9 Signs You’re Ready to Stop Renting and Buy Your First Place

Do you dream of a future with a yard and a white picket fence? One where you’re not writing away 30 percent of your salary to your landlord every month? Being able to buy a home is a big part of what we’re sold as “The American Dream,” but it’s not for everyone.

Renting an apartment forever is absolutely an option, and a damn good one. But still, many people every year decide to give up the rental life for home ownership (32 percent of home sales were to first-time buyers in 2016). Wondering if you should be one of them? Here are nine signs you’re ready.

This isn’t a checklist, and these things certainly aren’t requirements for your first foray into real estate. But if you can say “yes” to more than a few items on the list, it’s a good indicator that buying might be a solid next step for you.

1. You’re out of debt.

2. You have an emergency fund saved up.

3. You have a down payment saved up.

The minimum for an FHA loan is 3.5 percent of the purchase price. More than 5 percent will get you into a fixed-rate conventional loan (where you pay private mortgage insurance monthly). And if you can manage 20 percent, you’re in the very best shape to avoid fees altogether.

4. You have good credit.

5. You own a basic set of tools and know how to make small repairs.

6. Your current apartment doesn’t fit your needs.

Here are some ways to know.

7. Buying is a better deal for you where you live.

The New York Times has a great tool on weighing your buying vs. renting options.

8. You love your city, and know you’ll stay there for at least 5 years.

Selling a home is sometimes just as costly as buying one.

9. You want this home for the life you have now.

Don’t feel like you have to buy a home for some hypothetical future time when you get married and have 2.5 kids.

View the full article here at Apartment Therapy

Why did my Oregon property tax bill go up? 4 questions to ask

Oregon homeowners might be wondering why they owe so much more in property taxes than last year. development still a place where people live

Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas county residents can look up their tax bills and compare them to the rest of the region on our map.

Oregon’s complex property tax system doesn’t always make it easy to figure out, but here are four questions to ask yourself (or your county’s assessor).




View the full article here at Oregon Live

Portland ranked among nation’s top moving destinations

Surprise, surprise: Portland is among the country’s top moving destinations.

That’s according to Updater, a moving app that ranked the top 15 moving destinations of 2018. Updater says its list is based on data from a subset of 2 million household goods moves from January through August.

So how did Portland stack up?





View the full article here at Oregon Live









Americans Are Moving Closer to Nature, and to Fire Danger

The deadly wildfires that are devastating communities in parts of Northern and Southern California first ignited in an expanding part of the American landscape: not in forests, not in cities, but in the areas that experts call the wildland-urban interface. 

It is the transition zone between wildlands — such as forests, grasslands and scrublands — and human development.

Researchers say that wildfires pose the greatest risk to people along the wildland-urban interface. This is partly because the homes in those areas butt up against the vegetation that can fuel fires, putting their occupants in significant danger. And there are more fires in those areas because of the presence of humans, who often ignite them.

Despite the risks, an increasing number of Americans are living in the wildland-urban interface. There were 12.7 million more houses and 25 million more people living in these zones in 2010 than in 1990.

In a few places, like New England, the numbers have increased as forested land has retaken abandoned farmland: The wildlands have encroached on people. But in California, where roughly one million homes were built in the wildland-urban interface over that time period, it’s because people are moving into these areas. At the same time, because of climate change, the state’s dry periods have become hotter and drier, increasing fire risk.

In a few places, like New England, the numbers have increased as forested land has retaken abandoned farmland: The wildlands have encroached on people. But in California, where roughly one million homes were built in the wildland-urban interface over that time period, it’s because people are moving into these areas. At the same time, because of climate change, the state’s dry periods have become hotter and drier, increasing fire risk. 

Northwest of Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire has ripped through densely populated areas in cities like Thousand Oaks and Malibu, and other areas that some researchers call the wildland-urban intermix. It is a type of wildland-urban interface where areas of housing and vegetation commingle.

Fire has not deterred development in these types of areas, nor redevelopment. Using aerial photos, researchers looked at how many buildings were rebuilt in California after wildfires.

