July 26, 2022 — Tuesday — Update
I want to start by saying … it’s absolutely WILD that our house is listed for this much. It was valued at about $400,000 only 10 years ago and has been “underwater” (worth less than our mortgage!) for most of the past 15+ years that we have owned it!
For those who are new here:
Edited To Add: I just realized that it is possible/likely that a lot of new people may be coming to read this story about our home being for sale (given I expect folks will share it with their friends). For those who are new here, I am a full-time environmental activist for childhood Lead poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety. My sons were acutely Lead-poisoned as babies/toddlers in 2005, and the two youngest now have significant disabilities — including one son who has a diagnosed “brain injury due to Lead-poisoning,” with his visual memory in the 4th percentile.
Avi (our youngest son at the time of the initial exposure) was 7 months old when he was acutely poisoned from inhaling Leaded fumes created when a painting contractor illegally used an open-flame torch to “remove some of the old (Lead-based) paint” during his work on the exterior of our historic home in NE Portland, Irvington.
Tragically, despite our children’s mysteriously-lingering “bad flu-like symptoms,” which began during the paint removal process on our home, back then (17 years ago) it didn’t occur to our pediatrician at Kaiser to test them for Lead-poisoning until several months later(!) … Avi’s highest detected Blood Lead Level (BLL) was 16 micrograms of Lead per deciliter of blood. Based on our type of exposure (combined with Avi’s persistent acute symptoms and some understanding of the half-life of Lead in blood — link here), Avi likely had had a BLL of as high as 32 just thirty days earlier, and possibly as high as a 64 thirty days prior to that. If the half-life theory is correct (as it appears to be in cases of acute poisoning), there’s even a possibility that Avi had a BLL as high as 128 on the day he was initially poisoned (which is — again — consistent with his severe initial symptoms).
Because the doctor failed to test my son for Lead for the first three months after he was poisoned, we will never actually know how high Avi’s level was. We were not tested because the pediatrician (as she later explained) assumed we were “not the right ‘demographic'” for Lead-poisoning (since we were “white,” and “middle-income”).
I actually made a feature-length documentary film about what happened to our family and what I learned as a result of this experience, MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic — you can watch the full 92-minute preview screener here. (BTW — in case you know anyone at Amazon or Netflix or Apple TV — we’re looking for help finishing up production for the film as it is a “fine-cut” and very close to being done. It features music donated by The Who and Tom Waits, as well as footage from my interview with Noam Chomsky and my presentation with Bernie Sanders, in Flint).
Please Note: My two, middle, sons were poisoned in NE Portland — Irvington. The home we are selling now is where we have lived since then, in SE Portland — Sellwood.
Just a brief explanation of the paintings and murals on the outside of our home for sale…
Before the pandemic (January 2020), my business was doing really well and we had been planning ahead, talking to an architect about moving forward with the next steps in our long-term plans for our home. We wanted to have plans drawn up that would have included tearing down and replacing the back half of the house to give us good functional living spaces that met our present and future needs (thinking ahead to when our two disabled kids grew up and might want/need separate-but-still-“in-the-fold” housing of their own) — and also to address some existing issues, including improving heating/cooling and insulation; dealing with pests, dry rot, and removing the legacy/historic dark stained trim components in the home that had tested positive for both Lead and Arsenic.
We would have (had things kept going well/the pandemic not happened) gotten rid of a portion of the old structure entirely. The “house” was originally a one-room cabin and is now a curious meandering architectural hodge-podge, really — of multiple segments that were added on at various points in its 117-year history! Since it actually has no real/actual foundation, and the house also badly needed a new roof at that time (which we have since replaced with a full new tear-off), we figured it would be cheaper to tear off the segment of the house that includes the downstairs bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen to build a new modern structure including those elements rather than to try to “repair” any of it!
… And then the pandemic hit — and my income tanked.
