Buying a Condo in Portland? 10 Things to Know
Updated March 2023.
Homeownership in Portland might seem prohibitive at first 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 who are 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 a number of 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 right now 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 decrease in income or who want to downsize and focus on their quality of life.
As we can see from the chart below, the median list price of a condo in Portland right now is $439,000, while the median list price of a detached home in Portland at the moment is around $659,000, a difference of more than $200,000.
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—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, 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 in 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.
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 serve to 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
When we look at pricing and sales trends from the most recent RMLS report, we find evidence that condos have not increased in price at the same rate as single-family homes. However, the time on the market has started to shrink, which could lead to lower inventory and eventually higher prices.
NOTE: While median sales price is not a foolproof indicator of current sales prices—because one high-priced sale can skew the overall numbers—looking at these numbers can give us a relative sense of how the condo market is performing.
When you take a closer look at the listings available in Portland at the time of this writing, there are 300 condos for sale, 207 of which are priced under $350,000. So there is plenty of opportunity available to find a condo for an affordable price, at least statistically compared to single family homes in the same area. In contrast, there are 300 single family homes for sale, only 45 of which are priced under $350,000.
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 end up paying 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 so you can 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, it is expected that they will continue to climb as we get further along into 2023. 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 that come with 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 not just the monthly fee but 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 come up that need to be addressed (siding, roof repair, major leaks, etc.).
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, think about 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 ease of movement from one space to another. The last thing you want is to move in to your new condo and find that the navigation 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 on view to 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 in 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.
8. Best Way to Shop for Condos in Portland
Platforms like Zillow and Redfin definitely serve a purpose. However, to make their sites work across the board nationally, they have to, in a sense, “water down” their data feeds. This means that 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 to use when making your final buying decision. Another very important step in your condo shopping journey is to work with an agent that has extensive condo listing and buying experience.
9. Condos are a Green Choice
Many of the best Portland condo complexes are LEED certified, or constructed with the highest levels of environmental scrutiny. 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.
10. Make the Process Easier with a Condo-Experienced Agent
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 that you might not be aware of.
We’ve been helping people buy and sell condos in the Portland Metro area for nearly 20 years. We’re familiar with the ins and outs of the entire process and know what local lenders want to see. My top-ranked team of buying and selling agents have helped condo sellers and buyers in nearly every high rise and complex in the Portland area. 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 today at 503-714-1111.