When Caitlin and Charles Vestal began looking to buy a home in January, the search quickly felt like a full-time job.
“It has been an insane process,” Caitlin Vestal said. “I wasn’t working during the time, and I’m glad I wasn’t.”
The couple moved from Austin, Texas, to Portland last summer, arriving in what would soon become America’s hottest real estate market. Caitlin had been accepted to a graduate program in creative writing through Oregon State University, and Charles landed a tech job at the Portland design and engineering firm Uncorked Studios.
The couple ended up with a small, one-bedroom apartment along Southeast Division street but eventually decided to buy a home – something they’d never done before – with a backyard for their dogs.
Here’s what they found:
- A market that posted the nation’s largest year-over-year gains in home values for four straight months between October and January.
- Prices that have risen by double-digit percentages in the past year: 17 percent in Portland, according to Zillow, and more than 13 percent region-wide.
- A remarkably low inventory of available homes, even in the traditionally slow winter sales months. In December, inventory hit its lowest level since at least 1999 and has only budged slightly since then.
- Housing prices that haven’t been seen in Portland since before the recession, or, in some cases, ever.
So how to navigate such an intimidating market?
“We just kind of had to wise up very quickly to the fact that it’s an insane game,” Caitlin Vestal said. “And that list prices basically mean nothing.”
The Vestals made four offers. They were rejected three times. Another time, they walked away because of issues with the home. “We had to really emotionally unhook from every house we made an offer on,” Caitlin Vestal said. “Because it was so depressing to keep getting rejected.”
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