Real Estate: Is it time to buy or sell?

This week’s Friday Friend Feature is an interview with real estate broker and expert, Leslie Newberry. I’ve known Leslie since first grade – which is a long time – and in my opinion, she clearly exemplifies the meaning of *finesse.

Q: I’ve read about a decline of inventory in the housing market. What might mean for potential buyers and sellers?

A: In April, the Portland Metro area inventory was the lowest it has been since May, 2007 (see and  Those numbers vary from area to area and neighborhood to neighborhood, but overall it is a great sign that the market is healing.  Those of us in the real estate industry are seeing multiple offer scenarios in many cases. Bank-owned and short-sale inventory seems to be falling in certain areas too, but there is that ever-looming “shadow inventory” of foreclosures that the banks are sitting on.  We don’t know the exact numbers and we don’t know when they may hit the market.  Then there are sellers who haven’t had to sell holding off listing their homes because they don’t want to sell at or near the bottom of the market.  So those factors have created the lower inventory.  And the fact that interest rates are still awesome has created a bit of frenzy for motivated buyers understanding that the bottom may finally have arrived.  Or even if it hasn’t, it’s pretty close.  
It is good when buyers understand how inventory supply affects demand.  Competition can reduce their chances of getting a good home at a rock-bottom price when other buyers are also writing offers.  And it is good when buyers understand how mortgage interest rates affect their purchasing ability.  Based on credit, income and down payment, a buyer qualifies for a certain amount of payment, which is a percentage of their income and overall “debt ratio.”  If the rates are high, more of their monthly payment is allocated to interest than to principal.  If a buyer qualifies for a $1,000 monthly payment (principal and interest only), at 4% that equates to a $210,000 loan.  At 5%, it’s $186K. At 6%, it’s $167K and at 7%, it’s $150K.  So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand there will be a great deal of difference between a home priced at $210K v. one at $150K.  (BTW, my husband and I bought in the mid-1980’s at 10.5%!)

Q: What’s the biggest mistake sellers make?

A: The typical mistake most sellers make is thinking that their home is “the exception” and it’s worth more than the other homes in their area and neighborhood.  I guess it’s possible but not so likely.  It is important for sellers to understand that the real estate market is now pretty transparent.  Price reductions, sale fails, permit history, sale history, even mortgage liens (showing last refinances, secondary loans), can be easily accessed online.  It is also important for sellers to understand that if everything is being done that can be (great internet exposure–hits measured, great photos, etc.), and other homes are moving as inventory declines and sales increase, they are simply overpriced.  The ultimate question that they need to ask themselves is:  Do we want to stay or do we want to move?  If they want to move, then it’s time to reduce the price. The market has spoken and they need to listen.

Q: What are your top three tips for selling your home?

A:1) When I sit down with sellers to talk about putting their home on the market, I talk about what I do as a listing agent, the analysis to price right, where the information goes online–that a great listing can’t hide, taking the best photos possible (I have been a photography nut since high school), etc.  But then I also explain to them what their responsibilities are.  And the first thing I suggest is to put on the “hat of a buyer” and walk around their house.  Do they see clutter, too much furniture in rooms, grass that needs cut outside?  Layout and flow is vastly important and even rearranging furniture or removing some can help a small house feel larger.  The focus on selling a home is making it the draw for the buyer, not the stuff in it.
2) Being clean is big too!  Empty sinks and counters, make beds and hang clothes up, keep toilet seats down (and flushed please!), etc. 
3) Make the entry at the porch pristine!  Buyers have to loiter there while their agent gets the key.  Wash the front door, replace the rusty lock/knob, shop vac the cobwebs out of the eaves, and plant some flowers if it is spring!  Curb appeal is important.  And well, location of course.

About Leslie: As a native Oregonian, I have lived in and around the Portland area my whole life.  I’ve been in the real estate industry for about 15 years, 13 as an agent/broker and two as an administrative assistant to an appraiser.  I got into real estate because I wanted challenge (be careful what you wish for!)and because I could roll my many interests into it.  I love to write.  I love math and analytics. I love technology.  I love photography.  I love architecture (my daughter is studying it at PSU).  And I love working with people.  I’m a mom and the wife of a retired Portland cop.  I love to play tennis, bicycle, hike, play Scrabble, garden, travel, and read.  I’m a “problem solver,” who thought math was fun all the way up through Calculus.  So whether it’s finding the right buyer for the unusual property or finding the right property for perhaps an unusual buyer, I’m ready for the challenge.  I’ve lived in the city and in the country, so I understand the differences between buying a condo in The Pearl and finding a couple of acres out of town.  And I know how to use a chainsaw and shoot a rifle, so I’m not easily daunted! 

Perhaps most important is, I’m a communicator but I also listen to my clients.  So enough about me; there is more at my website ( if you’re interested.  Text or call me at 503-349-2727, e-mail me at and let me know who you are and what I can do for you! 

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)