Beach Blog

Episode 5 of FAQ for Beach Home Buyers

2021 award pic 3x3.jpgWhy has this lot been on the market for years?  What’s wrong with it?

During the Great Recession the housing inventory ballooned and prices went to rock bottom.  Building costs, however, did not go down and in fact continued to rise.  Therefore, it made sense for a buyer to purchase an existing home at a low price rather than buy a lot and spend a lot more money to build a new house. 

For years, that kept buyers from buying building lots and the inventory of lots for sale grew and grew.  Only since early in 2020 did the housing inventory begin to shrink enough and prices increased enough to finally convince consumers that building a new house would be a financially viable option. 

Only recently have lots begun to sell, resulting in many listings showing histories of thousands of days on the market.  That does not mean something is wrong with the lot.  It simply means that until now, it was easier and cheaper to buy an existing house.

Episode 4 of FAQ for Beach Home Buyers


2021 award pic 3x3.jpgWhat is the weather really like here on the Oregon Coast?

Every time a newcomer from out of state has asked me this question about what the weather is really like, and I give my personal overview, Mother Nature decides to make me look like a fool and she does the opposite of what I said!  So, at the risk of upsetting her and having another weird weather year, I am still going to share with you what has been my general experience over the years I have been either visiting the beach or living at the beach, starting in 1974 when I moved here from Alaska.  If there is one thing that seems to be true of most years, it’s that you cannot realize how much beautiful weather we have on the Oregon Coast unless you live here.  Generally speaking, because the ocean is the great equalizer, our weather is cooler in Summer than in the valley and it’s warmer in winter.  There are many winters where we get no snow at all and only a handful of nights where the temp even dips slightly below freezing.  There are few summers where we get up to 90 to 100 degree days, and when those happen the high temp lasts maybe one or 2 afternoons at the most.  Then it cools off at night.  Thanksgiving seems to me to be stormy most years, and oddly enough, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day seem to often provide a surprising warm sunbreak.  When it rains other than the major storms, it’s usually a drawn out drizzle.  When it’s stormy in winter, the wind gusts can often be 60 to 70mph.  The worst storm I’ve been in here had gusts to 107mph, and one year I watched a water spout travel North just offshore.  Fortunately that was a rare occurrence.  In the winter, the storms come from the Southwest, so the SW corner of your oceanfront house will take the most abuse.  In the Summer, there are often strong breezes coming in from the Northwest in the evening.  So, having a deck on the South East side of your house will give you a nice warm spot to barbecue which is sheltered from the Summer’s evening breeze.

Working from Home with High Speed Internet?


Is high speed internet available here?

This is a question of growing importance in today's environment.  With more and more people working from home, reliable high speed internet may be not just a luxury but a necessity for one's livelihood.  The question "Is high speed internet available here?" is a bit of a trick question because “high speed internet” could mean different things to different users.  My understanding is that the highest speeds involve Cable internet as opposed to DSL or satellite dish.  Cable is available in much of Tillamook County.   DSL internet is available in much of the county where there is no available cable.  Otherwise, many rural properties must rely on satellite transmission for their internet connections. 

Just because one house on the street has cable internet, it does not mean the house next door to it will have cable internet available.  It could cost thousands just to extend the line to one more house, and sometimes if the cable company considers the neighborhood to be maxed out, they may simply decline to provide cable service to one more house on the same street.  Each address must be individually checked.  And, often making a phone call to the cable company will not provide a reliable answer.  More often than not, the overseas tech who answers your call will say, “Sorry, we do not provide service to that area at all” when in fact the current homeowner may have an active account with the same company!  Many people working at home have specific bandwidth and speed requirements, so you cannot rely on someone giving a best guess.  Probably the most reliable answer will be come by paying a personal visit to the local cable office to ask a local staff person about the availability.  

At this time, the provider for Tillamook County's cable internet is Spectrum/Charter.  They are located in downtown Tillamook.  Be aware, they are currently closed on Thursdays (oddly.)  I spend a lot of time going to their office because people who sell their homes here are often surprised, after they have moved out of the house, that they were supposed to return Spectrum's cable boxes and modems.  So, that is one of my courtesy services to my clients... returning their equipment to Spectrum.  

As a real estate broker, reliable high speed internet is critically important to my business as well.  I have used both cable internet and DSL in my home.  I didn't notice a lot of difference between the two except when uploading photos.  There is a noticeable difference in speed.  And, I upload a LOT of photos.

Episode 3 of FAQ for Beach Home Buyers


This is the third article in my series of Frequently Asked Questions which I answer repeatedly for buyers I am working with who are looking to buy beach property on the Oregon Coast.  

