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Portland broker sees rebound in housing market during pandemic

After several months of slowdown, an experienced real estate broker says Portland's housing market is hot again, with high prices and low interest rates.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland real estate broker with more than 20 years of experience says the market is hot again, after several months of slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is a crazy time," Michelle Maida said. "I think that this is one of the busiest times that I have had, at least in my career."

Maida is a principal broker with John L. Scott Real Estate. She said right now interest rates are low for buyers, and home prices are high for sellers.

"In 2018, the average sales price was somewhere around $437,000 for the Portland metro area. And today for July, it's $502,000, so that's a big leap," Maida explained.

Even with more houses on the market compared to last year, competition is fierce.

"For every house I sell in Portland, there's a half dozen people waiting in the wings to buy that house," Maida said, warning potential buyers most homes get six to twelve competing offers.

From her vantage, there are many moving parts to the Portland metro housing market. 

For one, some Portlanders in Multnomah County are moving to neighboring counties that are more affordable. Maida said Clackamas and Washington counties are hot spots.

Other people are moving away because of issues such as ongoing protests and homelessness.

However, ultimately, Maida said the market is what's drawing in buyers and sellers alike.

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"For me, it happened really fast," Jen Flores said. 

Flores moved from Portland to a home in Gladstone at the end of June.

"We toured four houses," Flores explained. "The first one we really loved, and we put an offer on it, and it was accepted within 24 hours."

She felt lucky. A previous offer had fallen through, so she, her husband and her in-laws jumped in to buy the home together.

"We were so lonely and we missed our family so much, so [we thought] 'if we all bought a house together, then we could see each other every day,'" Flores said.

Maida agreed the pandemic has impacted buyers' priorities, especially those reconsidering what working at home looks like.

"They realize that their house doesn't have the space that they need—that is conducive to conducting business at home," Maida said.

For Flores, shifting from a Portland apartment to a suburban house with a big backyard also helps during COVID-19.

"[We're able] to entertain, social distance style," Flores said.

Maida said although home prices are higher, buyers have a new advantage when getting a mortgage.

"[On Wednesday] I had someone lock in ... 30-year conventional at 2.375%, and the lender said that is the lowest rate he has ever seen. I mean it's practically free, it's crazy!" Maida said. "If you're looking for a house and you're going to live in it for more than seven years, with these interest rates, you should jump in right now. [Home] prices may come down a little bit, but you won't be able to afford nearly as much house—when the interest rates go up—as you could afford now."

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