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Homebuyers like what LO offers

Schools, public art, lifestyle cited as big reasons for rise to top of real estate rankings


The Lake Oswego area is now the top destination in Oregon for people buying new homes.

The Regional Multiple Listing Service reveals that Area 147 (covering Lake Oswego and West Linn) has the highest increase for homes sold in the entire state.

Realtor Amy Munsey brought this information to the attention of the Lake Oswego City Council at a recent town hall meeting. An even more interesting fact is that 20 to 25 percent of the homebuyers are from out of the country.

"That is huge," said Munsey, herself a resident of Lake Oswego.

The rise of Lake Oswego and West Linn to the top seems to be the combination of two factors. One is that the Portland home sale market is remarkably tight. Second, Lake Oswego and West Linn offer outstanding schools and excellent lifestyle amenities. Besides, both are close to Portland. by: VERN UYETAKE - Real estate agent Amy Munsey is smiling because of the big rise in people seeking to buy homes in Lake Oswego. One of the reasons is the outstanding public art, as exemplified by this statue in Millennium Plaza Park.

Munsey noted that when potential homebuyers study Lake Oswego they find an awful lot to like. Even when they read the police log in the Lake Oswego Review they find that the list of crimes to be heavy on barking dogs and light on serious crimes. The number one attraction, though, is the high quality of education.

"Lake Oswego, Lakeridge and West Linn high schools are fantastic," Munsey said. "Parents see their child having a much better chance of preparing for college here. They are so impressed with the test scores."

That was exactly what Heidi Hopkins, one of Munsey's clients, was looking for when she, her husband, Jeff Fedrizzi, and three children decided to move from Wyoming to Oregon. The Lake Oswego adventure started for the family on Wednesday when Hopkins and the kids arrived at their new home and joined Fedrizzi, who has been working in Portland. Hopkins and Fedrizzi decided that what Lake Oswego schools have to offer was worth the longer commute.

"We were very impressed with the Lake Oswego school system compared to Portland," Hopkins said. "We thought we wanted to live closer to Portland, but once we did our homework we wanted to move here."

"They are a prime example of the people choosing Lake Oswego over the (rest of the) Portland metro area," Munsey said.

Another major attraction is the public art, which citizens and visitors can enjoy just by walking in downtown Lake Oswego. You can hardly go any distance without coming upon a statue. Munsey said this pushes the city up to a special level of attraction for newcomers.

"Our public art is fantastic," Munsey said. "It's a direct reflection of Lake Oswego's priorities. It's an affluent community that cares about its environment. In other cities, art is on the backburner. Public art is directly connected to property values."

There is much more, too — Oswego Lake, George Rogers Park, Millennium Plaza Park, the flower baskets.

"People are saying, 'This is where I want to live,'" Munsey said. "There is beauty, art, coffee, dogs and one of the busiest, most used libraries in the state."

Portland is the top desired location for home seekers, but Munsey said, "The inventory is painfully low." Actually, it is unbelievably low. Recent listings by 3,000 real estate agencies show six new home listings for Northeast Portland. From mid-central Portland to 122nd Avenue the number is five. The demand is so great that people are looking in outlying areas.

However, a new breed of homebuyer has strong memories of the great real estate fiasco that struck in 2008, and they are extra cautious when it comes to acquiring a new home. This time they are doing lots of research and finding that Lake Oswego is an excellent alternative to Portland.

"They discover things like Lake Oswego being only six miles away from Portland and that houses cost less per foot," Munsey said. "They're pulling together lumps of data and it's coming up Lake Oswego. Buyers can now see listings and price changes. They never asked me about that before, but now they're asking me about that all the time. They use that in their calculations."

As for sellers, the dire days of the real estate bust are over.

"If homes are priced appropriately, they will be selling with multiple offers," Munsey said. "It's definitely a sellers market. I can list a Lake Oswego home priced at $530,000, which is not a low price, and one and a half hours later I'm getting calls on it. Eventually, million dollar homes will start to fly. This is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. The last time the market was so good here was when Mountain Park was being built in the 1980s and people were lining up to buy homes."

As a real estate agent, Munsey is delighted to see Area 147 rise to the top of the market. She is also a big supporter of public art, so she has been urging community leaders to help Lake Oswego maintain its edge and continue what is working so well.

"If our ... Arts Council (of Lake Oswego) is not maintained, it's going to take away from what we have," Munsey said. "People come here and say, 'This is beautiful.'"




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