Beth Silva

PDX Living and Real Estate

Buyer Info September 20, 2010

My Favorite Sites for Portland and Real Estate Info:

Coldwell Banker Seal

Beth Silva

Portland Housing Center

Portland Development Commission


Portland Public School District

Where do I start my Real Estate Search?

Choosing the right home really starts with finding the right neighborhood for you. Picture your daily life in your new neighborhood. Ask yourself what are the important amenities that a neighborhood must offer, in order for you and your family to be happy there. Do you want easy access to parks and recreation? How close is it to family and friends and work? What about Public transportation? Schools? Entertainment? The questions and answers are different for everyone. Be sure you consider what are the important factors for you. Once you determine where you want to live, narrowing down the search for homes becomes easier.
How do I know which neighborhood is right for me?
Visit the neighborhoods that you are considering at different times of the day. This will give you a fuller picture of what it will be like to live there.
Drive by in the evening. Typically most people are not at home in the daytime so it makes sense to check out the neighborhood at night. Listen to your gut and see if it feels right. 

When safety is a prime concern, there is no better source than the local police department or precinct. Call to ask about the number of home break-ins and muggings. If you see an officer patrolling the neighborhood, stop and ask a few questions.

The quality of schools is important even if you don’t have school age children because it can affect your resale value. Call the local school board to get quick facts about test scores, graduation rates and percentage of college-bound students. Find out the location of local schools and ask which streets are in walking distance, or which receive school bus service.

Consider your commute. When easy access to public transportation is important, check out where the stops and stations are located. If you plan to drive to work, it’s worth trying the commute at rush hour to see how long it would take. 

The local Chamber of Commerce is a wealth of information. Consult them for general information about neighborhood businesses, taxes and cost of living, as well as recreation and entertainment that are close by, most chambers have packets ready to ship out, or provide quick access to information online.

Why is Finding the Right Real Estate Broker so Important?

The best broker is an experienced professional who will listen to you, conduct themselves in an ethical manner and knows your market. The saying is “20% of the brokers do 80% of the business,” and it is true, because they are the ones who are referred repeatedly by satisfied clients. Those who settle for the wrong broker are likely to encounter stressful experiences. To ensure that you enjoy a problem-free transaction, taking time to find the right agent is key.

How Can I Find the Right Broker?

It’s important to choose a broker who is also a Realtor®. The difference is that only licensed Realtors®, like Beth, belong to the National Association of Realtors and pledge to follow the Code of Ethics, a comprehensive list containing 17 articles and underlying standards of practice. Working with a Realtor® you can be assured of levels of conduct that are higher than ordinary business practices or those required by law. Not all real estate brokers are Realtors®. Only Realtors® are licensed to sell real estate as a broker and display the Realtor® logo.

What is Pre-Qualification for Financing?

Finding a home and buying a home in Washington and Oregon are two very separate things. Buying a home starts with getting your financial house in order. Getting pre-qualified shows sellers that you are a buyer who can qualify for financing and it helps you establish a clear price range for buying a home.

Pre-qualification is not a full mortgage approval, but a basic estimate of what you can afford in a home loan. Pre-qualification is sometimes confused with pre-approval, which is a more comprehensive analysis and commitment of a loan program for a buyer.

Simplify your loan process and get pre-qualified for a home loan. Along with the down payment available to you, the loan amount will determine what price range will work for you. Pre-qualifying helps you identify and resolve any issues you may encounter in your loan application.

What about Getting a Mortgage?

A mortgage is the loan a potential homebuyer needs in order to make up the difference between the down payment and the purchase price of the home.

There are a variety of mortgage programs available, with adjustable time periods and financing options. The process and the products can be complicated. It’s a good idea to work with a knowledgeable mortgage professional that can advise and explain all of your options to you. It usually takes about 30 to 45 days to process a loan application. The actual time depends on how promptly the lender can get an appraisal of the property, a credit report, verification of employment and bank accounts. Most loans will also require a buyer to provide verification of income, assets, and long-term debt.

What is covered in a Real Estate Contract?

