Oregon Summer 2021

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Love is a dangerous thing, especially in real estate.

If you have fallen for a house, a property, a barn or a spectacular view…If the kitchen makes your knees turn to jelly or the free-standing soak tub makes you well up with tears of joy, the last person who should know it is the seller of said love object.

A good seller’s agent knows that besotted people are easy. This past buying season (I think we should call it the wooing season) we have seen it all. Appraisal waivers (common), inspection waivers (please don’t do that), shortened due diligence periods (if you must), cases of wine (inspired!) and tickets to Space Camp.

Okay, I made up that part about Space Camp but now that I think of it, it seems like a creative idea.

All of it is fair game when you’re in the fight with other besotted buyers.

However, one of the most commonly used devices for winning the heart of the seller – the Love Letter – is under fire from the government. Yes, the government.

And no, I am not making this up.

It has long been a practice for prospective buyers to write letters to sellers in an effort to bolster their bid for a house. They might comment on their feeling that the house is a great fit for them. That it is obviously well-maintained and well-updated. That it fits their lifestyle and Way of Being. And there might be a little light verse or a touch of unashamed flattery. It all goes in the letter.

While I may question the wisdom of unguarded expressions of Love since they can hamper your attempt to negotiate, I’ve always considered it up to the buyer to do what he feels he must do. And sometimes, if offers are in most other ways equal, letters can work to break a tie. Especially if the seller feels a likeness or a kinship with the buyer, who has included a cute pic of his family/dog/pet goldfish/Grandpa Joe.

But the government does not like this.

It is concerned that a seller will see that the buyer is Not like him at all – that he is a different skin color or of a different family complement or that his lifestyle or pet dog or Grandpa Joe seem odd –and that he will reject the offer on the basis of those things.

Anyway, the government has banned these love letters out of the fear that someone will discriminate in an illegal way using the information in the letters.

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t banning letters a violation of my civil rights? Answer: Yes, if the law had banned the actual writing or even sending of the letter. But it didn’t. No, it got its lawyers together (it has a lot of lawyers) and asked them to configure a way to ensure that the letter you write does not actually get to its intended target. Those brilliant lawyers came up with a plan: They banned real estate agents from delivering those letters to sellers and it accompanied the new law with all manner of threats and workshops (worse than threats) aimed at teaching us to teach you not to write those letters or send those pics.

As far as I can tell, the government has not yet banned the postal service from delivering love letters.

So, if the house is driving you crazy and you can’t stop thinking about it, you can still put pen to paper, you’ll just have to have a stamp and an envelope. For many of you, that will be discouragement enough. I can never find a stamp when I need one.

Do not consider this an encouragement to write to the sellers. It’s not. And it is theoretically possible for a seller to take a dislike to you for an illegal reason rather than for the usual reason, which is Not Enough Money.

I’ve sold hundreds of houses and I have never seen any seller choose a buyer based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or family complement.

I have, however, seen a remarkable affinity for people with dogs.

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Refer-a-Friend Rewards Program

Picture of Lisa Baker
Lisa Baker

Principal Broker | REALTOR
RE/MAX Equity Group

It’s time for something nice to arrive in your mailbox. Starbucks coffee, Subway sandwiches or dinner at Red Robin. Yes! It could happen to YOU!

Just refer your friends to me and I’ll not only take great care of them as they shop for a house or market their houses with me, but I will send You a gift card for something delicious, too!

Is that a great deal or what?!

Warning Labels for Your House

Redfin is adding a climate change score to its listing data, reportedly to warn buyers away from properties that might be affected by bad weather. Excessive heat. Storms. Unwelcome water.

If global climate changes are happening, well, globally, then maybe no property would be safe from a warning label, which would create a kind of sad equity among properties on earth. But Redfin’s system picks winners and losers, taking it upon itself to redline entire neighborhoods, damage the market value of every house there based on a potential that Something Bad Might Happen. Lincoln City, for example, might be in some trouble based on that whole ocean thing.

The City of Portland is sounding a similar theme with its mandatory energy audits for houses on market. Each house must be marketed with an energy score from a purported expert. The seller, of course, must pay for this scoring to be done and must post the score like a scarlet letter A.

Redfin and the City of Portland are capitalizing on the popular notion that you can erase risk from life, ensure that lightning never hits you, that a summer day never gets to 114 degrees or that a digestively challenged seagull doesn’t find your windshield just as you drive out of the car wash.

It’s not a new thing. Real estate has been rolling in worry for decades. A few years ago, it might be fairly described as prudence. It has led to inspections and disclosures. Resulting repairs have ensured that houses are in better shape upon conveyance than ever before. It has been a good thing.

But due diligence has given way to obsession in some quarters. A 70-page inspection report might paint your average home as a candidate for condemnation. An indoor air report suggests that your average home is toxic. Especially assailed are older houses, although new construction is in the red zone now because the new carpet/new paint might be toxic, too. The resulting conclusion: You aren’t safe anywhere.

The fact is, we already have measures in place to prevent unpleasant surprises.

The buyers’ due diligence/inspection period already includes sewer scopes, radon tests, lead-based paint tests, flood zone analysis and, if the buyer would like, access to utility bills, should the buyer be concerned about costs. A home inspection covers every home system. Infared is now available if you want to see through walls. Like Superman. The sky is the limit, as long as it’s all done within the inspection period.

Even so, the day after you buy it, a pipe could break, the furnace thermostat could go on the fritz…Buying a house is a risk.

But then, so is buying a bag of romaine. Or going for a walk.

In Bilbo Baggins’s words, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door.”

Cheap Updates

One of the most fleeting fashions is metal finish used on doorknobs, cabinet pulls, light and bath fixtures. What was cool just a few years ago is now hopelessly dated, or so say buyers.

In the 70s, doorknobs were bright brass. Later, the style was textured antiqued brass. The 80s brought shiny chrome, the 90s, gold tone. Oil-rubbed bronze and brushed nickel became the thing by 2006 and remained popular for about a decade. Now, matte black is the thing.

If you were keeping up with style, you’d be out hundreds of dollars each time the next style arrived, hyped and gushed over by the HGTV crowd.

Best practice is not to try if you like the look of what you have. At least, until it’s time to sell.

At that point, the prejudice against old hardware is so prevalent, it will likely affect the offers you get.

Outdoor Glass bulb art
Except this. This one you should toss.

The good news is, you don’t need to replace the hardware or the fixtures.

You can paint them.

The prep work is as you might expect: Start with a light sanding to take off the shine and create a surface that’s conducive to bonding, follow with a thorough cleaning.

Choose a spray paint intended for metallic surfaces. Rustoleum Universal Metallics is a good one. In choosing your product, make sure to ensure that it is a combo primer+paint. If it isn’t, you will need to apply a primer first and let it completely dry before attempting your updated color.

Things to note: First, you will always need more cans than you think. Second, don’t even attempt this inside the house – controlling paint drift is a major problem – if you’re outside, the worst that can happen is that your lawn is the wrong color in places. Inside, you could end up having to refinish your floor.

Last piece of advice: Some fixtures, even updated to the stylistically correct year, will never look new. Textured amber glass pendants on a chain will always evoke the 70s. Always. I know you’re thinking it’ll make for a really cool boho vibe. Ya, no. Just let it go.