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How to Find an Apartment in Portland, OR 2021

By: Susan Finch
June 17, 2021

Moving to Portland offers a gorgeous backdrop of green space and waterfront views along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. It's also known for its quirky vibe, creative spirit, trendy nightlife, and dining scene. Renters get the best of both worlds in a city that prioritizes live music and fun while enjoying biking along the green space and utilizing sustainable living practices.

You can figure out how to find an apartment in Portland on your own or use our guide to find the best place to suit your budget and needs.

Here's what to do to find the best neighborhood and apartment amenities in Portland, Oregon.

1. How to Find the Best Portland Neighborhood

Portland transformed from a sleepy logging town to a city attracting entrepreneurs, freelance workers, creatives, and musicians. Its neighborhoods range from trendy and hip to quiet and family-friendly. Here's where to start apartment hunting in some of the best Portland neighborhoods.

Pearl District

The fashionable Pearl District is a premier shopping destination with an independent spirit. You can go book shopping at Powell's City of Books or head to one of several indie boutiques. Galleries, studios, and craft breweries are also plentiful. Live in a transformed warehouse turned loft or new luxury apartment building.

Downtown Portland

Downtown Portland is a compact neighborhood with convenient access to the rest of the city. The area attracts Millennials and up-and-coming career climbers looking to live in the heart of Portland. You can walk everywhere or take the light rail or streetcar buses.

West End

Portland's historic West End is known for its fashion, nightlife, and creative spirit. You'll find hotels, boutiques, and international shops lining the trendy streets. There's always something to do on the weekend.

Nob Hill

Northwest or Nob Hill Portland offers breath-taking views of the city with upscale shopping and restaurants. The neighborhood is home to Forest Park, with 70 miles of trails and hills. The local Portland International Rose Test Garden boasts roses, a gorgeous city skyline, and trails for exploring amidst a vibrant backdrop.

Goose Hollow

Southwest Portland is home to the trendy Goose Hollow neighborhood that attracts college students and young professionals. The community was once full of geese, but is now home to stunning historic buildings, modern apartment buildings, and eateries. The neighborhood is also home to the Artists Repertory Theater and Providence Park. This stadium hosts the Portland Thorns FC and Portland Timbers FC.

Old Town-Chinatown

Old Town-Chinatown is home to commercial office space, lively nightclubs, and drag burlesque shows. Portland rent prices have skyrocketed in this popular neighborhood where you can live in proximity to the best of what Downtown has to offer.

Dance clubs and lively cocktail bars attract locals from around the city. Grab a donut from Voodoo Doughnuts before work and take a walk through the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Downtown Portland

You might hear people refer to Pearl District and Downtown Portland as the same neighborhood. The two communities boast a distinct vibe and flavor. Downtown offers more high-rises and access to the rest of the city. You'll find the core of the city's retail industry Downtown. Locals take advantage of the lack of sales tax.

Downtown is also home to plenty of luxury high-rise apartments and condos. Look for waterfront views and bike storage so you can bike along the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park on your weekends.

Eliot

Eliot is situated in the Northeastern part of Portland and boasts a diverse neighborhood with a quiet vibe. The area hasn't been as influenced by commercial development as many Portland neighborhoods. It’s more resistant to big-box retailers and fast-food chains.

Unlike the Pearl District, Eliot still retains many of its old warehouses. Many think the area is primed for revitalization. Eliot is home to older homes and apartments, which makes it more affordable than nearby neighborhoods. It's also a quick commute to downtown Portland.

Want to explore more neighborhoods? Get more information on Portland neighborhoods here.

2. How Much Are Apartments in Portland?

Are you ready to head West and move to Portland? Before you start apartment hunting, learn about the local rental market.

Average Rent in Portland

Portland rents have increased by 1.81% compared to last month and are down by -0.81% compared to the same time since last year. Here's more information on how to figure out your budget and what you'll probably pay.

  • 2% of apartments in Portland cost less than $1,000 per month.
  • 73% of apartments in Portland cost between $1,000-$1,999 per month.
  • 21% of apartments in Portland cost between $2,000-$2,999 per month.
  • 4% of apartments in Portland cost over $3,000 per month.

3. How to Find Cheap Apartments In Portland

Portland was once a relatively affordable city, but its rents have boomed over the last decade. It's still possible to find apartment deals and bargains if you stay flexible and spend a little time looking. Move-in specials can help lower your overall expenses. You may discover specials during December and January, when rentals are usually less competitive.

You'll also have other expenses to consider beyond your rent. Follow a budgeting checklist for all of your apartment essentials like moving costs and utilities.

The farther you get from trendy areas like the Pearl District and Nob Hill, the cheaper your rent. Portland is a public transportation-friendly city, though you should test your commute before you settle on more affordable rent in a less convenient neighborhood. Locals find they need to prioritize rent or location and meet somewhere in the middle to find the best deal. Come prepared with these eight tips for finding a Portland apartment you can afford.

