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By Tom Ramsey | Broker in Portland, OR
  • Hoyt Street Properties starts work on Pearl District condo tower, first since recession

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Investment Properties  |  July 24, 2014 7:13 AM  |  4 views  |  No comments

    Hoyt Street Properties starts work on Pearl District condo tower, first since recession









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    A rendering of the Block 15 condominium tower in the Pearl District as seen from the north. In the foreground is Fields Park.
    Elliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.com
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    on July 23, 2014 at 6:30 AM, updated July 23, 2014 at 9:05 AM


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    In the housing market's glory days, would-be buyers would line up outside the sales office for an unfinished condo building, checkbooks in hand and angling for prime units.

    Ten years later, Tiffany Sweitzer is wondering if people will still line up.

    Her firm, Hoyt Street Properties, started work last week on the first new Pearl District condo tower since the recession.

    Also last week, Hoyt Street finally closed the books on its last condominium venture, The Encore, selling the last of its 177 condos. The building was finished in 2008, just as the recession was taking hold, and had only 12 units sold at the time.

    GS.41COND123.jpgView full size Against that backdrop, the new $108 million tower — which, at 28 stories and 340 feet high, will be the city's tallest residential building — seems a particularly bold re-entry into the high-rise condo market.

    "We've just come out of a pretty tough five years," Sweitzer said. "So you think, do I take on another project that will be even bigger than The Encore financially? It's a huge undertaking for us."

    But the Block 15 condominium project is one Hoyt Street has been considering for more than two years, laying the groundwork in a concerted effort to be the first to break ground post-recession, before other competition crowds the market. And experts say the project may be well timed to improvements in the housing market, and that projects by other developers are probably not far behind.

    It comes as most active developers are focused on rental apartments. Sweitzer and Clay Fowler, both partners in Hoyt Street, are also involved in a 281-unit apartment building going up on nearby Block 17, with backing from national real estate firm Wood Partners.

    But Joe Weston, the other partner in Hoyt Street and a longtime apartment owner and developer, saw too much risk in the current apartment market. The Portland area is on track to gain well over 10,000 new apartment units in 2014 and 2015 alone, a response to growing demand for rentals and rising rents.

    Meanwhile, the for-sale housing inventory is seeing similar high demand — but little new construction.

    "Here's a guy who made his fortune off apartments, and he says the apartment market is being overbuilt," Sweitzer said. "He says, 'I think we need to do a condo project.'"

    Having Weston on board as the biggest investor, along with a track record in Pearl District condominiums, helped secure a construction loan with Wells Fargo.

    As the experience with The Encore illustrates, the appetite for buying condos disappeared almost overnight during the recession. The boom had left too many condo buildings with excess inventory, and by 2009, sales had slowed to a rate where it would take more than five years to sell all the condos on the market. A typical market hovers around six months of supply.

    Things turned around by 2011, as the oversupply dried up and prices and sales started to rise.

    According to a recent analysis by brokerage Realty Trust City, the supply of condos has dwindled to two months. Most are on the market for only 31 days.

    And some individual condos are now setting price records, beating the highs set in the boom years. As a result, developers' attitude toward new condo development is improving, said Patrick Clark of Realty Trust.

    "Hoyt Street is farther along than other folks, and good for them," Clark said. "The timing is going to work to their benefit."

    Clark has consulted with other developers considering condo projects in the Pearl District and elsewhere. "I think there will be other projects that will be announced," he said, "Maybe a year from now, maybe six months from now."

    As in the housing market generally, the condo market is hurting for more diversity in its inventory, said Judie Dunken, a broker with Keller Williams Realty who works primarily in the Pearl District.

    A new building could set off a shuffle as some people move into the newer building, she said, unlocking more condos elsewhere for the resale market.

    "People who are looking for a view, nicer finishes, more square footage, there just isn't the availability," Dunken said. "I think that's the excitement of the new building."

    The tall, glass-curtain tower — which has also been called Park Central, but which will get a new name in the next couple of weeks — was designed by Boora Architects. The general contractor is Andersen Construction.

