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Portland, Oregon was named as the result of a coin toss. True story. The founding fathers each wanted to name the city in honor of their respective hometowns — Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. The “Portland Penny” used to decide the town’s name is still on display at the Oregon Historical Society. Prior to this momentous decision, the area was called “Stumptown” in reference to the effort it took to clear the land of trees for settlement. Stumptown is still affectionately used by locals to indicate their beloved city.
The city of Portland rests atop a dormant volcano field known as the Boring Lava Field, named for a nearby town. Mt. St. Helens, 50 miles away in Washington State, dusted Portland with volcanic ash during its historic eruption in 1980, but none of the 32 cinder cones in the Portland area are known to be active.
The Pacific Ocean is 60 miles east of the city at the northern end of the Willamette Valley. The Willamette River flows north through downtown and meets up with the Columbia River, which serves as the border between Oregon and Washington. The climate in the valley is considered Mediterranean, with cool, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. The area gets about four inches of snow each winter and a fair amount of precipitation. In summer temperatures rarely climb above 90°.
Portland has also been called “Bridgetown” due to the eleven bridges that crisscross the Willamette River connecting different parts of the city. In the early days, pioneers settled here, at the termination of the Oregon Trail. Due to the proximity of the deep rivers that connected with the Pacific, shipping and maritime activities were the main sources of employment. Then the lumber industry moved in and Stumptown earned a reputation for being a rough place, one of the most dangerous port cities in the world. During the decade between 1920 and 1930 Portland was a mecca for jobs, and the population tripled.
Portland has always been well-known for its tolerance and progressive policies. During the 1960s many hippies settled here after fleeing the overcrowded San Francisco counterculture scene. Food co-ops, social activism, environmentalist causes, Native American rights, and gay rights all took hold. It’s also a city of distinct neighborhoods, which adds to its colorful character.
Beginning in the 1990s, the technology industry emerged in Portland, with the founding of companies such as Intel. This helped establish it as a popular place for young people, who embraced the digital divide and made the industry their own. Today Millennials are flocking to the area, attracted by the family friendly atmosphere of this multicultural city.
Realm’s data analysis indicates that most of the homes in the local housing market were built in 1925. That’s not surprising, given that the population tripled during that decade. Bungalows and Craftsman styles were popular, with a smattering of Victorian homes sprinkled about. The most popular style, however, is the Portland Foursquare. Known for its cubic appearance, it was the first modern home style and was very popular with upper middle class residents. The Foursquare typically has two floors with a full-width front porch and features a living room and staircase in the front and a kitchen and dining room in back. All bedrooms are located on the upper floor.
As you would expect from a heavily forested area, most homes are constructed entirely of wood — including the floors. Wood flooring was the most popular feature in the local housing market, according to Realm’s data analysis, with mentions in 57 recent local listings. Decks also made the list of most popular amenities and were noted in 49 recent local listings. Even with the relatively mild climate it seems that Portland homeowners prioritize home maintenance, with roof work (31 mentions) and HVAC work (30 mentions) also breaking into top five most popular features. The city’s mild climate also means that naturally occurring floods and fires aren’t a concern for local homeowners. Realm’s data analysis showed that no homes sit in a flood zone or in a designated wildfire perimeter.
What is the status of Portland’s housing market?
Home sales in Portland are hot, with home sales on par with the previous four years. A seller’s market prevails, as demand is greater than supply. As of August 2021, the median home price showed an increase of 17.4% from the previous year, for an average sale price of $505,000. Homes remain on the market for approximately 42 days. This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Is this a good time to invest in Portland real estate?
The rental market is booming in Portland, especially for landlords offering single-family homes. In general, 48% of households in Portland are occupied by renters. Portland has some unique rules with regard to renters which favor tenants. That isn’t good news for landlords with apartment buildings, as there are often rate caps and mandatory rental assistance. Landlords with single-family homes are not subject to these rules, however, and can charge rents more in line with market rates. Students comprise a huge part of the rental market, and with more than 36 private and public universities within driving distance of Portland, there is massive opportunity for investment in properties near the many satellite campuses.
What drives the Portland real estate market?
Portland has some unique factors driving its real estate market. Foremost is its popularity with Millennials. They want homes in a family-friendly multicultural city and that’s difficult to afford down the coast in California. This bodes well for Oregon’s demographics, as these young people are likely to remain when they start families. The tech pool is growing rapidly in Oregon as both employees and employers migrate north of Silicon Valley. Google has established a presence here and other tech companies have followed. Employment rates are high in Portland across all sectors. One of the most attractive aspects of living in Portland is its proximity to mountains, ocean, and protected forests, but its topography also limits expansion. Instead of redeveloping existing areas, developers are finding it less expensive to expand the city’s borders by creating new suburbs farther out from the city center. The Portland metro area continues to expand, although housing demand is still outpacing supply.
We currently cover most standalone, single-family homes