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Old Posted Dec 7, 2006, 7:30 PM
Urbanpdx Urbanpdx is offline
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Portland Real Estate Market thread

I think it might be valuable to discuss the market in general, especially the condo market as things are changing a lot this year.

We have touched on this for specific markets like the South Waterfront but a dedicated thread might be appropriate.

To start things off, I understand there are 16,000 not yet constructed condo units in the pipeline in the metro area. Suprisingly enough only a fourth are in Multnomah County. We are already facing a supply/demand imbalance and for-sale inventory continues to grow. How much do prices have to drop before we have a strong market again? When will that occur? This is important to figure out because these projects we look at will take a couple years to complete and forcasting the market is part of this game. A few developers going bk could shut down lending and construction for a long time.
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Old Posted Dec 7, 2006, 9:11 PM
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Freddie Mac: Worst of housing slump has passed
Portland Business Journal - 10:38 AM PST Friday

Freddie Mac says the biggest slowdown in the housing market may be past, and falling mortgage rates should help stimulate the market.

The mortgage giant's weekly mortgage rate report shows 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to an average 6.24 percent this week, below year-ago levels.

One-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 5.53 percent, although adjustable-rate mortgages remain higher than year ago levels.

"We've probably seen the worst of the housing slump, although it may not have entirely bottomed out yet," says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft. "Lower mortgage rates should help stimulate activity in the housing market."

Lenders, real estate agents and potential buyers will be watching for a report on October housing prices this month from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.
http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/...=et75&hbx=e_du
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Old Posted Dec 7, 2006, 9:33 PM
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It's a great time to buy a house, right? Maybe.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
DYLAN RIVERA
The Oregonian

Portland hasn't seen a housing market like this one in at least 10 years.

Listings are up. Sales are down. Buyers, sensing an edge, are leaning hard on prices. The region's 7,000 or so Realtors are working harder to sell homes.

So it's a great time to buy a house, right? Maybe.

Most people who want to buy would also need to sell their own house, putting them on both sides of the market. And what if you pay for a house now and its value goes flat or down a little?

"If I'm not selling it tomorrow, I don't care what it's worth," said David Morganstern, a personal financial adviser with CMC Advisers in Portland. "You should buy a house for all the fundamental reasons about enjoying it as a place you live in, as opposed to, 'Is it a salable piece of property?' Then you're a speculator, not a homeowner."

The frenzied days of 2005 notwithstanding, most people make housing decisions based on lifestyle changes -- not market timing. That's why after three years of considering it, Pat and Todd Salvo put their four-bedroom Lake Oswego house on the market about a month ago. After their second child left for college, the house felt too empty, Pat Salvo said.

"It's a little slower than I would have expected," she said. "The people who are looking at this period of time are pretty serious about it, I find."

Some economists predict the national squeeze on home prices that took hold this year will grow tighter in 2007, especially in high-priced markets in California. But all real estate is local, and analysts say the fundamentals are in place for the Portland area and Oregon to weather the downturn better than most.

Even the national consulting firm Economy.com, which holds one of the most bearish outlooks on housing, predicts the Portland-area median home price will drop by less than 1 percent in 2009, after peaking next year. That's a far cry from the 11.7 percent decline forecast for Detroit by the end of this year and the 9.9 percent decline predicted in Sacramento in 2008.

The region is growing in jobs and population, interest rates remain near record lows, and the artificial land shortage created by the urban growth boundary all help to shore up Portland area housing.

Yet, there's enough uncertainty to give even the econometrics geeks the willies.

"It's a particularly risky year, and you want to increase your investment in housing? I'm not so sure," said Mark McMullen, senior economist for Economy.com who covers the Portland area.

As with all personal financial decisions, this one depends on where you are in life -- and in mortgage.
http://www.oregonlive.com/search/ind...240.xml&coll=7
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2006, 8:34 PM
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http://www.oregonlive.com/business/o...l=7&thispage=1

Housing outlook in 2007? Weaker
Real estate - Two experts predict there will be a shift to a buyer's market with a slowing in the rise of prices
Friday, December 08, 2006
DYLAN RIVERA
The Oregonian
The Portland area housing market will further weaken in 2007, two economists told a gathering of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland on Thursday.