    Sales will begin in early October, and the tower is scheduled to be completed by summer 2016.

    -- Elliot Njus

  • Best places for vacation home deals

    Posted Under: Home Buying  |  July 22, 2014 4:08 AM  |  20 views  |  No comments



    Best for golf nuts


    NEXT

    vacation home haines florida
    If golf is your game, Haines City is a great affordable second home market.

    • Place: Haines City, Fla.
    • Median home value: $123,000

    There are two big advantages to vacation life in Haines City, according to city administrator Jonathan Evans. The first is that several of the best golf courses in the nation are 30 minutes or less away.

    Many residents, like Evans himself, live right on a golf course.

    Related: 10 most affordable small cities

    The second is home prices. "You can build a new home here for $50 to $60 a square foot," he said. "It's very affordable."

    Existing home prices are also low. At a median of $123,000, they're about two-thirds of the price of a typical U.S. home.

    Getting to Haines is easy. Vacationers can fly into either Tampa or Orlando international airports and be less than an hour from their second home. And with both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts within a 90-minute drive, there's plenty to do, even for non-golfers.


  • Average mortgage rates dip, remain near historic lows

    Posted Under: Home Buying  |  July 21, 2014 7:36 AM  |  27 views  |  1 comment
    Mortgage Rates
    A home for sale in Quincy, Mass. (The Associated Press)
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    WASHINGTON — Average U.S. mortgage rates declined slightly this week with rates remaining near historic lows.

    Mortgage company Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the nationwide average for a 30-year loan dipped to 4.13 percent, down from 4.15 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, edged down to 3.23 percent, compared with 3.24 percent last week.

    Mortgage rates are below the levels of a year ago, having fallen in recent weeks after climbing last summer when the Federal Reserve began talking about reducing the monthly bond purchases it was making to keep long-term rates low.

    Rates on one-year adjustable rate mortgages were 2.39 percent this week, down from 2.40 percent last week, while rates on five-year adjustable rate mortgages were 2.97 percent, down from 2.99 percent last week.

    At 4.13 percent, the rate on a 30-year mortgage is down from 4.53 percent at the beginning of this year. Rates have fallen modestly even though the Fed has been trimming its monthly bond purchases. Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Congress this week that the purchases will likely end altogether at the end of October.

    But at the same time, Yellen said during congressional testimony that the Fed still sees the need to keep its benchmark short-term rate at a record low near zero to give the economy support.

    To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

    The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was 0.6 point, down from 0.7 point last week. The fee for a 15-year mortgage was 0.5 point, down from 0.6 point last week.

    The average charge for a five-year adjustable rate mortgage was 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. For a one-year ARM, the charge was also 0.4 point, also unchanged from last week.

    -- The Associated Press

  • Pet suites, other amenities rising trend for homebuilders

    Posted Under: Home Buying  |  July 17, 2014 6:30 AM  |  40 views  |  No comments

    Pet suites, other amenities rising trend for homebuilders









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    This May 13, 2014 image provided by A.G. Photography shows a Standard Pacific Home's interior view of a dog-friendly home. Standard Pacific Homes is building and selling 27 new home communities from Florida to California and billing them as the first to offer pet paradise as an option in every one. The homes could feature automated feeders, and cabinets for toys, treats and food.
    The Associated Press


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    on July 16, 2014 at 11:04 AM, updated July 16, 2014 at 11:05 AM
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    LOS ANGELES — These homes are set apart by their amenities — for dogs.

    Standard Pacific Homes is building and selling homes in 27 developments from Florida to California and is believed to be the first to offer a pet suite as an option in every one.

    The most lavish suite is a 170-square-foot pet paradise with a step-in wash station, handheld sprayer and leash lead; tile walls and floors; a designated drying area with a commercial sized pet dryer; a water station; automated feeders; a large bunk-style bed; cabinets for toys, treats and food; a stackable washer and dryer; a French door that opens to a puppy run; and a flat-screen television set.

