While spending a few days on the Oregon coast, The Wandering Eye's eye happened to light upon a brochure left in our hotel room. Since the weather was too windy and rainy to venture forth to the beach and we had gotten bored with the book we'd brought along, we flipped through it and came across this passage:
"Face it. It's the most beautiful coast in the world."
"No, let's face it, it isn't," we immediately thought. "Without even trying we can think of half a dozen other coasts that are just as beautiful, or even more. California's Big Sur. Washington's Puget Sound. Any number of places in Hawaii. The west coast of Ireland. The fjords of Norway. And let's not even talk about Greece and Italy."
Just the same, Oregonians remain convinced that they have the most beautiful coast in the world (just as they have the most majestic mountains, the tallest trees, the most fish-filled lakes and rivers, etc., etc.) and they're willing to pay a hefty premium to own a bit of real estate there.
Another brochure we picked up showed very modest "cottages" near the beach - we're talking one bedroom, one bath - listed at $380,000 to $480,000; more grandiose accommodations are going for $700,000 to a million, and up.
Well, maybe "going for" is too optimistic a phrase. The real estate market and the economy have cooled off on the coast just the same as everywhere else. "For sale" signs were abundant, there seemed to be more empty storefronts than usual on the main drag, and substantial markdowns were advertised on many properties.
The bust hasn't hit the coast quite as hard as it hit Central Oregon - not yet, anyway - but it's still pretty brutal. According to Gorilla Capital's report, notices of default in Lincoln County increased 223% in 2008 over 2007. In Deschutes County, NODs registered a 238% jump in the same period.
Looking at the current picture, realtytrac.com's numbers show that one out of every 378 housing units in Lincoln City is in foreclosure, while the ratio in Bend is more than twice as high - one out of every 172.
Maybe the moral of all this is that to sustain healthy growth in the long run, you've got to have something more tangible and practical to offer than Bend's mythical 300 days of sunshine or Lincoln City's almost equally mythical "most beautiful coast in the world."