Prices will still rise, they predicted, but at a lower rate. Some areas, such as the condo market, could see even more downward pressure on prices because of oversupply. Sellers who think they have the upper hand now -- despite buyers who argue the other way -- could be in another world next year.

"It's going to be a shift to a buyer's market," predicted Jerry Johnson, of the Johnson Gardner economic consulting firm in Portland.

Johnson discussed the local housing market and Dae Baek, acting chief economist for the state, analyzed the state and national economies during the association's annual housing forecast breakfast. Much is at stake next year, which may explain the larger-than-usual crowd of about 600 people at the Oregon Convention Center.

The recent housing boom has drawn thousands of people to the real estate industry, helped propel the state's economic growth and generated billions of dollars in wealth that spurred the national economy. But recent signals of a weakening market, locally and nationally, have created new worries inside and outside the industry.

For several years, forecasters warned of a cooling market, and only this year did reality appear to follow expectations, at least in the Portland area. Inventories rose gradually through the spring and summer. The region's median sales price began a seasonal decline in late summer, earlier than the typical fall slowdown.

What to expect next year? A little unclear, but definitely a weaker market. The economists shirked away from presenting specific appreciation rates, though Johnson said Portland-area home prices will rise about 5 percent to 8 percent next year, compared with the recent high teens of 2005 and early this year.

Housing permits and starts are "in the throes of a sharp correction," Baek said. Housing permits in Oregon were down 14 percent this year through October, compared with the same period last year. Permits declined 23 percent to 36 percent in the Bend and Medford areas; 6.3 percent in the Portland area and 6.4 percent in Salem.

The cooling housing market will continue to drag the state's economy, Baek predicted. Jobs will be lost in housing-related industries, he said, and rising inventories and pressure on prices could make consumer feel less eager to spend money at retailers.

The problem of high inventory may be "darker than it shows in statistics," Baek said, because sale cancellations might not be fully reported in those figures.

Yet, inventory levels in the Portland area are still lower than those nationwide. And mortgage interest rates remain relatively low, which helps make housing affordable, Baek said.

Baek said he expects many sectors of the state's economy to contribute to job growth. Population growth would also help, he said.

"That will surely help moderate the pain coming from the housing sector," he said. "2007 is a slower year, but the economy will not tank and if you hang in there, the second half of 2007 will be better."

Both Baek and Johnson said population, job and wage growth are helping mitigate the housing downturn in the region.

"It's not a demand problem, it's a supply problem," Johnson said.

The supply of homes for sale may be rising, Johnson said, but only because builders haven't pulled back enough. Building permits should have fallen 10 percent this year, but they fell 6 percent, he said, "so we still have some more to go."

Johnson was particularly concerned about the condo market. Although there are about 4,000 urban condos in the works, there are about 16,000 planned throughout the region, including many small projects that are not easily tracked, he said.

All that inventory could increase the number of buyers withdrawing from sales contracts and lead to falling prices, he said.

This seems to be at odds with the view of many real estate agents in the urban market, who consider their market distinct from the suburbs.

"If you bought a spec condo last week it was probably a bad buy," Johnson said. "But if you bought it two years ago it's probably OK, but will be giving some (value) up."

Dylan Rivera: 503-221-8532; dylanrivera@news.oregonian.com
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Old Posted Dec 11, 2006, 5:23 PM
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For builders, ’07 is time to remodel
by Libby Tucker
12/11/2006


New home construction is slowing, but builders will find plenty of home remodeling and commercial work in 2007, economists say.

Residential permits are down 6 percent over the last year in the Portland metro area and down 14 percent over the last year in Oregon, according to the state’s Office of Economic Analysis.

Rising interest rates and the high price of land have made home building less profitable for developers and contractors and left new homes pricier for consumers.

“There’s a bit of an affordability crisis,” said Jim Rudd, CEO of investment advisory firm Ferguson Wellman Capital Management Inc. and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Portland branch. “But we believe we’ll have a soft landing, and the declines in housing will be picked up by commercial construction.”

