If you’ve never heard of nor used Portland Maps (which we will from this point forward just refer to as Portlandmaps.com, because that’s what everyone calls it), then you are in for a treat today!!!
Okay, that might be overstating it just a bit. But, I will be going into some detail explaining a few important pieces of information you can find using this tool (which is free, accessible for everyone, and relatively easy to navigate). I’ll also mention a few other handy websites that work for residents all around the Portland metro. All together, these make for some powerful tools in your toolbelt.
Even if you don’t read this full blog article, go ahead and bookmark it, favorite it, share it, make a note, screenshot it, or somethin’, because it’ll come in handy at some point!
What is this website? It doesn’t look like anything special… just another map, right?
It’s true, the main page of Portlandmaps.com sure doesn’t look like it’ll rock anyone’s world. And yet, it can be a treasure trove of information, especially for homes in the city of Portland.
If you are focusing outside of Portland proper, that’s okay! Try Portlandmaps.com to see what is there, then also scroll to the bottom of this article for other resources that will better apply to you.
Let’s lookup a property to test this thing out and see what it can do!
!!!Completely Shameless Plug!!!
We’re going to use a property that is actively on the market (at least it was when I published this blog) as our example.
It’s a gorgeous remodel that is listed by my colleague, Greg Chrisman at Weichert, Realtors. It’s recently had a big price drop. The quality of this remodel is way above and beyond what I typically see on the market!!!
Let’s go to Portlandmaps.com, and then type in the following street address: 4815 SE 100th Ave
It will start finding matching addresses as you type. Click on the one that matches the above address.
You should now see something kindof like this:
The first things here are pretty simple. We can see the owner’s name, that it was built in 1912, it’s zoned R5 (one dwelling per 5000 square feet in Multnomah County), the taxes assessed in 2017 were $3355.26, it was last sold in May of 2018, etc…
Woah, wait a second, it was last purchased in May of 2018? That wasn’t very long ago. So, you know straight away that likely the owners either weren’t there long or it was a flip.
Hint: If the name of the owner is a company… it’s probably a flip (or was a rental).
Spoiler alert: This one is a flip!
That’s cool and all, but hardly mind-blowing.
Hey now, we’re just getting started!
Let’s take a look at the Permits & Zoning Section. If you click on “Permits”, you’ll see a list of items that could be interesting.
The first permits you see here will be more recent. This one has three from 2008 that have been finalized. To see more information about each permit, click on the permit number. If you’re not sure what you’re looking at, you can even find contact information for people at the City of Portland.
For right now, let’s scroll down to the “Underground Storage Tanks” section.
If you’re familiar with housing in the Portland metro, you might already know that a large portion of homes around here were, at one time or another, using oil as a fuel source for heating. There are still quite a few homes all over the city using oil!
Above ground oil tanks are one thing, but underground storage tanks are a major concern for buyers because they can leak and necessitate a very expensive environmental clean-up. Even if the home was already converted to gas or electric heat, there can be an abandoned oil tank located somewhere on the property. Oil tanks easily corrode when they are buried. It’s not a question of IF they are leaking, but a question of WHEN.
In this case, we quickly see that the property address shows up a few times. All the links appear to be old permits that indicate there was an underground tank on the property sometime in the past.
Portlandmaps.com is a good resource to look this up… but always check the DEQ LUST database, too! Sometimes, no relevant information about storage tanks shows up on Portlandmaps.
(By the way, LUST stands for Leaking Underground Storage Tank… I really don’t make this stuff up.)
I went ahead and pulled up our subject property on the DEQ website. It turns out that there IS a buried oil tank, which was decommissioned in 2018. A closure letter has been issued.
Does this mean that a buyer can be 100% sure that they are safe from buried oil tanks?
NO! Unless the seller can provide a scan report from a reputable company, there is ALWAYS a risk of another buried oil tank somewhere on the property. A very cautious buyer would go ahead and have another scan done just to be sure, while less cautious buyers might decide to save the cost of the scan. It all depends on your level of risk tolerance.
