1. We may see fewer California license plates.
IN 2006, according to DMV records, more than 24,000 Californians migrated north to Oregon in search of cheaper housing and shorter commutes, making the Golden State the largest contributor to Oregon’s in-migration population (that’s the population of new residents from other U.S. states). But as Californians find it increasingly difficult to unload their astronomically priced homes before heading north, the waves of migrants may subside to mere ripples. And they’re not the only ones: The Sun Belt states of Arizona, Texas and Florida—which, respectively, represent the third-, fifth- and eighth-largest contributors to Oregon’s in-migration—are also struggling with softening real estate markets. But before any of you Cali haters out there crack open the Cristal, consider that we may actually need new neighbors from the south this year to help buoy our own real estate market. And who better than scads of Orange County expats to spring for those tony new condo buildings in downtown Portland? —SW
2. Buying a home means branding your life.
Most of us are accustomed to expressing our individuality through clothes and cars. For example, that Prius might suggest plugged-in (and well-off) environmentalist. But what do our homes say about us? A lot, apparently.
“The big trend in condos and new developments is this whole idea of lifestyle branding,” says real estate marketing consultant Joel Burslem. By “lifestyle branding,” Burslem means associating a particular interest or personality trait with a building as a way to distinguish it from the competition. In the same way that wearing Nike duds says, “I’m sporty,” living in a certain Pearl condo says, “I’m a cultural connoisseur.”
This type of tailored approach to selling condos has long held sway in cities like Seattle, Miami and Vancouver, BC, where there are so many condos that developers must differentiate their housing projects, says Burslem. But the technique is relatively new to Portland, where condos have only recently become a significant part of the housing stock. Still, we’ve got a couple of prime examples.
Like Cyan, a 16-floor building planned for gold LEED certification at SW 4th and Montgomery that is set to open in April 2009 and offers those “Prius” types a place to call home. Cyan’s website tells us that the Gerding Edlen development is made for “people who want to save the planet by living better. Those of us who don’t want our organic T-shirt looking like a burlap sack.” In other words, hip, young, green professionals.
In fact, the site suggests residents shop for organic produce at the farmers market and dine on organic meals at Higgins restaurant. Cyan isn’t just selling 524-square-foot spaces—they’re selling 524-foot-square green spaces, and the image that goes along with that. So it’s not surprising that in March, Cyan co-hosted an event with the Portland Indie Wine Festival—just the kind of crowd where you might expect to find, well, hip, young, green professionals.
And then there’s the 937 condo development, a 16-story building at NW 10th and Glisan. Set to open in October, 937 screams “design sophisticate”—but not in a Versace kind of way. From minimalist kitchens to out-there accents, like balconies enclosed in red glass, these upscale condos are made for people who appreciate spare, utilitarian elegance. It’s the sort of place you’d expect creative directors at Adidas or Wieden & Kennedy to stash their Macs.
The marketing of these condos also echoes the tastes of high-tech creative types: a sleek, modern website; a showroom that resembles a starkly decorated art gallery; even the sign hanging from the construction site retains a simple, functional elegance. When the model units open to the public this month, one will double as a gallery with rotating exhibits of abstract art. “We wanted everything from the website to the signage on the building to communicate a consistent message,” says Francis Russo, 937’s marketing director. “And that message is that 937 is for design-oriented people who like deviating from the norm.”
So far it seems to be working: They’ve already sold one of the $2.15 million penthouses. But it remains to be seen if other such specific branding techniques will be as successful, or if, as the glut of condos in Portland’s market continues to grow, any customized marketing messages might simply turn into generalized, full-on pleas. —Kasey Cordell