Portland’s 3rd Largest Builder, Lennar Comes Under Fire

When you buy a new house, you may think you’re moving into the home of your dreams, but for some it can turn into a nightmare.

KATU’s On Your Side Investigators talked with two homeowners about their complaints regarding Lennar, a company the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland says is the third biggest single family home builder in our area.

Lennar said the repair issues homeowners brought up were resolved. But the homeowners said the process for having them addressed lasted too long and one of them, Joe Reid, said there are still problems with his home.

A spokesman for the city of Happy Valley also admitted that inspectors initially failed to notice oversights by Lennar in the construction of Reid’s house.

“We were just like flabbergasted with how we were treated overall,” Reid told KATU regarding his experience with Lennar. “They didn’t care about our concerns. They weren’t interested.”

Reid said in 2013 he and his family bought a new home on Southeast Lincoln Heights Circle from Lennar for $355,000.

After a lengthy process he said Lennar addressed several complaints but there are still issues with the house.

Reid started out showing a KATU crew his driveway.

“I’m looking at all these cracks. See these — they’re called spider cracks,” Reid explained. “All these little cracks here that just will get worse and worse and worse.”

Reid said after they moved in, the driveway flooded when it rained with water sometimes flowing into the garage and under the home.

“It was like a little babbling brook right through our crawl space,” Reid said. “So they came in and fixed — put in a drain here and a drain here and that at least got the ponding out of this little mixture.”

Inside, Reid showed KATU multiple door handles he said Lennar never fixed.

“It’s just stiff,” Reid said regarding one door handle. “It sticks sometimes so the kids get locked in the bathroom and we have to sit here and fiddle with it and junk.”

Elsewhere Reid showed KATU door hinges that are worn down.

“See the hinge here — see that?” Reid said. “Every one of those screws is just stripped out.”

Down in the crawl space, Reid said he discovered major problems after they moved in.

“See these big, heavy joists (beams)? They were just two-by-fours that were nailed together. That was their original floor joisting, so they brought these big joists in,” Reid said, touching support beams beneath the home. “The insulation was not here. So that was my first thing when I got into this crawl space, I’m like, ‘How come there’s no insulation between the crawl space and the floor?’ So we called them up and they did come out, then inspected it, and they had the city inspectors come out and then the city inspector’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s our bad. They said they put it in and we just signed off on it and we didn’t really know.'”

“The flooring in this particular house was somewhat unique and the missing joist and insulation was something we missed during the inspection process,” Steve Campbell, spokesman for the city of Happy Valley said in an email to KATU. “However, immediately after our inspector noticed the issue, our building division contacted the contractor on behalf of the homeowner, who came and fixed the issues within weeks.”

“They should’ve been able to figure this stuff out even in the building process,” Reid said regarding Lennar.

He claims the problems started before they moved in.

“They had promised us a finish date of July 15th,” Reid said. “So we had moved from Utah, sold the house, packed up everything, came here on July 11th.”

Reid said it took about seven more weeks for the house to be finished and during that time he, his wife and kids lived in a hotel near Portland International Airport.

Lennar gave them $2,500 for their troubles, Reid said, along with a restaurant gift card and lots of excuses.

“You’re not appreciated as a customer. They just take advantage of you and they just run out the string and then dump you,” Reid said. “I see more Lennar projects going up throughout Happy Valley. I just feel like I’m gonna give a heads up.”

Reid never filed a complaint about Lennar with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

But two other people in the Portland metro area did, including one of Reid’s neighbors, Mark Villanueva.

“It seemed like they were trying to not do anything and get out of whatever they had to,” Villanueva told KATU.

He claims Lennar did shoddy repair work that left his driveway and yard damaged before he bought his home about two years ago.

“There was a big kind of indentation in the lawn,” Villanueva said, “and we noticed parts of the driveway were cracking.”

He said he initially contacted Lennar about the issue in November of 2015 and the company wouldn’t take responsibility for it until after he complained on the company’s Facebook page in January.

