Portland among the hottest real estate upswings

By Economist Dr. Eric Fruits, Econinternational

In the Portland State University Center for Real Estate single family housing report, RMLS student fellow Evan Abramowitz reports that all major US metropolitan markets have seen appreciation in the last year, and foreclosure activity is at the lowest level since before the recession in 2008. Portland remains one of the hottest markets in the United States, with the year on year appreciation at 14.1% using National Association of Realtor data, 12.4% using the Case-Shiller repeat sales index, and 22.0% using Abramowitz’ analysis of RMLS data for the three-county region. Unlike most US markets, prices in Portland market are higher today than prior to the recession. At the same time, this increase in prices hasn’t led to a robust recovery in construction activity. While building permits have risen in the last year, they remain less than half the level in the boom period of 2003-07.

Outside of the three-county Portland area, Abramowitz finds sharp increases in housing prices in all the major markets in the state and region, with the following median levels: Portland area, $334,350; Bend, $280,000; Vancouver suburbs, $279,900; Benton County, $248,000; Eugene-Springfield, $244,300; City of Vancouver, $231,140; Redmond, $180,900; Salem $177,000, Marion County, $170,000, and Linn County, $155,000. Abramowitz discovered that new home prices in Portland in the last quarter only barely exceeded those of existing homes ($334,350 vs. $327,000), suggesting that developers have focused on constructing smaller homes than previously. Historically, new homes have sold for a premium of approximately $50,000 over existing homes.

In the multi-family housing report, Abramowitz reports the Portland-area apartment vacancy rates have remained low at 3.1%, considerably below the national average of 4.3%. Abramowitz finds that multi-family permit activity is rising quickly and cites the work of Portland apartment specialists, Mark and Patrick Barry, who see an accelerating new apartments being proposed, permitted, built, and opened, particularly in close-in East Portland neighborhoods. They anticipate vacancy rates reaching 5.5% by the end of 2015.

In the office market report, Oregon Association of Realtors Student Fellow Geoff Falkenberg finds that the office market has experienced a fourth year of positive net absorption with only a 0.2% increase in the stock of space in the last year. As a result, rents are rising by 5% for CBD class A space and 4.5% for Class B. Vacancy rates for the CBD remain lower (8.7%) than suburban markets like the Sunset Corridor (12.5%) and Kruse Way (15.4%). These patterns may change as the Edith Green redevelopment and the Park Avenue West projects are completed.

In his industrial report, Falkenberg reports that vacancy rates have remained at a low level of 6.7% in the Portland market, the lowest level since 2008, and much lower than rates in Seattle, 15.5%; San Francisco, 9.1%; and Los Angeles 16.7%. While rents haven’t moved much, the tight conditions are leading to new construction. Falkenberg reports the groundbreaking by Capstone Partners of the first speculative industrial warehouse in the Portland market since 2007.

In his retail report, Falkenberg finds that vacancy rates for retail space have remained stubbornly high at 6.15%,  However, average rents have remained at the $16.00 per square foot rate for the last two years, well below the $18.00 per square foot level they commanded in 2008-09. This suggests that landlords are keeping their space active by cutting rents. In that environment, little new construction activity is anticipated.

The Center for Real Estate Quarterly Report is produced with the assistance of the Oregon Association of Realtors.

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