Home Life

Five on Friday: September Edition

It's September! Time to say good-bye to the Summer and hello to the Fall. Here are five items we're tackling, excited about, and celebrating this month.

  1. The Eagle Creek Fire. It's already consumed enough heartbreak and we don't want to dwell on it, so instead we're helping take action to support the communities affected, the firefighters and first responders, and the Gorge itself. The are three ways to get started:
    - "Here’s Where to Eat, Drink, and Donate to Support Eagle Creek Fire Relief Efforts", Portland Monthly Magazine
    - Follow Friends of the Gorge.
    - Follow Red Cross Cascade Chapter
  2. Hit Refresh: we're bringing in a few new plants into the fold to help clean the air inside. Our favorites: placing a potted lavender plant in the bedroom and a peace lily in the living room.
  3. Project #1: it's that time to take advantage of the cooler, sunny days and check your home and make necessary repairs. From replacing old weather-stripping to removing dead branches to cleaning and repairing gutters, it's best to tackle your home's fall maintenance list before the rains arrive.
  4. Celebrate Fall: Looking for an activity to get you in the fall spirit? Visit Philip Foster Farm in Eagle Rock for their Fall Harvest Cider Squeeze on September 16 or Sauvie Island's numerous farms to enjoy their fall harvest. 
  5. Project #2: if you haven't heard yet, Equifax, a major consumer credit score provider, was cyberattacked. If you haven't checked yet to see if your information was impacted by this security breech, please take a moment to do so. Also, this has served as a good reminder to protect your information online. It's not as much fun as picking apples with family and friends, but, these it's an important task to take care of ASAP.

Have a fantastic day, friends, and we hope you enjoy the weekend!


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Five on Friday: This Beautiful Day

Investment properties are purchased for numerous reasons. A vacation home. For an elderly parent or college-age child. An income property. Today we’re incredibly excited to share Lisa Ng’s story about her and her husband’s beach rental purchase in Lincoln City, Oregon. Lisa, Portland dweller and the creative force behind the lifestyle blog This Beautiful Day, wrote about their experiences and decision making process in a series of informative blog posts about purchasing, building, and furnishing their property. 

1. When you first moved to Portland, what surprised you the most about the local real estate market?

I was surprised at how hot the real estate market was. We put an offer in on a condo and two other offers came in at the same time. The winning bid had put in an all-cash offer with no conditions - including waiving a bank appraisal. A few of the units we saw would likely require a bit of updating to make it look more modern and to our tastes - so factoring that into the budget, coupled with the bidding wars and rising prices - we decided to look for a different solution.

2. What led you to look at investment properties instead of buying a traditional first home?

We are ok with renting for now, so we decided to look at a vacation rental that we could lease out on airbnb instead. We wanted to make our money work for us. Many of our friends are airbnb hosts and we’ve used airbnb many times when we travel. It was a tried and true model for us, especially on the coast where demand is high during the warm summer months. We were lucky to have found the Olivia Beach development in Lincoln City. Our brand new 3 bedroom home on the coast was still cheaper than the 700 square foot condo we bid on in the Pearl District.

3. When you bought the property, it was still under construction. What was biggest lesson in working with a construction team long-distance? 

We were so lucky to be working with such an amazing builder, contractor, project manager and crew. Before we bought our beach house in Lincoln City, we met with another developer and they were SO rude to us and our real estate agent. I’ve never had such an icy interaction with someone whose job it was to sell something. Obviously, they were turned off by us and we were not the type of buyers they were looking for. 

If you experience anything like this - RUN!

My advice is to go with your gut and work with the BEST team possible. When I met the folks over at Olivia Beach, they were SO accommodating and just really nice people that we could see ourselves collaborating with. I look back and think, we were meant to have that first negative interaction - because it led us to the right team and the right people.

My other advice is to get on the phone and talk things out. Don’t rely on solely email to convey design ideas. Save Pinterest pictures, send them to your construction team so they know exactly what you’re asking for. You’re also going to want to go out to the site at least every other weekend because projects move fast and you want to keep an eye on things. Do build that into your schedule and don’t plan any crazy travel.

4. How did you set a budget and priorities for furnishing and decorating your property? What was important to you and Paul during this process? And how have you budgeted to replace items if they're damaged by a renter or from general wear and tear?