“I feel like they probably should’ve done something before Facebook,” Villanueva said.

He claims it took a total of nearly nine months for the problem to be completely fixed. Even now, he said his paved driveway is not perfect.

“The two squares (on the driveway) that don’t match the other four are the sections that they re-poured,” Villanueva explained while standing in front of his home in Happy Valley. “Before they did it, they said, ‘Yeah, it’s not gonna match.’ But I’d rather have a driveway that’s not falling apart.”

Until this past week, Lennar’s local branch, Lennar Northwest, Inc., had an F rating from the BBB based on Villanueva’s complaint and one other.

But after KATU contacted the company they got the Better Business Bureau to change that grade to NR (not rated) pending further review because they said the BBB failed to tell them about the complaints.

David Quinlan, vice president of marketing for the Better Business Bureau Northwest, said in a statement, “We routinely update business records as new information becomes available. During the update process a company rating will show as NR until completed, at which time the rating is recalculated. We’re working with Lennar to insure the accuracy of their business record.”

A Lennar spokesman said the company has resolved all repair issues involving Reid and Villanueva.

He sent KATU the following statement:

“At Lennar, we proudly stand behind the homes we build. We take seriously any concerns expressed by our homeowners. We have tens of thousands of satisfied Lennar homeowners across the nation. We have specific guidelines for dealing with customer issues. We work with homeowners and our trade partners to inspect a problem, recommend a solution and make repairs. It is important to understand that homebuilding is not assembly-line work. Mistakes happen. Lennar is committed to ensuring that any faulty workmanship by our company or our trade partners is corrected under warranty.

One example of this commitment is our response several years ago to the industry-wide problem of defective drywall made in China. We know of no other builder that addressed the issue as promptly and comprehensively as Lennar. We remediated about 1,000 homes with Chinese drywall at a cost of about $80 million. In each case, we relocated the homeowners, photographed their homes, moved and stored their possessions, stripped the interiors of the homes to the studs and rebuilt the entire interior with new wiring and plumbing connections. We then returned all of our homeowners’ possessions to their original locations based on the photographs. We took those actions without knowing whether we would recover the expenses from the drywall suppliers.”

The full article can be found HERE at the Katu2 website.

The ABC’s of ADU’s

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Mother-in-law studio. Man shack. Rentable pied-à-terre. Granny flat. Whatever one calls the accessory dwelling unit, the twee bungalettes are blooming across town—wedged between homes, squatting in backyards, and perched atop garages. If you’ve got space, a modest ADU (800 square feet or smaller, generally around $150,000 to build) might seem a no-brainer—even a civic good, given that density is practically a Portland byword. But then, there’s the City of Portland’s daunting thicket of codes, permits, and taxes to navigate, all growing faster than your backyard blackberries. We prune back a few layers so you can budget and build your bliss.

DESIGN

In Portland, ADUs are capped at between 15 and 20 feet high and three-quarters the size of the main house up to 800 square feet. Further constraints: the distance you build from property lines, total ratio of your ADU to your lot, and features like roof pitch and window proportion. Local builders like Shelter Solutions and Hammer and Hand can concierge if you’re have trouble fitting puzzle pieces together. But regardless, gird yourself for application fees (building, land use, and site plan reviews) of about a grand.

BUILDING PERMITS

Your shake-shingled, passively cooled, solar-powered tiny home has been approved! Now you need permits—lots of them. We’re talking mechanical and plumbing, multiple site surveys, Metro excise tax, zoning inspection, and site-specific fees for erosion control and special districts. Permitting can easily climb above $5,000, so start with the city’s online fee estimator. (If you ask nicely, the pros at the city’s Development Services might hold your hand.)

SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT CHARGES

Next, the doozy: administrative fees for water, transportation, parks, and environmental services. The charges intended to help city infrastructure keep pace with new development can total more than $17,000. Lucky for you, Portland issues the equivalent of a Monopoly get-out-of-jail card: an automatic SDC waiver, recently reextended through July 2018. Until then, new ADU owners don’t have to pay a cent. Still, keep a sharp eye out for a future city council change of heart.

