The Portland of Mexico

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As a former Midwesterner whose winter weather escapes tended to be places like Fort Lauderdale or Orlando, for a long time I resisted going to Mexico. I held many of the wrong myths in my head, simply because nobody in my circle of family and friends would vacation there.

That changed shortly after moving to Portland. Here, it seems like everyone goes to Mexico (or Hawaii) to escape the winter rain. Our friends James and Kevin first introduced us to Puerto Vallarta a number of years ago. And I’m happy to say that our minds have totally changed, and Mexico has earned a warm spot in our hearts.

Stereotypes about Mexico almost always center on crime. Yes, parts of Mexico struggle. And so it is in the United States. But I don’t fear exploring the Pacific Northwest simply because Camden, New Jersey has a crime epidemic. It’s just as senseless to worry about places like Puerto Vallarta because other parts of Mexico face challenges. Let facts trump fear, and not the other way around.

So what’s the appeal for me and so many people from the West Coast? I think because it’s a nice blend of foreign and familiar. While yes, there are many areas that are 100% gringo, it’s easy to immerse oneself entirely in Mexican culture within few steps off the beaten path. There is no question you are in another country when you step outside the tourist zones – often, you just have to walk a few blocks. And that’s the key – WALKING. Just like we like to do in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver; PV is meant to be walked. I think that’s another reason for the appeal; it appeals to our sense of how a city should function and how we live back home. We can walk to all of our favorite restaurants, shops, galleries and bars. Admittedly, there is a whole other Puerto Vallarta, replete with all-inclusive resorts tucked behind gates where tourists barely venture out; but just as I won’t live in a gated community in the States, these areas don’t even register on my radar. It baffles me that people travel to another country only to never engage in it.

We now have countless friends who own property in PV. Do they have regrets? Absolutely not. Have they each learned about market idiosyncrasies and had hiccups along the way? Absolutely! They all agree – don’t take your knowledge of your home market and apply it to Mexico. Be flexible. Get trusted experts. And in that way I end with a shameless plug. As part of the RE/MAX family, you can start your search with me. We can lay the groundwork here before even getting on the plane. I belong to MLS Vallarta/Nayarit, and have trusted colleagues at the RE/MAX office locally. Interested? Let’s chat!

SCOTUS: Bring it On Home

By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly
(Originally published in PQ Monthly, July 2015)

My last few articles were happy and lifestyle-oriented. This one is more nuts and bolts. But please stay with me.

Not everyone will get married. And for those who have no intention of it—both straight and queer—the winding road to achieve marriage equality may have become dusty and tired. But there are short-term and long-term economic benefits for our communities.

In true Realtor fashion, I offer the following disclosures:

Disclaimer Number One: I cannot give financial advice. Please consult with a financial adviser for anything financial-related you are about to read (preferably a PQ advertiser, which enables the paper to exist).

Disclaimer Number Two: I cannot give legal advice. Please consult your attorney for anything legal-related you are about to read (and yep, preferably a PQ advertiser which enables you to get print and online LGBT news for free!).

As I was reading the various news about the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, it hit home how interconnected the issues of marriage equality and lifelong economic well-being are. Home ownership is the single largest way wealth is created in this country. Every three years the Federal Reserve conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances. So consider this: in February, their findings revealed that the average homeowner has a net worth of $194,500, while the average net worth of a renter is $5,400; that’s a 36-times difference.

So how does marriage equality help? While not necessarily in the buying process in places like Oregon and Washington, it helps in other ways, such as the sexy areas of death and taxes. For example, it will benefit same-sex married couples with their estate planning; they can now transfer unlimited wealth from one spouse to another upon death without that immediate tax bill.

It’ll also help in our retirement years. PBS News Hour just published a report entitled “Hurray if you’re gay! Time to get what’s yours from Social Security.” Same-sex married spouses can now collect spousal, widow(er), child-in-care spousal, and mother or father benefits. It’s the additional peace of mind that has been afforded mixed-gendered married couples for generations. Here again, additional financial security may mean the ability to remain in one’s home and not become a burden on others.

On taxes, well, that’s another story. The number of returns needed for same-sex married couples is simplified. Beyond that is way outside my realm; from what I understand some folks win, some lose. Get professional help.