Good news, bad news

The housing slump has led to a decline in Oregon’s residential construction employment, Dave Baek, the acting chief state economist, said in a presentation Thursday at a Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland housing forecast breakfast.

And demand for new housing is expected to drop another 10 percent to 15 percent in 2007, said Jerald Johnson, a principal at Johnson Gardner LLC, a real estate development and land-use consulting firm.

But overall construction employment in the state is still growing thanks to office, industrial and public projects, Baek said.

The Oregon economy picked up 9,500 construction jobs between October 2005 and October 2006, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

And the state anticipates “robust” population growth next year, which would “surely help moderate the pain coming from a housing slowdown,” Baek said

Home builders pursue other options

To keep a steady paycheck, many residential builders may turn to home remodeling work, expected to be a strong industry segment in 2007.

“Other remodelers like myself are seeing next year as being strong and vibrant,” said Bill Markt, co-owner of Markt & Co. Construction, a Portland company that specializes in home additions. “People tend to stay where they are and remodel if new construction becomes too prohibitive cost-wise, either because of cost of construction or of interest rates.”

Sixty percent of homeowners, or 452,000 households, in the four-county metro area plan to undertake a remodeling project next year, according to research by Vista Market Intelligence, an advertising and marketing consultancy.

That would amount to a $2.6 billion market, said David Ludwig, president of Vista.

Class-A office construction is also expected to pick up next year, as job creation leads to a demand for more space while vacancy rates in Portland’s central business district decrease from the third quarter’s 6.3 percent, Rudd said.

And while condominium construction likely will wane due to an excess supply in the Portland area, Ludwig said, commercial construction is expected to remain robust as builders take on more public projects.

Nationwide, construction employment dropped by 30,000 in the last year, due mostly to layoffs in the residential segment, according to Ferguson Wellman’s Rudd.

But overall, Rudd said, the nation’s economy has fared well, picking up 132,000 jobs in the last 12 months.

“Despite continued declines in the manufacturing and construction employment segments, those unemployed people are being absorbed into the greater economy,” Rudd said.

http://www.djc-or.com/viewStory.cfm?...28537&userID=1
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Old Posted Dec 11, 2006, 8:18 PM
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My opinion.

The flattening of the speculation boom is due in large part to this combination:

-18 continuous quarters of interest rate hikes (not counting the last 2 where they remained flat)

-the meteoric rise in costs of construction over the last 24 months. It's astonishing...and it's passed along to the unit cost of the condos. Everything from steel, to concrete, to window systems has seen a huge increase in cost in the last 24 months.

-demand based increases in land/housing costs. (planned Urban renewal projects coming to fruition, and the availability of low cost loans...)

These all do not jibe with the lack of associated rise in wage income. The percentage of income dedicated to housing in Portland has gone up meteorically for home buyers. Particularly first timers.

Our home is valued at twice what it was 5 years ago, for a buyer today. Most people do not earn remotely close to twice what they did 5 years ago, for doing the same job.
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Old Posted Dec 12, 2006, 4:55 PM
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Don't forget the effect of the high cost of construction defect litigation and insurance along with increasing permit and SDC costs.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 11:04 PM
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Residential real estate market slows
Portland Business Journal - 12:51 PM PST Friday
Home buyers had more to choose from in Portland last month, but they still had to pay higher prices than they would have the year prior.

According to November statistics released today by the Regional Multiple Listing Service , there were 8.5 percent more new listings in November and 17.5 percent fewer sales closed. Together, that created an inventory of listed homes sufficient to answer demand for about five months, far higher than the halcyon days of 2005 when the inventories dropped below two months.

It also took longer to sell a home in November -- 51 days this year versus 38 in the same period a year ago.

But home sellers were rewarded for their patience -- the average home sold for $320,200, a 14.4 percent increased over the same period in 2005. The median sales price rose to $278,000, from $252,500.

Oregon City/Canby and Lake Oswego/West Linn tied for the slowest-moving markets, with homes taking an average of 64 days to sell.

