Milwaukie Real Estate Blowing Up As Affordability And Orange Line Attracts New Buyers

Dated: September 4 2015

Views: 560

When Guy Hodyl moved to the Portland area last year, friends already here wondered aloud why he'd rented an apartment in Milwaukie.


"People were scoffing at me for living so far from the city," he said.


But by the time he decided to buy a house there are a year later, their reaction had changed: "The knee-jerk response has been, 'What a great idea! That area's blowing up!'"


Milwaukie had long maintained a low profile, with homebuyers looking for a hip neighborhood opting for Southeast Portland and more affluent families moving to Lake Oswego or West Linn. But as close-in Portland has grown more expensive, an increasing number of homebuyers are finding Milwaukie an affordable -- and attractive -- option.


"The hot market has made everything hotter in these pockets like Milwaukie where affordability is still good," said Brian Thomas, a real estate agent with the brokerage Redfin. "A lot of people getting priced out of (Southeast Portland) have another option."


But Milwaukie's newfound popularity is already taking a toll on that affordability. The number of homes on the market has been cut in half from a year ago, according to Redfin, while prices have climbed 18 percent.


There are, though, still homes to be found in the $200,000 range, which is more than can be said for much of Portland.


Hodyl was looking for a home big enough to grow into, and in Milwaukie he found a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house with a garage. Unlike the homes he toured in Portland, it had a backyard big enough for gardening.


"It definitely didn't feel like a suburb far the from the city," he said.


In a sense, Milwaukie is about to get a lot closer to downtown Portland.


TriMet's new MAX Orange Line opens on Sept. 12, delivering riders from Southeast Park Avenue in Milwaukie to Pioneer Square in 27 minutes. And real estate brokers say buyers are especially interested in homes within walking distance of the light-rail line.


"More than ever, I'm getting calls from people out of state who are very interested in Milwaukie and want to be located within a mile of the MAX," said Pam Yancoskie, a broker with Re/Max Equity Group. "A lot of my own clients who live here were concerned about it bringing values down, but I've really seen the opposite occur."


Sally Mead bought a house in Milwaukie in July. The former Southwest Portland resident had spent little time in Milwaukie before touring houses there, but she was looking for a more affordable area.


But it was pending arrival of the Orange Line that led her to Milwaukie.


"I had an aspiration to lead a smaller-carbon-footprint lifestyle," she said. "Now I'm four blocks from the new MAX station. It cuts down on the excuses."


Even though the project has been widely discussed for years while under construction, Thomas said the public awareness seemed to pick up when signs and stations started to pop up.


"Once that infrastructure started to take shape and look like a MAX line, that's when the push started," he said.


Connecticut-based Starwood Capital Group in July paid $47.1 million for two apartment complexes in Milwaukie, totaling 368 units. The seller was local apartment developer Holland Partner Group.


Even in a tight rental marking that's prompted sales all over the metro area, Milwaukie had previously seen few big sales and little interest from out-of-town landlords.


"That market has been dominated by mom and pop," said Ira Virden, managing director at the brokerage HFF.


The Orange Line could help change all that, he said. Large out-of-state investors like transit-oriented sites, especially when they connect a community to large employers. And significant public investment usually portends more public and private investment to follow.


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Mark Ross

For Mark Ross, founder of Ross NW Real Estate and professional real estate broker, real estate has always been the career of choice. During his 25+ years in the industry, Mark has gained experience in....

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