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,


Attached vs Condo, What’s the Difference?

I think that most people think that the word attached (also commonly called townhouse) is based upon the design of the property.  Either one or two story with no neighbor above or below. That is not the case. Attached does mean that you don’t have a neighor above or below, but, more importantly, it means that you own the dirt underneath.  Because you own the dirt, you are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the crawl space.

There is a huge advantage to purchasing an attached home. Besides not having someone living above you, it is much  easier to finance, which makes it easier to sell. Lenders treat attached houses just like any other house.


With a condo you own the interior walls and everything inside of those walls. The exterior walls, crawlspace, and roof are all part of the limited common areas of the home owners association.

Condos can be a little bit problamatic when it comes to financing.  Federal lending guidelines requre that at least 50% of the units be owner occupied, and one individual or entity can not own more than 10% of the units. Additionally, to be FHA financeable, the HOA must apply for and maintain their FHA eligibility. This is often neglected by the HOA and so it is not always availble. Because condos tend to be more affordable, they are often purchased by first time home buyers. With out FHA financing, it can be too hard for first ime buyers to come up with enough of a down payment to purchase in communities that don’t have FHA approval.

When Linda and I do the Market Activity Report, we always indicate if a property is Detached, Attached, or a Condo. I thought it would be helpful if you understood the differences.

As always, thanks for reading the Blotter,


Radon and Granite Countertops

At Oregon First we have a gmail group called Haves and Wants. A recent discussion happened about the topic of radon and granite countertops.

Radon comes from granite. When you purchase a home, you should alway do a radon test to see if the radon levels in the house are higher than the EPA limit of 4.0 picocuries. (The World Health Organization recommends a level of not more than 2.7 picocuries.) Generally speaking the granite is in the form of boulders underneath the house, in the ground. You just don’t know whether the house is built over granite boulders or not, so you always test the radon levels.

So if radon comes from granite, what about granite countertops?

This subject came to my attention about 15 years ago. So I dialed up my favorite radon mitigation company and asked if I should be concerned. I was told that, generally speaking, the radon given off by granite countertops was not at a level high enough to be concerned.

Here is the offical EPA information. Click here.

White kitchen design features large bar style kitchen island with granite countertop illuminated by modern pendant lights. Northwest, USA

The bottom line is that you should be concerned about the possibility of radon in a house. Always get it measured. Even if you aren’t buying a house. If you live in a home where you have never measured it, get it measured. You can buy a do-it-yourself test at your local home improvement store, and there are numerous companies who perform this service. The cost to test is $60-$150. Cheap for the peace of mind. If radon is found, the cost to mitigate it is $1500-$3000, generally speaking. Again, cheap for the piece of mind.

I also think that when planning a remodel, don’t assume that just because it is available for purchase it has no issues. Do your research. There are alternatives to granite that are also gorgeous.

I hope that you find this useful. Thank you for reading the blotter.


Choosing a Home Inspector

There is a tendancy to shop for good value. It’s bread into us by the reality that making our dollars go further enhances our ability to invest and plan for the future. This is a good trait in people, but when it comes to home inspectors, you really do get what you pay for.

You can get a home inspection done for around $300-$400. The inspectors that I recommend charge twice that. So what’s the difference? Time, my friend. The difference is time.

The good inspectors book 1 or 2 inspections a day. The cheap inspectors book 3-4 a day. This means that in saving money you are probably hiring someone who is checking their watch and thinking that they need time to drive to the next appointment to get there on time.

You just don’t know what is going to turn up in a home inspection. Your inspector needs time to dwell on details and figure the house out. The two companies I recommend most highly are Associated Master Inspectors and Inspectek West. Both have mulitiple employees and anyone of them is terrific. In addition, AMI maintains a contractor list that is long and well vetted. Painters, asbestos abatement, electricians, you name it, they have it. For the AMI contractor list click here.

I want to assure you that I am not in kahoots with either company. I have attended many, many home inspections. I know what a good inspection looks like. In my entire career, I’ve never had a client come back to me after the sale with a horror story of something missed in the home inspection.

