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Luck, money — and pizza — delivers a house to Portland buyers

 

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By Kathy Hinson | The Oregonian/OregonLive
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on June 02, 2015 at 12:52 PM, updated August 24, 2015 at 7:03 AM

Portland's overheated real estate market makes getting the house you want very challenging, but one mom-and-son team found it almost as easy as ordering a pizza.

Or maybe baking one.

Donna DeNicola was hoping to help son Johnny Barrett buy something near the family's business, DeNicola's Italian Restaurant on Southeast Powell Boulevard, which he helps run.  

DeNicola says, "I can see what's happening with Portland. Everyone wants to live here, it's a destination." Her other son, Patrick Barrett, had bought in the area recently. She knew now was the time for Johnny to get into the market, too, before prices rise even more.

On Memorial Day weekend, 23-year-old Johnny and Donna hit an open house on their way to Patrick's new home in Southeast. "This house — we didn't even plan on looking at anything last Saturday," and it was out of their price range, DeNicola says. "It was offered at $249,000, and I know what that terminology means, it means a bidding war." 

Yet, "you could just tell there was love in the house, and it had everything Johnny wanted," she says, including space to garden and a garage.  

In this market, though, wanting a home and getting a home are different things. A similar house next door was listed as sale-pending at $290,000, after going on the market for just under $240,000. DeNicola warned Johnny that they probably wouldn't get the house, but putting in an offer would be good practice for next time.

However, agent Mindy Shierk with A Group Real Estate knew the sellers were a young family that hadn't yet found a house to buy.  DeNicola recalls Shierk saying, "They're gonna need 60 days, and I thought, 'Great! WE need 60 days'" to prepare.

Then Shierk suggested offering free rent during the 60-day rent-back period to sweeten the deal.  "And at the end, I said, 'Throw in free pizza for life' — as a joke!" DeNicola says. 

"This is the first offer I've written in free pizza," Shierk says. "We thought, 'We'll try, let's see.' 

"After they accepted our offer, (the seller's agent) let us know he took a DeNicola pizza over to present the offer, which is kind of fun," she said. 

The sellers' agent, Nathaniel Bachelder of Urban Nest Realty, confirms he took the pizza over, but laughs and says it was "so they could consider it as part of the offer — it was not bribery!" 

Bachelder and Shierk agree that in Portland's hot market, buyers face tough competition. Bachelder says he's heard of sellers getting offers within a few hours of their listing going live. Shierk hears "stories of 20, 30 offers on a house, which is disheartening for buyers, absolutely."

Inventory is extremely low.  Shierk says he has about 10 pre-approved buyers right now but there's nothing to buy.  "I feel like I have to sit in my car, and the minute something hits the market we're in the driveway." 

Letters and photos and other personal touches on an offer can make a difference, Bachelder says. "It's not always the highest net money offer that sellers go for," he adds. 

DeNicola is thrilled her two sons will be living only eight blocks from one another. "They can have a barbecue, have a beer and then walk home," she says.  And they're just a few miles from the restaurant, which Patrick, 24, manages on the three days a week his mom has off and where Johnny cooks and is learning the ropes to eventually run the operation.

And she's happy for the sellers, too. "I'm glad they get a pizza a month — I get to have a relationship with them, see their kids grow up."

DeNicola's advice for other young would-be homebuyers out there? It's easier to get into the market than they might think, despite the competition. And mortgages are easier to get than during the recession.

"If you can make a house payment, you need to be an owner," she says, "because you're spending too much on rent!"  

— Kathy Hinson

@kathyhinson

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