Portland, Ore., fares better than many metros in 'Great Recession'

Building restraints kept growth in check during bubble years

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 22, 2011

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Between July 2010 and July 2011, the Standard & Poor's /Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed home prices in the Portland-Beaverton-Vancouver region dropped 8.4 percent.

Here's where things get tricky: If one looks at the city on a month-to-month basis instead of a year-to-year basis, the whole picture changes.

"Our market peaked in August 2007 and there has been a slow, steady decline over the last four years," said Bob Ulery, president of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors and a broker with Hasson Company Realtors in Portland. However, he added, one could say the bottom had been reached in January 2011 and the city has since been climbing back.

"Looking at the median price for the tricounty area, in January prices were at $217,000," said Ulery. "In October, the median price had climbed back to $230,000 -- that's on a month-over-month basis."

Ulery attributes the growth to the current, very attractive interest rates and an improving economy. "We have seen a modest growth in new jobs and modest improvement in employment numbers," he said.

I asked Potiowsky if that was true. "At peak, we got up to 11.2 percent unemployment, but now we are about 9.6 percent as compared the U.S. average of 9.1 percent," he said.

In the last real estate recession at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, Portland actually lost population. That didn't happen this time around.

"There was still positive net inmigration, although a lot less percentagewise than we had seen before due to the recession," Potiowsky said. "Population growth does bring with it a labor force and that creates its own economic engine. More people demand more services and that lifts the economy.

"We always had a large number of Californians move into Oregon, but if your house is underwater back in Fresno it's tough to sell and move here," he said.

"When we look at the demographics and net-migration patterns, we are still seeing people coming from California. The flow is not as strong as before, but that flow is still there. The affordability index is still looking better in Oregon."

That's all about California. What about the rest of the nation that at one time wanted to move to Portland? Take my son and his family: They at one time flirted with the idea of moving to Portland, but chose Charlotte, N.C., instead.

The affordability index looked better in North Carolina.

Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis," is now available for sale on Amazon.

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