TAXES

About this time last year, proud new ADU owners in Multnomah County received a shock: property taxes that had as much as quadrupled. A raging debate ensued; this spring, the county assessor bowed to pressure and reversed the new formula (which interpreted an ADU on a single-family lot as a zoning change, unleashing property-tax hounds). Now, just like most other homeowners, county homes with new ADUs can expect a tax bump the first year, but then a max annual property tax hike capped at 3 percent.

STRANGE BUT TRUE ADU FACTS

  • You may not have more than six roommates living with you in your ADU. (Bummer!)
  • ADUs are not allowed on sites where one or more residents work from home and see employees and/or customers on-site. Examples given: “counseling, tutoring, and hair cutting and styling.”
  • The exterior finish of your ADU must either match the main house or be a shingle, horizontal clapboard, or shiplap pattern. Get your shiplap on!

The full article can be viewed HERE at the Portland Monthly website.

Col. Summers Park Improvement Plans Finalized

col-summers-2Next summer there should be an interesting new water feature in Col. Summers Park  to  replace the existing circular wading pool.

The new water feature, known as a “Splash Pad,” has received much attention over the past year from Portland Parks and Recreation in association with the Colonel Summers Task Force and the Buckman Community Association in their efforts to improve Colonel Summers Park.

It will be a linear stream-like water course that can be turned on by the those using it. The water will flow for a set period of time to the end of the water course where it will slowly drain out. In this way the water does not need to be chlorinated. Water jets will shoot out all along the stream.

Picnic tables, seating, and landscaping appropriate to a stream-like environment will enhance the area for both users and observers. The design is in its final phase of development and construction will occur next spring. Hopefully it will be enjoyed by everyone all summer.col-summers-1

Funding will be provided by the local System Development Charges by developers of the new buildings being built in the area. Fifty members of the Buckman community attended the two meetings to review the plans and 400 nearby residents provided comments by email that generally were in favor of the project

The brick pavilion, a major feature of the park, will be the first of the park improvement project. Over the years it has not been used appropriately and its bathrooms have received heavy use causing them to be closed much too often.

The major project within the pavilion are the ornamental metal screens in the vaulted openings of the pavilion to provide improved access and security. They are being fabricated now and are expected to be installed by late fall or early winter.

A new free standing restroom will be placed to the east of the pavilion. It will be one of the newly-designed Portland Loos that are simple, but sturdy flush toilet kiosks that are located in public areas. Portland Loos provide the community with clean, safe, environmentally-friendly restroom facilities.

Funded through the $68 million Parks Replacement General Obligation Bond that was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 2014, the Loo will be installed next spring along with the Splash Pad.

The park is named in honor of Colonel Owen Summers when Belmont Park was renamed in 1938. Summers was a prominent businessman, a member of the Oregon Legislature, and the commanding officer of the Second Oregon Volunteer Regiment in the Spanish-American War.

Perhaps he is best known for the significant role he played in the creation of the Oregon National Guard. In the SW corner of Colonel Summers Park, there is a large volcanic rock with his image on a bronze plaque along with a description of his contribution to Portland and Oregon.

 

The full article can be found HERE at the Southeast Examiner website.

Radon: What to Know

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What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Radon is what is called ionizing radiation emitting very destructive alpha particles. These alpha particles destroy sensitive lung tissue and can damage DNA causing cells to become cancerous. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer killing 20,000 Americans each year. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon only becomes a health issue when it is trapped within homes and buildings. Methods for removing radon from buildings are simple and affordable. The most recommended method for radon mitigation is called sub-soil depressurization. Simply put, the system uses an inline fan and 3-4” pipe to suck the soil gas (and radon) out of the soil under the building.

Why is radon testing important?

