Moving to Portland
 July 2016 Newsletter


Shelli Gowdy
Real Estate Broker
Windermere Stellar
Susan Marthens
Principal Real Estate Broker
Windermere Stellar

July 2016:  Limited Supply of Homes Drive Prices Upward 
The Portland-area housing market cooled off in July, though would-be buyers didn't feel much relief as the competition for homes drove prices higher. 

More homes went on the market while the number of sales slowed. Even so, the supply of homes for sale remained slim overall. 

The median home price rose to $391,000, up 11.4 percent from a year earlier.  The 2,776 homes sold in July represent a drop of nearly 20 percent from a year earlier, in part reflecting the slim supply of homes for sale .

Below are the highlights of the two stories for this month's newsletter.

Astoria, Oregon  This Oregon coastal town (population 9,477) is rich in history starting with the Lewis and Clark Expedition spending the winter of 1805-06 at Fort Clatsop, a small log structure south and west of modern-day Astoria. They endured a torturous winter of rain and cold, later returning the way they came. Today the fort has been recreated and is now a historical park.

Astoria  holds the distinction of being the first permanent United States settlement on the Pacific coast and for having the first U.S. post office west of the  Rocky Mountains .

Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, the city was named after the American investor John Jacob Astor. His American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site in 1811, 205 years ago. The tale of this enterprise is the title of a book called Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival and the subject of the first story this month.

From 1921 to 1966, a ferry route across the Columbia River connected Astoria with Pacific County, Washington. In 1966, the Astoria-Megler Bridge was opened. The bridge completed U.S. Route 101 and linked Astoria with Washington on the opposite shore of the Columbia, replacing the ferry service . The city is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the bridge completion this year and that's the second part of our monthly series.

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Below information from the RMLS™   Market Action report for July 2016

Market Action Reports 
The Market Action reports for the Portland metro area as well as all Oregon areas and Southwest Washington are also available to download.  It also has the  summary  page for the June 2016 Portland metro area home prices.
July 2016 Real Estate Highlights
Real estate activity in the Portland metro area cooled slightly in July. New listings (4,372) rose 2.3% from July 2015 (4,273), but cooled 2.9% from new listings offered last month in June 2016 (4,501).

Even so, this was the strongest July for new listings in Portland since 2008, when 5,237 new listings were offered for the month. Pending sales, at 3,302 for July, came up 5.5% cooler than in July 2015 (3,494) and 2.6% cooler than last month in June 2016 (3,390). 

Closed sales (2,776) fell 19.6% short of July 2015 (3,452) and were 12.1% cooler than the 3,158 closings recorded last month in June 2016 .

Activity has been mixed in 2016 compared to 2015. New listings (26,358) are up 0.1%. Closed sales (18,406) are down 1.9% and pending sales (20,974) are down 2.8% for the year thus far.

Click on image   to enlarge.
Average & Median Sales Prices
Median Sale Price for a Home in the Portland Metro Area was $355,000 in July 2016.

Prices continue to rise in the Portland metro area. Comparing 2016 to 2015 through July, the average sale price rose 11.4% from $351,600 to $391,600. In the same comparison, the median sale price rose 11.5% from $304,900 to $340,000.

Click on image to enlarge.
Sales Price Percent Change
Average Sales Price Percent Change:  9.2% ($376,800 v. $345,000)

The Average Sale Price Percent Change is based on a comparison of the rolling average sale price for the last 12 months (8/1/2015 - 7/31/2016) with 12 months before (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2015).
  • Average Sales Price Percent Change: 9.2% ($376,800 v. $345,000)
  • Median Sales Price Percent Change:  10.0% ($329,000 v. $299,000) 
Inventory in the Portland metro area increased again in July, crawling to 1.9 months. Total market time fell by one day, landing at 32 days. The Portland metro area recorded 5,360 active residential listings in July.

If sales continued at the same pace, every home on the market would sell in 1.9 months, well short of the 6-month supply that indicates a market balanced between willing buyers and sellers. Current conditions indicate a strong seller's market, which is driving prices higher.