We set a budget and we did go over as we decided to spring for a few upgrades. Everything just adds up, so get ready for it mentally. It was important to us have fresh, new furniture and decor. I’ve seen rentals online where it looks like furniture just goes there to die. You won’t get a great rental return with mismatched cast-offs and we were aiming to be a more upscale property to differentiate ourselves from what is already out there. So we shopped at a lot of budget-friendly places with lots of style like Target, World Market, Ikea, Wayfair and West Elm. Our pieces turned out great, but didn’t cost so much that we would be disappointed if we had to replace them after a few years of wear and tear.

I really wanted to create a space that was a dream home that we would want to rent and we’ve had tons of guests compliment our furniture and decor. It’s 10x nicer than our rental apartment!

5. Aside from a fully booked calendar and word-of-mouth, part of owning a successful vacation rental are renters who return on a regular basis. What’s your advice about creating a space people will want to return to year after year? 

People want to book a relaxing place that’s just as nice as their own home or even nicer! Make sure your property feels like home and don’t forget all the little details like spices in the cupboard, tea, kitchen gadgets etc. Resist the urge to add clutter - guests want blank space to place their own things down.


Bonus Q #1: Why did you pick Airbnb as your rental portal? What made you decide to manage the property personally instead of hiring a 3rd-party management firm?

Management firms can take 30% or more plus a restocking fee for supplies. That really cuts into your profit. Definitely consider whether you have the time and energy to manage your own property during the busy summer months. I like airbnb because I can screen my guests and make sure they are well-reviewed before I decide to share my home with them.

Bonus Q #2: What would be your top three recommendations for someone looking to buy an investment property and turn it into a vacation rental? 

Make sure you have a decent size budget to work with for furniture and decor. Find an amazing housekeeper that is reliable and that you like working with.  Be prepared to spend a few months getting this project off the ground.

Thank you so much Lisa for sharing your story with us (and the amazing images above)!

Interested in seeing Lisa and Paul’s beach home? Please visit their page

If you're considering buying an investment property and have questions about the process, the type of loans available or financing, give us a call! We'd be happy to help you explore your options.

Five on Friday: Keep Cool, Portland!

If getting out of Dodge for the entire weekend isn't an option as the temperatures rise, here are five ideas to keep cool during this weekend's heat wave in Portland. 

1. Summer Breeze: We already know being strategic with opening and closing windows and window coverings on hot days can help keep your home cooler, but did you know your ceiling fan also help cool your home? Set it to rotate counter-clockwise to push cooler air down. Another option: create a draft in your home by using an attic fan or window fan to help force the hot air out by drawing in the cool air overnight and early in the morning.

2. Jump & Slide: Let the kids - big and small - have fun by making your own slip'n'slide. Place a kiddie pool in the shade for a little protection from the sun between runs.

3. Day Trippers: Take a day trip to one of the many nearby nearby waterfalls and enjoy the coolness of old growth forests. Want an easy hike with kiddos in tow? Check out one of these trails or visit the always cool Audubon Society of Portland, located in Forest Park.
















4. Splish-Splash: Visit one of Portland's many splash-pad parks or community pools

5. Escape: Take a mid-day trip to the movies (pro-tip: buy your tickets online to avoid the lines or sold out shows!), visit a local library or book store. Adults only? Grab a deck of cards and visit a local hotel bar. They always have the AC on. 

Bonus: Here are 20+ no-cook meal ideas so you can leave your oven off and step away from the grill this weekend. Enjoy!

Bonus Part 2: we have an open house this Sunday, from 11a - 1p, at this sweet Woodstock bungalow with an amazing backyard

Five on Friday: How To Have a Private Mortgage Insurance Removed

We realize talking about home financing isn’t a super sexy conversation, nor is it nearly as exciting as awesome landscaping ideas or great neighborhood bars. But before you click that little “x” to close this window, hear us out. This topic is worth exploring because it may save you some cash on your monthly mortgage payment.














Yeah. We thought that might get your attention.  

First, here are two important terms to help with this slightly-more-interesting-then-a- snail-race financial conversation.