The EPA recommends that every home be tested because there is no way of knowing if you have a radon problem unless you test. After thousands of tests each year we have learned the areas of Portland and SW Washington that are “Hot Spots,” but you just cannot tell from one house to the next if radon is present in unhealthy levels. A short term test is always recommended first to get a 2 day snap shot of the radon levels to be sure there is not high radon levels. It is also recommended to follow up with a long term (91 days to 1 year) test like an Alpha Track test, because long term average radon levels are the most accurate representation of your exposure in the home. A short term test requires “Closed House Conditions” to be accurate and the radon levels often fluctuate seasonally, so the best time to short term test is in the cooler seasons when the radon levels are higher.

When should a home get tested?

A home should be tested as soon as possible and particularly in the cool months. When running a long term test you do not have to maintain closed conditions. You can live in the home as you normally would and at the end of the long term test you will have an average based upon many months. Short term charcoal test kits are typically under $15, and long term Alpha Track canisters are about $30. This price included return shipping and lab analysis.

Short term radon testing has become very common in real estate transactions and the preferred method is using a continuous radon monitor (CRM) because you don’t need to wait on your radon test results, you get them immediately upon picking up the radon monitor. This is especially important when there is a 10 day inspection period and you need to figure it out quickly. These short term tests typically cost $150. These tests also come with a nice report printout and hourly radon levels.

What happens if a radon test comes back high?

The EPA recommends mitigation at or above 4.0 pCi/L, whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) has an action level of 2.7 pCi/L. The EPA also recommends that people consider radon mitigation when the levels are between 2-4 pCi/L. During a real estate sale the magic number is typically 4.0 pCi/L, but that is just an industry standard. There is still significant risk for lung cancer with long term exposure at 4.0 pCi/L. The estimates based upon scientific research is that a 15 year exposure, 12 hours per day at 4.0 pCi/L will result in approximately 7 in 1000 lung cancer deaths! When we install our mitigation systems we guarantee them to keep long term average radon levels below the WHO action level of 2.7 pCi/L. This performance guarantee is unconditional for a period of 10 years and transfers to anyone living in the home.

What is mitigation and how much does it cost?

Radon mitigation systems are typically around $1600 in our area and can go up a bit for more elaborate sub-membrane depressurization systems in crawlspace homes. Many basement or slab on grade homes are easily mitigated with a sub-slab depressurization system by drilling a hole through the basement floor, sealing a pipe to that suction point, installing an inline fan to create a vacuum on the soil, and then running the pipe to above the roof line to meet code requirements. These systems, when designed properly by a radon professional are very effective, very quiet and well hidden for aesthetics.

What can be done to reduce radon in the home?

In the Summer months it can help to have fresh air coming in and out of the home, but what about when it gets too hot or too cold out and we shut the windows and turn on the air conditioner or furnace? Fresh air is always a good thing, but it will not solve a radon problem. The best plan is to remove the source via soil depressurization.

What is the accepted level in the air for Portland?

The national average radon levels in the ambient air are about 0.4 pCi/L, or about 1/10th the EPA Action Level. Often times homes with fairly porous soil types can be mitigated to ambient air levels! We have even seen our systems even mitigate the neighbors home next door.

Can you buy a reliable testing kit at the store?

Yes you can, and make sure it is an EPA approved kit. Read the fine print though because often times these store bought kits do not include shipping or the lab cost, so you may pay some hidden fees. The America Lung Association sells radon test kits and www.radon.com is an accredited lab that also sells kits directly to the public.

What is the benefit to using a trained professional versus buying a kit?

Anyone can set up their own radon test according to the instructions and following EPA approved protocol. It is not difficult at all. If you are in a time crunch or just want to make sure it is done by a certified radon professional then you should consider hiring one.

The full article can be found HERE  at the All Things Real Estate website.

e665c24e-6eb5-11e6-a845-38d55c9fbce5-780x1170WASHINGTON — Home prices in the Northwest continued to climb at a double-digit pace in June compared to a year ago, easily twice the rate for the nation’s 20 largest metro areas.

