Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Portland's housing market lamblike as springtime nears

The median price for metro-area homes is up about 12 percent
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
(as published in the Oregonian)

As the all-important spring selling season approaches, Portland's housing market continues to show signs of slackening.
The median home price in the Portland metropolitan area was $275,000 in January, according to figures released Tuesday by the Regional Multiple Listing Service.
That's up nearly 12 percent compared with January 2006. But home prices have essentially been flat since late spring, and have even come down a hair since their peak in June, when the market was gyrating upward and the area's median price hit $280,000.
New listings were up 19 percent in January compared with the same period last year, and closed sales were down 9 percent. Consequently, the inventory of homes for sale in the region hit a 6.2 month supply in January -- its highest level in five years. The average market time for a home sale was 65 days, up from 44 days in January 2006.

The softening trend mirrors the story nationwide, though the region's market remains relatively stronger than almost all other areas of the country. By historical standards, it is still quite healthy and continues to benefit from a strong regional economy and low interest rates.
"It's the thing we expected, transitioning from a seller's to a buyer's market," said Jerry Johnson of Johnson Gardner, a Portland economic consulting firm. "If this is as bad as it gets, we can live with that."

While median home prices still show strong growth year over year, Johnson thinks those comparisons will get tougher as spring wears on. For the year, he thinks the Portland area will do well to see prices hold at current levels, a soft landing that will look positively muscular compared with some metropolitan areas around the country. Still, Johnson cautions, "There's no way we're replicating the first six months of 2006 in the first six months of 2007."

Don't tell that to area home builders and real estate agents, who are still sounding a boosterish note as they head into home sales prime time. Many of them blame the media for spreading doom-and-gloom stories that have scared away buyers, and say there's plenty of pent-up demand that will fuel sales this year. "In reality, the market is still incredible -- it's not like we're Las Vegas or Arizona, where we can continue to build into the desert," said Rob Young, a broker in Clackamas County.

Yet RMLS statistics and anecdotal accounts suggest that Clackamas County -- specifically Happy Valley -- is one of the weakest pockets in the metro area precisely because there is so much new building going on. The average time on the market in Clackamas County was 84 days, compared with the metro average of 65 days. "I'm signing off on the same number of deals in this office," Young said. "I don't see a difference."

Likewise, Brian Bellairs, an agent with The Meadows Group in Beaverton, says he senses a decent equilibrium in the market, with some recent signs that activity is heating up.
"We don't know how hot it's going to be, but we think there are more buyers in the marketplace," Bellairs said.

Arbor Custom Homes, one of the area's largest home builders, said its sold a record 95 homes in January, following its record of 67 home sales in December. That's quite a change since last summer and fall, when Arbor was seeing a 50 percent cancellation rate on home sales because buyers were scared off by stories about the imminent bursting of a real estate bubble, said Wally Remmers, the company's co-owner.

Johnson, the consultant, says he hopes area home builders will show some restraint in coming months and let the market catch up with supply. There are already signs that they have their ears to the ground. The number of building permits issued for privately-owned housing units in the Portland area was 663 in December, down more than 50 percent from December 2005 and substantially less than any month in the last two years, according to census figures.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

$4.00 Vignette

I need a little sprucing up around here. I mean, Christmas is over and I finished the last of the holiday decoration purge on Superbowl weekend. But what do you put in all those bare spots once the holiday gear is gone?
Well, the primroses are only $1. at the grocery store, so I grabbed 3. I had a bag of moss from the Dollar Store.
So.....I threw a few silver pieces on a table, (or baskets or pottery - we have silver, thanks to mom and grandpa, who have bequeathed us with tons of old stuff) and drop the plants in, fill with moss and voila! $4 later, plus a bag of candy for the dish, we have spring in the house.
I even finished the fall clean-up on the garden last week. Just in time for the Spring clean-up, which I might be able to save until summer.
Procrastination can be rewarding.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I was so hot for the Treo 600 once it was released, I could hardly wait. What a gorgeous phone! Even Brian Allen was impressed with it! Of course AT&T strung me along and never delivered on my pre-order, so I bought it directly from Palm - which may have been a good thing because they treated me well during my hundreds of phone calls to India to complain about the phone. I should say phones. They sent me at least 4 replacements of the 600 and finally just gave up and upgraded me to the new 650. It took so long to resolve my Treo 600 issues the new model was out.

That little beauty lasted for three years. I loved it. Except when I hung up on people because a part of my face or ear or something would touch the off button on the screen. Or when it constantly froze between calls. Or when the data synch ceased to work in spite of the purchase of a new cord. My love faded. And faded. Yet I was stuck. All my data (clients, vendors, friends, family, lists, memos, my beloved PITI calculator, everything!) was in Palm format. The easiest switch would have been to the 700. But 700 owners were hating the thing.

Just in time, out comes the 680. The new improved 650 without all the extra junk that made the 700 unweildy. The perfect solution! I rushed out and bought one. Popped all my data into and was back in business in a half hour. Except it died within a week. And the replacement phone suffered from the same horrible reception. I couldn't place a call in my neighborhood.

While the Real Estate industry has embraced the Treo as the phone for Realtors, the new 680's have the worst reception (they got rid of the external antenna) and the 700 has too much stuff going on. (Do you really need to download documents to read on your telephone while you're out selling property? I don't) I hardly know a soul who actually likes using their Treo.

But the Real Estate big-wigs have reeeally fallen for the Treo. Now Realtors can use their Treo to open lockboxes! No more carrying the little black box.

But if you can't make a phone call, who cares if you can open a lockbox. If your earring hangs up on your clients, or your phone freezes every time you switch from call to call, how good a Realtor are you really being?

So I fell for the Blackjack. It seemed to do everything the Treo had done for me. And it gets reception in Portland Heights. And on SW Skyline. And places where I hadn't ever been able to make a call. The phone doesn't hang up on people! I can google. I can send funny pictures.

While it took me an entire day to transfer all my data from Palm to Outlook, I'm in love with Blackjack. And it has satellite radio and will keep me company with miniature tv shows! (BTW, the rest of my family uses the "Dash" from TMobile, and it has very similar capabilities)

Bye bye Treo. Blackjack had me at hello.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Organization 101

As much as I'd love to tell you all that I'm always organized in every way, you know I'm not.
I mean, I get my job done in an organized way, and I can put my hand on almost anything within five seconds, but my jewelry was pretty much of a disaster area. Some on a shelf, some in bowls on my vanity, and some on an ancient belt organizer along with belts and sashes and... you get the picture.
I don't know how I came up with this plan, but it's been floating around my head for about 6 months - and finally I bought the parts and Norris assembled it for me.
It's just a couple of those coated wire racks for kitchens that they sell at Storables - and we hung them on the wall of my closet. There are all sorts of hooks and things, and I especially love the long racks that hold an armfull of bangle bracelets... and then there's a little basket at the bottom for all of my watches and cuffs and.....
Well I could go crazy organizing stuff with all the containers and things at Storables.
The cost of this project? About $45. (half of that was for all the hooks. There's probably a cheaper way - but I like it all matchy)
Will you see me wearing jewelry more often? You tell me.