On the heels of marriage equality, there is much work to be done—like, RuPaul-sized heels. There are both attitudinal and legal barriers that the LGBT community must overcome for full equality. In Oregon and Washington, we live in our bubbles of protection. Are there violations? Of course—but we have recourse and the law on our side. By contrast in most states, employers can fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Landlords can evict us. In a study by the Center for American Progress, 10 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers, and 26% of transgender workers were fired in the past five years.

Job loss equals economic setback. Does it delay the ability to buy a home, or jeopardize our ability to stay in the one we have? Absolutely. Remember that equation of 36-times greater wealth among homeowners? Every setback makes that more and more unlikely for members of our community.

Fortunately for us, many small and large businesses, along with professional organizations, are more progressive than state laws. Protections are written in to company policy or labor contracts, or in the by-laws of the organization. It’s true in my profession. A real estate agent who is a Realtor is bound by a code of ethics. We cannot deny equal services on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Yes, I’m proud of that. But many landlords and sales agents aren’t part of my trade association; and in the majority of states that do not prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT folks may be simply be out of luck.

That probably translates to the high rate of fear among the LGBT community about housing. In June’s RealtorMag, it was published that nearly 3/4 of us nationwide are significantly concerned about housing discrimination—either in renting or home buying. Here again, we’re fortunate. Both Oregon and Washington have fair housing councils and laws that protect us on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We are again at a new crossroads, and reminded how lucky we are to be on the Left Coast. Elsewhere, same sex couples can get married—then offered no protection against housing or job discrimination. They can get married, then fired for the act of doing so. Admittedly not a positive way to end this, but I’ve been called a Pollyanna more than once, and this is no time for complacency. Love Wins, but Law Rules.

Steve Strode is a broker with RE/MAX equity group in Portland. In his free time he trail runs excessively, then posts sweaty selfies on Facebook with his running buds. He may be reached at

Thinking Mexico?

While we’re deep into summer here, it’s not too early to think about Mexican investment or retirement property. If you have aspirations to owning south of the border (where more Americans own outside the US than anywhere else), please give me a call or email. I’m happy to connect you to a lender too. During off-season you may get some of the best pricing! To further whet your appetite, take a look at these pics of Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area.  Phone 503-490-4116 | Homes@SteveStrode.Realtor

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Now with RE/MAX Equity Group!

Visit my RE/MAX Equity home page at SteveStrode.Realtor

 Early Summer Greetings       

I hope you are well, and enjoying all that life has to offer. What I love most about my career are the people I meet along the way – from the most diverse backgrounds and with diverse tastes and needs. And I’m so happy to count you among this group. Every transaction is unique, with its own set of surprises and challenges!

I really care about what I do, and want to give my clients every advantage possible. To that end, I’m proud to announce that I’ve moved to RE/MAX Equity Group.

A little about the RE/MAX brand and Equity Group:

  • RE/MAX is the most productive real estate network.
  • RE/MAX agents make up less than 2 percent of real estate agents, but account for nearly 10 percent of all agents’ sales.
  • RE/MAX is in more countries than any other real estate brand(I can refer you, family, and friends globally).
  • RE/MAX dominates national real estate TV advertising.
  • RE/MAX Equity Group Foundation has invested over $1,067,235 back into the Portland/Vancouver Metropolitan area.

As many of you know, I believe our industry plays a key role in promoting and protecting home ownership for everyone. We’re in this together. Your business or referrals enable me to volunteer at the local, state, and National Association of Realtors. For that, I am so thankful.


Smart & Convenient

SOLD for $340,000! (List Price $324,900) | 4302 NE 15th Ave, Portland | 2 Bedroom, 1 1/2 Baths

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Efficient living. Perched off the street for maximum light, this one has lots to offer. Smack dab between Fremont and bustling Alberta, this cute home with easy to maintain corner lot works perfectly for close-in living. Nice floorplan maximizes square footage; solar electric system with net metering, plus ductless heat pump/AC & updated insulation significantly minimize utility costs. Durable metal roof to boot! Move in and enjoy.

Marriage: It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon

Published: 4/15/15. By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly,

Anyone who knows me knows I’m geeked on running and soggy outdoor life. I joined Portland Frontrunners immediately upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, and it became an integral part of my chosen family.  And in my biz as a Realtor, we often have clients who share common interests and passions — many of my clients fit the same scruffy runner/biker/hiker stereotype. How totally cool to have that in one’s profession?