In 29 fires between 1970 and 2009, 49 percent of burned buildings were rebuilt within six years, said Miranda H. Mockrin, a research scientist with the United States Forest Service.

For 11 of those fires, data was available for a 25-year span after the fire. Researchers found that 94 percent of damaged buildings had been rebuilt, although they couldn’t tell whether the original owners or someone else had done the rebuilding.

“In general for wildfire, as other hazards, there is a big push to sort of return to normal, to encourage rebuilding,” Dr. Mockrin said.

California already has what Dr. Mockrin calls some of the strictest fire regulations in the country.

Since 1991, a structure built in the wildland-urban interface “has to be made up of noncombustible materials, noncombustible roof, closed eaves,” said Jonathan Cox, a division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The regulations are on top of any local requirements. But those rules don’t apply to buildings constructed before 1991. According to Zillow,the average home in California was built in the 1950s.

“What we don’t have is retrofit programs,” said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension specialist in wildfire at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We retrofit for earthquake safety. And there’s public funding for mitigating flood exposure. But we don’t do that for fire.”

There have been efforts in recent years to create “fire-adapted communities” that are better situated to handle fires.

“We know these lands are dangerous,” Chief Cox said. “We know they’re susceptible to fire. How we build on these lands is an important consideration as we move forward.”





View the full article here at The New York Times

Housing Market Slows, as Rising Prices Outpace Wages

DENVER — By nearly any measure, this city is booming. The unemployment rate is below 3 percent. There is so much construction that a local newspaper started a “crane watch” feature. Seemingly every week brings headlines about companies bringing high-paying jobs to the area.

Yet, Denver’s once-soaring housing market has run into turbulence. Sales and construction activity have slowed in recent months. Houses that would once have drawn a frenzy of offers are sitting on the market for days or weeks. Selling prices are rising more slowly, and asking prices are being slashed to attract buyers.

Similar slowdowns have hit New York, Seattle and even San Francisco, cities that until recently ranked among the nation’s hottest housing markets. The specifics vary, but economists, real estate agents and home builders say the core issue is the same: Home buyers are reaching a breaking point after years of breakneck price increases that far exceeded income gains.

“The local economy is still fantastic, all the fundamentals are there, but obviously wages are not keeping pace,” said Steve Danyliw, a Denver realtor. “As the market continues to move up, buyers are being pushed out.”

Rachel Sandoval is one of them. An elementary schoolteacher in the Denver Public Schools, Ms. Sandoval earns about $50,000 a year, enough to afford a condominium or a modest house in most markets. But not in Denver, where the median sales price for all homes was $410,000 in August, and where even condos routinely top $300,000 — a price Ms. Sandoval calls “not even close to feasible.” She said she was scoping out jobs in Texas, where houses are cheaper and pay is higher, and considering leaving teaching in search of a higher salary.

For now, Ms. Sandoval, 41, is sharing a one-bathroom rental house with two roommates, a nurse and an adjunct professor. The three stick to a strict schedule to make sure they can all get to work on time.

“We are professionals, we have degrees,” Ms. Sandoval said. “This was not the plan.”

Nationwide, sales of previously owned homes fell 1.5 percent in Augustfrom a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. Residential building permits were down 5.5 percent over the past year, according to the Department of Commerce. Many economists say the housing market may have turned into a drag on the gross domestic product.

The recent slowdown, however, is unlikely to give would-be buyers like Ms. Sandoval much relief. Prices in Denver are still up 8 percent over the past year, according to the S&P Case-Shiller index. That’s cool compared to the double-digit gains of a couple years ago, but well ahead of the 6 percent increase in average hourly earnings over the same period. Rising interest rates have also made buying homes more expensive.

View the full article here at The New York Times


The Greenest Places

Which American cities are the most energy efficient?

How do you measure energy efficiency? When it comes to individual homes, it’s a good bet that smart buildings equipped with Energy Star-rated appliances will consume less energy. But figuring out the energy efficiency of an entire city is more complicated, and requires factoring in things like local law and public policy.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy tackles that onerous task every two years, ranking major American cities based on actions they are taking to conserve energy in five categories: transportation policies; energy and water utilities; buildings policies; local government operations; and communitywide initiatives.