Milwaukie/Clackamas boasted the greatest home appreciation -- 20.5 percent.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 11:07 PM
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c'mon market...slooow down more...slooower...sloooooooower...I'm so close to being able to buy my own house, I just want the market to be a bit more in my favor, once developers start offering incentives on condos, I'm snapping one up!
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 11:14 PM
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are you seriously considering getting a condo? that would be so cool, if it was in sowa or pearl you would have such easy access to construction updates. or maybe thats out of your price range cuz i know it sure is out of mine!
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 11:19 PM
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^we'll see...that's why I'm waiting for the softening to continue, especially since I can't afford to loose value on my first place. I'm seriously considering the 1700 building. It wont be completed for two years, but if I reserve my unit in the near future, I can stomach renting until its complete.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 11:22 PM
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good luck!
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 11:28 PM
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 2:33 AM
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That's a great little calculation tool. It makes the rent v. buy comparison process so much simpler. Thanks, Urbanpdx.
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 6:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkDaMan View Post
^we'll see...that's why I'm waiting for the softening to continue, especially since I can't afford to loose value on my first place. I'm seriously considering the 1700 building. It wont be completed for two years, but if I reserve my unit in the near future, I can stomach renting until its complete.
Is there a website for the 1700 building yet? They've got some killer renderings. What a cool design for the windows . . . kind of a basket weave effect with them tilting one direction and then the other. And the buildings look really in the right scale for the area. Sure would like to see what the units will be like inside. If I remember from some of the articles, I think the plan is for quite a few smaller units, but probably also some larger ones. Anyway, that would be a great location.
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 10:06 PM
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Bad news on U.S. homes front isn't spilling into Portland area
Housing - Unlike many parts of the country, the Northwest shows a double-digit year-to-year rise in values
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
The Oregonian

Good news, Portland-area homeowner: Your humble abode is probably still rising in value, unlike those owned by your counterparts in much of the rest of the country.

Prices of single-family homes across the nation increased in October at the slowest rate in almost a decade, according to a housing index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's, giving more evidence of the housing market's deceleration.

The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index showed a 2.4 percent year-over-year increase in the price of a single-family home based on prices of existing homes tracked over time in 10 metropolitan markets. For its 20-city composite index -- the monthly index, including Portland, was released Tuesday for the first time -- prices grew 2.9 percent, the slowest rate ever for that retroactively compiled data, according to the S&P index committee chairman, David Blitzer.

"Home price gains are continuing their steep deceleration," said Robert Shiller, chief economist of MacroMarkets. "We can clearly see that the monthly price declines are widespread nationally."

In its monthly statement announcing the index results, however, S&P identified two cities that bucked the national trend: "Interestingly, Seattle and Portland remain relatively strong, with annual returns as high as 14.1 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively."

The two Northwest cities were the only ones among the 20 in S&P's index to post double-digit year-over-year gains.

Six cities, meanwhile, showed average price declines. Detroit was the worst-performing market, losing 3.6 percent over the 12-month period, but joining it on the laggards list were several that had been among the nation's highest fliers in recent years, including Boston, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Most analysts predict continued slowing of sales amid a bloated inventory of homes.

The data is consistent with a report from the National Association of Realtors, which showed a tiny increase in sales of existing homes in October as the median home price fell by a record amount.

The Realtors association showed that the median sale price dropped to $221,000 in October, a decline of 3.5 percent from a year ago. That was the biggest year-over-year price decline on record.

Meanwhile, the inventory of unsold homes in October reached the second-highest level ever recorded. At the pace homes were being sold in October, it would take 7.4 months to sell the currently available homes.

The Federal Reserve has been closely watching the housing market as it tries to slow the economy's growth without pushing it into a recession. The Fed has left rates unchanged for the past four meetings, after raising rates 17 straight times since 2004.

At its last meeting on Dec. 12, a statement from the Fed said, "Economic growth has slowed over the course of the year, partly reflecting a substantial cooling of the housing market."

In recent quarters, economists had said the housing slump was creating a drag on the economy and pulling down gross domestic product growth. U.S. GDP fell to 2 percent in the third quarter amid a cooling real estate market.

