It was a Sunday in February—February. Linda Skeele, a real estate agent in Portland for 17 years, started at 6 a.m., finished at 11 p.m., and witnessed a now-familiar frenzy in between.
“It’s still crazy,” she says. “They’re having an open house on Saturday? You can’t wait until Saturday. If you like a house, nine other people are going to like it.”
The tales continue: bidding wars over crumbling duplexes; buyers looking at 30 houses, offering on 10, and getting none; North Portland fixer-uppers attracting 12 offers in a week during winter’s snow and ice lockdowns. The forces that pushed our median home price of $249,900 five years ago to $380,000 this year roar on. Portland—particularly any chunk plausibly called “close-in”—remains subject to demand that far outstrips supply.
“Inventory is minuscule,” says Brian Allen, president of the Portland real estate firmWindermere Stellar. “Stats might show 1.3 months of inventory, but that includes houses that aren’t good. Drill down, and inventory is even tighter.”
Many factors come into play, of course. Potential interest rate hikes have would-be buyers itchy. Prospective sellers worry about being able to buy something new, and hesitate. But most of all, there’s the Great Influx: the almost 41,000 new metro-area Portlanders who surged in between July 2014 and July 2015, the most recent period measured by census stats.
In a time of global uncertainty, Portland’s long real estate boom looks set to endure. If so, Portlanders will keep worrying about growth, affordability, and a changing civic soul—granted, dilemmas many places would love to have. (“Portland will get bigger and better,” says Brian Good, CEO of iBorrow, an LA-based private lender that recently made an $8.8 million loan to a Portland hotel. “Your problems are high-end problems.”)
We’ll delve into our real estate scene’s hard numbers, hot places, and one particular approach to saving Portland’s urban DNA. But first, a question: if we’re fated to grow, what kind of supercity do we want to be?