Ever since buying a three-bedroom house in Beaverton last April, Monika Vijayatha’s “roommate wanted” listings on Facebook and elsewhere have resulted in 10 to 15 inquiries at a time.
“Usually the room gets filled up within three days,” she says.
With such steady interest, Vijayatha didn’t have to think too much about adjusting what she was charging to attract tenants. Indeed, the steadily growing Portland area continues to be a competitive place for rents even in the middle of a pandemic that has left more than 10 million Americans unemployed. Rents in the metro area grew 1.1 percent year over year in 2020, according to real estate data analysis company RealPage, making it the only major city in the western US where rents held up this calendar year. Rents dropped 3.4 percent this year in the San Francisco area, 1.1 percent in LA, and 0.2 percent in Denver.
But there are signs in the city proper that Portland’s era of skyrocketing rents may be coming to an end. The steep increases of the mid-2010s have slowed significantly. Prices even dipped in the latter half of 2020, says Kurt Lane, owner of Chroma Property Management. That’s especially evident in areas like downtown and Northwest.
“Demand is always there. It’s more an issue of, what’s the price pressure one way or another,” he says. “And if you look at rentals across Portland over the last six months, the prices have gone down.”
Fewer people might be able or willing to rent a new place in Portland right now, Lane says, which is driving prices down. But if the price is right, the demand is still there. Many of the vacant properties, Lane says, are the ones whose prices have not adjusted to a new pandemic reality.
While she’s managing just a couple of rooms and not a downtown apartment tower, Vijayatha, a software engineer, is keeping an eye on that reality, too. She says some have been looking into renting a room from her on a short-term basis after previously losing their housing due to rising rents or unemployment. Her plan? “I should be considerate with their askings.”