By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, January 19, 2021
By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, January 19, 2021
My sister Jamie moved from our hometown of Portland to New York City to pursue a career in visual arts in 1999, before Y2K, before 9/11, and during the last year of the Clinton era. Along the way she met my now brother-in-law Paul, bought a townhouse in Brooklyn during the height of the recession for a rock bottom price, had my now 8 year old niece and adopted the sweetest little mutt who they named Zucchini- an homage to our childhood dog Squash. For the past 21+ years Jamie, and then Jamie and family, have spent extended amounts of time in Portland, usually at least a couple of months over the summer. They had vague plans of moving to Portland “some day” but no super motivating factor to do the hard work of packing up, figuring out where to live in Portland, and all that goes along with moving across the country. Then 2020 came and like millions of other folks, they re-evaluated where they lived, and the motivation to live closer to family (us) and to get out of the suffocating humdrum of life in New York during the pandemic became stronger with each passing month. We had fantasies of them buying a house in my neighborhood, Ladd’s Addition, and being walking distance from each other so our kids could easily go back and forth between houses.
The market for single family homes in Brooklyn, and especially those with a driveway for off-street parking, a private back-yard and a renovated home like Jamie and Paul’s house, exploded. Just as they timed buying their home at the right time during the bottom of the market, they couldn’t have timed listing their home better. Within a week, they had 8 offers, all over asking. New York real estate sales take at least two to three times as long as Oregon transactions, which take about 30 days, so even though their house was pending, it would still be at least 2-3 months before they made the journey west. Once their house was under contract, my sister started seriously looking at listings in Portland. She sent me a listing of a house in my neighborhood, Ladd’s Addition, that was very intriguing. It was a gorgeous 1905 home with tons of original unpainted woodwork and leaded glass windows everywhere. But the thing that really stuck out for her was that it had an attic that looked like a 1950’s A-frame cabin with floor to ceiling windows facing west and a detached extra large 2 car garage. My brother-in-law is a composer so the 2 things that were most important to them besides price and location, was being able to have 2 studios- one for my sister’s visual art and one that could be turned into a soundproof music studio for my brother-in-law. This house in Ladd’s had both. They were still a couple months off from closing on their New York house, but I told her I would keep an eye on it.
In early December, they found out that their buyers were a sure thing and that their house in NY should close within a month. My sister asked me again about the house in Ladd’s, so the next day I did a 2+ hour FaceTime tour with Jamie and Paul. The house had had a front-porch make-over in the 1950’s, so it looked a little funky in the front, the kitchen is small and dated, and it didn’t have much in the way of upgrades to systems. It had been sitting on the market for 2 months, and despite that, it was reasonably priced. The entire time I toured the home with them on my phone, around every corner was another detail worth oooohhhing and ahhhhhing over. Once I was up on the third floor, in the third floor A-frame space, we were struck that the practically floor to ceiling windows revealed an amazing view of downtown Portland and the west hills. The ceilings peaked at over 12′ and the walls were covered in this beautifully textured mid-century plywood. After spending time up there, we realized that for my sister, there was never going to be another art studio attached to a house that was as inspiring, spacious and convenient as this space. In New York, my sister’s art studio was in a basement with low ceilings and little natural light, so having a studio with such an incredible city view was a dream come true. After we toured the house, we looked at the garage. It was built in 1978 and seemed super sturdy and about 500 sf- a huge garage for inner-city Portland standards. By the time I left, it was clear that they had found their dream home.
We wrote up an offer that evening, and had it accepted the next day. We FaceTimed again for the inspection wrap up, which confirmed that the house had great bones, but was sorely in need of electrical, plumbing, and a couple of small structural corrections- all issues that I could tell by just walking through. The sellers were adamant about selling it as-is, which was pretty disappointing. All of the issues were easily fixable, but really started to add up. After overthinking it and overthinking it, Jamie and Paul couldn’t imagine finding a more perfect house that had the location they wanted, in their price range, and already had both of their ideal studio spaces, so they decided to continue onward with the purchase. Throughout all of the transaction, my sister kept wondering why such a great house had been sitting on the market for so long as 2 months in this market is an eternity. After helping folks buy and sells homes in Portland for 14 years, I truly believe that some houses pick their owners, and this one was just waiting for Jamie and Paul.