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You Know Your Car’s Fuel Efficiency. What About Your House?

March 17th, 2014 by julie
This home’s energy performance score is 37. Pretty good, considering the scale runs from zero to 200, and zero is the best score you can get. | credit: Courtesy of Vintage Real Estate | rollover image for more


The first month’s electric bill at my new house was a shocker: $348. Granted, the house has electric heat, and the bill was for February when it got pretty darn cold in Portland. But still – yikes!

So, when I heard that Portland homeowner Brooks Shephard cut his monthly electric bills from $280 to $100, I had a vested interest in learning more.

Turns out Shephard is the first Oregon homeowner to get an energy performance score, or EPS, for an existing house.

An EPS is a number between zero and 200 that measures the energy efficiency of a home. It comes with an average monthly bill estimate. More and more new houses are being listed with an EPS as a selling point. But the energy efficiency of older houses – where energy costs can be a major x-factor – have remained inscrutable.

Until the first winter months come, that is.

Shephard said it wasn’t until his first December after buying the place that he realized “the house was kind of like Swiss cheese.”

The EPS for Brooks Shephard’s house in NE Portland.

“It’s a great little house in Northeast Portland,” he said. “As far as I could tell, the house was pretty secure. But it had baseboard heaters. Baseboard heaters are pretty much like heating the house with a toaster. It was a constant battle. I’d get cold and turn the heat up, and then it was too hot, so I’d turn it down. Twenty minutes later it was cold again.”

The 700-square-foot house wasn’t even comfortably warm, and he got an electric bill for $280. He considered the possibility of signing up for Clean Energy Works Oregon, which enlists a local contractor to do a home energy audit and make recommendations for improving energy efficiency. The program offers homeowners a loan to cover the cost of upgrades.

“I looked at the program for a long time, but I’m a skeptic,” he said. “It seemed like somebody’s trying to make a buck somewhere. But the more I looked into it, and considered how tight money was at the time, I realized it made sense for me.”

Shephard enrolled in the program and got a loan for around $6,500 to cover the cost of replacing his baseboard heaters with a super-efficient ductless heat pump, adding new insulation and replacing the windows. After completing his energy efficiency upgrades, Shephard said he knew he wanted to get an energy performance score for the house.

“I wanted to be able to show what I’d done,” he said. “It’s hard for new homeowners to check these things. I wish I would have had that information for myself. I had to go through the first winter to figure it out.”

Amen to that!

Nicolette Hanna, Shephard’s real estate agent, used to work for Clean Energy Works. She knows as well as anyone that the operating costs of a house are often overlooked in the housing market. She’s excited to see what energy performance scores might do to help the market recognize the value of energy efficiency. She said Shephard’s EPS allowed her to start a different kind of conversation with potential buyers.

“I saw wheels turn that don’t normally turn when people are thinking about purchasing a home,” she said. “You can see the granite countertops. You can see the hardwood floors. But you can’t see the energy performance of a house, which is often a concrete expense.”

Hanna presented the EPS concept to potential buyers at an open house. A similar home has an EPS of 93, she told them. This one had a score of 80 before the improvements. Now it’s 37.

Shephard bought the house for $185,000 three years ago and listed it for $249,500 this month. Last week, he accepted an offer for more than the asking price.

So, now I have to ask: If more homes had energy performance scores, how would that affect the housing market?

Remember when gasoline prices went up, and everyone started shopping for hybrid cars? Suddenly, fuel efficiency became much more important. And how convenient that we have a measurement to compare the fuel cost of driving one car versus another. What would happen if homeowners had the option of choosing more energy efficient homes? Would homeowners end up doing energy efficiency upgrades before they put their homes on the market? And would we all, then, use less energy altogether?

Those kinds of questions explain why energy efficiency geeks are celebrating Shephard’s house hitting the market this month – and being on track to sell for more than the asking price.

—Cassandra Profita

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5 wild cards to watch in 2014 Real Estate Market

