Top 10 Real Estate News Stories of 2020

portland real estate market news

It’s true that COVID-19 dominated the real estate headlines in 2020, but this year was also big for several other reasons — local ballot measures that passed and failed, and important new data about the surprising factors that influence home prices. Whether you’re entering the Portland real estate market in 2021 or just happen to be a news junkie, here are our top stories of the year.

1. Pandemic Slashes Buyer Activity, But Not For Long

Between job losses and lockdowns, COVID-19 had reverberations through the housing market this spring. But it wasn’t as bad as some expected. Although there was a sudden 60%+ drop in buyer traffic in March 2020, prices didn’t crash. Buyers soon came back on the market, aided by the Feds’ lowering of mortgage rates. By the end of the third quarter of 2020, buyer traffic was back to normal, and the median Portland home value was $435,000, up from 2019. Still, with Oregon now seeing higher COVID infection rates than ever and unemployment in some sectors still high, will the Portland housing market finally crash in 2021? Read our top broker’s full analysis here. 

2. More Home Buyers Making Offers Sight Unseen

As the world adjusted to the 2020 “new normal” of staying 6’ apart and wearing masks, the real estate agents in our Portland office got to work upping their digital marketing game. We made on-demand 3D home tours standard for every listing we offer, with optional floor plans, drone tours, video tours, and other media to help buyers get every possible view on the home without needing to come in person. This is in addition to our paid featured advertising on the major home search portals, so our homes are seen more often and sell faster. Do buyers have confidence in virtual home shopping? A July 2020 Redfin survey found that 45% of home buyers made an offer on a home after looking at it only through digital tours. Those numbers are dropping now, but will remain higher than before.

3. Portland & Suburbs Become a Zoom Towns

One more pandemic story: In October, 2020 Oregon state economist Josh Lehner noted that Portland is joining the ranks of so-called “Zoom Towns”. Highly paid tech workers and consultants who are now working from home migrate to cities like Portland because of the relatively low cost of living and higher quality of life (often compared to major cities in California or Seattle in Washington). And as Portland workers themselves see a more permanent shift to the work-from-home lifestyle, Portland’s suburbs may already be becoming the next Zoom Towns. See our guide to the Top 5 Portland Suburbs and our list of 2020’s Top 5 Most Affordable Portland Suburbs.

4. Single-Family Zoning is so 2020

Okay, COVID wasn’t the only thing that happened this year. The second-biggest story to affect the Portland housing market was the historic passage of a rezoning package known as the Residential Infill Project, or RIP. Starting in August 2021, multiple, smaller homes and multiplexes will be allowed to be built on single-family lots. RIP also allows more homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units, helping to offset mortgage costs. Read all about it here on our blog. 

5. Home Energy Scores are Working 

This year, new data was released that bears positive news for home buyers and sellers who obtain a Home Energy Score. It’s required in Portland and now the Portland suburb of Milwaukie; sellers must score their home before it is listed and the 1-10 Score must be given with the property description in the MLS. The City’s latest evaluation shows that two-thirds of home buyers are using the Score to shop for homes, and that over 20,000 homes, 12% of the housing stock within the City of Portland, already has a Score. 

6. Homes in Highly Rated School Districts Sell for More & Faster

In 2020, it became easier than ever to find data on school performance online, and higher home values do seem to be correlated with high-ranking schools. Homes in the top 20 school districts in the US spend one-third less time on the market than comparable homes in the same county, according to one economist. Two recent studies also found that buyers are willing to pay more for homes in desirable school districts. Check out our full article about how School Ratings Impact Home Values.

7. Sellers Are Estimating Portland Home Values Too Low

In times of rapid growth in home values, as has happened in Portland over the past six or seven years, home owner perception of what their home is worth tends to lag behind actual market conditions. A study by Quicken Loans found that Portland homeowners tended to underestimate the appraised value of their home by about $1200 (which means Portland home owners are pretty savvy – that’s close! Read more about how home sellers’ perceptions of home values have changed over the years – it’s interesting stuff (we think)!

8. Voters Miss the Train for New MAX Line

Portland’s MAX Light Rail is a crucial piece of infrastructure that can have powerful impacts on the metro’s real estate market. This fall, Trimet put a bill, Get Moving 2020, before voters, hoping to fund its most ambitious expansion yet: A new line reaching southwest to Tigard and Tualatin. Although the bill would have used payroll taxes to fund 37,000 new jobs while relieving congestion by 20% and building up to 2,300 affordable homes, it did not pass. However, Trimet issued a statement saying they’re not abandoning the project, and will restart it as soon as funding becomes available. 

9. Portland Property Taxes Higher Than Ever

Three measures funded by property taxes did get past voters this fall. Back in June, the Lincoln Institute released a study that found Portland to be #5 for highest city property tax rate in the nation — 2.46% on a median-value single-family home. Between new property tax-funded measures and the state of Oregon’s unusual system of assessing property value for tax purposes, Portland has a good chance of moving even higher on that list in 2021, might even hit #1 in the nation. Get the full explanation here on our blog. 

10. Local Realtor Wins Five Star Professional Award 8 Years Running

Okay, we have to toot our own horns here, because we are proud of the work we do and it’s always nice to have outside recognition! This year the folks at Five Star Professional honored Stephen FitzMaurice once again as a Top Realtor in the Portland metro area. Five Star independently interviews former clients to formulate their ratings, and they only rate agents who meet a sales minimum (which Stephen exceeds every year). Then they give the award out to a few top agents. They say less then 1% of real estate agents have won the award 8 years in row.

In addition, our team has a five-star rating on Zillow, which is one of the few agent review sites that require clients actually work with an agent before reviewing them. For more resources to help you research real estate agents before you commit (we recommend it!) check out our 2020 list of Top Real Estate Agent Review Sites

November 30, 2020

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.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.