Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector Before Buying Your Portland Home

By Harlan Mayer, Principal Broker, Meadows Group Realtors

When you buy a Portland home, you need to know exactly what you’re buying. Imagine how frustrated you’d be to find out that the hot water heater wasn’t working—in the middle of a shower! This is why you should have a home inspection before you buy your home. A home inspection is an important part of buying your home. Before you hire a home inspector, ask candidates a few questions to make sure you hire a trustworthy inspector.

3 Ways to Make Money with Your Real Estate

By Harlan Mayer, Principal Broker with Meadows Group Realtors and Real Estate Agent in Portland, OR

  1. Do not defer maintenance.  When a buyer comes along and inspects your home during a sale – if it has been maintained, the house shows better, and your home is worth more, especially compared to all the other houses the buyer looks at and compares your home with.  

How to Find Off-Market Properties for Real Estate Investment

How to Find Off-Market Properties

Real Estate Investing Series

By Harlan Mayer, Principal Broker and Portland Real Estate Agent with Meadows Group Realtors

One of the most elusive and desirable real estate opportunities is the “off-market property”.  This is a property where there is a motivated seller, but the property has not been broadcast on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and does not appear on any of the national or local real estate sites that “re-broadcast” the MLS.  Savvy investors and specialty real estate companies covet a property where they are the first to contact the seller.  Keep in mind, just because the property is not yet advertised, it does NOT mean it is a great investment.  However, in this new market where inventory is low and may continue to be, cutting out the competition can be a fantastic strategy.  So, how does one find these “hidden gems”?

This question reminds me of the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.  In that book, Robert teaches a simple, but common-sense concept:  if you want to know more about a subject, including money, you surround yourself with people who know more about that topic than you do.  Regardless of one’s profession, learning a variety of techniques to tackle the problems one faces is always a good idea.

That’s why we look to “team up” with clients to discover exactly what the clients needs are and then form a plan to contact property owners that have just begun to think about selling.  We believe that you get what you ask for, so defining a specific type of property and asking both yourself and the real estate professionals you choose to team up with how to find this type of property is the first step in finding off-market properties.

There are many reasons people sell real estate.  My partner Heather Howell and I often encourage people to hold onto property for as long as they can before they sell, but forces beyond people’s control often make it impossible for folks to hold onto real property.  Motivations can include obvious reasons such as death (estate sales), divorce, relocation, short-sale needs, as well as a million other reasons that force people to let go of their properties.  Some of these people are motivated, but they do not feel as if they want to go through the formal process of listing the property and negotiating with the general public through the internet.

Perhaps it’s too overwhelming to put the property out there for the whole world to see; maybe there are family issues that have not yet been resolved.  Regardless of the reason, they are anxious to get the property sold, and they’re interested in a quick and simple solution.  Presenting an attractive solution is the job of the property buyer/investor and is the reason that the property owner decides to sell the property before it is in mass circulation.

Techniques to discover these properties include, but are not limited to:

  • Direct mail (targeted mailing lists with very specific language)
  • Estate Attorneys
  • Divorce Attorneys
  • Relocation companies
  • Local Builders  (These folks tend to “land-bank” properties)
  • Investors
  • Real Estate Agents (they call them “Pocket listings”)
  • Public Records (for bankruptcies and short-sale opportunities)
  • People you know!

People you know are perhaps the best place to start.  I remember listing several properties for a client who happened to be a friend.  I suggested he sell me one, admitting at the same time that he would probably receive more if he posted the listing on the open market.  He sold the property to me at a price that has allowed me to profit at a more rapid pace and make it a really solid and much less risky investment.  This is a property that I still own and will most likely never have to sell.  This is the fundamental  difference in real estate investing as compared to the stock market or mutual funds – the relationship with the principal can matter.  When you buy stock in Coca-Cola, the CEO does not write you a personal thank-you note.  This type of thing can happen in an off-market real estate transaction.  Real estate is a cooperative business; both the buyer and the seller must agree to mutual terms before a deal is struck.  Emotional needs, personal reasons or simply just people wanting to get the property sold as quickly as possible, for whatever reason, are factors for getting a deal before it hits the market.

Contact Harlan Mayer, Real Estate Agent and Principal Broker with Meadows Group Realtors  in Portland, OR to find out more about off market properties:  503-288-3979 or


How to Not Worry About Radon when Buying a Home

Radon, a colorless and odorless radioactive gas is double the national average in Portland, Oregon according to new estimates reported in the Oregonian on January, 24th 2013. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking and the leading cause for non-smokers.

Radon seeps in through cracks and gaps in foundations following the path of least resistance – often finding its way into basements and homes. While the prospect of a dangerous radioactive gas is both daunting and frightening – doing the proper due diligence and working with qualified radon mitigation contractors can take the worry about this hazard away and allow you to enjoy your basement and home stress-free.

As a real estate agent with Meadows Group in Portland, I have been recommending testing to my clients for years as part of their pre-sale inspections. There are several ways to test – you can get test kits from your local hardware stores which are essentially envelopes with carbon in them that you hang in your basement; however, in the home inspection industry we have professionals with radon detecting devices that give a more through 2-3 day “snapshot” of the radon levels in the home. As many of these professional inspectors will tell you – the levels vary so much that one 2-day test cannot fully document the severity of your particular radon level. Weather can play a factor for instance; if there is a low-pressure system over Portland, the pressure can put more of a draw on the gas and increase the levels. When you’re buying a home however, often one does not have the option to test for longer periods, so 2-3 days of testing has become the standard when we inspect a home.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more, one should install a fix for the issue. If it is under 4 pCi/L, one may still wish to install a system, but it’s within a “safer” level. Radon reduction systems work and they are not too costly. Essentially, radon is trapped in a well under the home and then “pumped” through venting above the roofline using a constantly running fan. Often there is a dirt crawlspace that is covered with polyvinyl, or in the case of a concrete floor a hole is installed to be the well. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. In my personal home we had a reading of over 5 and installed a system; once we re-tested levels were lower than those outside of the home. For more information, go to the EPA’s Radon page at:

When negotiating the contract during the inspection period – if the level is 4 pCi/L or higher the seller is generally compelled to install a mitigation system or provide a credit for one. If it is under 4 pCi/L, one may still ask for remediation from the owner – but if they are unwilling it may be something the buyer decides to do themselves, in the future, or they may decide that the levels are acceptable for them at that time. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level. Here is a link to the EPA’s Home Buyer and Seller’s Guide:

By Harlan Mayer, Portland Real Estate Agent and Principal Broker with Meadows Group Realtors.  You can contact Harlan for more information at 503-288-3979