Buying a home is exciting, stressful, and confusing. Often, the process is full of “Why didn’t anyone tell me that?” moments. I’m writing this post to help you avoid as many of those moments as you can. At Columbia Redevelopment, we’re no strangers to buying homes in Portland. But I still remember what it’s like to be a first-time homebuyer making that first down payment.

Whether you’re getting ready to buy your very first home, or just your first Portland home, here are a few things you should know:

Know What You’re Looking For

Why do you want to own your own home? Are you trying to escape Portland’s infamous rising rent? Do you need more space? Are you open to a fixer-upper, or do you need a home that’s move-in-ready? And why Portland and not some other city?

Think about your answers to questions like:

  • What’s the #1 thing my new home must have?
  • What would be a deal breaker?
  • How am I going to compare one property to another?

You might even consider making a prioritized list of the factors that are most important to you. If you’re buying a home together with a partner, spouse, friend, or family member, it’s especially important to make sure you’re on the same page.

Establish a Price Range

understanding your financesUnderstanding your finances and settling on a price range is an unpleasant but necessary first step on the path towards owning a home. It can save you a lot of stress down the road.

A good understanding of your financial situation can also give you an idea of what to expect when you go to get a loan. When you apply for a loan, your mortgage lender will look at a variety of factors, which could include:

  • Your credit score
  • Your tax returns
  • Your employment history

It’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you’re ready to make an offer. That way your dream home won’t get snatched up by another buyer while you’re dealing with the bank.

A piece of advice: Be wary of letting a bank or mortgage lender talk you into spending more than you want to. If you’ve already nailed down a realistic price range based on a good understanding of your finances, stick to it.

Where in Portland…?

Do you like the hip, swanky vibe in the Pearl District? Or do you prefer the shady, family-friendly Laurelhurst neighborhood? Portland has so many beautiful neighborhoods to choose from! So many that searching for homes in the Rose City can feel a little overwhelming. Make it manageable by narrowing down your search to a few neighborhoods you know you’d like to live in.

Remember that the house itself isn’t the only factor. How close do you want to be to downtown, the nearest grocery store, parks, and schools? For some people, a neighborhood’s walkability score is a deciding factor.

Cathedral Park St Johns Bridge Portland Oregon

Cathedral Park under the St. John’s Bridge

Photo: Ian Poellet

The type of home you’ll find in your price range can differ quite a bit from place to place — even within Portland. Take a look at some of the current homes on the market to get an idea of what’s available in your price range in each neighborhood you’re interested in.

If you’re new to the Portland area, my advice is to take some time to drive or walk around the neighborhoods you’re interested in to make sure they’re a good fit.

Research Portland Homes

Portland offers an eclectic mix of home styles. We have everything from 19th-century Victorian beauties to charming bungalows to shiny, contemporary new homes. Here are a few examples:

Tall, Victorian-style House in St. John’s

st johns portland house

Photo: Tomas Quinones

Cute One-story in North Portland

cute one story north portland

Photo: jill, jellidonut… whatever

Two-story Family Home in Northeast Portland

family home in northeast portland

Photo: Walklandia

Unique Southeast Portland Home

unique southeast portland home

Photo: William Beutler

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Get as much information as you can from everyone.

Friends and Family

A second opinion can be invaluable. Talk to people you trust — especially people with homebuying experience — to get an outside perspective. If possible, bring them with you to open houses. Ask them if they know a good real estate agent, if you’re planning on using one.

Your Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a great resource who’s there to answer all your questions. If you’re using an agent, make sure you find a good one you can trust — someone who will give you their full attention and return your phone calls and emails promptly.

The Home Inspector

A home inspection can turn up problems you can’t see with the naked eye. Or it can give you peace of mind that you’re making a solid investment. Be there for the inspection and talk to the inspector about all your concerns. A home inspector can provide an objective opinion since they have no stake in the closing of the sale.

Remember: A home is a big investment. You want to know what you’re really putting your hard earned savings into.


I know the homebuying process can be stressful. Don’t forget to take a few deep breaths every now and then. Know that, no matter what speed bumps you hit along the way, you’ll soon be happily settled in your new home.

If you currently live in the Portland area and you need to sell your current home, or if you’re just curious about buying a new home in Portland, contact us at Columbia Redevelopment!

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Photos: Cacophony, Ken Teegardin