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This is the 10th installment in Inman’s “12 in ’21” hot neighborhoods series, which explores areas with both booming real estate markets and dense amenities. To read previous stories in the series, click here.

The sleepy town of Bend, once ideal for retirees and second-home buyers looking for a quiet place to settle near the Oregon mountains, has become engulfed in one of the most extreme seller’s markets in the country.

The transformation has been going on for years, but the pandemic turned up the heat to a degree previously unseen by locals, according to home market data and agents who spoke with Inman. Young professionals from California, Texas and nearby big cities have played a particularly big role, agents said, rolling their high incomes and equity from previous home sales into the Bend housing market.

“They’ve got a different mentality, for sure,” Bend resident and real estate agent Sam DeLay of The Hasson Company told Inman. “They’re used to higher-paced, more cutthroat markets. They know which contingencies to remove, and when to do it.”

Tiffany Gidley | Coldwell Banker

Perhaps no corner in town has been affected more by this change than the neighborhood of Old Bend, located near the Deschutes River between the city’s downtown and Old Mill districts.

As an aging neighborhood of early-20th-century houses has found itself surrounded by a bevy of new shopping and dining options, the homes in the Old Bend neighborhood now house a mixture of some of Bend’s longest-tenured locals and tourists staying at short-term rentals.

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“It’s not the sleepy Bend that it used to be,” said Tiffany Gidley, an agent with Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “You see the Old Bendites frustrated, I would say, by the growth.”

What is Old Bend?

Located less than half an hour drive from Mount Bachelor, and nestled along the banks of the Deschutes River, the city of Bend has long been a destination for skiing tourists, retirees and other families looking for a life near a wealth of natural amenities.

In recent years, the city’s core has also developed into a bustling hub of shops, restaurants, brewpubs and other attractions. In the heart of this development lie the riverside residential streets of the Old Bend district.

With these attractions have come more tourists and foot traffic in general. Some longtime homeowners have begun to list their Old Bend homes for sale in the heart of the city, in part to get away from the hustle and bustle near downtown.

Sam DeLay | The Hasson Co.

Rhonda Garrison, an agent with RE/MAX Key Properties, said she recently helped a seller list his home, which was located conveniently nearby a popular brewpub. But in the end, he couldn’t take the tourist activity in and around his neighborhood, and told her he had to move.

The recent changes have brought good as well, DeLay said. DeLay, whose family lives in a neighborhood west of the river, said the town is growing more diverse, with more things to do and food options to enjoy.

“Bend overall is still an extremely desirable place to live even though it’s grown, even though the values have gone up,” DeLay said. “I think, looking back, you could say Bend was really undervalued for a long time, and that we’re really just catching up, to a certain degree.”

Old Bend real estate

Since the start of the pandemic, the buyers moving into Bend have started to trend more toward young professionals with high incomes who have permanent remote work agreements with their employers, according to agents on the ground there.

Agents also noted seeing more buyers who were looking for properties to rent out for a few years, with the intent to move into them at a later date.

Home prices have skyrocketed as a result, and buyers in Bend are struggling to keep up, Garrison said.

Rhonda Garrison | RE/MAX Key Properties

“It’s not fun helping buyers, because unless they have a lot of cash, they’re not getting their house,” Garrison told Inman. “The sellers are seeing multiple offers well above asking, and a lot of cash. We have a lot of buyers coming in from California, Texas, Portland, Seattle, and a lot of them are bringing their jobs here. They keep their jobs wherever they’re from, and they can work from here. “

Five residential areas within Bend have seen home value growth exceeding $160,000 since the start of this year alone. The Old Bend neighborhood ranks 61st nationwide in total home value growth during that time among neighborhoods with a typical value near $1 million or lower. This outpaced home value growth in more than 15,000 similar neighborhoods in Zillow’s database.

Kerri Kurtz | Sunriver Realty

This degree of home value appreciation is prompting a number of sellers to strike while the iron is hot, Kerri Kurtz of Sunriver Realty said.

“Helping sellers is incredible,” Kurtz said. “They are so excited about the values they’re getting for their homes.

“As for buyers, it’s challenging because generally [they’re seeing] lots of rejections and things like that. So being on top of your game [and] having good communication with other Realtors is the best way to win the day for your buyers.”

Part of what’s striking about Old Bend’s recent price growth is the age of its inventory. Many of the neighborhood’s homes on the market in September were at least 90 years old, built in the early 20th century. Some of them listed for well over $1 million.

Other Bend neighborhoods west of the river have seen even more dramatic price growth than Old Bend. The typical home value in the large lots of Awbrey Butte have shot up by more than a quarter-million dollars since the end of last year alone, topping out just over $1.1 million in August. 

To the south, a group of neighborhoods known collectively as Summit West eclipsed the $1 million mark in August, with nearly $230,000 in price growth since the start of the year.

Buyers from outside Bend are bringing particularly savvy know-how to bear in their search for the right home, DeLay said.

Old Bend rents

People looking to rent in Old Bend will pay a relatively small premium for its walking proximity to downtown and the Old Mill District.

A three-bedroom home costs $2,650 per month, according to Zumper. That’s slightly more than the median three-bedroom rental costs in the city at large.

The neighborhood has a sparse number of one-bedroom apartments, which will run renters closer to $1,685 a month, the service says.

Just as home prices have grown at a rapid clip in recent months, rents have seen a strong upward push. In September of last year, rent for the typical three-bedroom housing unit cost just under $2,000 per month. A year later, renting the same unit is 32 percent more expensive.

“Our inventory is extremely low, which then puts pressure on rental properties too, which drives that price up,” said Gidley, the Coldwell agent. 

The city has implemented restrictions in previous years to limit the number of short-term rentals within its boundaries, but for those who can get them approved, these have become increasingly popular with homeowners and renters alike, agents say.

Old Bend amenities

The appeal of the Bend home market starts with the bevy of nearby natural resources, agents told Inman.

The area’s gorgeous mountain peaks, public parks, river activities, hiking trails and golf courses, all located in a mild climate of the Pacific Northwest, add up to an idyllic backdrop for homeowners. 

In the Old Bend area, there’s an added benefit of walkable or bikeable proximity to the newest shops and restaurants downtown.

For Garrison, who has lived in the Bend area her whole life, the city’s burgeoning food scene and array of outdoor dining options has added some welcome new activities while maintaining some of what makes Bend unique.

“It still has a bit of a small-town feel,” Garrison said. “I think it’s a really clean, upbeat, stylish town. Some small towns you go to are kind of dumpy and run-down. I think our downtown area is really cool.”

DeLay, whose family lives in a neighborhood west of the river, said the change has also brought more diversity, more activities and more food options to an already desirable town.

“It’s increasingly getting more interesting, [with] more things to do,” DeLay said. “It’s becoming more of a robust city, as opposed to just a ski town, or just a resort type town. It’s really been fun to watch it grow.”

Email Daniel Houston

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