Do I need flood insurance?

If the house is in a FEMA Flood Zone and you are getting a mortgage, then you will need flood insurance.  It’s important to know that flood insurance rates can be in the thousands, so make sure to find out before making irreversible decisions in negotiating to buy. 

If it is in a flood zone, you will need a Flood Elevation Certificate in order to obtain insurance.  Ask if the owner has a current Flood Elevation Certificate.  If they do not already have the certificate, then be aware that it will cost hundreds of dollars to hire a surveyor to complete an FE so that your loan can be approved.  Also, because there is a scarcity of available surveyors, it could take some time to obtain that FE certificate. 

If the home you are buying is built at ground level on a concrete slab, or if it has a basement, then your flood insurance rates could go sky high.  It’s important to find out as early as possible in your negotiations to avoid unpleasant surprises after it is too late for a remedy.

Important:  if the house is in "Tsunami Hazard Zone" but not in a FEMA flood zone, then it is not likely your lender will require flood insurance.  Some people get flood insurance anyway, just in case.  I have been told by a FEMA rep that flood insurance would cover tsunami inundation.  

FEMA flood insurance caps out at $250,000 so if you are buying a house that will cost $500,000 to rebuild, the FEMA insurance may not be enough.  There are other privatized flood insurance options out there.  Ask your insurance agent what is best.

FEMA flood insurance rates are supposed to be the same regardless of which insurance agent writes the policy, however I often hear of clients who obtained quotes from more than one agent and the quotes differed.  So, it may be a good idea to ask more than one agent for a quote.  It's possible this is explained as human error.  Not sure.  But it won't hurt to ask around.

Episode 2 of FAQ for Beach Home Buyers


My last blog entry dealt with the first and most frequently asked question, in a series of FAQ which I encounter selling beach property in Tillamook County on the Oregon Coast.  Here is the second episode in that series.

Is this in tsunami zone?

The State of Oregon’s Dept of Geological and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) publishes a tsunami hazard map.  So, it is very easy to determine whether a specific property lies within the tsunami hazard zone.  There are 2 levels of tsunami hazard:  Local and Distant.  The Local is the potential for inundation in the event of the “BigOne” (Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake) and the Distant zone is the potential for inundation in the event of a distant offshore earthquake (like in Japan or Alaska)   Some houses may have the line stop right at the doorstep, so does that mean when a tsunami comes, you can stand on your porch and watch the water come up to the edge?  Maybe not.  Keep in mind that this is all theory.  It may never come to pass… or it could occur an hour from now.  And, the end result could look entirely different than what is depicted on the DOGAMI maps.  One thing is clear:  apparently the lenders and the insurance companies are not terribly worried about it because being in tsunami zone does not by itself increase your insurance rate and it does not prevent you from getting a mortgage on the house.  Many properties may be in the tsunami hazard zone but are nowhere near the flood zone.  If the property is not in the FEMA Flood Zone, then flood insurance will normally not be required by the lender, even though it may be within the tsunami hazard zone.

SERIES: FAQ for Beach Home Buyers

This is the first article in my series of Frequently Asked Questions which I answer repeatedly for buyers I am working with who are looking to buy beach property on the Oregon Coast.  

Most asked question – Will I be able to do short term rental with this property?

Any given community may have special rules for short term rental.  If the property is located within a local jurisdiction, such as within an incorporated city, then the city will likely have its own ordinance pertaining to short term rental.  Some cities in Tillamook County do not allow short term rental at all.  Some “cities” in Tillamook County (like Pacific City) are not actually cities!  Pacific City, for example, is an unincorporated area of Tillamook County, so for Pacific City, and many other towns & villages in the county, the county’s ordinances will apply.  Tillamook County at this time allows short term rental, but licensing is required.  Many neighborhoods within the counties and cities have their own individual rules (CC&Rs or HOA bylaws) which restrict or limit short term rental.  The best bet for a prospective home buyer who wants to do short term rental is to be aligned with an experienced local real estate broker who knows the rules and knows the trends.  Nearly every community has had much recent discussion about the burgeoning numbers of short term rentals and many areas have proposed ordinances which may result in changes to the rental rules.  A local broker will be familiar with the current conversation and can be your best resource when deciding where to buy.  IMPORTANT:  be sure to also have a conversation with your loan officer because many people assume you can get a mortgage on your second home and then put it up as a short term rental.  That could result in a violation of the terms of your mortgage, so be sure you know before you buy what you can and cannot do.

2021 and beyond

What does 2021 and the next few years hold for our local real estate market?   Sure wish I knew.  I have been trying to glue my crystal ball back together after it shattered in 2007, but it's irreparably damaged. 