The Associated Press and The Oregonian contributed to this report.
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/orego...220.xml&coll=7
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Old Posted Jan 8, 2007, 4:43 PM
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'Big price' fetches apartment prize
Portland Business Journal - January 5, 2007
by Wendy Culverwell
Business Journal staff writer

Prometheus Real Estate Group, of San Mateo, Calif., has paid an astounding $254,400 per unit -- $39.7 million -- for the City Heights Apartments in the heart of downtown Portland.

Prometheus will spend $3 million to outfit the complex's 156 units with hardwood floors, granite finishes and new appliances.

In a region where a $100,000-per-unit price is big, the City Heights sale suggests a conversion to condominiums could be in the offing, but Prometheus intends to operate City Heights as apartments.

The sale signals an end to an era in which apartments were frequently sold to buyers intent on converting them into condominiums.

With a sale price of $39.7 million, Prometheus' total commitment is $42.7 million. The property, at 1330 S.W. Third Ave., includes 8,500 square feet of street-level retail space. Starbucks and Paradise Bakery are tenants.

"We recognize it's a big price," said John Millham, senior vice president for acquisitions for Prometheus. "I think it reflects Prometheus' commitment to the Pacific Northwest."

City Heights is Prometheus' fourth Portland-area apartment investment -- it owns two complexes in Vancouver and one in Beaverton. Millham said the three are solid performers, which attracted the company's attention to downtown.

"The three assets that we have perform better than anything in our portfolio," he said.

He characterized City Heights -- formerly Essex House -- as a "beachhead" that could lead to additional purchases in Portland.

The price yields a capitalization rate, or return on the investment, of about 4.5 percent, or about two-tenths of a percent below the yield on a 10-year Treasury Bill.

"We sort of don't even look at it," said Millham, who said that once the property is revived, the new owner expects to raise rents and stabilize occupancy rates, which are currently about 92 percent. The projected cap rate is about 5.5 percent, he said.

The company paid cash, but expects to place debt on City Heights after the updates.

The 13-story building was built in 1992. The units are predominantly one and two bedrooms, with an average size of about 850 square feet. The updates are being designed by Portland's Ankrom Moisan Architects and begin in two to three months.

The deal was brokered by Phil Oester and David Young of the Portland and Seattle offices of Hendricks & Partners.

Oester said he initially expected City Heights to sell to a company that would convert the property to condominiums. In this instance, he said, the "apartment guys" presented the best offer. It's a significant turnaround for the market, he said.

"The story for increasing apartment rents is very compelling. That's a real change," he said.

Gary Winkler, a multifamily broker at Colliers International who was not involved in the transaction, agreed.

Apartments are back and City Heights is a good example of the renewed buying power of apartment operators, he said.

"It's a fact," he said. "The condo deals have slowed down."

Investors tell him they are raising rents on new leases and will likely start doing so with existing tenants in the coming year.

But there is one hitch for apartment owners -- rents still aren't climbing enough to offset rising utility costs and other expenses associated with owning property.

Not everyone is puzzled by the seemingly over-the-top price Prometheus paid for City Heights.

Stephanie Fuhrman, with multifamily brokerage Tilbury Ferguson & Neuburg Inc., notes that vacancy rates are extremely low in downtown. With essentially no new units scheduled to open in the coming 12 months, options are limited.

"Because of this, and the softening of the residential market, we have seen a convergence between multifamily values and condo conversion prices," she said.

Millham characterized Prometheus, which owns residential properties across the West, as a long-term investor.

Its strategy is to buy well-located properties that show opportunity for improvement, then hold them.

wculverwell@bizjournals.com | 503-219-3415

http://portland.bizjournals.com/port...ml?t=printable
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Old Posted Feb 27, 2007, 4:42 PM
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Rental unit owners look forward to more capital
by Kennedy Smith
02/27/2007
Daily Journal of Commerce


Apartment owners are sitting pretty this year as condo conversions slow down and would-be home buyers hold off on purchases, according to local multifamily brokers.

"I can unequivocally say that 2006 (saw) the greatest dollar volume of apartment sales activity ever seen in our market," said Mark Barry of Mark D. Barry & Associates, a Portland apartment appraiser.

In 2006, apartment sales volume was around $900 million, a 33 percent jump from 2005, when it reached $676 million, according to the company.