  • LTV: Loan-To-Value is a percentage calculated from the loan amount divided by the purchase price. So, if you put down 15% when buying a home, in simplest terms for this discussion, your LTV would be 85%. And - here’s the important part! - this number decreases over time as you pay off your mortgage loan. This value decrease is a very, very good thing.
  • PMI: Private Mortgage Insurance is what a lender will require you to have for your loan if you put less than 20% down on a home.

Here are five ways you may qualify for a lower Loan-to-Value (LTV) thus having your Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) removed from your monthly mortgage balance - and giving you a reason to pop the champagne. 

1. If you are getting ready to buy a home, if you place a down-payment of 20% or more, you may not be required to have PMI written into your loan terms. Each lender has different guidelines, so it’s worth asking about their PMI requirements.

2. Prepay your mortgage loan, aka make extra payments on your mortgage, to build equity in your home.

3. If you remodeled your home or completed a major home restoration project, it’s worth have your home appraised. You may discover the remodel/restoration decreased your LTV.

4. If your neighborhood – or area – has seen an increased value, request a home appraisal.

5. Once your home’s equity reaches 20%, you can request to have your PMI removed (YAY!) – and once it’s below 78%, your lender should remove it if you’ve met all their requirements per the loan and the Homeowners Protection Act.

Have questions? Give us a call!

And a quick heads up: we're hosting two open houses this Sunday, 6/11/17: a beautiful 1930s one-bedroom condo in the NW District (open house: noon to 1:30p at 2743 NW Thurman #4, Portland 97210) and the other, a 3-bedroom in the hopping Woodstock neighborhood (open house: 1:30-3p at 6523 SE 84th Ave, Portland 97266). Visit our homepage for links and details. You won't want to miss these! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

Five on Friday: Backyard Ready

If you’re busy preparing your backyard for Memorial Day weekend guests – or prepping your home to sell this summer – here are five ways to make sure your home's outdoor space is ready. And thanks to the amazing weather this weekend and upcoming week, you won’t have to worry about rain interrupting your hard work. 

  1. All Hands on Deck: If you have a deck, it’s best to take a good look and see if it’s in need of repairs or time to re-stain it. This Old House explains the process and why each step is important. Have a brick patio? This handy video and article can help you make the necessary repairs. Pro Tip: If you’re repairing, cleaning *and* staining a deck, give yourself enough time to make sure it’s completely clean and dry between each step.
  2. Check Those Containers: Thanks to a harsh winter, you may have noticed some of your outdoor container plants haven’t bounced back yet. Before you replace them, take a moment to check if they’re still dormant
  3. Fresh Appeal: The great thing about refreshing your home's curb appeal is it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Quick ways to create curb appeal: use outdoor containers to frame your front door or plant Impatiens along the porch. Wish for some more ideas? Check out this article from Apartment Therapy with 15 curb appeal DIY projects (we love the modern house number idea!).
  4. Lawn Love: Chances are you’ve already mowed your lawn a few times this spring. If you notice there are some spots that haven’t fully recovered from the winter, here are a few tips to get it back in shape.
  5. Backyard Ready: Light the (BBQ) fires! Whether your plans include having the neighbors drop by informally or invites were sent out, we found a few articles to help keep gatherings effortless: 16 Backyard Party Tips15 Easy Pitcher Cocktails, and 20 BBQ Recipes & Tips 

Have a patio or yard care tip that could benefit others? Maybe you have a secret way to get your yard to bounce back after winter? Or you created gorgeous curb appeal on the cheap? We'd love to hear it and share the tips with others!

Hope you enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend. 

Five on Friday: Ross NW Watergardens

This week we are excited to share out conversation with local landscape designer, Ben Bowen of Ross NW Watergardens. Ben is a third generation landscaper and part of a family-owned business.

1. How do you consider the architecture of a home when you are designing a landscape?

It really depends on the client. Some people want a landscape very true to the style of their home; if they have a craftsman, then they want something classic. While other people may not care at all. They may have a very traditional home but they want a modern design for their yard that may not necessarily fit the style of the house. Sometimes the fit between the landscaping design and the house is seamless; other times you get a little more creative to make the styles work together in a way to make visual sense. If you do that well, it seems like you can make almost any style you want work. Whether the styles merge easily or not, there's usually things about the house that you're trying to accentuate or hide.

