is important as you buy or sell a home, but it’s also important simply as a human who lives in a contained environment. Whether you are buying or sell or not, you should test your house for radon.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is given off by granite boulders. These boulders are buried deep in the ground. You can’t see them, so you don’t know if they are there or not. This is why everyone should be doing radon tests.

I first became concerned about radon when I read an article in a local newspaper about 20 years ago. A resident of my neighborhood, in the Lake Grove section of Lake Oswego, died of lung cancer. He had been a non-smoker. After his death, his wife checked their home for radon and discovered elevated levels. It was the likely cause of his death.

It’s estimated that 20,000 deaths in the US each year are caused by radon exposure. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after cigarette exposure.

While some parts of the metro area are known for elevated radon levels (the Alameda Ridge is Northeast Portland is often referred to as Radon Ridge), radon can be found in Lake Oswego. I sold a house in Village on the Lake a number of years ago and radon was found. It was a lake-front house.

In Oregon, radon is fairly common in the northern Willamette Valley. This is a result of the Great Missoula Flood that occurred thousands of years ago. A huge ice dam formed in the area of what is now Sandpoint, Idaho. It contained a lake that went deep into Montana. When the ice melted it released a huge flow of water and debris that came across Eastern Washington, dug out the Columbia River Gorge, and came to rest in the Willamette Valley. This flow contained granite boulders that, today, are the primary source of radon in homes in this area.

While there is no known safe level of radon, it can be measured. The test is simple. You can buy a test at most home improvement stores. You set two canisters in your house for several days, then mail them off to a lab, and you get emailed results within about 10 days. It’s been awhile since I’ve done it this way, but I believe it costs under $100. Or you can hire a professional. This costs about $150. They set a test box into your house for 2 days and you get same day results.

Correcting radon is usually under $2000. Not super expensive.

My point here is that it’s easy to do. Realtors in Oregon are trained to make radon testing a part of the home inspection process. But do the test for the benefit of yourself even if you aren’t selling.

I hope you find this information helpful. Here’s to going into February living in the safest and healthiest home possible.


Adapt and Learn

When I started in Real Estate 35 years ago, our sale agreement was one page, legal size, and there were few, if any, supplemental forms. If something additional needed to be added, like a home inspection, I took out a blank addendum and wrote it up myself. Over the years many, many forms have been added. The sale agreement is 11 pages long and there are about 100 supplemental forms.

Realtors are not attorneys, so it’s a good thing that we no longer write our own addendums for things like home inspections. However, we do have to know the forms inside and out. We use them and we need to be able to explain what they mean. This requires a lot of continuing education. Now, add to the mix that an entire new set of paperwork is being rolled out.

Signing Official Document

The forms that we have historically used were developed by Oregon Real Estate Forms, OREF. This entity primarily consisted of the two largest Realtor Associations in the state: Portland Metro and Eugene.

Now the Oregon Association of Realtors has developed a new set of forms. The old ones are not being retired, instead we will have 2 complete sets of forms to use and both are acceptable. This means that Realtors need to be training and learning about these new forms. There are pluses and minuses to both. I also think it’s likely that eventually one will dominate and my prediction is that it will be the new forms.

I am very proud to say that Linda and I have both been training for the past 2 months to become knowledgeable about the new forms. I think we are positioning ourselves to give the best service possible to our clients. I also want to give a shout out to Oregon First. Our company started this training, and went in depth with it, from the get go.

So, Linda and I are adapting and learning. It really is exciting and it feels good to know that we are positioning ourselves to give you the best experience possible when you buy or sell a house. We are here to be of help!


Rising Interest Rates, What Does it Mean?

I want to talk about the elephant in the room, rising interest rates. Just yesterday the Federal Reserve raised the Federal rate by .5% to between $4.25 and $4.5%.

The Federal Reserve Rate is the rate set by the Federal Reserve to dictate the cost of money when banks borrow from one another. If the banks are paying more for money, it just makes sense that the increase gets passed along to the consumer. That is how banks make money. It’s why they are in business.

I do think that the increased cost of mortgages is having a impact on the real estate market. Higher interest rates make homes less affordable. Is this going to cause a housing decline? In a word, no.