Three factors, Barry said, point to a decline in apartment vacancies in 2007: a better economy, slow apartment construction, a loss of units to condominium conversions and a decline in single-family affordability.

"Everyone expected apartment vacancies to fall," he said. "But the big surprise was just how far and fast apartment vacancies declined."

The latest figures from the Metro Multifamily Housing Association, a Portland-based consortium of residential property managers and vendors, show current vacancies at 3.4 percent, the lowest rate in the last decade for the Portland metropolitan area.

The tides turned for apartment owners about six to eight months ago, said Kirk Ward, a multifamily broker with Norris & Stevens Inc., a commercial brokerage firm.

"But this has been the first time that rents have been increasing faster than expenses," Ward said. "We take vacancy readings on a weekly basis, and last Monday occupancy was at 96.2 percent."

Norris & Stevens manages about 8,000 apartment units in the Portland metropolitan area.

Apartment owners, Ward said, are in a good position to take their extra capital and make improvements to their properties, like new weatherization, structural upgrades or even landscape improvements.

Unfortunately for some renters, letters may be on the way to tenants informing them of rent increases, especially in close-in areas, Ward said. Renters will also see larger security deposit requirements and tightening credit requirements as owners make those capital improvements.

High-value areas like downtown are seeing record rental rates, according to the Portland office of Colliers International, a commercial brokerage. The Louisa in the Pearl District, for example, quoted rental rates starting at $1.75 per square foot, which equates to about $1,000 per month for a 650-square-foot apartment.

Gary Winkler, head of the multifamily division at Colliers' Portland office, said larger, out-of-state investors are willing to pay "almost any price" to get a foothold in the Portland market.

"A prime example of such activity was the recent Prometheus acquisition of City Heights apartments at 1330 S.W. Third Ave.," he said, "setting a record at $254,000 per unit."

Prometheus Real Estate Group is a San Mateo, Calif., investment company.

Nationwide, the largest buyers of apartments last year were private, out-of-state investors and institutional investors, each accounting for 24 percent of apartment transactions. They were followed closely by private, in-state investors at 22 percent. Condo converters made up 11 percent of the nation's apartment sales, according to Real Capital Analytics, a commercial real estate research firm in New York.

Of Portland apartment transactions closed in 2006, 32 percent were by institutional investors; 5 percent, foreign investors; 11 percent, real estate investment trusts; 16 percent, condo converters; and 10 percent, out-of-state private investors, according to Real Capital Analytics.

So what does it all mean? According to Colliers, the trends are indicative of an economy coming out of recession. The Oregon Economic Development Department projects that the Portland metro area will see population growth of 11.6 percent in 2013, and those migrating will likely seek apartment living during their first few years of residency here.
http://www.djc-or.com/viewStory.cfm?...28970&userID=1
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Old Posted Feb 28, 2007, 6:26 PM
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Local homes database turns 'green'
RMLS - Environmentally friendly information for Realtors signals good news for some buyers and sellers and starts a trend
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
DYLAN RIVERA
The Oregonian

The Portland area's most comprehensive real estate database went live with a feature Tuesday designed to help Realtors identify and sell homes with environmentally friendly features.

The change comes as good news for home buyers who want a "green" home, and for sellers who want to add eco-friendly panache to their sales pitches. Realtors also are hoping the change will help push up prices -- and commissions -- for some abodes listed in their Regional Multiple Listing Service.

"Green and energy-efficient features have emerged as some of the most important and sought-after by buyers in the RMLS service area," said Beth Murphy, chief executive of the listing service. "With the help of their Realtors, sellers will now be able to market these features in their homes and home buyers will be able to pinpoint homes with those features."

The Portland effort is by far the largest in the nation and has already led others on the West Coast to follow along, said Steve Baden, executive director of Residential Energy Services Network in Oceanside, Calif.

"What's most significant is that appraisers use the MLS to make their market-based appraisals," Baden said. "That will serve to increase the market value of energy-efficient homes."

Earth Advantage, a Portland nonprofit behind most single-family home green certifications granted in Oregon and Southwest Washington, said this week that it is already starting discussions with appraisers, mortgage lenders and insurance companies over how to take advantage of the new service.