My best guess is that our new Democratic government will be so happy to be in control they will not want to burst anyone's bubble, so am guessing we will be back to Kennedy's attempt to recreate Camelot.  Saving our economy will be high on the list of priorities, so surely the American Dream of home ownership, which is the wheel that greases the economy, will be preserved and promoted during the next four years.

Because I live in an area where most of the home purchases are not by first time homebuyers, promoting the American Dream does not necessarily promise continued expansion for this specific market.  However, the reasons for the very active sales activity and depleted inventory here over the last year are likely to continue.  People do forget, but it takes time for those memories to fade.  The flight from the congested city life, and from the urban unrest of 2020 will surely continue for the next few years as city folk realize the value of having a rural respite where the ocean breeze cleans the air; and where they can sequester their families during times like those we have endured over the last year.  And, our work force has retooled in ways that will continue to allow people to spend more time working from home, so why not look out upon one of Tillamook County's many water bodies while you work?  Who needs a second home when you can make your beach house your primary residence now?  Surely we will see more and more people establishing primary residency along the Oregon Coast.

My broken crystal ball is trying to say our outlook is good.  Sure hope it's right!

Pamdemonium in 2020

2020... What a ride!  Coming into the year, the market on the Coast in Tillamook County was improving nicely, but certainly not dramatically.  Then when the reports of the pandemic hit, I was convinced our market would  come to a screeching halt.  So much for my crystal ball, which went cloudy back in 2006.  Anymore, when people ask what I forecast in the marketplace, my eyes just gloss over.  Nothing will surprise me anymore.  In the early 80's I never would have thought we would see home mortgage interest rates as high as 18%.  In the early 90's I never thought we would see interest rates jump again from 9% to 12% and certainly never thought that banks would refuse to honor interest rate locks...but it happened.  

Of course, I never thought I would experience a pandemic in my lifetime, and certainly never imagined it would serve to boost the local real estate market in favor of sellers.  Buyers have been flocking to the beach, mostly due to Covid and the hope of having a respite in this clean, rural, sparsely populated environment.  An escape from the city.

I have stories to tell of multiple offers with buyers doing crazy things to compete and prevail in their efforts to buy a beach house.  And now, even LOTS are selling again.  For so many years, lots were almost impossible to sell in this county, but now Buyers are finding this a way to get a foot in the door for their bug-out property away from the madness they are experiencing in the urban areas... not just Portland, but everywhere.  People want beauty, fresh air, peace and quiet.  And that is the perfect description of what Tillamook County has to give.  

Check out this beautiful home located in the foothills of the Coast Range, just an hour's drive to Intel in Hillsboro... or if you have your own plane, you can fly from Hillsboro airport to the Tillamook airport near this spacious home on 2 acres:
if you worked here small.jpg

Tsunami Hazard Zone ... the big question


When I ask a prospective Buyer if they are concerned about buying in the "Tsunami Hazard Zone" they sometimes ask me, "Should I be concerned?"  How do you answer a question like that?  Here was my most recent attempt:

Regarding the tsunami hazard zone, I really can’t tell you whether it is something you should be concerned about or not.   I personally am not concerned because I have a philosophy that you have to die sometime anyway, so I would rather die from a tsunami than from cancer.  I wish I knew the actuarial odds, but I have a feeling the odds of dying from cancer are far higher than the odds of dying from tsunami.  I doubt that helps you, but if you want advice on whether you should be concerned, you really should get it from your insurance agent or from your own research on the internet.   According to the “experts” if we have a worst case scenario subduction zone earthquake in the realm of 9 on the scale, then most homes which are in the “hazard zone” will be at risk of inundation.  That said, no one knows when or if the earthquake will happen, and the damage will vary depending on where the earthquake is and how big it ends up being.  You can get insurance to cover the potential damage, but that won’t help you if you’re caught in it.  I am told that FEMA Flood Insurance will cover damage from tsunami, but only up to 250K.  Again, best to call your insurance agent for advice.

After the fires...

Just when I was getting ready to run an ad in Southern California to attract people who are tired of the frequent fires down there, Oregon burst into flames.  The last few days the air has been clean again, but before that we had an eerie week of smokey/smoggy air and warnings to stay indoors.  That just does not compute for this area.  It was a blessing to feel the fresh rain return and the gentle breeze from the ocean cleaning the air again yesterday and today.  Now I better understand why every year during the California wildfires, we get a rash of fire weary families wanting to move here.  A taste of their world makes me deeply appreciate mine!  I can't wait for midnight 12/31/2021.  2020... it's time for you to become a distant memory. Let's have a BORING year for a change. 

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