House Hunters: The Portland Edition

Street Sign

Our names are Jaro & Julie and we are first time homebuyers. Cue Psycho music. Seriously, play that clip in the background while you read this post.

I wish I had exciting news (read: that we have actually BOUGHT A HOUSE), but I’d love to share our experience with house hunting so far. It is such an emotional, scary and overwhelming ordeal life event.

When we arrived here two weeks ago, I didn’t really have any context to this city. I had glanced at a map, Jaro had pointed out some areas he heard were nice (though he wasn’t that familiar either), we flipped through some listings on Zillow, but that was it. Probably not the most prepared I could have been, but I just wanted to get out here and see it for myself. I had never been to Portland before our move.

I hit the ground running with our agent after my bout with the flu upon arrival. He drove me all over the city, explaining the neighborhoods, showing me houses. It was helpful. Then, on my own, I’d just get in the car and drive around. Might not sound that thrilling, but remember, Portland is weird, so I was entertained. Plus, it’s really the only way to learn the layout of the city. After two weeks of house hunting, here are some things I figured out:

  • Portland is divided into four quadrants: NE, NW, SE, SW. It’s really easy to navigate. We decided very quickly that the west side is not for us, despite it being closer to Jaro’s office in Beaverton. Once you leave the tiny downtown, it has an overall suburban (sometimes rural) feel. Often times, homes are not within walking or even biking distance to anything. Convenience was an issue. It felt isolating. So, we are focusing our efforts on the east side. It feels more “us”. It’s the kind of thing you just know.
  • Once we narrowed down which side of the river we wanted to be, we got even more specific about neighborhoods. Being in or near an “anchor” neighborhood (read: most desirable), where there are good schools, green spaces, restaurant and shopping options, etc. is all very important to us. There are several areas that fit the bill nicely.
  • We are looking at detached houses (like, with a yard and stuff), and most houses are old. Don’t worry, this is something that excites us more than scares us. We both love vintage houses, with all the details and woodwork. While our darling little home will certainly have personality, it may be lacking in other areas like closet space, room size and amenities. Don’t care. We will love it despite these inevitable imperfections. We will have to compromise on some things. As long as we feel we are not settling, we’ll be happy.
  • But then we remember that we are trying to buy a house in January. In and around all the areas that we want to live, there is extremely low inventory because of the time of year. This presents additional challenges, and more pressure on us to commit.
  • You see, with these vintage houses, we are not the only ones that see their charms. If a house is in decent shape and in a decent location (not even necessarily great in either category), we can expect several offers on the table within the first 24 hours. During our first week here, we didn’t realize we would be battling it out, gladiator-style, with other buyers on every single property. We quickly learned we need to hustle. And then sit tight and cross our fingers. Hurry up and wait.
  • Okay, so homes get multiple offers. Guess what that also means? We have to be competitive and offer above asking price if we want any real shot at winning the house. There is a sense of panic and all of us buyers are scrambling, desperately, to be the winner.
  • As a result, they sell FAST. How fast? Try end of day that they get listed. Or maybe the end of the next day, if you’re lucky. That is just the market here right now, which is so anxiety-inducing. Cue nervous stomach aches and eyelid twitching (does that happen to anyone else?). Every day we wake up wondering, are we going to buy our home today? And then I want to pass out. Could happen. The passing out or the house buying. Or both.
  • I wish I had been counting, but I’ve probably seen close to about 25-30 houses since we arrived. Houses are much easier to view when they are vacant. Occupied homes are filled with so much crap that sometimes it’s hard to look past (not as bad as the horrid apartments in Stockholm though).
  • And finally, open houses are the worst. You’re in there with other buyers and the selling agent, and I feel like it’s as much about sizing each other up as it is about the house. And we all have to take off our shoes, and keep our comments to ourselves… it’s just awkward. And, if a seller even has time to hold an open house, it’s probably not that great.

Sounds intense, huh? I’m already tired. This house hunting thing is a lot of work. It’s not an episode of Property Virgins, that’s for sure. I wish we had time to mull over the listings, negotiate (down, not up) with the seller and enjoy this process, but that’s just not going to happen. We have been thrown into the lion’s beaver’s den. Portland, why you gotta be like this?

We are trying to make the best of it. Every day, we take a deep breath and check for new listings. We are trying to stay level-headed and reasonable about what is out there and our expectations. We’re trying to be patient. After only two weeks, I can say with confidence that we’ll know the right house when we see it. That is progress from knowing nothing a mere 14 days ago.

Right. So it’s only been two weeks. I need to chill, I know. But since I can’t stand our corporate housing and we haven’t lived in our own space since October, it’s constantly on my mind and I’m anxious. Blankets, people. I miss mine.

Can’t wait to update you once we find our little home. Any day now…


{image from our aimless wandering around Portland, at least it was sunny}


13 thoughts on “House Hunters: The Portland Edition

  1. I saw the title and I thought you were really going to be on House Hunters and I was jealous!

    If you’re not already using one, I definitely recommend getting a buyer’s agent. They don’t cost anything- they take their pay from splitting the commission with the selling agent. They will know the city better than you do and will be very familiar with what is on the market, so they can help you find exactly what you are looking for. It takes a lot of the stress out of home buying if you use a buyer’s agent. I’d never house hunt without one, personally.

    • We almost did House Hunters in Stockholm, but since we didn’t end up there, it’s a good thing it didn’t happen! And thanks for the advice, we do have an agent that we are working with, thank GOD. Real estate is a crazy world.

  2. We have friends who viewed over 60 houses before they found the right one! With each house you see, you picture what your life could look like and then it’s gone in an instant! It’s definitely a mind eff. You two will know when it’s right and have the best of luck – I know it!

  3. Hey Julie! I love following these adventures on your blog. I just wanted to commiserate a little – the housing market in Portland sounds so similar to the housing market it Sydney. Competitive, expensive and stressful as hell. Luckily we are only renting right now so finding something and ultimately settling for something wasn’t a huge commitment – I don’t want to imagine buying in the same market. I hope you guys find and get something soon that you love. All the best

    • So great to hear from you, Adrienne! You can feel my pain. It’s SO stressful, right? I sigh with envy over your pictures of Oz. I hope you are loving it!! x

  4. Hey there – Portland actually is divided into FIVE quadrants (you forgot North Portland) 🙂 My agent, Ruth Canutt, was a dream in finding my home – she did all the heavy lifting, I just checked my emails and then she’d come pick me up to take me to a house. I bought back in ’06 when you could bid on and lose/win a house in a day (I beat out 3 folks on a Sunday to get my house, after losing bids on 6 others – but luckily, this was the best one!) , so I understand the exhaustion!

    • Thanks, Amiee! Yes, I suppose I did leave out North Portland. I haven’t even been up there yet, but I just heard some great things about that area this weekend. Seems like the market has come full circle and we’re duking it out with other buyers in ’13. Glad to hear you can relate! x

      • check out Overlook (97217) near Omaha Street and Woodlawn (97211) near Dekum Street, seriously cute ‘hoods that are very walkable!

  5. The Brit and I are just starting this house hunting business. Unfortunately, Southern California is crazy expensive, especially where we are. Houses are all new here, too, so no charming Victorians like I would love to have. We’re still getting to know the areas, getting used to a different style of architecture and houses that sit rather close together, and while mortgage would be cheaper every month than the rent we’re paying, it’s managing the down-payment that is a whole other issue. BUT, when the right house is ready for you (and us), it will make itself known. Good luck, kids!

  6. Pingback: House Hunters: The Portland Edition (update) | Those Dam Americans

  7. Pingback: Daydreaming about… Our New House | Those Dam Americans

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