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Lake Oswego Resembles a Resort Town Minus the Tourists, in Portland’s Backyard

Justin Harnish

Justin Harnish, a third generation Oregonian, has been raised in the steep of all things real estate...

Justin Harnish, a third generation Oregonian, has been raised in the steep of all things real estate...

Dec 7 9 minutes read

Standing in a line that wraps around Salt and Straw, a Portland-based ice cream shop with a location in Lake Oswego, it’s hard to sense that we’re only eight miles south of downtown. Whereas Portland has had a long streak of bad press, Lake Oswego resembles a resort town complete with cottage architecture and abundant hanging flower baskets.

Filled with mostly single-family homes, Lake Oswego is centered on a picturesque and private 405-acre lake surrounded by Oregon’s forest. Residents enjoy a small-town ambiance and a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants and wellness amenities.

“The town has a sense of liveliness and beauty to it because it’s clean and you feel safe,” said Lee Davies, owner and principal broker of Eleete Real Estate. “Much of the downtown development is new, so it’s fresh.”

Known for being a health-centric and social community, Lake Oswego offers watersports to those with access to the lake and nearby river. Golf courses and miles of multi-use trails get good use. Its residents take pride in excellent environmental stewardship of the private lake and high-performing schools.

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


Just eight miles south of Portland, Lake Oswego includes 11.35 square miles and all the homes and businesses surrounding the lake. Essentially, it covers the area between Highway 5 on the west and Highway 43 on the east, and extends north to Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Its jagged southern border almost extends 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 with Cascade Hasson Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’ll be 3,000 to 4,000 square feet and not on the lake. Even at $3 million to $3.5 million, you get high-end appliances, but that’s it. I’d consider luxury to start at $3.5 million, and that would include some of the homes near the golf course.”

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

“When you see what $2 million gets you, it’s rather disappointing,” Mr. Davies said. “You start to have fun and the houses are really nice starting at around $4 million.”

Housing Stock

Inventory is gradually increasing as interest rates rise, and houses sell at a slower clip. 

Mr. Harnish represents the sellers of one of only 12 lakefront houses on the market. The house, listed for $5.85 million, spans 5,957 square feet, includes five bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms and a five-car garage.

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

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

Each house 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 every house on the lake. “If you take a boat on the lake, you can see custom homes that you can’t see from the road,” Mr. Zhang said. Once a year, a boat tour is given to the public. Otherwise, the lake is closed to non-residents.

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

Living on the lake affords a rare lifestyle above most: the ability to move around by boat. “People on the lake can take their boats from their house and dock up at Stickmen’s [Lakeside Smokehouse and Brewery],” Mr. Davies said.

Luxury Amenities

Historic Lake Oswego Hunt is a horseback riding club near the lake, with a riding academy for children and adults. Students can take scenic rides along a trail to Iron Mountain.

The town is built on plentiful hills, which are popular among cyclists and runners. Additionally, 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, wine country is 30 minutes from town, and Portland International Airport is 25 minutes away. “We have everything at our fingertips without having to go into Portland,” Mr. Harnish said.

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 home.

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

Professional athletes often buy and sell property there. “The listing I have is an NBA basketball player who was traded to another team. It’s that kind of a destination,” Mr. Davies said.

Notable Residents

Rumor had it that Lady Gaga moved to the Pacific Northwest enclave. “Lady Gaga never bought a house on the lake,” Mr. Harnish said. “She was renting a house right up the street from me.” Aside from the occasional professional athlete and business executive, Lake Oswego tends to be a quiet community.


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

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

Mr. Davies said the 12 lakefront houses have been on the market for an average of 80 days, with a median of 75 days. That’s up from last year, when similar houses sat on the market for an average of 60 days and a median of 22 days.

Californians, for their part, move to Lake Oswego “to live in a beautiful, stunningly gorgeous setting for $4 million when their $4 million home in Palo Alto wasn’t that exciting,” Mr. Davies said. “To be on a lake with a dock and a boat, and to be a part of an incredibly cool little community that’s got vibrance with restaurants and shopping—it’s a destination. It’s kind of like going on vacation.”


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