Sales activity jumped in the North of 26 area of Washington County and the Tigard-Wilsonville area.

But supply-constrained areas in North Portland, Hillsboro-Forest Grove, Gresham-Troutdale and Lake Oswego-West Linn all saw above-average price increases.
Cost of Residential Homes by Community
In the chart below we have extracted the most important data from the RMLS Market Action report (21 columns) and created this simple chart. Below is the chart that displays the July 2016 numbers by area or community. It includes the following:
  • Number of closed sales.
  • Average price of homes sold.
  • Year-to-date average price.
  • Year-to-date median price.
  • Average sales price percent change. 

Click on image to enlarge or  click here
 to view the report (pdf).
Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) on August 11.  A surprisingly strong July jobs report showed 255,000 jobs added and 0.3 percent wage growth from last month, exceeding many experts' expectations. In response, the 10-Year Treasury yield rose to its highest level since June and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased 2 basis points to 3.45 percent.
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.45 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending August 11, 2016, up from last week when it averaged 3.43 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.94 percent. 
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged  2.76 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.74 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.17 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged   2.74 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.73 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.93 percent.
Penrith Home Loans 
Penrith Home Loans   (PHL) Penrith was formerly called Windermere Mortgage Services, and they changed their name in 2015. PHL is Northwest owned and operated and headquartered in Seattle, with offices throughout Washington and Oregon.  PHL is a full service mortgage banker and direct lender.  In addition, they have access to numerous other lenders which allows them to meet everyone's individual needs.
  • West Portland Contact:  Bertha Ferran, telephone (503) 464-9215. Address: WMS Series LLC/AT, West Portland Branch, 6400 SW Barnes Road, Suite 305, Portland, OR 97225.
  • East Portland Contact:  Tanya Elder, telephone (503) 497-5367. Address: WMS Series LLC/AT, Lloyd Tower Branch, 825 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 120, Portland, OR 97232.
  • Lake Oswego Contact:  Clayton Scott,  telephone (503) 497-5060. Address: WMS Series LLC/AT, Lake Oswego Branch, 220 "A" Avenue, Suite 200, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.
Monthly Weather Summary

weather data for the month of July 2016. These readings are from the Portland airport. 
  • Average Monthly Temperature for July 2016:  69.1 (-0.1 degrees above normal of 69.2 degrees). Two days in July the temperature reached 90 degrees or higher.
  • Warmest Day:  94 degrees on July 30. 
  • Coldest Day:  54 degrees on July 27.
  • Most Rainfall in 24 Hours: 0.30 inches on 7/22-7/23.
  • Rain Days: Six days with light rain and no days with heavy rain.
  • Clear/Cloudy Days for July 2016:  9 fair days, 14 partly cloudy days, and 8 cloudy days.
  • Average Wind Speed for July 2016:  6.5 mph.

A "water year" is defined as the 12-month period beginning October 1 of any year and continuing through September 30 of the following year. The water year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends and which includes 9 of the 12 months. Thus, the water year ending September 30, 2016 is called the 2016 water year.

The normal precipitation for a water year in downtown Portland is just under 44 inches and at the airport it is 37.04 inches. The official measurement is taken at the Portland International Airport (PDX) which is one of the driest places in the metro area. 

The HYDRA rainfall network is operated and maintained by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, and there are 37 gauges throughout Portland where rainfall is measured - the water year average for these 37 gauges is 42.77 inches.
  • July 2016: Normal precipitation at the airport is 0.65 inches, and we had 0.66 inches in July.
  • Water Year:  As of August 12 we have had 51.95 inches of rain (average of 37 gauges from different locations in the metro area) and 45.33 inches at the airport - the average  rainfall at the airport is 34.19 inches at this time of the year. 

2016 Summer Cooler Than Last Two Summers
it's been a cooler summer compared to the last two summers. We have had six days of 90 degrees or above - the average is 12 days. Three in June, two in July, and one so far in August.  We are certain to have a few more days of hot weather looking at the forecast.