The Contract of Sale, or Purchase and Sale Agreement, is a legally binding document, whereby the homeowner (the seller) and you, (the buyer) agree to terms under which the buyer will acquire the seller’s property.

Who is paying the various expenses of the sale, including closing costs?
In Oregon and Washington State, both buyers and sellers incur expenses during the transaction process. Beth will walk you through the details, but here are the basics.

  • Buyers are typically responsible for costs associated with the down payment placed on their new home, any home inspections, a portion of the escrow fees, the portion of the title insurance policy that benefits the lender, and any loan costs.
  • Sellers generally pay for a portion of the escrow fee as well as a standard title insurance policy.
  • Shared responsibility for the annual expenses of property taxes and homeowner association fees is divided between buyers and sellers and prorated based on the closing date.

The actual closing date of a real estate transaction is the date in which proceeds from the sale are available to the seller and the transfer of the title has been recorded by the county. The lender is responsible for providing the buyer with a good faith estimate, which will provide a close approximation of the buyer’s financial requirement to close the transaction.

The date of occupancy is agreed to between the buyer and seller during the negotiation process. If the seller remains in possession after closing, there should be a rent back agreement in place prior to closing.

Should I Get a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a very important, recommended step, especially in the Pacific Northwest. It’s common for buyers to make an offer contingent upon one or more home inspections, which the buyer arranges and pays for with the seller’s consent. Before you buy a home, you want assurance that it is free of any structural or weather related issues on top of normal house wear and tear. If the inspection findings are acceptable to you, the closing process can begin. If the inspection uncovers problems, your agent can provide valuable suggestions on how you might work with the seller toward a mutually acceptable resolution.

A home inspection should be conducted by a qualified professional. Your realtor will be present the day of the inspection. We recommend that buyers be present when an inspection is performed so that the inspector can describe the process and findings to you personally.

The Inspector Should:

  • Look for any structural, mechanical, and/or other defects in the property.
  • Examine all systems, including heating, air conditioning, electrical wiring, and plumbing.
  • Spend time checking the exterior of the house, including the roof, foundation, and chimney.
  • Check the attic and interior for proper venting, insulation, and electrical outlets.
  • Test all appliances and plumbing fixtures to verify working condition.
  • Check all bathrooms to see if moisture has affected the areas around the tub or shower.
  • Inspect for other items such as insects, termites, and other pests.

What is an Appraisal?

The value of your new home is determined by a professional appraisal which is usually completed at the request of the lender. Appraisers consider numerous factors such as square footage, construction quality, design, floor plan, amenities, energy efficiency, lot size, topography, view, and landscaping. Other issues appraisers take into account are neighborhood quality and a property’s proximity to transportation, shopping, and schools.

Do I need Homeowners’ Insurance?

You’ll want to protect your new home with insurance. A comprehensive homeowner’s insurance policy provides coverage for fire damage, water damage, personal possessions, personal liability, vandalism, theft, and loss of use of the house. If you are financing your home purchase, your lender will require you to buy at least basic hazard insurance, which will fund the cost of rebuilding your home. It is important to contact your insurance professional early in the buying process. They will be able to advise you of their ability to provide coverage as well as to quote the rates and terms of the policy.

What is Title and Escrow?

The transfer of title from seller to buyer is the final stage of the transaction process. After closing has occurred, the policy is sent to you by your title and escrow professional, the third party who transfers the money and documents (including title and deed) from the buying and selling parties. The escrow company prepares documents, draws up the closing statements, obtains necessary signatures, records documents, and receives and disburses funds.

What Happens at the Closing?

You will review and sign final paperwork, and bring the balance of the funds required for the down payment. You will be asked to sign the mortgage and any other papers that the lender, and/or other interested parties, may require. Upon conclusion of the closing process, the deed and mortgage will be recorded and all previous obligations of the seller will be discharged. Once the closing papers have been executed and the deed recorded, you can take legal ownership of your new home. If either seller or buyer cannot attend, he or she can sign papers in advance, and/or grant power of attorney to a representative.