I also had a client a few years ago that was certain that I must be recommending people who would go easy on the house so that the sale would be more likely to happen. She hired an inspector who inspected the roof from the driveway. He did not even walk on the roof.

I want my clients to know what they are buying. If something so bad turns up that makes them change their mind about buying the house, I am happy it happened early in the process and that they didn’t buy a problem.

As always, thanks for reading the blotter,


Oswego Lake

In the heart of Lake Oswego is Oswego Lake. I decided that today I’d focus on the homes that are actually on the lake. I’m going to share with you a bit of what I have learned over the years.

When I got my real estate license in 1987, one of my very first clients was my former boss, and he bought a home on the lake. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with both buyers and sellers who were involved with properties on Oswego Lake. I’ve learned a bit about the types of housing and the various waterfront options.

There are actually 3 different waterfront options. There is the lake itself. Oswego Lake is a natural body of water that was enlarged by development. The most valuable homes are on the lake itself. Then there are 2 “bays”. The bays are extensions of the lake, but not on the lake itself. There is one at the East end of the lake, Lakewood Bay, and one at the West end of the lake, Westbay. The bays have slightly less value than the main lake, but not by much. Then there are the canals. One of the canals is natural and it is where the water comes into the lake from the Tualatin River. There are two more canals, one at Kelok and one at Blue Heron. The canals are the least expensive of the waterfront homes.

I will also mention that on the main lake, the Northside tends to have higher values than the Southside. This is because the sun exposure is better on the Northside, and the sunlight directly benefits the waterfront exposure. There are a couple of streets on the Southside that pretty much don’t get sun exposure at all.

In the last 12 months 47 lake front properties have sold. The least expensive was in the condominiums “Villas on the Lake”. It was 1 bedroom, 1 bath, and 636 square feet. It sold for $215,000. These condominiums share a community dock and several of them have boat slips. The most expensive home that sold on the lake was a 6675 square foot home with 4 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms. With a gated entry and 100 feet of lake front, it sold for $6,175,000.

I think that the condominiums are a bit on an annomoly because most of the lake front properties are just so much more expensive. The average sales price is $2,388,000.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this over view. Please let Linda or I know if you have any questions or are interested in learning more.


What’s a condo? What’s a townhouse?

I think that when people think of condos and townhouses they are usually thinking of a style of construction. Townhouses are usually side-by-side without a neighbor above or below. Yes, that is common with townhouses, but there is more to it than that.

With a townhouse, you own the land below. Different home owner’s associations have different binding terms, but as a generalization, the HOA will take care of exterior mainenance and maintence of the common areas. But you usually have a small yard that you get to landscape and maintain. This also means that if something goes wrong in the crawlspace below , the homeowner is responsible. It also means that the home owner takes care of the plumbing even after it leaves the house.

With condominiums you don’t personally own the land beneath your home. Instead your home owner’s association owns it. You own the interior walls, and your HOA owns the exterior walls. It also owns and is responsible for plumbing once it leaves your unit. So with a condo, the HOA takes on more responsibilites.

How do you know the difference? It should be properly represented in the marketing, but if it’s a condo, it’s also in the legal description.

Both types of real estate have home owner’s associaitons. When you buy either a condo or a townhouse you need to thoroughly inspect the home owner’s association. You want to get copies of their rules and regulations, conditions covenants and restrictions, the reserve study (to show that they are properly saving for big ticket repair items likes roofs and windows) and get the last 12 months of the HOA meeting notes. If something is up, they should be talking about it.

So that’s a little real estate 101. As always, thanks for reading the blotter!