    Standard Pacific, based in Irvine, decided to offer pet suites after conducting livability studies with homeowners. Pets were a constant theme, said Jeffrey Lake, vice president and national director of architecture for Standard Pacific.

    "Devotion to pets is second-to-none," he added. "They are family."

    The American Pet Products Association reports that 68 percent of Americans own pets and contribute to an industry worth more than $55 billion annually.

    Real estate officials say building homes designed to cater to pets is a new concept, but that remodels for pet owners have been available for some time.

    Adam Cowherd Construction in Ozark, Missouri, installs pet-friendly additions to homes. Cowherd said he recently finished a job where there was an open shelf on the end of a kitchen island to hold pet bowls.

    "Owners want it uniquely functional, very contemporary and something that catches the eye," Cowherd said.

    However, only once in the last 10 years has he been asked to build a whole room for a pet, he added.

    Melanie Dean lives with her family near Dallas in a Standard Pacific home with a pet package for their dog, Lola.

    Lola's room "makes life much easier," Dean said. "We don't have to use the kitchen sink to wash yucky stuff anymore."

    Standard Pacific Homes' newest community, called Avignon at Blackstone in Brea, about 25 miles south of Los Angeles, features homes that start at $710,000. The pet spa option adds $35,000 to the price, Lake said.

    Only the largest suite is available in Brea, but in some of the other communities, there are smaller sizes and prices, starting at 60 square feet for $8,000, he said.

    During some of the model grand openings at different communities, several potential buyers brought their dogs to look at the homes, said Danielle Tocco, the company's director of communications.

    Around 70 percent of those looking for a home have pets, said Mollie Carmichael, principal at the John Burns Real Estate Consulting firm in Irvine.

    Pet adoptions were also held at some model grand openings, Tocco said, just in case somebody didn't have a dog but wanted one.

    For cat owners, things can be rearranged and swapped out, like a scratching post for the dryer. And if no one is using the bath, it can be used for sporting equipment, like golf clubs.

    Those looking to sell their homes may find their pet additions to be a benefit.

    Laundry rooms and mud rooms toward the back of homes are popular, said Amy Bohutinsky, chief marketing officer at Seattle-based Zillow. Pet washrooms can also be used as multipurpose mud rooms, which may attract buyers.

  • Builders turn bullish on housing market in July

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Investment Properties  |  July 16, 2014 8:06 AM  |  47 views  |  No comments
    toll brothers.jpg
    A construction worker hops off a concrete form for the clubhouse in a new subdivision by Toll Brothers, Inc., in Yardley, Pa.(The Associated Press/2012)
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    U.S. homebuilders are feeling more confident in their sales prospects for the second half of the year, reflecting improved demand and stronger sales of new homes in recent months.

    The brighter sales outlook suggests home construction could pick up in coming months after a sluggish start this year.

    The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose this month to 53, up four points from a revised reading of 49 in June.

    The latest reading is the highest since January, when it was 56.

    Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

    Builders' view of current sales conditions for single-family homes, their outlook for sales over the next six months and traffic by prospective buyers each increased since June.

  • Housing market feels hot, but sales have stalled

    Posted Under: Home Buying  |  July 15, 2014 6:41 AM  |  51 views  |  No comments

    Housing market feels hot, but sales have stalled


    lot sold SE Portland
    A lot sold for development in Southeast Portland. (Mark Graves/The Oregonian)
    PrintElliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.comBy Elliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.com 
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    In the first half of 2013, Portland-area home sales were booming. So far, 2014 has been at best an echo, and at worst a stall.

    Home sales are down by a tenth of a percent in the first six months of the year, according to theRegional Multiple Listing Service.

    Yet competition for homes is as high as it's ever been — if anything, a slim supply of homes is keeping buyers on the sideline — and prices are rising, albeit more slowly than they were a year ago.

    It's a brisk, animated market. But it's still not a healthy, sustainable one. Prices are rising at rates untethered to inflation and gains in income. And construction of new homes hasn't ramped up to meet new demand.

    "We're not seeing normal levels of housing activity," said Josh Lehner, a senior economist with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. "We're going in this direction where there's a supply response coming, but it hasn't come as strong as we would've thought maybe a year and a half ago."