January 10th, 2014 by julie



For housing, it was a tale of two halves in 2013. During the first half, unusually low supplies of homes and low rates spurred bidding wars, pushing prices up sharply. During the second half, the frenzy cooled amid a sudden spike in interest rates. While more markets are now reporting increases in inventory, the number of homes for sale remains quite low. The bull case for 2014 goes something like this: those low inventories will support rising prices. Below-average levels of household formation, the argument goes, must ultimately pick up, boosting construction. Mortgage rates, while higher, are still historically low. Credit standards will stop getting tighter, and might loosen as home prices rise. Finally, mortgage delinquencies are dropping. While some states still have elevated foreclosure inventories, the worst of the distressed-housing problem is in the rear-view mirror. The bear case, meanwhile, says that the recovery is a mirage built on the back of the Federal Reserve’s stimulus that has done little more than inflate asset values, including home prices. Record low interest rates, the argument goes, unleashed demand from both borrowers and all-cash investors seeking returns on something—anything—with a decent return. These investors built large rental-home companies that remain untested at scale. How can first-time buyers take the baton from investors at a time when prices are up almost 20% in two years and when interest rates are rising? Other problems loom: Mortgage rates could jump, choking off housing demand and curbing new construction that remains mired at 50-year lows. Investors could unload their homes if the rental-home thing doesn’t pan out. And don’t look for much help from mortgage lenders that face a cocktail of new regulations, which could keep credit standards stiff. So which view will carry the year? Here are five wild cards to watch this year:

  • 1 Will Inventory Rise?

    Prices have risen largely because of shortages of homes for sale. While there is growing evidence that inventories hit bottom last year and that some markets are moving back in favor of buyers, the number of homes for sale remains relatively tight still. Foreclosure-related listings have plunged, and traditional buyers haven’t flocked to list homes—at least not yet. New construction, meanwhile, won’t be back to normal historical levels for years. The consensus view is that price growth continues at a somewhat slower pace, but that consensus view could be wrong—for the third year in a row—if there aren’t more homes for sale.
  • 2 Where Is the Home-Construction Recovery?

    While home prices have recovered strongly, new construction activity hasn’t. Part of this may have to do with the fact that home prices are still too low to justify construction, particularly given land, labor, and materials costs. For smaller builders, credit may also be harder to come by. Some economists say new-home demand could remain muted because many move-up buyers don’t have enough equity to “trade up” to that new home. Key issues to watch here: What happens to household formation, and do builders begin to throttle back price gains in favor of selling more homes in 2014?
  • 3 What Happens to Mortgage Credit?

    Lenders could begin to ease certain “overlays”—or additional credit and documentation checks—that have been imposed over the past few years. Mortgage insurance companies are getting more comfortable insuring loans with down payments of just 5%. So don’t be surprised if, at the margins, it gets a little easier to get a mortgage—especially if you have lots of money in the bank. Even if it gets easier to get a loan—by no means a given—borrowing costs and fees could rise. Banks also face new mortgage regulations that could keep most of them cautious. Borrowers with more volatile or harder-to-document incomes, including the self-employed or those who make a lot of money on commissions, bonuses, or tips, could continue to face tough sledding.

    Bloomberg News
  • 4 What Will Investors do With Their Homes?

    A handful of institutional investors have purchased tens of thousands of homes that are being rented out. These homes tend to be concentrated in a few of the regions that have been hardest-hit by foreclosures over the past five years. Investor purchases played key roles in stabilizing prices, especially because investors were wolfing up homes at a time when supplies were already dwindling. A key question now is what happens after the initial rush to invest subsides. More lenders and investors are extending debt financing to some of these property owners, which should help boost returns. Can owners perfect the expense management associated with maintaining and leasing tens of thousands of individual homes?
    Can owners perfect the expense management associated with maintaining and leasing tens of thousands of individual homes?
  • 5 When Does Housing Hit a Tipping Point on Affordability?

    Rising home prices are a double-edged sword, especially in pricier coastal markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. On the one hand, rising prices are giving many homeowners equity in their homes again—an extremely positive development to the extent it means these borrowers are less at risk of foreclosure. But price inflation is making housing less affordable. This will be a bigger problem if cash buyers retreat from the market in 2014 and/or if interest rates rise in a meaningful way. Consider: In Los Angeles, prices have jumped by nearly 30% in the past two years, to a median of $448,900 in the third quarter. Assuming a 20% down payment, the monthly payment of principal and interest on the median priced home has jumped from $1,255 in the third quarter of 2011 to $1,823 in 2013—a 45% increase.

From Wall Street Journal January 7 2014

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First Time Homebuyer Incentive Programs

January 2nd, 2014 by julie


Just a quick email letting you know that Portland Housing Center offer LIFT funds to eligible First Time Homebuyers.   


It’s the time of year for giving.  And what do First Time Homebuyers want more than anything else?  They want to feel that their First Timer status is honored and appreciated – and the best way to offer them this besides your hand-holding approach is to make sure they are connected with a lender who offers all of the area First Time Homebuyer opportunities. 


What’s out there?