Last summer we had 28 days where the temperature reached 90 or exceed that mark.

The May 2016 temperature average was 3.9 degrees above normal, and the June 2016 mean temperature was 2.5 degrees above normal. July's average temperature was normal.  
 Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
Below is a review of the book entitled Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival authored by John Stark The review is written by Dennis Drabelle  and the review was published in the Washington Post on  March 21, 2014. The book is now available in paperback and enjoyable reading especially for Oregonians history bluffs as well as future Oregonians.

A brief description of the book. In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent out two advance parties (one by land and the other by sea) to control the fur trade and to settle the unclaimed western coast of North America. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness, and greed to shape the destiny of a continent. 

Because of the length of the review we have left a few paragraphs out. Read the entire review by clicking here.

Few American families have stayed rich and famous as long as the Astors. In the late 19th century, the Mrs. Astor was the arbiter of New York society. Only a few years ago, tabloid newspapers played up a dispute over a remnant slice of the Astor fortune when certain family members fought to wrest control of the purse strings from the centenarian Brooke Astor. And to this day, the Astor name conjures up elegance in connection with Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Waldorf being the German town where the dynasty's founder was born. In his new book, "Astoria," veteran journalist Peter Stark tells the story of how that primordial Astor tried to make good on a dream that might have gone far beyond simple money-making.

The year was 1810, and the dreamer was the prosperous German American fur trader John Jacob Astor. Encouraged by ex-president Thomas Jefferson and acting on sparse information supplied by Lewis and Clark and a few other explorers, Astor made plans to buy and sell furs on a gargantuan scale. Stark lays out the network the high-flying immigrant had in mind: "His innovation was to link the interior North American fur trade over the Rockies with the Pacific coastal fur trade and link that to the Russian Alaskan fur trade, and link that to China, to London, to Paris, to New York. Astor's thinking revolved on entire continents and oceans."

To accomplish all this linkage, Astor had to get a lot of pieces on the board, and his first move was to send out an expedition. As Stark reminds the reader more than once, however, Astor bankrolled his agents and gave them instructions as to what he wanted done, but he did not himself brave the Rockies, or summon the diplomacy needed to win the confidence of Indians, or face starvation, or lose the way when maps proved useless, or contend with the profound cold of Western winters, or sail vast distances, or deal with mutinous crews. Near the end of the book, Stark asks, "How would John Jacob Astor have fared in the remote rainforest on the Pacific Coast rather than a solid-brick, double-rowhouse on Lower Broadway?" It's a rhetorical question. Astor was an urban-dwelling merchant with enough capital to hire others to carry out his scheme.

As suggested by that catalogue of activities never engaged in by Astor, the expedition proceeded on multiple fronts. There was a seagoing contingent on board a ship called the Tonquin, which was to carry its cargo (most notably the hardware needed to build an outpost) around Cape Horn and up the west coasts of South and North America to the mouth of the Columbia River. There was also an overland party with a mandate to reach the interior West by river and then proceed as best they could to the coast - on horses when they had them, on foot when they did not - for a rendezvous with their nautical brethren.

Game all but disappeared during the winter, and the overlanders soon faced starvation. Peril came from another source when the way forward became impassable in what is now known as Hell's Canyon on the Snake River in Idaho and Oregon. Unable to punch through either raging rapids or harsh badlands, the overlanders backtracked and broke into small groups so that if one party found a way out, the others could benefit, too. Of all this, back in Manhattan, Astor had no idea.
Astoria-Megler Bridge Celebrating 50 Years
This weekend, crowds are expected to pack into Astoria, where the city will celebrate one of the most important milestones it ever seen: the 50th anniversary of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

When it first opened on August 27, 1966, some 30,000 people came to Astoria to mark the occasion. The bridge - the longest continuous truss bridge in North America - came after decades of slogging through the legislative process in both Oregon and Washington, briefly derided as a "bridge to nowhere."

