Secrets of Portland's Top Real Estate Agents

Portland's home market experts weigh in on inventory, cash offers, and love letters to sellers.

By Zach Dundas and Rachel Ritchie April 7, 2015 Published in the April 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Billy Grippo & Gina Gunderson

The self-described “Top
Eastside Producer” and his
assistant closed more than
70 home sales last year.

What’s it like out there?
BG: Inventory is low, low, low. 
GG: Lower than low. Buyers are struggling.
BG: The stats say there’s about two months of inventory. But that includes places—and every neighborhood has them—that just sit on the market for years because they’re priced wrong or in terrible condition. Take those out and inventory is way lower. The lower the price and the closer to the city core, the more competitive it gets. Even the suburbs are feeling the ripple effect, because people have to go further out to find any selection. Prices in Happy Valley and Southwest are definitely affected.

Is morale low, too?
GG: Buyers start out wanting city center, but find themselves beaten out by all the all-cash offers we’re seeing. If you’re trying to buy a $325,000 house with a loan and investors or cash buyers come in, they’re going to get it out from under you. You’ve got to move fast: write up the offer and get it into escrow right away. It’s best to write that love letter to the seller.

Yes, we’ve been hearing about how crucial the letter to the seller has become.
BG: We haven’t created any musical scores yet, but we’re thinking about it.

What’s driving all this?
BG: A lot of people who got sidelined by the recession are back. They’re tired of living in the basement, and they realize that you can buy cheaper than you can rent right now. Investors have figured that out, too—you can buy a Portland property, rent it out, and make money. The result is a mini-spike on the lower end of the market. We don’t want it to get too hot, or it becomes unsustainable.

Daria Crymes

An agent who focuses on modern architecture.

What’s challenging about selling modern homes? Modern construction tends to be higher quality—there are really nice details and a high value on design and materials. But it isn’t bling, and it isn’t always obvious. That makes a house more expensive, and sometimes appraisers don’t really understand. 

What can you do about that? The realtor has a duty to find comparable properties where an appraiser may not think to look. I’ll often just give a list of homes that are from the same period and style. The challenge applies to buyers as well. It’s an educational process for everyone involved.

How strong is demand in Portland? Over half of my clients in the last year are from out of town. Along with rising local interest in what modern is and has to offer, demand has risen. But we went through such a period of restoring old homes in Portland—it was really hard to make space for something different. 

How does our inventory compare? There is quite a range on the market right now. But compared to Seattle, I think we’re behind. I have clients that are moving down here and they’re surprised that the inventory is so low.

Why should Portland embrace modern
My family has been in Portland for several generations, and my feeling is that a lot of the current infill warps the city’s chronology. Modern architecture really reflects technology and design and lifestyle of today.

Shannon Baird

An agent with expertise on historic Portland homes.

What’s on your clients’ minds? One major issue is exterior paint. Some clients really want a historically authentic color palette—which, in Portland, means an autumnal range of oranges, golds, browns, all the fall colors. But others want an all-black exterior, or a contrast between whites and the deepest, darkest navy blues and blacks for a super-modern look. That can be amazing. 

When it comes to renovation, how much is too much? My first question is always, “Can you pick up a hammer?” Some people can. Others can’t. Some of my clients think nothing of taking apart a toilet and fixing it themselves, while others would never dream of taking that on. People are generally pretty honest about their capabilities, but it’s important to talk up front about what a house needs.

And what do they usually need? Everyone loves a renovated, finished basement, but they don’t do much for the value of your home. Nothing below-grade does. Give an old Portland home modern windows, though, and that’s like making $1.25 in equity for every dollar you spend. 

What trends are you seeing? Accessory dwelling units are in literally every conversation now. It might be for Airbnb, it might be for parents, it might be for kids. It’s on everyone’s list. People are looking for home offices and outdoor spaces that let you be outside even if it’s raining. We just want more from our houses than we used to. 

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