From what I have been hearing the current situation is likely short term

Several months ago I listened to a Bloomberg podcast that featured 3 economists. The consensus was that the inventory is so low, that the demand for housing will keep the real estate market strong.

At the beginning of the Great Recession, in about 2008, builders pretty much not only stopped building, but they also stopped laying the ground work for new neighborhoods. Coming out of the recession, in about 2014, the home building industry rebounded, but there were about 6 years of missing inventory and they just simply have not caught up, even to this day. To meet our population needs, Nationwide, we should be building 3,000,000 new housing units per year. These are houses, condos, and apartments. We have only been building 1,300,000 per year: not even half of the population need. It is going to take decades to catch up.

Economics is all about supply and demand. With the demand high and supply low, that supports housing values.

Interest rate forecast according to the NAR

The other source of some interesting information was a Brian Buffini class that I took on Monday. It featured Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Their discussion included several key points:

  • Government regulations put into affect after the Great Recession tightened up the mortgage lending industry so that people actually had to qualify for their loans and prove credit worthiness and employment stability in order to get a mortgage. In other words, people can afford to make their payments.
  • There is usually a 2% margin between the Federal rate and the mortgages rates. There is an anomaly happening where the spread is currently 3%. This means that the Federal rate can increase without there being an increase in the mortgage rates.
  • Mr Yun predicts that 2023 will see interest rates come back down within the year to under 6%
  • Mr Buffini predicts that 2023 will be flat with little or no home appreciation. However, he thinks that in 2024 the housing market will rebound with as much as 10% appreciation.

Here are my thoughts. It remains a great time to buy a house. With houses taking longer to sell, people who are selling are more negotiable. For a buyer, that means addressing repairs within the sale and negotiation on the price when you make an offer. For people wanting to sell, the inventory is still very, very low. Yes, it will take 30-60 days, but your house will sell and you likely continue to have a great deal of equity.

I have to say that no one knows for sure. These are simply thoughts shared by people with some knowledge and whose opinions I respect.

As always, thank you for reading the blotter.


The Power of 20

Years ago, I realized that the number 20 is very powerful in real estate. It applies both when buying and when selling.

When Buying

I think most people do the bulk of their house hunting online. The Internet is an amazing tool. However, it is also super important to physically visit houses. I think you need to go into them to get a feeling for value. What does $500,000 look like? By the time that you have gone through 20 houses you will have a strong sense of value. You’ll know what feels like a good deal and what feels like it is overpriced.

This does not mean that you absolutely have to see exactly 20 houses. No. In fact, the first house that my husband and I bought was the first house that we looked at. We walked in, fell in love, and made an offer.

20 is simply a good guide and a way to set some expectations for the experience of house hunting.

When Selling

When selling, you need about 20 showings to get an offer. Again, it can happen faster than that, but 20 is a good barometer.

So, if you put your house on the market and you get 20 showings in the first few days, you are going to get an offer quickly.

If the reverse happens and you get 2 showings the first week, and then 2 the next, this means you’re going to be on the market for about 10 weeks to get an offer. If you need an offer more quickly, then you need to drop the price or fix what people are objecting to.

If you get 20 showings and no offer happens, again, you need to drop the price or fix what people are objecting to.

I hope you find this concept useful. As always, thanks for reading the blotter.


Getting a Great Inspection

When buying a house, it is just super important to have a really great home inspection. It’s a big deal to buy a house; probably the biggest investment of your life. You want to get it right.

So who should you hire? How do you know you are hiring a professional who will do the most thorough inspection possible.?

I have come to believe that the expensive inspectors ($700+) are worth every extra dollar. First of all, to successfully stay in business at the higher cost level, they have to do a good job. But even more than that, when you hire an expensive inspector, what you are paying for is time.

A less expensive inspector ($350 or so) has to do 2 inspections to make as much money as the person who is charging $700. In other words, they have a schedule to keep. They have to watch their time to be certain that they can conclude the current inspection, get a bit to eat and find a restroom, drive to the next appointment and arrive on time.

The inspector who is charging more, in my experience, only does one inspection a day. At least this is the case with inspectors that I recommend. If they need time to explore the house more and to figure things out, they have the time.