Even with the pandemic happening around us I knew we still needed to paint the house as a temporary preservation measure — so it wouldn’t fall apart any more than it had already (to the degree that a good coat of paint can temporarily “hold an old house together,” at least the fragile exterior surfaces, which we hadn’t yet painted in our more than 13 years of living here at that time!). So because pretty much everything around us shut down (came to a grinding halt!) with the pandemic and the kids were now home 24/7 and needed fun activities to keep them from jumping off a bridge — plus I knew the paint job would be temporary until we could move forward with our architect — I decided to paint the house a plain base white … and let the kids and their friends all express themselves artistically with our house as their giant blank canvas! So, together we painted murals on the sides of the house. Friends painted on the house. Neighbors painted on the house. Visitors were invited to paint the house. People from ages. two to 65 painted on the house. Some friends who were driving around the country stopped at our house on the way home to California in the middle of the pandemic and they painted on the house, too. The artwork on the outside of the house currently has contributions from about 30 different people!
It’s been a blast … and that’s why the house has murals! 🙂 I wish the realtor had gotten a better picture of the #NoJusticeNoPeace part of the mural — but I will take one and add it to this post so you can see it better. I also wish we had finished the Ukrainian flag on the front of the house before the photo shoot. The kids are going to work on that (with some help from me) this weekend (if it cools off) and I will post additional photos when that is done too.
And that’s the story of why there are murals on the house…
Original Post — shared without the intro above!
Wow — so the listing for our home finally went live yesterday (Monday, 7/25/22). Things were held up a bit to get some of the paperwork signed/getting all of the details right. It’s already (as of the time of drafting this post — 7:00 p..m., Tuesday — 7/26) been viewed 2,445 times! I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not (or whether that’s a lot of views for a home in Portland within the first 24 hours), but it seems like a lot to me — especially since earlier today at 1:15 p.m., when I took the screenshot above, it had “only” been viewed 1,483 times!
So — before you say I’m “out of my mind…” I want to address the “outrageous” asking price 😉
First — it is important to note that we don’t “want” to sell…
- It’s not our perfect scenario to give up the home where our children were raised (for the past 15 years) at this moment in time.
- My husband LOVES his workshop (you can see the pictures in the listing and below) and he is nervous he will never find something comparable (especially on a great property, in a quiet neighborhood, in a great community, yet located close to everything, in a great city for bicycling!).
- My kids have a great deal of independence of movement — as they know their way around to walk or bike to everything they need, and have only ever known this way of life in this amazing neighborhood! The stability of place is a very important thing for children with disabilities as well, so the idea of moving presents many challenges related to that.
- We chose the price to reflect a “dream scenario” — under which it would make sense for us to sell, even though in many respects, we are not eager to sell.
It’s also important to note that — strictly speaking — we don’t “need” to sell either…
- I am finally consistently earning enough through my work … (Unless something new and disastrous happens, like I dunno … another pandemic, or a return to previous levels of disruption from the current one, an escalation of the proxy war in Ukraine into all-out World War III, completion of the Republican/Federalist rout of our entire political system and Descent Into Total Fascism, and/or “U.S. Civil War Redux: Unfinished Business! — This Time With An Even-More Deeply-Divided-And-Crazed Citizenry, Armed-To-The-Teeth With Millions Of Automatic Weapons!”; Uncontrollable All-Season Raging Wildfires, The Big Earthquake, The Great Water Wars, Super Volcanic Eruptions, or some other catastrophe we don’t have on our Bingo cards, lol) … That we think we should be able to continue to afford our mortgage payments AND be able to start aggressively paying back people who have so generously helped us with loans (for legal fees and other costs over the past six years since our Federal Civil Rights legal battle started) out of income earned by my business.
- We are (generally) comfortable here, and life is just finally getting stable for us after more than a decade of personal and financial instability and sacrifice for our family — and for my work, due to the nature of my chosen profession of environmental advocacy!
