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

Foreclosure Avoidance Options

Foreclosure is one of the most devastating financial challenges that a family can face and one that many times can be avoided. The options available to residents for foreclosure are many, including but not limited to short sales. Following is a brief explanation of these solutions:


A reinstatement is the simplest solution for a foreclosure, however it is often the most difficult. The homeowner simply requests the total amount owed to the mortgage company to date and pays it. This solution does not require the lender’s approval and will ‘reinstate’ a mortgage up to the day before the final foreclosure sale.

Forbearance or Repayment Plan

A forbearance or repayment plan involves the homeowner negotiating with the mortgage company to allow them to repay back payments over a period of time. The homeowner typically makes their current mortgage payment in addition to a portion of the back payments they owe.

Mortgage Modification

A mortgage modification involves the reduction of one of the following: the interest rate on the loan, the principal balance of the loan, the term of the loan, or any combination of these. These typically result in a lower payment to the homeowner and a more affordable mortgage.

Rent the Property

A homeowner who has a mortgage payment low enough that market rent will allow it to be paid, can convert their property to a rental and use the rental income to pay the mortgage.

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

Also known as a ‘friendly foreclosure,’ a deed in lieu allows the homeowner to return the property to the lender rather than go through the foreclosure process. Lender approval is required for this option, and the homeowner must also vacate the property.


Many have considered and marketed bankruptcy as a ‘foreclosure solution,’ but this is only true in some states and situations. If the homeowner has non-mortgage debts that cause a shortfall of paying their mortgage payments and a personal bankruptcy will eliminate these debts, this may be a viable solution.


If a homeowner has sufficient equity in their property and their credit is still in good standing, they may be able to refinance their mortgage.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (military personnel only)

If a member of the military is experiencing financial distress due to deployment, and that person can show that their debt was entered into prior to deployment, they may qualify for relief under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The American Bar Association has a network of attorneys that will work with servicemembers in relation to qualifying for this relief.

Sell the Property

Homeowners with sufficient equity can list their property with a qualified agent that understands the foreclosure process in their area.

Short Sale

If a homeowner owes more on their property than it is currently worth, then they can hire a qualified real estate agent to market and sell their property through the negotiation of a short sale with their lender. This typically requires the property to be on the market and the homeowner must have a financial hardship to qualify. Hardship can be simply defined as a material change in the financial stability of the homeowner between the date of the home purchase and the date of the short sale negotiation. Acceptable hardships include but are not limited to: mortgage payment increase, job loss, divorce, excessive debt, forced or unplanned relocation, and more.

This represents only a summary of some of the solutions available to homeowners facing foreclosure. Contact us for an evaluation of your individual situation, property value, and possible options.

Understanding your options now could mean all the difference in the world.

A CDPE can help.

What is a Short Sale?

We are CDPE’s (Certified Distressed Property Experts) Call or e-mail us today for a property analysis.

A short sale can be an excellent solution for homeowners who need to sell, and who owe more on their homes than they are worth. In the past, it was rare for a bank or lender to accept a short sale. Today, however, due to overwhelming market changes, banks and lenders have become much more negotiable when it comes to these transactions. Recent changes in corporate policy and the Obama administration have also improved the chances of getting a short sale approved.

But to be technical, here’s a more official definition:

  • A homeowner is ‘short’ when the amount owed on his/her property is higher than current market value.
  • A short sale occurs when a negotiation is entered into with the homeowner’s mortgage company (or companies) to accept less than the full balance of the loan at closing. A buyer closes on the property, and the property is then ‘sold short’ of the total value of the mortgage.

For homeowners to qualify for a short sale, they must fall into all of the following circumstances:

  • Financial Hardship – There is a situation causing you to have trouble affording your mortgage.
  • Monthly Income Shortfall – In other words: “You have more month than money.” A lender will want to see that you cannot afford, or soon will not be able to afford your mortgage.
  • Insolvency – The lender will want to see that you do not have significant liquid assets that would allow you to pay down your mortgage.

This seems simple enough, but it is a complicated process that takes the expertise of experienced professionals.  That is why we are here for you.

5 Best Multifamily Properties: Qualities of a Sound Real Estate Investment

5 Best Multifamily Properties: Qualities of a Sound Real Estate Investment

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

If you ask 5 investors what they look for in a sound real estate investment you will get 5 different answers.  Of course, income is always at the top of the list and everyone always mentions location.  As an investor, the central question is: what are the other factors that help one select a property that will produce reliable and consistent income?  A solid approach to finding good income real estate is to find the 5 best multifamily properties in the area and price range you’re interested in and use them comparatively to distinguish real opportunities in today’s multifamily market.

One of the most effective ways to find better multi family is to use a search tool that has neighborhood commercial elements to it, such as our site

The reason I suggest you find 5 opportunities (which in a low inventory market can be very difficult), is comparing and contrasting may help you find “hidden value”.  One of the primary tools that investors use to compare and contrast investments is the CAP (capitalization rate).  The definition of the Cap rate is: a rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the expected income that the property will generate.  The cap rate is used to estimate the investors potential return on his or her investment. This is done by dividing the income the property will generate (after fixed costs and variable costs) by the total value of the property.

NOI (Net Operating Income) / Sales Price x 100 = Cap Rate.

Determining the correct expenses to subtract from the gross operating income is often what separates an effective investor from one who spins his or her wheels.  Often investors will use an arbitrary percentage like 34% or 42% to value any property – sometimes varying the percentage because of location and sometimes not.  This is more of a shotgun approach.  Each property owner has his own motivations or her own bottom line they are dealing with.  Some of these owners keep great records and will share them, and some have incompetent property managers looking over them.  It is important to remember that it is the job of the investor to do the proper due diligence and find opportunities to perhaps lower expenses or discover a way to increase rents to augment expenses.  This is where other factors start to become more important.

In my opinion, one of the most important factors to consider is square footage.  If the property is not located in a very central location, larger square footage is often the best opportunity to ensure that one has increasing rents over time.  Sometimes 4 bedrooms can rent faster than 2 – depending on the location.  More bathrooms means not only can you fit more folks into the unit, there is also more potential opportunities to improve the property and add more value over time.  Multifamily tenants are often people who love to live in low-maintenance units, but everyone likes a larger living room or kitchen.  This does not disqualify smaller units – it’s just seems to be a strategy that reduces vacancy risk over the term of the investment.

My experience has shown me that sweat equity will always at the top of the real estate investing list – even in one’s primary residence.  Oftentimes investors make the mistake of thinking if they hire a property manager, that they do not have to be as active in the process of managing the property.  The owner is, and will always be the property manager even though he’s hired someone to do most of the rent collecting, tenant interviews and general maintenance.  The most important part of the owner’s job is to identify and execute a business plan, generally laid out year by year, and improve the property over time.  This is how equity is invariably built in a multifamily investment, or any real estate investment for that matter.   Therefore, having bids performed during the due diligence period when analyzing a multifamily property is invaluable and can result in a new vision that will make that property into a producing and productive investment that can be held for a longer term.

These are some of the more important factors that come up in a multifamily investment search, however each investor has their own motivations and focus.

To discuss the Portland multifamily market in more detail contact Harlan Mayer, Principal Broker and Portland Real Estate Agent at:  503-288-3979 or Email me!