I was just at an investment property I’m helping a client purchase, where we did a sewer scope. A sewer scope is one of the customary inspections on property in Portland, as our sewer lines, on average, are around a hundred years old.
This inspection usually costs $100. It consists of a technician fishing flexible tubing with a camera on the end, through the entirety of the sewer line. A computer creates a DVD while the line is being scoped. At this particular property, the sewer line had several bellies in it and roots penetrating it. (When watching the video, a belly appears as the camera being at least partially or totally submerged in water). Because of these issues, the line was to be failed, which typically means it must be replaced.
After the technician scopes the line, he goes outside to locate the sewer (the camera also has a radio device for locating). During this customary locate, that’s when everything (dare I say it?) went to crap.
Through the locate, we learned this line crossed onto the neighbor’s property and connected to their sewer line (the dreaded “party-sewer”- the City of Portland no longer allows this). Additionally, we found there was no sewer main in front of the house. The merged sewer went into the street, made a hard 90 degree turn and ran down this street to the next intersection, finally connecting with the city main in the perpendicular street.
Once a technician discovers a party sewer, they are obligated to notify the city, and the property without their own sewer must build a new one. In this case, the inspector had to notify the city of the party sewer and that there was no main on that street.
Once notified, the city typically requires every owner on that street to pay to have the sewer main extended. Additionally, those homeowners also have to pay to have their personal sewer line connected to the new main. They are only given 180 days to complete this complicated project. The projected bill for each individual homeowner? Upwards of $15,600.
If you’re thinking about buying or selling real estate in Portland, the sewer can become a real mess. (I’m resisting the urge to make puns about poop. This is a serious issue, people!)
Make sure you have a Realtor who’ll help you sort out all these possible issues before you buy or sell.
In every real estate transaction where the seller has recently occupied the property, you are obligated to fill out and give the buyer a copy of the seller’s property disclosures. In Oregon, these disclosures are four pages of literally hundreds of questions about the property. It’s a means for the buyer to gain as much knowledge about the property from the seller as possible. Currently, my favorite seller’s property disclosure question is “has the property ever been used as an illegal drug manufacturing or distribution site?” I can honestly say I’ve never been involved in a transaction where a seller answered “yes”. There are many other “defects” that are addressed in the property disclosures, and several that are not. Yet.
In California, the seller is obligated to disclose if a murder has taken place in a property in the last three years. In Oregon, we are not. The evidence is there; properties that were the scene of violent crimes, especially grisly, well publicized crimes, significantly reduce the value of a property. Let’s take, for instance, 924 N 25th St apt #213, Milwaukee, WI. Can you guess whose apartment this was? Jeffrey Dahmer. The entire building was razed shortly after Dahmer was arrested.
In every case, the property is cleaned and remodeled, with some owners going so far as having the address changed. Would you buy a murder house?
I met with a client today whose house will be listed in a few days; she was worried about security. Who would have access to her house? Would I be there every time it was shown? Robbery used to be a serious concern for real estate listings. Back in the old days ( and by old days, I mean as late as 2003) buyer’s agents would access a listing with a contractor’s lock box. This would be a simple combination lock box. If the real estate agent was conscientious, she would leave a business card to let the owner and the listing agent know who had been through the house. There was no other record of who had accessed the box.
It wasn’t often, but I heard of jewelry, money, even food, being taken from a listing while it was shown. It was always difficult to determine who was responsible, because there was no real log of who had accessed the house when.
I’m happy to report in our technologically advanced age, we now have the ability to know when and who is accessing a listing at all times. Those ubiquitous blue boxes you see on houses for sale send an email in real time to the agent who installed it, letting the agent know immediately who is accessing the listed property.
These RMLS lock boxes have gone a long way to securing properties, but there is still an occasional issue. Just the other day, an agent in our office told me about her client who’d had something stolen. She got home after a day’s worth of showings, and opening her refrigerator door, noticed something weird. In place of one of the cans of coke she’d just bought, there was a neatly installed dollar bill.
Clearly the buyer had been thirsty.