Running also serves as a metaphor for life in general.  The day before sitting down to write this article, I was having a horrible trail run — fueled in part by a prior evening filled with tequila. So I paused on the Wild Cherry Trail in Forest Park, and for the first time read a memorial plaque I’ve run past countless times. On it was a quote from Olympic athlete Julie Isphording, “Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”

Knowing that this month’s edition was the marriage issue, two gentlemen immediately came to mind as emblematic — Bob Olsen and Bruce Swanson. Bob and Bruce relocated here a few years ago from Baltimore; Bob, 75, is a retired architect/urban planner and Bruce, 69, is a retired minister.  They’ve been together nearly twenty years, and before that were both married — and now have grandchildren. They met at a Gay Married Men’s group in DC, and were introduced by a mutual friend who knew they were both running junkies.  Not to my surprise, their first date was a ½ marathon; and since it was sponsored by the Boy Scouts, they wore t-shirts protesting the BSA’s anti-gay stance.

When you meet Bruce and Bob at their home, you immediately know they have built a loving life together through a shared passion of running and the travel that goes with it. A display of a bazillion finisher medal reads like a timeline. Bob has completed 85 marathons; Bruce has completed 141 marathons and ultras. And their calendar continues to be filled with upcoming races.  Both started running in their 30s and 40s in response to adversity. Bruce was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the age of 34, has been on medication ever since, and is still considered to have a “terminal” illness. Bob began running for health reasons and recalled memories similar to my own  (the first ¼ mile felt like he was going to die, but eventually it became the time and space to make important decisions, the time to meditate and the time to clear one’s mind).  “Running saved my life,” he says unequivocally.

Distance running enables athletes to travel the world, and experience it way differently than conventional tourists.  The guys reeled off stories of one race after another, in places I never thought organized events. Who knew that Baffin Island held a competition (OK, who even knows where that is precisely, without Googling)? The entire field consisted of 13 marathoners, and 5 ultrarunners — that’s all they had room to host.  And there was Tanzania. And Mongolia. And the Great Wall of China. And Brazil. The list goes on. One of my favorite stories was their race in Antarctica. Due to weather issues on their race day, they couldn’t leave the ship and take the zodiac ashore. So the participants did the entire marathon on the ship — in the form of 422 deck laps.  They had to run the race in shifts; those who weren’t running checked off each lap on a clipboard, one check box at a time.

Bob and Bruce married last year. I asked if they debated whether or not to get married — or if they just knew they would, as soon as it was legal. Bob’s answer was similar to many: “we weren’t sure, but wanted the choice to be ours.”  I was at their wedding last summer in Willamette Park, and it was a really refreshing mix of communities — family from their prior marriages, friends from all over, church community, new friends at Terwilliger Plaza (a continuing care retirement community where they live), and friends from their running group. When I shared that observation, Bob and Bruce said what I saw on wedding day was exactly why they moved to Portland. From a geographic perspective, they feel Portland has the best urban trail running in the country. But more importantly, they could create a blended community.  They had some family already in Portland, they felt welcome and loved at Terwilliger Plaza, could be active in the United Church of Christ, and have buddies of all ages at Frontrunners.

As we were wrapping up our chat, Bob said he wanted to get back to something he said earlier, about just wanting the choice to get married — but not initially feeling it was essential. He recalled that when they had wills drawn up back in Maryland, the term that had to be used in defining their relationship was “legal strangers.”  Now nearly a year after getting married, he’s continually struck by how good it feels to refer to Bruce as his husband when talking to his friends and family.

If Frontrunners ever chooses patriarchs, it’ll be these gents.  Happy trails.

            Steve Strode is a broker with Meadows Group Inc., Realtors in Portland. When he is not selling the American dream, he is probably wallowing on a muddy trail run somewhere in the PNW. He may be reached at

SOLD – Mt. Tabor View Home

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520 SE 73rd Ave, Portland | 4 BR | 3 Baths | 2 Car Garage | Large Yard | $599,900 | MLS# 15572482

Charming Mt. Tabor eyebrow bungalow, with breathtaking Mt. Hood views from main and upper level. Period details, abundant light and great flow make this home truly special. Entire upstairs is owner’s suite with its own large sitting area. Lower level includes separate entrance, bath, and family room. Like to entertain? Check out the multi-level decks leading down to a large backyard. Lush landscaping and two-car garage to boot!



