For the past three years, Portland Monthly has been cautiously optimistic (at best) about our city’s slow-simmering real estate market. But 2013 saw a surge of good news. Home buying is up—way up. 

Almost half of our neighborhoods have returned to the median home prices they enjoyed five years ago. In many places, crime is down. Rosy outlooks abound. Indeed, a whopping 73 percent of people who took our reader survey think it’s a good time to buy—and to sell—a home.

In light of this citywide burst of confidence, we’re highlighting five Portland hoods that illustrate the promise of a new era in real estate.

Best For: First-Time Buyers

PORTSMOUTH (North)

Few neighborhoods saw more activity than Portsmouth last year. The average home in this almost exclusively residential patch of land north of Lombard Street was built in 1959, during a postwar frenzy that stocked the area with relatively small houses. Such homes are within the reach of our growing population of young singles and couples (61 percent of Portsmouth residents are single or unmarried). While Portsmouth doesn’t contain much commercial development (there’s a Taco Bell!), close proximity to the increasingly vibrant (and more expensive) Cathedral Park/St. Johns and Kenton more than make up for the lack. Indeed, the neighborhood’s prime location has spurred a sharp drop in median age (31). Eminently walkable (with or without strollers), Portsmouth packs in four parks, including one of Portland’s largest greenspaces, the 35-acre Columbia Park.

SNAPSHOT: 168 homes sold in 2013; $227,050 median price; $57,050 one-year increase

ALSO CHECK OUT: Cathedral Park (N), Brentwood-Darlington (SE)

Best For: Urbanites

RICHMOND (Southeast)

“Urban” doesn’t just mean high-rises and traffic. It can also describe a place that captures the spirit of the city. And that is just what this inner Southeast neighborhood does. Through a combination of coincidence and planning, what used to be a quiet neighborhood dominated by Craftsman homes has become one of the brightest epicenters of the city’s creative class. Coffee shops, bookstores, theaters, and yoga classes pepper the corridors of Hawthorne and Division, while an unrivaled smattering of restaurants makes it a serious tourist destination. Meanwhile, Division’s reinvention has spawned some 250 units of new multifamily housing in the past four years: a prime opportunity for those who value location and density over picket fences. Keep in mind that values here are likely to keep rising (median prices jumped nearly 9 percent over the last year), so now may be the time to jump in. 

SNAPSHOT: 195 homes sold; $363,400 median price; $29,400 one-year increase

ALSO CHECK OUT: Goose Hollow (SW), Foster-Powell (SE), Hollywood (NE)

Best For: Investors

SELLWOOD-MORELAND (Southeast)

It’s telling, perhaps, that Sellwood began its life as a separate city. Long after its annexation in 1893, the perception of this quaint little neighborhood with its rickety bridge was at best a quasi-suburb, and at worst a bland community of perfectly synchronized biological clocks. But these days, Sellwood has never seemed more alive. With connections to downtown and other parts of Southeast Portland via the Springwater Corridor (as well as the coming MAX line), the neighborhood has seen a flurry of new restaurants and shops, as well as a reinforced bridge. And last year, a surge in home sales brought prices back to the same level as five years ago. With houses selling faster than most parts of the city (homes here are on the market for an average of just 39 days), continued upward growth is very likely. 

SNAPSHOT: 231 homes sold; $360,000 median price; $45,000 one-year increase

ALSO CHECK OUT: Concordia (NE), St. Johns (N), Arbor Lodge (N)

Best For: Families

ASHCREEK (Outer Southwest)

This sleepy little neighborhood may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue (it’s closer to Tigard than to downtown Portland), but for parents in search of a secure investment—and an affordable entry point inside the city—it has few rivals. Ashcreek’s snaking, tree-lined residential streets are among the safest in Portland, and kids at the local schools consistently test high in math, English, and science. The median home price is $325,000—but due to the fact that Ashcreek has some of the lowest costs per square foot of any traditional, family-oriented neighborhood in Portland, scaling up to fit a growing family is a viable option here.

SNAPSHOT: 113 homes sold; $325,000 median price; $41,300 one-year increase

ALSO CHECK OUT: Brooklyn (SE), Montavilla (NE/SE)

Best For: Empty-Nesters

SOUTH WATERFRONT (Southwest)

It’d be a stretch to call this gleaming bristle of high-rises poking out of the west bank of the Willamette the “other downtown.” But with nine 16-plus-story towers and a growing assortment of high-end stores and restaurants scattered throughout its 140-acre footprint, it may be getting closer. Indeed, this carefully manicured slice of riverfront property (technically a section of the “South Portland” neighborhood, which also includes John’s Landing and Lair Hill) was first nurtured in 1999 by urban renewal dollars, and is home for 3,000 med students, doctors, retirees, and others—75 percent without children. And with the Milwaukie-bound MAX line nearing completion and a new pedestrian greenway providing an easy commute into the central city, South Waterfront is becoming a more integral Portland neighborhood each day.  

SNAPSHOT: 227 homes sold; $356,300 median price; $21,300 one-year increase

ALSO CHECK OUT: Happy Valley, Northwest Portland, Sauvie Island

Want a closer look at the numbers?
Check out our sortable table of comprehensive real estate data for 2014!


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