2. Can you give an example of what techniques you use to accentuate or hide parts of a house?

Sure; ranch style homes can have nice windows but will also have some long expanses of just bare wall. It's a great backdrop for some plantings, so picking where you put those involves some strategy. A lot of the newer homes that infill homes are too tall for some of the lots they are on. It can feel like they are looming over you as you approach the house when you have a two-story house eight feet from the sidewalk on a 4000 square-foot lot, the proportions can seem off. You can help soften that transition by utilizing tall, narrow plants. It goes the other direction too. Plants can also be a wonderful way to edit what you can see looking out from your house. Tall plants can be great for neighbors because they give a lot of privacy. Bamboo is usually the answer. 

3. How do you balance a client’s lifestyle with their landscape ambitions?

 Modern landscape and design-build project by Ross NW WatergardensAs far as maintenance goes I try to get a good sense of how much time they spend in their yard, including how much they want to be leisure versus working in the yard. Knowing their lifestyle helps to figure out what is the most sustainable design for the customer. When clients are planning to pay for someone else to maintain the yard, I design whatever they want and don’t weigh the two factors [leisure vs maintenance]. If they are going to do the maintenance themselves, then there are a lot of compromises that need to be made between beauty and labor. I find most people want to spend their Saturdays enjoying their landscape, not working in it. It helps that most people are realistic about how much work they will put into their garden, which really guides all those complex decisions.

4. Do you use edible plants in landscapes?

There is a lot of interest in edible plants in landscaping. I get asked this question often. There are lots of ways to work edibles into the landscape and I always try to do it in a way that works with everything else that we have chosen. I love to use blueberries because the shrub itself, even without the fruit, is very attractive. We plant quite a bit of persimmon; it's a beautiful tree and even if you don’t use the persimmons, they look so cool in the fall. In the fall, the fruit stays after you lose the leaves so it looks like a bunch of miniature pumpkins. If you were so inclined you could plant it just for that reason.   

5. How do you balance budgets and requests?

I try to balance the budget, climate, and style. For a lot of people, the budget is the most important. Depending on exactly how important budget is, I can make decisions about how to balance everything else. I feel like over time I have become good at reading people’s priorities. As we adjust the plan, I work with them to find their priorities and educate them about the costs and benefits of the different directions we could go with the design. It’s a very collaborative process and it is really rewarding to see the final product and hear client feedback about how they enjoy their outdoor space.

Bonus Question 1: The climate in Portland has been more extreme lately. How has that influenced your designs?

There have always been some plants that have been borderline evergreen for Portland but if we have more winters like this last one, they'll no longer be evergreen options. Hebe is an example of that; it’s a very popular plant that used to be considered an evergreen in Portland. I now must be more careful with what goes dormant during really cold winters. Hot summers just mean more water and more work, which is ok. It’s much more disappointing to have spring come around and think that your plants are dead - but they aren't.  

Bonus Question 2: Are you seeing any changes in your client's requests recently?

Portland is experiencing a lot of growth which is leading to some shifts in the demographics. People are moving from Seattle and San Francisco and bringing requests for modern homes and modern landscapes to go with them. These designs are really low-maintenance and attractive with clean lines, plantings that are function first, and a lot of hardscapes. As they get more popular I expect to see the effect snowball and we will get even more requests for these types of projects.

Bonus Question 3: What are your favorite Portland neighborhoods to look at landscaping?

Portland is a city where people really enjoy the outdoors and use their yards. All over Portland, there are more specific homes, not areas, I’ve noticed and really like. I enjoy the mid-century modern style and the landscaping that goes along with it. I think it can be distinctive and interesting. There are some great neighborhoods in Southwest Portland for those styles. It’s amazing how one person’s landscaping can influence and inspire the landscaping for the homes around it. There’s a six-block stretch of homes on North Flavel Drive where people have taken their landscapes and done interesting things with them, and they coordinate as a neighborhood. I don’t know how these things catch on but it is cool to see and I could imagine it spreading.

If you find yourself in need of some expert landscaping design or if you are looking for some inspiration be sure to check out Ross NW Watergardens on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Houzz, and their Website!

