Friday, April 28, 2017

Washougal is Heating Up!

This local real estate market is heating up in general. Washougal is a city that used to have a reputation for being "way out". I find that silly at best as Washougal is still less than 20 miles to PDX. As pricing in close like Portland and Vancouver bumping buyers out, more people seek relief in the places a bit further out.

Locally there is another trend with higher end properties. Camas has become so expensive that many people are looking for a similar experience at a more affordable price. Cue up Washougal. Rival town to Camas for a hundred years. Over the last decade Clark County's gateway to the Gorge has opened up the hillsides for development and these areas offer spectacular views that rival and in the case of the Gorge are superior to the coveted Prune Hill in Camas.

Homes with sweeping views that would quickly approach and exceed one million dollars in Camas can be found in the $700s in Washougal. Camas has become a desirable spot in Clark County over the last 20 years and it has built up a demand that has pushed prices into the stratosphere for the once blue collar mill town. This in turn has added to the overall demand of the east county area along the Columbia and Washougal has stepped up.

I have been fortunate to be involved with a development in Washougal called, 'Colorado Ridge' and I am very impressed with the amazing properties the builders are producing in this neighborhood. I have the home pictured here listed on the MLS and co-listed with my friend and business associate Bert Girod. The home is brand new just getting the final details done and has some 4200 square feet of living space with a view from nearly every window and two spacious decks. All of it for less than $800k. Washougal is a hot little spot and it offers something truly hard to find in this market; VALUE.

Friday, April 21, 2017

La Center Casino Opens this Month

Photo by Cale Johnson, The Reflector
The new Ilani Casino opens up on the Cowlitz Reservation Land at exit 16 on I5 this Monday. Although it is officially in Ridgfield (by zip code) it is at the La Center exit. This is a large casino not at all unlike Oregon's enormous Spirit Mountain Resort in Polk County, Oregon.

Ilani has the advantage of being less than 25 miles from Downtown Portland, making it the closest major casino to the bulk of the Portland-Vancouver metro area. There is still much to be built including the hotel and several of the planned restaurants.

All of this came at the cost of a great controversy surrounding this development. I am not going to opine on the pros and cons of such an endeavor but rather on the ramifications to the real estate market. This is a $500 million project with the casino coming first and then this fall a convention space will open and later yet a future 400 room hotel to round out to whole "resort" notion. $500 million is no small amount my friends this is a big deal.

The casino is planning on employing at least a 1000 people initially as reported by local newspaper, The Columbian, last month. More jobs are sure to follow as more of the 'resorts' infrastructure comes on line. A dozen restaurants are planned to support the massive 368,000 square foot casino gaming floor.

I would imagine that Ridgefield, Woodland, La Center and Northwest Vancouver will enjoy a perk in demand for both rentals and resale homes to house the hundreds and soon to be thousands of employees that will work in this 'resort'. Of course our local inventory of both rentals and resales is tight, tight, and a little tight. This may continue the upward pressure locally despite some national trends that are showing signs of a slight flattening in the market.

Love it or hate it the Ilani is here and our real estate market will feel its presence. Sellers, get ready, more buyers are heading your way.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sell your house first!

So many buyers are sitting on a house they don't want to list because they haven't found a replacement house. Their logic tends to be sound. They don't want to sell their home and then not have a place to go. The worry is that this crazy seller's market is making it hard to get a house. Multiple offers and a tight inventory is leading many potential sellers to sit on the fence.

This is a seller's market and sellers are not that comfortable taking offers from buyers with a house to sell. This is actually kind of silly when you think about it, the house they are sitting on will probably sell in jiffy.

Buyers should be aware that the same difficulties they are experiencing in finding a house will be experienced by the buyers looking at their house. Sellers can make unusual requests in this kind of market. For example the seller could sell the home with a long closing period so as to give them time to acquire their next home. Buyers are more willing to accept these kinds arrangements because they too are getting desperate to secure a house.

The bottom line is that a buyer with no sale contingency is in a stronger position with the seller and those that offer with a sale contingency will either have to offer more than the other buyer or lose the deal.

Personally, I prefer a real estate market with a little bit more inventory. This one house for every three buyers baloney tends to wear thin on the market and if it goes on too long, buyers will simply give up.

This is a great time to sell a house, not as good for buyers, but great for sellers. Those considering listing their home have a nice window this summer to get sold for top dollar before economic conditions in the lending world slow things a little bit. No one knows for sure when rates will rise, but the Fed Chair, Janet Yellen has been indicating the time is ripe for some increases int he Fed rate.

If you are going to tread this market with a sale contingent offer plan, be sure to make the rest of your offer as tasty as possible for the seller. Remember most listed properties these days are seeing no shortage of willing and able buyers. Sellers are in the driver's seat.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Closing Systems Exist to Protect Us

Sometimes I encounter people that are frustrated with the cost and "inconvenience" of closing a real estate transaction. I get it, it is truly a pain in the hind quarters. But there are some people running about who are seeking to cheat others through fraud. We have in place a series of procedures, some of which are mandated by either the Feds or State governments, others just regionally customary.  

Sometimes sellers and even buyers will try to 'outwit' the system and enter into an agreement to purchase or sell a property outside of these traditional closing methods. For what? To save a few thousand dollars on title insurance, and escrow fees? To save a little time? 

I would strongly caution that any seller willing to participate in such a sidestep is very likely trying to cheat the other party. Without following the proper procedures in handling the close of a real estate transaction it is rather easy for a bad guy to sell his property to more than one buyer. He that records first is going to gain title and those that do not record first will be forced to sue the seller for fraud. Good luck with that.

These systems of closing involve disinterested third parties trained in the handling of escrow and title services. They are expensive, but they are effective. Even a for sale by owner transaction should by all means utilize the proper closing methods. A for sale by owner would be the likely type of transaction that a would be fraudster would utilize to perpetrate the misdeed.

Closing consists of among other details the following:

  • Third party escrow holds all monies and documents until all procedures and contractual obligations are met. No one gets paid till the deal is properly done. 
  • Title policies insure that title is marketable and free of encumbrances.
  • Escrow prepares statements in accordance with the law and with no favor towards either party.
  • Escrow will record properly the sale upon the full execution of the contract to purchase.
These are important details and when handled by professionals the opportunity for fraud is severely curtailed.

I am truly amazed that people fearful of a $5,000 stock market transaction, will enter into a shady real estate deal, risking hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don't go there my friends. utilize the services of local pros like Realtors®, escrow officers, title insurance companies and/or your attorney. Real estate is a wonderful investment, a necessary commodity, and an opportunity for fraudsters to do harm. By all means buy real estate, just go in with your eyes open.