Along with a thorough inspection, a good inspector will also take the time to teach the home buyer some basics about the house. Things like how to change the furnace filter and how often to clean the gutters.

Along with a general inspection, you should plan to have a sewer scope done and to do radon testing. If it’s an older home, you need to find out if there is an in-ground oil tank. The whole process will cost about $1000. As I said, every dollar is worth it.

Both Linda and I recommend excellent inspectors. Feel free to reach out if you would like more information.


Moving and Packing Tips

As a Realtor, one of the most educational moments I ever experienced was when I sold my own home and moved with my family to Lake Oswego. We’d had our kids and lived in our prior home for 13 years. I was pretty clueless about how much more complicated our household and possessions had become. I put off packing until about a week before our move. It was a disaster! I was so pressed to get it done on time that I was literally just throwing stuff in boxes! Live and learn, right?

Cardboard boxes and potted plants in empty room. Moving objects are on hardwood floor of new apartment.

Here are some moving and packing tips that I hope you’ll find helpful:


  1. Start Early. See my comment above. Weeks, if not months, before your move start planning. It will be so much stressful. It will also help prepare your house for marketing.
  2. Get rid of stuff. As we live in our homes, we accumulate stuff. So much of it is neither wanted nor needed. Do you really want to take it with you? Do you want to spend money moving and packing this “stuff”? Get rid of it.
  3. Create a folder. This folder should contain addresses, moving or rental contracts, insurance information, perhaps an itemized list of what you are moving, anything you anticipate in the way of paperwork. Consider creating a hard-copy file. This will be vital if you loose battery charge on laptops or phones
  4. Book early. This helps in two ways: getting the best rates and being assured of availability. Especially in the spring and summer, the moving companies book at least several weeks in advance.
  5. Plan for utilities. This includes both shut off at your old place and start up in your new place. You do not want to be moving into the new house and not have electricity.
  6. Keep essentials with you. A day or two prior to moving pack your luggage: change of clothes, toiletries, etc. Just like when packing for a vacation. In addition, I recommend packing a box of cooking basics like a few plates, cups, bowls, utensils, These would be for an unexpected delay in the delivery of your household goods. Remember to plan for pets and medications.


  1. Invest in equipment. You’ll need boxes, packing tape, markers, paper towels, garbage bags. If you are moving yourself you’ll need a furniture dolly, furniture pads, tie-down strips and a truck loading ramp
  2. Use the right size boxes. The basic idea is the boxes need to be a weight that can be lifted without straining yourself. Heavy stuff in small boxes (books, etc.), light stuff in big boxes (linens, etc.).
  3. Heavy stuff on the bottom of the box. This will keep the heavy stuff from crushing the light stuff. It will also balance the weight of the box as boxes are stacked.
  4. Don’t leave empty space in the boxes. This will maximize the use of the packing materials, but empty spaces can allow the box to be crushed in transport.
  5. Avoid mixing items from different rooms. When unpacking it will take twice as long if you are running from room to room.
  6. Label each box with what room it is for and a list of the contents
  7. Tape the boxes well. You want a couple of strips across the seams at the bottom and the top, but then do two wraps completely around the box in two places around the top to the bottom and back up to the top again: all the way around.
  8. Take care of your art. You can purchase special boxes and crates for art. Don’t wrap oil paintings in packing paper; it may stick to the paint. Wrap art in bubble wrap. You can also wrap it in bubble wrap, box it, and then place in a second box padded by packing paper.
  9. Kitchen dishes. You can purchase special boxes and packaging for dishes and glasses. They make it all so much easier! If you do end up wrapping with boxes and backing paper try wrapping each piece and then bundling in groups of 4 to 5 pieces and wrapping those together as a bundle with packing paper. Consider packing plates on their sides rather than stacking. Get the boxes with cardboard dividers for glasses. The world of packing materials is pretty broad. Yes, it costs money, but think about the cost of replacing these items. Not to mention, as it is for me, the sadness it would bring to loose special pieces.

I want to give credit to where I got a good bit of guidance for this article.

As always, thank you for reading the blotter,