Neighborhood LIFT – provides $15,000 down payment & closing costs assistance to eligible First Timers.  Interested borrowers must attend the LIFT event on December 13th & 14th.  For more information visit https://portlandhousingcenter.org/lift/approved-lenders ** We have been told that LIFT registrations already exceed available funding slots however; without doubt not all of those who registered will qualify per the programs guidelines.  Knowing this the inside scoop is that a buyers best chance of reserving funds if you are not already registered is to show up as early as possible the first day of the event as a walk in (December 13th) and get on the waiting list.  In addition, when funds are reserved they are good for 60 days.  If a borrower has not located a property by then, additional funds could become available.  This means that LIFT funds may be around for some time to come as borrowers reserve funds but then are unable to locate a suitable property within 60 days.


MCC Tax Credit – simply put the MCC tax credit is the most valuable First Timer tax credit available in the country.  PLEASE tell your buyers about this program – only a handful of loan officers city wide are certified to offer this tax credit – chances are your First Timers will not be told about the program unless already working with an eligible lender.  http://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/61008    


MAP 80 100% Financing – avoids mortgage insurance, no down payment required, allows eligible borrowers to qualify for more home.  https://portlandhousingcenter.org/get-money/financial-resources  


Oregon Bond – this program just got refunded and provides eligible borrowers either 3% grant towards closing costs or below market interest rate **the Oregon Bond Rate Advantage can be combined with USDA 100% financing or MAP 80 100% financing for a truly amazing benefit package of no down payment and below market interest rate.    

Contact Vince Kingston, a certified Portland Housing Center Lender from Eagle Home Mortgage.


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How long do most buyers look for their home?

September 17th, 2013 by julie

Active home search (median):

  • Number of weeks searched: 12
  • Number of homes seen: 10

First-Time vs. Repeat Buyers:

  • First-time buyers: 39%
  • Median age of first-time buyers: 31
  • Median age of repeat buyers: 51

Buyers who definitely would use same agent again: 84%

Actions taken as result of Internet home search:

  • Walked through a home viewed online: 62%
  • Found agent used to search/buy home: 32%
  • Drove by/viewed a home: 76%

Information sources used in home search:

  • Internet: 90%
  • Real estate agent: 87%
  • Yard sign: 53%
  • Open house: 45%
  • Newspaper ad: 27%
  • Home book or magazine: 18%

Source: 2012 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

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Join us this friday for Cirque du Cycling, a free event.

August 6th, 2013 by julie

Cirque du Cycling by Laughing Planet Cafe


cycle route


Map and Schedule

Plan to spend your evening on Mississippi Avenue for Cirque du Cycling, a bicycle street fair like you’ve never seen before. This cool event is free to watch, free to participate in (except for the race), and activities take place from 4:00-8:30pm on Friday, August 9th.

When you arrive on site, make a new friend and ask around about what’s happening on all parts of the course.

Schedule of Events

4:00pm-5:00pm ::   Bike decorating & Kids programming begins at Q Center (4115 N. Mississippi Ave.)

4:00pm ::   Beer garden opens @ Prost

5:00pm-6:00pm ::   Family & kids ride departs (from Q Center to Peninsula Park and back)

6:00pm ::   Event opens along Mississippi 6:00pm-6:15pm ::   Cargo Bike Race (3 laps up and down N. Mississippi Ave.)

6:15pm -6:30pm ::   Cat 3 Warm up

6:30pm -7:15pm ::   Cat 3 Two-way street race

7:15pm -7:30pm ::   Pro 1, 2 Warm up

7:30pm -8:30pm ::   Pro 1, 2 Two-way street race

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Mississippi Street Fair 2013

July 3rd, 2013 by julie

MSF_copy 2113Come join us for a fun filled day of food, crafts, activities for the whole family and live music!

Vintage Real Estate will be open in the NuMiss building next to Salty Dog and Cat shop.

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How did your neighborhood improve in 2012?

December 27th, 2012 by julie

Alameda +13.7%

Arbor Lodge +9%

Beaumont-Whilshire +12.7%

Boise +14%

Buckman +19.1%

Concordia +7.2%

Cully +6.6%

Eastmoreland +12.4%

Elliot +23.7%

Irvington +15.1%

Kenton +6.5%

Mount Tabor +8%

Multnomah +11.9%

Overlook +10.6%

Piedmont +12.4%

Rose City Park +12.4%

Sabin +14.6%

St. Johns -.8%

Vernon +16.9%

Woodlawn +11.8%

Woodstock +8.9%

If your neighborhood is not listed here go to http://www.zillow.com/local-info/OR-Portland/Montavilla-home-value/r_207230/

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