The most recent City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, issued in 2017 — a hefty report of more than 200 pages — ranked Boston at the top, thanks in part to its very high score in the energy and water utilities category: The city’s utilities offer customers a number of programs to help reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency.

New York came in second, with a high score for local government operations — including policies that encourage improvements in new buildings and retrofits to old ones, and an upgraded fleet of energy-efficient municipal vehicles.

View the full article here at The New York Times


Where to Buy an Affordable Vacation Home, Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type

Once you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test, you’ve got a four-letter passcode that reveals nuances of your personality and a deeper understanding of yourself. Just like you, cities around the United States have unique personalities, too—some secluded spots are natural fits for introverts while other museum-rich hubs will stimulate the busy minds of thinkers.

We already played matchmaker, finding the best affordable cities for each Myers-Briggs type and then gave decorating tips best suited for the 16 different personality types. Now, we’ve scouted out some of the most affordable cities to buy a vacation home, based on your Myers-Briggs type.

But, does it make sense to buy a vacation home? (We know you’re wondering, you practical ISTJs or ENTJs). The idea here is that these spots are coveted vacation destinations that could be rented out, generating some income when you’re not vacationing yourself. Plus, when you’re ready to go on vacation, you’re not subject to high hotel rates in busy seasons.

Based on your Myers-Briggs type, here’s 16 affordable vacation home markets that are bidding for your attention.

INTJ: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Ever question T-Pain’s lyric: “I’ll put you in a mansion, somewhere in Wisconsin”? (Very creative rhyme scheme, btw). We’re guessing the hundreds of mansions dotting the shoreline of Lake Geneva were the rapper’s muse. Consider it the Hamptons of the Midwest: Lake Genevaboasts a 26-mile shoreline path looping the lake that will delight the active imaginations of this personality type. Plus, the Architects—best known for their strategic minds—will be wowed by the efficiency and grace of the mail jumpers, who deliver mail via boat during summer months by hopping on and off docks as the vessel keeps moving. Did we mention the median home value is only $193,000? Why yes, we’ll take a mansion in Wisconsin.





INTP: Healdsburg, California

House prices in San Francisco are some of the steepest in the country. But head about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge and arrive in Healdsburg, which is in the heart of Sonoma’s wine country and has unpretentious roots as a farming community. While on vacation, imaginative and original INTP types will feel right at home at Shed. The sun-soaked cafe and fresh produce market doubles as a venue for events like book talks and cheese workshops—it even won a James Beard award for design. Plus, INTPs are abstract thinkers who recognize the world as a complex machine, so they might have what it takes to understand what it takes to make some great vino. How does a career change sound?





ENTJ: Blue Ridge, Georgia

Commanders love long-term planning and goal-setting, so a vacation property with an especially good ROI should delight them. In a reportdone by Rented.com, Blue Ridge, Georgia ranked high on a list of best places to buy a rental vacation property. The report favors destinations in the South, where there isn’t a housing shortage and the cost of living is more affordable. Because of these criteria, Colorado and Utah cities don’t fare too well on the list. But thanks to Blue Ridge, you don’t have to rule out the mountains. The northern Georgia city boasts mountains, as well as other awesome amenities such as waterfalls, craft breweries, and a scenic railway.






ENTP: Austin, Texas

Bored by routine, the ENTP-types will find something fun and new to do every time they slip away to this Texas city, which embraces the motto “Keep Austin Weird.” While in town, skip a boring city pool in favor of swimming laps in Barton Springs, a beloved, three-acre spring-fed outdoor pool that’s 68 to 70 degrees year-round. Watch bats flutter about under the Congress Avenue Bridge just after sunset or marvel at street art murals at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Plus, a calendar full of public lectures and events at the University of Texas—Austin will satiate the intellectual curiosity of ENTPs, who are unwilling to give vacation days to their busy minds.






View the full article here at Apartment Therapy

National home-price growth slows, following Portland’s lead

Rising home prices are beginning to slow nationally as more would-be buyers are finding houses out of reach. 

