Archives For Housing

I left my previous job, and began flipping houses in Portland, Oregon in 2010. Having a love for architecture, renovation, and real estate in general, was necessary. It can never just be about the money, or it won’t last. That being said, it wasn’t until my first house sold, on the first day on the market, for the full asking price, that I was convinced I made the best decision. Here are the four things you’ll want to get right.

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First, work with a Realtor who really knows the local market that you’re looking in. Hire a savvy agent who demonstrates they’re in the know of what’s happening in the neighborhood, what houses are selling for in terrible condition, but also the ones in great shape. Your Realtor should also know what houses people are flocking to right now. When I first began, I got my real estate license at the same time and I searched the MLS database for local houses that sold within the first seven days on the market. I wanted to discover some common characteristics. One of those was that in 2010 in Portland, Oregon, about two thirds of houses had white kitchen cabinets. Interesting. When it came time for my first flip, guess what color cabinets I chose? J Find a Realtor who gets it.

Second, come up with a great investment and profit plan, or just use mine. When figuring out how much money I should pay for a fixer house, I use this formula: 0.75(ARV) – Cost of Repairs. What that means is take 75% of the “after repair value” or how much the house will sell for fixed up, then subtract the estimated cost of repairs. That is the most I should be paying for the house. For example, if my savvy Realtor shows me comparable houses that have sold for $300,000 fully fixed up, and the fixer house I’m looking at needs about $30,000 worth of work, then the most I should be paying for it is: 0.75($300,000) – $30,000 = $195,000. After all of the agent, interest, and listing fees, this would leave about a 15% profit on the sales price, or about $45,000 in this example.

Third, hire a great crew. On that first house I flipped, my husband, father in-law, step-dad, and even friends had a hand or two in helping make it profitable. Let’s be honest, when you flip your first house, it can be a bit unnerving. For that first one, I am all about having a little sweat-equity in there to ensure you don’t spend too much money. But I always recommend hiring licensed professionals for the big stuff. And after you gain some confidence from successfully flipping your first house, for the next ones, hire it all out. When I’m looking for new people to work with, I first ask for personal referrals from friends and family. If your best friend has a great heating and cooling person they have been working with for 20 years, start there. If no referrals are coming your way, go to a trusted source online where consumers rate their experience with contractors. Either way, I recommend having at least three people come out to the house to talk with you about the scope of the project, and give you an estimate. It’s also a great time to set up expectations with these potential contractors to make sure you and your project are a good fit for them. Ask them for references, and call those references! One of the things I always ask is: What was the best part about working with this contractor, and if you had to pick something, what could they have done better? Don’t let them off the hook. Have them tell you something.

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And lastly, create a project calendar and tight timeline. The calendar should include all the work happening at the house, and how many days each project will take. I let the contractors know they will be working with others each day they’re there. There is no reason you can’t have a water heater replaced in the basement, at the same time kitchen cabinets are being installed, and the exterior of the house painted. Most of the projects I take on, ranging from $25,000-$150,000 remodels take about 4-6 weeks. The three main reasons for tight timelines are: 1. Buy and sell the house in virtually the same market. The housing market can change quickly. I want to make sure that ARV I calculated before buying the house hasn’t changed by the time I sell it. 2. There’s a great energy generated when there’s so much work happening at once, especially with a great crew. Momentum builds, and with each week that passes, the house transforms. That’s great for morale. 3. The less time you own that house, the lower your expenses are. Most of us don’t have $200,000 in the bank to buy a house for cash, so we pay a lot of interest, fees, taxes, and bills the longer we own the house. Lower those by being efficient and having a tight timeline.

I have been flipping houses since 2010, and have done well on each one. Does luck play a role? Maybe, but having tested guidelines certainly helps. For me, there really aren’t any secrets. If there are flipping secrets out there, I don’t know them. I’ve learned these four things will get you moving in a successful direction.

Bobby Curtis is a serial renovator and principal broker with Living Room Realty in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

Protect Yourself and Your Investment

Bad things happen. That’s just the way of the world sometimes. But when bad things happen to your home, will you be protected? If you’re a homeowner, you likely already have a homeowner’s insurance policy in place, especially if you’re paying a mortgage. Homeowners insurance covers damage to your home’s structure from certain events such as fire, wind, and water. It also covers theft of personal property from inside the home, and for additional fees you can add protection for more exotic items like art or jewelry collections. If you’re robbed or your home suffers damage from a fire or a windstorm, your homeowner’s insurance policy provider will help make you whole again.

