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Live-work units: a tiny, happy place for real estate

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Friday, August 01, 2008


STATEWIDE As bad-news headlines for the real estate industry continue month after month, one sliver of the Portland metro and Bend market is actually growing: live-work units, townhomes where the ground floor is dedicated to commercial and the upstairs to living.

In the first six months of this year, 60 live-work units have been sold in the Portland metro area, according to the Regional Municipal Listings Service. Compare that to 2007 and 2006 when, respectively, 50 units and 22 units were sold.

On the west side of Bend, Brooks Resources Corporation, the developers of NorthWest Crossing, currently are building eight of 30 planned live-work units. Three  already have been sold and interest in the others remains strong, says David Ford, general manager at Northwest Crossing.

While that number is small, those units are some of the only ones in Bend. Ford finds the three sales remarkable because of what he sees as a reticence on the parts of most buyers in the current market to purchase anything that isn’t 100% completed.

Despite the higher numbers of sales, developers and marketers still have to take the current real estate market into account. The buyer’s hesitancy that Ford sees is the reason the Kaiser Group has kept their still-under-construction five-unit live-work building in North Portland off the market, says marketing spokeswoman Erin Livengood.

“Our thought was to let people actually see it and then have the ability to close in 30 days rather than months,” she says.

Regardless of what the real estate market does this year or next, Shawn Busse, a Portland live-work advocate, thinks the demand — and community interest — in live-work units will continue to grow. Busse started his design firm out of his living room and knows how different it would have been had he been in a live-work unit.

“It doesn’t require a big outlay of cash to start a business in one of these,” he says. “It’s a great model that allows someone to be a business person without a lot of usual hurdles.”


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