Buying a Condo in Portland? 10 Things to Know

portland condos for sale

Homeownership in Portland might initially seem prohibitive with rising real estate prices and the highest mortgage rates we’ve seen in a few years. At the same time, condominiums have taken a different price trajectory, offering a glimmer of hope for buyers searching for a condo in Portland.

Our interactive real estate map shows every condo available on the market in Portland. You may be surprised at the quantity despite the typically low inventory we’ve been experiencing in Portland for several years.

If you are considering buying a condo in Portland, we’d like to help answer some of the questions you may have as you begin your search. Here is our list of ten things you need to know about buying a condo in Portland.

1. Portland Condos are Affordable (Comparatively)

Condos can be a great entry point into the housing market for first-time buyers. They’re also a good option for those entering retirement who might be facing a decreased income or who want to downsize and focus on their quality of life.

As we can see from the chart below, the the median asking price of a condo in Portland right now is $395,000. Meanwhile the median asking price of a detached home is $668,000, a difference of over $250,000.

Portland Condo Prices:

Courtesy of Fidelity National Title

Portland Detached Home Prices:

2. Condos’ Perks and Amenities Can Mean Long-Term Savings

Not only are condo prices generally lower than single-family homes—depending on various factors, of course—but they also offer perks and amenities typically not found when purchasing single-family homes.

The obvious perk is a low home-maintenance lifestyle. Not only will you be free from contending with yard work, but the condo Home Owner’s Association (HOA) will take care of costly updates and repairs. These often include roof repair or handling broken pipes in the building. While the condo owner is responsible for fixes in their own home, most of the time common areas are the HOA’s responsibility. You’re spared the time and stress involved in larger repairs, and in the long run, you’re also spared the cost of big-ticket items, translating to long-term savings. Of course, you’ll make up for this by paying monthly HOA fees (more on that later in this article), but it can still be beneficial in terms of financial stability to avoid major one-time repair costs.

We write regular reports on HOA costs in Portland. Go here to find out the average HOA cost per sq. ft. in Portland right now.

Because condos are generally located in or near urban environments, another obvious perk is the close proximity to the city’s shops, dining establishments, cultural events, and mass transit. This could also save you time and money (parking, drive time, etc.) while enjoying your city’s culture.

Each condo complex is different, but you can count on a list of amenities when you live in a condo. Most have gyms or fitness centers, communal areas for socializing, and dedicated parking. Many also have meeting rooms for private events, and some have pools, sports courts, and concierge services.

3. Portland Condos Offer More Lower-Priced Housing Options

The majority of condos (75%) fall in a price range from just over $200,000 to just under $600,000. It is easy to see that condos haven’t risen much in price in the last few years (if at all). In contrast, detached homes bottom 25% has risen from an average price of $324,000 in 2019 to $401,000 today, a significant jump in pricing for lower cost housing. Condos bottom 25% average sales price was $236,000 in 2019 and is $265,000 today.

Portland Condo Prices in 25% Segments:

Portland Detached Home Prices in 25% Segments:

4. Condos Can Be a Good Investment

If you’re looking for a starter condo that you can eventually sell for a profit, look for a well-situated building in one of Portland’s many suburban areas. Then, check the HOA fees and reserves. As prices go up over time, the value of your condo will grow, but if you’re paying high fees to the HOA, it will be more difficult to get a return on your investment. Many condos can seem quite affordable at first, but once you add in high HOA fees, you may pay much more than you originally anticipated.

Pro tip: Use our smart condo home search program that adds the HOA fees, taxes, and miscellaneous costs to the sales price to compare the total cost of condo ownership in real time as you search online. 

Construction continues to be low in Portland. While rental prices seem to have flattened for the moment, they are expected to continue to climb as we get further into 2024. And despite the rental rate plateau, rates still remain some of the highest in the country. Condos in Portland went out of favor for awhile after the pandemic, but the constant need for housing should make them a solid long-term investment.

5. Condo HOA Fees Vary Dramatically

While being part of a HOA can save you the hassles and costs of home maintenance, monthly fees can vary dramatically. Monthly HOA fees can range from $200 to well past $1,000. It’s worth considering the impact of the monthly fee and what might be behind it. For example, an enticingly low monthly fee could indicate an HOA that holds you responsible for exterior maintenance, including the roof. On the other hand, a higher monthly fee might mean you’re looking at an HOA that’s struggling to pay for a backlog of maintenance or repairs. (i.e., the HOA fee was too low for too long, and now current owners are paying the price for past bad management). This backlog could lead to even higher fees if more major repairs need to be addressed (siding, roof repair, major leaks, etc.).

We write regular reports on HOA costs in Portland. Go here to find out the average HOA cost per sq. ft. in Portland right now.

Of course, some HOAs offer great value in return for their fees, and others offer so many upscale amenities that it justifies high-end pricing. Our best advice is to look at a few different options and pay attention to the similarities and differences of each to achieve a balanced viewpoint, which will, in turn, enable you to make an informed decision.