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But what happens when your refrigerator breaks unexpectedly or your heat pump goes on the fritz? Will a homeowner’s policy help you then? Unfortunately, repair to household appliances and systems aren’t covered by most policies, and those costs can easily run into the thousands. If you do face those major repairs, and you’re uncovered, your savings could take a big hit. This is where a Home Warranty comes in handy.

Home Warranties Explained

A Home Warranty is a service contract separate from your homeowners insurance that covers your home’s major appliances and systems. Providers often have a standard list of covered items, and some, like American Home Shield, allow you to personalize your policy by picking your own set of covered appliances and systems. When one of your appliances or systems breaks, your warranty provider will send a qualified repair contractor to fix your problem in exchange for a low, one-time repair fee.

A Home Warranty offers several benefits above and beyond a typical homeowner’s insurance policy:

  • Added Peace-of-Mind: You can never predict when you’ll face unexpected repair bills. A home warranty will protect your budget and your savings from the unexpected costs associated with repairing or replacing expensive household items.
  • Protection for New Buyers: If you’re in the market for a new home, or have recently purchased one, the reliability of its appliances and home systems can be a mystery that’s not always revealed through traditional home inspections. A home warranty offers new buyers a guarantee that unexpected costs from these new-to-you items won’t catch you unprepared.
  • Seller Benefits: When you’re selling your home, you want to differentiate yourself from the competition in every way possible. Telling potential buyers that your home has a current home warranty in place will show your home has been well maintained and instill greater confidence in their buying decision.
  • Greater Flexibility – Unlike a homeowner’s policy, home warranties can be canceled at any time, so you can choose the level of protection that best fits your needs.

For most Americans, a house is the single largest investment they’ll ever make and the source of the majority of their personal wealth. To best protect that investment, it makes sense to have an array of coverage that will keep every corner of your home in its best possible condition. Adding a home warranty to your insurance portfolio is a great way to maximize that protection.

  1. Ask your friends and family

Get referrals, but take them with a grain of salt. Do your due diligence researching potential agents, no matter who recommends them. The right agent for one person might not be a good fit for you.

  1. Check out our Househappy Trusted Agents

We’ve done all the legwork and have a curated selection of local experts interested in earning your business and helping you find a home you love.

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  1. Attend Open Houses

Realtors are always in attendance here, so this can be a great opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Many real estate agents who work open houses are not the listing agent, they are most likely holding the open house to meet buyers like you. However, in many states one agent may work with both buyers and sellers in a transaction, but they’re under contract to watch out for the seller’s best interest. You want an agent who can take your side fully in any negotiations. If you want to work with the agent holding the open, be sure to ask who they represent.

  1. Look for ads

Successful Real Estate Agents will often put ads out in local publications. These ads can tell you a lot about who their team is and what their marketing materials may look like.

  1. Google them

Take a look at their website, check-out their LinkedIn and their Facebook. You are interviewing them to handle one of the most important transactions in your life, be picky.

  1. Interview a few potential candidates

Do they seem like someone you’d get along with? Are they open and honest? Is their personality and energy level compatible with yours? Are they focused on your needs?

Go with your gut here. They should make you feel at ease and you should feel comfortable disclosing personal details, if the need arises. If you don’t like the person or don’t trust them, their many acronyms on their business card won’t make the experience any better. Go with someone you actually like!

  1. Ask Some Key Questions: 
  • Do you have an active real estate license?
  • Is real estate your full-time career?
  • How much of your business comes from referrals?
  • How long have you been working in the area?
  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in?
  • What type of network do you have to help find the right house for us outside of an online search we can do ourselves?
  • How are you going to help us win a listing?

Having the right real estate agent has a huge impact on your home purchase. You need to feel confident in your decision when the time comes for any kind of negotiations. Someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing can end up costing you – keep in mind they are paid a commission when you buy a house whether or not you are satisfied with their service (or your experience). Take the time and effort to find someone whose personality, experience, dedication and skill level fit your needs.

If you  are putting your home on the market anytime soon, safety should be a top priority. Below we outlined a few tips to help you prepare.