When Looking At Houses~

  • Notice the light and assess the windows– Have they been updated? If not, that’s an investment ahead.
  • Try to ignore the staging and/or personal belongings– You’re potentially buying the house, and not these distracting things. They can, and in the case of staging, are meant to elicit emotional reactions in you. Stay focused on the house.
  • Ask about the heat source– Different heating/cooling methods can drastically change your experience of the home in both functionality and in cost to you. For instance, if the source is “Electric”, that can be more expensive if it refers to baseboard, and much less expensive if it is a mini-split system. Oil heat has its own challenges, and gas furnaces may or may not be up to the task of heating a home today, especially if its been remodeled and additional SF has been added.
  • Pay attention to how SF is presented– If a home is 2000SF, and 1000 of that is unfinished basement space, you may want to assess ahead of time if that is a home you want to view.
  • Lot size & amenitites– You have general ideas of either wanting lots of space and/or privacy, or wanting to be in a friendly “neighborhood” environment with smaller lots closer together. Each home will be different.
    • Do you have pets? If so, check out fencing and whether it’s adequate. If not, that can be fixed, but its an investment.
    • Some large lots will be set back and have minimal yard space to enjoy with most of the area in the entrance, say, or perhaps a good percentage of the lot’s SF is on a hill.
    • Some homes will be high maintenance, ie, if a home has that “falling in love” factor, and it is because of the beautiful gardens surrounding it on all sides….remember that those gardens need care- Are you a gardener? Are you OK with paying someone to maintain those grounds? Just good questions to ask yourself.
    • Some smaller lots may be set closer to the street with ample backyard space.
    • You’ll want to note whether the home has covered areas outside which can add more living space for you in the rainy months.
  • Is the flooring to your liking? – If not that can be fixed, but its an investment. On the other hand, if a home has everything you want, the price is right, and you hate carpet, flooring can likely be changed for much less than you imagine, and often for much less than it will cost you to keep looking and pay for a different home that is priced higher than the actual cost of flooring because it is called “updated” or “remodeled” in the Listing. It’s fairly common to have a flooring contractor lined up to do the flooring work the day after Closing so that your move-in timeline is only slightly affected.
  • Hate the kitchen counters? See my advice on flooring above.
  • Keep things in perspective- While many homes will just not fit the bill, in this market, it pays to really assess what is important and what can be changed to your liking with a little investment on your part after Closing. For years now Buyers have not been in the mood to make any changes and have generally been looking for “move-in-ready”. Right now, we are at historic lows in inventory and have been for many months. If you find a home that meets most of your needs and/but could use a tweak here & there, my advice is: Go for it! Consider it an opportunity to make it your own.


Why do people move to Lake Oswego? Schools is probably number one. It’s why I moved here. Great restaurants, parks, shopping, those are good reasons as well. But there is another big factor. I don’t think it gets discussed much, but that big factor is that this town just feels really, really safe.

Because property values are relatively high, the property taxes that support the community do a great job of funding our schools, but they also do a great job of funding our police department.

I have had two experiences with the Lake Oswego police in the 23 years that I have lived here. The first happened within months of moving into our home. My husband left his truck unlocked with his briefcase inside. Someone stole his check book out of his brief case. We called the police and a patrol car arrived within about 20 minutes. They took a full report and then took the time to give us advice on how to stop miss use of that check book. I think in most towns such a small incident would have led to being asked to fill out some sort of a form and file it as opposed to having a patrol car show up and personally assist us.

The second incidence happend not to long ago and is what prompted me to write this post. Last August I was in a vehicle accident on Boones Ferry Road. Thankfully, no one was hurt and it all was worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. However, my little dog got tossed off the passenger seat of my car and had a slightly bloody eye. The officers who responded to the accident were just so kind. They literally told me, we’ve got this taken care of here, please take your dog to the vet. Truly, they were so kind. My little dog ended up being fine, with no serious injury.

Here’s a tip for driving through Lake Oswego, don’t speed. There are patrol cars every hour of every day. Just don’t speed.

Here’s another tip: there is a 11:00pm curfew for teenagers under the age of 18. Kids are simply not allowed on the streets unaccopanied by adults after 11:00pm. I raised good kids, but I also liked them knowing that they could not hang out with friends late at night on the streets. They had to be at home, and they were.

I’m sure that others may have stories about the LO PD that have a different take on how they operate. But I can honestly say that I have had nothing but positive experiences with the local police department. I just feel safe here and I feel like my family is safe here. Thank you LO PD, I appreciate all that you do.