Success Stories

Published 2/18/15. By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly

“Closets are For Clothes.” I remember buying a t-shirt printed thusly when I was about twenty years old. At the time I felt like it was a huge deal to wear it—even in progressive Wisconsin. Yes, left-coasters, Wisconsin has a progressive heritage (disregard current news cycles). Wherever there is a person in the closet, there is a person whose full, true self is diminished in some way. And there is a reason that the closet metaphor has worked so well. Home symbolizes our safe place, our refuge.  I write this on the day that gay marriage becomes legal in Alabama, and it hits home how different life can be in the LGBT community depending upon which side of a state line we live.

On this third anniversary of PQ, I’m reflecting on its purpose—to write about what is, what should be, what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. In these pages we’ve read regularly about the trials and tribulations of dudes dating in an app-based world. We report on various phobias, and create new terminology to help understand why many in a “Q-diaspora” are still marginalized or at-risk.  This is really important stuff and the only way to effect positive change. But it’s nice to reflect on the good stuff too.

This month I’m not writing about the brick and mortar, or transactional side of real estate.  But rather, I’m focusing on my subsection of the LGBT community—chiefly, gay men who have managed to stick together for decades or more. Not because we’re special in any way; rather, because there are both universal themes in maintaining committed relationships, combined with the ability to write ones own rules.
Through the power of Facebook, I reconnected with a colleague from many years ago named Tim Clausen. In addition to being a talented jazz pianist, he is a great interviewer—the kind of guy with a soft and soothing voice that would make anyone want to open up and share. For example, post-9/11, he conducted interviews with widows, then sent them the recordings to share with their young children once they were old enough to learn about their lost parent. It takes a special guy to come up with that idea. I was happy to learn that Tim just released a book entitled Love Together: Long Term Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication.

For the book he interviewed about a hundred couples from throughout the United States, and chose a couple dozen for print. Just entering the 19th year with my partner, I really wish I would have had something like this to read early on. Most of us didn’t have the benefit of same-gender parents to learn from, or a how-to manual on how gay coupledom works. From my perspective of how the world worked, you find someone—the one—and once you’ve decided you loved that someone, you settle down.  While gay marriage was still illegal everywhere, the relationship was to resemble mom and pop’s.

One of the couples that Tim interviewed for the book were from Portland—Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth, partnered for sixty years. Eugene has since passed, but I really enjoyed reading about their relationship and hearing Tim speak so fondly of them on a recent public radio show. They shared their stories of how they met, and techniques they used to stay together for so many years.  Like any long-term relationship, there was the spark that brought them together. But it was a combination of ongoing communication, intentional routines, and impulsive bits of generosity that helped maintain the bonds for a lifetime. “Consistency and continuity keep our relationship growing. By consistency I mean we are constantly telling each other ‘I love you’ and constantly touching each other. For a relationship to last, make sure it’s based on love rather than lust. There’s nothing wrong with lust, but it may not last that long.” That’s a tough one to reconcile, since men are so visually oriented (want confirmation? Scroll through almost any gay guy’s web browser history).

Couples in the book also engage in frank discussions about monogamy versus open relationships. Years ago, I was told that couples who were open were looking to fill a void, to make up for a deficiency. It was just a last-gasp attempt before breaking up, rather than enhancing an already full life.  Again, communication enables couples to write their own rules and decide what works. In the decade since moving to Portland, I’ve seen every type of gay relationship arrangement; some work, some fail.  But we’re allowed to figure it out, perhaps with more freedom than our straight counterparts. And I know Tim’s words will provide insight and inspiration to many.

In the book, I read a quote from Eric Marcoux that I think could’ve been written by Jose, my partner. And if you know him, I know you agree he’d say that about me! “We’re quite different, and he really does irritate me a lot, but I’ve never loved anybody the way I love him.”

