Multnomah County. Bigger than Portland.

multnomah county bonneville dam

The name “Portland, Oregon” is known across the nation. But what about Multnomah County? This roughly banana-shaped jurisdiction follows the Oregon side of the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to Sauvie Island. It stretches south to encompass most of the City of Portland. 

Quick Facts about Multnomah County 

  • Big little county: Area-wise, Multnomah County is the smallest of Oregon’s 36 counties. But it’s also the most populated, with an estimated 807,555 residents.
  • Native roots: The word Multnomah (“down river” or “toward the great water”) is the name of the band of Chinookan people who originally resided in the Sauvie Island area. 
  • We get around: In Multnomah County’s 431 square miles of land and 34 square miles of water, there are four freeways, eight major highways, four rail lines, four marine terminals, three major airports, one light rail system (Portland’s MAX), and tons of bus lines, bike lanes, and nature trails.
  • Famous waterfall: Multnomah Falls pours down the side of the Columbia Gorge just east of Portland. Not only is it the most-visited natural site in Multnomah County, but also the most visited in the entire Pacific Northwest. (Yes, Multnomah County shoots out really far east past Portland and its suburbs, all the way to the Bonneville.)
  • Lucky number: Multnomah was the 13th county to be established in Oregon, in 1854. It was formed out of the eastern part of Washington County and the northern part of Clackamas County. The story is that Portland businessmen got tired of going to Hillsboro to the county seat of Washington County, so they asked for the new county of Multnomah to be created. 
  • Smarter than average: Multnomah County boasts six community colleges and five major universities, including Oregon Health and Science University, Reed College and Portland State University. 
  • Thriving: Niche.com ranks Multnomah County as the Healthiest County in Oregon! Our secret is a combination of lifestyle — outdoor recreation opportunities, walkable neighborhoods, a plethora of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables — and access to excellent healthcare. 

Multnomah County Demographics 

In addition to the county seat of Portland, Multnomah County contains five cities. Gresham is the second-largest city in the county, with a population of over 110,000. Next in size are Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village and Maywood Park. Parts of Lake Oswego and Milwaukie fall into Multnomah County, and the county is also home to 13 unincorporated communities.

People between the ages of 18 and 65 make up 62% of Multnomah County’s population, and children under the age of 18 make up the second-largest age group, at 24% of the total population. Of county residents 25 and older, over 90% are high school graduates, and 44% have a Bachelors’ Degree or higher. 

In terms of race and ethnicity, Multnomah County is more diverse, per census data, than any of the other three major Portland counties. The largest minority group consists of people of Hispanic or Latino descent (11.7%), followed by Asian (8.1%) and Black or African American (6.1%).

All together, there were 318,173 households in Multnomah County as of 2017, with an average size of 2.42 persons. More than half of the residences in the county are owner-occupied. 

Multnomah County Jobs

Once a primary location for Oregon’s famed forest products industry, Multnomah County has diversified its economy well in the 21st century. Shipping and export is still a major industry, given the county’s prime location on the Columbia River. Manufacturing is also huge, especially in the sports apparel and electronics sectors. Because Oregon has no statewide sales tax and Washington does, guess which state sends shoppers over the border, making the retail sector a major employer in Multnomah County. In addition, Multnomah is emerging as a leader in science, technology, research and education, offering highly paying jobs to those who are qualified. Those who prefer the rural lifestyle can find prime ranching and farming opportunities at the east end of Multnomah County along the Columbia River. 

Multnomah County consistently has some of the lowest unemployment rates in all of Oregon. In July 2019 unemployment was just 3.5%, well below the statewide rate of 4.0%. This number is expected to say low as Multnomah County outpaces the rest of the United States in job growth. And although Multnomah County workers pay 9% in income tax on average, they also make more money. 

The minimum wage in most parts of Multnomah County (within the Portland Urban Growth Boundary) is $12.50/hour, and it is scheduled to go up each year by .75 cents. That’s the highest minimum wage in all of Oregon, and $1.40 above the federal minimum wage. The median family income in Multnomah County is $60,369, more than both the federal and Oregon median income. 

Multnomah County and Portland Real Estate

Zillow reports that the current real estate market temperature in Multnomah County is “Cool”, with a median home value of $398,400 as of this writing. Home values have gone down in Multnomah by 1.2% over the past year, and Zillow predicts that this trend will continue.

Compared to the rest of Portland, Multnomah County homes overall are a bit more affordable, and the market also seems to be cooling a little less quickly. Zillow also describes Portland’s real estate market as “cool”, and with a 2.1% decline in home values over the past year and the same decline predicted in the coming year, the high median home value of $415,100 will not last. 

Taken as a whole, Multnomah County tends to be less expensive than Portland because it includes rural and unincorporated areas east of the city. Of course, within the city limits — as well as outside of it — you can find both expensive and inexpensive areas to buy a home. 

If you’re wondering if Multnomah County has what you’re looking for in terms of a real estate investment, the answer is probably “Yes”. From undeveloped land to suburban homes, from condos in the city to mountain estates, we have it all. Look for homes for sale now.

But is real estate a good investment in Multnomah County? That’s another Yes. Even though prices are going down, owning a home is a better financial decision in the long run than renting. This temporary market slowdown is the perfect time for buyers to make their move. 

Are you ready to make yours? Our top 1% buyers’ agent serves all three counties of Portland, and we’ll help you understand the difference between living and investing in each. 

October 11, 2019
AUTHOR

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. and a top 1% agent in the Portland Metro. Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales in the Portland Metro area. Call him direct: 503-714-1111.

Pay less (4.5% commission max.) and get more with his top 1% listing team or buy your next home with his excellent top 1% buyer’s team. We work from Salem, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington and beyond. Check out our full services areas on the top menu.