Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Sweet Home Revisited

A friend suggested that in my next blog I might say something exciting about Astoria. He added, it could be a good marketing piece for my town and my real estate company. As I sit here considering the subject, my mind travels back in time over the past 38 years I have lived in Astoria. For years, I gushed to every outsider who would listen about the romantic atmosphere of the town, with its distinctive waterfront fish canneries, its unique Scandinavian, mainly Finnish community, with its colorful dress, language and wit. These are now gone. Like so many places in America, regionalism is of a bygone era. It is easy to be nostalgic and remember the good old days but the old Astoria had its decrepit side as well. Fortunately, unlike many other place which replaced their character with strip malls, Astoria has done a great job in reinventing itself. The old, tawdry Elliot Hotel boarding house is now a tastefully appointed, quality hotel. The rotting caneries have been refitted into lodgings, office space, and restaurants. The smoke enveloped plywood mill has vanished and, in its place, is Mill Pond Village, a community of quality homes clustered around the old mill pond. This modernization may not seem unique. Other communities have streets filled with art galleries, bistros, and tasteful gift shops. Yet, many visitors to our town are still overtaken by Astoria's enchantment. What remains of its past beauty radiates through the magic of the Columbia River. Its riversong, composed from the movement of massive water, changeable sea breezes, ship horns, and riverfront activity, is in the air of the town and permeates the walls of the remaining Victorian and Scandinavian-styled homes. Whenever I return to Astoria, I see the river, the incredible bridge, the hillsides, and the sky, and I am momentarily overcome by awe. I feel, how fortunate I have been to have lived here in the past and proud to be here in the present.Lee

Friday, March 28, 2008

C.A.D.Y. Mentor Program

Mentoring is one of the most significant ways that you can make an impact on the life of a young person! I've decided to do just that. I recently just signed up for the C.A.D.Y. (Caring Adults Developing Youth) program...with some persuading from a friend. Although I was worried about being thrown into the world of teens again, it has turned out to be such a great thing! I look forward to the times when I can "forget" about my own responsibilities and help someone else in need. Every week it's encouraged to spend at least 2 hours with your youth doing fun activities while being a good listener. This week we grabbed dessert at one of my favorite restaurants, T Paul's Urban, and just talked about life. It's amazing how insightful and mature a 14 year old girl can be! Next week we meet up with other mentors/youths and build bird houses with the elderly at Clatsop Care. I've always wanted to get into volunteering and didn't know where to begin. If anyone feels like this would be a great fit for them don't hesitate to get a hold of me!

Katrina Dawson

Monday, March 24, 2008


This great Svensen property now has new owners.

Youngs Bay View

215 Bristol, Astoria OR 97103


Outstanding Bay/River view south slope home. Cheery, open floor plan features high ceilings, large windows, spacious rooms with great lighting. Full basement, newer furnace, updated electrical and low maintenance gounds are a bonus for this move-in ready home.

For more photos & info go to AREA Properties website.

Contact Laurie Duey @ 503 791-6518 or Sandy Calvert @ 503 791-2682.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Peace in our Time?

Two weeks ago I wrote an article, "Finding The Positive," which underscored the government's commitment to do whatever was necessary to avoid an economic catastrophe. In the past two weeks there has been the Bear Stearns bailout and new federal and state proposals to address a myriad of problems. There have been numerous articles debating the extent of the financial and housing problem, some saying the crisis will be averted and others saying the worst is to come. The housing market is good in some places and getting better, and in others, it is dire. Government spending and subsidies to bolster the economy are a necessary band-aid, it is said. Others say this "solution" makes matters worse, since it leads to continued destabilization of the dollar, to greater inflation which in turn erodes America as a financial super power, ultimately impoverishing more of its inhabitants. A free fall with the natural flow of the market, it is suggested, may be preferable.
These times with their continual mostly-negative economic news seem to be increasing the stress level of many people I meet. I see it in my office among the agents and support staff and among my friends. Of course, I have little contact with younger people who are generally idealistic and who don't remember those halcyon days, nor do I fraternize with the religious who are gladdened by what may be viewed as the approaching of the end of days. There may still be joy in Mudville, but I don't sense it anywhere in my community.
What does a person do then to be happy? In the past it was often suggested that one avoid reading the newspaper or that one shouldn't study the Dismal Science, Economics. Instead, it is good to immerse oneself in other activities like art, science, light reading, travel, gardening, or community service. Then there was always sports, television or religion to take one's mind off of life's exigencies.
For me, blogging has become such a diversion. It is creative, self-absorbing and it doesn't really cost anything. I have even developed contact with others who I have met through this venue. Today it is pouring rain.. What do you expect? It is March and I live on the Oregon Coast. It is a good day to stay indoors around the non-existent, and if I had one, energy-inefficient fireplace. It is not gardening weather and I don't have to drive through traffic to Home Depot to buy an expensive bag of manure. No camping or fishing trip is in order either, thus I don't have to be depressed by crowds, noise, parking fees, license fees, costly supplies or $4.00 gasoline. Here I am in front of the screen, in tune with my voice, away from it all, enriched by my creativity and completely distracted from the big, bad world. Whoops, there goes my cellphone. Lee