Steve Strode is a broker with Meadows Group Inc., Realtors in Portland. When he is not selling the American dream, he is probably wallowing on a muddy trail run somewhere in the PNW. He may be reached at For more info on the book visit:


5141 SW Shattuck | 2 BR | 2 1/2 Baths | Well priced at $285,000

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This spacious townhome lives like new. Neat as a pin, including new carpet and fresh paint, this affordable condo offers great value in a convenient location. Beautiful wood, open kitchen, smart floorplan, two balconies and great light round out the interior. Outside, you’ll enjoy the great proximity to coffee shop, grocery store and all area amenities. Less than 5 minutes to Hillsdale, and super-easy commute either east or west.


Follow Your Bliss

Publish date: 12/17/14 By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly

When asked what I love most about my job, the answer is quick and always the same, “the great variety of people I meet!” Sure, the 10PM call when there is midnight contingency deadline is both annoying and usually 100% avoidable if someone hadn’t dropped the ball. But when the deal closes, and anyone needing to be talked off a proverbial ledge is now calm, I can’t envision doing anything else for a career.

We tend to typecast white collar professional gay guys—urban, stylish house, some type of fun car—probably foreign, and the relaxing trips to Palm Springs or Hawaii each winter. I love meeting people who defy these stereotypes and happily chart their own course. Which leads me to this story.

Mark Schmidt and Dan Sapp work at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and Brian Winner works at Wells Fargo as a Financial Crimes Manager. Mark and Dan met in Michigan about 14 years ago, then moved to Oregon in the past decade. About five years ago they met Brian, and in getting to know each other found their lifestyle values were very much aligned.

Owning a home in North Portland, they developed an interest in farming, and over a period of time an original small garden grew to cover most of the property. Fruit trees were added. And of course, there had to be chickens (sorry, I didn’t ask their names or provenance). The guys began canning vegetables too. The goal really became about growing as much food for themselves as they could in this urban homestead.  Neither Mark nor Dan grew up on a farm, but rather the suburbs of Detroit; Brian’s grandma had a 10-acre farm near Cottage Grove on which he used to help occasionally. So it was an evolutionary process for all of them.

About four years ago, by then running out of urban farm space, they decided to pursue this passion further, and began looking for a farm within a 90-minute radius of Portland.  After exploring lots of areas, scouring the consumer and foreclosure websites, they honed in on Puget Island and the town of Cathlamet.  If you’re like me, I needed a little geography lesson when we all first met; picture the drive from Portland to Astoria and it’s a little more than half-way between the two cities.

I asked why they chose Cathlamet and it was for totally objective reasons—water rights, close to Portland, but far enough out to be affordable. Imagine Sauvie Island West without the beach.  The big unknown was the subjective part. How would a rural community react to three gay dudes buying a farm together? And here was the pleasant surprise—they felt the community itself was very progressive and they met other transplants from Portland, Seattle and the Bay Area.  Moreover, Mark, Dan, and Brian were excited by the community of talented artists and professional types, dedicated to agricultural and environmental stewardship, who have all created their own paths to coalesce here. As far as any other LGBT population, they’re still getting settled and getting to know people—having just sold their home in Portland and closed on the farm (called Blue Skies Farm of Puget Island) in the past year. But they were already impressed and have heard great things about the local PFLAG chapter.

When talking about the logistics of the move, we chatted about what else they’d have to consider because of taking this plunge. And here it boiled down to the old adage “don’t quit your day job.” This is a labor of love and a long-term commitment, not a get-rich scheme. Working an established farm is hard; creating a farm is even harder. There are significant barriers for entry into farming—land  acquisition, and money for capital expenses such as equipment and greenhouses (hence the desire to sell the Portland home). They’ll keep a small condo in Portland and maintain their careers.  But it boils down to envisioning the type of world they want to live in, then doing their part in a little corner of the world to make it so.

Final thoughts from the guys? First, was recalling a unique contingency from the purchase of the farm—requesting that the seller remove four inches of goat poop covering the front porch, which had accumulated while the property sat vacant.

But in a more pleasant memory, Mark recalled when they got their first batch of honey and realized “Wow, we can do this!”

Steve Strode is a broker with Meadows Group in Portland. He serves on the Global Leadership team of the National Association of Realtors, and also learned about sustainable and organic farming practices in Cuba this past Spring. He can be reached at

re/max equity group | phone 503-490-4116 | licensed in oregon