Five on Friday with Abbasi Fine Rugs

This week we sat down with some local entrepreneurs, Omar Abbasi and his partner Alexandra Brennan, who recently started their own business, Abbasi Fine Rugs.                                                                                                              

1. In your bio, you mentioned that your dad has inspired you to start this business. Can you elaborate on that? Is your father in the rug business as well?

He is, he owns several businesses in Latin America that specialize in antique Persian rugs. He also sells furniture that my brother and I have helped him import from India and Indonesia. He has been doing that in Guatemala for 30 years. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that I really admire his work and his philosophies about helping people find this important feature for their home.

My dad always did this advertisement that I thought was kind of cheesy as a kid but have grown to realize is true. The line is “people always spend a lot of money on copies of Persian rugs but they could afford to have the real thing for less.” Working in the mainstream rug business for the last six years, I really see that to be true. I want to continue my dad’s approach here in Portland to help people connect with a better product.

2. How will you be finding your rugs? Will you be following your dad’s lead when it comes to sourcing?

Initially, the plan was to go to Iran and purchase a container, but the recent political climate has forced us to change our game plan. The new plan is to use the connections I have made throughout my lifetime doing business with my father as well as my own experience in the rug industry. We will still be sourcing directly from our contacts in Iran and the Middle East, we will just have to go about it a bit differently.

There are not a lot of people sourcing directly from Iran. Most stores are buying from wholesalers, so they must add more of a markup to make a profit. I have a very different business model, where I will sell a higher volume at an excellent value and not have to pay a wholesaler. The other benefit is that I get to personally select the rugs and find things that I really like and that my clients will be excited about as well.

All the rugs that we sell are hand knotted pieces which I have acquired over the last ten years of collecting. I’ve also found rugs in thrift shops and online, but that takes a lot of patience. You must know what you are looking for and be persistent. We hope to alleviate some of the headaches for our clients but still get them the great result of a beautiful, one of a kind piece.

3. How long have known you wanted to start this business?

About four years ago, I became way more serious about what I wanted. I started kicking around the idea that I could have my own business and I thought maybe it would be an antique store with all sorts of found objects everywhere. Not a lot of my friends thought that was a successful idea so I never did it.

In the last year, I woke up and decided that if I had a store that specialized in rugs and sold to my friends and their friends and had decent foot traffic, then it would be successful. I think there are many parts of my business plan that appeal to a newer type of consumer. There is a push for long lasting quality over disposable quantity.

I think this is relevant for younger generations who are emphasizing reducing waste. Instead of buying something that’s just okay for now and replacing it when you have the money and drive to find something better, take the time you need to find something you really love, that is timeless and you can keep forever. Our goal is to make that an affordable option by working with consumers to find just what they want. It may take longer but is so worth it and less wasteful in the long run.

Buying a rug is a really grown-up purchase. It makes your space feel like home. It increases your seating and is luxurious to walk on. It’s a physical and emotional change to the room.

As the population in Portland continues to increase, there can be other upsides to rugs as well. They are amazing for sound insulation. If you live in a condo or an apartment it can really cut down on the noise for your downstairs neighbors and help stifle some of the sounds you may hear coming from them as well.

4. Your business is offering a unique service based on requests. Can you tell me a little more about that? Do you know anyone else who does this?

Nobody that I know of really asks people what they want. People come in and start shopping around and if they’re not seeing exactly what they have in mind, a salesperson may come in and try to sell them on something else. They may get talked into purchasing something that they don’t necessarily want.

I want to help people find what they are looking for. If they have a clear idea of what they want, they can show me examples, draw it out, bring color swatches, let me know the size and their price range and I can find the rug that fits. It may take a little bit but it will generally be faster than if they look themselves, as I know the market and where I am most likely to find what fits their needs.

When you are rug shopping, it is a clever idea to explore your options. All store owners have different tastes and you may be limited by their inventory. That being said, if something grabs your attention, even if it's not what you thought you wanted, give it a shot. It might end up being great in your space. We offer a 24-hour trial period prior to purchase. Take it home. Feel it out. You shouldn’t have to keep something you don’t want to live with forever.

