Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We have begun our house search in the southwest and southeast Portland area. I've decided to make something of a sacrificial compromise and not rule out West Linn (where the man works) or even Milwaukie. I will say, though, that it would have to be one heck of a house for me to be able to happily accept either of latter two.

So here's what's going on the Portland housing market, from what I can tell so far; there are a fair number of houses on the market, and the prices are dropping, despite what I overhear agents telling people at open houses, but a lot of them either need work, or have been badly worked already by house flippers; developers and who buy a place cheap and remodel it on spec., hoping to make a tidy profit once the value goes up with the remodel. The problem is that most of these folks wouldn't know how to remodel a house appropriate to its era of origins and general scale to save their lives. They buy up cute little cottages and bungalows in Sellwood, for example, then finish off the basement and remodel the kitchen in a style reminiscent of the cookie cutter, subdivision, "neo-Craftsman" houses they're building out in the 'burbs -- lots and lots of contemporary attempts at slickness totally inappropriate to a 1920's bungalow. I am so sick of faux granite kitchen counter tops and beige floor tiles.

Worse is what they do with the space. It's not at all uncommon to see these remodels with two or three "bedrooms" jury-rigged into the attic with no bathroom. We've seen only one house that had a good floor plan, and it was the original 1965 floor plan. In fact, if we were in the position to make an offer at this point -- right now, we're just doing our "due diligence" explorations of the market and neighborhoods -- I would have been ready to lay one down for this place. And it was even in West Linn. Unbelievably, it was a classic '60's split level, and certainly nothing that one would expect me to jump up and down about, but the use of space was such a refreshing departure from what we have been seeing, that I came darn near close to falling in love. Granted, the place needed some work: new roof, new windows, ripping out carpeting and refinishing wood floors, a kitchen remodel, and possibly replacing some of the cedar planks making up the siding. All that said, it's a ten minute walk to David's school, a ten minute walk to the bus stop into the city and has a fantastic, huge yard... plus that comparatively livable floor plan. But, alas, at $360,000, though not terrible, especially for West Linn, it's probably a bit high given the work that needs to be done.

We can watch it to see if it comes down, though. One place we had looked at weekend before last had dropped in price from $440,000 to $390,000 this past weekend. The use of space was awful in the private quarters, however. What are these developers thinking? I imagine life is not being particularly kind to them right now. Flipping was a fine way to make a living in the market of just a few months ago, but it has to be making for a lot of unhappy builders now. They have all these poorly designed remodeled houses hanging around their necks that they will be lucky to sell at a loss.

1 comment:

Dee said...

I'd heard housing prices in Portland were outrageous ...holy cow!