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Till the Cows Come Home

For the past week I have been reading many news stories about the housing crisis and the impending financial crisis facing the country. The news affects me as an individual who wants to protect his portfolio to insure a comfortable retirement, as a parent who wants to protect his children from a diminished lifestyle, as a business owner who wants to generate yield on his investment, as a broker who wants to see his staff do well during challenging times, as an agent who wants to give good advice to his clients, as a friend who wants to see those close to him not face financial ruin and as a brother and uncle who wants to give sound leadership and advise to his family.

Today I feel the burden of responsibility more than at any other time in my life. Not only because I am a student of history do I have a sense of concern, but also as a sixty-two year old, do I tend to look with less optimism at life than I did as a younger man when death was so far in the distance and when I knew less of the human condition. All that being said, what do I do and what do I say to those around me for whom I have a sense of responsibility and leadership?
It is easy to say that it is fun and interesting to sit on the sidelines and watch those in power do their best to right the ship in order to avoid a Depression or worse events, since there is little else to do because it is beyond the little man's control. It is easy to prognosticate what could have been done or what should be done on economic subjects that are so complex and beyond my understanding. Watching and waiting, or ignoring and hoping is what a cow might do with its life, especially when it is already at the stockyard.

Using one of my sister's favorite expressions, it is a good idea to be proactive. She may have learned this concept at a young age growing up in our family. She learned how our father smelled the dangers of Naziism and took steps to engineer the moving of our extended family out of harm's way. This was a time when many others just watched the events unfold, ever hopeful, and then were ultimately led to the slaughterhouse. Now I am not saying I think that disaster is imminent, it is just that survival in nature requires insight, cunning, and luck. Those who fail to recognize that and depend on passivity and faith, religiously perish. I do not have a list of suggestions for those who matter to me. Is it time to buy Euros, invest in foreclosures, pay off debt, stockpile vegetables, or buy a gun with plenty of bullets?

All I know is that the air smells differently, the problems seem almost insoluble. Even though there are short-term aids, the leadership seems frightened of an impending storm, and that scares me. I know there is always a crack in the fence for those who look for it. The question for me today is whether there is a safe haven. It wasn't simple for my father to choose and plan a new life in America for his family. He had the strength to plan. I wonder today whether the direction for myself and those I care about is to think about planning. There is an old expression, "Either moo or move." Lee