  1. Make sure valuables are locked up or off-premises during showings and open houses. Jewelry, cash, liquor, checkbooks and credit cards, prescription drugs, keys and other small valuables should all be out of reach when your home is being toured. Safeguard your personal information, too – lock your computer and filing cabinets and don’t leave bills that might show your account numbers lying out.
  2. Choose an agent who uses an electronic lockbox system. Modern electronic lockboxes restrict access to licensed real estate professionals and track every time someone uses the lockbox to enter your home.
  3. Don’t show your home by yourself. If you wouldn’t normally let a stranger into your home and show them around just because they asked, adding a For Sale sign to the yard shouldn’t change that. Direct any inquiries about the property to your real estate agent, who will pre-screen buyers and collect contact information before bringing anyone through. If you opt to sell your home without the help of a real estate agent, this still applies – insist that all showings be prescheduled, collect contact information and verify drivers licenses of potential buyers before they come for a tour, and try to have someone else there any time you are showing your house.
  4. Either take your pets with you or keep them penned during showings. This prevents both the possibility of your pet getting loose during the showing and/or attacking an agent or potential buyer. Even usually calm animals can sometimes get defensive when unfamiliar people are in their space and you could be held liable for any injuries.petsemail
  5. Check that your home is securely locked up after showings and open houses. Doors and windows might be left unlocked unintentionally by distracted buyers trying to take in everything about your home, or would-be-thieves who intend to come back and use the entry later. Either way, you can help keep your home safe by doing a quick walk-through to check the locks after any tour.
  6. If you are selling a vacant home, consider a home staging service. Staging a home can help keep it from looking empty to a casual passerby and decrease your chance of a break-in. Use timers on the lights to boost the illusion that someone lives there. Bonus: According to the National Association of Realtors, “staged homes sell 80% quicker, and for up to 11% more money than non-staged properties.”

 

Susie and Duffy the Real Estate Dog

Susie and Duffy the Real Estate Dog

Susie is a Real Estate Broker with Windermere Stellar and has called PDX home for over 35 years. She resides in Colonial Heights, a fantastic close-in SE neighborhood. She has a deep appreciation for the many styles of homes and micro-cultures that exist on both the East and West side of the city and is a wealth of information on life in PDX.  Susie and her team are truly Portland experts who work all over the city.

She will be sharing some of her great knowledge about Portland, OR neighborhoods with us — keep an eye out or subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss out!

To see more of Duffy on Instagram, search for duffytherealestatedog or if you are looking for a great Realtor, connect with Susie here.

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It’s that time of year. You’re probably starting to think a vacation somewhere warm sounds pretty good right about now. Well, we hear you. That’s why we want to share these incredibly beautiful photographs, to send you on a virtual vacation to the magical mists of Kauai, where photographer Jess Bianchi documented the construction of The Kauai Cottage, an off-the-grid Hawaiian hideaway.

Built and designed by San Francisco artist and surfer Jay Nelson, the philosophy behind the project was to encourage residents of the cabin to “live simply and small and only use what you need,” according to Jess. “In a time of excess when everyone seems to be building bigger and higher, we wanted to experiment with a simpler kind of living.” And at only 200 square feet, it is certainly less living space than most people are used to. But the detail and care that went into crafting the reclaimed redwood structure is evident in every inch, and the natural beauty surrounding the structure is truly inspiring. Plus there’s no TV to distract or take you out of the moment, and you can pick fruit right off the front porch! Isn’t that pretty much the definition of paradise?

If this sounds like a place you need to visit for real, and not just look at on the internet, we have good news: the owners are currently discussing the possibility of opening the cottage to the public in the near future, and have plans to add solar panels, a garden, and possibly build another structure on the property. Until then, take a look at the photos below and drift away on an imagination vacation. Aloha!

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Source: Jess Bianchi

What makes us happy at home? Houzz.com asked more than 6,000 people just that—and the results are fascinating.

  • 87 percent said that their home design impacts their overall happiness.
  • Big windows and comfortable furniture top the list—74 percent and 70 percent, respectively.
  • Men are more than twice as likely to derive happiness from a big-screen TV than women.
  • Overall, homeowners are happiest in rooms that are clean, organized, and comfortable.
  • Rural homeowners prefer the sounds of wildlife, while suburbanites love to hear the conversations among children and family members. City dwellers dig music the most.
  • 15% say the kitchen is their happy place.
  • Being surrounded by immediate family is preferred.

Source: Houzz

Illustration: Alice Stevenson