"There's a lot that's come out of the RMLS listing push," said Sean Penrith, Earth Advantage's executive director.

Among the possibilities that could come from the ability to search in the RMLS system, he said:

Appraisers will be able to compare homes sold with and without certain features, to see which ones make the most difference in a home's sales price.

With appraisal and energy cost savings information, mortgage lenders will be more willing to write loans that give home buyers better terms.

Insurance providers may devise products that give credit for properties that have increased resistance to mold intrusion and other construction-related problems that many of the certification programs address.

News of the Portland effort has prompted agencies in Seattle, Bend, Southern Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area to start developing standards, Penrith said.

The change in Portland was initiated by Kria Lacher, an agent with Meadows Group Inc. Realtors.

Since the RMLS board agreed to the change last fall, Lacher said she has been helping listing services elsewhere make the same changes. "I'm really excited about this," she said.

Portland's RMLS offers consumers a Web site that allows them to search for homes based by price and Zip code, among other criteria.

But RMLS members are allowed far more detailed searches and can input data. Realtors point to such access when arguing for their commissions and services.

There is little data on whether consumers are willing to pay more for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly features. Karl E. Sayles, an appraiser with Darty Appraisal Service in Melrose, Fla., said he compared the sales in a subdivision before they started using the Energy Star system and after they started using it.

The developer charged $1,500 for Energy Star features but they were valued at $4,000, he found in his analysis of about 20 sales.

Sayles said he brings up the issue to Gainesville-area Realtors and it goes over like a lead balloon. They've resisted adding such features to the listing service, he said.

"I think they'd have trouble unloading the inventory that wasn't Energy Star," he said. "I don't mean to trash the Realtors, but they're just out for a buck."

More than 1,000 Portland-area real estate agents have already asked Earth Advantage for more information and expressed interest in continuing education on the programs, Penrith said. The new search capability and Realtors' response has prompted the nonprofit to design a curriculum to educate agents, appraisers and lenders on green building.

"We've just got a flood of inquiries of people wanting to book us for the sessions," Penrith said.

For homes that a Realtor describes as under construction, new or proposed, the Web site has a pop-up menu that displays green building certification programs.

In other areas of the site, Realtors can for the first time select other green features, such as solar power, cork flooring or a 90-percent efficient furnace.

When searching for homes in the database, Realtors can search either for homes certified by one of the green programs or for any home with any of the certifications.

Dylan Rivera: 503-221-8532; dylanrivera@news.oregonian.com
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/orego...320.xml&coll=7
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Old Posted Mar 16, 2007, 4:29 PM
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Rents soar. Creatives edged out. Who will keep Portland weird?
Some small businesses that give the city its distinctive flavor are becoming victims of their own neighborhoods' success
Friday, March 16, 2007
JONATHAN BRINCKMAN
The Oregonian

Microcosm Publishing's eclectic offerings seem perfect for Portland's alternative culture: guides to anarchy, the politics of biodiesel, even "Adventures in Menstruating #2."

Yet the North Portland company closed its doors Thursday and is headed to Bloomington, Ind. -- driven out of town, the owner says, by the increasing cost of real estate.

"One of the principal incentives for coming here was that this was one of the places on the West Coast that was cheap and affordable," said Joe Biel, Microcosm's owner, who moved his then one-person company from Cleveland in 1999. "That's no longer true."

Biel's departure -- combined with the growing struggles of low-budget, edgy businesses to find affordable locations -- suggests that Portland's attractiveness is pushing back on the very people who helped create the city's progressive self-image.

"I saw the same pattern in New York," said Justin Hocking, the executive director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center on Southwest Oak Street. "This could be foreshadowing of what's to come in Portland."

Certainly, Portland remains a magnet for creative entrepreneurs and a bargain for those fleeing even higher-priced California cities. Their presence has produced hip, sometimes socially conscious, businesses such as Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Voodoo Doughnuts and worker-owned City Bikes. And rising real estate prices are signs of good health for the city and its business districts.

