Taking the plunge and buying your first home is an exciting experience! And what better place to start your homeownership experience than here in beautiful Portland, Oregon!
Buying a home can also be intimidating– especially if you’ve never gone through the process before. Take some time to research what’s ahead and understand how to identify and test for potential red flags.
Here’s what every homebuyer should know and look for before purchasing a home in Portland.
The Portland Housing Market
For many, owning a home in Portland seems just out of reach– and not only because of the incredible cost of housing.
Ten years ago, the problem in the Portland housing market was lack of buyers. Today, inventory levels are reaching historic lows. Not only is there a shortage of homes on the market, but the homes available are either:
- Very expensive
- In rough condition
As you enter the housing market, it’s important to know what you’re up against. You should also consider how much work you’re willing to put into your new home. A fixer-upper may be easier on the budget initially, but don’t forget to consider renovation and repair costs. Also keep in mind, unkempt and old Portland houses often have hidden dangers like asbestos and lead paint to watch out for.
Before you start shopping for a new home, find out how much you can afford to spend. The best way to do this is to talk with a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage.
I recommend talking to a Portland-area credit union. There are so many to choose from, such as:
Your local lender will assess how much you can borrow, as well as the loan programs and interest rate you qualify for. This information will be based on your:
- Credit score
- Employment history
Once the lender has reviewed these details and determined how much you can borrow, you’ll receive a written statement outlining this information. This letter can be used to convince sellers you’ll be approved for a loan after they accept your offer.
Be Cautious of Fixer-Uppers
Work with a real estate agent to look at homes in your price range. As you tour different places, tread carefully when it comes to old, poorly maintained houses. And remember, some home issues may not be immediately apparent.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
A house with foundation issues is a huge, expensive problem. So look for signs of structural problems. This could include visible cracks above window frames, sticking doors and windows, and uneven floors.
What’s the first thing you smell when walking into the house? Nothing? Great! You should be cautious of any strange smells. Do you detect sewage or gas? What about cigarette smoke, pet odor, or mildew? Don’t overlook a funny smell– it could be the sign of a serious issue.
Old Paint and Windows
Chipped paint and rickety windows is a sign of poor maintenance. If you notice these things on an old house, your chances of finding lead paint is high.
A professional inspector will tell you everything you need to know during your official inspection. However, you can avoid going down a dead-end road by identifying these issues right away.
The Neighborhood Matters
You’ve probably been looking at homes within a specific neighborhood of Portland. Before you are set on a house, take time to learn more about the area. There are a few specific questions you should answer:
- Are homes in the area well maintained?
- Is it easy to get around?
- What is the school district like?
- What is the crime rate?
- What is the noise and traffic like in the area?
- What public services are nearby (think: parks, police and fire stations, libraries, farmers markets, etc.)
Once you’re serious about a house, take a closer look at the street you’ll be living on by meeting your neighbors. Talking with neighbors is a great way to find out more about the house and decide if the house is a good fit.
There are some specific questions you should ask the neighbors, including:
- How long have you lived in the neighborhood?
- What do you like the most/least about living here?
- Do all the neighbors get along?
- How quiet is the neighborhood?
- What do you know about this house?
The conversations you have with other homeowners or renters on your street will help you know if you’re compatible with the area and if you’ll enjoy living there.
Expect to Pay Over-Asking Price
Thanks to Portland’s current housing market, there will be dozens of homebuyers competing for the same house. Once you’ve identified a neighborhood and are interested in a home, make sure you make a competitive offer.
Your real estate agent will help you navigate through this process and negotiate a fair offer based on the price of homes in the area. However, be aware that offering the minimum amount could cause you to miss out on your dream home.
Always Get a Home Inspection
Most purchases are contingent on a home inspection. This is for your benefit! You can identify many serious problems and health hazards by having a professional inspect your future house and property.
Your home inspection should look for signs of various issues like structural damage, electrical wiring, and bad plumbing. If you’re purchasing a fixer upper or are planning on remodeling your home, it’s also very important to get your house tested for asbestos and lead paint.
Asbestos can live in various parts of your home, like vinyl floor tiles, insulation, and popcorn ceiling. If asbestos is damaged or disturbed (for instance, during a remodel or repair) it can become airborne and be inhaled into the lungs. This is very dangerous and can cause serious health issues.
Lead paint, varnish, or stain was often used in homes built before 1978. Lead can cause serious health risks–especially for children. Lead paint poisoning is especially frightening since it is difficult to diagnose the symptoms. Remodeling an area of your house containing lead paint is dangerous, so make sure to safely remove it beforehand.
Purchasing a home in Portland is a big decision. Make sure you get the house of your dreams going into the home buying process fully informed.
If you’re ready to buy a Portland home but are worried about potential health hazards like asbestos or lead paint, contact me! I would be happy to help you determine what type of environmental testing is necessary before you purchase a home. Give me a call at (503) 780-0536!