Image: Chris Gash

This past fall, after more than a decade of condominium living in Portland’s Pearl District, Jill McAlpine’s bid on a house near Washington Park was accepted.

But she didn’t put her condo, where she’d lived for more than a decade, on the market. Knowing the condo market had been sluggish lately, with inventory priced to sell, she put it up for rent instead.

“It doesn’t feel like a good business decision right now,” she says of selling.

Condo market sales, particularly in areas like downtown and the Pearl, had a slowdown in 2019. But over the past year, with inventory in all categories tight across the board in Portland, condo sales might be picking up a bit—just at price levels not seen since the mid 20-teens. 

“There were more sales in South Waterfront [in 2020] than there were [in 2019],” says Sean Z. Becker, owner and broker of Sean Z. Becker Real Estate. But prices per square foot dropped 7 percent between March and September of 2020, he says, rolling back about five years of price increases.

The pandemic is partly to blame, he says, but he also thinks social unrest, changes in demographics as younger buyers with smaller budgets go condo, and homelessness are also contributing to this shift. “And then COVID just layered on top of that,” Becker says.

In the Pearl, condo prices dropped more than 10 percent, back to their 2014 value, says Judie Dunken, broker and owner of Judie Dunken Real Estate.

Some potential buyers changed their plans because of the pandemic, shifting to houses with yards, or to be closer to family. And a summer of spirited protests, following by sporadic vandalism through the fall and winter have made the Pearl and downtown Portland harder sells right now, Dunken says.

As she was getting ready to list her condo for rent, McAlpine had mixed feelings about the move.

“There are things I know I’m going to miss,” she says, “and there’s things I will embrace about the house.” 

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