Lake Oswego resembles a beach town minus the tourists, in Portland’s backyard

Stand in a line that wraps around Salt and Straw, a Portland ice cream parlor with a location in Oswego Lake, it’s hard to feel we’re only eight miles south of downtown. While Portland has had a long streak of bad press, Lake Oswego resembles a beach town, complete with cottage architecture and lavish hanging baskets of flowers.

Filled with mostly single-family homes, Lake Oswego is centered around a picturesque 405-acre private lake surrounded by Oregon forest. Residents enjoy a village atmosphere and a pleasant city center with shops, restaurants and wellness facilities.

“The town has a sense of vibrancy and beauty because it’s clean and you feel safe,” said Lee Davies, owner and lead real estate agent of Eleete Real Estate. “Much of the downtown development is new, so it’s fresh.”

Known as a health-focused and social community, Lake Oswego offers water sports to those with access to the lake and nearby river. Golf courses and miles of multi-use trails are put to good use. The residents take pride in the private lake’s excellent environmental management and high-performing schools.

“If we keep that mindset, the city will continue to look the way it is,” said Justin Harinsh, realtor and owner/partner of Harnish Properties. “Things will always move forward and things will always change. But here it’s been a slower change, which has been nice.

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Just eight miles south of Portland, Lake Oswego encompasses 11.35 square miles and all the homes and businesses surrounding the lake. Essentially, it occupies the area between Highway 5 to the west and Highway 43 to the east, extending north to Tryon Creek State Natural Area. The jagged southern border extends almost to the Tualatin River.

Price range

“For $2.5 million to $3 million, you can get a brand new spec home,” said Michael Zhang, principal broker at Cascade Hasson Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s going to be 3,000 to 4,000 square feet and not on the lake.” Even for $3 million to $3.5 million, you get high-end devices, but that’s about it. I would consider luxury to start at $3.5 million, and that would include some homes near the golf course.

Lakefront homes typically sell for between $4 million and $8 million. To be sure, outliers pop up in the $10 million to $20 million range.

“When you see how much $2 million you bring in, it’s kind of disappointing,” said Mr. Davies. “You start having fun and the houses are really nice starting at about $4 million.”

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Housing stock

Inventories gradually increase as interest rates rise and homes sell more slowly.

Mr. Harnish represents the sellers of one of only 12 lakeside homes on the market. Listed for $5.85 million, the home spans 5,957 square feet, includes five bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, and a five-car garage.

Mr. Zhang is partnering with the seller of one of the other coveted lakefront homes, which spans 5,554 square feet with four bedrooms, five bathrooms and an outdoor pool. The property was offered for $8 million in August.

Another home on the private lake, represented by Mr. Davies, is for sale for $6.5 million. The 8,170-square-foot home has four bedrooms, six bathrooms, and an indoor pool.

Each home was built between 1998 and 2006 and sits on 0.23 to 0.27 acre lots.

What makes it unique

Unique architectural features can be found on each lake house. “If you take a boat out on the lake, you can see custom homes that you can’t see from the road,” said Mr. Zhang. A round trip is given to the public once a year. Otherwise it is more closed to non-residents.

Oswego Lake contains Jantzen Island, a historic and private island that was reported to have sold off the market for $20 million last year, Mr. Harnish said.

Living on the lake offers above all a rare lifestyle: the possibility of getting around by boat. “People on the lake can get their boat out of their house and dock it at Stickmen’s [Lakeside Smokehouse and Brewery]’ said Mr Davies.

Luxurious amenities

Historic Lake Oswego Hunt is an equestrian center located near the lake, with an equestrian center for children and adults. Students can take scenic drives along a trail to Iron Mountain.

The city is built on abundant hills, which are popular with cyclists and runners. In addition, residents can enjoy 600 acres of parks and open space. Oswego Lake Country Club is home to a par 71 championship course.

Favorite local restaurants include Tasty, Breakside Brewery, Ricardo’s, Baird’s on B and Beso wine bar. Speaking of which, wine country is 30 minutes from the city and Portland International Airport is 25 minutes away. “We have everything at our fingertips without having to go to Portland,” said Mr. Harnish.

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Who lives there

Since Nike’s global headquarters is 10 miles away in Beaverton, Oregon, many executives and retired executives live in Lake Oswego. Howard Slusher called Lake Oswego his home.

That said, many out-of-state buyers have infiltrated the city. “When I have an open house, I see that all the license plates are from California,” said Mr. Zhang.

Professional athletes often buy and sell real estate there. “The entry I have is an NBA basketball player who was traded to another team. It’s such a destination,’ said Mr Davies.

This 8,170 square foot lakefront home has four bedrooms, six baths and an indoor pool. The luxury home is for sale for $6.5 million.

ELETE Real Estate

Notable residents

Lady Gaga was rumored to have moved to the Pacific Northwest enclave. “Lady Gaga never bought a house on the lake,” Mr Harnish said. “She rented a house down the street from me.” Aside from the occasional professional athlete and businessman, Lake Oswego is mostly a quiet community.


Lake Oswego’s luxury sector remains a seller’s market but, like most places, is changing with greater economic forces. “We are still in a low-stock environment. The difference is that rates have doubled,” Mr Harnish said. “It feels more like a buyer’s market because there is less demand and less competition and less urgency to jump in and buy something. In the last two years there has been so much absorption, so many purchases and, more importantly, so many refinancings.

Mr. Zhang said that while the local market is slowing down, buyers are still ready to seize the right opportunity. “People are still looking. Every time I have an open house, large crowds of people come,” he said. “In recent years, people have realized how important the home and the home are to life.”

Mr Davies said the 12 lakeside homes are on the market for an average of 80 days, with an average of 75 days. That is more than last year, when comparable houses were on the market for an average of 60 days and an average of 22 days.

Californians, for their part, are moving to Lake Oswego “to live in a beautiful, stunningly beautiful environment for $4 million, when their $4 million home in Palo Alto wasn’t all that exciting,” said Mr. Davies. “Being on a lake with a dock and a boat, and being part of an incredibly cool little community bustling with restaurants and shops – it’s a destination. It’s a bit like going on vacation.”

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