But that history faded quickly as tourists crossed the bridge in droves, continuing through Astoria on their drive up the Oregon Coast Highway, helping revive the economy in Clatsop County on their way.

rededication ceremony will mark the anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 9 a.m. at Maritime Memorial Park in Astoria, in the middle of the five-day  Astoria Regatta celebration.

Few would doubt the importance of the bridge today, and looking through history, it's strange to think it was doubted at all. The bridge marked a major milestone in regional travel, but also marked one of the Pacific Northwest's final and most triumphant victories: conquering the mighty Columbia River.

Graveyard of the Pacific

Since the 16th century, Europe's greatest explorers sailed up and down the Pacific coast, trying in vain to discover the big, mythical river that poured into the ocean.

The mouth of the Columbia was deceiving and dangerous to boot. Some explorers couldn't see it at all, and those who did find it hesitated to enter. Finally, in 1792, Robert Gray successfully navigated the river and named it after his ship, Columbia Rediviva - days after Capt. George Vancouver passed it by.

But though discovered, the Columbia River remained a difficult place to settle. In 1810, a band of American settlers tried to establish a town 40 miles upriver, but were quickly deterred by floods and conflicts with local tribes. John Jacob Astor founded Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia, but abandoned it only two years later.

Eventually, European explorers settled in, but the mouth of the river - known as the Columbia Bar - still remains one of the world's most dangerous passages.

Plenty of ships pass through the mouth of the Columbia, but each must hire a  Columbia River Bar Pilot, licensed by the state of Oregon to navigate the difficult channel. The precaution was born of necessity - since 1792, some 2,000 ships have sunk there, earning it the nickname,  "Graveyard of the Pacific." 

It was an absolutely beautiful location, but the wild Columbia made Astoria a dead end along the Oregon coast.

Spanning the Columbia

Undeterred and driven by need, Astoria captain S.F. "Fritz" Elving started building ferries to take passengers and automobiles across to Megler, Wash. in 1921. His fleet grew with the automobile boom, but it couldn't keep up with growing demands. Ferries didn't run in bad weather, and the 30-minute trip caused huge backups as auto travel become more popular.

Talk of a bridge had bounced around since the 1930s, but it didn't get serious until 1953, after a summer marred by long waits for the Astoria ferry service. Two years later the Port of Astoria unveiled the design for the Astoria-Megler Bridge, kicking off a campaign to find the $24 million to build it.

Public support was broad, and the need appeared urgent, but by the 1960s the bridge's fate was still uncertain.

"A four-mile bridge to span the mouth of the Columbia River appeared as close to construction Saturday as it was when first proposed nearly 30 years ago," The Oregonian wrote after a two-state legislative meeting in 1961.

Oregon legislators had approved the bridge construction in 1959, providing that Washington split the cost 50-50. Washington legislators responded with a 75-25 offer, seeing little benefit in connecting the coastline. A bridge toll would offset the cost, but Washington lawmakers were dead set against anything with a toll, The Oregonian reported.

But despite the opposition, the plan soon gained approval on both sides of the Columbia, and in 1962, construction officially began. Finally, in 1966, the Astoria-Megler Bridge opened to the public, charging $1.50 per car in toll.

"It is a real symbol of the greatness of the Lower Columbia River and a real tribute to those who dreamed this dream and realized an ambition," Oregon Gov. Mark O. Hatfield said at the dedication. "It is an answer to the scoffers who jeered the idea from the start."

"They said it couldn't be done" was the rallying cry at the opening of the bridge, and today its existence is still a source of pride for Astoria.

"The opening of the bridge was a big deal for coastal communities at the mouth of the Columbia River," Betsy Millard, executive director of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, said in advance of the rededication. "Though nicknamed the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' the Washington terminus is an area rich in history."

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Source:  "Astoria-Megler Bridge celebrating 50 years of spanning the Columbia," by Jamie Hale, August 11, 2016. The Oregonian/OregonLive

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