Portland Real Estate Market Research Guide

portland real estate market research

As a real estate professional, numbers are my secret superpower. Numbers paint a picture of the Portland real estate market, allowing our team to effectively market your home, or, for buyers, closely match the offer we write to what the seller is willing to accept. 

These days, it’s possible to find numbers measuring Portland real estate market activity for each neighborhood or suburb of Portland, and they change daily. Even if you understand what all the numbers mean, they can vary from source to source — the RMLS, Zillow, etc. — so who do you trust? We’ll get to that in the second part of this post, but first, here are the basic metrics to track if you want to start getting to know the Portland housing market. 

5 Essential Portland Real Estate Stats

  1. Median home price. The median price of homes in the area is a good starting point for comparing market strength, whether you’re looking at the entire Portland metro or a specific neighborhood or suburb. Median price is determined by arranging all sales prices for homes in the area from lowest to highest, then picking the figure in the middle. Real estate professionals tend to rely on this number more than average sales price as a market indicator, because the average can be thrown off by a few multi-million dollar homes.  
  2. Inventory. This number measures the strength and stability of the real estate market by estimating how many months’ worth of home “supply” we have available. In other words, inventory answers the question, “If new homes stopped coming on the market today, and buyers kept buying at the same rate, how long would it take to run out of homes?” The lower the number, the hotter the market. 
  3. Days on market. Exactly what it sounds like — how many days it takes the average home to accept an offer (not close). When the “days on market” figure is low, say, less than 30 days, you have a hot market. Comparing the number of days a particular home has been on the market to the average for the area can give you an idea of whether or not the home is overpriced. 
  4. Percentage change in home prices. This is the number that tells us whether the real estate market is moving up or down. It’s calculated by comparing the median or average home value today with the median or average at some other point in time. Median or average doesn’t matter so much here — what we’re looking for is change. The RMLS provides both rates of change in their monthly report. Starting with the current median or average sales price for the month, they compare it to three different starting points: The same month last year, the previous month this year, and the beginning of the year. This provides both a short-term and long-term measure of which way the market is moving. 
  5. Price per square foot. The size of the home has a huge impact on the price per sq. ft. The bigger the home the lower price per sq. ft. and the smaller the home, the higher. So if you are using this figure to compare properties, make sure you are comparing apples with apples

Want to see these numbers in action? Check out my 2020 Portland Real Estate Market Forecast here.

Portland MLS Real Estate Data

RMLS stands for Regional Multiple Listing Service. Every region across the US has a Multiple Listing Service, but the RMLS we’re referring to is specific to Oregon and Southern Washington. We also list our homes and gather data from the WVMLS, or Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service located in Salem, Oregon and the NWMLS, or Northwest Multiple Listing Service located in Seattle, Washington. We do this to ensure our home selling clients have the best possible exposure.

Multiple Listing Services were created so that real estate agents could quickly look up properties for sale in their area. Before Zillow, Trulia and even the internet, the MLS was the original source for accurate information on listed homes (yes, it was a hefty printed out book). 

The National Association of Realtors makes MLS information nationally available to the public via Realtor.com, its recommended real estate search portal. Our real estate brokerage has its own local searchable MLS database, that in our opinion runs faster and is more accurate (because it is a direct feed to Oregon and Washington MLS data, not all 50 states worth of MLS data) which you can find here. It also has the advantage of not being ad-run, so the interface is clean and clutter free.

The monthly RMLS Market Action reports for the Portland area are available by email subscription. These monthly PDFs are not fluff material — they are packed with statistics from how many homes sold to what the affordability index is doing. Now that you know some basics, why not dive in?

And of course we regularly report on the Portland real estate market here, and have been recognized as a top 100 real estate blog in the world. You can sign up here for free.

Zillow Portland Real Estate Data

Although they are a private tech company, Zillow has improved the quality of their real estate data quite a lot over the last few years. In fact, the Market Overviews they offer are more location-specific than most of the publicly available data NAR puts out, and provide an easy way to compare neighborhoods (just enter the name into the search bar). Note, as of yet, no one can beat the local MLS for information, they are the ground-level source of real estate market information.

Here are a few quick things to keep in mind about Zillow data, especially when comparing it to what you might find in the RMLS report.

  • The Zillow Home Value Index is not the same thing as median home value (although the site uses the two terms synonymously). ZHVI is calculated by taking the median Zestimate for all the home in the area. It tends to be different than the actual median home value, because Zestimates are estimates of what the home might sell for, not actual sales data. So, for example, the most recent median home value number provided by the RMLS for Portland is $411,600, while Zillow’s ZHVI as of this writing is $416,900. 
  • Zillow’s home price data is slightly behind the RMLS. When a home is listed, when a price change is made, or the home is sold, that home’s listing agent will update the RMLS. The changes to the local MLS is immediate, but Zillow’s will take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to reflect the change. 
  • Zestimates are usually off by 1.5% or more. That’s the official Zillow “median error rate” for the Portland metro area. According to the company’s website, the Zestimate “is not an appraisal and it should be used as a starting point. We encourage buyers, sellers and homeowners to supplement the Zestimate with other research such as visiting the home, getting a professional appraisal of the home, or requesting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent.”

Ready to get your customized home value estimate from a local real estate expert? Or is it time to buy a home in Portland? We can help! Give our agent team a call today. 

September 13, 2019

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.