4. What's the Best Time to Find an Apartment in Portland?

The season you move to Portland, Oregon, could make a difference in the rental prices you pay. Rental seasonality trends say that December or January might be cheaper times to move to Portland. You'll pay the highest prices on rent during the summer season and face the most competition to score affordable apartments.

What drives this seasonality?1

More people move during the summer because:

  • Weather doesn't get in the way
  • School is not in session, so it's a convenient time for college graduates and families with children to move

Fewer people move during the winter because:

  • Inclement weather can get in the way
  • Moving can be expensive. On top of that, winter holidays already consume a lot of discretionary spending.

You're almost ready to go out and find the Portland, OR apartment of your dreams. Here's how to get the budget process started.

6. Determine Your Budget

You can find an affordable apartment in Portland with a proven budgeting strategy. Use the 30% rule to find a cheap apartment that won't break your budget.

The rule stipulates that you should only spend 30% of your pre-taxed monthly take-home pay on rent. Your pre-taxed take-home pay is also referred to as your gross pay. You can divide your annual salary by 40 to get the same number.

Let's say you found an apartment in Portland for $1,500 that you want to sign a lease on. Your gross income should hit right around $5,000 per month or about $60,000 per year. You may need to adjust that number if you have student loan debt or want to live with roommates. You might be able to find a similar apartment in a nearby neighborhood for a more affordable price.

Of course, there are other costs to consider when you move to Portland. Here are a few of the costs of renting an apartment that people frequently forget.

  • Security Deposit: Your standard security deposit is usually one month's rent. That figure can vary from property to property. Remember, if you take care of your apartment, you should get this back.
  • Pet Fees: Portland is the perfect city for your furry friends. Prepare to pay additional costs. Most apartment buildings require some form of a pet deposit or pet rent.
  • Parking: Does your apartment's monthly rent include a reserved parking spot? It’s most likely tacked onto your monthly rent.
  • Amenities: You may be able to get rid of your gym membership if your apartment complex has a gym.

7. Set Your Apartment Priorities

Finding an affordable apartment in Portland may require compromising on location or space. Your dream neighborhood may be out of reach without considering a studio. You might also find that a district a few blocks away yields better rent specials. Portland isn't far from suburbs with amenities, like Beaverton. If you live outside the city, you will likely need a car. Your commute time will get longer with additional traffic.

You should prepare for your apartment tours with a clear understanding of what you can do without, what you would like, and what is an absolute must-have. You'll also need to budget for some basic furniture like a bed, couch, decor, and storage essentials.

8. Consider Your Commute Time

Portland has a reputation for traffic congestion and is often ranked among the worst in the nation for traffic. Fortunately, Portlanders love to walk and bike around the city. Portland has a walk score is 67 anda bike score of 68. Many adjacent Downtown neighborhoods are easily walkable from one community to the next.

Portland's TriMet offers bus, light rail, and commuter rail service throughout the city and metro area. Portland also boasts a reputation of environmentally-minded residents who advocate for better public transportation and bike access. It's possible to ditch the wheels with a commitment to public transit, biking, and walking. Rideshares can also fill in the gaps.

9. Prepare for Apartment Tours

You're ready to take your newfound knowledge about Portland and find your next apartment. This is the time to start researching, touring, and filling out apartment applications. You should always visit the apartment in-person before applying and meet the landlord or property management to get a better sense of the vibe of the complex.

Come prepared with a few essential questions to ask before renting an apartment. Look over the list and prepare thoroughly before your next apartment tour.

Apply as soon as possible and don't wait if you find a good deal. Bring along cash, credit cards, or a checkbook to pay for the application on hand. Have your ID, proof of income, and a few references ready. Previous landlord references are also preferred. However, don't worry if you don't have any. You can use personal references if you don't have a rental history. If you're new to renting, get familiar with the apartment application process.

10. Applying for Your Portland Apartment

Portland apartments go quickly in the trendiest neighborhoods. Be prepared to jump on a deal, especially during peak rental season. Arrive at all of your tours prepared to fill out an application. You should expect to pay a non-refundable application fee on every apartment you're interested in.

If possible, call ahead to the broker or landlord to inquire about the necessary documentation for the application. Some people you speak to may require specific documents and want everything in hand to accept your application.

11. Protect Yourself from Rental Scams

If you find a deal too good to be true, it likely is. Rental scams are common and leave renters feeling vulnerable and broken. According to a report by Apartment List, 30.4% of Portland renters have encountered fraudulent apartment listings, while 6.7% of those have lost money due to rental scams. Keep your guard up and follow these tips for avoiding rental scams.

Using Apartment List to Find Your Portland Apartment

Ready to move to the City of Roses? Good luck apartment hunting and finding your dream neighborhood in Portland!

Here’s how it works: First, we get to know you. You’ll answer a few simple questions and we’ll find the best matches – just for you. Then, we mix and match your personalized results, making it easy to discover places with the perfect combination of price, location and amenities.


  1. These estimates rely on data from January 2017 to February 2021. Starting March 2021, price changes break dramatically from seasonal norms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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