So, you’re looking to leave the City of Roses.
We get it. This is not Portland’s finest moment.
Beaverton real estate broker John Tae says he’s seen a recent increase in Portland homebuyers seeking suburban refuge.
“Number one is the homelessness issue,” he says. “Especially in areas of higher-price-point homes where they step out and there’s a homeless encampment.”
Second reason: high taxes. A series of bonds and levies make the property tax rate in Portland higher than that of surrounding towns, compounding a marginal tax rate for high-income residents that’s among the steepest in the nation.
Third: Portland’s robust tenant protections (see page 21) make it more appealing for would-be landlords to spend their money in the suburbs or out-of-state, Tae says.
Homeowners who are fed up with Portland might cast an eye to the wilds of Clackamas and Washington counties, imagining quiet streets, good schools and big lawns.
One thing they may need to cross off their wish lists: more affordable homes.
February statistics from Redfin show Portland’s median home price was $511,150. Almost all of our suburbs blow right past that number: Median home prices in Tigard, Milwaukie, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Wilsonville, Happy Valley and Oregon City are all more expensive than in Portland proper. (And, obviously, in Lake Oswego and West Linn, at $902,000 and $765,000, respectively.)
Some good news for buyers who don’t have easy access to half a mil: Gresham, Aloha, Troutdale and Vancouver, Wash., all have median home prices lower than Portland’s.
Yet the data shows a trend. Portland home prices fell 1.6% compared with last year, according to Redfin. In that respect, Portland stands alone: All of our suburbs’ housing prices rose last year. Happy Valley, Hillsboro and Troutdale all grew by more than 20%.
“There is a healthy supply of people reaching out to us saying, ‘Get me out of here!’” says real estate agent Steve Nassar, who specializes in Lake Oswego. “They want to stay in the area, but they’ve got to get out of Portland.”
The numbers are not showing a mass exodus from the City of Roses, however. While U.S. census figures show that Multnomah County contracted by 1.5% last year, Portland State University’s Population Research Center estimates the county actually grew by 0.53% (4,362 people) from 2020 to 2021. But bordering counties, Clackamas and Washington, grew by more (0.74% and 0.69%, respectively).
Some of this churn can be attributed to how the pandemic affected the national housing market.
“With offices shut down and a lack of entertainment and hospitality, there was less reason to move into central cities and more reason to move out to seek more space for remote work or privacy,” says PSU’s Charles Rynerson. “The inflow was likely smaller than usual, and the outflow greater.”
Nassar says that trend suggests a sage homebuyer should wait—and Portland home prices will drop even further.
“Housing will slow down,” Nassar says. “We all know that.”
He points to the rising 30-year mortgage interest rate, which crossed the 5% mark last week. He believes the suburban market will hold, but he’s not as confident in the city.
“When the suburbs sneeze in the next change of the housing market,” Nassar says, “I think Portland is going to get the flu,”
With a hat tip to The Sunday New York Times’ “What You Get” real estate feature, we created a suburban Portland edition. We started with a price of $400,000—awfully steep, we know, but a useful inflection point. Start lower and nothing is available; at a higher price point, you can get something more spacious in any Portland-area burg.
These properties were all available last week, though some are now under contract.
4875 SW Normandy Place
What: A three-bedroom, two-bath 1969 home in Westbrook.
How much: $400,000
Size: 1,237 square feet
Indoors: Remodeled home includes freshly painted interiors and a kitchen with quartz countertops, new stainless steel appliances, and tile backsplashes.
Outdoors: The 2,178-square-foot lot includes a front lawn and a fenced back patio.
Standout feature: Westbrook has two swimming pools, a clubhouse and community garden.
Taxes: $3,702.85 in 2021, plus $386 monthly HOA dues
575 Springtree Lane
What: A two-bedroom, two-bath condo in a gated community
How much: $379,000
Size: 1,283 square feet
Indoors: Sunny southeast corner unit built in 2000 includes granite counters and new flooring throughout.
Outdoors: Two balconies, one covered. Summerlinn Estates’ amenities include clubhouse, pool, hot tub, gym, play area and sport court.
Standout feature: Crown molding
Taxes: $3,503.38 in 2021, plus $349 monthly HOA dues
34 SW Wallula Ave.
What: A 1978 ranch home on a 6,098-square-foot lot with three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths in the Hollybrook neighborhood.
How much: $400,000
Size: 1,008 square feet
Indoors: New HVAC system. Front door opens into a sunny living room with a wood-burning fireplace and hardwood floors.
Outdoors: Less than a mile to downtown Gresham’s shops and restaurants—and one lawn away from Powell Boulevard.
Standout feature: Charming peekaboo window between the living room and kitchen.
Taxes: $2,773.10 in 2020
604 Columbia Ridge Drive
What: A two-bedroom, one-bath brick home in Vancouver Heights, built in 1950.
How much: $395,000
Size: 840 square feet
Indoors: The living room’s fireplace has been converted into a pellet stove. Hardwood floors throughout.
Outdoors: The 7,840-square-foot lot on a quiet street includes fenced backyard, covered patio and tool shed. Driveway has space for RV or boat parking.
Standout feature: Basement with tons of storage.
Taxes: $2,612.51 in 2021
2440 NE Sunrise Lane
What: A three-bedroom, two-bath home built in 1971.
How much: $400,000
Size: 1,104 square feet
Indoors: Living room has built-in cabinets, a brick fireplace and new vinyl flooring.
Outdoors: Fenced backyard on a 7,840-square-foot lot with brick path and flower beds. Less than a mile from the Hillsboro Airport.
Standout feature: Intel campus is half a mile away.
Taxes: $2,615.98 in 2021
5353 SE 52nd Ave.
What: A one-bedroom, one-bath bungalow in Woodstock.
How much: $389,000
Size: 924 square feet
Indoors: Remodeled 1921 home with bright office space and original hardwood floors. Brand-new bathroom and kitchen.
Outdoors: The 4,791 square-foot lot has large backyard with a new cedar deck and a covered patio.
Standout feature: Raised garden beds.
Taxes: $3,339.40 in 2021