MARKET SNAPSHOT: Portland, Ore. Reports Lowest Apartment Vacancy Rate in the Nation

Portland, Ore.--Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton has the lowest apartment vacancy rate, 4 percent, among the top 75 U.S. MSAs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest report.

Portland, Ore.—Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton has the lowest apartment vacancy rate, 4 percent, among the top 75 U.S. MSAs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report.

While the unemployment rate has declined, it’s still relatively high at 9.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, as Greg Frick, partner at HFO Investment Real Estate, points out, “even when we had high unemployment, our vacancy was about 10 percent, so we didn’t fall that far. We’re not typically a boom-or-bust market; we’re really slow and steady.”

Some good news includes Intel’s commitment to invest in an existing plant in Hillsboro, says Frick. And the market’s continued in-migration and urban growth are expected to help the market’s recovery.

In the multifamily arena, construction remains extremely limited. The market typically averages between 4,000 and 5,000 units per year, Frick tells MHN; in the last two years, about 750 units were permitted each year.

Meanwhile, concessions are burning off, and the market is experiencing between 5 percent and 10 percent rental growth. But, Frick adds, “we’re typically the lowest on the West Coast for rent numbers, so 5 percent in our market does not equate to the same dollar amount as some of the other markets.”

On the investment side of the market, Frick reports, “there’s been a lot of money chasing deals … [for the] Class A institutional stuff.” In-core Class A assets are trading at sub-5 cap rates, while suburban Class A deals have traded between 5 percent and 5.75 percent. Meanwhile, B and C asset values have held steady.

“We are seeing some B/C stuff trade, but it’s not at the fevered pitch you’re seeing in the Class A,” Frick tells MHN. “There’s institutional money chasing deals now, trying to get into this market because of the demographics and low vacancy.”

As far as the recovery, Frick points to the bond measures that are trying to get passed, and the resulting increase in taxes and utility charges, that could have a negative impact on the apartment market. “Those are a couple of expense items you don’t really have control over,” he notes. “Will we get enough rent growth to keep pace? How much will that be eroded from these added operational costs?”

While Portland’s livability factor poises it for a strong recovery, Frick notes, “we just need …[to] get some jobs in here and wage inflation so apartment owners can really capitalize on that increased demand.”

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