Blog Buyer Thankful for Bad Listing Photos and a Chain-Smoking Seller

Thankful for Bad Listing Photos and a Chain-Smoking Seller

By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, February 20, 2019

Four years ago I helped my buyers Megan and Christian purchase a home off NE Alberta. At the time they bought that house, it was a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom with an unfinished basement and attic, with the only way to access the attic through a pull down ladder from a hatch in the hallway. Over the last four years they have converted their basement into a lovely apartment and finished their attic with a master suite and added a spiral staircase for access. Christian has a construction and carpentry background and did most of the work. Being perpetual project taker-onners, they decided they were ready to purchase a second property to have as a rental, and since they excel at and enjoy sweat equity, ideally they wanted to purchase a home that had an unfinished basement that was suitable for turning into an ADU.

We looked at a couple of duds, and then Megan sent me a listing to a house in close-in SE that had been on the market for 3 months. While the price was unbeatable at $350k, the house was on a busy street, but it’s in a residential section so on a scale of 1-10 of busy street living with 1 being great and 10 being awful, this one is about a 3. From the photos, the house looked dingy, cluttered and in need of a lot of updates and deferred maintenance issues that needed addressing. Given the price and location, despite some misgivings, we went to go see it with pretty low expectations. Upon just opening the front door of the home, we were greeted with a waft of longtime smokers house odors. A good lot of buyers would have turned around and walked out the door at that point. Being seasoned home remodelers, the smell didn’t dissuade Christian and Megan. Washing the walls with TSP, removing carpet and drapes and then repainting should rid the house of the smokers smell. After all, nearly every old house had a smoker given how prevalent smoking used to be. We stepped all the way into the house and lo and behold the house was a pristine mid-century with original woodwork, an ideal layout, beautiful hardwood floors, a formal dining room and original kitchen cabinets that just needed a good scrub down. The walls were dingy from nicotine and the smoky smell permeated everything but underneath all that was a gem. We made our way to the basement and discovered a beautiful basement. Built in 1955, the foundation was built like a tank and the basement ceilings were close to 8′ tall- perfect for finishing. For toppers, the house was in great condition and the roof was brand spanking new.

I have a lot of buyers looking for that perfect mid-century with the fireplace, hardwood floors, and simple layout, and  after seeing it in person, it was hard to believe that no one had snatched it up in three months. After grooving with the house, we collectively decided that the biggest issues with the house were poor listing photos which most likely put off most buyers who would have been interested and the smokers smell for those who actually made it to the house to see in person. After sleeping on it, Megan and Christian decided to go for it. They wrote an offer, had it accepted, sailed through inspections and after the seller secures his next housing situation, Megan and Christian can begin the process of turning the basement into an apartment. After spending a month falling more in love with the house, they’ve decided that they will probably rent out their home in Alberta and then move into this house for at least a year so they can finish the basement apartment without disturbing tenants. And who knows, maybe after spending a year in the house maybe they’ll decide they like living in SE and stay put.

Alyssa Isenstein Krueger



I am living the dream. Working as a real estate broker in my home town brings this native Portland gal joy beyond measure. I took the round-about-road towards this career. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in NY two decades ago with a degree in liberal arts/creative writing, I returned to my hometown of PDX and got a job in a legendary record store of days gone by, worked as a music and culture writer for Portland’s oldest weekly publication while pursuing a graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Portland State University. Armed with my masters degree, I moved into the realm of affordable housing, community development, and urban planning, and then rounded the corner with a long stay in arts management then back around the bend when I got my real estate license and went to work for a non-profit housing builder at the cusp of the market crash in 2007. In the time between that market crash and the ensuing madness, I’ve stayed on top of the market like a dog guarding a bone. Using a magical combination of experience, instinct, and market data, I know what homes are worth, I know how to write a terrific offer, and I know how to help a seller market a home and receive and accept a great offer. Mutual trust and tender relationship building is the basis and foundation of my real estate practice. I use my skills as an active listener, creative solution finder and ace negotiator to get my clients the best price on a home, win the multiple offer roulette, and have as smooth and easy transaction as possible. Timely and responsive communication is the most important aspect of building trust and I don’t take that part lightly.  I am a stickler for details and nothing pleases me more than guiding a client through the home buying or selling process (and sometimes both at the same time). My role is one of advocate, advisor, partner, transaction organizer, and counselor. I am a partner broker with Portland Housing Center and relish the opportunity to work with eager first time home buyers. I have a knack for seeing the potential in almost any home and love to help clients see past what is and help them envision what can be. I have a decade of first-hand experience renovating and caressing my bungalow in Ladd’s Addition and had the honor of having my own home featured in a story in the Oregonian’s Homes and Gardens section. I can feel the love for any and almost all homes, but my heart goes all aflutter when entering a museum quality time capsule house -- the solid mid-century ones with the original pink or green tiled bathrooms, those charming early 1900’s farmhouses with the original kitchen cabinets and fir countertops, the cozy bungalows with the built-ins still intact. When I’m not working with clients, you’ll find me hanging with my two boys, Kalman and Saul, and my husband Robert, a Fine Art Conservator with his own business, Cascadia Art Conservation Center.  Retired racing greyhounds have been my constant companions since 1997, and our family includes Peanut the greyhound, Pinto the South Korean Italian greyhound, and our chickens, Rosie, Lola, Squishy, Duck and Prince. I am an obsessive gardener/plant fiend and love that we live in a climate where I can grow eucalyptus trees (I have 5 in my yard including a couple I started from seed) alongside blueberry bushes (6 in my yard). Given some free time, you’ll find me junking at an estate sale, dreaming of high brow junk, low brow art, making things, sewing, reading and dreaming of tropical locales.
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