Home prices rose 6 percent in July compared with a year earlier, according to the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller home price index, the smallest increase since September. Fifteen of 20 major metro areas included in the home-price survey saw similar slowdowns in July.

The rest of the country’s major metropolitan areas are following the pattern seen earlier in the Portland area, which went from the nation’s hottest housing market in 2016 to the middle of the pack. Portland still saw prices rise 5.6 percent year-over-year.

Las Vegas, Seattle and San Francisco are now seeing the fastest-rising prices in the nation, according to the index. Home prices aren’t falling in any of the 20 metros included in the survey.

The cooling market is welcome news for people hoping to buy homes, who have seen prices climb at rates far exceeding that of wages. That’s been paired with rising rents, which has made saving for a down payment difficult.

“Until recently, home values in many of the nation’s largest and hottest housing markets had been growing at double-digit annual rates, which can make saving for a down payment feel like trying to hit a rapidly moving target,” Aaron Terrazas, an economist for the real-estate website Zillow, said in a statement. “Home value growth slowing to merely an ‘above average’ pace could give beleaguered buyers a chance to catch their breath.”

But it also comes as mortgage rates are beginning to rise after years near record lows. Low rates have kept monthly payments manageable even as prices soared, and the reversal will further curb buying power.

Home sales have slowed, suggesting the market has reached the limits of affordability. Rent growth has also slowed on average, which would give renters considering buying a home more leeway to wait.

Meanwhile, more homes are coming on the market, and they’re selling more slowly. That’s giving would-be buyers more choice and some opportunity to negotiate. The inventory of homes on the market, however, remains low by historical levels.

The median price for Portland-area homes sold in July was $401,600, according to the listing service RMLS. It rose to $407,500 in August.


View the full article here at Oregon Live

2018’s Greenest Cities in America

“Green” living means a choice to engage in cleaner, more sustainable habits in order to preserve the planet as much as possible. Nearly three in four Americans believe that “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” And a majority of Americans think the government is currently doing too little to improve water and air quality (69% and 64%, respectively).

The Trump administration has recently changed standards for the coal industry, rolling back regulations on coal plant emissions. On the other hand, while many people expected solar power to struggle under new tariffs aimed at goods manufactured abroad, one of the largest solar power companies recently received an exemption. As a result, its stock has soared.

Apart from employing Americans, clean energy and other “green” practices, such as recycling programs and urban agriculture, benefit the environment and public health, all of which contribute to America’s bottom line, according to many experts. Recognizing those advantages, cities across the U.S. have increased their sustainability efforts and benefited economically.

To determine the cities promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 26 key “green” indicators. Our data set ranges from greenhouse-gas emissions per capita to number of smart-energy policies and initiatives to green job opportunities. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.

View the full article here at Wallet Hub

21 fall outdoor chores to tackle before you put the garden to bed

There are plants to get into the ground and others to get back into the house before it’s too cold.

There are lawns to fertilize, roofs to de-moss and a whole lot of deadheading to do.

The best part of all this, of course, is it gives you an excuse to spend more time outdoors at a time of year when, let’s be honest here, the scenery is flat-out incredible. Not to mention — but I will anyhow — it can be fun gardening while wearing a fleece.

And if there are fall outdoor chores you have forgotten — or that never occurred to you in the past — we’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Don’t worry; you’ll still have more than enough time to fill out that holiday shopping list.

And if it helps, might we suggest not only buying WUG the gnome of his dreams (shudder), but getting dear Auntie Christy a Star Wars R2-D2 coffee press? You know they’ll love them.

I’ve been out in the garden doing the usual dividing, moving and planting this fall. I also got rid of an old trellis and several chainsaw-carved madrone logs on OfferUp, which is a great way to keep stuff out of the landfill.

You know that old saying, “one person’s old, tired garden junk is another person’s treasure?” I may have mangled that just a little bit, but it’s true nevertheless.

I’m looking forward to my winter indoor nesting time. Who knows, maybe we’ll even finish sanding and staining our kitchen cabinets, which we started last fall. There just never seems to be enough time.

Maybe we need a fifth season: Winter, spring, summer, fall and where did all the time go?


15. Fertilize, seed and mulch your lawn