Is a Condo or a Single-Family Home Your Best First Home in Portland: Part 2

Easier to Get Your Foot In?

As a first-time buyer, I definitely understand the allure of a condo. The logic of a condo purchase, in many parts of the country, is that condos are often less expensive than their single-family counterparts, particularly when comparing the two properties if they’re both located in one desirable neighborhood. So, condos offer a great way to get our feet in the door, literally and figuratively. But this isn’t always the case in Portland, since first of all, single-family homes (SFH) outnumber condos, and second, the city offers affordable SFHs in numerous highly sought-after neighborhoods. Thus in Portland, condos are less likely to be an “economy” choice and more likely to be a “lifestyle” choice. These units  are usually grouped together in a very central, highly urban areas: downtown; in the Pearl; or near OHSU are examples. They appeal to someone who wants the vitality of city life, who enjoys the energy of being in the center of it all.

They also often allow people to live close to where they work, creating a walkable urban hub of culture and community that appeals to many of us these days. And, practically speaking, condos  generally require less time and maintenance on the part of one homeowner, since the property as a whole is the shared responsibility of each condo owner in a particular building. And again, I get this: as a new buyer who's rented her whole adult life, my DIY skills aren't much practiced. That aspect of condo life, that protection, is reassuring.

In the city of Portland, the median list price for condos in April, 2012, was $215K and the median selling price (by far the more telling statistic) was $195K (those numbers for single-family homes are $243K and $229K, respectively).  Keep in mind though, a condo in Gresham will cost a lot less than a condo in the trendy Pearl; but conversely, the one in the Pearl will likely be smaller as money doesn’t buy as much square footage there. The medians also include every kind of unit, from a studio to a penthouse suite, so, studying the median, out of context from actual units on the market, won’t do you as much good as actually studying the current MLS listings for condos in Portland, or better still, touring them with your real estate agent.

Overall, if you’re a single homebuyer, or you and your partner really enjoy the community of a condo complex as well as the decidedly urban feel of the majority of Portland’s condo locations, the ease and modernity of condominium living might be the best choice for your first home.

However, note that condos, with that HOA you’re hoping will take so much weight off the onus of homeownership, also entail their own difficulties. And those difficulties provide fodder for Part 3 of this series. Check back next week and I'll explore them.

More Resources

Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert.


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