Okay, so being able to see permits and stuff is pretty nifty. What else?
The park and school sections are nice since they tell you right there how far away nearby parks and schools are. But, always check with the local school district to be absolutely sure which public schools are fed from a specific property.
The next section people really like to check out is Public Safety.
Here, you can see a breakdown of Person, Property, and Society crimes in the 1/8 mile section this particular property is in.
It includes a data range (in my case while I’m writing this, it’s for 01/27/2018 - 01/26/2019). We can see here that not much has happened in our grid in the past year. But, we can learn a lot more by clicking on the different links.
For instance, if we click on “Property Crimes” we see that there was a motor vehicle theft on 2/20/2018. The map has now changed to highlight the 1/8 mile section, and a red dot pinpoints the approximate location of the crime (although I wouldn’t take this as absolute).
By the time many of you read this, more than a year will have passed since this particular crime, and it will no longer show up in Portlandmaps. You can visit the City of Portland Police Bureau Crime Statistics page to delve even deeper into neighborhood-specific information. Or, one step backwards on their site will bring you to the main Open Data page, where you can really get lost looking up reports, statistics, and more.
An 1/8 mile hexagon, as you can see, isn’t a very large area. So, I like to click around the map on the hexagons around our subject property to see what’s been happening nearby. Wherever you click will highlight that specific home, business, park, etc. and change the map to the applicable 1/8 mile section.
When you are closer to major through streets, often crime statistics will go up (not surprising). For instance, when I scroll north a little and click on 4404 SE 99TH AVE, suddenly property crimes jump up to 9 in that section. Many of these are from larceny, things like swiping Amazon packages, theft from a motor vehicle, etc.
NOTE: I never counsel my buyers about how “safe” an area is. As a Realtor, I cannot, and have no interest in, steering people to purchase a property, or not purchase a property, in any particular area. Steering is a Fair Housing Act violation. What I can do is show my clients great resources like this one so that they can perform their own research and make informed decisions.
Paging back to our subject property, other things you can find in the Public Safety section include Police jurisdiction information, nearest fire station, hazard info, etc.
Got it! what other wisdom do you have to impart, oh wise one?
There’s a lot more information on here, some of which no one would ever expect to look for. While I stare outside at the flurries falling and the 2 inches of snow covering my steep driveway, I’m realizing that the “Snow and Ice Priority Routes” button under Transportation could be pretty useful for a homeowner.
“Transit” located in this same section can be handy to see nearby bus stops (including distances) along with distances to nearby Park and Ride locations. They link over to the TriMet trip planner, which some of my clients love to use when looking at properties.
The Utilities section on Portlandmaps.com is useful, too. They even have a garbage collection schedule posted right on the site! (This would have been helpful when I went on vacation, came back, and somehow got the trash schedule mixed up in my head. A month of trash piling up in your garage will insure that you’ll never forget the pickup schedule again.)
Wow, this is a great tool! But, I don’t live in the city of Portland. What do i do???
Well, if you are not in the city of Portland, but are nearby, there will likely still be some useful information on Portlandmaps.com. However, it won’t be the treasure trove that it is for Portlanders.
Another website that should work for you if you are in the Portland metro area is MetroMap. This resource isn’t quite as user friendly, but includes a lot of great data once you get used to it.
If we go to MetroMap and type in our subject property again: 4815 SE 100th Ave (did I mention it’s for sale???), you’ll find a boatload of info about the taxlot, political boundaries, land use, service districts, etc. If you click on the “Layers” tab, you can start selecting different things to see on the map, such as 100-year flood plains, light rail lines, building footprints, taxlots, neighborhood boundaries, etc.
This works just as well for nearby areas like Washington county. If I type in a random intersection, such as Bull Mountain Road and 150th Ave, the map will jump there, highlighting nearby streets. From here you can add different layers to the map, just like above.
In addition to MetroMap, other counties have specific resources, they just aren’t as robust as PortlandMaps. Here are a few:
And, of course, don’t forget your best resource of all!