Seattle home prices rose 11 percent, second only to Portland, where prices rose 12.6 percent, according to the Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday.

 Portland, Seattle and Denver have topped the list of price gains for the past five months. From May to June, Seattle prices rose 1.4 percent, again trailing only Portland at 1.6 percent.

Home values have slowed to more sustainable rates elsewhere. In Northeastern cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., they are rising at roughly the rate of inflation, and in Boston, less than 5 percent.

Still, nationwide prices are increasing more quickly than incomes as buyers compete for the dwindling supply of available homes. That reflects an ongoing imbalance in the housing market that could stifle sales in the coming months.

“June represents the fifth straight month of flat or decreasing year-over-year price gains, but homebuyers are still being challenged as prices outpace income growth,” Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at real estate data provider Trulia, said.

Cities in the Midwest were mixed. Over 12 months, home prices in Cleveland and Chicago rose 2.5 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, while in Minneapolis they climbed 5.1 percent, the same as the nationwide pace.

Southern cities saw stronger price gains. They rose 8.9 percent in Dallas, 7.9 percent in Tampa, and 5.8 percent in Atlanta.

“Nationally, home prices have risen at a consistent 4.8 percent annual pace over the last two years without showing any signs of slowing,” said David Blitzer, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The 20-city price index plunged after the housing bubble started to burst in 2006, plummeting by more than a third before prices began to rise again in March 2012. In June, they were still 8.1 percent below their peak level.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The June figures are the latest available.

 

The full article can be found HERE at the Seattle Time website

A story of the Buckman neighborhood

joecotterThe East Side was involved in the settlement of Portland from its beginning. James B. Stephens arrived in the mid-1840s and settled on the east bank. In 1850 he received title to a 640 acre donation land claim that included much of what was to become the City of East Portland.

The settlement grew and, with the arrival of the railroad, it became a city in 1870. A major facility for the treatment of the mentally ill and destitute was built in 1868 by the Dr. J. C. Hawthorne. The nearby east-west street was named Asylum Avenue and later was renamed Hawthorne Boulevard in honor of this civic leader.

The Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905 put Portland on the national map and led to a large increase in population that expanded in the east side.

Zoning came to Portland in the 1920s and began with only four zones for: homes, apartments, businesses, and industries.

The residential area in Buckman began at SE 7th Ave. and over time, became zoned for apartments. World War II brought an influx of shipyard workers that caused a shortage of housing and many large older homes were subdivided into rooming houses leading to their misuse and deterioration.

The area from SE 7th  to 12th Avenues contained many nineteenth century Victorian homes that became victims of the expansion of the industrial district.

The automobile was replacing the trolleys and traffic and congestion led to the widening of east-west arterial streets. In the post war period, Buckman was in decline and the neighborhood became one of the depressed areas of inner Portland. There was a lack of investment which encouraged speculative interests to acquire properties east of SE 12th Ave. with the expectation of further commercial expansion.

In the mid 1960s, the Johnson Administration initiated the Great Society Program and the War on Poverty. One of the requirements of these federal programs was the involvement of low income residents in decisions about growth and change in their neighborhoods.

The Portland Development Commission created SE Uplift to provide help with the rehabilitation and assistance. This led to the revival of the inner SE neighborhoods as greater interest developed in the area.

Planning was a vital part of the work, and it took the Buckman area several years to finally get funding for its neighborhood plan and the Buckman Community Association was created in 1971.

At the same time, local planner John Perry was hired to facilitate the Buckman neighborhood plan. Even though it was not finished, it identified the basic needs of the neighborhood.

The main goal was to stabilize the neighborhood through the re-zoning of much of the area back to single family residential.buckman-house

A committee was formed to study the rezoning of a small four block demonstration area and upon its completion, the city decided to proceed with the rezoning of larger areas.

The first new row house project in Portland was completed in the 1970s on a half block site that was originally to be just another two story apartment complex. This happened through the advocacy of the neighborhood association. It was designed by neighborhood architects and the units were purchased by people in the neighborhood.

