Blog Alyssa Isenstein Krueger The Highs! The Lows. Then LIFT!

The Highs! The Lows. Then LIFT!

By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, January 30, 2020

With some buyers the journey towards home ownership takes a few more twists and turns then planned. My buyer Sydney had a few bumps in the road along the way, but through luck and good timing, reaped the reward of the perfect house for her.

Sydney was a Portland Housing Center client and enrolled in their matching savings program, and was in the know about the upcoming LIFT program that gives home buyers under a certain income $20,000 towards a down payment and/or closing costs. Registration for getting a coveted LIFT appointment was planned for the week before Thanksgiving, and on the morning of registration opening, so many home buyers were trying to get a golden ticket that within 90 seconds of the system opening, all reservations were gone. Sydney had really been hoping she would get a reservation, but sadly (or so we thought) she missed out. The second chance to snag a reservation was Dec. 13th, but once Sydney missed out on the first round, she decided she was going to put LIFT out of her mind and start looking for a home right away.

The week after Thanksgiving we went out and saw a few homes in her price range. One of those homes was a large 3 bedroom 2 bathroom mid-century right off Rose City Golf Course that had been sitting on the market for a couple of months. It did retain some basic mid-century charm- lovely hardwood floors, a couple of nice fireplaces, a great layout, and a large unfinished basement with high ceilings.  To Sydney’s benefit, the previous owner didn’t have the greatest taste and had altered a lot of the rooms to suit a very specific taste- one bedroom was painted bright pink and had textured walls reminiscent of a frosted wedding cake, another bedroom had the ugliest wallpaper ever and someone had the brilliant idea of turning it into a true master with ensuite bathroom by blocking off the hallway entrance to the bathroom and cutting out an entry space maybe 18″ wide between the wall of the bedroom and bathroom so one wouldn’t have to walk around to the hallway to get into the bathroom via a proper door. Most buyers can’t see past the projects, but Sydney saw an achievable challenge and an opportunity for true sweat equity.

Sydney is a woman of vision and she was able to see past all of that wackiness and envision a mid-century marvel. For most first time home buyers, I would not necessarily recommend purchasing a house that needs as much work as this one clearly needed, but Sydney’s resources include her own handiness and handy contractor friends. The bones of the house seemed fine, but clearly work beyond just cosmetics were needed, so we wrote an offer for $10k under list price knowing that most likely the repair list was going to be long, and hoped for the best.

The seller was represented by a court appointed conservator, and accepted the offer and we moved onto inspections. I knew stuff would come up in the inspection, but I had no idea the extent of what needed to be done. After the inspection, the repair list included: sewer line needed replacing, oil tank needed to be decommissioned, electric panel and service line needed replacing, roof needed a full replacement, both bathrooms underlayments were so moisture damaged that one of them needs to be completely gutted down to the studs and support structure, and the other bathroom need the drains to work and the toilet to be re-attached to the floor, much of the wiring was dangerous and most of the plumbing was at the end of it’s life. Given the seller was being represented by a court ordered conservator, we had no idea where we would end up. Sydney was more than prepared to take on the cosmetic stuff and a few repairs on her own, but the totality of what else needed to be done was way beyond her scope both financially and logistically. Thankfully the listing agent was a true gem and understood that all of the repairs we were asking for were repairs that any buyer would ask for and was able to convey that to the seller’s representative.

Meanwhile, while we were in the midst of repair negotiations, Sydney found out through her contact at Portland Housing Center that not all of the LIFT funds had been reserved, and Portland Housing Center had a few more grants available they were releasing to their clients who were already under contract. Sydney registered online immediately and actually snagged one of the very last LIFT grants giving her $20k towards her down payment. This significantly changed the stakes because it meant that while we still needed the seller to do most of the repairs, it meant Sydney could use $20k that she had planned on putting towards her downpayment aside so she can get those bathrooms working and stylish. And with the exception of fixing the bathrooms- they gave her a small price concession instead, the sellers representative agreed to have all the necessary repairs done prior to closing.

So with the grant in hand, she was able to accept the seller’s counter on the repairs and we moved forward. Nearly 2 months after her offer was accepted, I handed Sydney the keys to her very own house. We couldn’t have planned it better with Sydney getting into contract before the unleashing of all of the other LIFT buyers, and then actually getting the $20k LIFT grant if we had tried.

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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