One way to get an idea of how HOA fees vary is to visit our website and perform a search specifically for condos filtered according to their fees. Simply select “Condos / Townhouses” from the “All” tab at the top navigation bar. Then, in the upper right-hand corner, click on the “Filter” tab and choose “HOA Monthly.”

To better understand HOA fees and for a more in-depth summary of how an HOA functions, take a look at this article on Realtor.com.

6. Condo Floor Plans Matter

Because condos are generally smaller than single-family homes, it’s a good idea to view several and pay close attention to the layout of each. As you walk through the space, consider how you use areas in your current home and how that might translate into the new layout. Also, pay attention to the home’s overall flow and note the ease of movement from one space to another. The last thing you want is to move into your new condo and find that navigating from one area to another several times each day proves tedious or aggravating. And don’t forget about how much natural light you need—something that becomes especially important during the rainy season of the Pacific Northwest—or whether there might be privacy issues due to the positioning of windows. No one wants to be in view of neighbors through windows that directly face each other.

7. Condos Have a More Complicated Buying Process

Many people aren’t aware that buying a condo tends to be more complicated than buying a house. This is because there are more entities involved: the seller, the buyer, and the HOA.

This means it can take longer to get through the approval process with the lender. Not only will your lender need to approve you, but they also need to approve the HOA and the building. Most lenders will finance condo purchases, but some programs, like the popular FHA loans, will only finance pre-approved condominiums in a given area. Be sure your real estate agent is aware of the various intricacies of the process. It would be frustrating to find the condo of your dreams only to be prevented from finalizing the purchase due to not having an approved form of financing, for example.

See the FHA list of approved buildings in Portland.

8. Best Way to Shop for Condos in Portland

Platforms like Zillow and Redfin definitely serve a purpose. However, to make their sites work nationally, they have to, in a sense, “water down” their data feeds. This means potential home buyers might not get detailed local information about the condos they’re interested in.

A more helpful way to shop for homes online is to visit PortlandHomesforSale.com and discover how its one-of-a-kind VestorFilter™ can help you narrow your search to your specific wants and needs. Here, you can create specific searches for condos and HOA fees. You can also search by best price per square foot, best price per bedroom, biggest price drops, set HOA fee limits, and much more. This will provide you with a full data set for your final buying decision. Another very important step in your condo shopping journey is working with an agent with extensive condo listing and buying experience.

9. Condos are a Green Choice

While you might not initially consider a condo a green choice, take a moment to consider the overall building footprint. If you compare the number of people living in a condo to the same number of traditional suburban homes, you’re looking at a much lower carbon footprint. Plus, condos are often located in the heart of the city, closer to more job opportunities than suburban areas. Instead of getting suburban sprawl complete with isolated backyards, you can have a neighborhood that builds up instead of out. Plus, many condos are now made with environmentally friendly construction requirements in mind, as well as ways to reduce overall emissions from the building. On top of this, many condo owners are working toward more sustainable construction choices as they update older buildings. 

With a switch toward eco-sustainability, many condo buildings use eco-friendly features, like LED lights, sustainable power sources, and insulating materials to lower heating and cooling costs. Especially in the Portland area, where a large emphasis is placed on environmental concerns, the condos in the area are likely to make strides toward sustainability. Many of the best Portland condo complexes are LEED-certified, or constructed with the highest levels of environmental scrutiny. 

On top of construction choices, living in a condo near your place of work can cut down on the amount of commuting you do using a personal vehicle. Instead of worrying about driving and getting stuck in traffic, you can instead take public transportation, cutting your personal carbon footprint way down and potentially saving you time on your commute. Not only are the buildings themselves often built to eco-friendly standards with many energy-saving features, they also tend to be built next to energy-saving public transportation routes and within a few blocks of desirable amenities. 

While the environmental impacts of your condo of choice come down to construction and heating or cooling choices, as well as other factors, keeping the overall sustainability rating of your building in mind can go a long way toward choosing an environmentally friendly building. Keep an eye out for condos approved by Energy Star, as these are supposed to be at least 10% more energy-efficient than their counterparts. 

Of course there are things you can do to make your own individual condo more energy efficient, such as replacing all the lighting with LED bulbs, using curtains to keep the heat out during the summer, and making personal choices to use energy-efficient devices in your home. By pairing this with the overwhelming personal impact of living in a condo over a typical suburban home, and cutting down on your commute time, you can easily combine your desire for sustainable living with owning a condo. 

10. Make the Process Easier with a Condo-Experienced Agent

This is our personal Portland, Oregon sold condo map. We’ve closed hundreds of condos sales for both buyers and sellers. Talk with our top 1% condo buyers agents and top 1% condo sellers agents today. We’ve been selling for over 20 years and have experienced in nearly every high rise and condo complex in the metro.

As we’ve explained, buying a condo is a very different experience than buying a home. For this reason, working with a licensed real estate agent who has already walked many others through the complicated process is essential. Not only will they be able to answer your questions, but they’ll also know when to point out considerations you might not be aware of.

If you have a condo you are ready to sell, or you are thinking of purchasing a unit of your own, give us a call at 503-714-1111. We’d love to connect today!

January 22, 2024
AUTHOR

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
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Over 2,000 homes sold.