The early 1980s began with the closure of the Washington-Monroe High School. The progressive neighborhood association proposed that the school should become a much-needed community center and affordable housing.

Soon after the second Buckman Community Congress, the REACH Community Development Corporation was created. REACH is an acronym for Recreation, Education, Access, Commerce and Housing. It was not successful in obtaining the rights of the vacated high school, but it went on with various housing and development projects and today REACH is a leading multi-million dollar regional success.

Neighborhood Plans became a priority in the Bud Clark administration and the Buckman Plan was one of the first to be completed. It was a 15 month process that began in 1989.

After many public meetings and at least four preliminary drafts, the final document was approved by city council in 1991. It provides a comprehensive description of the Buckman neighborhood and contains many objectives and strategies that would make Buckman a desirable Portland neighborhood again.

The Central Eastside Industrial District has always been an important part of Buckman. In 2006, it became an urban renewal district. This provided the implementing tool and resources to act on several major objectives of the Buckman Neighborhood Plan.

Among them are the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, the first trolley on the east side of the river in sixty years and progress toward the realization of an East Side Community and Aquatics Center, along with many improvements to the industrial and warehouse areas.

Buckman neighborhood continues to be actively involved in Portland’s growth and change by providing a forum for neighbors to discuss their issues and meet those that represent their interests.

Homeless concerns, the Washington High community center, the comprehensive plan, the new mid-rise apartment buildings, parking issues, and many other challenges engage the association members.

The annual Buckman Picnic takes place Sunday August 14 from 4 to 8 pm at Col. Summers Park, SE 17th Ave. at Taylor St.. The picnic is a good opportunity to meet current association member and Buckman neighbors while and enjoy food and entertainment.

The original article can be found HERE at The Southern Examiner website

Are Solar Panels for you?

solar1Brett VandenHeuvel, the executive director of the nonprofit environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper, celebrated the Fourth of July by installing solar panels at his house in the Columbia Gorge and working to achieve, what he calls, energy independence. Here’s what he did to reduce his use of fossil fuel energy:

On Independence Day, my family turned on our new solar panels to power our home, taking steps to declare independence from fossil fuel energy. Along with being more efficient to use less energy, the solar panels will power nearly 100 percent of our home’s energy use.

Like most people, our family has a long ways to go to kick the fossil fuel habit. But I’m excited to choose solar over the coal-fired power plants and hydroelectric dams that currently power our home.

We are also replacing our old natural gas furnace with a high-efficiency electric heat pump, powered by the sun.

As someone who works to protect clean water and fights dirty fossil fuel projects, I can’t wait to shut off the gas and do my small part to reduce fracking, new pipelines and carbon pollution.

What took me so long?

I don’t know. Maybe I thought solar was too expensive and too complicated.

I’ve seen solar panels go up on dozens of homes and businesses in my small town, but never pulled the trigger. Too expensive? There are up-front costs, but after a few years, the 3-kilowatt system pays for itself.

We paid $12,228 up front, but the final system cost is just $2,560 after four years, factoring in the rebates and tax incentives. And I will save that much on my energy bill.

So after four years the system pays for itself, while increasing the value of my home. A 2015 U.S. Department of Energy survey found buyers are willing to pay more for homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems.solar3

People have been telling me that solar pencils out for years—better late than never.

Is it complicated? No.

Nonprofit and government programs exist throughout our region to help people get started on solar. In the Columbia Gorge where I live, a nonprofit called Gorge Owned launched GO! Solar to make residential PV systems easier in Hood River, Wasco and Skamania counties by working with utilities, local government and nonprofit partners.

Gorge Owned and my contractor, Common Energy, did all the paperwork and worked with my utility to set up net-metering.

While residential solar is not feasible for everyone—you must own your home, have good solar access and be able to afford the up-front costs—it really pencils out for many people.

