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Longtime realtor leaving Woodstock, despite resurgence in demand for houses

by: MERRY MACKINNON - Realtor and Developer Mary Tompkins-Fiocchi (left) and her friend Mary Tongue stand in front of Tongue's work-live townhome which is one of two side-by-side townhomes that Tongue built in 2008, across the street from Tompkins-Fiocchimixed-use development on Woodstock Boulevard just east of S.E. 52nd Avenue. As a realtor who, for decades, has specialized in residential real estate in Woodstock, as well as Eastmoreland and other close-in Southeast Portland neighborhoods, Mary Tompkins-Fiocchi knows well the axiom that, when it comes to investing, timing is everything.

In 2007, after she sold her rentals, cashed in her IRA, and built a mixed-used development on Woodstock Boulevard just east of S.E. 52nd Avenue, her timing wasn’t great. In 2008, the housing market collapsed nationwide.

Initially, she worried because it took over a year for her building to have 100-percent occupancy of the three commercial storefronts, one of which is leased to the Middle Eastern restaurant Mezza. But, now she's optimistic. Lately, the local rental market has been strong, she says: “In the end it turned out to be a blessing.”

Although Tompkins-Fiocchi and her husband are now in the process of selling their Woodstock home and moving to eastern Oregon, she says she will retain ownership of her mixed-use development, which she plans to be her retirement nest egg. And, since the building has four residential apartments above the commercial storefronts, Tompkins-Fiocchi figures she'll set aside one apartment for her family when they visit Portland, and at other times offer it as a vacation rental.

Encouraged by Tompkins-Fiocch’s venture, across the street at 5439 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard, Tompkins-Fiocchi’s friend Mary Tongue and her husband in 2008 built two side-by-side mixed-use “live and work” townhomes. Their timing was also off. “We sold one immediately, but we could not sell the other, so we moved into it,” Tongue says – adding that the value of their townhomes, which have commercial storefronts on the ground floor, is still down 20 percent.

“The live-work concept is still new. Even though it’s ‘single-family residential’ with a work space, it’s not as much in demand.”

What IS in demand, according to Tompkins-Fiocchi, are single-family houses in Woodstock, which includes what’s often called Eastmoreland Heights. "It's just nuts," she says. “I had a buyer who offered $11,000 over the listed price for a house in Eastmoreland Heights, and still didn't get it.” That’s proof that Woodstock’s single-family residential housing market is recovering nicely since the recession.

Also proving it is the arrival of big large-tract builders doing infill development, she says. “In 2008, Renaissance Builders would not even look at Woodstock,” she says. “And now they recognize that close-in, stable neighborhoods are a very hot market.”