The housing market has cooled since last year. The bad news: In a city like Portland where people are still U-Hauling it into town daily, this just means a house may sit on the market for five days rather than two, and prices aren't necessarily dropping. Sometimes a first-time buyer needs a more creative approach. Besides trolling obituaries for "upcoming opportunities" or walking door to door asking if anyone wants to sell, there are other options.
Rent to own: This basically comes down to striking a rent deal that includes a contract for purchase. This allows the buyer more time to get a down payment and build a better credit score before the sale goes through. There are downsides, however—make sure that the contract is tight and there is a fair and agreed-upon out option for both parties.
Ask your landlord: It worked for me. My landlords were tired of maintaining two homes and needed some cash due to a new baby, and selling directly to their tenant saved them a lot of money in realty fees. In turn, I was given a fair selling price, knew exactly what kind of house I was getting and, best of all, didn't have to hire a mover. However, it is a good idea to at least retain a Realtor to make sure all the paperwork is on the up and up.
Buy a house with a friend: Buying a duplex or turning a single-family house into one can make mortgage payments doable. The downside: Even best friends can turn into mortal enemies should things take a turn for the worse. Clearly work out all expectations, "what ifs" and financials beforehand, and document them in a legally binding agreement.
The bank of mom and dad: It's a not a state secret that many of our friends have asked for some help from their folks. Even if your parents can't help with the cash, if they have good credit and some collateral, they might be able to cosign and get a reduced interest rate and waived mortgage insurance, thus saving you hundreds of dollars each month in fees and interest.
Finally, hang in there. Sometimes becoming a homeowner just takes time. Over 56 percent of Portlanders own their own homes, according to the Census Bureau. And since we all know you are smarter than they are, someday you will, too.