Other drawbacks are it requires research. But in my case, a nonprofit organization and the contractor did all of the research. They conducted the solar analysis (how much sun is available on our roof, considering the roof aspect and trees) and gave me a bid. It does not cost anything, or take much time, to get a bid.

I evaluated the bid and increased the size of the system slightly over what the contractor proposed. He suggested a system that would cover 90 percent of our power use, and I asked him to increase to 100 percent.

The contractor took it from there.

Just like any purchase, you could research it forever. But there are trained professionals who are there to help. This is especially true with solar because nonprofit organizations like Solar Oregon are promoting solar and have excellent resources.

Another hesitation may come from a homeowner who doesn’t like the look on the roof and doesn’t know the resale value if they sell. I can’t speak others, but I think it looks cool.

Our roof only had only one spot that worked but other homeowners will hear from the contractor where the panels could be positioned.

Last night, a neighbor down the street came over to introduce himself because he watched the solar installation and wanted to learn more. We don’t have a fancy car, but maybe our flashy solar panels will be the envy of the neighborhood.

My family’s simple rooftop solar is good for energy independence, good for our planet and good for our finances. That’s something to celebrate.

–Brett VandenHeuvel

Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore and protect the Columbia River.

The original article can be found HERE at Oregonlive.com

Portland Ranked the TOP city for nature lovers

More than 80% of America’s population is clustered in its cities. This, of course, is no surprise. After all, cities are where the jobs are, where public transportation makes it a snap to get around, where you can get a whole roasted pig head delivered with a single tap on your iPhone, where beautiful people congregate in herds. It’s where the entire world seems to be waiting on your doorstep. So, what’s not to love?

Well, the traffic. The pollution. The indignant subway workers. The lack of open spaces. The paucity of gardening. And mostly the inability to commune with nature on a regular and sustained basis.

But here’s the deal:You can have your city and your nature, too. The back-to-nature urban trend sweeping the U.S. is nothing new—it dates to the early days of the 20th century when a rabble-rouser named Bolton Hall caused a hullaballoo when he appropriated a 30-acre lot deep in the Bronx borough of New York for “vacant lot gardening.”

Fast forward a century or so, and the idea of urban nature has become a renewed obsession for city planners and new residents alike. More and more Americans are waking up to the fact that the perfect antidote for the stresses of city life might just be nature’s lush green spaces. Wherever and however you can find them.

Our environment-loving data team is here to help! Because when it comes to being green, not all cities are created equal. To come up with a list of the most “nature-tastic” big cities, we used the following criteria:

  1. Parkland as a percentage of city area
  2. Air quality index
  3. Number of plots in community gardens per capita
  4. Percentage of homes that have a garden or greenhouse
  5. Number of farmers markets per capita
  6. Number of farm-to-table restaurants per capita

1. Portland, OR

Bikers take a break in Portland's urban oasis
Bikers take a break in Portland’s urban oasis.

RyanJLane/iStock

Percentage of parkland: 17.8%

Yup, the city known for its meticulously brewed coffee, bearded hipsters, and artisanal pickle shops also gets top marks for being in tune with nature. Just 10 minutes west of downtown, Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the country—its 5,157 tree-studded acres include more than 80 miles of soft-surface trails. Don’t like trees? (Um, what’s wrong with you?) Hop over to the snow-capped Cascades, the Columbia River Gorge, or the sparkling Pacific coast. Portland might have more diverse terrain to offer the adventurer than any other city in the country. Ski in the winter, surf in the summer, and hike, camp, and explore all year long.

The original article can be found HERE  on realtor.com

 

1031 Information every investor should know

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Text by Toija Beutler, Attorney/Owner, Beutler Exchange Group, LLC

1031 is an incentive program for the Investor who owns rental properties, commercial properties or investment land. When the Investor sells they can defer the payment of the capital gains tax … as long as they work with their real estate agent to find and buy a replacement property and comply with the 1031 rules.

1031 builds wealth

Because the Investor doesn’t have to pay tax on the gain, more cash is available for the purchase of the next bigger and better property.