    Mixed messages

    Taken month by month, 2014 has been a difficult year to read.

    Sales are up one month, down the next. June was a strong month, with sales up 4.2 percent from a year earlier — the best June since 2007. But it comes after three months where sales were down (March), up less than a percent (April), then down again (May) compared with a year earlier.

    It's clear the housing rebound has lost some momentum. The number of sales is essentially flat from a year ago. Prices are still rising, but the increases have slowed from the the double-digit percentages seen in 2013.

    Still, tell that to the close-in neighborhoods of eastside Portland, where houses can sell in a matter of days — or hours — rather than weeks, and often at thousands of dollars above asking price.

    Homes are moving quickly across the metro area, real estate brokers say, as long as they're priced right. The inventory in months — a measure of supply and demand — has hovered since April at 2.8, indicating it would take 2.8 months to sell every house on the market if sales continued apace.

    That indicates a seller's market. It's a dramatic change from the housing-crash years, when the market was flooded with supply and little demand.

    And the limited supply has become a factor keeping sales numbers from rising.

    "There's only so many homes to sell," said Eric Post, vice president of Better Homes and Gardens Realty Partners. "Month after month, it's the same number of houses."

    That's also a primary reason home prices are getting higher — 6.7 percent higher in June than a year ago. The competitive market has set off bidding wars on desirable properties, and the influence of a glut of discounted foreclosures is fading as the recession becomes increasingly distant.

    Despite the increases, homes remain relatively affordable, Lehner said, at least for people who can save up for a down payment. And even though the median sale price is 16.9 percent higher than it was in January 2013, the run-up hasn't scared off enough buyers to curb sales.

    "The fact that we had such a dramatic increase in the sale price in 2013 and the activity is still pretty flat in the first six months of 2014 is a pretty good thing," said Jeff Wiren, a principal broker with Re/Max Equity Group in Beaverton. "To have that kind of appreciating gain in that kind of timeframe and see activity remain relatively constant I think is a very healthy sign."

    Home prices cooling

    The home price gains have slowed, nearer to a sustainable rate of appreciation that's in line with inflation and wage growth.

    "That's going to be a good thing for affordability," said Lehner. "Things can't go up at 10 percent a year forever."

    More homes on the market would help cool things off further.

    The price increases so far, though, haven't been enough to coax homebuilders back into action. Home construction, which virtually stopped in the recession, remains well below historic norms.

    Building more supply

    That may change soon. Builders are beginning to ramp up their construction efforts, said Post, who works with homebuilders to sell newly constructed homes. Land divisions and permits for new homes are on the rise.

    "Our inventory levels will definitely be helped by the number of developers producing new lots," Post said.

    But they have at least three to five years of under-building, said Lehner. And those homes will take months to bring to market, too.

    "You could go out and start 10,000 new homes tomorrow, but that's not going to do anything to the market for six months or a year," he said

  • Best places for vacation home deals

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Investment Properties  |  July 14, 2014 6:16 AM  |  55 views  |  No comments

    Best places for vacation home deals

    Whether you love golf, the water, the outdoors or theme parks, here are the best places to find a bargain.


    1 of 4


    Best for golf nuts


    NEXT

    vacation home haines florida
    If golf is your game, Haines City is a great affordable second home market.

    • Place: Haines City, Fla.
    • Median home value: $123,000

    There are two big advantages to vacation life in Haines City, according to city administrator Jonathan Evans. The first is that several of the best golf courses in the nation are 30 minutes or less away.

    Many residents, like Evans himself, live right on a golf course.

    Related: 10 most affordable small cities

    The second is home prices. "You can build a new home here for $50 to $60 a square foot," he said. "It's very affordable."

    Existing home prices are also low. At a median of $123,000, they're about two-thirds of the price of a typical U.S. home.

    Getting to Haines is easy. Vacationers can fly into either Tampa or Orlando international airports and be less than an hour from their second home. And with both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts within a 90-minute drive, there's plenty to do, even for non-golfers.


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