Yet some low-budget, cutting-edge companies are having trouble coping with gentrification that they unintentionally helped launch. The Back-to-Back Cafe, a worker-owned cafe once on East Burnside, closed for good after its building was redeveloped last spring. Rising rents have sent three bookstores --Laughing Horse, Looking Glass and In Other Words -- to cheaper locations.

"The portion of Portland that was radical is being gentrified," said Sue Burns, an owner of In Other Words. She moved the store off Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard last year when, she said, monthly rent hit $2,500 -- a tenfold increase over 10 years.

Abby Sewell, one of six former owners of Back-to-Back, said places such as her coffee shop help create the kind of place that Portland's business and political leaders brag about. "It takes away from the quality of life in the city to have places like us going out of business," she said.

Some view the rising commercial property values as positive for the city. They are proof that people want to live in an area, said Joseph Cortright, an economist with Impressa Consulting of Portland who his written extensively about the city's youth culture.

"I'd rather be us than Bloomington," Cortright said. "If people are moving there because they have cheap rent, that's not the side of the economic equation I'd like to be on."

Angry about gentrification

Biel, though, in an angry e-mail announcing his plans to move, expressed an opposite view.

"The development in North Portland around Mississippi Avenue is sickening," wrote Biel, whose publication, "A Zinester's Guide to Portland," was Powell's top-selling book early this year. "Owning property in North Portland is now reserved for the wealthy elite."

Biel faces a problem because his company is expanding. Microcosm's seven employees are already crammed in a warrenlike basement of Liberty Hall, a private community center near the Fremont Bridge. In his rented space, books and zines -- specialized magazines -- are stuffed in wall-cubbies and crawl spaces.

The company, which publishes 49 of its own zines and books and distributes hundreds of other publications, sells mostly by mail order and Internet to customers worldwide. Biel also keeps his business open to anyone who wants to stop, browse the publications and buy them without paying for postage.

"We outgrew where we are now within the first year of moving here," said Biel, a quiet man who thrives on hard work. "It's truly a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling operation. It's pretty intense."

Biel said he spent much of last year looking for a larger place for his company. The criteria: It had to be affordable, and it had to be in close-in Portland, accessible to those who prefer to bike than drive. No luck. "I was very frustrated that we weren't finding a place," he said.

Last December, he concluded that smaller communities offered property values that would allow him to keep prices down. "We want to sell things at a price that we would purchase them at," he said.

Biel chose Bloomington because on a trip there he was impressed by the city's creative scene. Also, he'll save shipping costs because Bloomington is close to the Illinois company that prints Microcosm's publications.

That's not to say he won't miss the city where he's spent most of his 20s. It was here, he said, that his company found success. Microcosm grew to a company with seven employees and 2006 annual revenues of $299,000.

"I didn't know how great it was here until I arrived," he said. "One of Portland's strong points is you constantly run into people who are huge in your world."

Finding a balance

Biel left Thursday for San Francisco, where he will be giving a presentation at the city's annual book fair before reopening his business in Indiana next week. Microcosm -- and Biel -- will be missed, said Burns of In Other Words, which relocated to Northeast Killingsworth Street, near rapidly gentrifying North Williams Avenue.

"There's a big hole that will be left by having Microcosm not here and not so accessible," she said. "He's a pioneer and a beacon of light."

A social community of activists and progresses revolved around Microcosm's headquarters, said Rebecca Gilbert, co-owner of Stumptown Printers and a founder of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She said, though, that his departure won't detract significantly from Portland's creative vitality.

"We all move around and we all stay connected," she said. "Maybe that means that his influence isn't leaving Portland community."

Philip Stanton, owner of The Mississippi Pizza Pub on North Mississippi Avenue, has seen the good side of change. When he opened his now-popular nightspot five blocks west of Microcosm Publishing in 2001, the street was mostly "hookers and drug dealers." Now it's a thriving neighborhood, full of restaurants, coffee shops, a garden store and a brewpub.

"It's a balance," he said. "You want an area to change enough to make it safe, but you can't stop it when you want it to. You lose affordability, but the advantage is that you create a village."

Jonathan Brinckman: 503-221-8190; jbrinckman@news.oregonian.com
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/orego...420.xml&coll=7
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