Even though we don’t “need” or “want” to sell, there are lots of good REASONS why we should/could sell now…
- Along with its rising popularity (and cost of living), real estate values in Portland have SKYROCKETED — especially since the start of the pandemic! See our Zillow chart above from May 17th and the Zillow map (above), showing all of the “$1,000.000+” homes nearby (circled in red), and our house (circled in pink).
- Our kitchen is completely gutted, ever since our roof leak last year — and we have not been able to afford to continue with the work on the house, so have had to make do (but hey — we now do have a new roof)!
- If we stayed, we would probably be able to afford some renovations in the coming year or two — however, the question is, is that where we want to put our money, effort, and time? The kitchen remodel alone is probably something like $40,000 to $60,000 — and that’s without addressing some of the fundamental structural issues with this 1905 home.
- There is still a lot of trim (dark-stained, clear-finished original c.1905) in the house that has tested positive for Lead and Arsenic (link with details). Ever since my son Avi — who was acutely Lead-poisoned as a baby 17 years ago — tested positive for Arsenic in his blood last year, we’ve been uncomfortable living here and constantly needing to be so mindful/cautious. We’ve taken dramatic steps including removing several of the old original dark stained doors (which were finished with the same Lead and Arsenic-laden solution), so as to eliminate the creation of Arsenic and Lead-laden microdust from the friction of opening and closing doors. Charlie is tired of not having a door to his bedroom!
- If we did put our money into renovations now, it would arguably be a total waste of resources because the new owner of the property (whenever we do ultimately sell) is likely to just tear the house down and develop the property (see point #6 below) — and I hate wasting resources (from an environmental perspective)!
- MOST IMPORTANT: The City’s new high-density building codes indicate that a buyer might be able to put up to FIVE units here (pending city approval) where our home currently stands (simply because it is a 7,500 sf lot on a corner). It seems extra useless to put any money into the home with the eventuality that it will be torn down, compelled by the opportunity/pressure of the new city codes.
AND SO — we have priced it accordingly.
We have priced it “high” because we don’t really need/want to sell, but not “too” high (given there are homes within a block or two that have sold for $1,000,000, or more)! More to the point, this is not “too high” for a developer who sees it as bare land and an opportunity to possibly build five “million-dollar-plus homes.” We have actually priced it just right given the potential possible scenario of development of up to five units — at $1,350,000, that works out to $270,000 per unit for the land, which is right on target for what developers are paying right now.
We’re not going to compromise on the price (we made this clear to our realtor), because we’re fine if it doesn’t sell. If it does not sell, we will keep working and we will fix up the house a little at a time, possibly eventually building our dream “age-in-place cottage cluster” here ourselves. But if it DOES sell, the price we have set is the amount we will need to make it possible for us to move on. If it sells, (at our asking price or above) we will: #1) pay off our mortgage, #2) pay our realtor’s commission, #3) pay back so many of the friends who have helped us with our recent six-year-long Federal Civil Rights legal battle, and pay off some older debt from people who helped us when the boys were poisoned, too. We have about $300,000 in total debt; most is a result of our legal battle. And, #4) we will use a chunk to buy a new house — a much less expensive house! We are looking at homes in the $250,000-$350,000 range on the East Coast, closer to our other two (adult) sons who live in Boston. I think this house is cute — and more my speed (four acres in the country, near the ocean)!
That’s the plan.
Is our property/land really worth $1,350,000? Who knows! We interviewed probably six realtors over the past year (as the pandemic sent Portland real estate values skyrocketing), and no one was willing to list it as bare land/a developable lot at a price that would make sense for us to go through the effort and hassle to sell and move. But we finally found a realtor who was happy to list it — and is not worried about whether or not it sells (so we can keep it on the market as a relatively passive listing just in case we find someone who is interested)! The way Redfin works, I learned, is that the realtor is paid a salary (and also has health insurance through her job!) and doesn’t have to spend her own money to cover the listing costs — that’s why we chose to go with Redfin!
Thanks for reading! Click the image below to see the listing directly on Redfin.