5. What would you say is the goal of your business?

I think my goal is to make the prospect of purchasing a rug more approachable. It’s important for people to know that at any stage in life you can have a home you love. Comfortable furnishings are not out of reach. If you just spent money on a home purchase, that initial anxiety and sticker shock can make it feel like you don’t have the money to nest and customize your home. Having an affordable option like a rug to upgrade your home is a great first step.

I think the overall assumption of Persian rugs is that they are expensive and out of reach. My goal is to set the prices so that they are attainable. The same amount of money someone might spend on a rug that is just tolerable from a department store could buy them something unique and timeless.

These rugs are made to last. They are handmade with fibers that age beautifully. We want people to know that these heirloom pieces are not out of reach just because you may be at a point in your life where you don’t have a big budget for decorating your home. You can own nice rugs and not go broke. Alexandra came up with a great catchphrase for the business “Rugs for Everyone”, and we have a new one, “You Can Afford It”. Now that we have a brick and mortar, I want to put that on the windows instead of “Sale” or “50% Off.” I want to have statements that invite people to feel welcome and know that they can leave with something they will love without stressing their budget.

Persian rugs are full of history and can be functional art. A quality Persian rug will become even more attractive as it ages. We even use old rug remnants to frame and hang on the walls. Even when they cease to be comfortable they can still enhance your space.

Bonus Question 1. Are there any significant changes coming up in your company that customers should be aware of?

Yes! Ahead of schedule, we’ve opened our brick and mortar!!

We opened April 1st at the corner of SE 32nd and Belmont (3150 SE Belmont, across from Cricket Cafe) and we’ve been working hard to broaden the spectrum of products we carry. In addition to gorgeous one of a kind rugs, we are now offering unique vintage furniture, handmade pottery, and crafts, and have been collaborating with a fellow small business owner in vintage dresses, jewelry, and accessories.

We’re so excited to host everyone for our GRAND OPENING EVENT tonight (April 21st) from 6 - 9 pm. Stop by for a toast to the future!

Thank you for this interview and the opportunity to talk about our passion. To all the readers, we hope to see you soon!

To find the perfect rug for your home be sure to follow the adventures of this new rug shop on Facebook, Instagram, and of course be sure to check out their website! I also recommend browsing their social media for some serious design inspiration! Definitely, check out their brick and mortar when you are in the market for a rug (Paris Group Realty blog readers mention us for a 15% discount from now until May 15th) and be sure to tell Alexandra and Omar we say hello!

Five on Friday - Easter Edition

Is anyone else excited about the forecasted sunny weekend ahead? We’re absolutely thrilled – Claire officially moved her Easter dinner outside; Brigitte’s egg hunt will officially be in the backyard instead of the living room; and rumor has it Janikka will be exploring Washington Park in the sun. Here are five ways to enjoy this Easter weekend with family and friends.

A New Tradition

Create a new tradition by visiting the Portland Japanese Garden Easter weekend. The Garden has officially switched to their summer hours and is now open from 10a – 7p Tuesdays through Sundays, which means you’ll be able to round up your out-of-town guests, explore the brand new Cultural Village and enjoy zen-filled moments thanks to the spring blossoms.

Make Sweet Unicorn Eggs

Looking for a unique way to decorate your eggs? We’re crazy about these DIY unicorn eggs from Little Inspiration that will bring magical fun to this weekend's festivities.

Forge & Discover

Looking for a new hutch in your entryway or a dining room table with charm? Definitely, make the 15-minute drive north to the NW’s Largest Garage Sale & Vintage Sale at Clark County Event Center. A quick tip: bring cash to see if you have

Bunny Games

Keep the littles entertained after their egg hunt or while waiting for dinner to be served with a few of these games easily played at the table – and who knows, maybe the adults will get into the action too.

Local Favorite: A "Dairy" Good Egg Hunt

The Alpenrose Dairy Annual Egg Hunt is on Saturday, 4/15, starting at 10:30 am – with hundreds of eggs hidden on the grounds for kiddos to find. Be sure to visit their site for details.

Are you following us on Instagram? We'll be featuring the details of a few Open Houses this weekend - so if you happen to be out and about, please stop by! 

What are you plans this weekend? Have a favorite Easter or Spring tradition? Please share below! We’d love to hear it!