Top 5 Portland Neighborhoods: 2020 update

portland best neighborhoods

Searching for a home in Portland in 2020, but not sure where to start? In this blog post, we give you an overview of where the neighborhoods are in Portland. Then, we name our top 5 hot picks for affordable, fun, and friendly places to live in the city.

What are the Five Sections of Portland?

To be prepared to look at homes in Portland, home buyers should familiarize themselves with the Big Five: The Southwest, Northwest, North, Northeast and Southeast sections of Portland. These areas are defined by rivers and major roads, and each has their own unique character. Check out for an incredible clickable Portland neighborhood map, and guide, as well.)

  • Southwest. When you enter Portland from the south on the I5, you travel through Southwest first. This part of town includes the neighborhoods of Corbett, Terwilliger and Lair Hill (which are being rebranded as South Portland) and the South Waterfront with its high-rise condos and Oregon Health & Science University. In addition, Downtown Portland and Washington Park are included in the Southwest section. The Willamette River defines this section of Portland, winding through the heart of the city, criss-crossed by the iconic Portland bridges, and dividing West from East Portland.
  • Northwest. Look for Northwest Portland on a satellite, and it might just look like an undeveloped forest. In fact, it is mostly occupied by Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the United States. However, there are plenty of residential neighborhoods tucked away in Northwest Portland. Kings Heights, Northwest Heights and Forest Heights (yes, this area is hilly!) are quiet and secluded. the bustling, urban Pearl District and Nob Hill at the southern end of Northwest Portland offer a totally different neighborhood feel.
  • North. This section of Portland is a mix of residential, commercial and industrial areas. From quaint St. John’s to the hip neighborhoods along Mississippi Avenue, it’s a historic and gentrifying area. North Portland is bordered by rivers on two sides, the Willamette and Columbia, but it also includes part of Hayden Island in the Columbia! 
  • Northeast. There are dozens of neighborhoods in Northeast, including some of Portland’s most affordable and diverse neighborhoods. Stretching from the Willamette east to the city of Gresham, and from the Columbia down to Burnside Avenue (which divides the city’s North and South sections), this area of Portland is nicely flat, and well connected with the I84, I205 and a short length of the I5 all falling within its bounds. 
  • Southeast. Like parts of Northeast Portland, Southeast was initially built as many small suburbs, then incorporated into the City of Portland as it grew. This large area is also bordered by the Willamette River to the west and Gresham to the east, and dissolves into what are now actual Portland suburbs to the south. I205 and Highway 26 are its main conduits, and many neighborhoods are destinations for the arts and nightlife. Mt. Tabor, Portland’s active volcano, and other parks also make this a very livable part of the city. 

Top 5 Portland Neighborhoods in 2020

With 95 neighborhoods in Portland, how do we pick the best? 

The answer is, we don’t — but we do think some things are important: Affordability, schools, diversity of housing options, and things to do nearby. The following five neighborhoods each combine these factors in their own unique Portland way!

  1. Love outdoor activities and community? We think you’ll want to check out Sellwood-Moreland, as well as surrounding neighborhoods in the inner Southeast area of Portland. There are several parks in this area, including a riverfront amusement park, and plenty of shopping, restaurants and other things to do. The strong sense of community here is bolstered by active neighborhood organizations, which give all residents a voice in how these neighborhoods change over time. And with home prices down 1.2% in Sellwood-Moreland over the past year, it might be a great time to swoop in on a bargain in this coveted neighborhood. 
  2. Create your personal paradise in West Haven-Sylvan. It’s a small neighborhood but a sweet spot just outside of Northwest Portland, where kids enjoy highly rated schools and access to Washington Park just down the road. In fact, home values in this area are generally unaffordable for most Portland families, but in West Haven-Sylvan there is a good mix of home at reasonable prices. While the area could definitely be described as “suburban” — it lacks the diversity of shopping and eating that other areas of Portland enjoy — it definitely has some nice homes and is a great place for families. 
  3. We think that former poet laureate of Oregon, for which the Markham neighborhood in Southwest Portland is named, would be inspired here. Two creeks border the area, which features urban trails and a lush, green feel, with modest but well kept homes on large lots. Markham is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of central Portland to feel soothingly suburban, but in fact is just a few minutes away from downtown on the I5. Home values here are about average for Portland, but very stable. People who buy homes in Southwest, tend to stay in Southwest!
  4. Just south of Powell Butte in Southeast Portland is the small neighborhood of Pleasant Valley, which is actually built among several smaller buttes (flat-topped hills). As a result, the views from the homes in this newer development are gorgeous, and, like any good Portland neighborhood, it even has a hiking trail. Although this neighborhood can feel far-flung, with few nearby shops and amenities, it’s perfect for those who love a suburban getaway. And, for what you spend buying a home near downtown, you can get so much more square footage in Pleasant Valley!
  5. Up in Northeast Portland, there are several underappreciated neighborhoods, including the hip Hollywood District. While home prices in this area have gone up significantly in the past few years, Hollywood is more affordable than adjacent neighborhoods like Grant Park and Laurelhurst, and home values here actually dipped slightly in 2019, according to Zillow. In fact, there aren’t a lot of homes in Hollywood itself — the neighborhood is rich in shops, restaurants, and the famous Hollywood Theater — but surrounding neighborhoods like Sullivan’s Gulch, Rose City Park and Roseway provide plenty of housing. Not only will buyers find traditional single family homes, but this area also features a nice mix of condos, townhomes and ADU-friendly lots. 

Ready to find your perfect Portland neighborhood? Maybe it’s time to reach out! We are your top Portland real estate agents, with a top 1% buyers agent ready to assist you.

February 17, 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.