Monday, March 10, 2008

Finding the Positive

This week a number of people have asked me to foretell the future. Instead of the question I am generally asked which is, "How's real estate?" now I am asked something like, "Has real estate bottomed out yet?" I usually blunder out avoidance-like comments such as "That depends where you live, or some areas have fallen more than others, or some areas have had greater appreciation than others." In any case, my answers were a well-calculated conversation stopper. The questioner leaves with nothing tangible and is unsure of my opinion, and yet with the impression that I sounded knowledgeable. I wormed my way through the rest of the week, hoping to avoid the subject altogther and felt intellectually inadequate and emotionally uneasy about our economic times.
Then I read Blanche Evans' March 7th article in Realty Times which listed the opinions of reputable housing crisis prognosticators. For the most part, the article described a grim picture and an ominous future with references to the Great Depression of 1929. Other than a few geographical exceptions, real estate was overvalued throughout America and due for a great correction, the most overvalued location, Bend Oregon, from where I am writing today. Likewise, new construction was due for a big hit as well, with sales according to NAHB to be off 22%. With such dire predictions, I went into survival mode and decided to reread passages from a favorite college text of mine, William Leuchtenberg's Perils of Prosperity hoping to find a better understanding of how to survive financially in the wake of crisis. Likewise I reviewed the events of the Panic and subsequent depression of 1893-1897. The same theme reoccured. Poor financial planning, deficit spending and amazing greed spelled the demise for millions of people who had little direct involvement or had shared in the blessings of the time.
Of course policymakers today understand the past. Fed chairman Bernanke has repeatedly confirmed his commitment to do whatever is necessary to prevent the downward spiral of housing, which could lead to massive unemployment and fortunes lost.
What seems to be the best hope for avoiding a catastrophe is creating the spin that the worst is over. We have hit bottom, and that this is really a great time to buy. In this way consumer confidence is bolstered and the trend is reversed. Banks make lending easier, FHA bails out subprime loans, and investors are given incentives to back real estate securities and, like the post depression song, happy days are here again.
Alexander Pope in Essays of Man wrote, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blest." It seems like fabricating optimism in our world of great marketing is a preferable alternative to turn the economic tide than participating in some new war. Many argue that the Spanish-Ameican War was our saving grace in 1897 and that the beligerencies in Europe and WW2 did more to resolve the Great Depression than all of FDR's New Deal.
There is a lot to say for optimism. Scientists have even isolated a place in the brain where optimism resides. I have more confidence in it today than in political solutions. Give Pope, poetry and the spin doctors a go at it. What's there to lose?! Lee

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Single Level Home with a View!!

324 W Clatsop
Beautifully remodeled one level home in private setting! Kitchen with granite, large living room with fireplace and large sauna! Partial views of Youngs Bay! A must see! Call Mark Popkin 503-440-4200 or Natalie Dyroff 503-791-3436 for more pictures or information! Or email

Monday, March 03, 2008

Columbia River View Victorian

843 35th Street, Astoria OR 97103

Wonderful Columbia River view historic home. Victorian style with spacious rooms, view decking plus large yard w/gardens & extra bbq deck. Home features 4 BR/1.5 BA with comfortable living space, wood floors & great recent upgrades.
For more photos & info go to AREA Properties website.
Contact Laurie Duey @ 503 791-6518 or Sandy Calvert @ 503 791-2682.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Scan on Scam

This week I read several articles about scams as a result of the housing crisis. The first concerned itself with people who preyed on distressed homeowners by offering, at a fee, to negotiate with the lender to save the property from foreclosure. In the end, some homeowners either lost the property anyway or were milked for a service which could have been done for free with a simple phone call to the lender. In some cases the scammer actually ended up with the deed.

Likewise I enjoyed an article by Ralph Roberts, a renowned real estate agent and author, who listed a series of new and innovative ways in which sellers were funneling money back to buyers in order put home purchases together without regard to lender disclosure or, in some cases, state regulations. The result was that some people were able to buy homes who otherwise couldn't qualify, but the lender was duped. It is easy to take the high moral ground against such activities in which allegedly innocent parties are duped. Yet, it is worth mentioning, people are continuously taken advantage of legally as well. What is to be said to those people lured by flowery letters offering teaser interest rates on loans, especially on credit cards, and then later shocked when the small print of a subsequent letter revealed that the borrower was now subject to usurious rates? Were these people not also, to some degree, scammed? Of course those with power rationalize that such loan offers are a result of good marketing and included full disclosure. In fact, the product offered even fulfilled a demand in the marketplace. Such actions are viewed as good business, whereas other similar actions outside the legal system are considered sneaky and a scam. These devious ideas can be refined and often become legal once those in power find a way to make a buck on the idea.

It is difficult to sort out the knights from the dragons, the innocent from the guilty, the gullible from the stupid. This economic time is really no different from any other. Perhaps this housing crisis reminds us, in some poignant way, that there have always been those that are fed snake oil and those that feed it. Like the barker at the sideshow says, "Step right up, ladies and gents, see for yourselves." Lee