The definition of “like kind” is the best feature of 1031. All real estate is like kind with all other real estate as long as what is being sold and bought is rental, commercial or land held for investment.

Example: The Investor can sell investment land (non-income producing) and buy a residential rental (income producing).

Example: The Investor can sell a residential rental and buy a commercial property.

Very popular example: The Investor can sell a residential rental and buy a residential rental that will become either a second home or a primary residence — after 24 months of seasoning as a rental.

This frees up the investor to purchase a property that better suits their personal or business goals. And, because 1031 is federal law, the Investor can sell in one state and purchase in a different state — thereby “moving” their investments around the country.

Yes, there are rules, many of which will be surprising to the Investor.

Deadlines

The Investor must close on the new property within 180 days of closing the sale of the old property. The worst feature of 1031 is that they only have the first 45 days of the 180 to identify the replacement property. Most Investors can only list three properties and they must buy from the list. 45 days is an exceedingly short time in which to find suitable property, especially with the current limited inventories.

Non-Qualified property

1031 is not for second homes, flips, new construction or land held by a builder or developer. These are personal use properties or inventory properties and not eligible for the tax deferral.

Reinvestment rules

To get the best result the Investor will apply the net cash from the sale toward the purchase of the new property and obtain a new loan that equals or exceeds the loan on the old property. This makes sense when you consider that the Investor, owning and selling a rental house, has $300,000 in the American economy. If they sell and pull that investment out of the American economy, they have to pay tax on the gain. If they don’t want to pay tax on the gain they have to drive $300,000 back into the American economy, whether using their own cash and/or financing.

Exchange Process

The exchange company prepares specialized documents for the Investor to sign in closing as they sign the deed to the Buyer. There will be similar documents at the closing of the new property. It is the exchange company’s paperwork in those closings that creates the exchange and tax deferral. The following spring the accountant reports the exchange on the tax return.

Supporting players

Consultation with the Investor’s accountant will confirm whether an exchange will benefit the Investor.

Consultation with an exchange company, sooner rather than later, is essential to understanding the rules and common pitfalls. Exchange companies do not charge for this consultation. Their fees are typically flat rate and charged at the time of closings.

Consultation with the Investor’s real estate agent is critical to understanding the market and options that will be available before and during the 45-day identification period.

Challenging scenarios that particularly require consultation:

  1. Wanting to buy from a related party.
  2. Breaking up or forming partnerships at the time of an exchange.
  3. Making improvements as part of the exchange.
  4. Closing on a new property before closing the sale of the old — a reverse exchange.
  5. An installment sale of the old property.

The best exchanges not only shelter tax but also achieve important business and personal goals.

 

The original article can be found HERE at All Things Real Estate Magazine’s website.

Rescued pianos on Portland streets

Cat

“Cat” — by designer: Blaine Fontana

Rescued pianos are coming back to life on the streets of Portand, put back in public cirulation by Piano! Push! Play!, an organization that is on on a mission to “make pianos available to anyone who wants to play them.”

At Portland’s Salmon Street Springs Fountain, one of the recovered instruments (boldly labeled “PIANO” on its backside) had a steady stream of players late Tuesday afternoon.

Dani McGraw, 13, of Oregon City,  sat down confidently and began playing, though not without a few stumbles, which she played right through. Her mom, Laura, said Dani had been taking music lessons for six years and added, “She loves it.”

Fanny

“Fanny” — by designer: Nemo Design (Brian Nally)

Kristen Timmons, of Milwaukie, said her daughters, Kinsley, 3, and Teegan, 7, had to wait for their turn because it was so busy. While neither is taking music lessons yet, exposure to the piano and a neighboring guitar player might have sparked some interest, Timmons said.

Yoshi Christner, of Portland, pedaled up to the piano with his dog, Blueberry, who listened to a short recital from a front basket and after, a little applause from onlookers, off they they went.

To find out more about the Piano! Push! Play! project, click here.

The original article can be found HERE on The Oregonian’s website.