OREGON REAL ESTATE PRACTICES
While there are national laws and customs that govern real estate transactions, each state regulates its own unique set of real estate laws, regulations, and practices. If you are moving to Oregon, here are a few things to be aware of…
The Oregon Real Estate Forms (OREF) are updated and revised by a board of professionals each year. Most real estate transactions in the state of Oregon use these forms. Your agent should be up-to-date on all changes in the 11-page sale agreement and what impact they may have during a transaction.
In Oregon, it is routine for buyers to schedule and pay for a home inspection after getting under contract with a seller. Additional inspections that are valuable are sewer scope and radon testing. In the rainy Northwest, one of the most common problems to run into is mold and/or water damage. While this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, it’s good to be aware & prepared.
Sellers are obligated to disclose all known material facts about the property they are selling, but what is a material fact? Material facts are facts that, if known by a buyer, might have caused them to make a different decision with regards to purchasing, or to the price they'd be willing to pay. Statutes vary by state; for example: some other states require disclosure of haunted homes or paranormal activity.
Escrow is the concept and practice of using a neutral third party to manage critical tasks of moving money and transferring title at the end of a transaction. In Oregon, title companies (AKA "escrow companies") handle these closings. Some states use attorneys instead, and some states have separate escrow and title companies handling escrow and title separately in a transaction.
Community property is a legal concept used to define ownership rights of marital assets, and define what constitutes a marital asset. Unlike our adjacent neighbors, Oregon is NOT a community property state. There are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alaska has an opt-in system. Instead, Oregon operates like the other states under the concept of "common law" property.
EIFS & other building materials
Since the climate and weather varies widely in each region of our country, building materials do as well. While natural stucco plaster and roof tiles might be used in the desert southwest, the northwest is rainy for a good portion of the year. Water can cause a number of issues here, especially for certain building materials like caulking, synthetic siding of all kinds, like EFIS & LP siding. There is a separate Oregon disclosure form for siding. Your Realtor® is not a building expert, but should have some general knowledge and resources about these issues.
Homeowner’s insurance is readily available. Available but utilized less frequently are earthquake and flood insurance. While western Oregon is known as a very wet place (and it is), the number of homes in flood zones is actually much lower than you’d expect. Unlike parts of the Midwest or south, where vast areas are low-lying and prone to flooding, our stream channels are a bit more defined. So… flood insurance can be had almost anywhere, but it’s only required in fairly small areas. Also, because we’re part of the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, (i.e. in a part of the world with seismic faults and earthquakes), it’s worth considering earthquake insurance to protect against this particular risk. It too is readily available.
Condos, Apartments, & Co-ops
Condominiums are very common here, especially in our urban core, or within several miles of downtown Portland. While you may purchase an “apartment” or “co-op” in other areas of the U.S., notably New York City, they are almost nonexistent here in Oregon. Condos however are prevalent and an important part of our housing mix. They range from urban high-rise towers, many of which were built since the 1990’s, to converted warehouse lofts and even many rowhouse style or suburban garden style developments. Considerations in buying a condo will include not only cost of the unit and the HOA dues, but many other factors around the fiscal health of the association, as well as the benefits and limitations of the association on its owners.
Property Taxes & Withholdings
Clients unfamiliar with Oregon property taxes have a few very common questions. We have a few peculiarities here, so here’s a useful Q&A:
A: Simply, it’s “tax rate x assessed value”. The tax rate is an aggregate of contributing rates for schools, roads, libraries and so on…depending on exactly where the home is located. Assessed value can vary quite a bit from one home to another, even if the home's value is about the same. Assessed values are often far from true market value, and Oregon law puts some restriction on rate of increase on the tax bill. Falling in love with a home with higher or lower taxes is partly a matter of luck.
A: No. Nothing happens automatically to change the tax amount on a home when it sells. This is different from most other states, where it is automatically set at the purchase price. There’s no such practice in Oregon.
A: Yes. They’re looking for ways to increase tax revenue, within the law. One such way is to find homes that have been improved or added onto but never reassessed. In doing so, they’re identifying “omitted property”, or property that exists but hasn’t been taxed previously. This is a controversial but arguably reasonable measure by the tax assessor. They would say they’re finding untaxed property and taxing it as it should be. This can be a jolt to property owners or buyers, finding out the tax bill which had been at a certain level is going to jump up sharply. This can actually be assessed retroactively too. Any property owner would be wise to understand this possibility if the tax amount looks “too good to be true.” It probably is. At least for now.
A: Annually in November. It’s a fiscal tax year running from July 1 to June 30, with bills coming out in October and due in November. You have the option to pay in thirds in November, January and May…or pay in full in November and enjoy a discount. If your mortgage has an escrow account, the practice is for them to pay all at once in November so you do get that discount too.
A: If you want to budget for taxes, pay-as-you-go monthly, and not have a November surprise, get the November discount, and enjoy a little break on your mortgage terms…then “Yes!”. If you want the money to sit in your account and you pay the bill in November…and if your mortgage servicer will let you…then “OK, that works too.”