FinancePortland May 24, 2016

Portland Real Estate: Why It’s Not A Bubble

KGW recently reported that Portland has the fastest-rising home prices in the United States. Check out this graph representing Multnomah County. The line at the top is the average sold-price-to-asking-price percentage, and the bars represent days on the market. 


It's incredible! Days on the market — from listing to closing! — is averaging less than a month. And the average sale price — AVERAGE — is above the asking price. Houses in Portland are selling immediately, and they're selling above list price in nearly every case. It's hard not to wonder when this bubble will burst and the market will crash again. This momentum can't last forever, can it?

Well, the pace of growth probably will slow down eventually, but I'm confident this is NOT a bubble, and we're not headed for a crash anytime soon. Here's why:

  • Buyers are paying cash. Approximately one-quarter of all Portland home sales in 2015 were all-cash offers. When a buyer pays cash, there's no mortgage on which they risk defaulting. The house is paid for and the money is accounted for.
  • Mortgages are stronger and more secure than they were before the last crash. The last crash in the late 2000's was largely due to irresponsible lending and borrowing. Whether the banks paid fairly for their part in the crisis is up for debate, but they absolutely learned a lesson about making flimsy loans. And just in case they didn't, the government put new restrictions in place to ensure that future mortgages meet higher standards. The result is that it is more difficult to get a mortgage, but those who do qualify are sound borrowers — much less likely to default. 
  • Portland is the greatest city in the world, so of course it's growing. Okay, this last point is just my opinion rather than a strict fact, but it is an opinion shared by many! This is a great city, and even though prices are rising fast, the cost of living remains much lower than in many other big cities. 

As prices continue to rise, the growth momentum will probably slow somewhat, but this is not a market that's headed for a nosedive. We can expect it to level off at some point — no one can predict when, but based on current trends, that still seems a long time from now. But unlike the wild real estate market of 2005, 2006, the money is there to back up the purchases this time around. We're not going to see a big wave of foreclosures and short sales. At worst, there may be a plateau coming, where prices don't rise and the homes for sale stay on the market a little longer. 

If you're waiting to buy because you're expecting prices to drop, you'll likely be waiting a long time. This is no bubble.