There’s no shortage of news reports on the housing market. However, much of those stories are from a human interest angle, showing the devastating effect of foreclosures on neighborhoods and families. These stories are heartbreaking and important.
There are other stories too, namely the stories from an economic perspective, that are lacking. Most people I talk to don’t understand what exactly happened, mostly because there has been so little coverage explaining the issues around foreclosures and the secondary mortgage market. I want to highlight a small, very specific part of this foreclosure crisis: MERS.
MERS is an acronym for the Mortgage Electronic Registration System. It’s a company, built and funded by banks interested in trading mortgages. The purpose of this company was to streamline the buying and selling of mortgages. For example, if Sally obtained a mortgage from Bank 1, and that mortgage was sold to Bank 2, both banks would have to facilitate a new note and trust deed against Sally’s property. This means official, notarized signatures from both banks, and recording of that paperwork in the locale where Sally’s house (and mortgage) are located. This is not cost-effective, simple nor quick, especially for national and international banking corporations. It makes mortgages difficult to trade, making them less liquid, resulting in fewer profits for banks from their mortgage division.
Enter MERS- Bank 1 could register Sally’s loan with MERS, and MERS would handle the multiple transfers of that loan. In essence, MERS was a tracking system. MERS kept track of who owned that mortgage, whether it had been sold twice or thirty times. No more pesky paperwork, no more recording new trust deeds with each transfer.
When the real estate market started to bomb, MERS also started handling foreclosures, processing paperwork for bank #30, since they were left holding Sally’s mortgage. At face value, it doesn’t seem that nefarious to create a company to handle paperwork for you. But MERS has been sued in almost every state it does business in, because they don’t OWN your mortgage. They aren’t listed as a trustee on your note and trust deed. And in America, where home ownership is very strictly protected, only the actual owner of the loan can foreclose on your property. So MERS, being a third-party, has no right to foreclose.
Currently, in Oregon, MERS has lost a least one lawsuit. The judge sided with homeowners saying MERS had no right to foreclose. MERS, and the banking industry, has appealed this decision. If this decision is upheld, it could transform the way the secondary mortgage market works.
Very interesting stuff, indeed.
Maintenance on your property is paramount; it ensures you keep your biggest investment in its best condition and helps you avoid costly repairs. In this post, let’s highlight radon and its threat to your investment and your health.
Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. It is odorless and colorless, and is mostly concentrated in the lowest point in a home-the basement or crawl space. It comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/l is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure).
Many national and world health organizations recommend testing your home for radon because testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms to alert you to the presence of radon. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface.
Are you at risk? Here’s a map of the high risk radon levels in Portland: Radon Risk Map
Testing is easy-ironically the most accurate test for radon is the cheapest! Just grab a self-test at your local home improvement store- it’s usually around $50, but it takes several months to accurately test.
If you have elevated levels of radon, a mitigation system can be easily installed, with little disturbance to your residence. The cost ranges between $1200-3500 depending on the particular construction of your house. (If the basement is finished, it can be more complicated to install a mitigation system.) Call or email me today. I’d be happy to provide you with a list of trusted providers.
If you’re thinking about selling your residential property and you have any gas appliances in it, you should know the Oregon legislature recently enacted House Bill 3450 requiring carbon monoxide alarms in every residential building that is sold. A detector is required within 15 ft of every bedroom in every residential sale.
The tragic story of a family that died in a vacation rental in Colorado was the impetus for this legislation. The Lofgren’s, and their two children, rented a vacation home in Aspen and all of them perished one snowy Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, from carbon monoxide inhalation. It is still currently the subject of much debate and a lawsuit is pending as to the fault of this tragedy.
All gas appliances, when natural gas is combusted, create carbon monoxide, which is noxious. The gas that is created is odorless, tasteless and if the concentration is high enough, deadly. Common sources of carbon monoxide are water heaters, furnaces, gas fireplaces, gas ranges and ovens, to name a few. Each of these appliances must be properly vented, or you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
For landlords in Oregon, all residential units must currently have CO detectors. If you are currently renting property in Oregon, please contact me and I’d be happy to forward the requirements for you.